By Air, Sea, and Land
Guimaras is an island located on the northwestern part of the province of Iloilo. There is no direct way to get to the island from Metro Manila; travelers need get to Iloilo first. Be prepared to travel by air, sea, and land when getting to this destination in Western Visayas.
The more convenient way to travel to Iloilo is by air. Airlines in the country like Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have direct flights from Manila to Iloilo daily. For international tourists, there are also flights to Iloilo from other countries like Hong Kong and Singapore. All aircraft bound for the province land at Iloilo International Airport.
If your schedule is flexible, sea travel is also another option. There are scheduled ferry rides courtesy of 2GO Travel from Manila to Iloilo. Travel time from Manila can last for about 27 hours. If you’re coming from Cebu, it will take 14 hours. If you're coming from Bacolod, it will only take two hours.
After landing in Iloilo International Airport or docking at the new Ferry and Port Terminal, you can either ride a shuttle (typically a van), a public jeepney, or a taxi towards Ortiz Wharf or Parola Wharf. From there, a pumpboat will then take you to either Jordan Wharf or the McArthur Wharf in Guimaras. The ride across Iloilo Strait will take just about 15 to 20 minutes.
How to Get Around
When in Guimaras, the best way to go around is to ride a tricycle or a multicab. You can ride either on a per-trip basis, or you can negotiate with the driver if he can drive you around the whole day to the interesting places around the island. Jeeps are also available but are not as convenient due to the island’s winding roads.
What to See
Founded in 1972, the Our Lady of the Philippines Monastery is one of Guimaras’ most notable landmarks. More commonly known as the Trappist Monastery and the only Trappist monastery in the Philippines, it is currently home to 35 monks under the Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance.
Guimaras is known for its variety mangoes so a visit to the island wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Mango Research Institute where you can learn all things about this golden fruit: from how they are planted to how they are grown. At the end of the tour, you can even have taste of the high-quality mangoes of Guimaras that have already made it to the tables of the White House and even the Buckingham Palace.
The Guisi Lighthouse is yet another landmark in Guimaras that is truly worth a visit. The structure that you’ll see is what remains of a lighthouse that was built in the 18th century. It is said to be the second oldest lighthouse in the Philippines, but sadly, wear and tear resulted to its dilapidated appearance . Tourists are still permitted to go on top of the lighthouse where they can feast their eyes on a majestic view of the entire island and of the surrounding azure sea. Another interesting structure is the newer and more modern lighthouse that is just a couple of steps away.
One look at the Parish of San Isidro Labrador and you’ll be reminded of the Jaro Cathedral in Iloilo. Built in 1880, this church known as the Navalas Church is considered as the oldest Catholic Church in the entire island of Guimaras. Though the façade retained its original form, the interiors of the church have undergone several renovations and restorations.
Completing the list of landmarks in Guimaras is Roca Encantanda.Built in 1910, this idyllic mansion stands on a hill that overlooks Iloilo Strait and Siete Pecados. The property belongs to the Lopez Family of Iloilo and was built as a tribute to their matriarch, Doña Presentacion Hofileña Lopez.
Natural and Man-Made Attractions
Guimaras is almost always associated with mangoes, with over 50,000 mango trees planted throughout the island. It is also blessed with a number of natural attractions that will leave you breathless and spellbound.
Guimaras can be explored in two ways: by land and by sea. The land tour will take you to some of the historic landmarks above, with the addition of the Balaan Bukid Shrine, the Valle Verde View Deck, and the Guimaras Museum in the itinerary.
A trek is necessary to reach Balaan Bukid Shrine. The shrine features a trail with Stations of the Cross, which attracts devotees especially during Holy Week. The Ave Maria Shrine is a quaint chapel found at the top of the mountain, where you can reconnect with your faith. Not too far from the chapel is a giant cross visible from anywhere on the island as well as any point in Iloilo City.
