The term Kalibo comes from the Aklanon word sangkâ líbo, ("one thousand"), reputedly the number of native Ati who attended the first Catholic Mass celebrated there. Kalibo was originally spelled as Calivo.
The town of Kalibo was originally called Akean by the inhabitants, similar to the name of the river nearby. The word akean itself connotes the warbling of running waters, from the root word akae, meaning "to boil". Akae-akae means "to bubble" or "to boil" or "to make the sound of bubbling or boiling" in the Aklanon language.
The Spaniards interchanged the names Aklan and Calivo to refer to the town. Aside from these two, other names such as Calibo, Daclan, Adan, and Calibog have been used.
When Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived In 1569, he found the town had 2,000 so he recruited 500 to help conquer the rest of the Philippines. On November 3, 1571, it became an encomienda and on April 22, 1581 the town became a parish under the Augustinians. During the Spanish era, Kalibo was part of Capiz.
On March 23, 1897 the Nineteen Martyrs of Aklan were executed by the Spanish colonial government for their role in the Philippine Revolution.
The town was affected by World War II. On November 8, 1956, the province of Aklan was officially inaugurated and Kalibo became the capital.
During the early 21st century, Aklan congressman Florencio Miraflores filed a bill seeking to convert Kalibo into a city but this has yet to succeed.
The town was part of a decision by the Supreme Court of the Philippines on November 18, 2008, that granted a petition by the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) that the annulment of the cityhood status of the 16 towns whose cityhood bills were passed during the 11th Congress.
Kalibo is located at 11°42′N 122°22′E.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the municipality has a land area of 50.75 square kilometres (19.59 sq mi) constituting 7000279000000000000♠2.79% of the 1,821.42-square-kilometre- (703.25 sq mi) total area of Aklan.
Kalibo is politically subdivided into 16 barangays, all classified as urban. Mobo was formerly known as Tinigao Bongoe.
In the 2015 census, Kalibo had a population of 80,605. The population density was 1,600 inhabitants per square kilometre (4,100/sq mi).
In the 2016 electoral roll, it had 46,096 registered voters.
Aklanon is the main language of Kalibo. Hiligaynon is spoken as a secondary language of the municipality.
Kalibo's main industry is agriculture based on rice, coconuts and the Piña and Abaca cloths. Handbags made of buri leaves are also part of the exports.
Fabric from the town was used during the 1996 of APEC Summit in the Philippines, when world leaders donned a pineapple silk Barong Tagalog during the obligatory photo.
Kalibo also has a meat-processing industry that produces chorizo, tocino and other meat products.
Tourism in Kalibo peaks during the Ati-Atihan Festival, celebrated on the second week of January culminating on the third Sunday.
Several malls, department stores, convenience stores, supermarkets and shopping centers are located in Kalibo, such as Gaisano Capital Kalibo, CityMall Kalibo, Royal Supermart, RC Supermart, KH Shopping Center, FU's Merchandise, Unitop Department Store, CitySquare Department Store, 7-Eleven, Ministop, QuixMart, and iMart.
The Ati-Atihan is a festival celebrated in Kalibo every second week of January and culminating on the 3rd Sunday of the month. Revelers smear themselves with soot or any blackening substance in order to look like an Ati.
Ati-Atihan is believed to have started in the year 1212 when Borneans led by the ten Datus traversed in several baeangays and crossed the Sulu Sea to land in Panay; making it the Oldest Festival in the Philippines.
Ati-atihan Festival was included as one of the "World's Best Festivals" by Fest300, dubbed as the "Grand Daddy of Philippine Festivals" by the Largest Travel Guide Book Publisher in the World - Lonely Planet and recognized as the "Mother of All Philippine Festivals".
Landmarks of the town include Aklan river, the main river that flows in the town and the origin of the name of the province. Within the town proper lies Freedom Shrine which commemorates World War II veterans and the Museo it Akean, a museum of history. Outside the town lies Bakhawan Eco-Park, a 220-hectare (540-acre) mangrove reforestation project that began in 1990 in barangay New Buswang. Tigayon Hill and Cave in Barangay Tigayon, Kalibo was a burial site during the pre-Hispanic era and a pit of Chinese artifacts.
Air travel to Kalibo from Manila is about 45 minutes under four airlines: the Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia Zest and PAL Express. These airlines increase their flights during the Kalibo Ati-Atihan Festival in January.
PAL Express also flies to Cebu and Angeles. AirAsia Philippines and SeaAir also have flights to Angeles. AirAsia has a flight to Kuala Lumpur. Meanwhile, Mandarin Airlines, TransAsia Airways, China Southern, China Airlines have weekly flights to and from Taipei; Philippine Airlines and Shanghai Airlines have chartered flights to and from Shanghai; Jin Air does flights to Incheon. Spirit of Manila has its chartered flight to Kalibo from its regional destinations. Zest Air have flights to Seoul, Busan, Shanghai, Taipei, Beijing, and Chengdu. Philippine Airlines has flights to Hong Kong and Seoul.
Kalibo is the major hub for to Boracay. The Kalibo International Airport is about ten minutes from the main plaza.
Kalibo has four ports near the town. The New Washington port and the Dumaguit port are 20 minutes away from Kalibo. Batan port is accessible via Dumaguit and Altavas while the Malay port is approximately two hours. Travel time from Manila to Aklan is 14 to 18 hours through sea travel.
The Caticlan Jetty Port is part of the Roll-on Roll-off (RORO) Strong Republic Nautical Highway that connects Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and it passes through Kalibo to Capiz or Romblon. There is a jetty port in barangay Pook of Kalibo.
Public transportation around the town is by tricycle, taxi, multicab and jeepneys.
Kalibo is 158 kilometres (98 mi) from Iloilo City, 86 kilometres (53 mi) from Roxas City, and 182 kilometres (113 mi) from San Jose, Antique. Land travel from Iloilo City to Kalibo takes approximately three hours, one and a half hours from Roxas City, and four hours from San Jose, Antique. All are accessible by bus and minivans. Trips to Caticlan range from 70 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the mode of transportation.
The tricycle dominates the streets in Kalibo and is the main form of public transport. The town has its own version of the design of its tricycle that can accommodate up to 8 passengers. The design was also adopted in of the rest of Aklan and some parts of northern Antique. There are about 3,500 tricycles that are registered for public transportation and they are distributed in the following routes:
Kalibo has one official sister city: Juneau, Alaska, United States (2014)