Leyte is the eight biggest island in the Philippines in terms of land area. IT is divided into two provinces – Northern Leyte (also referred to as Leyte) and Southern Leyte. The island is known in the country’s history for being the site where American military leader Gen. Douglas MacArthur first landed and where the first documented Catholic mass in the Philippines was held.
But Leyte is more than just an interesting part of Philippine history. It is fast-becoming a popular tourist spot in the country as it is blessed with stunning natural wonders that attract local and foreign tourists alike.
It has mountains, a natural park, hot springs and lakes, breathtaking beaches, and heritage sites that will surely make your trip worthwhile and truly unforgettable.
This brief guide to Leyte Island will help you plan your trip. It contains information on what to do, eat, and drink as well as the must-see spots and the best hotels.
Best Time to Visit
It’s best to visit the Philippines during the dry season. Dry season in the Philippines spans from November through April. These are the summer months in this country.
Be aware that temperatures and humidity levels are particularly high in April and May.
The best time to be a beach bum and explore the islands is from March to May.
TIP: This guide recommends that booking for Leyte Island summer trips should be done as early as possible, at least a month before your travel dates, since resorts get fully booked early.
The period from June to October is the rainy (wet) season and is best avoided due to the high possibility of typhoons. The typhoons can not only be destructive, but most tours and activities are cancelled under such circumstances. Transportation via plane and boat is also seriously impacted as well. This happens frequently so beware!
This guide recommends traveling to Leyte Island in April-May or in November-December, just before and just after the rainy season. This will likely bring fewer crowds, yet pleasant weather, and is also a great time to score a travel deal.
Plug commonly used is Type A but Types B and C are used as well. Bring A to B adapter(s).
There are many ways to get here depending on your starting point. This guide recommends using the following online tools to identify all the available options and cost for each while on Leyte Island: Rome2Rio and PHBUS. The following are the major ports of entry for this destination.
The following are the modes of transportation available on Leyte Island …
SEE & DO
The following is your guide to places to see and activities to enjoy while on Leyte Island.
1 | Soak up the sun in Kalanggaman Island
While it’s not part of the main Leyte Island, Kalanggaman Island is under the municipality of Palompon and is now the top tourist attraction in Leyte. Kalanggaman Island is a small island with a long sandbar, one of the longest in the country, and is blessed with pristine waters and powdery white sand. The island is not crowded hence a great place to sunbathe, beachbum, and swim. There are cottages available for day tours and tents available for overnight stays.
2 | Explore the marine parks and sanctuaries
The waters surrounding the island are not only pristine, it is also blessed with a diversity of marine life great for diving and snorkeling. There are four known marine parks and sanctuaries on the island – one in Leyte and three in Southern Leyte. Napantao Marine Sanctuary across Sogod Bay is alive with colorful coral reefs and fish species including reef sharks, octopuses, and frogs. Another sanctuary with the same name, Napantao Fish Sanctuary at Ilijan Point in the town of San Francisco also boasts of coral reefs inhabited by various species of fish including batfish, butterfly fish, cuttlefish, groupers, lionfish, puffers, trumpet fish, and other marine organisms such as sea cucumbers, nudibranchs, and mollusks.
Tagbak Marine Park in Liloan, Southern Leyte has mangrove forests while Sun-ok Fish Sanctuary in Pintuyan, Southern Leyte has remarkable coral formations and occasional sightings of whale sharks.
3 | See the natural parks in Northern Leyte
Leyte is surrounded with mountains and parts of some mountains have been proclaimed as ecopark or national parks. Mount Pangasugan Ecopark is found in the virgin rainforest of Mount Pangasugan which is considered as the last forest frontier in Eastern Visayas. It is inhabited by threatened animal species such as Philippine tarsier, Philippine flying fox, and Fischer’s pygmy fruit bat as well as other endemic plants and animals.
Lake Danao National Park boasts of its guitar-shaped lake and Amandiwin mountain range. The area is located more than 600 meters above sea level therefore its temperature is cooler than the average Philippine temperature. Inhabitants of the national park include hornbills, doves, and pigeons. Aside from hiking, other fun things to do in the park are canoeing, kayaking, and swimming.
Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park in the town of Burauen has a dormant volcano with a heavily forested crater. It also has hot springs, lakes, waterfalls, and an interesting flora and fauna.
