Mararison island(also known as Malalison) is a small island located just 15 minutes away from the mainland of Panay island, province of Antique. Despite its small size it can offer both beaches and cute Shire like hills. If you avoid peak months (March – May) you can have it almost without any other tourists.
How to get there – Mararison island
The access point to the Mararison island is small coastal city of Culasi in the middle of Antique province.
You can reach Culasi by bus either from the north of Panay – Kalibo city (110 peso, 3 hours) or from the south – Iloilo city (around 200 peso, 4-6 hours). Buses (with and without aircon) are running from both sides many times per day (every 20-30 minutes). If you want to cut some time, start as early as possible. Later during the day the bus stops every few minutes to pick up or drop passengers.
Once you reach Culasi city you need to get to the port. The tricycle will bring you there from bus station for 9 peso per person. It’s just few minutes away, so you can even walk it.
In Culasi port there is terminal fee of 10 peso and environmental fee for Mararison island 20 peso.
The boat to the island works on charter basis and costs 750 peso there and back. That’s ridiculous price if you travel single or in couple considering the journey takes only about 15 minutes. But you can join other travelers going there and split the cost. Groups are visiting the island just for a day trip or locals are bringing goods to the Mararison island, so just hang around the port, check boats and wait for someone to make it less expensive.
On the way there we joined the group of tourist and paid 100 peso per person, on the way back we talked to locals and one guy was bringing some cargo back to mainland. He took us for 75 peso per person.
What to do
Mararison island is small and you can walk around the whole island in few hours. There is not so much there for weeks of exploring, but it will keep you busy and very much entertained for few days.
The best attraction for us was the hilly half of the Mararison island. The trails are pleasant with beautiful and cute views opening as you walk through. The Shire like hills with small cottages spread around and goats walking freely through the pastures is something very special. Ocean breeze is cooling you down once you reach the ridge and you can enjoy views to the mainland mountains of Antique, mystically covered in clouds and fog.
Officially it is necessary to have a guide to walk around the hills, but it is only to bring some money to the island. Paths couldn’t be easier to follow and you will very quickly map the whole island to understand that guide is not needed at all. Just walk via the main “street” of the island and continue all the time straight. You will reach a point where the small beach opens and it looks like the path ends, just still go straight ahead and soon you will start to ascend to the first peak. From there it is very obvious.
So when the local tour operator saw us walking with bags and asked us if we go hiking, we said we just gonna walk around. You might think it is not right, but it is not only about money. The feeling of unknown ahead of us, adventure of exploring the island on our own and romantic views were something unforgettable. Just stick to the paths, don’t step on the pitcher plant and carry all your trash back with you. Pretty obvious for any nature lover and hiker.
The village part of the Mararison island has beach ended with small sand bank on the tip. The water is deep enough just meters away from the beach and there are no corals there, so it is great place to swim. You can find plenty of beautiful shells and small stones of different colors along the beach to keep as a souvenir. Relaxing on the beach and watching sea with Antique mountains in the background gives different feeling than any other beach you have been to.
Accommodation and food
There are plenty of cheap simple homestays on the Mararison island usually priced at 250 peso per person for a night. We checked one in the village which had private toilet, ladle style shower and even small kitchen. Great deal for the price.
But as we wanted to stay on the beach we decided for a very small bungalow with veranda where you can enjoy views to the sea. It was the same price – 250 peso per person. Toilets are shared and with salty water. The walls of bungalows are obviously super thin, so you can hear every sound outside. With several bungalows just next to each other and roosters around better bring earplugs. The owner offered to cook for both of us for 100 peso per menu plus price of ingredients. It might be nice to have a lunch on the veranda, but we always went 5 minutes walk to the village to eat.
In local carrenderias you can eat for 50 – 70 peso per person. Daily menu can change, but it is like in usual street food places. Mostly pork, sometimes chicken or fish and some veggies. Rice always as a side dish. There are no fancy restaurants on the island.
In the evening around sunset several places in a town start barbecue, which you can buy and bring to your veranda with portion of rice to eat there. Pork/fat sticks 10 peso, chicken wing 20, intestines 5, sausages around 10.
There are also few small shops around Mararison island with basic things like water, cookies, beer, coffee, canned fish,… So no need to stack yourself with too much food in advance. Of course the prices on the island are bit higher, but nothing drastic.
If you are looking for some better place to stay, you can check other side of the island. There is a small peaceful resort ENRIQUE DE MARARISON located in the bay with very pleasant atmosphere. Room rates start at 300 peso per person in 5 bed room, but you have to fill the room, so the price is 1500 peso per room. They also offer cottages for couples ranging from 800 (after bargaining) for small basic cottage up to 1500 peso for bigger comfortable cottage. They also cater the food for about 150 peso per meal and offer transport to the Culasi. There are no carrenderias or shops around, but it is 30 minutes by walk to the other part of island.
You won’t find any wifi at all around the island, but mobile internet coverage is decent even with HSPA around the beach area. Electricity is limited only from 6pm till 10.30pm.
Mararison island is very special with spectacular landscape. Locals are warm and welcoming with smile on their lips every time you meet them. With close proximity to the Boracay and very laidback atmosphere the tourist flow will raise. So don’t wait and visit the Mararison island before it changes.
And once you are there, explore other places of Antique. Have a kawa hot bath at Tibiao or hike few days around beautiful Antique mountains. If you feel like going totally out of beaten path, then head to Caluya island.
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