Although established as a private resort, Valle Verde Mountain Spring Resort is open to visitors for a minimal entrance fee of PHP 10.00. Just like the Balaan Bukid Shrine, trekking is necessary to tour the resor,t but once you reach the top, the view of Lawi Bay will leave you dazzled. For history and art enthusiast, you can visit Guimaras Provincial Monument and Museum, a simple museum with galleries displaying different pieces of art, artifacts, and other important items about the history and culture of the island.
Another interesting place to visit in Guimaras is the Southeast Asian Fisheries and Development Center (SEAFDEC). Tourists will be toured around its facilities where different kinds of fish are studied and observed. Grouper pompano, seabass, and red snapper are just some of the species of fish that you will encounter.
Meanwhile, sea tours around Guimaras is a great way to explore some of its hidden coves and beaches. While you’re at it, be sure to check out some of the island’s famous tropical areas. The Alubihod Beach is a popular beach destination for both locals and tourists. Although the shore is short as opposed to other famous beaches in the Philippines, Alubihod Beach features white sands and clear waters that are just as beautiful and breathtaking as the ones in White Beach in Boracay.
The Ave Maria Islet is another popular destination on the island where its seemingly perfect white sand beach will also leave you impressed. The islet seems to be isolated and uninhabited, just the spot for that much-needed and well-deserved R&R. Its clear blue waters are also perfect for a refreshing swim, while the shores have barely been touched, making you feel like you’re in the film Castaway.
A visit to Turtle Island will let you experience swimming with some gentle sea turtles. Baras Beach, just like the other beaches in Guimaras, is also blessed with white sands and crystal clear waters, while the Baras Cave features mystical wonders like stunning rock formations and colonies of fruit bats. It’s best to head out of the cave right before sunset so you can dock by the shore and watch the glorious sunset.
Lastly, squeeze in a visit to Labi-Labi Springs and the falls of Orang, Tarug, and Panaluron to witness some beautiful bodies of water. Other places to include are the Macapo Falls and Sadsad Falls.
Events and Festivals
To show their gratitude for having been blessed with a rich land full of natural wonders and fertile soil, the people of Guimaras celebrates the annual Manggahan Festival every May. The festival, which is usually celebrated for a whole month, treats both locals and tourists with a grand celebration that illustrates the history, culture, and traditions of this truly captivating island.
Where to Eat
There are no mainstream restaurants available on the island like fast foods, but the homegrown ones serve mouthwatering dishes that will give the popular dining establishments in the major cities a run for their money.
First on your list should be Pitstop Restaurant. This eatery has become famous for their various creations using mango, especially their house specialty, mango pizza! There is also mango spaghetti for the pasta lovers out there and of course, the classic and refreshing mango shake.
Another favorite dining spot in Guimaras is the Magic Island Resort Restaurant. Guests can enjoy a wide array of fresh seafood, which can be enjoyed al fresco.
Another interesting restaurant on the island is Camiña Balay nga Kawayan. The restaurant features a farm-to-plate buffet concept, which means that all of the dishes served are made only from the freshest ingredients. You will have to make a reservation two to three days in advance since the restaurant does not accept walk-in guests.
Fare: Starting at PHP 2,500.00++
Air fares for a roundtrip flight from Manila to Iloilo could go for as low as PHP 2,500.00 to as high as PHP 7,000.00, depending on the season, the airline, and even the promo. On the other hand, boat fares from Manila can go from PHP 500.00 to as much as PHP 6,000.00 for a one-way trip.
The sea transfer from Iloilo to Guimaras only costs PHP 30.00 one way. Once you arrived on the island, the minimum jeep fare is PHP 13.00, while the minimum tricycle fare is PHP 20.00. You can rent a jeep for a day for PHP 2,500.00. Renting the multicab will cost you anywhere from PHP 1,800.00 to PHP 3,500.00 for one day.
Food: PHP 150.00 to PHP 500.00
On average, spending PHP 150.00 per meal should be good enough. The mango pizza from Pitstop Restaurant costs about PHP 200.00. The buffet from Camiña Balay nga Kawayan, on the other hand, costs about PHP 500.00 per head.