4 | Enjoy the refreshing waterfalls
An island blessed with mountains surely has waterfalls, too. Masaba Falls in Palompon is perfect for those who want challenging adventures. It has seven falls with natural pools where you can take a refreshing dip after trekking along the river and through forest trails. Both Sayahan Falls and Karap-agan Falls are surrounded with lush greenery perfect for relaxing. The latter has two tiers and has natural pools on every cascade.
Tacloban City has Tulaan Falls where you have to hike through dense forests to get to the falls.
5 | Take a picture of San Juanico Bridge
San Juanico Bridge is the Philippines’ longest bridge spanning a body of seawater. It measures 2.16 kilometers and connects Samar and Leyte across San Juanico Strait. You can take pictures while walking along the bridge or cruising San Juanico Strait.
6 | Wander around Tacloban City
The provincial capital of Leyte, Tacloban City has several attractions including Santo Niño Church, the American Colonial home known as Price Mansion (now called CAP Building), Santo Niño Shrine of the Marcos family, Leyte Provincial Capitol, People’s Center Library (said to be the oldest library in Eastern Visayas), and Baluyan Park.
7 | See the beauty of Ormoc City
Ormoc City is the largest city by land area on the island. It is a port city and the center of economic, cultural, and commercial activities in this part of the province. Aside from Lake Danao National Park and Sayahan Falls mentioned above, it has other attractions as well including Tongonan Hot Springs National Park, a 272-hectare park with warm medicinal pool and hillside geyser spouting boiling water and steam every hour. It also has Alto Peak (also known as Mount Amindueuen), the highest peak in Eastern Visayas, Lake Kasudsuran, 210-hectare pineapple plantation, and several other man made attractions.
8 | Visit the MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park
The memorial site commemorates the historic landing of General Douglas MacArthur that led to the largest naval battle of World War II. It features seven double-life sized statues of MacArthur and company including Filipinos Sergio Osmeña, and Carlos P. Romulo. Other structures in the area are a museum, the regional government center of Palo, and Rock Garden of Peace.
9 | Go on island-hopping tour
Like most islands in the Philippines, island-hopping tour is a popular activity in Leyte particularly in the towns of Inopacan and Hindang where the Cuatro Islas are located. Cuatro Islas, Four Islands in English, are a group of islands that have been attracting tourists with its pristine beaches and rich marine life.
10 | Stop by the caves
Leyte has several caves that can be explored. There’s Camboro Cave in Macrohon with its unique rock formations and natural pools. Guinsohotan Cave, one of the most popular spots on the island, has equally beautiful rock formations.
NOTE: The Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival occurs annually in Tacloban City every June 27 and Sangyaw Festival, also in Tacloban City, every June 29.
EAT & DRINK
The following is your guide to the flavorful food to enjoy and restaurants to try while on Leyte Island.
1 | Ocho Seafood Grill
The top restaurant on the island, Ocho Seafood Grill is popular for its reasonably-priced tasty seafood dishes. Customers can choose from the fresh seafood displayed and have it cooked the way they want. There are also meat options for those who are not too fond of seafood. Their must-try dishes include fish sinigang, chopsuey, porbidang kangkong, and calamari.
2 | Dream Cafe
Dream Cafe serves western favorites including burger, pizza, and steak as well as local dishes such as bulalo and sisig. Claimed as the best restaurant in Tacloban by reviewers, Dream Cafe is reasonably priced and provides excellent service on top of serving good quality foods. The restaurant also offers a wide selection of drinks including cocktails, spirits, whiskeys, and wine.
3 | Giuseppe’s Restaurant
Owned by a couple with passion for cooking, Giuseppe’s Restaurant serves Italian cuisine and is well-loved for its pizza, grilled salmon, and steak. The price is not cheap for local standards but considering the food, great ambience, and friendly staff, Giuseppe’s Restaurant sure does provide a satisfying dining experience.
4 | The Q Kitchen
The Q Kitchen of XYZ Hotel serves Filipino, American, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisines. Customers rave about their tasty foods on top of great service, nice ambience, and good location. Their must-try dishes include pad thai, spare ribs, and baby back ribs. They have generous serving and prices are reasonable therefore a good dining experience be it with family or friends.
5 | Chew Love
The cutest restaurant on the island, Chew Love is a doll house-like restaurant serving Filipino and Asian cuisine. It even has a lovely courtyard perfect for your Instagram timeline and its menu is as cute and quirky as the restaurant setup. Some of the dishes are Be Kare-ful With My Heart, Beef Mine, Steak To One, and Crazy Pork You. The foods are tasty and reasonably priced hence expect to see it packed especially during meal times.
