Iloilo has more island sanctuaries than you ever imagined—as beautiful as its well-loved Isla de Gigantes. Its mountain enclaves, majestic falls, and breathtaking hideaways are also worth the journey.

So the next time you’re in Iloilo City, you may want to include some of these lesser known yet equally gorgeous destinations in your itinerary. It won’t be long before these hidden gems are discovered by the rest of the world.

1. Damires Hills Tierra Verde, Janiuay

Iloilo is dotted with several inland resorts, and one of them is this serene nature-lover’s paradise hidden in Brgy. Damires.

Get an encompassing vista of the expansive property when you take a trek up a wooded path called the Canopy Walk that leads to a hanging bridge. For an adrenaline rush, take flight on their double zip line that also offers a panoramic view of the wonderful scenery, or hop on an ATV and zoom around the property. Then cool down in one of their swimming pools and sample great local and international fare at their in-house restaurant. It’s Instagrammable everywhere you go, even at the reception area and walkways.

You have the option to go on a day trip and stay in a cabana for a consumable amount, or spend the night at one of their new rooms or treehouse-style cogon huts good for 8-10 persons.

2. Garin Farm, San Joaquin

This inland resort is worth visiting as a pilgrimage of sorts. It features a hill where you can marvel at statues depicting various biblical moments, and climb 420 steps and into a “Dark Meditation Tunnel” to get to “Heaven’s Gate”: a blinding white lineup of angel statues surrounding a huge Divine Mercy Cross.

Make the most of your visit by participating in a tour of the eco-tourism farm, where you can go horseback riding, fishing, animal feeding, kayaking, zip-lining, riding a pedal boat and ATV, and swimming. Why not spend the night in their fully air-conditioned rooms? Rates start at P1,500.

3. Calabazas Island, Ajuy

Only have time for a day trip to the beach from Iloilo City? Visit one of the most alluring islands in the town of Ajuy. It’s nicknamed Parola because of an 18th century Spanish Era lighthouse that stands on one of its hills. Pack your snorkeling gear and explore the coral reefs and beautiful sea creatures in the surrounding cerulean waters.

If you can spend the night, take a boat to the privately owned Marbuena Island Resort, which offers floating cottages and air-conditioned rooms, with a nature walk among its amenities.

4. Sicogon Island, Carles

With its fine, light sand, interesting coves, tropical forests, and crystal clear waters, it’s hard to keep this island retreat a secret for long. An excellent spot to frolic and catch the sunrise is Brgy. Buaya, whose sprawling beach strip can rival Boracay’s 4KM White Beach. Go for a swim to cool off, or just lie on a beach blanket to get a tan.

The only luxury stay here is Ayala Land’s Balay Kogon, which offers an idyllic and quaint respite nestled between the beach and the mountains—named after the “Cogon” grass which grows in the island, used for shelter by the locals. From here you may kick off your island-hopping adventure at neighboring Isla de Gigantes (where you can also savor fresh seafood, especially scallops and wasay-wasay, an axe-shaped shellfish these islands are known for), or even take an adventure trek to beginner-friendly Mt. Opao nearby.

If you prefer to stay closer to the port of Carles after a day trip to Sicogon, your best bet is Solina Beach & Nature Resort, with its well-appointed glamping accommodations.

5. Bulubadiangan Sandbar, Concepcion

Three hours away by bus from Iloilo City, Concepcion comprises a cluster of 16 islands with white sand beaches and verdant landscapes surrounded by the azure sea. Bulubadiangan is the tourist favorite—who doesn’t love sandbars?—which you can reach from the town plaza by boat. Here, you can spend the night in budget accommodations, as long as you don’t mind that electricity is available only until 9 PM.

While there, you may also want to visit nearby Agho Island and go snorkeling, so you can marvel at its coral reefs.

6. Nadsadjan Falls, Igbaras

A different sort of water adventure is offered by Nadsadjan Falls, a spectacular site hidden in the town of Igbaras. You’ll need to trek through a river to reach its cool and fresh waters that flow from a height of 100 feet onto a giant cauldron-like natural pool, perfect for a refreshing dip.

7. Bucari, Leon

Called the “Little Baguio” and “Summer Capital” of Iloilo, two hours away from the city, Bucari’s cool weather is paired with jaw-dropping views of verdant mountain slopes and pine trees, like those at Mansiga Viewing Deck and Puting Bato—both well worth the trek.

Also relish the scenic biking and hiking trails and rock formations, as well as the delightful waters of Imoy Falls. Pitching a tent at a campsite in Sitio Tabionan and bonding around a bonfire in the chilly evening will complete the experience.

From | Trixie Reyna-Benedicto

Posted in See