Shopping: PHP 30.00 to PHP 300.00
Your shopping will be limited to the souvenir items and the pasalubong you will be bringing home with you. Key chains cost PHP 30.00 per piece, while souvenir shirts cost PHP 250.00 or more. The famous mangoes of Guimaras is about PHP 80.00 per kilo. Products from the Trappist monastery are also popular take home items from the island, with prices ranging from PHP 35.00 to as much as PHP 350.00 per item.
Accommodations: PHP 600.00 to PHP 3,000.00
There are a number of lodging facilities available on the island. You can already book a basic room for just PHP 600.00, while the more expensive ones can go for as much as PHP 3,000.00 a night.
Activities: Starting at PHP 400.00
You can either choose the land or island hopping tour to explore Guimaras, or both. For the land tour, you will need to rent a trike, a multicab, or jeep, which starts at PHP 400.00. For island hopping, the rate starts at PHP 500.00 for the first hour.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
A service charge is usually already included in your bill when dining so leaving a tip is not necessary. But if you insist, you can leave around PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00. Feel free to be extra generous when tipping tour guides and drivers.
||Arrive in Iloilo City. Take a public transport towards Ortiz Wharf.
||Arrive at Ortiz Wharf for the boat ride to Guimaras.
||Arrive in Guimaras.
||Have brunch or early lunch at any of the nearby eateries.
||Check in at the resort or hotel, settle down, and freshen up.
||Go on a land tour and start off with the farthest destination—the Guisi Beach and Guisi Lighthouse.
||Visit Museo de Guimaras.
||Visit Trappist Monastery and buy Trappist products.
||Walk around town to get a feel of the lives of the locals.
||Have dinner at Pitstop Restaurant.
||Return to your resort or hotel to rest.
||Hire a multicab or a tricycle to go to Roca Encantada and Navalas Church.
||Go to the Balaan Bukid Shrine.
||Visit the Mango Research Center.
||Start the island hopping tour going to SEAFDEC, Turtle Sanctuary, Alubihod Beach, and Ave Maria Island last.
||Return to the resort and hotel.
||Visit Baras Beach and the Baras Cave.
||Buy souvenirs and pasalubong downtown.
||Go back to the resort or hotel and prepare for check-out.
||Check out of the hotel.
||Arrive at Jordan Wharf.
||Arrive at Ortiz Wharf.
||Arrive in Iloilo City Proper.
The Philippines has two seasons: wet and dry. The wet season usually occurs from May to October, while the dry season is from November to April. The average temperature on the island is 27 degrees, which means that you should pack light and breathable clothes when you come and visit. No need to bring jacket or thick clothing to keep you warm when the evenings get cold; a light jacket or scarf will do.
There are healthcare facilities available on the island where tourists can seek medical attention. There is the Buenavista Emergency Hospital in McLain, Buenavista; the Dr. Catalino Gallego Nava Provincial Hospital in San Miguel, Jordan; and the Nueva Valencia District Hospital in Lanipe, Nueva Valencia.
There are a handful of pharmacies available on the island, mostly located downtown. If you are staying in areas in the outskirts of Guimaras, load up on the necessary medicines like Paracetamol, Mefenamic Acid, and the like. In addition, bring your own medicines if you have certain health conditions.
Jeeps, tricycles, and multicabs are the modes of transportation on the island. These are open air vehicles so bring a handkerchief or face mask.
The people of Guimaras are very kind, friendly, and accommodating. The island is also generally safe and peaceful so your trip is surely going to be a memorable one. However don’t just let your guard down. Always be vigilant, alert, and never leave your valuables unattended especially in crowded places or during the peak season when there will be a lot of people on the island.
Remember that bringing in fruits from other places, especially mangoes, is strictly prohibited in Guimaras. The guards at the wharf will be inspecting your bag when you arrive. The local government is very strict with preserving the quality of their mangoes. Your understanding and cooperation are highly appreciated.
Also, beware of jellyfishes. You will be informed by beach authorities and tour guides if jellyfish is common in a certain area so always heed their warnings. In case of a jellyfish sting, seek assistance immediately.