The Gigantes Islands, also known as Islas de Gigantes or the islands of giants, is a remote group of islands located off the coast of Carles and Estancia towns in northeastern Iloilo, Philippines. It takes at least 5 hours to get there from Iloilo City. Those willing to go the “extra mile” can look forward to enjoying beautiful seascapes and a laid-back island lifestyle that Gigantes has to offer. The islands are blessed with pristine white sand beaches, bountiful fresh seafood, and jagged rock formations shrouded by mystical tales of locals. Despite the increase of tourist arrivals in recent years, Gigantes has retained its off-beat charm and remains relatively underdeveloped compared to Boracay, Bohol, and other mainstream tourist destinations in the Philippines.
Things to Do and Tourist Spots
What are the best things to do in Gigantes? Here’s a few from our list of the best tourist spots and attractions in Gigantes.
Take an island hopping tour – A visit to Gigantes is not complete without taking an island hopping tour to see its magnificent beaches and islands. It takes half a day, at least, to visit the main sites, which includes Cabugao Gamay Island, Tangke, Antonia Beach, Bantigue Island, and Pawikan Cave.
Relax at white sand beaches – Gigantes is blessed with many white sand beaches and sandbars. The main islands, Gigantes Norte, and Gigantes Sur, may have their own sandy beaches but the best ones can be found at Antonia, Cabugaw Gamay Island, and Bantigue, which can only be reached by boat from the resorts.
Explore mystical caves – The islands are home to many caves hidden behind steep rock formations and cliffs. Many of these like Pawikan Cave have spacious caverns that can be easily explored. It is said that the island chain got its name from over-sized coffins found at Bakwitan Cave in Gigantes Norte that contained gigantic sets of human bones.
Visit the old lighthouse – Ruins of a Spanish-colonial lighthouse found at the northern shore of Gigantes Norte Island. Climbing to the top of the modern lighthouse that stands beside it affords a breathtaking view of the sea.
Go Rock Scrambling – A very steep rocky trail in Gigantes Sur leads to the top of the row of limestone cliffs that the locals call as the “Boulevard.” This high vantage point provides a 360-degree view of Gigantes group of islands and the Visayan sea.
Feast on fresh seafood – You can look forward to cheap and fresh seafood in Gigantes, unofficially known as the scallops capital of the Philippines. The islands are also abundant in fish, squid, crabs, shrimp among other aquatic delights. Prices of seafood here and in Estancia are more affordable than the cities of Iloilo and Roxas, and definitely a lot cheaper than Manila or Boracay.
Further readings: All things to do in Gigantes.
Resorts and Accommodations
Most of the established resorts can be found in Gigantes Norte Island. These resorts offer basic accommodations and are catered to budget-conscious travelers. Tent-style accommodations are also quite popular in Antonia Beach and Cabugao Gamay Island. Additionally, intrepid travelers can arrange a homestay at Gigantes Sur.
The towns of Carles and Estancia are the main jump-off points, which can be reached by land from all major transport hubs in Panay Island including Iloilo, Roxas City, and Boracay. Aboard land and ferry connections, travel time to Gigantes (via Carles) takes around 5-6 hours from Iloilo City, 3-4 hours from Roxas City, and 6-7 hours from Boracay/Caticlan.
Bancal Port in the town of Carles is the most convenient jump off point and fastest way to get to Gigantes Islands. Passenger boats from both Carles and Estancia run once daily leaving around noontime to Gigantes. Alternatively, tourists can also charter a boat to get to and around Gigantes from either seaport.
To travel between islands in Gigantes, you need to charter a boat since there are no options for commuting. The bigger islands, Gigantes Norte and Gigantes Sur, have narrow inland roads connecting different villages on the island.
Further readings: How to get to & around Gigantes.
Accommodation costs – Fan cottages start at P200 per person per night. Aircon cottages start at P1,500 for cottages that can fit 2 to 4 people.
- Iloilo City to Estancia – Bus fare is P170 to 180 per person, while the van fare is P150.
- Estancia Bus Terminal to Estancia Port – Tricycle fare is P10 per person.
- Estancia to Gigantes – The fare on the commuter pumpboat to Gigantes Norte is P80 per person. The cost of the chartered roundtrip transfer to Gigantes plus a whole island hopping tour is around P5,000 per boat.
- Within Gigantes Norte or Sur – Motorycle taxi costs P10 per person per way
Activities and Tour costs
- Island Hopping – Chartering a pumpboat for a whole-day island hopping tour around Gigantes (including a guide) costs P1,500 to P2,000 for up to 10 people. The guide costs an additional P500.
- Cabugaw Gamay Island – P20 entrance fee per person
- Antonia Beach – P20 entrance fee per person
- Gigantes Norte Lighthouse – P60 per person for the roundtrip motorcycle taxi transfer.
- Bakwitan Cave Tour – P500 for the cave guide and P200 for the roundtrip motorcycle taxi transfer.
Itinerary and Budget
When taking the commuter pumpboat to Gigantes, spending at least 3 days and two nights is recommended since the boat arrives in the island late in the afternoon and leave early morning the next day. If you are hiring your own chartered pumpboat, it is possible to visit Gigantes on an overnight trip from Iloilo City.
Travelers can also spend the night at the town proper of Carles or Estancia, where there are more options for beach resorts and hotels, and then charter a boat to explore the islands of Gigantes. When taking this alternative, it’s better to stay at mainland Carles since it is much nearer to Gigantes than Estancia.
3 days and 2 nights Itinerary
Sample 3D2N Gigantes itinerary for do-it-yourself (DIY) budget travelers. The estimated budget is around P2,500 to P3,000 per person for a group of 4 people traveling from Iloilo by van, staying at a fan room in Gigantes Norte, and doing all of the activities mentioned below. This estimate includes the roundtrip transport commute from Iloilo City, meals in Estancia / Gigantes, and the island hopping charter plus entrance fees.
|0800 – 1100||Iloilo City to Estancia Port via bus/van|
|1100 – 1400||ETA Estancia; Lunch at Estancia Town Center; Buy Provisions|
|1400 – 1600||Estancia Port to Gigantes Norte via commuter pumpboat|
|1600 – 1700||ETA Gigantes Norte; Resort Check-in|
|1700 – 1800||Gigantes Norte Lighthouse tour|
|0700 to 1700||Gigantes Island Hopping Tour|
|0600 – 0900||Resort Check-out|
|0900 – 1100||Gigantes to Estancia via commuter pumpboat|
|1100 – 1230||ETA Estancia Port; Lunch at at Estancia Town Center|
|1230 – 1530||Estancia to Tagbak Terminal via bus/van|
|1530||ETA Tagbak Terminal, Iloilo City|
- Buy food (at least for the first day), water, and other necessities in Estancia since the islands are limited to sari-sari type stores only. On your second day, you could buy fresh seafood in the islands but be sure to go to the selling area early morning since the locals usually send most of their catch to the mainland. You may also arrange this with your resort.
- Be sure to have enough drinking water for the whole duration of your stay. There is potable spring water in Gigantes Sur if your stomach is up for it.
- Electricity only runs at scheduled hours of the day/night. Electricity is turned on late in the afternoon until 11pm and then switched to a power generator, depending on the resort.
- The Gigantes group of Islands are also popularly known as Islas de Gigantes, which means “Islands of Giants” in Spanish. Its two most populated and largest islands by land area are Isla de Gigantes Norte (North Gigantes Island) and Isla de Gigantes Sur (South Gigantes Island).