I admit, I didn’t know what to expect before my trip to Biliran. This island province in Eastern Visayas wasn’t even on my radar of places to visit. Formerly a sub-province of Leyte, Biliran is one of the country’s newest provinces, having only become independent in 1992. Biliran is also apparently the fourth smallest province in the Philippines, after Batanes, Camiguin and Siquijor, and it has the same laid-back vibe. It’s compact enough to explore by motorcycle and you get coastal roads with amazing views.
Biilran’s smaller islands have beautiful beaches and sandbars. Inland, there are natural attractions like waterfalls and mountains to hike. Locals are friendly and accommodations are generally affordable for backpackers. After canyoneering, island-hopping and motorcycling around Biliran for 3 days, I left really fulfilled with the raw beauty and general uncommercialized feel of the province. If you’re interested in visiting Biliran, here are some basics to help you plan your trip
WHERE EXACTLY IS BILIRAN:
Biliran is an island province in the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines. It’s located less than a kilometer north of the island of Leyte. There’s a bridge that connects the province of Biliran to Leyte. Its capital is the town of Naval on the western coast of the island.
HOW TO GET THERE:
There is no airport in Biliran province. For those coming from Manila, the nearest entry point is Tacloban in Leyte. From the Tacloban airport, ride a jeep to the downtown area, then ride a Grand Tours Van (P130) to Naval town proper. Travel time is about 2.5 hrs. Cebu Pacific flies from Manila and Cebu to Tacloban. Lowest year-round fares may be booked through www.cebupacificair.com or reservation hotlines (02)7020-888.
Cebu is the nearest international airport. From Cebu City, fast crafts are available to Ormoc City in Leyte. Travel time is roughly 3 hours. From Ormoc, you can take a shuttle van directly to Naval. Travel time is about 1.5 hours.
Public transportation is not that regular around Biliran. If you’re traveling alone, it’s best to hire a habal-habal (motorbike) driver to take you around. Most charge around P500 a day. Prices negotiable.
It’s even better if you can drive a motorcycle so you can go around yourself. There aren’t a lot of commercial motorcycle rental shops, but you can talk to locals to rent their private units. In Naval, motorbikes and scooters for rent are available at Norkis, a motorcycle shop at the corner of Vicentillo St. and Sabenerio St.. Contact: (053) 500 9487. I was able to borrow a semi-automatic Honda Wave for P500/day from Talahid Beach Resort in Almeria, when I stayed there overnight and ended up having an awesome Solo Ride in Biliran. You can easily circle the whole island in a day. The circumferential road is fully paved and in very good condition, there’s zero traffic, and the scenery all around is really refreshing.
Biking in Biliran is also a good option. I didn’t see any bicycle rental shops around, but if you can borrow one or bring your own bike (even a folding bike), I imagine it would be very pleasant to spend the whole day just biking around the island.
WHERE TO GO/ WHAT TO DO IN BILIRAN:
1. Go Island-Hopping to Sambawan Island*
One of the most iconic views of the whole province can be found in Sambawan Island, which you can visit on an island-hopping day tour or opt to camp out overnight. From Kawayan Municipality, you can charter a boat (maximum 10 people) to travel to Sambawan for day trips. Travel time is one hour. Once you get there, enjoy swimming, snorkeling and diving. Hike up to the top of a hill to get the best view of two sides of the island, including facing Maripipi Island.
2. Try Canyoning / canyoneering at Sampao River*
For an extreme canyoneering experience, Biliran offers pristine natural rivers and gorges in Sampao River in Barangay Sampao, Almeria. Canyoning in Biliran involves a two-hour hike to reach the jump-off point where you start rappelling, sliding and jumping downstream passing 15 waterfalls.
Photo by Chasing Potatoes
This ends when you rappel down the majestic Ulan-Ulan Falls, which is estimated to be over 100 feet high. This is the most extreme and exhilarating canyoneering experience I’ve tried in the country so far. I’ll be writing more about this awesome experience in detail soon.
2. Hike to Ulan-Ulan Falls
If you don’t have time to try canyoneering, you can also just hike to Ulan-Ulan Falls, as it’s one of the province’s tallest and most beautiful waterfalls.
3. Visit other waterfalls
Tinago Falls is one of the most accessible waterfalls in the province, reachable by motorized vehicle on the cross country road that cuts across from Naval to Caibiran, on the eastern side of the island. It’s a nice place, but a bit developed for tourists and locals. There’s a rather large and unsightly grandstand-like structure on the side of the falls that caters to tourists.
We got to canyon downstream more than 15 falls, but there are many others located in different parts of the island including Tomalistis Falls in Caibiran, Kasabangan Falls in Cabucgayan and Bagongbong Falls in Caucab.
