Gigantes Islands experience and travel guide
Islas Gigantes is one of the island hopping adventures I wanted to do ever since I fell in love with beaches. Not only it’s a famous trip, the islands are also very enticing and anyone would definitely want to visit it at least once.
So when I got the time and chance to go on a vacay (even though I already have my darling Mnemosyne, thanks by the way, grandparents!), I included the tour in my itinerary, no questions asked. Oh, well of course, where is Islas Gigantes and what to do there.
|◘◘◘ ABOUT THIS PLACE|
Why are they called “Gigantes Islands”, by the way? Stories say people from waaaaaaaay back actually discovered giant remains a.k.a. skeletons inside the caves of the islands. However, they didn’t have the equipment yet to verify it. And now that we are taking advantage of modern technology, sadly, there are no evidence left there anymore. I mean, how? Did people collect the bones and gave themselves souvenirs? Possible. Some think the stories are true – as there are now tons of studies that giants did exist.
The Gigantes Group of Islands, popularly known as Islas de Gigantes or “Islands of Giants” in Spanish are a remote cluster of islands in the northernmost part of Iloilo province in the Philippines. The Gigantes Islands consists of about ten islands: the two largest being Gigantes Norte (North Gigantes) and Gigantes Sur (South Gigantes).
|◘◘◘ PRE-TRAVEL GUIDE|
>> How to get there <<
There are enough ways to get to the island jump-off. The two main jump-off points are the towns of Carles and Estancia. As for my trip, we took Bancal Port in Carles which is the most convenient and actually the fastest way to Gigantes Islands from Iloilo City. But here are few the options:
+ Iloilo City via Bangcal Port
A scheduled local passenger pump boat runs daily from Bancal port to Gigantes Norte which departs at 10am and leaves the island at 2pm. Perks of availing tour packages are special trips to and from the islands. Travel time to Bancal to Gigantes is approximately 1 to 1.5 hours. There is a Local Tourism Office table there (where you should pay environmental fee, by the way, except if you availed for a tour package which already includes all environmental fees) where you can ask for assistance and guide.
+ from Boracay
For people coming from Boracay, you will need to go firt to Kalibo which will take you more or less 1 hour, then travel via Roxas City.
+ from Roxas Airport
Roxas City, Capiz is the nearest airport to Islas Gigantes. So if you are coming from Manila or from outside the Philippines and your itinerary is solely for Gigantes, you may go via Roxas Airport for a faster trip. Travelling by bus may take 3-4 hours, less than an hour less by travelling by van.
Travel options credits to The Happy Trip.
>> Getting around <<
Traveling between islands in Gigantes, you will need to charter a private boat. While on the bigger islands, Gigantes Norte and Gigantes Sur, there are narrow roads connecting different villages. The fare for motorcycle or “single” costs Php10* per person. Roundtrip transfers to the lighthouse in Gigantes Norte costs P60* per person including waiting time.
*rates are as of November 2018
>> Accommodations <<
Most of the established resorts can be found in Gigantes Norte Island. But you may spare a little time booking if when you avail tour packages. See, I really recommend partnerships with good travel agencies especially for island hopping trips, because they will help you maximize your time. But if you are up for an adventure and a little ask-here ask-there situations, you’re also good to go. I mean, I prefer it honestly, but I have tiem limitations so…
Resorts in the island offer basic accommodations and just right for budget-conscious travelers. Tent-style accommodations are also quite popular while others offer homestay.
As a travel enthusiast, I recommend trying out sleeping in a comfy tent and experience real sense of travel.
>> Budget <<
Accommodation costs range from Php200* (fan room) per person per night to Php1,500* (airconditioned) for 2 to 4 people. Tents though run from Php300-500* per 4-person dome tent.
+ Iloilo City to Carles – van fare is Php170*.
+ while Iloilo City to Estancia – Bus fare is Php170* to 180* per person, while the van fare is Php150*.
+ Estancia Bus Terminal to Estancia Port – Tricycle fare is Php10* per person.
+ The fare on the commuter pumpboat to Gigantes Norte is Php80* per person. The cost of the chartered roundtrip transfer to Gigantes plus a whole island hopping tour is around Php5,000* per boat.
+ Within Gigantes Norte or Sur – “single” motorycle taxi ride costs Php10* per person per way.
>> Package Tour Cost and Inclusions <<
I’m not in any way related to the owners and staff of Gigantes Island Tours and Services nor paid for partnership. I just loved their service and I thought it’s just right to recommend them to friends and readers.
