Gigantes Islands is a chain of ten islands off the northernmost coasts of the municipality of Carles in Iloilo. This group of islands have been luring local and international travelers alike in an impressive accelerated rate over the past few years. But can we, the average Joe, afford to have a vacation in this fast-rising dream destination?
Sure we can! You’ll be amazed to know that it won’t break the bank to be on a 3D2N Gigantes Islands holiday.
Places to Visit in Gigantes Islands
Gigantes Norte Lighthouse – Spanish Parola
The original century-old Spanish Lighthouse was built around 1895. Unfortunately, it got destroyed when Typhoon Frank (Fengshen) hit the region back in 2008. All that was left of the original structure was the bunker which still surely is an eye catcher regardless of its run-down state.
A solar powered iron structure was donated by the Japanese as a replacement. In the past, they allow visitors to climb up the 12-meter high tower to experience a 360-degree view of the island but according to our guide, it was stopped by the local tourism office due to an incident involving an unruly act of a tourist.
It is a long stretch of grainy beach crawling out of Bantigue Island forming into a sandbar. It could have been wonderful if the sun showed up as it was the natural combination of orange and teal, no filter needed. Although the sandbar was fully visible when we came, just a word of caution, the seabed can drastically shift from shallow to deep. The dark colored part of the sea which was just a few feet away from the high ground falls very deep. If you’re not a good swimmer, I suggest you wear your life vest when you plan on swimming in here.
Cabugao Island in Gigantes Sur (South Gigantes) is the most iconic and the most photographed island in this region, truly a slice of paradise. From here you can get a glimpse of Bantigue Island and the Sandbar as you climb up the steep rocks to the viewing deck. From above, feast with your eyes as the palm trees dance with the winds. The heavenly white sand and that ever alluring azure sea was perfectly pieced together by nature; Cabugao Island is the face of Gigantes Islands on the web.
Tangke Salt-water Lagoon
A natural salt-water lagoon enclosed in an island full of jagged limestone rocks and cliffs. It was unnoticeable if not for the make-shift dock that was tied on to the ridges. The limestone rocks were somehow similar to the ones in Coron, Palawan. It was a shallow pool with water coming from the sea through the crevices on the rock walls. For the adventurous travelers, cliff jumping is one of the activities that you can do here.
Tip: Bring the environmental fee receipt (from when you registered), so you won’t be charged again when you go to Tangke.
Antonia Beach is a private island also in the Southern part of Gigantes Islands (Gigantes Sur). The island’s one side was not hit by huge waves thus making it perfect for snorkeling. Tourists can also book their accommodations in Antonia Beach – glamping style.
Bakwitan Cave is just one of the many caves that Gigantes Islands have been blessed with. Some say there were a total of 57 caves, others say there’s even more but the easiest to reach was Bakwitan Cave. The name was derived from “Evacuate / Evacuation”. Our guide said that the cave was used during the 2nd World War as an Evacuation Area, a haven where they can hide from the Japanese soldiers. It is also used by the townspeople as a shelter whenever there’s a typhoon that wreaks havoc on the island that their houses cannot withstand.
I know you’re already eager to know how much it cost? So, here it goes. All the stunning places that you’ve just seen became possible for only Php 2,810 ($57) per person (Group of 4) package from Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn
- 3D/2N full board all-in expenses
- Passenger boat fare (Roundtrip), Estancia Port-Gigantes Islands-Estancia Port
- Island hopping boat fee
- Entrance fees to islands
- Local island guide (Please do tip the guides)
- Cave guide
- 5 meals (family style seafood buffet meals with unli rice)
- Habal-habal fare for 3 days
Airfare – Php 2,835.16 ($57) per person (RT via *Kalibo / Caticlan – was not able to get a promo airfare direct to Roxas on the travel dates preferred). Please check the guide to Roxas City.
Van fare from Roxas City – Php 75 ($1.5) per person
Tricycle fare to Estancia Port – Php 25 ($.50) per peson
*All boat fares and environmental fees were supposed to be included in the package, but the staff doesn’t have any money with him when he picked us up from Estancia Port so we paid for it ourselves. Whatever we shelled out were deducted from our total bill upon checking out. Better keep your receipts as proof, just in case they ask for it.
What You Need to Know
Before you get all excited and start packing your bags, be informed that Gigantes Island is secluded from the rest of the pack of mainstream destinations in the Western Visayas region.
That being said:
- It still has some underdeveloped infrastructures.
- It has a more rustic ambience and the way of life is rudimentary.
- Do not expect for a first class accommodation, homestays and resorts have basic amenities.
- There’s an intermittent cell reception not unless you visit their “call center”, a spot in the island where there is strong cell signal.
- There is no electricity from 6:00 AM – 4:00 PM. With the power outage, sometimes the water supply goes out too.
- Although, there are potable water on the island it is always better to take precaution and just bring your own especially if you have a sensitive stomach.
- There are sari-sari stores too but they might just not have what you want or it could be expensive.
But if you’re up with all these meagerness, then what are you waiting for?
How to Get to Gigantes Island
Gigantes Islands is part of Carles, Iloilo, but it can easily be reached via Roxas City route rather than from Iloilo City.
Getting to Roxas City from Caticlan / Kalibo
Caticlan – Kalibo
Take a van going to Kalibo; the terminal is right in front of Caticlan Jetty Port. The fare is PHP 120; tell the driver that you are going to Roxas City so they can drop you off in front of City Mall where vans bound for Roxas are parked. There are also Ceres Buses that go the same route. Private van to Kalibo costs PHP 1,300. Follow route from Kalibo to Roxas below. Travel time from Caticlan to Kalibo is 1 hour and 30 minutes (includes waiting time).
Kalibo – Roxas
From Kalibo, take a van bound for Roxas, the terminal is in front of City Mall. The fare is PHP 150; the drop off point is at Pueblo de Panay Transport Terminal. Travel time is 2 hours and 30 minutes (includes waiting time).
From Roxas City via Estancia Port
We took this route because it is where we have to meet our contact from Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn.
- Take a van (faster) or bus going to Estancia from Pueblo de Panay Transport Terminal. Fare is Php 75.00 and travel time is about 1.5 hours.
- From the van terminal, take a tricycle to Estancia Port – Fare is Php 10.00 per person and travel is about 5 minutes.
- Passenger Boat going to Gigantes Norte leaving at 1:00 PM – Fare is Php 80.00. You may to take the one going to Gigantes Norte because most of the place where you can stay on this part of the island.
From Roxas City via Bancal Port
- Take a van (faster) or bus going to Estancia from Pueblo de Panay Transport Terminal. Tell the driver to drop you off at Balasan and then take a tricycle to Bancal Port in Carles. Travel time is 20-30 minutes.
- The Tourism Office of Carles is also in Bancal Port, you can get more information about the islands.
- Taking this route will get you to Gigantes Islands faster at 1 – 1.5 hours only. Boat leaves at 10 AM.
From Iloilo City to Estancia
- By Ceres Bus or L300 Van in Tagbac Terminal going to Estancia. Travel time takes about 2.5 hours by van, 3.5 hours by bus. Bus fare is Php P170 to Php 180 per person, while the van fare is Php 200.
Where to Stay in Gigantes Islands
Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn
Barangay Asluman, Gigantes Norte, Carles Iloilo
Contact: Joel Decano, Owner
+63 918 468 5006
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How about you? Have you been to Gigantes Islands? How was your experience? Do you know any other budget-friendly destinations? We would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts.