Philippines > Iloilo
What's good about this province is it will open you up to two worlds - the old and the new - coexisting in perfect harmony. Even better, Iloilo offers the best of both. You'll find a world of the past where old churches and heritage houses are a prominent sight. Nostalgia will surely set in. Yet you also get to see another world where the trappings of city living and modern comforts abound. Urbanites can always find a reason to celebrate. But Iloilo is not just about culture - whether old or new - as nature also forms a significant part of the Ilonggo pride. Here, the perfect island takes many forms and uncrowded beaches are the norm.
How to Get There
Iloilo has an international airport in Cabatuan town, about 30 minutes away from the city proper. The airport accommodates direct domestic flights from major Philippine cities like Manila (1.3 hours), Cebu (45 minutes), Davao (1.15 hours), Puerto Princesa (1 hour), General Santos (1.25 hours) and Cagayan de Oro (55 minutes). Direct international flights from Hong Kong (2.5 hours) and Singapore (3.5 hours) are available as well.
Ride a ferry to Iloilo City Port from Manila (27 hours), Cebu (13 hours), Zamboanga or Cagayan de Oro (14 hours). You can also get to Bacolod City Port first where you can take a one-hour fast craft ride to Iloilo City.
Land travel is an option only for nearby provinces in Panay Island (the same island where Iloilo is). From Boracay, one can take a bus or van to Iloilo City for a 5 to 6-hour trip.
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Where to Stay
Being home to one of the highly-urbanized cities in the Philippines, Iloilo offers travelers a wide array of accommodation options. Inns, pension houses, and hotels are scattered around the capital. Below is a list of some of the most budget-friendly accommodation providers in Iloilo City. If you decide to stay the night in or somewhere near Gigantes Islands, you can choose from any of the resorts in the towns of Estancia and Carles.
- One Lourdes Dormitel, Iloilo City - It may be just a 2-star hotel by tourism standards but this 3-story property is one of the top Iloilo hotels when it comes to customer service, convenience, and value for money. Located within the city, it provides easy access to various commercial establishments and multiple dining selections. An air-conditioned room for two costs only Php 825. Call them at (033) 338- 4288 to inquire.
- Riverside Inn, Iloilo City - Conveniently located at the heart of the city, this budget hotel is in the vicinity of business districts and government offices which makes it an excellent choice not only for leisure travelers but also for those who are on a business trip. At Php 1,090, you can have an air-conditioned room for two for a night. You can reach them at 09228380191.
- People's Hotel, Iloilo City - Formerly known as Four-Season Hotel, this hotel is also situated within the city. Room rates still fall within the budget category. A standard room for two costs Php 1,350. Been wanting to have some La Paz Batchoy? No need to go far as Deco's, a famous batchoy specialty restaurant, is right at its doorsteps. Contact them at (033) 336 1070.
- Paon Beach Club, Estancia - This resort is a common jumping-off point to the island getaways in Northern Iloilo, notably the Islas the Gigantes. If you're coming from Iloilo City and you want some convenience to get a good night's sleep, this is the most logical choice. You can stay in a fan room for as low as Php 200. Air-conditioned rooms, meanwhile, may be rented out for as low as Php 600 good for two persons. Their mobile number is 09201348824.
- Rosewood Place Resort, Gigantes Norte, Carles - A resort located right within Gigantes Norte, Rosewood boasts a long stretch of white sand where one can frolic and watch the sun set from. Unlike most places in Gigantes, you can find communication signal in this place. You can choose between air-conditioned or fan nipa cottages. A fan room with double occupancy costs only Php 500. Inquire about their latest rates by calling these numbers: 09079551099 or 09107101595.
- Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn, Gigantes Norte, Carles - This is probably the most known among the resorts based in Gigantes, partly due to the fact that this is owned by a former tourism officer of Carles, the town where Gigantes belong, but primarily because it is truly a backpacker's haven. You can choose from any of the fan nipa cottages, but regardless of your choice, a fixed fee of Php 200 per person will be paid. Text (or call, if signal permits) them at 09184685006.
