Sicogon Island - Things to Do in Iloilo

What to Do in Iloilo: 11 Best Things to Do in Iloilo in 2024

Wondering what to do in Iloilo? In this guide, we handpicked the best things to do in Iloilo you can choose to add to your itinerary.
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Wondering what to do in Iloilo? In this guide, we handpicked the best things to do in Iloilo you can choose to add to your itinerary.

Iloilo has a rich history and cultural heritage and is well-known for its churches and houses built during the Spanish period. Outside of historical and cultural landmarks, Iloilo is also known for its natural wonders, from mountains to islands.

Located in Panay Island with neighboring provinces Aklan (where Boracay Island is), Capiz, and Antique, Iloilo is positioned at the center of the country, hence its “Heart of the Philippines.” If you are coming from Cebu or Manila, there are 1-hour flights to Iloilo.

👉Find best hotels in Iloilo!👈

How to Get to Iloilo

From Manila

The easiest way to get to Iloilo from Manila is to take a direct flight from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay to Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan, Iloilo. If you’re going to Iloilo City, just take a shuttle van outside of the airport’s arrival gate. There are also point-to-point buses along the route. Travel time is 30 minutes.

👉Get your ferry/plane ticket from Manila to Iloilo!👈

From Cebu

The easiest to get to Iloilo from Cebu is to take a direct flight from Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) to Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan, Iloilo. To get to Iloilo City from the airport, you can either take a taxi, a shuttle van, or a shuttle bus. Travel time is 30 minutes.

👉Get your ferry/plane ticket from Cebu to Iloilo!👈

Best Time to Visit Iloilo

The best time to visit Iloilo is in January during the annual Dinagyang Festival, one of the largest festivals in the Philippines celebrating Santo Niño, the Holy Child. It happens every fourth Sunday of January. Nonetheless, you may also visit Iloilo in the dry months between January and May.

Without further ado, here are our top picks for the best things to do in Iloilo:

1. Enjoy the White Sand Beaches of Isla de Gigantes

  • Cabugao Gamay Isla de Gigantes - Things to Do in Iloilo
  • Tangke Lagoon in Isla de Gigantes, Iloilo
  • Bantigue Sandbar in Isla de Gigantes Island

On top of our list of the best things to do in Iloilo is island hopping in Islas de Gigante or Gigantes Island, a group of 10 islands in the Visayan Sea located in the town of Carles. The two main islands are Gigantes Norte and Gigantes Sur where most of the attractions are.

The best way to see Isla De Gigantes is through island hopping tours where you will visit key spots. Some of the highlights are Cabugao Gamay Island, which is probably the face of Isla de Gigantes, where you can see a white sand beach from an observation deck. Tangke Lagoon is a saltwater body of water on Gigantes Sur surrounded by limestone cliffs, pretty much like those in Palawan. Bantigue Sandbar is also a worthy spot located south of Cabugao Gamay and east of Cabugao Dako.

👉Book your Gigantes Island private tour from Iloilo City!👈

How to Get to Isla de Gigantes

To get to Gigantes Islands, take an hour’s flight to Roxas City or Iloilo City from Manila or Cebu. Then take a 2-hour van or bus ride to Carles if you’re coming from Roxas City or about 3.5 hours from Iloilo City. Go to Bancal Port and take a passenger outrigger boat to Gigantes Islands. This takes about 1-2 hours. Only one boat trip per day at around 10:30 AM. If you miss the boat, you may charter an entire boat to Gigantes Islands for 4,000 PHP (~71 USD)

👉Book your Cebu/Manila to Iloilo flight!👈

2. Rest and Relax in Sicogon Island

  • Balay Kogon in front Buayan Beach in Sicogon Island
  • Sicogon Island - Things to Do in Iloilo
  • Huni Resort in front San Fernando Beach in Sicogon Island
  • Mt. Opao in Sicogon Island

Another charming island in Carles, Iloilo that’s worth visiting is Sicogon Island located about 13 kilometers east of Estancia town. Sicogon Island is home to luxurious beach resorts, perfect for people who are looking for a quick getaway from the city.

Named after cogon, a type of grass abundant in the island, Sicogon Island is a tranquil tropical destination that has spectacular white sandy beaches and clear, cyan waters. Besides beaches, Sicogon Island boasts natural attractions such as mangrove forests, lagoons, and coves. Huni Resort and Balay Kogon are two luxury resorts you can find in the island. Some of the most popular attractions in Sicogon Island include Buaya Beach (where Balay Kogon is), San Fernando Beach (where Huni Resort is), and Mt. Opao (Iloilo’s second highest mountain). Tumaguin Island, an uninhabited island 400 meters from Buaya Beach, can be walked during low tide.

👉Book your Gigantes Island and Sicogon Island day tour from Iloilo City!👈

How to Get to Sicogon Island

To get to Sicogon Island, you can fly directly from Manila to Sicogon Island via AirSwift. From Sicogon Airport Terminal, take a van to your hotel or resort. The total travel time is 2 hours. Just a tip: upon arrival, look for a map of Sicogon Island to help you around the island.

