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When traveling in Negros Oriental, staying in Bais City isn’t the first thing on anyone’s minds. After all, it’s often just a stopover on the longer trip from Bacolod to Dumaguete or vice-versa. However, this quaint town is starting to become a tourist hotspot in its own right.
The story of Bais City is similar to many of those in the Negros Region. It was once a town built around a sugar plantation—the Central Azucarera de Bais—that was established in 1918. This brought prosperity to the town, especially in the 1930s, with the prominent families in the area building majestic houses.
Today, with the sugar industry not as profitable, the town has shifted into a top destination for those interested in nature. With its mangrove reserve, beaches, and dolphin-watching tours, the future is promising for this quaint city.
The quickest way to get to Bais City is by booking a domestic flight to the nearby cities of Dumaguete or Bacolod and then riding a bus going to Bais.
You can head to Bais from Cebu City by taking the ro-ro service operated by Ceres Bus. The trip takes around 35 minutes. Alternatively, you can ride the passenger-only boat from the port in Liloan, Cebu to Sibulan Port near Bais.
The bus route from Bacolod to Dumaguete and vice-versa passes through Bais. From Bacolod, the trip takes around 5 to 6 hours; from Dumaguete, the trip takes around an hour and a half.
Like many rural cities in the Philippines, the main mode of public transport in Bais are tricycles—which are called pedicabs in the area.
One of the main attractions of Bais City is the old Central Azucarera compound. Here, travelers can see how sugar was made in the past, as the old tools and machinery for processing cane are now on display. The Baldwin Locomotive that was once used to transport sugarcane to the mill is also exhibited here.
Meanwhile, the city center itself has a number of unique attractions. These include the simple San Nicolas de Tolentino Church and the old Presidential building (now the City Hall), which are located near the city plaza. A number of heritage houses are also in the area, dating back to the town’s heydays as the center of sugar production.
As mentioned earlier, the biggest tourist draw of Bais City is its whale- and dolphin-watching excursions. The town is the main jump-off point for these cruises that cover the Tañon Strait, one of the biggest marine reserves in the Philippines. Here, travelers have a chance to see nine of the 23 documented whales and dolphin species in the Philippines.
Many of these tours also include stopovers at two other natural wonders. One is the Talabong Mangrove Park, a 400-hectare mangrove forest that acts as a protected habitat for marine wildlife. Another is the Manjuyod Sandbar, a stretch of white sand where travelers can enjoy the sun and the sea. Travelers can also rent one of the cottages near the sandbar.
One of the best places to grab a bite in Bais City is the Mercado or market. Many stalls there serve home-cooked treats prepared from the day’s fresh catch. A night market in front of the Mercado is also set up on weekends. Alternatively, travelers can go to the Bais Auditorium where they can find many food stalls in the area surrounding it.
Those who go on a dolphin-watching trip can also buy fresh produce from the Mercado and have them prepared by the boat’s crew for lunch.
Since it is just a small town, most accommodation in Bais City come in the form of pension houses. One of the better options is the Casa Don Julian, formerly a mansion owned by a Spaniard. Next to it is the La Planta Resort, a newer building constructed in the Spanish Colonial style and features a swimming pool. For budget travelers, staying at the Casa Sandoval along the National Highway is a great option.
Check the weather before you go especially if planning a dolphin-watching tour. It can get cancelled due to turbulent weather, especially since the boats used for the cruises are on the smaller side.
It’s best to travel in a group to save on money. If you want to go on a dolphin-watching trip, you would have to rent the entire boat even if you’re travelling solo.
Make sure to arrive at the port early in the morning, around 5 to 6 am. Starting the tour early will give your boat crew ample time to find a pod—a group of dolphins—that you can watch. Better yet, stay overnight at a hotel in Bais if you’re going for a cruise.