Salagdoong & Kagusuan Beaches: Beach-Hopping in Maria
It was mid-morning and we had been traveling on Siquijor’s main roadway, passing magnificent views of Enrique Villanueva’s mangrove-tree lined beaches and marine sanctuaries along the way. Now, as our rented trike entered the town of Maria, the highway began veering inland, away from the coast. Soon we found ourselves being driven through a small forest of molave trees, then straight towards the gate of a government-run resort. Leaving our driver and guide Dondon to park the trike we soon headed off to explore Salagdoong Beach.
We already knew beforehand that Salagdoong is a public beach, popular among locals for excursions, and housing a government-run resort with cottages, rooms, meeting halls and a restaurant. We were a bit apprehensive how it might look like, being a “developed” destination, but to our surprise the beach was quite pristine – if you look past all the man-made structures. It is also clean and well-maintained.
Like most beaches in Siquijor, Salagdoong is a white sand beach. It also has limestone outcrops scattered from end to end with a huge rock formation in the middle dividing the beach into two sections. The most striking thing about Salagdoong though is its crystal-clear waters painted by nature in varying shades of aquamarine, turquoise and blue. This is best viewed from the top of the limestone rock formation in the center of the beach where local tourism authorities also installed two slides (one no longer functioning because of damage due to typhoon Pablo) and a diving ledge. From here one can easily spot the abundance of coral just off Salagdoong Beach and gaze towards the larger area covered by Maria Bay. Divers have reported seeing manta rays and schools of barracuda on occasion here.
A glance towards the not-so-distant coast along Maria Bay revealed at least 4 other white-sand beaches. Curious we asked our trike man Dondon if any of those beaches were accessible. They are not was his answer; to reach those beaches from the main road meant crossing over other people’s property on foot and without any road for even motorbikes to pass through. It seems that the only way then would be to rent outrigger boats to get to those beaches – maybe something that local tourism people can begin looking into.
Salagdoong is a public beach that can fill up on weekends but on this day there were very few people in sight – most of them were from a small group of European youngsters enjoying themselves in the sun. The southern half of the beach is a white sand cove ideal for swimming and snorkelling while the northern end is dominated by limestone outcrops. A new resort building near the waterline had just been completed but had yet to start operating. It’s a bit unfortunate that there are a lot of concrete structures here including a sea wall. We would have preferred that the tourism people build the facilities in such a way that they blend naturally into the landscape (like at Kiwi Dive Resort where we stayed) but at least they kept the waters around Salagdoong relatively pristine. And they’ve also kept the entrance fee to a minimum – P15 per person and a P15 parking fee for each vehicle.
If Salagdoong is a developed, public beach, then Kagusuan Beach is just the opposite. Located further down south from Maria town proper and just before the town of Lazi, secluded Kagusuan has often been described as a deserted beach. Getting here is a bit tricky (there are no road signs to guide the first-time visitor) but fortunately good old Dondon knew the place quite well. It is located off the main highway; the last stretch of road we had to negotiate is not paved and barely wide enough for even a tricycle. There is a paved parking area for vehicles and a series of concrete steps from there will take you down to the beach.
With its rock formations, long stretch of white sand, turquoise waters and nary a resort or even a hut in sight, Kagusuan is perfect for moments of solitude. The crystal-clear waters also make it ideal for swimming and snorkelling. As with many beaches we visited in Siquijor during this trip, we were again the only people here until a European tourist on a motorbike arrived just as we were about to leave.
Besides these two beaches, Maria is also home to Minalulan Beach. For once our driver-guide Dondon might have failed us when he mentioned that Kagusuan is actually Minalulan Beach also. After a long, hard look at a detailed map, however, it was obvious the two are not one and the same. Minalulan has a C-shaped shoreline and a lighthouse at one end. Dondon might have gotten confused as both Kagusuan and Minalulan Beaches are located in the same barangay – also named Minalulan – and are actually close to each other. Or he might simply be trying to avoid the extra trip. Either way time was rapidly ticking away and it was obvious we did not have the time to visit Minalulan and had to make it back to Larena soon enough.
Maria Town Proper
Right after our time in Salagdoong Beach we got to pass by Maria town proper to observe its Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence with its hexagonal bell tower. We just shot pictures of it outside and did not attempt to see its interior which houses an image (of Saint Rita) in black dress and holding a skull. Nina did get to do some shopping here and was able to buy some excellent peanut brittle from a lone tourist shop (a “pasalubong” center) at the poblacion or town center. If you do happen to drop by Maria try the peanut brittle – it’s something to rave about.
Getting There, Travel Tips
Maria is located on the eastern side of Siquijor Island and between the towns of Enrique Villanueva and Lazi. The national road that runs along the eastern side is well paved and can take you directly to Maria town proper. To reach Salagdoong and Kagusuan Beaches, however, you have to take a detour away from the national highway. There is a sign on the main highway pointing the way to Salagdoong Beach via the road that goes through the forest of molave trees. However, it is best to take a guide with you when going to Kagusuan Beach (or even Minalulan Beach) as there are no signs along the road to guide you there. Travel is usually by motorbike or tricycle as with other destinations in Siquijor.