Gigantes Islands is Iloilo’s answer to paradise. Here’s our Updated Guide to Island Hopping in Gigantes Islands!
Gigantes Islands (also referred to as Islas de Gigantes) is located at the northern part of the municipality of Carles. It’s an island chain that boasts of white-sand beaches with clear blue water and jagged rock formations. It’s also known for its friendly locals and unlimited seafood, particularly scallops.
Gigantes Islands is composed of 10 islands. There are 2 big islands (Gigantes Norte and Gigantes Sur) and several islets: Cabugao Gamay Island, Antonia Island, Pulupandan Islet, Bantigue Sand Bar, among others.
It is said that Gigantes Islands got its name from the oversized human bones in coffins found inside Bakwitan Cave in Gigantes Norte.
Gigantes Islands used to be a secret but in 2016 going forward, it has made its way into mainstream tourism. Now it’s one of the popular attractions in Iloilo.
Hali and I went here during our backpacking trip to Iloilo and Guimaras in 2015. Hali has been here a year prior and he was happy to come back. I have updated this guide to reflect the recent developments in the island.
- How to get to Gigantes Islands
- Island Hopping in Gigantes Islands
- Other Places You Can Visit
- 2 Days Itinerary in Gigantes Islands
- Where to Stay Overnight
- Reminders and Tips
- Budget and expenses
- What to read next:
How to get to Gigantes Islands
Gigantes Islands is lcoated in the municipality of Carles in Iloilo.
How to get to Carles (Iloilo)
There are 2 airports you can fly in: Iloilo Airport or Roxas Airport in Capiz. Roxas is the closer airport as it’s only 2 hours away from Carles, while Iloilo is 3 hours away.
Via Roxas Airport
- From Roxas Airport, ride a tricycle, jeep or taxi to Roxas City Integrated Transport Terminal. Travel time is 10-15 minutes.
- From the terminal, you can either ride a van or bus. Fare is around P150 per person. Travel time is 2 hours.
- VAN: Ride a van and get off directly at Bancal Port.
- BUS: Ride a bus bound for Estancia and get off at Balasan Terminal. From there, ride a tricycle or habal-habal to Bancal Port.
Via Iloilo Airport
- From Iloilo Airport, ride a van or taxi to the Tagbak Terminal. Travel time is 20-30 minutes.
- From the terminal, you can either ride a van or bus. Fare is around P200 per person. Travel time is 3-4 hours.
- VAN or BUS: Same instruction as above.
Boat transfer/tour to Gigantes Islands
There are 2 ports in Carles that serve as jump-off points to Gigantes Islands: Bancal Port and Estancia Port.
Bancal Port is the official jump-off point and it’s the fastest way to reach the islands. From Bancal Port, travel time is 1-1.5 hour while from Estancia Port it’s around 2 hours.
Once you get to Bancal Port, here are your options:
- If you have booked a pre-arranged tour, simply meet up with your tour guide at the agreed time. There are packages for day tours or 2-days or 3-days stay in the islands.
- For the public/passenger boat, register at the Tourism Office in the port. The boats depart to Langub in Gigantes Norte, where most homestays & resorts are located. Schedule is thrice daily: 8:AM, 1:30PM, and 4:30PM. Schedule from Langub back to Bancal Port is 7AM, 10:30AM, and 3PM. Fare + environmental fee is P75 per person.
- For day trippers, you can charter a private boat for island hopping for the whole day. You can also wait for other joiners at the registration area.
Island Hopping in Gigantes Islands
Here are the places you can visit on your island hoping tour in Gigantes Islands.
Pulupandan (or Pulo Pandan) is often the first stop in island hopping tours. It’s 1 hour away from Bancal Port. It has white sand and rough coral stones.
Cabugao Gamay Island
Cabugao Gamay is the face of Gigantes Islands. It’s the one commonly featured in blogs & promotional materials.
The island features a sandy shore tucked between two karst formations. A set of wooden stairs lead to a viewdeck, where you can take a good view of the island. The surrounding water here is clear so you can enjoy a good swim. You can also take pictures of the balancing flat stones along the shore.
It was rainy and cloudy when we visited Cabugao Gamay. In my opinion, it’s indeed beautiful but the island is small. It looks bigger in online photos.
On peak season, you need to queue up the view deck since there are a number of boats full of tourists visiting the island with you. I suggest going here on weekdays or other off-peak times so you can enjoy the island by yourself.
This island is virtually similar with Cabugao Gamay, though some say that the beach sand here is finer and whiter. Indeed, this is a great place for swimming. There is a snorkeling area where you can see schools of small fishes.
