Visayas travel tips

p3170163Islands of paradise

Welcome to Asia’s best selection of tropical islands, the Visayas group in the Philippines. Experience the mouthwatering travel possibilities these numerous islands offer, from world class diving to stunning beaches, luxury resorts, friendly Filipino hospitality and endless coconut palms. We have the best of the Visayas covered here.

Plan your travels and update yourself on travel in the Visayas with this blog from an expert resident of Boracay and the Philippines. We plan to soon upgrade this into a full tourist info site with more than 100 pages and plenty of stunning pictures on the Visayas. Let us reveal the best of these islands.

From popular Boracay, across Panay and Negros to Bohol and Cebu we have the popular places covered. And then there’s the out of the way gems in Southern Leyte, the West coast islands of Samar, even the Romblons and sweet little Siquijor. Discover the individual flavours and highlights of each island right here.

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Visayas – Why You Shouldn’t Miss It

Seated at the heart of the Philippine archipelago, the islands of Visayas are among the prettiest and most visited in the country. From east to west, these islands continue to lure visitors of different tongues and nations for their pristine beaches and untamed wilderness. Its main islands of Samar, Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, Masbate, Panay and Negros are further encircled by equally magnificent islets and breathtaking waters. Famous for its white sandy beaches and incomparable nature, coupled with great Visayan hospitality, Visayas is truly a paradise at the heart of the Philippines.

As gems of tourism in the country, the islands of Cebu, Panay and Bohol offer their visitors a wide array of opportunities to discover the treasures and beauty that lie within them.

Cebu, known to the locals as the “Queen City of the South,” is also the oldest in the country. With its rich history that has brought major landmarks such as the Magellan’s Cross, Fort San Pedro, and the monuments of the epic Datu Lapu-Lapu who killed Ferdinand Magellan, and the latter, who is one of the first to discover the Philippines. Cebu is also a huge commercial center and an international transport hub, having an international harbor and many other smaller ports. South of the Philippine’s oldest city is the town of Carcar where well-preserved Castillian houses stand, surrounded by beautiful gardens and old churches. Authentic wood guitars are famous products at Maribago, while amid the beach clubs and resorts are many other historical sites.

Magellans Cross in Cebu

Magellan's Cross in Cebu

Panay Island holds other historical and cultural gems, including an 18th century baroque church known as Miagao in Iloilo. The nearby Sicogon Island with its virgin forests, magnificent mountains and rich marine life, is a retreat for scuba divers. Who would forget to mention the most popular island treasure that is the Boracay Island, a huge expanse of sugary white sand beach and a prime destination to experience the sun.

Miagao - An 18th Century Baroque Church in Iloilo

Miagao - An 18th Century Baroque Church in Iloilo

Bohol is another one of the prime islands in Visayas, where natural wonders abound. The island is most famous for its limestone hills (hundreds of them), better known as the “Chocolate Hills” as they appear like huge mounds of the sweet treat. Aside from its handsome beaches, one interesting site in the island is the Baclayon Church, a very old stone church, and probably the oldest in the country.

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Cebu, Boracay, Bohol

Visayas is probably the most popular group of islands for those travelling to the Philippines. The region is known to tourists from all over the world as one of the best beach destinations in Asia as it offers a variety of attractions such as pristine beaches, happening nightlife, cultural attractions and magnificent natural sights.

Here are the top places to visit while in Visayas:


Cebu is the oldest city in the country and is also known as the center of commerce and education in the Southern part of the Philippines. In spite of its continuous industrial group, the city still manages to keep its ancestral heritage alive. Cebu is a mix of the old and the new as you can find old historic structures alongside modern buildings and infrastructure.


For those who love the sea and the sand, Boracay is the top favourite in this region. The island is located on the northern tip of Panay and is well connected to major cities all over the country with scheduled flights being provided daily. The island is every bit a tropical paradise with its white sand beaches, tropical scenery and interesting water sports opportunities.

Boracay was formerly the country’s best-kept secret but these days, it has continuously attracted tourists from all over the world. Because of this, it has become a bustling metropolis offering diverse culinary fare from native Mediterranean to Asian and even local cuisines.


