A Summer Must-Visit: Gigantes Islands In Iloilo

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A cluster of islands nestling on the gorgeous blue waters off Carles, Iloilo presents an ideal summer escape for travelers looking to explore a new destination that provides the right kind of ‘chill.’

Gigantes Islands dishes a surplus of natural attractions and island charm that should provide a wonderful summer experience for everyone.

Islas de Gigantes, Carles, Iloilo

Photo from Patrick V.’s looloo review for Islas de Gigantes

Scramble over towering karst peaks, hop your way to secret beaches and concealed lagoons, and feast on the freshest seafood catch of the day–all of that plus more chill time under the sun awaits you at Gigantes.

To help you kickstart your journey, here’s a quick rundown of tips to help you plan your Gigantes summer trip.

Places to See in Gigantes Islands:

Aph Cruz of Las Islas Travel and Tours says “Gigantes Islands has more to offer, and that is why we are planning for more exploration trips in the future. What travelers see today is just half of it.”

1. Cabugao Gamay Island

When one mentions Gigantes, the image from the rocky hilltop of Cabugao Gamay comes to mind. The view from atop gives travelers the overall picture of the grandeur that scatters around the peninsula of Carles. Crystal clear blue waters, lush forested islands and endless stretches of white sand beaches surrounds and composes your visual feast.

Cabugao Gamay Island, Gigantes Islands, Carles, Iloilo

Cabugao Gamay Island, Gigantes Islands, Carles, Iloilo

A modest resort called Maruja’s Flora Island Paradise provides travelers simple yet comfortable accommodations. Island visitors can take their lunch here as the island’s only diner prepares the freshest seafood catch of the day.

2. Cabugao Daku

Located just opposite of Cabugao Gamay, this island dishes a more chill and tranquil environment.

Cabugao Daku, Gigantes Islands, Carles, Iloilo

Cabugao Daku, Gigantes Islands, Carles, Iloilo

A small homestay made up of a charming nipa hut fronting the small white sand beach, it provides a perfect setting for couples who want more privacy.

3. Tangke Saltwater Lagoon

The surrounding towering karst peaks hides an idyllic lagoon glistening in green colors against the shining sun. Scrambling your way over a narrow entrance of jagged rocks will lead you to a spectacle of Mother Nature in full display. Swim in the super clear waters under the canopy of blue skies and impressive rock formations enveloped by lush greenery.

Entrance to this lagoon is prohibited during the habagat season as the strong currents from the sea won’t allow the boats to dock near the entrance. It is best to visit during the months of December until May.

Aside from these three places, there are other natural attractions around Gigantes that could fill up your two-day island exploration itinerary.

You can also visit Gigantes Norte to climb the Spanish-era lighthouse standing at the northern tip as well as venturing on a spelunking adventure at the Pawikan Cave. Other island spots include Gigantes Sur, Bantigue Island Sandbar and the Antonia Beach.

Go Island Hopping in Gigantes Islands

Exploring the islands of Gigantes can be done in a day but for travelers who want to enjoy a more relaxed schedule, a two day island hopping itinerary is perfect.

Clambering your way to the top of the numerous soaring limestone cliffs dotting the peninsula of Gigantes will reveal a magnificent 360 degree view of the neighboring islands.

Antonia Beach, Gigantes Islands, Carles, Iloilo

Antonia Beach, Gigantes Islands, Carles, Iloilo

The climbing routes at Cabugao Gamay Island and at Antonia Beach are for those who are looking for an easy time, while the more experienced rock climbers can make use of their technical skills at the difficult route located in Gigantes Sur.

Other things to do include swimming, snorkeling, chilling and feasting on an array of fresh seafood.

What to Eat:

1. One-Peso Scallops

This is the seafood of choice on the islands and it comes in platefuls of sumptuous 1-peso pieces. An order of 100-200 pesos of scallops can already serve a small group of friends. Match it with the other seafood and grilled dishes and you’ve got yourself a lunch cooked in paradise.

2. Wasay-Wasay

Another popular seafood dish on the islands, these shells come in axe and boomerang-like shapes but dishes an oyster-like taste.

Wasay-Wasay Shells

Wasay-Wasay Shells

Ordering a bucket-full of Wasay-Wasay to pair with the 1-peso scallops and other mouthwatering dishes such as kilawin na tuna, grilled pork and buttered shrimps will elevate your island meal to a royal feast.

Where to Stay:

Travelers can choose to spend the night at Cabugao Gamay’s Maruja’s Flora Island Paradise Resort or pitch a tent at the other islands like Antonia Beach, provided you ask permission from the caretakers.

Other places to stay are situated at Gigantes Norte like the Rosewood Place and Arjan Beach Resort.

How to Get to Gigantes Islands:

Iloilo, Kalibo and Roxas City all provide bus and shuttle vans transportation to the municipality of Carles. Upon arriving at Carles port, make sure to visit the tourism office to pay for your environmental fee and arrange for your island hopping boats if you are traveling D-I-Y style.

From Iloilo City:

Iloilo City is the most popular gateway to the islands of Gigantes mainly because of the amount of travelers that pass through this city. Geographically though, it is the farthest option compared to Roxas City or Kalibo, Aklan. That said, the city provides adequate safe and convenient transportation means to the municipality of Carles.

Carles-bound Ceres buses and passenger shuttle vans start to leave as early as 4:00 am. These early morning trips shall give you enough time to catch the 11:00 am passenger boat sailing to Gigantes Norte.

Travel time from Iloilo to Carles takes around 3-4 hours.

Cebu Pacific Air flies multiple daily flights to Iloilo from Manila, Davao, Cebu, and General Santos City.

From Roxas City:

Roxas City is the nearest transportation hub to the municipality of Carles. The land trip takes only two hours aboard a Ceres bus or a passenger van. Cebu Pacific Air flies multiple daily flights to Roxas City.

From Kalibo and Caticlan:

Boracay revelers who wanted to extend their beach holiday can also go directly to Carles via Roxas City.

Passenger Boats from Carles to Gigantes North

Travelers coming on their own can take the single passenger boat that departs the port of Carles between 11 am and 12 noon. The same boat can be boarded going back to Carles port from Gigantes North the next day or two when it sails back between 2PM and 3PM.

At Gigantes North, you can easily rent out a boat from Arjay Beach Resort or Rosewood Place to take you island hopping around Gigantes Islands.

For a hassle-free trip, leading Gigantes Island tour provider Las Islas Travel and Tours (based in Roxas City) offers an all-in travel package to Gigantes Island.

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About Author

Mark Go

Marky Ramone Go is a travel-junkie, writer, and photographer based in the Philippines. Aside from contributing articles to various publications and websites, he narrates his experiences wandering the tropical paradise of the Philippines, the culturally rich regions of South East Asia, Sri Lanka, and India on his travel blog Nomadic Experiences. After Asia, he is keen on exploring South America and eventually hoping to trace Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" trail in the United States to Mexico.