For those that have never heard of it, Guiuan is a small fishing and surfing town located in Eastern Samar in the Philippines. It is located on one of the most eastern edges of the Philippines with nothing but the open and sometimes fierce Pacific Ocean between it and the United States.
Image: Google Maps
Due to this fact, it is no wonder there are subtle signs of a former US military presence along some parts of the coast Guiuan and Calicoan Island coast lines. But that was a long time ago, with no active presence for quite a long time.
One of the advantages of its past is that Guiuan has an international size air strip, and whilst there is no operational airport at present, there is a very real chance that this could happen in the future, making Guiuan highly accessible to many more people, both local and international, for tourism and commerce. It is why this hidden treasure of the Philippines may one day become the next Coron, El Nido or Siargao.
Image: I love my morning run to the empty airstrip taking in the fresh air of Guiuan.
Guiuan is most famous in recent times as being the town that was first hit when Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) savaged the Philippines in November 2013. Some of the footage of 250-300 kmph winds have to be seen to be believed. Coconut trees snapped in half, the historic church crumbled and complete destruction everywhere – at the time it was hard to see how this beautiful and peaceful Philippines coastal town was going to recover.
It made international headlines again in March 2015 when French President Francois Hollanade visited, along with celebrity actors Marion Cotillard, Melanie Laurent and other VIP’s.
There is no doubt climate change and global warming is increasing the risk to small towns like Guiuan, who are vulnerable to extreme weather events.
Fast forward to 2021 and Guiuan has made a remarkable recovery and the town and surrounding regions are beginning to thrive again. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Guiuan has shown incredible resilience as a community and is a place that should be on your “must visit” list if you are looking for an authentic Philippine travel experience with all the perks of a remote tropical paradise. As of writing, social distancing remains a requirement and everyone must follow the correct protocols.
Images: Courtesy of Talapang Photography
So lets get into some more detail about how to get there, where to stay, what to do and ultimately what makes Guiuan in the Philippines such an amazing place, and one I am blessed to call home.
How To Get To Guiuan, Eastern Samar, Philippines
The quickest way to get to Guiuan is by plane from Manila to Tacloban in Leyte. All the local airlines fly there such as Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia. Travel time approximately 1 hour and ticket prices can range anywhere from 2,500 peso ($50 USD) to 7,500 peso ($150 USD) return depending on the time of year and demand.
From there, you will need to take a van for 3-4 hours to Guiuan in Eastern Samar. You have a couple of options – you can hire a private van at the airport for around 3,500 peso, or you can get a seat on a shared van (with social distancing) for 270 peso. Prior to the COVID 19 pandemic it was closer to 120 peso.
The road trip is much improved from a decade ago. The road used to be littered with major potholes making it a slow and bumpy journey, but thanks to some capital works by the government and LGU’s getting to Guiuan is now a much smoother experience.
Incase you are wondering if you are heading in the right direction, you won't forget crossing the San Juanico Bridge which connects Samar and Leyte. It is one of the largest bridges in Asia and the longest bridge spanning a body of water in the Philippines.
You can also travel to Guiuan by land, either in your own car via bus companies like Eagle Star, Philltranco and Ultra Bus. This is a long 24-30 hour trip so be prepared for it. It includes a wait time at Matnog Island for a ferry to cross between islands about halfway through the journey. Bus tickets are around 3,000-3500 per person, so it makes much more sense to fly for not much more.
Best places to stay when in Guiuan, Eastern Samar
Guiuan is not yet a mainstream tourist destination like Boracay, Coron or Siargao so there are not an abundance of fancy resorts and hotel options.
There are a few options however that provide good quality accommodation.
1. Balay Pacifico Whether you are looking for a family summer vacation or a romantic getaway, then Balay Pacifico is one of your best options. Their luxury villas in the pristine Calicoan Island about 15-20 minutes outside the Guiuan town, have 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms each and can comfortably accommodate 6 people. The rooms come with satellite flat screen TV, iron and ironing board, toiletries kit, water dispenser, beach towels and basic kitchen supplies like cups and plates. They have amenities such as a swimming pool, gym, restaurant/bar. Take a look at some of their photos on the Balay Pacifico Instagram page.