We stayed here for a swim. While snorkeling I got pecked twice by a fish I had inadvertently disturbed. Hali caught it on cam and to my chagrin thought it was very funny.
Tinagong Baybay Beach
Also called Tinagong Dagat, this is a secluded white-sand beach with limestone rock formations, reminiscent of that in El Nido.
Bantigue Sand Bar
This island boasts of a sand bar that shifts depending on the weather and ocean current. It’s not as picturesque as that in Kalanggaman Island, but it’s still a decent place to visit especially if you like sand bars.
There are residential houses in Bantigue Sand Bar where you can buy scallops for P1 each.
Tangke Lagoon is a natural saltwater lagoon enclosed by karst formations. The best time to visit here is during high tide, when the lagoon fills up with clear green water and you can swim.
On the right side, you can climb up the rock formations to cliff jump at around 40 feet high to the open water.
We visited here during low tide, so there was only ankle-deep, cloudy water. To be honest, I was disappointed by how it looks. That saying, Hali still had a good time with cliff jumping.
Other Places You Can Visit
If you’re staying overnight, here are other places you can visit:
- Gigantes Norte Lighthouse. One of the lighthouses commissioned by the Spaniards during the Spanish Era.
- Bakwitan Cave. Built in 1853, this historical cave is sometimes used as refuge during strong typhoons. There are huge stalactites and natural crystals here, although unfortunately it has fallen into neglect. In my opinion, it’s not worth the effort of visiting.
- Pawikan Cave. A cave known for its 100 feet high ceilings.
2 Days Itinerary in Gigantes Islands
Here’s a sample 2 days itinerary in Gigantes Islands:
|Day 1||7AM Arrival at Bancal Port / Registration|
8AM – 4PM Island Hopping Tour:
– Pulupandan Islet
– Cabugao Gamay Island (including lunch)
– Antonia Island
– Puting Baybay Beach
– Bantigue Island
5PM Check in at accommodation
|Day 2||7AM Lighthouse|
9AM Pawikan/Bakwitan Cave
10AM – 12PM Lunch time
1PM Tangke Lagoon
3PM Wash up / Check out
4PM – 5PM Boat ride back to Bancal Port
Where to Stay Overnight
There are various options for overnight stay in Gigantes Island.
If you’re staying in Gigantes Sur, expect that most accommodations are homestays since it’s a fishing village. Gigantes Norte meanwhile offers more decent resorts.
Here are some recommended resorts in Gigantes Islands:
- Arjan Beach Resort
- Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn
Here are some recommend resorts in Carles:
- Solina Beach and Nature Resort – Book online via Agoda
- Balay Kogon – Book online via Agoda
- Huni Sicogon Resort – Book online via Agoda
Reminders and Tips
- The best time to visit here is during summer. However, take note that it is also peak season. You can also visit during ber-months as long as the weather is fine. If there are typhoons, island hopping tours may be cancelled or there are places that may not be accessible such as Tangke Lagoon.
- The easiest way to explore the islands is to book a packaged island hopping tour. This way, you can enjoy the experience without worrying about boat arrangements, meals, or accommodation. Moreover, the rates have become competitive so they are reasonable even for budget travelers.
- Island hopping in Gigantes Islands is ideal for solo travelers or those in groups.
- Gigantes Islands is also known as scallops capital. Scallops here are very cheap and can be bought at P1 per piece. Tour agencies also serve scallops, wasay-wasay (a type local oyster) and other seafood during meals. Whether you’re doing DIY or booking a tour, don’t miss this chance to eat fresh seafood!
- To be honest, this isn’t the best island hopping experience I had. It just didn’t live up to my expectations. For instance, Cabugao Gamay made me think, “Ito na yun?” It was actually small in real life and its best feature is the view deck. What I enjoyed here is the unlimited seafood. That saying, I hope you have a good time island hopping in Gigantes Islands.
Budget and expenses
Here are the current prices for island hopping packages in Gigantes Islands:
- Day tour – P999 per person
- 2D/1N stay – P1599 per person
You may contact Paul of Gigantes Island Tour and Services.
If you want to charter a boat for private use for one day:
- Small boat – P3500 (good for 1-10 people)
- Medium boat – P5000 (good for 11-15 persons)
- Big boat – P6000 (good for 16-30 people)
Has this Guide to Island Hopping in Gigantes Islands been helpful to you? If you have comments or questions, let us know in the comment section below.
What to read next:
Read about our backpacking trip to Iloilo and Guimaras. Here are other articles about this trip:
- Guide to Tibiao (Antique)
- Island Hopping in Gigantes Islands (Iloiilo)
- Day Trip in Guimaras
- Guisi Lighthouse in Guimaras
Here are great places for island hopping in the Philippines:
Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).