The sixth largest and fourth most populous island in the Philippines, Panay is composed of three cities (Iloilo City, Passi City and Roxas City) and four provinces (Aklan, Antique, Capiz, and Iloilo). The island is blessed with mountains, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, beaches, and of course a rich marine ecosystem, thus the abundance of seafood on the island.
While farming and fishing are major industries on the island, it has a lot of potential for tourism as several of its natural tourist spots are fast-becoming popular among local and foreign tourists alike. Additionally, its close proximity to world famous Boracay Island which is geographically part of Aklan province makes Panay Island even more attractive to tourists.
This brief guide to Panay 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 Panay 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 Panay 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).
Lipata Port | San Jose Port
Culasi Port | Roxas Port
Altavas Bus Terminal | Caticlan Bus Terminal | Kalibo-Banga Bus Terminal | West Aklan Transport Terminal
Pandan Bus Terminal | Libertad Ceres Terminal
Banga Bus Terminal | Ivisan Bus Terminal | Roxas City Bus Terminal | Sapian Bus Terminal
Ceres Northbound Terminal | Iloilo Central Line Bus & Jeepney Terminal | Molo Transport Terminal | Mohon Terminal | Tagbak Bus Terminal
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 Panay Island: Rome2Rio and PHBUS. The following are the major ports of entry for this destination.
The following are the modes of transportation available on Panay Island …
SEE & DO
The following is your guide to places to see and activities to enjoy while on Panay Island.
1 | Hike Mount Madia-as in Antique
Mount Madi-as is the highest peak on the island and the second highest in Visayas next to Mount Kanlaon. It has an elevation of 2,117 masl and can be challenging to explore as the peak is relatively unexplored. It is known for its sea of clouds and is home to a diversity of flora and fauna. It has a total of 14 waterfalls feeding the major rivers in the province as well as the neighboring Aklan province.
2 | Experience kawa bath in Tibiao, Antique
Ever wonder what it feels like to take a dip into a large wok (locally called kawa) with herbs and petals floating above warm water? Try the Kawa Hot Bath in Tibiao, Antique. The experience that is now popular in various parts of the country pioneered in this part of Panay Island. The warm bath helps remove toxins as well as soothe and relax the body perfect to cap off a tiring day of exploring Tibia River and other tourist spots in Antique such as Bugtong Bato Falls, Seco Island, and Mararison Island.
There’s also Tibiao Fish Spa nearby where you can experience having your dead skin nibbled by three-inch fishes.
3 | Visit the heritage sites and churches in Iloilo
There are over 200 mansions in the city and around 30 of which are grand and built by sugar barons and elite families during the Spanish and American colonial era. Considering all those mansions, the city earned the moniker City of Mansions with Nelly Garden (also known as Lopez Mansion) as the most grandiose and considered the Queen of all Heritage Houses in Iloilo. Several of the mansions have been converted into museums and shops such as Molo Mansion (also called yusay-Consing Mansion), Casa Mariquit, Lizares Mansion (now Angelicum School Iloilo), and Camiña Balay nga Bato among others.
4 | Go on food tour in Iloilo
Iloilo may not be the Culinary Capital of the Philippines but a few dishes originated in the city have gained national popularity. La Paz Batchoy, named after its birthplace La Paz, is one of the country’s most popular noodle soup dishes. Famous batchoy houses in the city include Ted’s, Deco’s, and Netong’s. Other local dishes to try are pancit molo, KBL (kadios, baboy, langka), and chicken binakol. Also, don’t miss seafoods and Ilonggo sweets and desserts such as biscocho (twice-baked bread coated with butter and sugar), barquillos (wafer rolls), pinasugbo (deep-fried thinly sliced bananas coated with caramelized sugar), baye-baye (rice or corn and young coconut patties), and bandi (peanut brittle).
5 | See Southeast Asia’s biggest bell in Capiz
The Santa Monica Parish in the town of Pan-ay, Capiz houses an unusually large bell recognized as the biggest Catholic Church bell in Southeast Asia. The bell was completed in 1878 and made of more than 10 tonnes of coins given by townsfolk. The bell measures 5 feet in height and 7 feet in diameter. Its sound can be heard within an 8 kilometer radius and is still being used during Sunday masses and special occasions.
The church itself is historical, having been built in 1884 using coral blocks.
6 | Witness the festivals on the island
Two of the country’s biggest festivals, Ati-Atihan and Dinagyang, take place on the island. Both are celebrated in January and in honor of Santo Niño, the child Jesus. Other festivals to witness on the island are Paraw Regatta (the largest sailing event in the country and oldest traditional craft event in Asia), Fiesta de la Candelaria, Halaran Festival, and Binirayan Festival.
7 | Enjoy the beaches in Buruanga, Aklan
Boracay’s White Beach is not the only stunning beach in the province of Aklan. The beaches in Buruanga, particularly the Hinugtan White Beach, may be lesser known but they are equally instagrammable and lovely without the crowd and the high cost of Boracay. It has white sand and clear water perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Other beaches in Buruanga are Langka Beach, Nasog Beach, Tuburan Baybay Beach, and Tigis Beach. Aside from beaches, Buruanga is also blessed with caves, waterfalls, mountain parks, and the most popular dive site in Aklan – Ariel’s Point.
8 | Explore Bakhawan Eco-Park in Aklan
This 220 hectares mangrove forest in Kalibo is a reforestation project to prevent flood and storm surges in the shoreline of Barangay New Buswang. Dubbed as the country’s most successful mangrove reforestation project, Bakhawan Eco-Park has become a popular tourist attraction that features a 1.3 kilometers bamboo trail visitors can use to explore the forest.
