It’s a destination so notorious for witchcraft and sorcery that many friends wondered aloud why we would ever want to visit the island in the first place. Travel shows highlighting folk healing further added to the mystique about the island province of Siquijor but we were after other attractions here. Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) almost put a stop to our travel plans but before 2013 was over we hopped aboard a ferry at Dumaguete City on our way to the island Spanish colonizers called “Isla del Fuego” (Island of Fire).
Siquijor is supposed to be an off-the-beaten path destination but the presence of many foreign tourists here made us think otherwise. Or maybe it’s another instance of Filipinos unaware that such a tourist haven existed right at their own backyard. After checking in at a resort in Sandugan Beach in Larena town, we were off for two days of touring. Siquijor is surrounded by numerous white sand beaches but the most beautiful in our opinion are those situated at San Juan town.
First on the list of these beaches is probably the most stunning in the island: Paliton Beach. We reached this beach after a 25 kilometer trike ride from our resort at Sandugan Beach, dropping by Dumanhog Beach in Siquijor town on the way.
Situated on the northeastern part of San Juan and almost at the western extremity of the island, Paliton Beach may be reached via a narrow track off the national highway just after San Juan’s boundary with Siquijor town. Our trike driver and tour guide parked his vehicle on the side of what seemed like a private property and told us the path to the beach was right through that land. Interestingly there were no fees (at that time) and after crossing that piece of real estate we came face-to-face with a pretty white sand beach and crystal-clear waters.
We immediately changed into our swimming gear and waded into the shallow waters. Immediately the water became alive as several fishes darted away from our path. We could also easily observe sea urchins and various corals on the seabed, so clear were the waters. The only problem was that we forgot to bring our snorkeling gear on this trip. Darn!
On our way here we encountered a signboard indicating that Paliton Beach is a marine sanctuary. Paliton is a diver’s paradise with three submarine caves where divers can spot reef sharks at sleep and plenty of other marine life. The best diving at Siquijor is apparently along the sea wall that runs south from Paliton down to Tubod Beach.
But wait, there’s more. Our trike driver motioned for us to round the mass of coral rocks on the right side of the beach. There’s an even better view beyond those rocks he mentioned. We rounded the bend to discover the major portion of Paliton Beach – a classic, stunning white sand beach with glassy waters and a pretty palm-lined shore. The sand is blindingly white, fine and soft on the feet. A small fishing village marked by a line of parked outrigger boats is situated here but it blended so effortlessly with the landscape. All the while we were the only ones on the beach and had this small piece of Eden all to ourselves.
The southern extremity of Paliton Beach – near the mass of coral rocks – is home to the Danish Lagoon, the only resort in Paliton at the time of our visit. Beyond the Danish Lagoon is a long line of white sand beaches centered on San Juan town proper collectively known as Poblacion San Juan Beach. This is where the highest concentration of resorts in Siquijor may be found. To get to any of these beaches, one has to pass through a resort or private property.
We chose to visit the beach in front of Coral Cay Resort at a place not too far from Paliton Beach. Passing through the resort we asked their staff if we can walk along the beach and take pictures. The friendly staff readily agreed. There are more visitors here unlike at Paliton but it does not diminish the quality of the beach with its white, powdery sand, shallow, clear waters and lush coconut palms.
The sunset views at San Juan are reputed to be the best in Siquijor but we were not around long enough to experience it. It might have been better had we made this trip in the afternoon. After lunch in San Juan proper we continued on along the main road, ending up at Coco Grove Beach Resort, the last of the long line of resorts in San Juan. Coco Grove is the most upscale of the resorts in the area and its beach is also located near Tubod marine sanctuary, reputed to have the best corals in the island. We tried to enter the resort like we did at Coral Cay but upon learning that we have to order a pretty significant amount of consumables just to get inside we decided to move on.
Before this trip we were pretty firm on our decision to stay at a resort a bit removed from the usual tourist crowd but if you do not mind such company San Juan with its white sand beaches and pretty sunsets is a good alternative. We just might give it a try should we return to the Island of Fire on another visit.
If you’re staying anywhere in Siquijor, you can easily access the beaches in San Juan by hiring a trike (tricycle). It’s best to get one to take you on a tour; your trike driver will usually double as a tour guide. Or you can rent a motorbike and travel on your own. The island is not that big and it is possible to tour the whole island in a trike in just one day.