Alternatively, you can fly from Cebu or Manila to Roxas City or Iloilo City and then take a van or bus to Estancia Port. There you can take a passenger outrigger boat to Sicogon Island.

👉Book your Manila to Sicogon flight!👈

3. Get a Taste of Iloilo’s Best Culinary Offering

  • La Paz Batchoy - Things to Do in Iloilo
  • Pancit Molo
  • Chicken Inasal

Iloilo is a city known for its rich culinary heritage and diverse flavors. If you’re a food enthusiast like me, then you’re in for a treat! Iloilo offers a handful of mouthwatering dishes that will surely satisfy your cravings.

Among these flavorful delights are Pancit Molo and La Paz Batchoy, which are both named after Iloilo City districts Molo and La Paz, respectively, where the dishes originated. Pancit Molo is a popular Filipino wonton soup with small pork-filled dumplings in clear broth, while La Paz Batchoy is an egg noodle soup filled with pork offal and savory pork-based broth, topped with fried garlic and Filipino chicharon.

For non-soup delectables, you might want to try chicken inasal first. This delicious dish is known for its distinct marinade and the unique grilling technique that gives the chicken a smoky and savory taste.

👉Book your Iloilo City food tour!👈

4. Go Back in Time at Iloilo’s Historic Landmarks

  • Nelly Garden Mansion - Things to Do in Iloilo
  • Molo Mansion
  • Casa Mariquit
  • Camiña Balay Nga Bato
  • Casa Real

Iloilo City has one of the richest cultures and history in the Philippines, so you can only expect lots and lots of notable landmarks, most of them dating back to the Spanish colonial era. Here are some worth visiting landmarks in Iloilo:

  • Casa Mariquit: Located in Iloilo City, Casa Mariquit is a heritage house that dates back to the Spanish colonial period. It is known for its beautiful architectural design and antique furniture.
  • Molo Mansion: Also situated in Iloilo City, the Molo Mansion is a restored heritage house that now serves as a cultural center and museum. 
  • Nelly Garden Mansion: Also known as the Lopez Heritage House or Mansion de Lopez, Nelly’s Garden is a national heritage house by the Lopez family in Jaro, Iloilo City.
  • Casa Real: The National Historical Institute (NHI) has designated this Old Capitol Building of Iloilo, which was renamed Casa Real de Iloilo in October 2016, as a National Historical Site.
  • Fort San Pedro: This historical landmark was the second Spanish-built fort after the one in Cebu (also Fort San Pedro) in the Philippines and Asia.
  • Balay nga Bato: More than a century and a half old house and a living museum, Camiña Balay nga Bato is not just a traditional structure but also a haven serving Ilonggo cuisine.

👉Book your Iloilo pilgrimage half-day tour!👈

5. Discover Iloilo’s Most Significant Religious Sites

  • Molo Church - Things to Do in Iloilo
  • Miagao Church - Things to Do in Iloilo
  • Jaro Cathedral

Traveling around Iloilo reveals a significant number of religious sites, mostly churches that were built multiple centuries ago. Here are some churches to visit in Iloilo:

  • Jaro Cathedral: First established in 1575 with its present-day structure built in 1874, this church is one of the ecclesiastical treasures of Iloilo. It is formally known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary or the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles.
  • Molo Church: Built in 1831, this neogothic church is known as “the women’s church” or “the feminist’s church,’ featuring only images of female saints, including Saint Anne, the patron saint of Molo, hence the official name Saint Anne Parish Church.
  • Miagao Church: Constructed in 1786, this church is recognizable for its distinct baroque architecture with some elements of Chinese and Filipino design. Formally known as the Santo Tomás de Villanueva Parish, it is the oldest church in Iloilo with its original structure intact.

Other old churches in Iloilo you need to visit include San Jose Placer Church, Guimbal Church, San Joaquin Church, and Tigbauan Church.

👉Book your Iloilo heritage tour!👈

6. Get a Glimpse of Iloilo’s Art and Culture Scene

  • Museo Iloilo
  • Puluy-an Art Gallery
  • University of the Philippines Visayas Museum

Where there’s rich culture and history, there’s a thriving art scene. Such is the case for Iloilo. If you would like to explore the province’s art and culture scene, here are our top picks:

  • Puluy-an Art Gallery: Nestled in Oton, Iloilo’s serene rural landscape, Puluy-an Art Gallery, curated by Melvin Guirhem, unveils the soul of Ilonggo artistry. As the gallery’s name, ‘Puluy-an’ (home in Hiligaynon), suggests it provides a fresh perspective to Philippine art.
  • University of the Philippines Visayas Museum: Iloilo’s artistic heritage is housed within the main building of the campus. With its extensive collection of Ilonggo artworks and artifacts, this educational hub becomes a canvas of cultural narratives.
  • Museo Iloilo: Discover the contemporary allure of Museo Iloilo, situated near the Provincial Capitol, offering a modern lens on the province’s captivating history and culture. This was the first museum I’ve been to which definitely imparted some interesting facts and finds.

