This is long overdue. Iloilo has always been planned but undone. Finally, we set our foot on the “Heart of the Philippines” where the friendly, kind-hearted and sweet-speaking Ilonggos can be found.
It is time to make your sketch plans into a reality. This Do-It-Yourself (DIY) travel guide will help you push that vacation leave and experience these exquisite islands of Gigantes.
How To Get To Gigantes Island:
Iloilo City to Carles to Gigantes
From Iloilo International Airport, ride a van to Tagbak terminal where you can catch another van bound to Carles and Estancia. Travel time is 3 – 4 hours. Daily trips may start as early as 5am and may last until 4pm or so depending on passengers. Alternatively, you can ride a Ceres bus heading to Carles. Both stop at Bancal Port in Carles.
From Bancal Port to Gigantes Island, boat ride is approximately 1 – 1.5 hours. Boat operates once daily from Bancal to Gigantes Norte at 10am and leaves the island by 2pm. Make sure to come early to secure your seats.
Best to avail the tour package as joiner to have special trip and favorable schedules.
Iloilo City to Estancia to Gigantes
Another route is from Estancia to Gigantes. From Iloilo City to Tagbak terminal, ride a van or bus and drop off at Balasan terminal in Estancia. From the terminal, ride a tricycle to Estancia Port. Travel time is around 10 – 15 minutes.
Estancia Port to Gigantes will take about 2 hours boat ride and runs once daily at 1pm. You may rent a private boat for Php5,000 but recommended only if you’re going as a group to share the rental fee.
Roxas Airport to Carles to Gigantes
This route is the quickest and recommended way to reach Gigantes Islands. From Roxas Airport in Capiz, ride a tricycle to Roxas Integrated Transport terminal and take a van bound to Carles. Travel time is 2 hours and fare is Php150. Van will drop you off at Bancal Port. From Bancal Port, you may ride the daily boat ride going to Gigantes or avail a tour package for a hassle-free trip.
Note: If you’re not staying overnight in Gigantes Island, it is best to avail the day tour island hopping package from a travel agency. We availed our tour from Gigantes Island Tours and Services.
About Gigantes Island
The name Islas de Gigantes or Gigantes Island is rooted during the Spanish colonial era. There were coffins found in the caves allegedly contained massive human bones thus the Spanish word “gigante” was applied. There is no evidence to this and remains a local legend.
There was another story that Gigantes Sur and Gigantes Norte were two giant lovers. Gigantes Sur is the female and Gigantes Norte as the male giant. Gigantes Sur was taken away from Gigantes Norte for years until he learned that she’s already dead. He was saddened by the news until he’s weakened and reached his own death. It is believed that the two bodies of lying giants are now the major islands comprising Gigantes Islands.
Top Attractions and Things to do in Gigantes Islands
Carles, Iloilo is home for white sand islands and beautiful karst rock formations. When in Gigantes, these are the places you’ll get to visit and the things you need to do to enjoy your trip.
Tour Around Pulupandan Island
This is probably one of the smallest islands in Gigantes with white sand beach and beautiful rock formations. You can tour around this island for just few minutes. This is usually the first destination of the island hopping tour. You can have a quick swim or take pictures on its gleaming rock formations.
Snorkeling and Swimming in Antonia Island
This is the nearest island from Gigantes Norte and resembles a form of a sandwich. The island boasts fine white sand beach and recognized as a snorkeling spot for its beautiful underwater landscape. There are other activities like banana boat ride and jetski.
Karst rock formations are also found in Antonia Island. You may climb and enjoy the panoramic view at the top overlooking the double-sided beach with equally beautiful shorelines.
Uncover the Beauty of Tinagong Dagat
Tinagong Dagat rests at Antonia Island and just the opposite side of Antonia Beach. It is formerly known as Isla Bonita and now dubbed as mini Boracay for its sand feature similarities.
What we liked most is the perfect picture spot in the middle of palm trees along the powdery white sand. This one is legit paradise!
Get Tanned in Bantigue Sandbar
Bantique Island is where the party at. This island is known for overflowing drinks and party events. There are numerous cottages and rooms for tourists who want to spend overnight and have fun. What is notable in this place is the long stretch of sandbar perfectly drawn in the clear blue waters surrounding the island.
Experience the Most Photographed Island of Cabugao Gamay
Cabugao Gamay is easily the most lovely and photographed island in Gigantes. It is well known for its distinctive landscape on one side featuring huge pile of rocks supporting the viewing deck and the other end as a small hill with rich vegetation. What’s more intriguing is the stretch of pure white sand positioned at the center separating the two ends.