4. Marvel at the Iyusan Rice Terraces
In some of the mountainous and hilly areas of Biliran, you can find scenic rice terraces, man-made agricultural areas. the Iyusan Rice Terraces is located in Sitio Barubohan, Barangay Iyusan, Almeria, Biliran, about 20 minutes by land transport from Naval.
5. Visit Canaan Hill Farms
Canaan Hill Farms in Brgy. Uson, Caibiran is a farm resort ideal for sightseeing, photography, picnics, camping and the like. You can walk through sheep and chicken farms, fruit trees, herb gardens and buy natural farm products here, take tractor rides, and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables. They also serve snack packages and set meals.
6. Relax in a pool resort
There are several family-friendly resorts and pools around the island for those looking for a place for group bonding, videoke and swimming including Masagongsong Swimming Pool and Estrellers Sunset View Spring Pool, which has pools fed by mountain fresh spring water. Entrance fee for Estreller’s is P25/adult and P10/chidren, tables for rent: P50, Cottages: P150-200. Night swimming from 5-8pm for an additional P10/head.
7. Take a dip at Mainit Hot Springs
One of the more popular swimming areas for locals in Caibiran is Mainit Hot Spring in Barangay Villa Vicenta. The spring has a man made pool basin and the area is known for having mineral rich waters that are believed to treat a wide array of ailments. It can get crowded though.
8. Enjoy the view at Bethany Hills
Located in a hilly portion of the province overlooking the Biliran Strait, Bethany Hills Weluisa Farm is an events venue for birthdays, weddings and parties. They usually do catering services for events, but also serve short orders and Filipino fare like pancit and sandwiches for walk-in visitors. We visited here at night, so I don’t have any decent photos, but I was told that place offers a very scenic view of islets and part of mainland Leyte. It’s best to visit early morning (6-7am) or late afternoon (3-6pm) so you can catch the sunset.
9. Relax at Agta Beach
Another great place to watch the sunset is Agta Beach, a small and quiet beachfront area in Almeria with several resorts along the shore.
10. OTHER ATTRACTIONS:
From Agta Beach, you can take a 15-minute boat ride to Dalutan Island, which is right across the shore. If you have more time (1 day each minimum), you can also visit the main Maripipi Island or Higatangan Island, which is known for its shifting sandbar and rock formations.
WHERE TO STAY IN BILIRAN:
Coco Grove / Talahid Beach Resort is a pleasant and quiet beachfront establishment along the coast of Almeria. I stayed in a native fan room which was basic, but spacious and comfortable and its own detached bathroom and small yard right outside.
Room rates: (good for 2)
- Aircon room with TV – P700 / night
- Aircon without TV – P500 / night
- Native rooms – P350 – P400 / night
- Additional charge of P150 for every extra head for aircon rooms with TV
- Additional charge of P100 for every extra head for aricon room without TV and native rooms
- For inquiries, contact Maam Lorna, Alma, Imelda.
- Contact numbers: 0917-8269321, 0972881627, 0919-2630928, 0975-4212360
Other places to stay in Biliran: (see full list & details here)
- Agta Beach Resort
- Maylaka Boutique Hotel, Brgy. Catmon
- Biliran Island Sunrise Bed and Breakfast, Naval
- D’Mei Residence Inn, Naval
- Fragoch Tourist Inn
- Biliran Island Inn
- Napo Beach Resort
- Biliran Paradise Sea Resort
- Higatangan Island Beach Resort
WHAT / WHERE TO EAT IN BILIRAN:
I didn’t really get to explore Naval, where most of the restaurants are. There didn’t seem to be a lot of places to eat the rest of the island when I was riding around. but there are a few small eateries scattered around serving Filipino food. The lechon manok, which we had for our picnic lunch during our canyoneering trip, is a local specialty.
Agta Beach Resort (right next to Talahid where I was staying) serves basic tapsilog meals, short orders and vegetarian specials costing P120-150 per meal.
One of the best places I ate in Biliran was Canaan Farm Hills, which serves healthy snack packages and set meals. I really liked the organic burger, cassava chips and halo-halo, which cost P185 for all three, entrance fee included. Set meals (good for 2-4 persons) include dishes like Bisaya-style manok tinola, pinakbet, tortang talong and local delicacies like puto and bibingka. They also have interesting drinks like turmeric-ginger tarragon juice, camote tops with lemon grass and calamansi juice.
My trip was made possible by Joni Bonifacio, who runs Trexplore the Adventure and manages Biliran Outdoor Shop and Samar Outdoor Shop. For canyoneering, island-hopping tours and other activities around the province, I recommend you get in touch with his group.
- Address: Biliran Outdoor Shop. Vicentillo Street, Naval, Biliran, Philippines.
- Contact numbers: 0919-2943865 / 09276750062.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.trexplore.weebly.com
- Facebook: Trexplore the Adventures
Biliran is a beautiful place for adventure-seekers. If you’re looking for a destination in the Philippines that’s still off-the-beaten path, you have it all here!