On my second day in Iloilo, I ventured to the famous island of Guimaras. My hotel was a few blocks away from the port where the boats going to and fro the island are docked. The boat ride from Parola to Jordan takes only 15 minutes for Php 14 one way and plenty of pump boats are scheduled for the day, taking locals and tourists, so it’s not a problem that you’ll miss it.
If you don’t plan to stay overnight, go to the island in the morning so you can explore the tourist spots in one day and catch the boat before the evening to head back to the mainland. My itinerary from Experience Philippines has listed some to-do checklists, sort of a challenge such as eating mango pizza from one of the restaurants on the island or seeing the lighthouse in Guimaras.
Upon arrival on Guimaras Island, I hired a tricycle driver waiting to take travelers around the island for Php 1,500, which is the most popular type of transportation and can take about four people. There are also jeepneys but it’s more convenient to ride the tricycle for sightseeing. He will be your tour guide and photographer for the day.
He already has an itinerary of where to take you but I asked him some of the destinations Experience Philippines listed on my itinerary which he agreed to add to as long as they’re also on the way to the original tourist spots he plans to bring me to. After the day tour, I added a bigger tip because of my request to take me to other places.
What to see on Guimaras Island?
The first stop is to take a photo in front of the Jordan signage at the municipal building near the port and the smallest plaza on Guimaras Island. Quite a touristy thing to do but why not? After all, it’s nice to reminisce about my time on the island I haven’t been to for over a decade since I first went to Iloilo with my family.
The best spot I visited that wasn’t there years ago is the San Lorenzo Wind Farm (Guimaras Island Windmills) with 27 windmills built in San Lorenzo which were sporadically constructed on top of the hills, generating power throughout Guimaras Island. The windmill farm is a picturesque sprawling valley with a great view of the island and the ocean, making it a tourist spot to enjoy the utterly gorgeous view of Iloilo mainland from afar and a perfect backdrop to have your Instagrammable photos taken.
The next stop is the Holy Family Hills, a 52-hectare property that was originally built for priests who go on a pilgrimage. There are life-size statues of scenes from the Stations of the Cross and the Crucifixion of Christ as well as angels and saints. It has a chapel and a meditation garden where locals can practice their Visita Iglesia or pray in peace. The Holy Family Hills also have statues of St. Michael the Archangel, John Paul II, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and St. Francis of Assisi.
We then went to the Guisi Lighthouse which was built in 1896 and is the third oldest lighthouse in the Philippines. Since the original lighthouse is already centuries old and rusty, the government built a new one adjacent to it. I love the ruins surrounding the historic lighthouse as it takes me back to the olden days, reminding me of how life was slow and simple back then unlike the frantic, fast-paced city life in Manila.
Beneath the Guisi Lighthouse and the ruins is where you’ll see a view of Gusi Beach, a white sand beach where locals and tourists alike can take a refreshing dip at the ocean and bask in the sun. Since I was only there for a day tour, I wasn’t able to swim and stay longer to take in the beautiful view of the ocean and the coconut trees littering the shores.
I remember when I was young, we always visited the Trappist Monastery, which is the only monastery in the Philippines. Back then, there weren’t many tourist spots on Guimaras Island and this is where you can buy the delicious mango jam and mango tarts they’re known for.
Before I remember the small chapel and a simple store but when I went back in 2019, it has a new Trappist Gift Shop and other buildings that weren’t there before. I remember seeing the monks of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance back in the days walking from their abode to the chapel or around the backyard but when I went back over a decade after, I didn’t see them anymore (probably resting as it was afternoon) but mostly only tourists and store sellers. Times have indeed changed over the years!
The next stop is the National Mango Research and Development Center, an 8-hectares land full of mango trees that the government use for production and research. You can buy seedlings or grafted mango for Php 50 per piece if you want to take them home but since we have our Indian mango tree back home, I didn’t buy any but just took some photos with the gorgeous mango trees lined up behind me, creating a serene backdrop.
My tour guide said I have to try the famous mango pizza in The Pitstop Restaurant Guimaras on the island and since this is on the bucket list Experience Philippines gave me, I just have to dine there. The pizza was different from your usual pepperoni or spinach pizza, this was more on the sweet and savory kind that would fit your palate if you love sweets. It reminds me more of a dessert rather than a meal for lunch or as a snack. It was good for two people so since I can’t finish it, I gave some to my tour guide.
Since my travel was only three days and two nights, I wasn’t able to explore Guimaras Island entirely and I had to go back to Iloilo mainland by 4 pm just before sunset. But there are a few other places you can visit here if you plan to take a trip to the island. Visit the Navalas Church, Roca Encantada (Enchanted Rock) of the Lopez Clan, and Taklong Island National Marine Reserve.
Guimaras Island also celebrates yearly every May the Manggahan Festival which you can attend and know more about why the island is famous for its mangoes and know more about the culture of the locals. If you want to stay here overnight to spend more time going around the island, you can book accommodation at Go Hotels Iloilo or Raymen Beach Resort.