Villas start from 9,000 peso ($180 USD) a night, with the large villa costing 11,000 peso per night ($220 USD).
To reserve a room you can email them at email@example.com or call +63 915 280 8729.
2. Sea Quest Hotel
Formerly known as Tanghay View Lodge, it is the best accommodation option in Guiuan town itself. The property is nestled along the water to take in breathtaking sunsets, or to watch small fishing boats go cruising by.
The outdoor dining area makes a fantastic location for a food trip, eating some of the local fresh produce with a group of friends or family. It is probably the best restaurant in all of Guiuan.
Rooms are simple but clean with air conditioning. Prices start around 1,000 peso a night ($20 USD) which is exceptional value for what you get.
3. La Luna Beach Resort
La Luna Beach Resort is another little gem located at Banago Beach in Barangay Sulangan, about 25-30 minutes from Guiuan.
They have a range of accommodation options between 2,200 peso ($44 USD) and 3,000 peso ($60 USD) a night including breakfast. All their rooms have a private terrace and bathroom.
They have a restaurant / bar but do allow food and drink from outside for a small corkage fee.
To make a booking give them a call on +63 917 324 3129 or +63 916 425 6048. You may also find some accommodation in houses along the beach, typically owned by foreigners who have made Guiuan their home. There are a lot of other small boarding houses and cheaper accommodation options, but if you are an international traveler or want a bit more comfort, then the three places above would be your best bet.
4. Hotel La Maria
If the Sea Quest Hotel is booked out then another option in Guiuan town is Hotel La Maria. Rates range from 1,500 to 2,300 peso per night. You can contact the hotel on +63 906 243 8983.
Best places to eat in Guiuan, Eastern Samar
Aside from eating at the aforementioned resorts which have some of the best food in the area, there are a number of other options to consider keeping your tummy full and body energized for all your adventures in Guiuan. SOMETHING NEW AND AMAZING IS COMING TO GUIUAN SOON! A little detour, but I am in the process of constructing my own bar and restaurant in Guiuan. If you want the best food, the best music, the best atmosphere and THE BEST TIME then subscribe to my blog for all the updates and to win some free prizes and VIP invites to our launch.
Ok back on track now. Here are some other options in the meantime :)
Andoks Chicken – this is the most recognized of the franchise chains that you will find in Guiuan.
Alyzza’s Coffee – for the best coffee or frappuccino’s in Guiuan, then head to Alyzza’s. You won’t be disappointed. They are definitely my recommendation. They also have delicious snacks like pizza, burgers and local varieties too.
La Tazza Cafe & Bar - this is another option if you are looking for coffee but one of your friends wants alcohol. They serve both!
Food Carinderia’s – on a budget? You will find an abundance of these little stores selling locally made food or even small street food stores.
While on the topic of local foods these are my favourite to eat and cook when I am in Guiuan. The picture are making me hungry! Here are the dishes: 1. Itlog na maalat (salted egg with tomato and onions)
2. Hotcakes, Puto, Suman and donuts
3. Puso with crispy pata (amazing combination!) 4. Adobong squid
5. Dried fish
6. Fried fish
7. Inihaw na Isda
8. Kinilaw (the most popular dish in Eastern Samar) 9. Paksiw (my all-time favourite)
10. Tinolang Isda
Public Markets – want to cook up your own feast like what you just saw above? Why not head to the Guiuan markets to pick yourself up some fresh fish that has come direct from the boat, or fresh fruit or vegetables.
The best things to see and do in Guiuan, Eastern Samar
1. Immaculate Conception Church Guiuan is blessed with a historic church called the Immaculate Conception Church. The church is classified as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines.
