Tourists (and guidebooks) call it Malalison Island. Locals say it’s Mararison.
Whatever it’s called, this small, hook-shaped island in Antique Province will always be associated in my mind with the realization of how beautiful my country really is.
Indeed, there are still a lot of stunningly beautiful islands in the Philippines sans the foreign tourists, loud music, and tons of trash.
My time in Malalison Island, with its white sand beaches, a small community of fisherfolk, hundreds of pitcher plants, a steep mountain, and an incomparable view at the peak, will always be an experience I won’t forget.
I was invited to visit Malalison Island by a friend of mine who owns a plot of land there, and since I was already in Iloilo at that time with three other fellow travel bloggers, we decided to go as a group.
Malalison then wasn’t as popular as it is now. Tourists were not common, and one had to arrange the boat transportation and accommodation directly with the locals on the island. In fact, when we went, we were the only tourists there.
I didn’t even know what to expect; I knew it had white sand beaches and a very nice sandbar, but beyond that, Malalison was just a name I kept hearing from friends.
The minute I saw the island, though, I realized why people who have been there kept on raving about it. It is that beautiful.
With its clear blue and green waters and white sand, Malalison is more than enough for any nature lover. There’s the Batabat Coral Reef for snorkeling, a sandbar for picture taking, and numerous opportunities for taking selfies amidst perfectly blue sky.
We did more, of course. It was late when we arrived on the island so it wasn’t until the next day that we got to trek up Malalison’s lone mountain, passing by fishermen’s houses, a school, and hundreds of pitcher plants of varying sizes.
The trek up could be tiring if you’re out of shape, but it’s more than manageable. It’s a definite must do, because it is so beautiful at the peak you won’t ever want to go down. It’s the perfect place for reflection, contemplation, meditation, and all the -ations that bring you closer to the universe.
After all, there is no better place to commune with nature than at the peak of that Malalison hill, where you only see beauty and none of the ugliness of the world beyond the island.
(This is not to say that life in the island is idyllic. Electricity supply is limited, and the school could do with more books for the kids, among other issues the islanders have.)
After all the necessary photo opp, we went down to the other side of the island towards Nablag Islet, an uninhabited rocky hill next to Malalison. When it’s low tide, as it was that day, you could easily walk across the sandbar to reach it.
I did cross to the other side, but instead of climbing up the relatively low hill, I decided to just go back and join my friends swimming, climbing trees, exploring caves, and generally just chilling by the rocky beach.
Afterwards, we went back by following the coastline, walking on the rocks, hugging the cliffs, and occasionally wading through the sea, to reach our homestay and get ready for leaving the island.
I didn’t write about my trip to Malalison Island for over a year, selfishly thinking that I wanted it to remain a “secret” for a little bit longer.
Nowadays, however, tourism is already in full bloom there, with a lot of homestays, package tours and day trips, and an active local tourism office making sure that policies put in place are followed for the protection of the island.
Every time I see a write-up of Malalison on my feed, I feel glad, on the one hand, that more and more people are becoming aware of its charms, and have the opportunity to see its beauty firsthand.
However, I also feel a little bit sad at the thought that it won’t be long before hordes of tourists descend on Malalison, turning this clean and tranquil island into another Boracay.
Forgive me for being a pessimist, and I admit that with the proper guidance from the local government, Malalison could very well be spared the negative consequences of tourism.
In the meantime, go and visit Malalison Island before it’s too late.
How to Go to Malalison Island
And now, to the practical aspects of your visit to Malalison Island. Here’s how to go there:
- Coming from Iloilo City: Go to the Molo Bus and Van Terminal and take the bus for Culasi (3-4 hours). Fare is P200 per person.
- Coming from Kalibo or Caticlan: Take a bus or van bound for Culasi.
Once you’re at Culasi, go to their boulevard or the Culasi port. From the Tourism Office, you can rent an outrigger boat (banca) for P750, good for 5 persons (P150/person). This is return trip already and includes a tour of the island.
There is also a Terminal Fee (P20) and an Environmental Fee (P10).
If you want hassle-free travel, book your Malalison Island tour with Katahum Tours. They’re based in Tibiao, Antique and can take care of everything for you, from transport and guides, to accommodation and food.
The banca ride, if the weather is good, takes less than 20 minutes. Know that if the waves are rough, your things might get wet. Better waterproof them in advance.
Where to Stay on Malalison Island
When we went there, there was only one homestay on the island. We stayed with Angelita Macuja (+63 939 266 8849). Their house had two bedrooms with a bed each, good for two people (good for solo travelers or couples). The rate was P200 per head.
My friend Jodl Gayatin (a good friend during my University of the Philippines days) also owns Arjee’s Homestay (+63 915 308 3111) which is better suited for groups of friends.
They have three rooms (in two houses) which can accommodate 3 to 5 persons (P1,200/night), 5 to 8 persons (P1,500/night), and 2 to 5 persons (P1,500/night). Check out the details here.
Another homestay is Sally’s Balay Darayunan (homestay). Room rates are P1,500 (good for 5 persons), P1,800 (8 persons), and P2,000 (10 persons). Call Manang Neneng (Ms. Lonady Quiape) at +63 909 841 0185 to book.
Travel Tips to Malalison Island
Malalison Island is quite small. Here are a few things to remember when you go there:
- DO NOT LEAVE TRASH on the island. Bring a plastic bag with you when you go so you can bring your trash back to the mainland. Be responsible travelers, please.
- There is no ATM on the island. No restaurants. No bars.
- Buy your food at the mainland especially if you are staying overnight on the island.
- There is electricity only from 6PM to 10PM. Homestays have generators, but you have to pay extra to have it turned on. Just charge your gadgets and when the electricity is turned off, look up at the night sky and admire a different view.
- When trekking, DO NOT pick the pitcher plants. They are not souvenirs for you to take home.
Have you been to Malalison Island? If you like this post, feel free to share!