Driftwood Village in Sugar Beach (Sipalay) - 8 out of 10
Our primary destination on the island of Negros was the beach side resort of Driftwood Village. We had heard great things from other travelers, resort owners, and traveler publications regarding Driftwood and decided to find out for ourselves. After almost five hours on a bus and two transfers we arrived in Sipalay. The resort itself is located on Sugar Beach just slightly north of Sipalay. To access the resort, you have to board a boat from Sipalay to Sugar Beach since no paved roads connect the area of resorts on the beach to the city. After a quick detour through the town and a visit to the bank we made our way to the beach side bar in Sipalay where we would catch our boat. Driftwood Village only has a select number of bungalows with private bathrooms available for reservation, the rest of their rooms, bungalows, and dorm space are available on a first come first serve basis. Since all of the reserved rooms were taken we decided to take our chance on random availability. Luckily for us there was a private room available and we were sailing on our way to Driftwood Village in no time. The boat ride lasted a quick 15 minutes and provided a great view of the local scenery. Sugar Beach, named appropriately after its appearance to brown sugar, is a roughly 1km long beach bordered on both sides by submerged cliffs. This geologic feature gives the beach a private secluded feel that gave us a feel of being stranded on a deserted island. As we landed on the beach in front of the resort we were greeted by a large sign declaring we had arrived planted among a bevy of colorful flags unique to the beach. As we walked into the grounds of the resort we were warmly greeted by Daisy - one of the owners of the resort. She quickly saw us to our room and asked if we needed anything at all. Driftwood Village is unique to any of the other resorts we’ve stayed at. Their bungalows are all made from materials native to the area. Most are “nipa-leaf” construction which keeps cool air circulating through the cottages and bungalows. Their native appearance gives the feeling of actually residing in a seaside Filipino village. The myriad of coconut lined paths leading to the cottages are bordered with a well groomed landscape which include tall palms that give a wonderful shade to the village. The two story open air dining area (it actually has a third, meter-tall level strictly meant for lounging, complete with body length cushions and pillows) is wonderfully designed with hanging dining tables, a dumb waiter that goes to the second floor, and a hanging climbing rope. The bar area is equipped with a foosball table, pool table, and a sound system that pumps great tunes to all the common areas. Nothing is lost on the beach area. There are hammocks galore, tables and lounging chairs, beach beds, and two covered areas equipped with massage tables. The beach is sandy and water very clear; clear enough to see the bottom at depths of a few meters. Because of the bay like nature of Sugar Beach, the water remains relatively calm allowing you to swim out hundreds of meters without fear of extreme currents or waves. Our room was part of a triplex nipa hut. Each room had its own porch space equipped with hammock, clothesline, and light. The rooms, though small and spartan, were perfect for sleeping. A fan and a queen sized bed with mosquito netting kept us comfortable at night. Our fan was slightly old and loud, however in the heat of a Filipino night it didn’t matter. Most cottages and rooms, including ours, share a common bathroom area. The bathroom areas were kept tidy and guests are very considerate with their personal cleanliness of the area as well. Because the shower and toilet area are essentially open air, there are various critters that are attracted to the lights in the evening. Luckily in our bathroom we had a guardian, or rather a bathroom protector if you will. Living in the rafters at the top of the toilet/shower area were two gekos measuring a good 15-20cm by the look of them. Yes we were startled by their presence at first and a bit unnerved to say the least, but knowing they were there to eat the six and eight legged threats was very reassuring. Our meals at Driftwood were limited to breakfast and the occasional beer and snack. Breakfast was great. Sarah enjoyed an extremely large fruit salad (enough to really feed two) every morning and I had my typical eggs, bacon, and toast. The owner, Peter, is Swiss and has made sure to have good bread for the morning toast. Some of the past resorts we’ve stayed at use cheap white packaged store bread that turns to a rock-like substance when toasted. Our experience with the snacks that we ordered were slightly disappointing. They were not horrible but also not worth ordering again. The menu is very extensive and perhaps we ordered something that wasn’t necessarily their best dish. The beer was fairly priced for the beach. After dining at several other establishments nearby, the prices on the beach were fairly consistent. They did seem rather high at first, but everything coming to the beach is brought in by boat resulting in a price all the way down the food chain so to say. All in all the atmosphere is very relaxing at Driftwood Village. The pool table and foosball table in the bar area are free to use. You can spot guests playing a random game of bocce in the paths surrounding the cottages. If the spirit moves there are numerous board games available as well. Most of the guests can be seen lounging in the hammocks by the beach reading during the heat of the day. If I wasn’t working in the common area with the aid of the free and very reliable wifi, I was immersed in my copy of The Count of Monte Cristo on a beach side hammock. The resort also offers several other activities for their guests. Sarah and I climbed (I say ‘climbed’ rather than ‘hiked’ because of the extreme vertical inclines of the trail) to the top of Sugar Mountain one afternoon with the help of a guide that the resort provided. We also explored the local village and enjoyed the final evening of the Santa Lourdes festival. The festival commemorated the patron saint of the village. The festival included some amazing food, merriment and drink, dancing, and a “Miss Guy” drag pageant. All in all, our stay at Driftwood village was enjoyable, relaxing, and memorable. We loved the accommodations and the philosophy behind the resort. We also were extremely impressed with the staff and how helpful, friendly, and eager to please they were. Though Sarah felt as if she were on the verge of camping, I was right at home and could’ve spent another few nights there. We highly recommend Driftwood Village for the experience, the relaxing atmosphere away from most everything, and beautiful beach.
Cost: The cost is perfect for the budget traveler. We paid less than $10 USD a night for our room. A bed in the dorm is less while private cottages and private cottages with private bathrooms are more expensive but still within the range of affordability for the budget traveler. The food seemed a bit on the high end compared with resorts that have better accessibility to markets and stores, but it was by no means expensive. I’m sure the nature of being on a secluded beach lends itself to the higher cost of consumable goods.
Accessibility: From Dumaguette getting to Driftwood Village is a bit of a journey but not extremely daunting. Their is a direct bus from Dumaguette to Sipalay (the town where you catch the ferry to Sugar Beach) but the bus leaves around noon and can take up to six hours to get their. The better option is taking several buses and making transfers at various terminals. This cut two hours off of the time on our way there and an hour on our way back. You also have the option of taking a private van from Dumaguette but after inquiring about the price we quickly laid that dream to rest. We were quoted 4500 pisos for a private car/van. The bus ride there was around 400 pisos for the two of us. Once in Sipalay you have to catch the resort’s boat to Sugar Beach where the resort is located. The boat costs 300 pisos regardless of how many people are on board. On our way to the resort we were the only two in the boat so we paid the full price. On our journey back however, we were on a full boat and only had to shell out 40 pisos for the ride.
Activities: The resort offers many options to keep the idle hearted individuals active. Along with the free pool table, foosball table, and board games, the resort offers kayak, paddle board, and snorkel rental. There are also guided tours of surrounding islands, hikes, and options for the divers staying at driftwood. In my opinion, the best activity of all is enjoying the beautiful Sugar Beach.
Food: We only ate our breakfast and a few snacks at the resort. The breakfast was perfect. Portions were generous enough to get you through the day and into the evening. Our snacks were less desirable. There are several other resorts on the beach that have their own unique restaurant. Because most of the resorts are owned by Swiss or German expats (from what I could tell) there are some very tasty European dishes offered alongside with the typical Filipino and Southeast Asian fare.