It was sadly destroyed during Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013 but with the support of the Embassy of the United States in the Philippines, who donated $300,000 USD, it was restored under the supervision of the National Museum of the Philippines.
Images: Before Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013
Images: The aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)
Images: Post restoration work
2. Calicoan Island (Surfing Point) Being on the edge of the Pacific Ocean it is not unsurprising to find some great surf spots in Guiuan and nearby Calicoan Island. Whether you are a pro ready to jump in straight way, or a beginner looking for some lessons, there are options for everyone.
It is a hidden surfing gem, often forgotten behind its more famous neighbor Siargao, but you will find a number of international visitors making the Calicoan Island their temporary home while they make the most of the quiet beaches and great waves.
3. Sulangan Bridge
Picture perfect – that is the best way to describe Sulangan bridge. No trip would be complete without a mandatory stop here to take some photos and selfies.
Images: Courtesy of Talapang Photography
If you have taken a cool photo at Sulangan Bridge in Guiuan then send it to me, I would put the best on here on this blog!
4. Loading Point Located just next to Sulangan Bridge, Loading Point is a great location for a refreshing dip in some crystal clear waters with a white sand shoreline. Whether you want to swim, snorkel or kayak, Loading Point can accommodate you - literally, there is overnight accommodation available too.
Images: Courtesy of Talapang Photography
If you want to stay dry, try a bit of beach volleyball or karaoke. Come night, you can chill by a bonfire and enjoy some drinks amongst friends, locals and fellow travelers. 5. Moroboro Beach Moroboro Beach is a secret beach in Barangay Pagnamitan. There is a secret passage to get to Moroboro Beach which makes it a great place for a romantic getaway. It is quite rocky though so its not ideal for families or for swimming / picnics.
6. Pagnamitan Beach
You will find Pagnamitan Beach on the way from Guiuan to Sulangan. It is a 10-minute tricycle from Guiuan town center so is very accessible.
Images: Courtesy of Talapang Photography
It is a popular place to hang out during the day picnics, especially Sunday being a family day. There are a number of nipa huts to relax. 7. St Anthony De Padua Parish Church
Another spectacular and historic church located in Barangay Sulangan. It is a very sacred church that has a long history of making miracles happen. If you make a promise to visit the church, it is important that you do.
There is a small chapel across from the main church where you can light a candle and say a prayer. There are a number of small stores as well to buy snacks or pasalubongs.
Images: I never miss a visit to Sulangan Church when I am in Guiuan. It is a special place for me and my family.
Miraculously it escaped any real damage from Typhoon Yolanda / Haiyan and proved to be a safe sanctuary to many, which only increased the belief in this special place.
8. Linao Cave
Linao Cave is located about 30 minutes from the town of Guiuan. “Linao” is a Waray-waray word that means “clear” and it accurately describes this caves waters.
There are two ways to get into the cave. You can descend from the opening above the cave, or enter via a small dark tunnel through the waters. A waterproof bag is recommended if you go with the later option to keep all your gadgets dry!
Images: Courtesy of Talapang Photography
It is best to get to the cave early so you can enjoy it without any rush to leave before it gets dark. You may see a range of wildlife such as bats and lizards but they won’t cause you any trouble.
9. Pearl Island (Kantican Island) Located about a 30-minute pump boat ride from the Guiuan town, Kantican Island was used as an experimental pearl farm was back in 1972, hence the name Pearl Island.
It has since become famous as a tourist destination. There is a 52-hectare fish sanctuary making it a great location for snorkeling or scuba diving due to the abundance of marine – and who knows, you may discover some precious pearls!
You can climb the lookout tower for some spectacular views or drink some fresh coconut water from one of the coconut trees.
There are no shops on Pearl Island so bring your own snacks and drinks but be mindful to bring all your rubbish with you back to the mainland to keep this little gem pristine. 10. Exploring the region by land Choose your poison – motorbike, quadbike, pushbike (for fitness junkies) or rent a tricycle – whatever you choose, exploring Guiuan by land is one of the best things to do.
