Guimaras Island, located between Negros and Iloilo, is the mango capital of Philippines. They are renown all over the Philippines for their delicious mangoes, which, of course, were not in season when I was there. Not long ago, Guimaras, crazed with mangoes, created the Mango Pizza.
When everyone was telling me I should try this delicious Mango Pizza once I’m in Guimaras, I thought they were talking of something similar to a Nutella pizza, more like a mango pie but with a pizza crust. Well little did I know… I went to the Pitstop in San Miguel, a restaurant that serves the best Mango Pizza on the island, and of course, ordered it. I had the honor to receive a pizza covered with tomato sauce, cheese, peperbell and of course mangoes. I kind of half expected it already so it wasn’t that big of a surprise. I have to say it was pretty ok, would I order it again? No, but it’s kind of a must-try here, so, should you try it? Yes. It’s really not bad and the mangoes are really tasty.
Apart from Mango Pizza, Guimaras has some nice beaches and activities to offer. The main touristee area is in Nueva Valencia, where all the resorts are located along with the nice spots. Most of the main attractions are nearby, I got the impression that the municipality tries to get tourists to visit the rest of the island and “created” points of interest, that are not so much interesting…
The best way to explore Guimaras is either to rent a motorbike for the day or to hire a tricycle to take you around the island. I rented a motorbike in Jordan to Alex, you can find him on facebook, he charges 500 pesos for 24 hours. Try to arrange it in advance because it will take some time for the people at the port to find you a bike if you just show up there. Coming from Negros, I don’t know about renting a bike but you can surely hire a tricycle. Guimaras can totally be visited as a day trip, you’ll have enough time to see everything.
What to do in Guimaras:
1 – Island hopping
You have two options for island hopping: either visit the islands toward the south-west of Guimaras with San Roque’s ecotouristic project, they’ll take you to the protected area and through the mangrove. Or visit the islands located in the north-west area. I opted for the second option.
The tour starts at Alubihod beach, you’ll pay between 500 to 600 pesos for the first hour for a boat good for ten and then 150 to 200 pesos per additional hour. My advice is to book it with Raymen Beach Resort, it’s cheaper and the only other option, the one I took, I wouldn’t recommend. Try to get there early because when I got to the resort they had no boats available so they directed me to a guy on the beach.
The tour was nice but I really don’t advise going with him. First, the other guy helping him is a kid, so ok he’s an orphan and would probably be begging in the streets if he didn’t have the job, but if you’re a good person you would take him inside your house for free instead of making him work, no? Anyway, the debate is endless and I don’t think there’s much I can do about child labor apart from trying not to buy anything from kids. So that was the first down point, the second one was that the guy was really trying to keep me longer on the boat so I would pay more, he kept asking if I wanted to swim even after I told him no and that I wanted to go back. The guy was nice but this was super annoying.
Back to the island hopping in itself: it was super nice, the snorkeling is just amazing, there are so many fishes, (do the tour in the morning so you don’t get attacked by jellyfish, like I did, I still bear the marks of the attack). The white-sand beaches are also beautiful, it’s like being in paradise.
Most of the islands are private so you cannot go on it, just watch them from the boat. Some of the resorts there look wonderful, really secluded and quiet, it’s more like villas on the beach than big concrete buildings. I think it could be perfect for honeymooners or people who really want to disconnect for a couple of nights.
2 – Visit the Guisi lighthouse
This old Spanish lighthouse is the second oldest one in the Philippines, now it’s really rusty and looks like it’s not going to stand much longer. The ruins of the adjacent building are nice and perfect for a photoshoot. The view is also really nice from up there.
I would say this lighthouse is from the 19th century but on the sign there, it starts by stating that the lighthouse is from the 18th century but few lines later it says that it was built between 1894 and 1896, so 19th century…
The beach next to it is really nice and pretty quiet, most tourists in Guimaras are from the Philippines so the beaches are far from crowded here. You’ll have to go through one of the resorts to access it. If you’re planning on booking an accommodation here just know that the location is pretty remote: no restaurants apart from the ones at the resorts, no sari-sari, no public transportation…
3 – Go to Bala-an Bukid for sunset
This is a pilgrimage, you’ll see a lot of icons all the way up along the road. On top you’ll find a church (closed when I got there), it’s the perfect place to watch the sunset and enjoy the view, you’ll see all of Iloilo. That’s my favorite spot on Guimaras.
Just note that the road is in terrible conditions, there have been several mudslides so the road is full of crevasses. If you stay for sunset you’ll have to go down in the dark, only do it if you’re sure of your driving skills. I still couldn’t go all the way up with the bike and had to walk for about 10 minutes. You can also do the trek from the village (where the concrete road stops), it’s about 2 kilometers.
4 – Roca Encantada
This is the Lopez family vacation house, they call it a heritage house, but it’s not that old (1910) and the architecture has nothing exceptional, at least to my opinion. You cannot visit the house but you can go on the terraces.
The house offers nothing worth driving all the way up there, but you’ll get a super nice view on the Siete Pecados Islands (seven sins). Legend says that seven sisters went swimming against their parents wish, the weather got bad and they all died, soon after seven islets appeared.
5 – Navalas Church
Located near Roca Encantada, Navalas church was built in 1880 and is the oldest church on the island, the architecture is typical of the Spanish style, similar to what you’ll see all over the Philippines. Yet again, you”ll have to decide if it’s worth to drive all the way there. If you don’t have time, you can skip it, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to visit old churches elsewhere in the Philippines.
6 – (Don’t) visit the National Mango Research Center
So this one I really didn’t understand why everyone recommends going and why it’s on everyone’s tour. You cannot visit the labs, where they do everything, no one will guide you through the facilities, there’s maybe 10 mango trees (pretty common here) and some greenhouses where they grow the small trees. There’s one gallery with explanations but they use it as a storage place, so you cannot really get close to it… Why they advise you to visit this place is a mystery to me.
It may be better to visit an actual mango plantation but you have to arrange it in advance.
Guimaras is really protective of its mangoes, you can export the tree but neither the seeds nor the trees. They want to keep the exclusivity of the breed they grow here.
Are you going to Panay next? Check out the best things to do in Iloilo.
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