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Aklan is home to the Philippines’ most famous beach, Boracay, or one of the country’s most lively festivals, the Ati-Atihan. But you’d be surprised to what this modest coastal province can bring to your tourist experience.
Aklan is located in the northwest portion of Panay Island in Western Visayas. It is bordered by the Sibuyan Sea and the Romblon province to the north, Antique to the southwest, and Capiz to the east.
Its geographical makeup, which ranges from white, sandy beaches, mangroves, and mountains, makes it the perfect destination for a multiple-location getaway. Aklan’s capital is Kalibo, which is the home of the famous Boracay beach.
There are direct flights available from abroad, specifically from Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Incheon, Busan, and Chengdu, going to Kalibo International Airport. There are also flights that may make a stop or leave Manila going to Kalibo. More flights are expected to be available going to a newly-renovated Caticlan Airport in the future.
Travelling from Manila to majority of the provinces in the Philippines can be done by taking a passenger ship or a fast ferry like 2Go Travel or Negros Navigation to Caticlan port. From there, you can take a private vehicle, shuttle service, or public transportation going to any point in Caticlan.
You can take the “Roll-On, Roll-Off” service and take the Manila-Roxas-Tablas or the Manila-Tablas routes. From there, you can take a motorized outrigger boat (bangka) going to Caticlan port, and then take a private or public transportation to any point in Aklan.
Caticlan airport is a jumping point to any location in Aklan. Depending on your destination point, you can take a tour bus or a jeep/tricycle combination going to your location.
You cannot visit Aklan without knowing its colorful history first. Visit the Museo it Akean or the Aklan Museum, a goldmine of historical artifacts, for Php15. Check out the piña textiles and old jars dug up in Aklan.
Explore Tangalan, a municipality 20 minutes away from Kalibo or 45 minutes away from Caticlan. Start with Tangalan’s 125 year-old church, which was built through “polo y servicio” (forced labor) by the townsfolk.
While you’re there, pay the Php5 entrance fee going to Jawili Falls, a breathtaking seven-basin waterfalls. Surrounded by a pristine forest, crystal-clear water cascade down the waterfalls made of limestone, making it as an awesome backdrop for your next Instagram shot. You can also rent a cottage there for Php150 and have an open-air picnic with your family or friends.
Definitely do not miss the Ati-Atihan festival in Kalibo, which is celebrated on the third Sunday of January. This festival celebrates the treaty between opposing tribes in the area, and who are also famous for their colorful, feathery garb. Dance to the rhythmic beat of the drums and dance with the dancers during the lively procession.
If you’re the adventurous type, spelunking at the Pangihan Cave in the municipality of Malay would be an interesting highlight in your trip. Join a caving tour for P200, rent a lantern for P50, wear light clothes and trekking shoes, and then you’re all set! Although, you may want to prepare for the large number of bats (and the smell of dung) inside the cave.
If you fancy yourself doing other things at the beach, take the off-beaten-track of Busuanga. You’ll find yourself braving a cliff dive off Ariel’s Point, or do snorkel at Buruanga Point, or simply stroll the beaches of nearby Wasak-Wasak Beach, Tuburan Beach, or Hinugtan Beach.
For the Aklanon cuisine experience, head to Saylo, the only restaurant in Kalibo that offers just that. Order their Chicken Binakol, which is chicken, coconut meat and juice cooked inside a bamboo stalk.
Bakhawan Mangrove Park offers an exotic delicacy that you might want to try. Shipworms or tamilok is a mollusk that lives in the roots of mangrove trees. Ask the staff to cook them for you grilled or stewed in coconut milk and chili ala Bicol Express.
If you want to try something else that’s a little calmer, order a Pansit Shanglan, which is a noodle dish made with Mongolian sauce and then topped with an egg at Lorraine’s Tapsi and Catering Services.
If you’re looking to party, the best place to go at night would be Stations 1, 2, and 3 at Boracay. You can do a pub crawl, dance at a club, drink, or chat with newfound friends until the break of dawn. Popular haunts in Boracay include Club Paraw, Cocomangas Shooter Bar, and Epic.
There are a slew of luxury hotels in Aklan, especially around and in Boracay. The Lind, Four Seasons, and Shangri-la. But you can be smart with your hotel accommodation by staying in hostels or pension houses. If you’re with a group of friends, you can check in at Ati-Atihan Festival Hostel, which offers a dormitory-style room for five. Airport Line Pension, which is just 10 minutes away from the airport, offers a single bedroom and a family room with three beds.
Get smart when planning your itinerary. Look for cost-free activities or promos that would allow you to save money.
Travel light. Aklan has a lot of things to offer, and travelling with huge luggages won’t do, unless if you are planning to stay in one location.
Don’t spend too much on one meal, unless you’re celebrating something special, like an anniversary or a birthday. Aklan is a backpacker’s haven, so you’re bound to find a restaurant or an eatery that can offer you something that wouldn’t blow your budget.