Bacolod in the Philippines is a second-city, far off the radar for most tourists, but it still has many redeeming qualities that make it a great place to visit or even live. In fact, Bacolod is also no small obscure village. It’s actually the capital city of the island of Negros (pronounced and originating from the Spanish word for the color black), which is a fairly large, lush and fertile, and gorgeous island in the central Visayan region.
I’ve visited Bacolod a few times, as I live in the smaller city of Dumaguete on the opposite side of Negros, so here are a few of my thoughts and notes.
The City of Bacolod
First off, it is convenient getting to Bacolod, as they have a nice small airport, which is still exponentially bigger than the airport in Dumaguete and has flights to and from far more domestic destinations, and even a couple of international stops.
You can also get there from the island of Aklan which is the access point to Boracay, but that would take a considerable bus ride and ferry trip.
So what’s to do in Bacolod? The city itself isn’t sterling and nice, but they do have a good foodie culture. In fact, Bacolod is called the Sugar Bowl of the Philippines because it’s the city built on the traditional sugar cane industry, and there is still a huge sugar cane industry in and around Bacolod. That brings in two things: a lot of wealth over the last two centuries, and a reputation for great sweets. In fact, there’s one area in Bacolod with about a dozen great bakeries within a few miles (three of them are right across the street from each other, called the Cake Triangle.) So visitors often go bakery to bakery sampling the amazing treats.
Foodies will also be happy to visit a big entertainment complex right behind the startlingly ornate city hall, where there are plenty of bars, open-air restaurants, and meeting places.
But go outside of town just a little bit, and you’ll really get to the hear of Bacolod’s attractiveness as a destination. The airport is actually located in Sipalay, which is about 20 minutes from downtown Bacolod. That’s also the area where there are several communities that serve as preserved historical sites, so the architecture, history, and other remnants of 19th and early 20th-century sugar cane plantations and barons is on display.
You’ll also find The Ruins there, which has been called the Taj Mahal of the Philippines. While it’s not even 1/100th as impressive as the real Taj Mahal, it is a really cool and picturesque landmark and has a love story behind its origins, too.
One of the other great tourist attractions near Bacolod is the resort island of Lakawon. You have to drive almost two hours south along the coast and then take a 30 minute ferry ride to get there, but it’s well worth it, as the island has white sand beaches, plenty of places to chill and soak up the sun, eat some good food, hang out with family and friends, and one of the most memorable sites in the Philippines – a full-on floating bar (not a boat because it has no engine and doesn’t go anywhere)! It’s super cool and definitely worth a visit if you’re in Bacolod!