The province of Aklan shares the same dilemma as the provinces that are less popular and relevant than one of its cities or islands. Baguio City is to Benguet as Boracay is to Aklan. There’s also Siargao and Davao City in the lesser known provinces of Surigao del Norte and Davao del Sur, respectively.
But just like many off the beaten tracks, Aklan’s hidden gems will leave you pleasantly surprised. Yes, there’s more to Aklan than the world-famous Boracay. Located in the Western Visayas region, northwest of the Panay island, Aklan is home to majestic caves, mangrove forests, mountains, waterfalls, and, of course, white sand beaches.
Just because Boracay is temporarily closed for environmental rehabilitation, it does not mean you have no reason to go to Aklan and allow yourself to be surprised with all it has to offer. So now, let us put the spotlight on Aklan, going beyond the White Beach of Boracay.
Photo courtesy RDexter via Flickr
Just 45 minutes away from Kalibo, you can reach the breathtaking Jawili Falls in the municipality of Tangalan via a jeepney and tricycle ride. The falls cascade in what seems like a gigantic staircase, forming seven water basins or pools where visitors could take a dip. Jawili Falls is one of the most unique waterfalls in the country not just because of the basins of spring water, but also because it is made from rough limestone with a stream leading deeper into the mountains.
Don’t be surprised to see kids diving because some parts are as deep as 10 feet, so be careful. By the way, entrance fee to see this beauty is only Php5.
Hacienda Maria is a new eco-tourism destination in Buruanga, Aklan. But if you want to bask in her beauty, you have to want it, and you have to want it bad. It takes a two-kilometer hike to reach Hacienda Maria, and a few more kilometers of walking to explore the area.
It is worth all the trouble. The hacienda is home to another one of Aklan’s waterfalls where you could take a dip. It also has two caves featuring various forms stalactite and stalagmite deposits. And if you’ve ever wondered how it feels to sit in a big pot while soaked in water with fire underneath, you can experience it in the hacienda’s kawa hot bath.
If you are into extreme water adventures, the Libacao Wild River in Aklan is your paradise. Libacao is the longest river in Aklan and it is the perfect place for a heart-pounding wild river rafting. But if the powerful rapids are too much for you, you can try bamboo rafting or kayaking instead. And because Libacao is an inland tourism destination, there are lot of natural wonders that surround the river. While rafting, you may enjoy the view of green valleys, mountain ranges, forests, waterfalls, springs, flora, and fauna.
If you want to cool down, Hurom-Hurom is the place for you. It is one of the cold spring resorts in the town of Nabas, and the reason the water is cool is because the pool catches the spring water from the mountains. You will find here several pools with varying depths, making it perfect for the whole family. It is literally Boracay’s neighbor, but at only Php20 entrance fee, it is definitely great value for money.
If you are in Aklan and dream of the beach, your best bet is Hinugtan Beach in Buruanga. You can get there via land transport or a boat. It is a private beach resort but it requires no entrance fee. Good deal, right?
Just like the White Beach, Hinugtan has turquoise waters and powdery white sand, plus a stunning mountain view. It is perfect for snorkeling because of the abundant marine life. The best part is that the beach is peaceful and calm and really made for moments when you just feel like going away from it all for a while.
There are no hotels in the area, just nipa huts you can rent for a fee. Should you wish to explore the beach more, and the other hidden gems of Aklan, consider staying at Alta Vista de Boracay, which is located on the hillside of Barangay Yapak. The hotel also has exclusive access to Puka Beach.
Photo courtesy of bh3chin via Flickr
Another of Buruanga’s tourism destinations is the Batason Point, or more commonly known as Ariel’s Point. The main activity here is cliff diving, and that thrilling experience continues to bring in the crowd. It has three different diving planks — for beginners, intermediate, and professionals. The lowest one is five meters, then eight, and highest is 15 meters. Snorkeling and kayaking are also popular activities.
Photo courtesy Ree Dexter via Flickr
If there’s one thing that Aklan has a lot of, it’s mangroves. One of the biggest is the Pagatpat Mangrove Park in Buruanga. You can stroll along the line of mangroves through the connecting bamboo bridges. These mangroves are essential to the marine species that thrive here like fish, crabs, shrimps, etc. You may unwind in one of the nipa huts that also has karaoke machines.
There’s also the 220-hectare Bakhawan Eco Park in Kalibo, which is one of the most successful mangrove reforestation projects in the country. The main attraction is the 1.3-kilometer bamboo trail that will take visitors into the deep mangrove forest.
Oh yes, what’s a trip without great food. Luckily, Aklan has a lot of specialty dishes.
Binakoe or binakul is a lot like sinigang with its sour taste, but is cooked inside a fresh node of bamboo. It uses native chicken mixed with onions, lemon grass, and the souring agent aeabihig leaves. Inubarang manok also uses native chicken but the main ingredient is gata or coconut milk and also lemongrass. Tinamak is Aklan’s equivalent of Bicol’s pinangat. Shrimp and coconut meat are wrapped in taro leaves with slices of pepper for a flavorful dish.
Ending this with a dessert, you must try the Inday Inday. It’s a simple sweet delicacy made from sticky rice flour topped with caramelized coconut meat.
Are you convinced now? Aklan is more than just Boracay. It is a province full of surprises, and home to many natural wonders that will surely take your breath away.