There are packages that are totally worth it and I’m not even talking about expensive travels here, guys. As far as I know, they offer one of if not the cheapest tour packages for Gigantes Islands.
Click the bullet below for a sample itinerary and inclusions as of November 2018. We availed a day tour package but please visit their website or Facebook page for more updated info.
◘ Day Tour for Php999/pax*
✔ Private charter boat (joiners tour)
✔ Overloaded servings of food for lunch/tours
✔ All entrance and environmental fees
✔ Island hopping= 5 islands to visit
✔ Tour guide fee
✔ Free waterproof cellphone pouch (subject to stocks availability, this is only a freebie and not actually part of package)
Tour highlights and islands to visit:
• Pulupandan Island
• Cabugao Gamay
• Lunch will be served at Gigantes islands guesthouse
• Antonia Beach
• Activities on top of the package: Banana boat ride and Jetski
• Puting Baybay Gamay
• Bantigue Sandbar
• Tanke (Enchanted Lagoon)
|◘◘◘ THE EXPERIENCE|
I mentioned I included Islas Gigantes to my itinerary back when I was still planning the trip. But hello, real me, who’s pro at acting like she was prepared when she’s actually not. I Googled and read a lot about the trip, but I didn’t thought of booking a tour package. I usually went on DIY (do-it-yourself) travels which I think was more fun and way cheaper, but I didn’t realize how much items I had in my itinerary that week.
But here’s a tip: if you want to maximize your time and make your trip worth it, don’t feel so naive and try something out of your comfort zone – which is for me, be a joiner.
It’s not my first time, though, to join a tour. I also have the same experience for my second time in Calaguas and my first Hundred Island trip. It was just as convenient as I had on our Gigantes island hopping.
We stayed in Richmonde Iloilo on our first and second day, then transferred to Ong Bun, as most of the people in our group were coming there. It’s a nice hotel, though, despite of a few negative reviews online plus it’s super cheap, too. Meet up was around 4 or 5am (OMG why I didn’t take note of that, sorry) and we rode a van for more than 3 hours, I think. I enjoyed the ride, at least, because I was sleeping. Lol.
My personal favorite was the lagoon, and of course, lunch! I think we were served more than 6 platters of oysters and scallops which may be usual for people living in the islands, but really a “wow, big time!” dish for us city peeps!
Well, everything we did was part of the tour package, but there are more than island hopping in Gigantes Islands, guys. Unbelievable as it sounds, some think island hopping is a boring and stupid activity – “you hop and then what?” It may not be adventurous as other people would want, but personally, island hopping is a favorite. Sunburn, don’t care.
|◘◘◘ TALKING MORE ABOUT THE ISLANDS|
Take an island hopping tour – I think this is the number one activity people expect from Gigantes. (HAHA) It’s technically why you go there, and like your Gigantes experience is not complete if you don’t take it. I say in an island hopping trip, you’ll appreciate more the beauty of virgin islands and how people affect them. Few of the islands we visited were:
>> Pulupandan Islet. A very small island where visitors can make a stop and enjoy their tanning sessions. This tiny islet with one tree is also, apparently, considered a resting place of fishermen.
I’m 80% sure this photo^ was not taken at Pulupandan, so excuse my mom brain and I’ll try saving my notes in a safe folder next time.What to love: There is a lone palm tree standing on this island which make it more unique from the nearby islands.
>> Cabugao Gamay Island. The most photographed spot among the Gigantes Group of Islands, locals say. (I mean, it’s also pretty obvious, right?)
This shot^ is almost an “obligatory” shot, as almost everyone who visited the island had one. I am not a big fan of things cliche, but whatever. I posed anyway. Look at that view. Make sure no one pressures you when you’re on the top. Of course, think of the loooong line waiting for your turn to be over, but take at least five seconds or a minute to breathe and appreciate that beauty. Documentation may be a wonderful thing, but real-life experiences feels faaaar more precious.Entrance/Environmental fee: Usually part of the island hopping package, Php50/pax*
What to love: The most famous spot on the island – on top of a huge rock; there is a wooden stairs already for tourists but lines for taking pictures take sooo long. The reward? A 360 view of the whole island and the nearby sandbars.
>> Antonia Beach. A popular snorkeling spot and a usual spot for lunch for some island hopping tours. So expect the crowd here during day time, as they tend to spend more time here than in the other islands.
Another photo I’m not sure of. But hey, all these shots were taken at the Gigantes Islands tour. I’m just not sure which is which. Lol. Antonia Beach, though isEntrance/Environmental fee: Usually part of the island hopping package, Php40/pax*
What to love: The beautiful white sandbar of Antonia. At the side is an interesting rock formation, which amazingly serves as a natural wave breaker. Visitors to Antonia are rewarded by the paradise-like white sand beach and inviting emerald green waters, perfect for swimming.
>> Bantigue Island. An island famed with a stunning view of a sandbar, offering a nice spot for swimming and snorkeling and sun bathing.
I am a lover of beaches and seas, no matter the color of the sand as long as the water is clean enough for me to dip in. Well, Bantigue offers more than enough – if I’m not mistaken (and hopefully I’d get a chance to visit them all), Bantigue island has one of the finest and whitest sandbars in the Philippines.What to love: A long stretch of white, fine sandbar which you will need to catch during low tide.
>> Tangke (Enchanted Lagoon). Coming from its form – having a gap among big boulder rocks around a lagoon – is the name “Tangke” or tank. Enclosed with beautiful rock formations is a serene swimming spot with shallow, clear saltwaters. Other famous spot, that many people are willing to fall in line for.
This is what I am sure of, except from Cabugao Gamay’s photo up there^ as this lagoon is my favorite spot in this trip. It’s a small hidden lagoon surrounded by beautiful rock formations and the water level didn’t drown me. If I had more time, I guess I would enjoy this spot the most.Entrance/Environmental fee: Usually part of the island hopping package, Php20/pax*
What to love: EVERYTHING HERE IS LOVABLE! From the water to the rocks, I’m sure everyone will find beauty in this place.
*rates are as of November 2018.
|◘◘◘ WHAT MORE TO ENJOY?|
I know not everyone enjoys a long ride on the waters. If you are not fan of island hopping adventures, or if you have more time to roam around Gigantes, I’m sure you’ll never run out of things to do for the long vacay. Aside from island hopping, there are many ways to enjoy Islas Gigantes.
+ Chase sunrises and sunsets. Gigantes is blessed with many white sand beaches and sandbars. What I have mentioned above is just a part of the many islands Gigantes offers. While the main islands, Gigantes Norte, and Gigantes Sur, have their own pretty beaches and resorts, the best ones for me are Antonia and Cabugao Gamay Island.
+ Visit the lighthouse. This, I didn’t have time to witness. But many bloggers and travelers already shared pictures of it. It is from a Spanish-colonial lighthouse standing at the northern shore of Gigantes Norte.
+ Explore caves. The islands are home to many hidden caves among those rock formations. Most of them have spacious caverns that can be easily explored. It is said that the name “Gigantes” was an idea coming from over-sized coffins with gigantic human bones found at Bakwitan Cave in Gigantes Norte.
+ Snorkel. One of the Philippine’s prides are the many spots for snorkeling. Gears are available for rent in some of the islands or from your agency, but it is still best to bring your own.
+ Feast on seafood. This is what I love most about living in the islands. You can always expect cheap and fresh seafood. Gigantes Islands is unofficially known as the scallops capital of the Philippines, and literally, you’ll find scallops everywhere. What’s more to love? Prices of seafood here are more affordable than we have them in the cities.
|◘◘◘ WHAT TO EAT|
We had soooooo much fun during lunch. Island hopping is not a joke, guys. It’s tiring especially for those people who are not used to too much sea travels. We were drained by the sun, that’s why we were soooo grateful when our loving hosts said our lunch were served.
Since we are talking about islands and seas, expect a lot of seafood and expect them fresh. We were served oysters and scallops that are indeed *heaven*. We also had chicken tinola, and fried fish.
|◘◘◘ TRAVEL TIPS|
- I am a Globe subscriber and I hardly got network connection. People say Smart and Sun catch some good signals that I am honestly not sure of.
- Sunscreen is highly recommended (even prescribed) when going island hopping or even visiting any island or even for everyday use. So better buy that 50 dollar sunblock and watch your skin!
- Travel with ease and security with Gigantes Island Tours and Services. They’re one of the many agencies offering tour packages for your convenience, but the most recommended. Why? They’re surely legit (with licenses and permits and all), they offer very affordable if not the cheapest packages, you are taken good care of as a guest and as a friend, that will definitely make your vacay a lot of fun. For inquiries, contact:
This article also appears on themhayonnaiseonline.com.