Where to Eat
Part of Iloilo culture is its delectable cuisine. So while majority of hotels and resorts offer dining options, you may want to expand your selection and give your taste buds a treat by eating at some of Iloilo's most beloved restaurants. Here's a rundown of the places that just might make you utter the words "Namit gid!".
- Netong's Original Special La Paz Batchoy, La Paz Public Market, Iloilo City - There's no better place to satisfy your craving for a serving of authentic batchoy (noodle soup made with pork organs, crushed pork cracklings, chicken stock, and beef loin) than La Paz market, the birthplace of Iloilo's most iconic dish. They say you haven't been to Iloilo if you haven't tasted it. Though a lot of batchoy shops have opened in recent years, Netong's is still considered to be the best. They have been serving the dish since 1940s. Indulge in a bowl of special batchoy for only Php 55.
- Tatoy's Manokan and Seafoods, Villa Arevalo, Iloilo City - Located in a long stretch of beach in Villa Arevalo district, this humble restaurant has beach-side huts to provide guests an al fresco dining experience. An air-conditioned dining area is also available. The litson manok (herb-stuffed and grill-roasted native chicken) is their all-time bestseller. A group of up to five can partake of a whole chicken that costs around Php 320.
- Breakthrough Restaurant, Villa Arevalo, Iloilo City - Also in Villa Beach, the same beach where Tatoy's is, Breakthrough is the go-to restaurant if seafood is what you hunger for. Here, fishes and seashells are better than fresh. You can actually pick from any of the live catch in their big aquariums and have it cooked however you want it - grilled or in broth. Servings are good for sharing and prices range from Php 150 to Php 700.
- Esca's Garden Restaurant, Iloilo City - With great food and homey ambiance, Esca's provides guests all the reasons to have a satisfying dining experience. The Fort San Pedro chicken inasal (Ilonggo-style chicken barbecue), a half-century-old family recipe, should be in everyone's order list. A meal that comes with rice and soup costs more or less Php 100. Better yet, try their buffet. Catering services can also be an option for big parties.
- Roberto's, Calle Real, Iloilo City - Roberto's stands strong in one of the busiest streets in Iloilo City amid competition from household names like Jollibee and Mang Inasal. Its claim to fame is its Queen Siopao, a baozi of a size really fit for a queen, sold at Php 70 apiece. This small restaurant is also famous for other affordable Chinese delicacies like pancit and lumpia.
Top Things to See and Do
Devote at least two to three days for a one-of-a-kind natural and cultural excursion. Of course you need longer time if you really want to immerse yourself in the Ilonggo world. In every town from the north all the way down south, there's a place that deserves a spot in your itinerary. But let me just share with you some highlights.
Click on each destination or adventure for a detailed travel guide. As preferences may vary from person to person, I have listed down different options on how you can visit these attractions and the things you can do in each of these. Below you can also find a suggested itinerary and sample costing to help you plan your trip.
Plot well your activities and itinerary if you have very limited time. Be mindful of the schedule of once-a-day-only trips to and from Gigantes as it can impact significantly both your schedule and your budget. Consider chartering a boat for the tour and transport to and from Gigantes to be more flexible with time.
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The expenses for Iloilo trip can vary significantly depending on your transport, food, and accommodation preferences. Take advantage of promo airfares as transport can be a huge cost item. Below estimates are based on a 5-person tour. The more you are in a group, the cheaper the costs will be.
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There's a variety of things you can see and do in Iloilo. There's a destination that suits every taste. If you're yearning for the beauty of nature, Islas de Gigantes will surely not fall short of your expectation. If you have a liking for culture and history, the southern towns and the capital itself will not disappoint.
The Islas de Gigantes tours are monopolized by a few so the rates can get expensive especially for small groups. One provider doesn't even allow merging of groups. This could be so restrictive for solo travelers.
If you want to do island-hopping in Islas de Gigantes, consider taking Roxas City in Capiz province as your transit point as it is nearer compared to Iloilo City. If the island province of Guimaras is another place of interest for you, extend another day and take a 15-minute boat ride from Ortiz Wharf in Iloilo City.
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