This province is another one of the natural havens in the Visayas region. It is not as internationally famous as Boracay but this is probably where its charm is coming from. It’s not as crowded as other tourist destinations in the country so you will still be able to enjoy the beauty of the island at its finest. It is known as the ultimate destination for divers as well as those who simply want to experience nature up close.

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Visayas Travel Essentials

Visayas is an island group located in the center of the Philippine archipelago. This area is a known travel destination because it is mostly composed of islands with pristine beaches, interesting cultural festivities, historical sites and a number of attractions suited for every kind of traveller.

If you’re going to travel around Visayas or if you’re looking to stay on one of the islands, you have to be well-prepared. Understand that travelling to one of the islands of the region or even backpacking across the different provinces will need a certain set of gear to ensure your comfort during travels.

Sun protection

You’re going to spend most of your holiday on the beach if you’re going to Visayas so you need to take a large bottle of sunscreen to protect your skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun. If you’re going sightseeing, make sure to don sunglasses and a hat because the heat of the sun can be really unbearable especially if you’re travelling during the summer.

Comfortable footwear

For those looking to go around the many interesting attractions in Cebu, Bohol or any other province in Visayas, make sure to wear your most comfortable pair of shoes. You might also want to bring hiking shoes with you in case you want to go trekking or if you’re looking for a different kind of holiday adventure while you’re in the islands. Rubber sandals are also great for those days that you will be spending on the beach.

Cool clothing

If you’re going to travel around Visayas, your suits and sweaters will have to be left behind. You will need clothes made of cool cotton material. A thin cardigan will be great to have if you’re travelling during the colder seasons because the evenings can get a bit chilly.

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Visit Bohol

Bohol boasts breathtaking sceneries and an interesting history that helped shape the modern Filipino society. Its historical significance dates back to the time of the 1565 blood compact between  the Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and the then Chieftain Sikatuna.

The charming landscape of Bohol draws attention to the formations, structures, and natural elements that helped define the island, such as the Baroque mission churches of the Jesuits, the watchtowers dating back to the 16th century, and of course, the Chocolate Hills. Consisting of 1,268 hills shaped like cones, it is the province’s most famous attraction, and really put Bohol on the map.

Bohol is also the home of the world’s smallest primate, the tarsier. It is a nocturnal animal that measures only four to five inches with a long tail that is longer than its entire body. If you are interested to see or watch the tarsier, you can visit its natural habitat up on the hills of Corella town, where you will be welcomed by the locals.

The coastline of Bohol is also worth seeing. Bursting with tropical charm, the province’s coastline is characterized by white sand beaches and gentle coves that lead to diving sites like Balicasag, which is one of the best in the Visayas. There is also a forest of black corals worth visiting for its beauty. You should also spend time in Cabilao, where you can see hammerhead sharks swimming along the crystal clear waters. If you are lucky enough, you may also find yourself swimming along dolphins.

Bohol is a tourist-friendly province where you are provided with accommodation options ranging from classy resorts to affordable hostels. Transportation is easy – the resorts usually provide cans you can rent for the day, and for the budget-conscious, there are motorized tricycles for hire, too. If you’re lucky, your driver can double as a tour guide.

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Visayan Festivals

The Philippines is a vibrant and colorful country that gets even livelier and more exciting every time there is a festival. Some of the best festivals can be found in the Visayas region. During certain times of the year, these cities burst with a festive atmosphere – from the colorful décor lining the streets to people dressed up in bright and vibrant costumes, all adding to the celebratory mood.

One of the most noteworthy festivals is Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival every 4th weekend of January. This colorful (literally) feast is in honor of the province’s patron saint, the child Jesus. This festival is the Iloilo’s version of the Ati-atihan and commemorates the conversion of the native Filipinos into Christians. During the festival, the performers’ bodies are painted black and accented with brighter hues. Iloilo is also home to the Maskara Festival, characterized by a street party in Bacolod City where people travel to have their faces hidden behind different kinds of colorful masks.

In the town of Kalibo in Aklan, the Ati-atihan festival is the most distinct of all celebrations. Held every second weekend of January, Ati-atihan is Panay Island’s most popular fiesta and also celebrates the child Jesus. It is similar to a mardi gras event that lasts for 3 days, here you can also can catch dancers with their black-painted bodies dressed in colorful traditional garb. This is also important for people on paquetes vacaciones from Spain and South America.