Given its popularity, expect this place to be crowded especially when lining up to the viewing deck. It is very well exposed to sunlight it is advisable to wear cap and sunblock for skin protection. Going up may only take 3 minutes plus waiting time when there’s a queue. Getting there is easier thru man-made ladder and some fences made from bamboos for support. All those waiting time and sweat are worth it when you get your chance in the viewing deck. It is certainly the most beautiful spot and trademark of Gigantes Islands.
Visit the Enchanting Tangke Lagoon
Tangke Salt Water Lagoon is best to visit during the dry months and when high tide. It is most likely closed during habagat seasons from month of June until September as the current could be rough making the entrance unpassable for tourists. Massive limestone rock formations and sharp cliffs enclose the shallow pool of Tangke making it even more enchanting. Not to mention the clear emerald water which tempt anybody to swim. Cliff diving is also a fun activity in Tangke Lagoon. If you have the chance and the weather permits, Tangke should be in your list.
Feast on Fresh Seafood
Gigantes is dubbed as the Scallop Capital of the Philippines and it continues to live up to its name. The overloaded servings of scallop are unbelievable. Eat as much as you can and feast on other offerings like the odd-shaped Wasay-wasay shell best dipped in vinegar. Fish, crab, shrimp and squid are among other aquatic delights to try.
Also try their dried scallops being sold by kids in Lantangan Beach part of Gigantes Sur where we had our lunch. Price is Php200 per pack.
Other notable places to visit when in Gigantes are Gigantes Norte Lighthouse, Bakwitan Cave, Pawikan Cave, Cabugao Dako, Lango Beach and sandbar. To cover these destinations you need to stay at least 2 days in Gigantes.
Where To Stay in Carles
We visited Gigantes Island last July 2019 and since this month isn’t peak season, we took our chance to find hotels as walk-ins. In our surprise, there were too many accommodations near and around Bancal Port in Carles that you wouldn’t find online.
We stayed at Beverly Hills Inn which we found when we arrived a night before our scheduled day tour island hopping in Gigantes. They have decent AC rooms for small and big groups. We had ours at Php800 good for 2 – 3 persons and breakfast as cheap as Php60 per meal.
Beverly Hills Inn
Contact Numbers: 0910-2220374 and 0912-7236009
Other hotels and accommodation around Carles:
- Tindaw Inn – 0919-2976044 or 0917-1409061
- Ludy’s Pension House – (02) 441-2314
- Chateau de Aow Guesthouse – 0939-3000243
- Solina Beach and Nature Resort – 0917-1108344 or 0920-9490557
- Jeanette Resort Carles Iloilo B&B
- Rejohn Beach Resort and Tourist Inn – 0938-1512227
Where To Stay in Gigantes Island
Should you prefer for an overnight stay in the island of Gigantes? Choose from a number of hotels and resorts.
- Antonia’s Beach Resort – 0919-2685896
- North Coast Island Resort – 0998-5762689
- The Beach House – 0917-7998444
- Hideaway Resort – 0918-468500
- Rosewood Resort – 0912-8175592
- Arjan Beach Resort – 0999-9918643
- MJ Beach Resort – 0908-4867292
- Se-San Beach Resort – 0927-4354378
Benefits of Booking the Island Hopping Tour
- Private charter boat
- Hassle-free tour, all entrance fees, guide fee, environmental fee and islands entrances are all managed by the tour operator
- Pick-up schedule can be requested
- Experienced and well trained boat crews are assigned
- The tour includes the overloaded seafood lunch
- Tour prices are all-inclusive with no hidden charges
- They promote and practice responsible and sustainable tourism
- Fun activities and chance to meet new friends
Boat Rental Fees (Private)
Small Boat – Php3,500 good for 1-10 persons
Medium Boat – Php5,000 for 11-15 persons
Big Boat – Php6,000 good for 16-30 persons
Things To Consider
- Book in advance your accommodation and hotels in Carles and Gigantes Island especially during peak seasons.
- Select your tour options if day tour island hopping or with overnight stay to cover which tourist destinations you want.
- Bring cash with you, as there is no ATM in the island.
- Best to travel in a group to share the expenses or joiner and avail the island hopping tour.
- There is a strong network signal in Carles Iloilo and fluctuating in Gigantes Islands.
- Viewing deck in Cabugao Gamay Island can become too crowded during peak seasons.
- Always follow the boat crews’ intructions for safety and protection.
- Itinerary may change from time to time depending on the weather conidition.
- Always show respect to the locals and boat crews.
- Bring umbrella or wear cap and apply sunscreen to protect you from heat of the sun.
- Do not litter or throw your trash in the island, sea and boat. Always bring your trash with you or dispose it in designated trashcans if present.
- Do not damage the corals or pick the flowers/plants.