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
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 lighthouse at Gigantes Norte – 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.
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 Cabugaw Gamay Island. Additionally, intrepid travelers can arrange a homestay at Gigantes Sur.
Maruja Flora’s Island Paradise (Cabugao Gamay Island; +639399212456 / +639984883876; (+63)(+033) 3970328)
Arjan Beach Resort (Gigantes Norte; Facebook; +639999918643)
Rosewood Place Resort (Gigantes Norte; Facebook; +639079551099 / 09107101595)
Gigantes Hideaway Inn (Gigantes Norte; +639184685006 / +639155796612 / +639479954296; [email protected])
Jesa Beach Resort (Gigantes Norte)
Ray John Resort (Gigantes Norte)
Scallop Point Resort (Gigantes Norte)
Las Marias Resort (Gigantes Norte)
How to Get to Gigantes
Bancal Port in the town of Carles is the most convenient jump off point and fastest way to get to Gigantes Islands. It takes around 1.5 hours by pumpboat (local outrigger) ferry from Bancal Port to Gigantes Norte. With daily commuter ferry trips and a Municipal Tourism Office to assist visitors, transiting through Bancal Port is highly recommended instead of the more popular route via Estancia Port. Air travelers may arrive at the airports in Roxas City, Iloilo, Kalibo, and Caticlan. Roxas Airport may be the nearest, but more flight options are available at Iloilo Airport and Kalibo Airport. Carles is approximately 1.5 hours from Roxas City, 3 hours from Iloilo City, and 3 hours from Kalibo.
From Bancal Port, Carles – The preferred jump off point to Gigantes after the municipal government had set up a tourism office to assist travelers visiting the islands. There is a regularly scheduled local passenger ferry that runs once daily from Bancal Port to Gigantes Norte Island. Alternatively, tourists can also charter a boat to get to and around Gigantes. Travel time from Bancal Port to Gigantes Norte takes around 1.5 hours.
The commuter pumpboat departs from Bancal Port at 10AM and arrives in Langob Beach, Gigantes Norte at 11:30AM. The same boat departs from Langob Beach the next day at 2PM and arrives at Bancal Port at 3:30PM.
From Estancia Port – Estancia Port is the the main sea transportation hub and fishing port in Northern Iloilo. Traveling by pumpboat from Estancia Port to Gigantes takes approximately two hours.There are multiple commuter pumpboat routes that ferry passengers to various barangays in the islands.All
All commuter pumpboats are regularly scheduled once daily only. They arrive and depart at Estancia Port at around the same time too. The pumpboats usually arrive at Estancia around noontime and depart at 2PM. The same boat departs from Gigantes (to Estancia) at 7-9AM. Tricycle fare from Estancia Transport Terminal to Estancia Port is P10 per passenger. Travel time takes around 5 minutes.
- Estancia Port to Brgy. Asluman, Gigantes Norte – The fare from Estancia Port to Gigantes Norte Island is P80 per person.
- Estancia Port to Brgy. Lantangan, Gigantes Sur – The commuter pumpboat route is operated by “M/V Three Sisters” or “M/V Romel.”
From Iloilo City – Buses and vans from Iloilo City to Estancia are stationed at Tagbak Terminal in Jaro District. Travel time by bus takes 3-4 hours and the fare is around P170-P180 per passenger. The bus route is operated by Ceres Liner. Commuter vans does the trip in only 2 and a half hours and the fare is P150 per passenger. Learn more at Iloilo Bus Guide and Iloilo Airport Guide.
From Roxas City, Capiz – Ceres buses ply the Roxas to Estancia route. Travel time takes one to two hours.
From Kalibo Caticlan, or Boracay, Aklan – There are no direct passenger bus or van routes from Kalibo Caticlan, or Boracay in Aklan to Estancia or Gigantes. You would need to transit through Roxas City. From Kalibo, there are commuter vans that go direct to Roxas. The land travel takes one hour. From Boracay or Caticlan, you can take a bus or van to Kalibo first. Travel time takes 1 hour.
From Bacolod City, Negros Occidental – There are no direct commuter routes between Bacolod and Estancia or Gigantes. From Bacolod, you can ride a fastcraft ferry to Iloilo City and then travel by land to Estancia. You may also take the RORO (slow ferry) to Dumangas Port, and then travel to Barotac Nuevo, where you can catch a bus to Estancia.
Getting around Gigantes
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. Fare for motorcycle taxis, locally known as “single,” is P10 per person. Roundtrip transfers to the lighthouse in Gigantes Norte costs P60 per person including waiting time.
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 (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 at the barangay 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 the island 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).