Separated from the Panay mainland by the narrowest slither of ocean, the small island of GUIMARAS is best known for producing the tastiest mangoes in the Philippines. Yet for all its provincial simplicity Guimaras is much more than a day-trip destination. There are some good, affordable resorts, exceptional beaches – especially around Nueva Valencia on the southwest coast – and a few enticing islands offshore. The undulating interior and its numerous trails have also made the island a popular destination for mountain bikers. There’s also a smattering of history, with defiant old Spanish churches and the country’s only Trappist monastery. During the Filipino–American War, General Douglas MacArthur, then a first lieutenant, built the wharf at Buenavista, which is still being used today by ferries.
Guimaras was badly affected by an oil spill from the the tanker, Solar 1, which sank off the northern coast of the island in August 2006. Although today there is little evidence of the spill to the casual observer, and beaches look back to their pristine best, it will take decades for the island’s mangrove ecosystems (and fish stocks) to fully recover.