Could This Be Iloilo’s Best Kept Secret?






Mid week, I was crying for a weekend beach getaway but I wanted a beach that doesn’t require any boat transfer. Sadly, and I think other Iloilo residents will agree that we lack beaches in the mainland that can at least at par to those in Guimaras.  A quick Google search and I came across Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary. I have seen photos of this marine sanctuary from friends working in the government on Facebook and after asking for some information, off we went to San Joaquin, after our Sunday mass.


Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary is one of the 15 protected marine areas in the town of San Joaquin, in the southernmost part of Iloilo. Among other marine sanctuaries in San Joaquin, this is the only one that can cater to tourists.

It is located in baranggay Sunogbuhan, the last baranggay of the town, right before you enter Anini-y of the province of Antique. It was a 2 1/2 hour-ride for my family from Iloilo City.

Kid1 was mumbling ” Are we there yet?” while kid 2 was pointing to the coastline ” Let’s go to the beach now!“. All these happening while husband was driving a not so familiar road and me checking for any small sign of Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary. Talk about a serene family outing. It was not long that we finally reached the place.

We were instantly greeted and accommodated. How long we will be staying and what kind of cottage we prefer. Let us say, swifter than a 5-star hotel. No kidding. Turns out, I was talking to Sir George, the sanctuary’s caretaker and operating officer. He was very kind, making sure we were settled, down to our grilling tools before leaving us. He was nice to buy ice tubes for our drinks.

Going down from improvized steps, I was delighted seeing the place. Big rocks and corals with shady trees.  And that sound made from waves slamming the corals I’ve been longing to hear.

My kids went straight to the water. Can you blame them?



According to Sir George, the area used to be called “Small Boracay” because the sand was white. Southern Panay’s coast is black sand or rocks. When the road was built, big coral boulders were pushed closer to the shore. And after Yolanda, some rock corals were washed to the pool, covering the softer sand underneath.  When you swim, you need to protect your feet.

I was not complaining, the water is clear and refreshing. It has the scenery I’ve been longing to have. This is definitely Iloilo’s local secret. I think even most locals are not aware of this beautiful marine sanctuary in San Joaquin, Iloilo.



As an off-the-beaten path beach destination, expect to have minimal facilities. The facilities like overnight cottages were one of the efforts of Sir George. Little by little, Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary has comfort rooms. This is what we got. The sack is our garbage bag. There is a small bed and a small sink.



The cottage opens into the sea with our small table and long bench,  all made of bamboo. Al fresco dining anyone?



As a marine sanctuary, snorkeling here is a must. Just awesome that where we were swimming close to the shore, you can see colorful fish. My kids saw big crabs inside the rocks as well as different shells. The delightful face of my son whenever he spotted some fish just make me happy.

From our cottage, I can see school of small fish. I am a happy beach camper!


We stayed until five in the afternoon, after kid2 finally declared he is done. He was blue with wrinkled skin – after 6 hours of swimming. Haha!


If you have kids, bring them here. This is a great place for nature exposure. Kid1 and I went “rock climbing” bringing home some scratches and painful knees reminding us how much fun we had!


Here are their rates you might need to know.


Going to Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary

For private vehicles – travel all the way to San Joaquin Iloilo until you reach Tiolas. Proceed to the road going to Anini-y. Just drive until you reach Kuliatan Marine Sancturary in Baranggay Sinogbuhan.

For commuters – take a jeepney from Iloilo City to San Joaquin Iloilo. From the town proper, you can hire a tricycle for Php200 and ask the driver to pick you up.

My travel tips for Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary

1. They only have a small store for basic provisions like coffee, shampoo and drinks. You can grill and cook rice but it is best to bring your own food and drinks.

2. Wear beach shoes, bring your own goggles or snorkeling gear. For those with kids, bring your own kiddie life vest.

3. Throw your garbage properly!

4. Please leave tips to the “staff”. It would mean so much to them.

5. Visit this place with an open mind. “Stinky” was uttered by the kids quite a few times during our trip. haha.

Enjoy Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary!

More of San Joaquin Iloilo

The Militaristic Church of San Joaquin

San Joaquin Cemetery

San Joaquin Iloilo, Unseen Destination

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