You’ve surely heard of Boracay and Palawan – two of the Philippines’ most popular destinations for international travellers. You may have heard about Caramoan too, being one of the locations for the international TV series, Survivor. But amongst the Philippines’ other 7,105 islands is an archipelago of 10 islands with beaches as beautiful as anywhere else in the Philippines – it’s called Isla De Gigantes.
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You can’t visit Boracay or Palawan in one day, but it is possible to do the Isla De Gigantes on a one-day itinerary, providing you get to the mainland staging point the night before (or be prepared to make a very early start on the day of your trip).
a Few facts about Isla de Gigantes
The Isla De Gigantes are nowhere near as crowded as other popular beach destinations in the Philippines because they are fairly remote, requiring a two-hour drive from Roxas City or a three-hour drive from Iloilo City and then a little under two hours in a local banca boat to reach them. But their astonishing beauty makes the long trip to the Gigantes Islands worthwhile.
One Day in Isla de Gigantes Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do on your one day in Isla de Gigantes. Choose a tour that includes the following places, because these are definitely the highlights of any visit to this part of the world.
Sandbars are always a favourite. There’s something thrilling and wonderful about the thought that you’re walking along a path that’s submerged underwater at high tide! Of course, the Gigantes Islands have their own and you can find it at Bantigue Island. The Bantigue Sandbar is one of the longest ones in the country so don’t miss the opportunity to walk it. Take advantage of the crystal clear waters on either side and have a swim too.
This beach may just be like many other beaches in the Philippines with its powdery white sand and clear waters perfect for snorkeling, but there’s one thing that makes Antonia Beach quite special. Here, you can indulge in extremely cheap fresh seafood. This is why the Gigantes Islands are also known as the scallops capital of the Philippines. You can buy scallops here (and in a few other other locations in Gigantes) for only one peso! Other activities at Antonia Beach include beach camping, beach volleyball, and spelunking at the nearby caves.
If you want to live out that fairy-tale vibe and know a little bit more about some of the Philippines’ myths, then don’t miss Tangke Lagoon. It’s a hidden saltwater pool behind huge cliffs and limestone formations at Isla De Gigantes Sur. Locals have their own stories surrounding this attraction, so if you’re ever curious about a few myths and legends, ask about it from them. Don’t forget to wear aqua shoes that are lightweight but durable at the same time. You will be climbing a few rocks and limestone karsts, so it’s best to keep your feet safe. Also, Tangke Lagoon is even more stunning when the tides are high. Ask your bangkero or boatman to take you there during high tide if you can.
Cabugao Dako Island
This island is relatively smaller, but it displays the beauty of the Philippines perfectly. Like El Nido or Caramoan, Cabugao Dako is also rich in towering limestone formations that serves as the ultimate attraction of the place. If you’re after tranquility and a relaxing time amidst nature, then Cabugao Dako is the place. There isn’t really much to do here, other than to simply enjoy the peace and quiet of the beach while marveling at the beautiful views.
The moment you do a Google search of Isla De Gigantes, you’ll see a common iconic photo of a long island taken from a bird’s-eye view. In fact, most people think this island is what the name ‘Isla De Gigantes’ refers to. But this island is actually called Cabugao Gamay and is usually the first stop on most of the tours. What makes this island stand out is its elongated shape. Looking like two islands connected by a sandbar, Cabugao Gamay’s both sides are absolutely safe to swim in. You can also enjoy the sunset on one side and look forward to the sunrise on the other if you decide to take a beach camping option.
To take that iconic photo, you are required to go to a view deck which requires a little climbing, so make sure you have durable footwear for it. To take the ultimate selfies and vacation photos, you might want to bring along an underwater camera with you because the water is so clear here, you can take some wonderful photographs.
Gigantes Norte Island
Gigantes Norte is one of the biggest islands in the group, and this is where most of the resorts and accommodation options are. The main attraction of this island is Bakwitan Cave (you can do spelunking here, too) and the Spanish-style lighthouse, perfect for picture-taking. Here’s another local story about the name Gigantes Islands: it is said that, long ago, coffins were found in Bakwitan Cave and they held insanely big human bones inside, hence the name Gigantes Islands or Islands of the Giants.
You’ll find that the Gigantes Islands are full of surprises and new experiences at every turn. Although many people do visit the islands on a day-trip, the ideal way to see them is to spend two nights on Gigantes Norte and take an island hopping tour on the day in between. But if you want to do them on a day-trip without spending money on overnight accommodation, then you’ll need to get to Bancal Wharf, Carles, on the mainland by 9:00 am.
Where to stay in Isla de Gigantes?
Solina Beach & Nature Resort
Barangay Guinticgan, Iloilo, 5019 Carles
One of the best resorts in the region, Solina Beach & Nature Resort offers an amazing outdoor pool with a great lounge area and views of the sea. The resort is located in Carles so it’s perfect for those who would like to explore Isla de Gigantes on a day trip.
Sol de Maria Boutique Resort
Barangay Dayhagan, Iloilo, 5019 Carles
Located in Carles, Sol de Maria Boutique Resort offers an outdoor pool, barbecue and terrace, as well as the on-site restaurant. It’s situated just next to the beach therefore, you can enjoy stunning sea views from certain rooms.
Espacio Verde Resort
Dayao, 5800 Roxas City
Espacio Verde Resort is another resort perfect for those who would like to explore Isla de Gigantes. It is located in Roxas City and offers an outdoor pool and terrace as well.
Extra TIPS FOR VISITING ISLA DE GIGANTES
– Be warned – there are very limited places to buy anything to eat or drink on most of the islands, so it’s best to join a tour so that you can eat a barbecue lunch which is always included with the island hopping tours. Just google Isla De Gigantes tours and you’ll find heaps of options.
– You’ll be hopping on and off boats and spending a lot of time in the water, so make sure your luggage is waterproof and you bring plenty of sunscreen. To protect your gadgets, phone and camera from salt water and sand, it’s best to store them in water-resistant pouches inside your travel bag. Australian travelers would be wise to buy them online from Luggage Direct before they leave home, because they are of higher quality than those available in the Philippines.
– And don’t forget to pack a beach towel, aqua shoes and snorkeling gear if they will not be supplied on your tour.
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I didn’t realise until I read this article that the Isla de Gigantes were so easily accessible from Roxas City. If coming from Manila, that seems to be to be a much better option than going via Iloilo City. This destination has been on my list of places to see for a while now. Does anyone have any recommendations on the best value-for-money island hopping tours out of Carles? They seem to range from as low as 1,000 pesos right up to 7,000 pesos per person, so there must be a big difference in what you get for your money.
Hi, this is from Espacio Verde Resort and thank you for having us as one of your recommended places to stay when travelling to Isla de Gigantes. Furthermore this is a great write up about the hidden sanctuary of the Panay Island.
We always include most recommended acommodation! Thank you for your comment.