What’s not to love about Iloilo? The minute you set foot on this island, you feel immediately lullabied just by the tone of her native tongue. The undeniable hospitality of its people, the unimpaired splendour of its towns and its rich heritage and culture are the reasons why this place has captured my heart.
See our 4D3N Itinerary
Trip dates: February 4 to 7, 2015 and February 11 to 14, 2016
Trip budget: PHP4989 only!
Iloilo comes from the word “irong-irong” meaning “nose-like” in Ilonggo, describing how the body of water surrounding the island shapes itself near the mouth of the river. It is located in Western Visayas and is known to be the “Heart of the Philippines”. It is home to the famous Dinagyang Festival (happens every 4th weekend of January), century-old churches, majestic mansions, unspoiled beaches and exotic delicacies. There is absolutely no dull time in Iloilo!
How to get there:
From Manila to Iloilo City:
You can ride either a plane from NAIA to Iloilo International Airport (approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes) or ride a Roll-On, Roll-Off (RORO) which takes around 27 hours to Iloilo city.
From Iloilo Airport to Guimaras:
- Ride a van or taxi to Iloilo City harbor or Ortiz Wharf. (Travel time: 1.15 hours. Van fare: PHP 50)
- Ride pump boat at Ortiz Wharf to Jordan Wharf, Guimaras (Travel time: 15 minutes. Fare: PHP 15)
- Ride tricycle/rent a van to resort of choice. (Travel time: 45 minutes. Trike fare: PHP 450-650 good for 5 people)
From Iloilo Airport to Isla de Gigantes:
- Ride a cab to the city. (Travel time: 30 minutes. Van fare: PHP 50)
- Go to Tagbak Terminal Station. Ride bus going to Estancia. (Travel time: 3 hours. Fare: PHP 150)
- Arrive at Estancia. Board boat to Gigantes Island. (Travel time: 2 hours. Cost: included in our package tour which is PHP 1500)
Private van (recommended for a group of 10 or more)
For our second visit to Iloilo, we were 19 in the group so we decided to rent a van to Estancia port. It cost us a total of 11k for two vans, roundtrip (PHP 578/person). It is a bit more expensive than taking the bus but it was more convenient for us and travel time was shorter by 30 minutes.
You may contact Kuya Doy at +63 919 350 6482 for bookings.
Where to stay:
Chito’s Hotel in Iloilo City
We stayed at Chito’s Hotel (+63 917 322 2643) and I highly recommend it for budget travellers. It offers the basic amenities (hot and cold shower, air-conditioned room) and is just a 5 to 10 minute ride from SM City Iloilo and Riverside Boardwalk (where you can find a lot of restaurants). Rates start at PHP 699 for a non-cable room good for two.
Click link to see other hotels within the city proper.
Hideaway Inn in Isla De Gigantes
There are a number of hotels in the island but the cheapest is at Hideaway Resort. They have two sites, one at North Gigantes Island (main island) and a new one at Bolobadiangan Island (across the main island). We were able to experience staying in both islands and here’s what I liked and not liked:
Hideaway Inn in Asluman Village, Gigantes Norte
Advantages: Food is still hot when served, it is the town proper so you can ride the habal-habal to explore the island, no signal
Disadvantages: Crowded, not beach front
Hideaway Inn in Bolobadiangan island, Gigantes Norte
Advantages: More secluded, beach front, you can camp here, there’s signal at certain spots
Disadvantages: Food is already cold when served since they still have to transport it from the main island
I recommend staying at Bolobadiangan island because it has a more exclusive and away-from-the-world feel.
Where to eat:
Food in Iloilo is the best and is easy on the wallet! Feast on cheap and fresh crabs, fish, wasay wasay, scallops, squid and shrimps everyday.
Restaurants in Iloilo City
- Tatoy’s Manokan & Seafood (Must try: grilled fish and baked oysters!)
- Ramboy’s (Must try: Liempo, chicken and lumpia)
- Breakthrough (Must try: King scallops, fresh fish)
- Netong’s Original Special La Paz Batchoy
Isla de Gigantes
Isla de Gigantes is claimed to be the “Scallop Capital of the Philippines” because of the abundance of scallops in the area (their beach is literally made of scallop shells and their houses are decorated with it as well) and for this, we were able to stuff ourselves with different cooking types of scallops – from grilled, baked, express (like bicol express), steamed, curry, barbecue to tortang scallops! Everyday was a feast and I loved it!
Note: There are no restaurants in the island. Your food will be included in your tour package.
What to do in Iloilo:
Island hopping in Guimaras
One of the best resorts in Guimaras is Alobijod Cove Resort. For a group of 12, we were able to rent a boat for PHP 1100. What I like about Guimaras is that its very quiet and serene. It felt like we owned each island we visited because we were the only people there.
Island hopping in Isla de Gigantes
Isla de Gigantes or Gigantes Group of Islands is without a doubt one of my favorite places in the Philippines. It is composed of a number of islands, two of the biggest are Gigantes Norte (North Gigantes) and Gigantes Sur (South Gigantes). According to locals, primitive settlers in the island found a giant coffin in North Gigantes cave, hence the name.
To get here takes a bit of an effort (5 hours travel time) but once you feel the smooth breeze on your skin, breathe the fresh air and see the wonders of nature, you will realize that the 5-hour land and sea travel is nothing. Every island was distinct and had its own unique beauty. In Isla de Gigantes, you will find Tangke (Salt Water Lagoon), San Antonia beach, Cabugao Gamay island, Bolobadiangan island, Bantigue island, North Gigantes Lighthouse and South Gigantes Beach.
PHP 25/person – entrance fee to Alobijod cove
PHP 50/person – entrance fee to Natago beach
PHP 1100/boat – island hopping in Guimaras (group of 12pax)
Isla de Gigantes
PHP 1500/person – island hopping, accommodations (group of 19pax)
Note: Rates at Hideaway Inn start for as low as PHP 1,200 per person to PHP 3,000
Contact Kuya Joel at +63 918 468 5006 for tour package rates.
- Stay in Bolobadiangan island instead of Asluman village for a more intimate experience at Isla de Gigantes.
- If you are into rock scrambling/climbing, bring a trekking sandals because there are a lot of rock formations in the island which you can explore.
- If you are traveling in a big group, it is best to rent a van to go around the city.