6 | FyZz Gastropub
Located on the 9th floor of XYZ Hotel, FyZz Gastropub serves Japanese food and an impressive selection of drinks including imported liquors. The restaurant has a nice ambience with a rustic feel and offers a great view of Tacloban City. The price is a bit high for local standards but it is justified considering the wonderful dining experience the restaurant provides.
7 | The Little Green Kitchen’s Village Chefs
Want to try Asian dishes with a twist? Head to Little Green Kitchen’s where you can try sinigang with watermelon and crispy kangkong salad among others. The restaurant has a cozy ambience perfect for romantic date nights.
8 | Calle Z Cafe
For Filipino comfort foods on the island, the best dining spot to consider is Calle Z Cafe. Conveniently located in the heart of the city, the restaurant is a part of an old house which survived the devastating typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). The restaurant serves good foods with affordable prices. Some of its must-try dishes include bulalo, crispy tenga, and sizzling bangus sisig.
9 | Sunzibar
Sunzibar is a Mexican restaurant serving tasty fusion dishes. It is best known for its Sunzibar Rum Ribs with meat so tender it falls off the bone, as their menu says. The restaurant also serves good nacho chips, nacho salad, and pasta.
KNOWN FOR: Binagol, a native delicacy made with sweetened mashed giant taro called talian.
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WHERE TO STAY
There are many different types of accommodations available in this destination ranging from hostels to luxurious resorts. The following is your guide to our top choices for each range on Layte Island.
1 | Rosvenil Hotel (Budget)
2 | Padre Burgos Castle Resort (Mid-Range)
3 | Hotel XYZ (Luxury | Resort)
This guide recommends using the following sites to conduct research online of where to stay on Leyte Island or for a specific destination:
Book your room with these trusted online booking sites. Booking online in the Philippines almost always guarantees the best price and a room when you arrive. We use these sites frequently to get the best prices and enjoy convenient bookings. Click each of the buttons below to find the best place for you at the lowest rates:
TIP: Hotel XYZ is the best property to experience this destination.
Use the chart below to get an idea of how much to budget daily. Actual amounts will depend on YOUR travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages … some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less. Prices are in USD.
A bed in a hostel dorm costs from 350 PHP ($7 USD), but smaller dorms can cost from 500 PHP ($10 USD). For a private double, prices start around 700 PHP ($14 USD).
Most budget hotels begin at 700 PHP ($14 USD) per night for a double room and usually include free wifi and breakfast. For a three-star hotel, prices begin around 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night. AirBnB is also widespread throughout the country, with private rooms starting from as little as 500 PHP ($10 USD) per night. For entire apartments, expect to pay at least 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night.
Resorts and luxury accommodations vary greatly from 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) to 5,000+ PHP ($100+ USD). However, there are some really nice resorts and luxury accommodations which are surprisingly affordable.
Local food is extremely cheap, with street food costing under 50 PHP ($1USD). For an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant, prices start around 100 PHP ($2 USD). For a meal at a mid-range restaurant with drinks and table service, expect to pay from 200 PHP ($4 USD). Knowing that their target customers are primarily tourists, Western food venues can be pricey compared to Filipino food. Also, some of the ingredients need to be imported, which contributes to the higher cost. Western food (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) is much more expensive but is still relatively affordable at around 200 PHP ($4 USD) for a meal and drink.
Fast food like McDonalds will cost around 200 PHP ($4 USD). A beer at the bar will cost around 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD).
A week’s worth of groceries will cost between 300-600 PHP ($6-12 USD) per person. However, food in this country is so inexpensive, and kitchens & refrigerators are hard to come by, I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss!
There are many modes of transportation available in the Philippines and each varies greatly.
Public Transportation is cheap. Bus services on the islands are inexpensive. Local buses (called jeepneys) are the most common type of transportation in towns and cities. The fare is usually between 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD).
On islands without a bus system, a taxi or tricycle is the only form of transport with fares starting at 50-500 PHP ($1-$10) USD for short trips.
Taxis are everywhere, and they’re very cheap. Most fares shouldn’t cost you more than 500 PHP ($10 USD) around town.
To get between islands, you’ll need to take a boat or to fly. There are ferries that connect the island together since they aren’t too far apart but, generally speaking, flights are the most realistic option.