In Cebu, the liveliest and most anticipated celebration is Sinulog, a festival that honors the child Jesus, too, who is actually the patron saint of the island. It is also held on the third Sunday of January and it consists of performers dressed in elaborate costumes while dancing to rhythms imitating the current of a river. Both Catholic and non-Catholics are welcome to enjoy the festivities of Sinulog.

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What to do in the Visayas region

The Visayas region is among the Philippine’s biggest groups of islands and offers a plethora of interesting sights and sounds. Each of its provinces and cities offer a one-of-a-kind experience. Here are some of the must-see and must-do things when you are visiting the Visayas.

The Ati-atihan Festival

Filipinos love festivals and celebrations, and one of the must-see festivals in the Visayas is the Ati-atihan in Kalibo, Aklan. The festival is held to honor the Child Jesus (Santo Nino) who is the patron saint of the region.

The Chocolate Hills

Travel to Bohol and check out the unusual geological formation of hills that resemble Hershey’s Kisses. Although green during rainy and ordinary seasons, the hills turn chocolatey brown during dry season or in the summertime, thus the name.


Cruising the Loboc River

Of all the cruises you can take in the Philippines, the Loboc River Cruise is the one that should not be missed. The river is situated in Bohol Island and is a major tourist spot of the province, attracting both foreigners and locals alike. The river is characterized by a winding path where you can find floating restaurants and small bancas. The cruise offers a treat to the senses as surroundings consist of lush tropical greenery.


Visit Cebu and go island-hopping by riding traditional rowboats or the banca. Doing this allows you to discover the captivating surroundings of Cebu’s many islands while giving you access to more of the white and unspoilt beaches. The Visayas is a paradise for travel writing and you can enjoy a variety of activities such as watersports, picnics, and diving.

The Crown Regency EdgeCoaster

If you just want to be silly and adventurous all at the same time, do as the locals do and head over to Cebu to ride the EdgeCoaster, developed by the Interactive Rides, Inc. This unique extreme thrill ride is not matched by anything you’ll ever see in amusement parks, and is guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping.

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Beaches in Cebu Make The Best Summer Destinations

Boracay is not the only place that hogs all the attention during summertime. In fact, the unspoilt beauty of Cebu’s beaches are also beginning to gain popularity among holidaymakers and locals who need an escape to a true paradise of relaxation. Nowadays, Cebu is quite similar to Manila with its urbanized look and feel. However, it’s Cebu’s beaches and waterfront that dominate some of its best features.

An ideal destination in Cebu is Mactan Island – easily reached by a single plane ride from Manila and other major cities in the Philippines. Mactan Island has its own airport and it is connected to Cebu City via a short bridge. The island has its own share of resorts and accommodations where visitors can conveniently stay while having the benefit of being only a few steps away from the beach.

Other notable beaches in Cebu include the Barili Beaches which stands in Cebu’s southwestern coasts, around 61 kilometres from the city. Barili boasts white sand, hills, and lush greenery. Some of the best beaches of Barili are Sayaw and Candugay.

Next stop is Alcoy, another one of Cebu’s provincial municipalities that boasts white sand. Tingko beach is the most notable among its beaches due to its rock formation standing along the pristine coastal line. The beach is basically a lagoon stretching across the Mabad-on Reef just below a cliff, and its azure waters are inviting for a swim or a dive. The resort in Tingko is open to the public – just pay a very affordable entrance fee. Alternatively, there is the Bodo’s Bamboo Bar Resort that is elevated on plateau and overlooks the sea. Enjoy its cottages, jacuzzis, and pools.

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The Best Times to Travel to the Visayas

Visayas is a well-loved holiday destination in the Philippines and is frequented by both foreigners and locals alike. If you’re going to spend a vacation in one of the region’s islands, it’s wise to time your travels wisely to get the most out of your break. Here are the best and the worst times to travel around Visayas.

June to August

This is the typhoon season in the country. The best thing about traveling around this time is that the hotel rates are relatively lower and many airlines are willing to offer discounts on airfare. The temperature is also moderate so it can be a bit more bearable than the scorching summer. The only problem is traveling to the islands around this time can be tricky. You really have to pay attention to the weather forecast particularly if you intend to travel on water to get from one island to the next.

