Depending on how you see it, Dumaguete is either a university city with some great diving or a diving spot with some great universities. It’s also one of the world’s best places to retire, perfect for enjoying island life.
This is a laidback place. There are no traffic lights here and somehow it works because Dumaguete lives up to its name as, “The City of Gentle People”. The locals are warm and friendly and, like the 8,000 or so expats who make their home here, I got a taste of the easy-going vibe here and wanted more.
Dumaguete is a walkable city and the promenade is one of the most attractive in Southeast Asia. Huge acacia trees lean toward the shimmering ocean and, as the sun sinks on the horizon, locals come to take a stroll or sit on benches, catching up on the day’s events.
Base yourself here and you’ll be well-positioned for enjoying island life. A two-hour ferry deposits you on the beaches of Siquijor or Bohol. A 20-minute drive takes you to the diving sanctuaries in Dauin, the waterfalls in Valencia or the hiking trails on Mount Talinis.
When it comes to finding a place to stay, you’ve got lots of options here, from apartments for $260 a month to beachfront villas for $1,295 a month.
Last year I settled into an expat-owned, fully-furnished, one-bedroom apartment, in the city centre, which cost me $520 a month. From there I could stroll to Hayahay Bar, where the jazz band played rousing sessions and I savoured moist, grilled tuna steak.
Another favourite spot was Sans Rival, a Mediterranean-style bistro overlooking the ocean, where I’d take a seat on the terrace and indulge in exquisite silvanas (a dessert made from frozen cookies, buttercream and cashew-meringue wafers).
Safety and traffic are not real concerns in Dumaguete. Crime is low. The locals get around on motorbike-sidecar contraptions called ‘trikes’ (a private ride costs around $1) and congestion–which is usually school-hour related–never lasts long.
This is a place with one foot in its small-town roots and another in its fast-arriving future. On the oceanfront promenade you’ll find the biggest of the city’s universities—its parkland is perfect for a stroll. All around it you’ll find student cafes… You can get an ice cream or pick up a fried cinnamon bun for nine cents, a haircut for around a dollar (65 cents on discount days). At the nearby shopping centre you can catch a movie in English for $4.45 or relax with a $2 head massage.
Just outside the city, a string of mid-range resorts and dive shops line the dark, sandy shores of Dauin. There are 20 protected marine sanctuaries in this area, perfect for muck-diving—a day of which will set you back about $30.
If you’re handy in the kitchen, you’ll have an abundance of fresh produce at your fingertips here. A big shopping centre and several supermarkets stock the majority of must-have, Western ingredients. Plus there’s heaps of fruit, seafood and vegies in the local market. A week’s worth of groceries for an active home cook can be had for $30.
After dinner, head to the breezy bars along the promenade, mingle with the expat crowd and savour a taste of the laidback life…