Flights between islands usually cost about 2,000-3500 PHP ($40-70 USD). However, this isn’t the cheapest way to travel. It’s only recommended if you have limited time.
Attractions & Activities
Most attractions and activities in the Philippines are pretty cheap. Most attractions throughout the area are FREE to enter, though some of the more well known and popular ones cost 5-100 PHP ($.10-$2 USD) to enter.
Depending on the activity, most day tours only cost around 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD), oftentimes less. You have more bargaining power if you go with a group. If you are expecting to do some climbing, remember to pack some warm layers. It gets cold at the top!
Other activities such as Island Hopping, scuba diving, helmet diving, swimming with whale sharks, jungle trekking, canyoning, ATVs, jet skis, wakeboarding, cruises, parasailing, horseback riding, cultural experiences, and tours can cost as much as 1,250-5,000+ PHP ($25-100+ USD).
The Philippines is one of the least expensive places to learn how to scuba dive. Learning to scuba dive usually costs about 15,000-20,000 PHP ($300-400 USD), but often includes FREE accommodation for the duration of the course, which lasts three or four days.
Always book your tours and activities when you arrive. Stick to travel agents who are selling on the ground. If a travel agent won’t negotiate with you, move on to the next until you find one that will. Booking tours online is almost always more expensive.
Typical Costs on Leyte Island in 2021:
- Hostel Dorm Bed: 250-350 PHP ($5–7 USD) night
- Budget Hotel: 700 PHP ($14 USD) night
- Mid-Range Hotel: 1500 PHP ($31 USD) night
- Street Food: 50-150 PHP ($1–3 USD) meal
- Restaurant Meals: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) meal
- Local Beer: 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD) bottle
- 1.5L Bottle of Water: 38 PHP ($.75 USD) bottle
- Jeepney Ride: 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD) ride
- Tricycle Ride: 20-100 PHP ($.5-2 USD) ride
- Taxi: 75-500 PHP ($1.50-10 USD) ride – use GrabTaxi app
- Long-Distance Bus Ride: 400-500 PHP ($8–10 USD) ride
- Public Ferry Ride: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) ride
- Domestic Flight: 2,000-3,500 PHP ($40–70 USD) flight
- Island-Hopping: 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD) trip
BEST NO-FEE INTERNATIONAL DEBIT & CREDIT CARDS
The following is some of our best advice on traveling to Leyte Island. Learn what you need to know BEFORE you go!
Tips & Hacks
he following are our Top 10 Tips when visiting this destination in the Philippines:
- Be aware that a tourist VISA is only 30 days. You can extend it upon arrival, or within the first 30 days, for an additional 30 days for a fee of approximately 3,000 pesos.
- Don’t buy into the fear factor. The Philippines has an unjustified reputation of being a dangerous place. It’s true there are security guards everywhere, but that is to deter theft.
- Manila is NOT the Philippines. Get outside of the cities to see the real Philippines.
- Don’t over plan. Boats, buses, and even airplane schedules are notoriously unreliable. Be flexible.
- Check the weather. The weather varies greatly throughout the Philippines daily.
- Typhoons can have a huge impact on your plans. Account for this when planning your trip.
- It’s not cool to raise your voice or show outward frustration in public.
- Be polite at all times. Realize that your country’s sense of humor may be different from Filipino humor and take this into account when interacting with Filipinos and while in public places.
- Things move at a slower pace. Accept it … don’t get frustrated … but do account for it.
- Don’t drink the tap water… but stay hydrated! Save money by buying large bottles (6-10 liters) of water and using it to fill your water bottle or hydration bladder in your backpack.
For a complete list of our travel tips & hacks, check out the following guide and be sure to download a FREE copy for yourself.
The Philippines has its own currency called the Philippine Peso. Banks, ATMs, and money-changers can be found on the island. If you are exploring the neighboring islands or provinces, make sure to bring enough cash that will last until the next time you get to an ATM or bank since most tours, transportation, and budget accommodations only accept cash.
Health & Safety
While overall the Philippines is a safe country to visit, as is Leyte Island, you need to use common sense just as you would in any country, especially when traveling, and in a city, town, or area you are unfamiliar with.
Consult your hotel or resort front desk as they are more likely to give you reliable information than a random stranger on the street. Be careful when approaching strangers and selective about who you approach. Always pay attention to your gut feeling and follow it.
