The island-region is known for being the main producer of sugar and organic products in the nation, and is home to many beaches and some nature reserves (some still rarely visited), as well as the tallest peak of the Visayas, the semi-active Kanlaon Volcano. In some cities and towns, especially in Bacolod and to the cities north of it, are several historic landmarks, such as ancestral houses once owned by prominent native families. In the south of the island is Dumaguete, a hip university city that attracts both locals and foreigners alike. Negros is also famous for its several native cultural events, the most popular being the MassKara Festival, which is annually celebrated every October. Negros is also known as one of the top culinary destinations of the Philippines because of its regional cuisine, which is famous for delectable desserts and delicacies and various other dishes.
Negros contains two provinces, each of which occupies a part of the island and some nearby islets:
- Negros Occidental - the northwestern part, with Bacolod as the provincial capital.
- Negros Oriental - the southeastern part, with Dumaguete as the provincial capital.
In the Philippine government's administrative divisions of the nation, the Negros provinces are included in two different regions, with Negros Occidental in Western Visayas (Region VI) and Negros Oriental in Central Visayas (Region VII). In terms of languages, the two provinces are strongly connected to these administrative regions. Negros Occidental speaks Hiligaynon/Ilonggo like some other areas of the Western Visayas, while Negros Oriental speaks Cebuano like the rest of the Central Visayas.
Here in Wikivoyage, we treat Negros as a separate region since everything is on one island with good transport links all over it.
- 1 Bacolod - The most populous city of Negros, known as "The City of Smiles" because of the MassKara Festival celebrated annually in October. Also famous for its sweet delicacies and chicken inasal (BBQ chicken).
- 2 Dumaguete - A hip university city in the island's southeastern tip. A major tourist destination with more foreign retirees than any other city in the country.
- 3 Silay - Are old mansions your thing? Highly interested in history? This city north of Bacolod has a lot to offer for history buffs. Also home to the main airport of Negros Occidental.
- 4 Kabankalan - A coastal city with some resorts.
- 5 Bais - A coastal city that serves as a jump-off point for whale and dolphin watching in the Tañon Strait.
- 6 Guihulngan - Coastal town and regional center, about 100,000.
- 7 Sipalay - The Negros equivalent to Western Visayas' Boracay, it offers one of the region's best beaches and nice summer resorts. In other words, a Negrense paradise for beach bums.
- 8 San Carlos - A port town with ferries to Cebu Island.
Among the cities, Bacolod is the most-populous with about 600,000 in the city itself and 800,000 in its metropolitan area. Dumaguete is second with over 200,000 counting suburbs. Both serve as capitals of their respective provinces. Kabankalan is third at around 200,000.
Negros is the fourth-largest island in the Philippines and the second-largest in the Visayas at 13,309.60 km2 (5,138.87 sq mi). Both Luzon (main island of the north) and Mindanao (main island of the south) are much larger in both area and population. In terms of area, Negros is about the same size as Samar (the 3rd-largest) or Palawan (5th), but it has a larger population than either, with 4.4 million inhabitants as of the 2015 census, versus 1.9 million for Samar and 1.1 million for Palawan.
Magellan was the original leader of the first expedition to circle the Earth, but he was killed in battle on Mactan Island in Cebu Province, leaving Elcano in command the rest of the way. The leaders had been promised an island each, and Elcano's heirs were given the hereditary title Margues de Buglas; "Buglas" is an ancient name for Negros. They later gave the island its present name "Negros", which is Spanish for "blacks", after seeing the island's dark-skinned native inhabitants. The name Buglas and the title, however, have survived into the modern era; the current Margues lives in Silay.
For centuries, Negros has been an important center of sugar production and one of the country's most prosperous regions, hence its nickname the "Sugarbowl of the Philippines". Under colonial American administration, it was the only region where local government was fully run by the native Filipinos, rather than by colonial authorities. That government was dominated by a few wealthy Negrense families — mostly owners of sugarcane plantations, many with Spanish and/or Chinese ancestral ties. Those families are still influential today.
Negros is also actively and progressively pursuing the goal of becoming the "Organic Food Bowl of Asia", thanks to its lush, fertile volcanic soil suitable for organic multi-crop agriculture.
As of 2018, however, there are no international flights to the island, though Bacolod's airport can handle them and Dumaguete is building a new larger airport fit for international traffic, which will come into service in the mid-2020s. The nearest major international airport is Mactan-Cebu International Airport, but one can also reach the island via Manila, Clark or Iloilo airports.
The vivid yellow Ceres buses (both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned) go to all of the cities and most towns on the island, and in some areas, jeepneys are also used between cities and towns near each other.
Transport options within the cities and towns vary; jeepneys and taxis are common in Bacolod, but in Dumaguete, as well as many of the smaller places throughout Negros, it is all three-wheelers. See the city articles for more details.
Cebu Province lies to the east and its central urban area, Metro Cebu, is easily reached by ferry, by plane, or on a bus which will be carried by a Ro-Ro (roll-on roll-off) ferry part of the way. There are frequent bus departures from either Dumaguete or Bacolod, and some from some smaller cities and towns as well. A bit further east is the popular tourist destination of Bohol, reachable by ferry from Dumaguete.
Panay is to the west, best reached by ferry from Bacolod to Iloilo. The highly developed tourist island of Boracay is just off the north coast of Panay, reachable via Kalibo. From there, one might continue north to Romblon.
Small island provinces nearby are Guimaras, which is close Iloilo City in Panay and is separated from Negros by a wide strait, and Siquijor, off the southeastern tip of Negros. Both can be reached with short ferry rides, Guimaras from Iloilo and Siquijor from Dumaguete.