Biliran Island is one of the smallest and newest provinces in the Philippines. The island has white sandy beaches, more than 30 waterfalls, and rice terraces. This post explores Biliran Island tourist spots and places to stay on the island.
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Where is Biliran island located?
Biliran is an island in the Eastern Visayas in the Philippines. Eastern Visayas is part of Region 8. This island is the Philippines’ newest and smallest province. Biliran was previously Isla de Panamao. Spanish conquerors gave the name in the 17th century. Naval is the capital city of Biliran. The original name of this city was Bagasumbol.
What is Region 8?
Region 8 or Eastern Visayas is an administrative region in the Philippines. There are a total of 17 regions in the Philippines. The aim of these regions is administrative and mainly to coordinate and plan how to get government services across multiple local government units.
Region 8 specifically consists of 6 provinces, 1 highly urbanized city, and 1 independent component city. The three islands of Region 8 are Biliran, Samar, and Leyte.
Early History of Biliran Island
There are several theories as to how the name Biliran came about. Borobiliran is grass on the island and locals suggest the name may have come from that native grass.
A second theory suggests that the name came from the word bilir which is a Visayan term that means “corner or edge of a boat, vase or anything protruding, like veins, or the furrow made by the plow”. The dictionary gave the name Biliran as an alternative spelling to Bilir.
The theory does make sense as Biliran was once a large ship-building facility. The ships were Galleons. Biliran was the center of trade between Manila and Mexico during the 17th century.
The Philippines maintains diplomatic relationships with many countries including the United States. US citizens who visit for less than 30 days do not require a visa. You can check if you have visa-free entry for 30 days.
How do you get to Biliran Island?
The fastest way to Biliran is via Biliran Airport. However, there is only one airline that flies here. The airline is Air Juan which flies there 5 times a week. Please note that flight schedules may change and it is best to check their website frequently.
The second way by air is through Mactan-Cebu International Airport. This airport is located in the Central Visayas region and is a hub for Cebu Pacific, Pan Pacific Airlines, and Royal Air Phillippines.
After arriving at Mactan Airport, take a taxi to the jetty. At the jetty, book a ticket with Oceanjet to Ormoc. The ticket costs Php 650 ($13) one way and the trip takes about 2.5 hours. From Ormoc, Naval is a 2-hour drive.
From Cebu, there are two options. The first would be to take a 10-hour ferry to Naval. The second option would be to take a speedboat (Oceanjet) to Naval.
If traveling by land, the options include travel via Manila. There are daily buses to Naval from Pasay or Cubao. Do note that the journey takes more than 24 hours.
The fastest bus route would be either via Tacloban or via Ormoc. The bus journey from these cities takes about 2 hours to Naval. Check the best ways to get from Cebu City to Biliran on Rome to Rio.
What is Biliran Island famous for?
Biliran Island is famous for many several activities. However, the main Biliran Island tourist spots include island-hopping, hiking waterfalls, and extreme canyoning.
- The islands near Biliran that are worth exploring are Maripipi, Sambawan, Higatangan and Dalutan. These islands are untouched by tourism which means clean beaches and fewer crowds.
- This island is home to more than 30 waterfalls. They are Tinago, Soab, Tomalistis, Saad, Ulan Ulan, Bagongbong, Recoletos, and Casiawan just to name a few.
- Extreme Canyoning
- Canyoning and waterfall rappeling is a new extreme sports. Similar to rock climbing, one has the adrenaline rush of climbing a waterfall and descending with the full force of the waterfall.
What are the tourist spots on Biliran Island?
Maripipi is a municipal in Biliran province. The original name of this island is Isla Rosa or Rosette Island. Local legends state that star-crossed lovers, Maria and Pepe fled to this island to escape the anger of Maria’s parents who were against the union.
The second version of that story is after eloping, they found happiness here and it was their love that made this island mesmerizingly beautiful. The island was named after them, Maria and Pepe.
No one knows whether these stories are true or what happened to these lovers. However, the beauty of this island is without a doubt. On how to get to Maripipi, check out this post.
This crescent-shaped island is about 3 miles from Maripipi Island. Day trippers combine Maripipi Island and Sambawan before heading back to Biliran. Sambawan is a popular dive site due to its crystal clear waters.
A marine sanctuary is on this island and reef sharks, turtles, barracudas, and cuttlefish are a common sight on these reefs. Sambawan is featured on Inquirer and GMA News.
Ulan Ulan Falls
These 25-meter waterfalls are one of Biliran’s most beautiful waterfalls. It is surrounded by dense forest and a short hike above the falls would take you to Recoletos Waterfalls. To reach Ulan Ulan, you would need to hike for about 30 minutes.
The good news is to boost tourism, an access road is being built. The access road would reduce the 30-40 minutes hike to a 5-10 minute drive to the falls. The word Ulan Ulan is a Visayan term which means “rain”.
Nasunugan Ruins is the only archaeological site on the island. Nasunugan in Tagalog means “burned”. This watchtower was unknown to many until it began appearing on tourist brochures to promote the island. The structure was built in 1765. This revolt is the most successful native revolt against the Spanish in the Phillippines.
This revolt was led by Padre Gaspar who was eventually caught by Moro fighters. After executing Padre Gaspar, the Moro burnt his forest commune and its structures. To know more about Padre Gaspar, read it on The Biliran Commune.
Higatangan Island Shifting Sand Bar
This sandbar is called the shifting sand bar because the location changes according to the month and tides. Sometimes there are two sandbars and other times, there may be three. Higatangan is from the local word “atangan” which means “to wait”.
The locals believe that this site was where the Moro fighters ambushed approaching ships and waited out for their enemies who were going out to sea.
The first story is that the Limpiado House is believed to be the hiding place of the late President Marcos with Man Dising. The second story is that strong currents are caused by Ursula sea monsters that inhabit the waters.
There are no shades here as seen in the video below. So, bring plenty of sunscreens and enjoy the views of the shifting sandbars.
This beach is probably the most popular in Biliran for sunset views. There is only one resort here, Agta Beach Resort. Agta Beach Resort opened in the 1980s when two retired teachers welcomed guests to their home. The beach was named after a tree-dwelling giant according to local belief. Agta beach is a base to visit Dalutan Island for snorkeling and scuba diving activities.
The volcano gave this island its name. Mount Panamao or Isla de Panamao is a popular hiking trail. This mountain’s eruption was a rain of ashes in 1669. Mount Panamao’s last eruption was in 1939. Mount Panamao erupts every 130 years.
What are the best places to stay in Biliran?
Biliran Paradise Sea Houses
This beachfront property has two bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a satellite TV, and a fully equipped kitchen. The staff at this resort speak English and Filipino and would assist with bicycle and car rental services.
Fragoch Tourist Inn
This inn has 20 rooms equipped with mirrors, towels, a closet, and air-conditioning. WiFi is only available in common areas. Fragoch is in Naval and suits travelers who are in Biliran for business or pleasure.
Is Biliran Island worth visiting?
Yes! Biliran is an untouched destination unknown to many tourists. Biliran is overshadowed by Coron, Palawan, and El-Nido which are hot on the tourist radar. This island has much to offer, from endless tourist spots to diving activities.
The Philippines has 7,641 islands with some already on the tourist map. There are many undiscovered islands not on the tourist trail.
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