Enjoy the open roads and fresh air whilst taking in all the local scenery. Stop off at secluded beaches for lunch or a swim, or collect some fallen coconut. There are a number of great places to stop for food and drinks and to take pictures.
Just like places like Siargao, you can walk along the streets in your bikini's!
Images: Courtesy of Talapang Photography
It will be a day to remember and one where you will be free to move at your own pace to see and do the things that you want. 11. Swimming & Snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean & my favourite Suluan Island If you are hiring a pump boat for the day, you can rent one for 1,000 to 2,000 peso a day depending on what you negotiate.
Pick up some fresh fish and meat from the market in the morning and a box of cold beers on ice. In between island stops drop anchor to swim in the crystal clear and warm waters off the coast of Guiuan. There are not many places more remote, so you know the waters are going to be beautifully clean and with an abundance of marine life. Do this while making a visit to my favourite island in Eastern Samar - Suluan Island.
I did an overnight stay to Suluan Island with friends and stayed at one of their places. The people of Suluan Island are incredibly friendly and will make you feel most welcome. We had a bonfire at night and probably too many drinks on the beach. Oh yeah, and a lot of photos!
Here are some of the scenic photos of Suluan.
Images: Courtesy BJB Gaytos Fotographia
Another great island to add to your itinerary is Handig Beach on Homonhon Island.
Handig is not safe for the kids and not ideal for family picnics because the waves are quite big and the water is wild.
It's ideal for friends wanting to enjoy an overnight stay and they have rooms available as well as tents. Handig is great for fishing, swimming and everything in between.
Handig is very Instagrammable due to the amazing views. I would love to come back here and stay the night next time.
To cross the islands please coordinate with Guiuan Tourism for your safety and to ensure you are charged the right price for private boat hire and transportation. A public boat trip costs around 100 peso.
The local people on Homonhon Island are very nice and they will take good care of you.
12. Coca Beach
A trip to Guiuan Eastern Samar would not be complete without a visit to Coca Beach.
Located in an area called Barangay Sapao it is a kid friendly secret hideaway but also perfect for friends or couples who want to escape and get drunk, party together or chillout and relax. Follow the secret pathway until it opens up to some breathtaking views.
From picnics and chilling at the beach, through to celebrating special occasions like weddings, Coca Beach can accommodate you.
They offer small and large overnight cottages that you can rent to stay the night especially if you are too drunk to drive home. The cost is between 500 peso to 1,000 peso per night depending on the size of the cottage. The cottage designs are unique and different to anything else you will find in Guiuan which makes Coca beach stand out.
Despite the open air, wearing a face mask is still required at a number of places
They also offer tables and chairs by the beach for those who are only doing a day trip for food and drink. The owners are very friendly and accommodating.
For those coming to take some pictures and hang out for food and drink, the entrance fee is only 10 peso.
Perhaps the most unique and spectacular things you will see at Coca Beach is the 50 year old bonsai tree that comes from the owners family collection in Quanzhou City, Fujian Province in China.
To learn more you can contact the owners on +63 908 559 5266 or you can contact me and I can put you in touch with them. You can also visit their Facebook Page here.
13. Mountain View
Another option close to Coca Beach in Barangay Sapao is Mountain View.
They have been very clever with their accommodation - you probably can't even see it in the photo, but they have awesome loft cottages in the roof that comes complete with foam mattress and fan.
So chill (or party) with food and drinks down on the ground tables and chairs and get some rest upstairs.
You can also bring your own tent, or rent one from Mountain View. Just remember to bring your own pillows and blankets if you plan to rent one from them.
To learn more you can contact the owners on +63 905 873 7955 or you can contact me and I can put you in touch with them.
The backdrop at Mountain View is spectacular
14. South Pacific Ocean View
Rounding out the trio of gems in Barangay Sapao is the South Pacific Ocean View.
Like CoCa Beach and Mountain View they have cottages to hang out for food and drink as well as Beach Bungalows to stay the night.
