Ask a random Filipino what the island of Guimaras is famous for and they’d answer you mangoes. Guimaras is known as a major supplier and exporter of the sweetest mangoes in and out of the country. But what about tropical beach paradise and other tourist spots? Well, not a lot of people would think that this island hosts several Filipino and foreign-owned resorts. So let me share with you a piece of paradise I have discovered in Guimaras.
The Island of Guimaras can be found in Western Visayas – southeast of Panay and northwest of Negros islands. But Iloilo city is considered the gateway to the island. From Manila, one can take the plane or boat going to Iloilo. Flight from Manila takes around one hour.
From Iloilo, take a 20-30 minutes motorboat or ferry ride from Parola wharf to get to Buenavista or Ortiz wharf to get to Jordan. Parola and Ortiz wharf are both one jeepney ride away from SM Iloilo. Jeepney fare is 8 pesos or you can also take a cab to get there. Boat fares vary and I think, would depend on what kind of boat is available. During our visit, we only paid 13 pesos and after a few minutes we boarded a pump-boat going to Guimaras. While you may read on other forums or blogs that they paid around 20 to 30 pesos for a ferry ride.
Upon arrival in Jordan you will be approached by locals who would offer to take you to your destination. There are what they call “multicabs” a small utility vehicle that they use to get around the island. It’s like a smaller version of the jeepney. The downside of taking multicabs is the longer time for transportation. Since around 10 or so people can fit inside, it would take you longer to reach your destination because of the several stops along the way. So we decided to get a tricycle instead. It took us only minutes to negotiate with the driver, later on we have agreed to pay 500 pesos. But since we didn’t know yet where to go, we ended up paying more.
The Long Drive
Aside from stopping on several other tourist spots on the way, Ryan- our tricycle driver was kind enough to take our pictures, serve as our tour guide and he even suggested good resorts for our stay. According to Ryan, the nearest resort from Jordan is Raymen Beach Resort at Alubihod beach which is about 20 km away. So we told him that we’d like to check it out. After about an hour, we reached Raymen. But to be honest, we didn’t like the place. It was small and with a very short shoreline.
Ryan suggested another resort but this time, it would take us another 25 km or so to reach the place. We were going far! And it wouldn’t only mean far, but a more bumpier, dusty ride for us. Roads in Guimaras really need to be improved.
As out butts grow numb we also began to feel nervous because there were no houses or any sight of living around the area. We were quiet and I knew at the time that my friend and I were thinking along the same lines. We both felt threatened because we didn’t know what lies ahead. A few more minutes of paranoia and like an answered prayer the paradise revealed itself.
Welcome to La Puerta Al Paraizo
Perched on top of a hill, La Puerta Al Paraizo in Brgy. San Roque, Nueva Valencia will surprise you of its existence amidst a forest-like area of overgrown grass, plants and muddy roads. Far from the resort is a wide gate with an armed security guard. He talked for a while with Ryan in their local dialect and after that our driver informed us that they don’t accept walk-in visitors. Reservations should be booked ahead of time. Lucky for us we were allowed to go in since they don’t have a lot of guests at the time.
We arrived at the resort at around 2 PM and we were ushered directly to one of the rooms because it was very hot and we were really tired from the trip and wished to freshen up ASAP. We got one of the rooms nearest to the sea and the rate per night was 1,600 pesos. The room has a queen size bed, an electric fan (gets really cold at night so no need for air-con), a bathroom with hot & cold water. The room, in my opinion is quite small, there’s barely enough space to move around. But I didn’t really care. Here you’ll see why:
After a quick shower we went to the lounge/dining area to finalize our booking and to order food for dinner. One of the staff informed us that we were the only guests at the time. Normally, guests come in on Saturdays. We came on a Thursday, so they assumed and told us that maybe others will arrive the next 2 days. But we were happy. We had the resort all to ourselves.
The resort has 2 shorelines, one is near the pool and the other one near the rooms. It has white sand but not like crystal-white sand. The best thing about it is the calm waters. Because the place is an enclosed cove.
During low tide, the water gets crazy low that you can actually walk from the shore to get to the nearby islands. This is also a great opportunity to hunt for star fishes which is not very difficult because there were lots!
The lounge and dining area is situated at the highest part of the resort. Its a huge open space so there is no need for electric fans on every corner. They have a television there as well. Maybe the only television you’ll see around the resort.
Food is great! They may not serve fresh seafood or anything like it, but the way they prepare and its presentation is superb. One dish costs from 200 pesos and above but servings were generous. If you can’t finish what you ordered for lunch, they will offer to re-heat it for you for dinner if you wish.
We were so happy that we have the place to enjoy by ourselves, we even planned to drink the night away and get drunk under the stars. But these plans were changed upon learning on our first night that all the staff goes home at around 8 or 9 PM. So yes, we had the resort all to ourselves- in all essence of it. It was amusing and scary at the same time. But we were assured that there will be 2 security guards to roam the area. Again these guards were armed. One staff told me that guns were necessary because the resort faces an open sea where anyone can enter by boat. It was a necessary precaution.
What Not to Expect
Guimaras is a small island and Brgy. San Roque, Nueva Valencia is almost 50 km away from the main Guimaras port in Jordan. So don’t expect hassle free and comfortable rides on land. You also have to be prepared for any kind of emergencies because the nearest hospital would be an hour or more away from the resort.
There’s no Wi-Fi or any internet connection at the resort. If you really need to go online, there are computer shops at Jordan. I’ve spotted some while on the way to the resort.
No decent phone signal either. But there is a specific spot where if you get lucky, you’ll get one or two bars on your phone. This spot is actually a tree within the smoking area, near the restaurant. If you find cellphones hanging on a tree while you’re there, you’ll know its the one I’m talking about. Hanged cellphones never get lost because the staff are all honest they’d even keep an eye on it while you’re at the beach.
On the other hand, expect that La Puerta Al Paraizo will be more popular in the coming years because a lot of improvements and expansion are underway. It’s very private now for a reason because as one staff shared, they haven’t really opened the resort officially to the public so they are strict with early bookings.
They say future plans include a zipline, that’s aside from island hopping and snorkeling activities, additional restaurants and a coffee shop.