Leyte is historically known for two things: first, it is the location of the largest naval battle in World War II, the Battle of Leyte Gulf. And second, it is the site where General Douglas MacArthur eventually returned to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese. Divided into two provinces, Leyte is a must-see place for all tourists. With the typhoons that hit Leyte in the past, the locals gained the admiration of the world for their optimism and indomitable spirit.
The San Juanico Bridge is the landmark that is usually associated with the province. It is the longest bridge in the Philippines, stretching two kilometers, and connecting the islands of Samar and Leyte. Since its construction in 1973, the San Juanico Bridge is one of the most photographed attractions in the province.
Also in Leyte is the beautiful Lake Danao in the city of Ormoc. Measuring at 148 hectares and at an elevation of 2,130 feet above sea level, Lake Danao is one of the most unique lakes in the country. The cool weather in the lakeside create the perfect environment for fishing, sightseeing, camping, and trekking. The lake is also an important source of water for the residents of Ormoc.
Another famous landmark in Leyte is the MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park. Its biggest attraction is the lagoon with huge bronze statues depicting the arrival of General MacArthur and the American forces. The park also features a museum and a beach resort nearby.
For beach-lovers, the Kalanggaman Island has gorgeous sandbars on both ends, with powdery white sand and turquoise waters. It has no electricity, but the island's unspoiled beautynever fails to charm tourists.
Visitors to Leyte will find it more convenient to travel by plane. Tacloban City, the provincial capital of Leyte, serves as the gateway of the province. Flights from Manila to Tacloban usually last one hour and 20 minutes.
By Land and Sea
You can also travel to Leyte by land. There are buses from Pasay City that are headed for Tacloban City. Time travel takes about 21 to 24 hours, which includes a RORO ferry ride from Matnog, Sorsogon, to Allen in Northern Samar.
If you’re coming from Cebu, Oceanjet, SuperCat 2GO, and Weesam Express have fast crafts that travel daily to Ormoc. The ride takes about two and a half hours.
How to Get Around
In the cities like Tacloban, there are public jeepneys available to take you around the city. Tricycles and habal-habal are also available for traveling short distances. For intercity trips, buses and vans are your options.
What to See
Leyte was the setting of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, known to be largest naval battle of World War II, where American and Australian forces fought against the Japanese to recapture and liberate the Philippines. One of the significant events that led to this battle was the return of General Douglas MacArthur in 1944. His historic return, which eventually led to the defeat and surrender of the Japanese forces, is commemorated at the MacArthur Landing Memorial Park. The seven double life-sized statues standing on a shallow manmade pool are the main attractions at the park.
Speaking of history, a visit to Limasawa Island, located on the southern portion of Leyte, will take you on a journey back to the 16th century. The National Shrine of the First Mass in the Philippines is located in Magallanes on the island. As its name suggests, the place marks the spot where the first mass in the Philippines was held on March 31, 1521. In addition, the first cross planted on Philippine soil is also found on top of the highest hill on the island.
The Santo Niño Church is said to be the “most important religious site in the province.” It is the home of the miraculous image of Santo Niño, the patron saint of Tacloban City. The church was severely damaged when Typhoon Yolanda hit the city in 2013. However, it has now been reconstructed to serve as an even better bastion of Catholicism in the province.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration, also known as the Palo Cathedral, was also affected by Typhoon Yolanda. The almost 500-year-old cathedral (it was established by the Jesuits in 1596) suffered major damages but now has been restored to its former glory. The cathedral was also included in the itinerary of Pope Francis when he visited Tacloban in 2015.
And of course, there’s the San Juanico Bridge—the longest bridge in the Philippines that connects the province of Leyte to Samar. The bridge was built during the Marcos administration and was dedicated to the former First Lady Imelda Marcos. Crossing the bridge treats guests to a stunning view of the San Juanico Strait.
Leyte is home to some of the most scenic natural attractions in the Visayas region. For starters, Kalanggaman Island is a little piece of paradise located about an hour away by boat from the mainland of Palompon, Leyte. The island is known for its clear blue waters and powdery white sand where you can go kayaking, stand-up paddling, snorkeling, or even scuba diving. The island is the perfect hideaway place for anyone who wants to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Other islands to visit in Leyte are Canigao and Cuatro Islas.
The Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park is also a place worth visiting. The park features a freshwater lake, hot springs, a virgin forest, and a lagoon. Its focal point, however, is the dormant Mahagnao Volcano. A trek to its peak is actually one of the recommended activities for visitors who want to commune with nature.
The Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum used to be a presidential rest house that was constructed during the Marcos administration. It was built for Imelda Marcos, who hails from Tacloban City. Inside the sprawling property is a chapel for the Santo Niño and many antiques, paintings, and various pieces that showcase the opulent lifestyle of the Marcoses.