They have 2 Beach Bungalows with 2 more in the process of being added that will have AC, Hot Water & a kitchen for 2500 per night.
To learn more you can contact the owners on +63 917 361 4590 or you can contact me and I can put you in touch with them.
15. The Backyard SURF CO.
Located in Calicoan Island about 15 to 20 minutes drive from Guiuan is The Backyard SURF CO.
It is a private location just for surfers only. If you want surf lesson and a place to chill once you are exhausted from riding waves, the owner is very cool and will make sure you are well looked after Whether you want to surf, chill or fish to catch your dinner, The Backyard SURF CO is perfect place for you.
They have a spectacular cave at the back of the house and you get brilliant views of the crashing surf waves. If you are down for a new tattoo, they also offer tattoo sessions.
To learn more you can contact the owners on +63 953 037 0292 or you can contact me and I can put you in touch with them.
So, hope you enjoyed reading about those 15 things to do in Guiuan Eastern Samar. If you have been there, would love to hear what you thought about them.
Nightlife in Guiuan, Eastern Samar
One of the best things to do at night in Guiuan is to grab some beers and snacks and head out to Pagnamitan bridge with friends, family or partners. Enjoy the serenity and chill out while enjoying a nice cold beer. Or if you are looking for more privacy, head out to one of the private beaches. Guiuan is a safe town so you can do this with peace of mind.
If you are looking for a bit more action, head out to La Vista Guiuan where they play live music from of the best local Guiuan bands and you can party until late in the night (not currently open due to the COVID pandemic).
Feeling hungry at night? Why not head out to Esquina Cassanova where you will find a lot of affordable food stalls and alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks.
Celebrate traditional Filipino culture during fiesta
Fiesta is a 2 day celebration. Vesper Night is the day before the main events where visitors from neighboring barangays will come and visit for food tripping and drinks. There is a lot of preparation of food happening along with games and money dances.
Day 2 there is a big mass followed by a parade with people wearing local costumes and other types of dresses. Fiesta is a big deal in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, almost as big as Christmas and a valuable time for all the locals.
Final Thoughts on Guiuan Eastern Samar
So are you convinced to visit Guiuan, Eastern Samar for your next Philippine adventure? I can guarantee you it will be a fun adventure! I have had some many good times enjoying the natural beauty of Guiuan as well as plenty of fun drinking and partying with my friends. You just need to be prepared to settle for the local liquor at times - your premium spirits won't always be available! Case in point below!
There are 60 Barangays in Guiuan, Eastern Samar. 19 of them are island barangays which have white sand beaches and are accessible by pump boat from the Guiuan town center. 8 are on Homonhon Island, 5 are on Tubabao Island, 4 are on Manicani Island and one each on Suluan Island and Victory Island. Below is a breakdown of them. How many can you visit on your travel adventure to Guiuan?
Homonhon Island Barangays 1. Casuguran 2. Cagusuan 3. Canawayon 4. Pgbabangnan 5. Inapulangan 6. Culsai 7. Habag 8. Bitaugan
Tubabao Island Barangays 1. San Antonio 2. Camparang 3. San Juan 4. Trinidad 5. San Pedro Manicani Island Barangays 1. Buenavista 2. Hamor-Awon 3. San Jose 4. Banaag
Need a tour guide to show you around Guiuan - send me a message and I can set you up with a local to take you to all the cool spots.
Essential Services Available in Guiuan
Guiuan may be remote, but you will find all the essential services there that you need. Below is a brief snapshot.
Guiuan Felipe Abrigo Memorial Hospital (Public) St Jude Hospital (Private) Ponferrada Polymedic Hospital (Private) Perez Hospital (Private) Mercury Drug Pharmacy
Pharmacia Machica Guiuan Western Union Philippine National Bank (PNB) branch and ATM Metrobank branch and ATM Landbank branch and ATM
Prince Hypermarket Guiuan (grocery store)