March to May

This is the summer season so expect clear skies and calm waters when you travel to Visayas around this time. You also don’t have to worry about getting your flights or ferries canceled because there are no typhoons don’t usually occur during this season. Just be ready for the scorching heat as temperatures can go up to as much as 38 degrees centigrade. You will have to pack a lot of sunblock and water to keep you from getting dehydrated on the way.

November to February

This is probably the best time to travel to the islands because the weather is cooler. If you’re coming from another country, traveling around this season will give you the opportunity to enjoy the longest Christmas season as Filipinos everywhere actually start decorating for the holidays as early as October. Just be warned that since this is a peak season, accommodations in the Visayas islands are a bit pricier. You might also want to book your tours ahead of time.

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The Visayas and its festivals

The Visayan Islands in central Philippines has a lot more to offer beyond their tranquil forests, pristine beaches, stunning natural attractions, and historical sites. A trip to any of these islands is not complete without experiencing that particular island’s trademark festivals. Time your visit to Cebu, Iloilo, and Aklan with each of these islands’ festivals and you are in for a wonderful treat.

Cebu’s most awaited and liveliest festival is the Sinulog, a feast honoring the child Jesus (the island’s patron saint). Held every third Sunday in January, Sinulog is a festival of elaborately costumed performers dancing to a rhythm that mimic a river’s current, which translates to ‘sulog’ in the local vernacular. The festival is also marked by endless shouts of “Long live the Christ Child” and “Pit Senyor”. Sinulog is open to everyone who wants to join the festivities, Catholic or otherwise.

Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival is also held in honor of the young Jesus or Sto. Nino. The festival also celebrates the conversion of the province’s natives to Christianity during the early years of Spain’s occupation of the Philippines. Dinagyang is a very lively festival characterized by foot stomping street shows performed by dancers whose bodies are painted black and decorated by different designs of bright colors. Dinagyang is held a week after Cebu’s Sinulog.

The Maskara Festival is another of Iloilo’s famous street parties. The festival, which translates to Mask Festival, is held in Bacolod City and characterized by street dancing and yes, lots of colorful masks.

Aklan also has its version of Sinulog and Dinagyan. The Ati-Atihan is the province’s biggest festival and it is celebrated for same reasons as the previous two. Held on the second weekend of January, the festival is a three-day mardi gras that features black-painted warriors clad in colorful native attire. Spectators, locals and tourists alike, are encouraged and expected to join in by shouting the festivities’ trademark phrases: “Viva Sto. Nino” and “Hala Bira.”

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Backpacking across Visayas

Visayas is one of the best summer destinations in the country. It fits the cliché of the sun-soaked paradise with its pristine beaches, turquoise waters and enchanting natural surroundings. In terms of history, this part of the Philippines is just as rich as the other islands in the country.

The region is composed of several islands so expect to spend most of your holiday on the beach or going on ferry rides to get to one place to another. Everywhere you look, there’s bound to be a magnificent beach or coral reef to entice you to stick around and stay.

There are nine major islands in Visayas – Bohol, Cebu, Samar, Leyte, Panay, Negros, Guimaras, Romblon and Siquijor. It will take weeks for you to explore each one and selecting just one destination can be a challenge as each province has its own charm. For every island, a different language is spoken so it would feel like you’re in a different world altogether. Thankfully, a lot of people can speak and understand English so if you’re coming from another part of the globe, you can easily get help from the accommodating natives.

If you want a typical holiday, head for Boracay – an island that seems like a world of its own with its happening night life. It’s probably the most popular holiday destination in the region, welcoming thousands of tourists regardless of the season. If you’re one who wants a different kind of holiday, going from barrio to barrio will allow you to immerse in the area’s rich culture. You can even visit Siquijor, the black magic island – known to be the home of faith healers and witches.

The best way to explore the islands is to start your tour at the tip of Bicol where you can ride a ferry to Samar, then down to Leyte. Make a stop in Cebu for its historic sites and beaches, Bohol for the infamous Chocolate Hills, Panay, Negros and then Boracay to relax and unwind before you head back home.

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