👉Book your Iloilo art tour!👈

7. Visit Iloilo’s Stairway to Heaven at Garin Farm

Garin Farm Pilgramage Resort - Things to Do in Iloilo
Garin Farm Pilgrimage Resort

Stairway to Heaven (Heaven on Earth) is a pilgrimage site at Garin Farm located in San Joaquin, Iloilo. Guess what? The Garin Farm has more than just the Stairway to Heaven! Several other attractions are waiting for you to explore. The entrance fee to the farm is just 150 (~3 USD) per person. To reach the “heaven,” you’ll just need to climb up a total of 480 steps.

👉Book your Iloilo pilgrimage half-day tour!👈

8. Conquer Iloilo’s Gigantic Mountains

  • Mt. Baloy
  • Mt. Napulak
  • Mt. Opao

If you love to explore the great outdoors, Iloilo has a lot of peaks for you to conquer. Here are some you should consider:

  • Mount Baloy: Situated on the western side of Panay Island at the border of Iloilo and Antique, Mount Baloy beckons adventure enthusiasts to the edge of their comfort zone. As part of the Panay Trilogy alongside Mount Nangtud and Mount Madjaas, conquering these rugged peaks is a challenge embraced by those seeking a test of resilience and determination.
  • Mount Napulak: For beginners venturing into Iloilo’s mountain trails, Mount Napulak offers an ideal starting point. Located among the Igbaras mountains in Iloilo, it stands as the most renowned (third highest) peak in the region. The trail boasts three water stops, ensuring hikers can replenish and hydrate amidst the scenic journey.
  • Mount Opao: Elevating the thrill in Igbaras, Iloilo, Mount Opao stands as the second-highest peak with the most challenging ascent among the five climbable mountains. Its elevation and difficulty level attract climbers, offering a rigorous yet rewarding experience amidst the lush landscapes of Panay.

👉Book your OceanJet ticket from Iloilo to Bacolod and vice versa!👈

9. Celebrate Dinagyang Festival

  • Dinagyang Festival
  • Dinagyang Festival

One of the most popular festivals in the Philippines, the Dinagyang Festival is a must experience in the Philippines. Held annually every fourth Sunday of January, Iloilo’s famous festival attracts millions of visitors, celebrating Santo Niño or the Holy Child just like Cebu’s Sinulog Festival and Aklan’s Ati-Atihan Festival. Even if you’re not a practicing Catholic, you will definitely enjoy the street dancing, the grand costume parades, and all the festivities around it.

👉Find best hotels in Iloilo!👈

10. Go on a Day Trip to Guimaras

Guimaras - Things to Do in Iloilo

Known for its distinctly sweet mangoes, Guimaras is worth a day trip from Iloilo City. This small island province situated southeast of Panay Island isn’t just about the world’s sweetest mangoes, it’s like stepping into a tropical wonderland after a long journey in Iloilo. From white sand beaches to caves, your adventurous spirit will never go hungry in the island. Some of the notable tourist spots in Guimaras include Alubijod Beach, Tatlong Pulo Beach, San Lorenzo Wind Farm, Baras Cave, and Guisi Lighthouse.

👉Book your trip to Guimaras Island from Iloilo!👈

11. Go on a Side Trip to Boracay

  • Paraw-sailing - Best Things to Do in Boracay
  • Boracay Island
  • Best Things to Do in Boracay Island
  • Flying over Boracay on a chopper - Best Things to Do in Boracay
  • Boracay Tourist Destinations in the Philippines

I took this route the first time I went to Boracay in 2015. Just a 5-hour bus ride away from Iloilo City, Boracay Island is worth visiting for its powdery white sand beaches and crystal-clear blue waters. If you love to party, Boracay will never disappoint. Some of the best things to do in Boracay Island include cruising on a yacht, paraw sailing, island hopping, and of course, scuba diving. Boracay is a notable tourist destination of its own, so be sure to take some time to enjoy the island in all of its glory.

👉Find best hotels in Boracay!👈

Your Iloilo Travel Guide

Iloilo is indeed a worthy place to visit. Whether you are an adventure seeker, a foodie, or a history enthusiast, Iloilo has everything to offer.

If you’re planning for your trip to Iloilo, here’s a range of travel guides that can help you:

If you have more questions, drop them in the comments. We will get back to you ASAP!

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Mario Manlupig
Mario Manlupig

Mario is the Founder of CEBU INSIDER. In March 2018, he left his full-time job at the Philippines' biggest TV network and became a digital nomad, traveling all over the country until the pandemic happened. He now calls Cebu City his home.

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