Sometimes you just have to go with the most popular place in town. We usually favor off-the-beaten-path destinations, especially when it comes to beaches, because they’re usually pristine and devoid of the tourist crowd. But with limited time on our hands – we were on a side-trip after a series of meetings at Iloilo – we chose to stay at Alubihod Beach on Guimaras Island. With our flight back to Manila just two days away we decided not to take a chance on other less known and less accessible beaches. We ended up at Raymen’s Beach Resort, probably the most popular in Guimaras.
The trip to Alubihod was a breeze, among the fastest and smoothest we’ve ever had in inter-island travel in the Philippines. Upon arriving at Ortiz Wharf in Iloilo City we were able to immediately get a boat bound for the wharf at Jordan, Guimaras. The boat ride was over in 15 minutes and we were soon on a trike bound for Nueva Valencia town, enjoying the verdant rural landscape of Guimaras along the way. Within an hour after arriving at Ortiz Wharf in Iloilo we were comfortably resting inside our room at Raymen’s Beach Resort on Alubihod Beach. No wonder this island is such a popular spot for locals and visitors in Iloilo City.
Alubihod Beach is a public beach. Since we arrived on a Sunday afternoon there was a sizable number of beach goers basking in the water. We weren’t honestly expecting much from this beach. We were just planning to use Alubihod Beach as a base for island-hopping in Nueva Valencia and Jordan towns. But we were surprised that in spite of the crowds the beach was immaculately clean and looked pristine.
Rusty red/orange pebbles mixed in with fine, creamy white sand gave the beach a rust-colored, even pinkish hue. A moderate surf was hitting the beach even as visitors were swimming and playing in the shallow turquoise waters. Seeing Alubihod for the first time made it hard to believe that a disastrous oil spill occurred here in 2006 when a tanker capsized off the southern coast of Guimaras, spilling 500,000 liters of bunker oil far and wide.
Wanting to escape the crowd we ventured off into the southern section of the beach to a rocky area around Rico Beach Resort. There’s a good number of large coral rocks here as well as a closer view of Ave Maria Islet nearby – a destination we would visit the following day on our island-hopping tour. At the northern end of Alubihod is an adjoining white sand beach and the Alobijod Cove Resort.
Mention Guimaras to Filipinos and the first thing that comes into their minds is MANGOES. We weren’t about to pass off an opportunity to taste this pride of Guimaras and fortunately the restaurant at Raymen’s had a good supply of the succulent fruit. This was supposed to be an off-season for mangoes but the resort still had a good number on hand. In fact we’ve had mangoes at every meal the whole time we were there.
Most of the mangoes grown in Guimaras end up being exported – even reaching the dining tables of the White House and Buckingham Palace – so the ones we were feasting on could well be export rejects. But they still tasted marvelous, the best we’ve ever had with the Zambales Santa Elena variety of carabao mangos coming in a close second.
There is a total of 50,000 mango trees on the island in addition to other fruit trees including mangosteen. Previous attempts to grow the Guimaras mango outside the province failed to produce a similar-tasting fruit. The best one could do is to buy the fruit from one of the stalls on the island which we did on our return trip to Iloilo while traveling on the main highway through the capital town of Jordan.
How to Get to Guimaras; Getting Around
Once you’re in downtown Iloilo City it’s quite easy to get to Guimaras. Head off to Ortiz Wharf and catch any of the large motorized outrigger boats making regular trips to Guimaras’ capital town of Jordan. Fare is P15 per person. You will arrive at Jordan Wharf, the entry point to Guimaras.
Upon arriving at Jordan Wharf head for the Guimaras Tourism Office where you can log in and where tourism people can assist you in getting rides. You can get tricycles nearby at the fixed rate of P250 to Alubihod Beach (not sure about prices for other destinations). Other options for getting around are multi cabs (more expensive but more comfortable than trikes when traversing the more rugged roads) and jeepneys. Jeepneys are the least expensive at P30 per person to Nueva Valencia – but the least convenient as they generally try to fill up on passengers and make frequent stops. Jeepneys also do not go all the way to resorts off the main highway so you have to take a trike after getting off them. Remember to arrange a pick-up with your trike driver for the return trip to Jordan Wharf.
Trike drivers in Guimaras double as tour guides and also offer a land tour. The land tour includes visits to Trappist Monastery, the mango plantations, Guisi Beach and Lighthouse, Roca Encantada, Balaan Bukid Shrine, and the Valle Verde View Deck. (Try the Pit Stop Restaurant and their mango pizza too.) You can negotiate with them for your itinerary. A complete day tour will cost around P1,200 or so. Since we only had one full day in Guimaras we opted for the island-hopping tour instead.
There are several other destinations in Guimaras worth a visit. An island-hopping tour around the beaches and islands off Jordan and Nueva Valencia is first on the list. (More on this on our next post.) Guisi Beach, also in Nueva Valencia town is a secluded and delightful beach hideaway featuring a wide cove of golden sand with crystal-clear turquoise waters. There’s a Spanish-era lighthouse on a hill that provides a magnificent panoramic view of Guisi. It is about 30 minutes away by trike from Alubihod Beach.
All of the destinations mentioned previously lie in the southwestern portion of Guimaras. However destinations in eastern and northern Guimaras, previously unheard of, are now getting their fair share of visitors. Inampulugan Island in Sibunag and a group of other islands such as Nagarao, Kamangculan, Us-usan and Nauway are on the eastern side of Guimaras facing Negros Occidental and are becoming more popular nowadays, although still a bit under the tourism radar. Inampulugan itself is a wildlife haven with deer, monkeys and rare birds plus mangroves and marshes all around. Buenavista the town north of Jordan is another potential tourist destination with isolated beaches including Roca Encantada, or ‘Enchanted Rock’, where a summer house of the Lopez family is perched atop a giant rock. Should we return to Guimaras anytime in the future it seems we’ll never run out of new places to visit.