Leyte is one of the provinces that was severely affected by the Typhoon Yolanda. To remember the people who lost their lives during this grave tragedy, many Yolanda monuments were put up throughout the province. To name a few, there is the M/V Eva Jocelyn Yolanda Memorial Marker in Anibong, Yolanda Memorial Monument in Sangkahan, and the Araw Memorial Park in Palo. These memorials also serve as a reminder of the resilience of the people of Leyte.
Events and Festivals
The Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival is one of the highly anticipated events in Leyte. The festival is celebrated annually, usually during the month of June. The festival showcases the province’s heritage, culture, and traditions through colorful costume displays and lively street dances.
Where to Eat
When in Tacloban, dining at Ocho Seafood and Grill is a highly recommended. Since 2002, the restaurant has been serving delectable Filipino and Chinese dishes using only the freshest ingredients. You can even choose how you want your food prepared even if it’s not on the menu.
Opened in 2008, Café Lucia is another favorite dining spot found right along Real Street in Tacloban City. Make your visit memorable by ordering their best sellers: putanesca and pasta carbonara and a slice of their chocolate yema cake for dessert.
Giuseppe’s is another crowd favorite, known for their mouthwatering pasta dishes and brick-oven pizzas. Sunzibar, on the other hand, serves Mexican and Middle Eastern food.
If ever you are in Ormoc City, do try out the barbecue stalls along Burgos Street.
Fare: PHP 3,000.00++
On average, a roundtrip flight from Manila to Tacloban City costs about PHP 3,000.00. If you’re traveling by land, the bus fare (inclusive of the RORO ferry fee) is around PHP 1,500.00 for a one-way trip. The boat fares from Cebu City to Ormoc is PHP 700.00 one-way.
When going around, the minimum jeepney fare is PHP 7.00. Habal-habal rides cost about PHP 100.00 per trip, but prices vary depending on the destination.
Food: PHP 200.00 to PHP 250.00
When dining in Leyte, you’ll find that the food are reasonably priced. Most dishes are usually PHP 200.00 to PHP 250.00. A meal at Ocho Seafood & Grill is also PHP 200.00 to PHP 250.00. A cup of coffee from Libro costs PHP 40.00.
Shopping: PHP 20.00 to PHP 300.00
When shopping for souvenirs or pasalubong, key chains or ref magnets range from PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 apiece. Souvenir shirts are also available from PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00. When in Leyte, stock up on local delicacies like binago, moron, and sagmani, for PHP 25.00 each. Cariagara pastillas is also another favorite pasalubong, which is only PHP 150.00 per pack.
Accommodations: PHP 1,000.00 to PHP 4,000.00
There are hotels for just about any traveler in Leyte. For backpackers and budget travelers, there are rooms available for as low as PHP 1,000.00 for an overnight stay. The more upscale hotels cost PHP 4,000.00 a night.
Activities: PHP 200.00 to PHP 3,000.00
Entrance fees to museums are anywhere from PHP 50.00 to PHP 200.00 per head. A trip to Kalanggaman Island requires renting a boat (PHP 3,000 for 15 pax) and an entrance fee of PHP 150.00 (PHP 500.00 for foreigners).
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
You can actually forego giving tips especially when dining since a 10% service charge is already added to your total bill. But if you insist, small amounts from PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 would already be enough.
||Arrival in Tacloban City
||Have breakfast at Libro.
||Visit the Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Center.
||Have lunch at Ocho Seafood and Grill.
||Visit the MacArthur Landing Memorial Park.
||Visit the Palo Cathedral.
||Visit the Santo Niño Church in Tacloban City.
||Have dinner at Giuseppe’s Ristorante.
||Return to the hotel and retire for the night.
||Have breakfast at the hotel.
||Try walking along the entire San Juanico Bridge.
||Buy food and water for your overnight stay in Kalanggaman Island.
||Have lunch at Sunzibar.
||Depart Tacloban City for Palompon.
||ETA in Palompon. and ride a boat to the island.
||ETA in Kalanggaman Island
||Depart Kalanggaman Island.
||ETA at the Palompon Ecotours Office.
||ETA in Tacloban City.
||Dine at Canto Fresco before your flight back to Manila.
||Depart Tacloban City for Manila.
||ETA in Manila
From November to February and May to July, heavy rains can be prevalent in the province, so try to schedule your trip during the dry season: March to April and August to September. The average temperature in the province is about 30 degrees Celsius. Bring light and breathable clothes during your trip.
There are a number of hospitals found throughout Leyte that provide quality health services in case you need medical attention. Some of the prominent hospitals in the area include the Leyte Provincial Hospital, Dr. Jose Silao Memorial Hospital, Bethany Hospital, and the Divine World Hospital.
There are plenty of drug stores and pharmacies in Leyte too. However, it is best to pack your own medicine especially for certain medical conditions that you may have.
Leyte is generally a safe province to visit, but make sure to practice vigilance. Always be wary of your surroundings and keep an eye on your valuables especially when visiting public places.