8 Best Things to Do and See in Iloilo, Philippines
Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
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Iloilo providence is a top destination in the Philippines, as it is naturally beautiful, wonderfully historic, and filled with so many attractions for tourists. It’s in the Western Visayas region of the country and known for the Dinagyang Festival that takes place each January, celebrating its heritage and culture. But no matter when you visit, you’re sure to be intrigued with and fall in love with this exciting travel destination. Here are our favorite Iloilo tourist spots in the Philippines.
Iloilo is fortunate to have a lovely riverside area called the esplanade that is perfect for taking a leisurely stroll. The landscaping and water views are stunning here, and it’s a great place to watch the sunset too. Take a walk from Molo Church along the esplanade to explore the Mandurriao District. This is a laid-back and communal area where it’s fun to hang out, people-watch, and be a part of local life in Iloilo. This is a free tourist spot to visit, and you might even be able to join a group fitness class or ride a bike to get some exercise in the outdoors. Lots of restaurants are nearby, which means the Iloilo River Esplanade is perfect for a walk after lunch or dinner.
The Philippines is full of beautiful beaches, and one of the top reasons to visit Iloilo is its gorgeous northern and southern coasts. In the north, you’ll find the Gigantes islands, Concepcion, and Sicogon. Meanwhile, San Joaquin, Guimbal, and Oton are in the southern parts of the region. The beaches of the remote Gigantes Islands offer epic views and minimal crowds if you’re looking to get off the beaten track. Here you’ll find clear blue waters, white sand, and raw beauty that hasn’t been spoiled by development. The Concepcion Island also features awesome beaches on their 16 white-sand islands with lots of marine life and coral reefs nearby. Bring along some snorkeling equipment, go for a swim, and go island hopping by boat to experience the best of these islands.
Iloilo towns have deep historical significance and have man ancient Spanish-colonial churches that you can visit still today. One must-visit tourist spot is the Molo Church, which is unique because all of the saints featured inside are female. This church dates back to 1831 and has been a national landmark since 1992. It is free to visit the church and see all the women saints, as well as hear the bells that produce musical sounds when rung. There are lots of restaurants and cafes near Molo Church, and sunset is a great time to visit for photographers.
A unique and incredibly peaceful tourist spot in northeastern Iloilo is Cabuga Gamay Island, which is a couple of miles off the Isla de Gigantes Sur coast. It is a top destination for curious travelers and anyone who loves to swim. Hop on a chartered boat to get to the island within half an hour and experience this gem for yourself. You don’t want to miss the large boulder that leads to 360-degree views of the island, as well as opportunities to kayak, paddleboard, and go snorkeling. Many tourists choose island hopping tour packages that include this and other Gigantes islands. There’s a little store here that sells refreshments, and rental gear is available as well if you don’t bring your own.
Foodies love visiting Iloilo because of all of the enticing types of local cuisine you can find here. Food is a year-round attraction in Iloilo, with popular native dishes that include la paz batchoy and pancit molo. Make sure to try batchoy, which is a must-try noodle soup that is a staple of local cuisine here. Mangoes are also prevalent here, so order anything mango-flavored for a delicious treat. Pancit molo, also called molo soup, is a wonton soup with pork or chicken, green onions, carrots, singkamas, and spices. Seafood is also fresh and amazing in Iloilo, so make sure to try some local fish with a spicy vinegar sauce called sinamak.
It’s also worth visiting the Jaro Cathedral when you are in Iloilo, which was once destroyed by an earthquake. It has since been repaired and is a beautiful church to see. It was built in 1864, restored in 1956, and is a major icon in the city. It incorporates baroque and gothic architecture and features the Lady of the Candles shrine that is very popular among devotees. Other religious and architecturally significant sites to see in Iloilo are St. Clement’s Church, Santa Barbara Church, St. Monica Church Pavia, and Santo Nino de Arevalo Parish Church.
Another popular tourist spot in this region is the Tangke Saltwater Lagoon at the Islas de Gigantes Sur. This picturesque spot features bright blue waters and impressive rock formations, and you can get here via boat from Estancia. A bus from Iloilo City will take you to Estancia Port, where it’s possible to rent a boat. Once you’re here, you can go for a swim in the lagoon’s waters and even jump off a nearby cliff into the water to get your adrenaline pumping. When the tide rises in the afternoon, the water’s color shifts from blue to green, which really is an impressive sight to see.
To get outdoors and active on your trip to Iloilo, head to Garin Farm to learn about agriculture, spirituality, and even enjoy activities like zip lining and boating. This unique tourist spot is in San Joaquin, which is in the southern region of the Iloilo province. It is a pilgrimage resort and a holistic getaway destination that also features sport fishing, kayaking, horseback riding, swimming pools, ice cream, and views of the ocean and mountains. You’ll need to travel about 31 miles from Iloilo City to get here by bus or car. Overnight accommodations are available at this 34-acre inland resort, and a top thing to do here is climbing the over 400 steps to the Divine Mercy Cross to reflect upon your journey to Iloilo and life in general.