9 | Feast on seafood in Roxas City
Dubbed as the “Seafood Capital of the Philippines”, Roxas City is the best place to indulge your seafood cravings. Freshly-caught fishes are cooked right at the fish farm. Aside from fish, you can also feast on oysters, squid, mussels, prawns, and crabs. And don’t leave the city empty-handed. You can buy dried seafood to bring to your loved ones back home.
10 | Tour Isla de Gigantes
Isla de Gigantes is a group of islands in the Visayan Sea and is part of the municipality of Carles in the province of Iloilo. It consists of about 10 islands blessed with pristine waters and white sand beaches. The jagged rock formations with lush greenery make the islands appear more charming and interesting. Abundant with fresh seafood, Isla de Gigantes is one of the most popular tourist spots in the province.
11 | Visit nearby attractions
Panay island is surrounded with other islands worth exploring. Of course, the world famous Boracay Island is approximately 10 to 15 minutes away from Caticlan Port. Guimaras Island, the Mango Capital of the Philippines, is 10-15 minutes boat ride away from Iloilo City. Negros Island, on the other hand, is an hour away via fast craft.
NOTE: Ati-atihan Festival (Kalibo) – Third week of January | Dinagyang Festival (Iloilo) – Fourth week of January | Paraw Regatta (Iloilo) – February | Sinadya sa Halaran (Capiz) – May |Binirayan Festival (Antique) – December
EAT & DRINK
The following is your guide to the flavorful food to enjoy and restaurants to try while on Panay Island.
1 | Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafoods
The top restaurant in Iloilo City based on reviews, Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafoods was made famous by their litson manok (roasted native chicken) although their menu now includes other chicken dishes, grilled and steamed seafood, ceviche (kinilaw), and pork dishes. They take pride in using fresh and basic local ingredients such as calamansi, coconut vinegar, and other spices to achieve that signature flavor. The restaurant started out with only three tables in the 1970s but now has two branches in Atria Park and near the Iloilo Airport.
2 | Breakthrough Restaurant
Satisfy your seafood cravings at Breakthrough Restaurant in Iloilo. At the restaurant, you get to enjoy them fresh and even have the chance to choose from the live seafood on display in the aquariums and have them cooked the way you want it. Their best sellers include baked scallops and oysters, kinilaw (ceviche), spicy crabs, and of course grilled fish. The restaurant is located along Villa Beach in Arevalo district but it has a branch in Plazuela Iloilo called Ponsyon by Breakthrough.
3 | Netong’s Original Special La Paz Batchoy
Netong’s is one of the pioneers and most recommended in the savory world of batchoy. It’s first eatery located in La Paz still operates up to this day however it has opened branches in newer business areas and more convenient locations such as Atria Park in Mandurriao. Your Iloilo food tour isn’t complete without a trip to Netong’s so make sure to drop by next time you’re in the city.
4 | Roberto’s
Located in Calle Real, Roberto’s is already an icon of Iloilo. It’s best known for tasty siopao oozing with filling in four variants; regular, jumbo (Chinese sausage, chicken pork adobo and egg), queen (bacon, Chinese sausage, chicken pork adobo and egg), and king (ham, Chinese sausage, chicken pork adobo and egg). Aside from siopao, their lumpiang shanghai, lomi, pancit canton, and sotanghon guisado are good too. The space is really small and is always full but it’s worth it.
5 | Latte Cafe
The top restaurant in Kalibo, Aklan, Latte Cafe has branches in Iloilo. The spacious restaurant has a modern vibe and is perfect for special celebrations or romantic date nights. It serves Filipino and Western favorites kare-kare, grilled pork, pakbet, and salad. Latte Cafe also has the reputation of having the best dessert in town.
6 | Ramboy’s
With branches in Aklan and Iloilo, Ramboy’s is known for their liempo and lechon manok. They also serve other Filipino dishes such as crispy pata and chopsuey.
7 | Coco Veranda Bar & Restaurant
You can’t leave Roxas City without feasting on seafood and one of the best places to indulge your cravings is in Coco Veranda, an open-air restaurant along the beach. It offers an extensive selection of Filipino dishes as well as Western and Asian dishes to cater to local and foreign tourists heading to or coming from the nearby Boracay Island. Try their baked scallops and oysters, shrimp balls, crab fuyong, calamares, and seafood paella.
8 | Cafe Terraza
Another seafood spot in Roxas City is Cafe Terraza, a popular hangout place located on top of a hill. It offers the scenic views of Roxas City and nearby towns. Aside from seafood, the restaurant also serves pork and chicken dishes such as sisig, grilled pork, and asado na pata. Their cakes are a must-try too!
9 | Mamamia
Mamamia may look like a Filipino restaurant with its bamboo interiors and furniture but it actually serves Italian favorites particularly pasta and pizza which is one of the tastiest in Antique. The prices are a bit high for local standards but considering the ingredients and quality of food, it is truly worth it.
10 | Seaview Restaurant
Seaview Restaurant of Phaidon Beach Resort serves a variety of local and international dishes. One of the most popular restaurants in Antique, Seaview has a great ambience and offers scenic views of the beach.
KNOWN FOR: Batchoy, Pancit molo, Biscocho, Seafood
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 Panay Island.
1 | Diversion21 Hotel (Budget)
2 | Seda Atria (Mid-Range)
3 | Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo (Luxury | Resort)
This guide recommends using the following sites to conduct research online of where to stay on Panay 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: Seda Atria 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 Panay 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 Panay 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 Panay 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 Panay 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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