There are many things to consider when traveling in order to stay safe … things that we may not be accustomed to during our normal everyday lives. The following are articles about tips on how to stay safe while traveling in the Philippines:
- 6 Common Accidents to Avoid
- How to Beat the Heat in the Philippines
- Taxi Safety Tips: Dos and Don’ts
- Motorbike Safety Tips
- Beach & Ocean Safety Tips
- Sun Safety Tips
Staying fit & healthy can be challenging when traveling in the Philippines.
The tropical Philippines climate requires you to prepare for illnesses that you may not normally be accustomed to.
The following are our Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy while Traveling in the Philippines:
- Maintain a Balanced Diet
- Stay Hydrated but Only Drink Bottled Water
- Get Plenty of Rest
- Allow Your Body Time to Adjust
- Keep Active
- Sanitize Often
- Be Aware of Food Safety Concerns
- Take Your Vitamins
- Practice Safe Sex
- Be Prepared Should You Get Sick
You need to have a local-based SIM card in order to stay connected when in the Philippines. Network giants such as Globe and Smart have SIM cards you can use to make calls, send text messages, and also to connect to the Internet. A SIM card costs around 50 PHP ($1 USD) and usually comes with a FREE load worth 50 PHP ($1 USD). You can buy a card containing a code you can enter on your phone to replenish your load or buy an electronic load that is available almost anywhere in the city.
While you may not have problems with signal strength when in the city, it is not always the case when on islands or in remote areas of a province. So when arranging for transportation pick up, say when renting a boat to take you to and pick you up from the island, it would be best that you make it clear what time you need to be picked up before the boatman leaves.
Recommended Travel Apps
Apps for smartphones and tablets can be useful both before you leave and while you’re traveling. Most are available for iPhones and Android phones.
- Grab (taxis/ride shares)
- Angkas (motorbike ride-hailing)
- WhatsApp (phone calls)
- Skyscanner (flights)
- Rome2Rio (transportation)
- Agoda (accomodations)
- Booking.com (accomodations)
- AirBnB (accomodations)
- Traveloka (flights, accomodations, activities)
- Klook (attractions & activities )
Be certain to download and set up apps BEFORE leaving on your trip to make certain each is installed and working properly.
For our complete list of travel apps that we use and recommend while traveling in the Philippines, checkout our checklist below. Download a FREE copy for yourself as a PDF.
Trying to decide what to do when traveling to a destination for the first time can be a bit overwhelming given your lack of familiarity with the place along with all of the available options.
We’ve created the following itinerary to help simplify the process and ensure that you get the most out of your trip. Although we provide a 7 day itinerary for this destination, it can always be adjusted to fit the length of your trip.
The secret to a successful and stress-free trip is to start by using a packing list. This will reduce anxiety from the start and ensure that nothing important is forgotten when packing. To make this process easy for you, we’ve created a detailed packing list. Click the link below to download it for FREE now.
Carrying your checklist with you during your travels can be useful when repacking, by helping to ensure that you do not leave anything behind.
Things to Remember
This guide recommends to take note of the following while traveling on Leyte Island or in the Philippines in general.
There is a nationwide ban which prohibits smoking in public places including indoors, the streets, on sidewalks, in restaurants , and on public transportation, requiring smokers to use designated smoking areas. Selling tobacco to and purchasing from or for minors is also prohibited. Violators are subject to fines (up to 5,000 PHP | $100 USD) and even 4 months in prison.
The minimum legal drinking age is 18. Alcohol such as beer and hard drinks can easily be bought in grocery and convenience stores. The most common alcoholic beverage is beer, generally served cold. Local alcoholic drinks include tuba (coconut wine which is usually very strong) and potent moonshine-like clear liquors made from sugar or fruit. Imported beer, wine, and name brand hard alcohol are available but expensive.
Drugs are illegal in the Philippines. Don’t use, buy, or sell any non-prescription drugs while in the Philippines … not even marijuana. It is considered an especially heinous crime to buy from, for, or sell drugs to children. The penalties are severe … up to and including death.
Public nudity is illegal in the Philippines and is not tolerated. Most locals consider it offensive. There are laws which prohibit provocative and erotic clothing and swimwear, therefore carefully consider your clothings and swimwear choices to make certain they are not too revealing.
Foreigners & Expats
If you are not a Filipino citizen, remember that you are a guest when visiting this country … be certain to act accordingly. Respect the people, their customs, and the environment and wlidlife. You can be deported and banned … so behave … but have fun and enjoy all that this wonderful destination has to offer.
Don’t Forget …
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