In the past, Kalibo was better known as a transit point for Boracay tourists than the capital city of Aklan. In recent years, however, an increasing number of travelers are choosing to spend at least one night in Kalibo at the beginning or end of their Boracay holiday. There are several attractions in Kalibo that provide Boracay tourists with a cultural or eco-tourism experience that is generally not available in Boracay, which is better known for beaches and nightlife.
One of the most popular eco-tourism attractions in Kalibo is the Bakhawan Mangrove Forest, located about 10 minutes from Kalibo Airport. The Bakhawan Mangrove Forest (also known as the Bakhawan Eco-Park), spans over 200 hectares and is known as one of the most successful mangrove reforestation projects in Southeast Asia. In addition to its 1.1-km nature trail, this community-supported conservation project offers kayaking, rafting, and guided tours through a lush mangrove forest that is populated with colorful birds, mudskipper fish, and fiddler crabs.
Kalibo tourists can also visit the Museo it Akean (or Aklan Museum), which is located in Kalibo’s central plaza. The museum holds residence in a former schoolhouse that was constructed by the Spaniards during Spanish colonial rule in the nineteenth century. The Museu it Akean offers visitors the chance to see cultural and historical artifacts from different areas of Aklan.
The most popular event in Kalibo takes place annually during the weekend of the third Sunday in January. The event is known as Ati-Atihan, and it is one of the oldest and most famous festivals in the country. Held in honor of Santo Nino, the festival originated in the thirteenth century when Malay chieftains fleeing Borneo were allowed to settle in Panay by the indigineous Ati people. During Ati-Atihan, various communities, families, and organizations from Aklan wear decorative costumes while parading through the city streets. Visitors are encouraged to participate in the fun by joining an organized group and dancing along to the seductive beat of drums and xylophones.