If you have a dare to spare while in Iloilo, you can hop on a ferry and take a quick day tour in Guimaras, a province known for producing sweet mangoes. That’s what we did, and our Guimaras itinerary included island hopping in the morning and a land tour in the afternoon, after which we took a late-afternoon ferry back to Iloilo.
Guimaras came as a surprise. It’s one of the smallest provinces in the Philippines, but it’s charming in its own way. It’s quiet, with roads surrounded with greenery. It also offers activities for tourists, mainly beach activities and land tour on its natural and man-made attractions.
Our day trip in Guimaras
Morning: Island hopping
We had an early start on our Guimaras itinerary so we can island hop in manageable sea condition… and also because the weather was really nice. We availed of the private island hopping package by Raymen’s Beach Resort and asked for an open time.
Our first stop is at SEAFDEC (Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center), also known as Igang Marine Sanctuary. We toured the facility, looked at fish pens and listen how the sanctuary does marine research through the help of local scientists, some graduates from the top university in the country. The sanctuary also holds private seminars for businessmen, teaching them proven methods for enhancing fish growth and so on.
SEAFDEC offers educational tour, so it may not suit everybody’s taste. We both happened to like it. Hali was delighted to see pawikans, which seem friendly to people. We threw food pellets in the fish pens, watching how aggressive some of the fish species are. We also bangus or milkfish, lapu-lapu, pompano, lion fish and other kinds of fish.
I liked SEAFDEC because it reminds of Juag Lagoon Sanctuary in Sorsogon, which is maintained through Kuya Alex’s passion for taking care of the marine life. We saw the same knowledge, diligence and passion in here.
We headed next to Ave Maria Island and Pawikan Island. Pawikan Island is no longer home to pawikans, as the turtles have already been transferred elsewhere. It was still low tide though and our boat couldn’t get across, so we chose to snorkel near the boat.
Snorkeling there turned out to be a very good decision. There were fishes and various large corals underneath. It was early in the morning, and the water was still clear. We spent the majority of our time in island hopping here. By the time it was high tide and the water had gone a bit murky, we were already spent.
Afterwards, we passed by Baras Cave. Baras Cave features two entrances, and given the right weather condition, a boat can enter through the cave. I was looking forward to this, but our boat couldn’t even come close due to the strong waves brought by the habagat season.
The next hour was spent touring the remaining island hopping attractions, including Lamurawan Island and Natago Beach.
After about 3 hours of island hopping, we went back to the resort.
Afternoon: Land tour
We actually didn’t plan on doing a land tour since we were quite short on time, but since we finished earlier than expected on island hopping, we decided to go through with it. We’re glad we did because it allowed us to have a more thorough feel of what Guimaras is like… serene, quiet and beautiful.
A land tour in Guimaras requires 5 hours at most, due to great distances between land attractions. Some of these aren’t really worth visiting based on what I read from blogs online. We only chose selected stops from the list.
The Guisi Lighthouse is the farthest land attraction in Guimaras and also my favorite among the places we’ve visited here. It’s an 18th century architectural work built to guide ships steering along Panay Gulf. The lighthouse has turned rusty, the walls in the ruins taken over by plant roots. The Guisi Lighthouse is perfect for photo-shoots.
The Trappist Monastery grounds features a church and a store for buying pasalubong, especially local delicacies. There are assorted mango-flavored delicacies such as mango bars and mango otap, different-flavored crinkles, mango and calamansi jams, among others. There are also religious and souvenir items such as keychains and wallets.
I’d bought a lovely shell-decorated wallet for P135 and boxes of mango bars, which an officemate raved about.
We’d skipped the Pasalubong Center next and headed to a mango plantation. It’s a short unguided tour of the plantation. There are about 5000 mango trees in the plantation, including seedlings. If you’re a nature person or you’re interested on production of mangoes in Guimaras, you’ll appreciate visiting the mango plantation.
Before ending our day tour in Guimaras, we had merienda in Pitstop, a restaurant that offers various meals with mangoes. There are mango bulalo, mango pasta and it’s famous dish — mango pizza. The mango pizza was surprisingly good. The sweet taste of mango blends perfectly with melted cheese. The crust is thin and crunchy, and the cashew bits on top adds the right bite.
The Pitstop was our last stop on our day tour in Guimaras.
Travel Guide to Guimaras
For those backpacking across multiple provinces, one day in Guimaras is good enough. As for us, we only spent one day Guimaras. We allotted the morning for island hopping and then island tour in the afternoon. Here are the details you need to know about exploring Guimaras.
When to visit
The best time to visit Guimaras is during the dry season (January to May) for good weather. During typhoons, boat transfer from Ortiz Wharf (Iloilo) to Guimaras may be cancelled.
How to get here
Guimaras is easily accessible via Ortiz Wharf (Iloilo)-Jordan Wharf (Guimaras) ferry. Ride takes 15 minutes and costs P15 per person.
Schedule from Iloilo to Guimaras is 5:30AM to 7:30PM daily. Schedule from Guimaras to Iloilo is 6:30AM to 6:30PM daily.
Island hopping tour in Guimaras
The most common jump-off point for island hopping in Guimaras is Alubihod Beach since it’s the nearest to the islands. You can also go via Nueva Valencia or other areas in Guimaras.
Island hopping can take 3-5 hours depending on your pace.
Places to see
Here are the standard places to see during island hopping:
- SEAFDEC or Igang Marine Sanctuary
- Ave Maria Island
- Pawikan Island or Turtle Island
- Baras Cave
- Fairy Castle
- Lamurawan Island
- Natago Beach
- Yato Island
Island hopping package
Raymen Beach Resort along Alubihod Beach offers island hopping tour in Guimaras. Here are the current rates (Updated as of 2019):
- P600 for the whole boat for the first hour + P200 every succeeding hour (good for up to 10 people)
- P50 snorkel rent
Land tour in Guimaras
You need to rent a tricycle or multicab to tour Guimaras. You can do this in half day or whole day.
Places to see
These are the standard attractions to see during the land tour:
- Balaan Bukid
- Smallest Plaza
- Museo de Guimaras
- Provincial Capitol
- The Pitstop
- Pasalubong Center
- Mango Plantation
- Trappist Monastery
- Guisi Lighthouse and Beach
- Alubihod Beach
Other places to see:
- Adventure Park
- Valle Verde Mountain Resort
- Camp Alfredo
- Sadsad Falls
These are special attractions (requires additional fee of P300 or more):
- San Lorenzo Wind Farm (or more commonly known as Guimaras Windmills)
- Navalas Church
- Roca Encantanda
Since we only have half a day, we visited only selected tourist attractions here. In particular, we recommend going to Guisi Lighthouse and Beach, Mango Plantation, Trappist Monastery and the Pitstop.
Take note that visiting Sadsad falls is seasonal, since there are months where there is little stream.
Land tour package
Here is the details of our tour guide:
Contact: Kuya Cherald – 09084748122
- Tricycle (good for 2-3 people) – P1200
- Multicab – P2000
- Jeepney – P2500
- Van – P3500
If you’re a solo traveler, you can also get a motorcycle tour (P1000).
Where to stay
There are several great beach resorts in Guimaras, which is perfect if you want to enjoy it longer. If you’re planning to stay in Guimaras, here are the best resorts you can book:
- Nature’s Eye Beach Resort: Book discounted rooms here
- Andana Resort: Book discounted rooms here
- Cabugan Adventure Resort: Book discounted rooms here
P.S. This post is part of our 5-day Antique-Iloilo-Guimaras trip.