Kalibo Travel Guide and Itinerary

Ati-atihan Festival celebrations in front of the Kalibo Cathedral (Photo: Lester Ledesma)

Kalibo is generally a quiet municipality with a lot of provincial charm — but the home of the Mother of all Philippine Festivals certainly knows how to throw a party. 

About Kalibo  

Kalibo is a firstclass municipality and the capital of Aklan province in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines. One of the two gateways to the tourist hotspot that is Boracay, the Kalibo International Airport is just 4km away from the main plaza and 70km away from the Caticlan Jetty Port, where boats ferry travelers to the island paradise. 

“Kalibo” means “sangkâ líbo” (one thousand) in Aklanon and as legend has it, it signifies the number of native Ati who participated in the first Catholic Mass celebrated in Aklan. It was originally spelled as Calivo but ancestors referred to the site as Akean, the namesake of a 60km river that runs from Capiz in the east through the mouth of Kalibo. The word “akean” means boiling or frothing, evocative of the river’s swift waters.  

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But more than being a jump-off point to Boracay, Kalibo has its distinct charms such as the world-famous Ati-Atihan festival, award-winning Bakhawan Eco-Park, exquisite piña (a sheer fabric made of pineapple leaves) and so much more. 

 

Highlights for the Traveler 

You can immerse yourself in Aklan’s rich history and culture with a visit to the Museo It Akean on Martelino Street. Here, you’ll find artifacts dating back to the 12th century and memorabilia from famous residents such as Godofredo P Ramos, tagged as the Father of Aklan, and those from the province’s World War II heroes. 

Its history comes alive come January, when it hosts the Mother of all Philippine Festivals: the Santo Niño Ati-Atihan Festival. The festivities run for days, culminating on the third Sunday of the month, and attracts thousands of local and foreign tourists. The wild fiesta consists of massive street dancing, a religious procession and all-night revelry.  

But underneath the crazy merrymaking, the Ati-Atihan commemorates the time when early Negrito settlers and Malay immigrants from Borneo reached a peace agreement in the 1200s. Later, Spanish colonizers would introduce a Christian element to the pagan celebration by way of the Santo Niño, or the Holy Infant Jesus. The contrast of soot-covered revelers in colorful tribal costumes and the image of the ornately clothed Santo Niño held by street dancers is exactly what makes the Ati-Atihan exceptional. 

If you missed this Filipino Mardi Gras, you can still take part in other festivals celebrating the culture and artistry of the province. In April, the Aklan Piña and Fiber Festival showcases the world-class craftsmanship of artisans in the loom-weaving industry. In June, the Kalibo Food Festival commemorating the Feast of Saint John the Baptist presents food stalls featuring local delicacies; live band music is played throughout the day, adding to the festive feel. You’ll also find families going out to the beach for picnics and games and to watch water sports like boat races. In November, a day-long program and night market at Magsaysay Park marks Kalibo’s Foundation Day. In December, it’s Iwag It Kalibonhan or the municipality’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony heralding the start of festivities for the holiday season. 

One of the most popular tourist stops in Kalibo is the Bakhawan Eco Park, a 220ha nature reserve created in the 1990s with the purpose of reforestation to prevent flooding and storm surges that damage the local towns and communities.  

In Piña Village, located in Barangay New Buswang, tourists can immerse themselves in the oldest industry in Aklan — the art of weaving pineapple fiber, known locally as piña. Many local weavers consider it a tradition that has always been part of the Aklanon culture, handed down from one generation to the next. The piña cloth is a translucent fabric that’s used for traditional Filipiñana clothing but also makes great souvenirs in the form of home items and accessories featuring delicate decorative embroidery. Handkerchiefs and shawls are some of the more popular products. 

Just outside of Kalibo are the Jawili Falls and Jawili Beach. Only 25km away from the city center, the falls, though not tall, have seven cascades that flow into pools where one can swim. Jawili beach is a mere 2km from the falls and though not quite as exquisite as the white sandy beaches of Boracay, it is still a lovely place to unwind. 

As a hub for travelers going to Boracay, Kalibo has diverse cuisines inspired by neighboring areas as well as by foreigners who have settled in the place. Seafood lovers should not leave Kalibo before going to the town of Tambak, only 8km from the city center. Restaurants line the coastal road that traverses Aklan and Iloilo, where succulent oysters (cooked and fresh) can come as cheap as 50 (US$1) a kilogram. Those who want to gorge on grilled seafood should get there before 7pm — the restaurants run out of food pretty quickly. 

It’s easy to feel at home here and embrace the city’s laid-back mood. Time seems to stand still, especially in the company of its charming and friendly locals. Yet new retail shops and dining establishments, the arrival of foreign companies setting their site here and the new Kalibo East Transport Terminal are proof that the town is also a flourishing urban center. 

 


Recommendations to be updated.

Recommendations to be updated.

Recommendations to be updated.

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