by freelance writer and photographer Lei Ferrer Rodriguez
There are many beautiful beaches and islands in the Panay Region. One of the best is Mararison Island (Malalison for travellers). It’s a 55 hectare island just off Culasi, Antique. Culasi is located between San Jose, Antique and Caticlan/Boracay on the west side of Panay Island.
It’s my third time to visit the island. It never fails to charm me with its crystal clear, blue waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. You’ll see beautiful corals and lots of sea creatures while snorkeling. If you just want to chill or do sunbathing, the white sand bar at the main beach is a good spot. You can see beautiful 3,000 meter Madyaas Mountains on the mainland. If the sky is clear, you can even see the waterfalls at the top of the mountain. A white sand beach with mountain views, what a perfect place to chill and relax!
Mararison Island has a low mountain and so offers a small trekking adventure which will require you have a guide. The cost for a guide is 250 Php per group. I would suggest that you do the trekking in the afternoon so you can see the beautiful sunset from the top of the mountain. You can also see a full 360 degree view of the island and enjoy the view of the sea from above. It is simply breathtaking! If you are into photography, it will also give you more opportunities to take those Instagram-worthy pictures or just simply to make your friends jealous of your Facebook pictures. The trek is not that difficult, you don’t really need to wear proper hiking gear. I wore a dress and flip flops! But if you want to be extra careful, hiking shoes would do. At the end of your hike, you will have two options on how to go back to the main beach. You can take the boat back for 50 Php per head or walk back on a different route with less hiking.
How to get to Malalison Island from Iloilo:
It’s easy to catch a van from Molo Bus Terminal in Iloilo. Any taxi driver can take you to the Molo terminal. You’ll see the vans lined up waiting for passengers. Tell the drivers to want to go to Culasi and they will make sure you get on the right van. It’s roughly 3 hours travel time from Iloilo to Culasi. Fare is 200 Php per head. The van will take you directly to Culasi, Tourism Office where you can get a boat going to Mararison Island. Travel time from Culasi to the island by boat is 20-30 minutes.
Boat and other fees:
You need to pay 30 Php per head for the Terminal/Environmental Fee. The boat fee from Culasi to Malalison and back is 150 Php per head. Included in the fee is a tour around the island on your preferred time. It’s additional 150 Php per head if you want to do snorkeling. The minimum number of passengers per boat is five and the maximum is ten. If you are travelling alone you may need to pay the full 750 Php per boat. So, for solo travellers, it’s better to travel on the weekend so you can join with groups since the 150 Php per head is applicable for groups only.
Where to stay:
Part of the charm of Mararison Island is that it is not nearly as developed as Boracay, which has lots of fancy hotels that you can choose from. However, there are a lot of homestay services or small resorts which will give you a more an authentic island life experience. During my last visit in the island, we stayed in Casa Prante. I highly recommend this place since it is cheap and it is located just in front of the main beach. They only have fan rooms and the comfort room (rest room) is public. The room is 750 Php good for 2-3 persons. Electricity is very limited in the whole island and it only runs from 6pm to 10pm. Most homestays though have their own generator, so you can pay them extra to have your fan on for the whole night. At Casa Prante we paid an extra 300 php per room.
Contact Number: 09094851380/ 09561036447
Contact Person: Manang Josephine
Where to Eat:
You can bring your own food or you can buy at the main market of Culasi. You can also buy fresh fish at the island at a very cheap price! On our first day we bought chicken and pork at the Culasi market. Our host in Casa Prante provided us with a cooler box to keep our food fresh. They also have cooking utensils that you can use if you want to cook your own food. You can also ask your host to cook it for you for 100 Php per meal. There’s also a lot of small stores in the island if you want to buy sodas, beer and toiletries.
Other things to remember:
Don’t forget to bring power banks, mosquito repellants, sunscreen and tissues. Most homestays don’t provide tissues.
- There’s no ATM in the island, so bring cash. Everything is on a cash basis.
- Hiking without a guide is not allowed.
- Bring your own towel.
- Don’t litter! Let’s help preserve the beauty of the island.
It would be best to stay there for at least 3 days and 2 nights so you can maximize your time in the island. Mararison Island is truly a gem that everyone should come and visit!
Lei Rodriguez may be contacted at Leitwinkz33@gmail.com Her Instagram account is Lei_thewanderess
All photos copyright Lei Ferrer Rodriguez