Isla Gigantes, Philippines, Beach

Isla Gigantes: Panay’s hidden gem

Isla Gigantes is a quiet and really laid back paradise, the water is crystal clear, the sand as white as it gets and the people super friendly. The island is actually made of two islands, Isla Gigantes del Sur and Isla Gigantes del Norte, both surrounded by small islands, most of which are uninhabited. It’s surprisingly unfamous with foreign tourists but the Filipinos know all about it and it’s a common destination for city people to come and unwind for a couple of days.

 Isla Gigantes, Iloilo, Philipinnes 1

The Islands are called Gigantes because locals believe that giants used to live there, one female (Gigantes Norte) and one male (Gigantes Sur), husband and wife, the islets around being their siblings.

Isla Gigantes is also an epicenter of marine biodiversity, it’s one of the most diversified areas in the world in terms of corals and marine life. Unfortunately, there’s no dive center there and weirdly snorkeling is not part of the island hopping tour.

Antonia Beach, Isla Gigantes, Iloilo, Philipinnes 1

The islands there are really remote, they only got electricity last year on the main ones, the cell reception is really bad, and the living conditions pretty basic. So if you’re more into fancy resorts, a day trip from Carles might be better. It’s the perfect place for nature lovers and also for scallops’ enthusiasts, that’s their main food, so be prepared to eat it a lot and discover at least 10 different ways to cook it. People from outside of Panay are super happy as it costs a fortune back home.

Isla Gigantes, Iloilo, Philipinnes

The island hopping is really amazing, the beaches are surprisingly very clean and untouched, and the landscape is just breathtaking. I had an amazing time there and I’m glad I had the opportunity to go. Here is what to expect:

Pulupandan Islet

Pulupandan, Isla Gigantes, Iloilo, Philipinness

This really tiny islet is only 25 square meters during high tide and not much more during low tide. Only one family lives here and there’s only one coconut tree, so not much shade. It’s a nice spot to take pictures and take a look at the neighboring islands. The island used to be filled with Pulupandan trees, hence the name.

Antonia Beach

Antonia beach, Isla gigantes, Iloilo, Philippines

This beach is part of Gigantes Sur but is only accessible by boat. It has a back to back beach, the place is perfect to relax and swim. There’s a resort there if you want to stay and they also offer water activities such as jet skiing and banana boat.

Bantigue Sandbar

Bantigue sandbar, Isla gigantes, Iloilo, Philippines

Sandbars are really commons in the Philippines and they always make a good tourist attraction. This one is pretty big, on one side of it, the water is really deep but the other side is great for swimming, the water is so transparent. You can also explore the island, most part is still really wild, only a couple of people live here.

Cabugao Gamay

Bantigue sand bar, Isla Gigantes, Iloilo, Philipinnes

This island is one of the most famous attraction, this small island has a back to back beach and is bordered by two big rock formation. They built a staircase in one of them so you can get an amazing view from up there.

Tangke

Tangke, Isla Gigantes, Iloilo, Philipinnes

This natural lagoon is really amazing, it’s an open cave carved out of the stone, the water is fresh and crystal clear. The best time to go is during high tide, in the afternoon. On your way back to the boat there’s a spot where you can jump from the cliffs.

Pawikan Cave

Pawikan Cave, Isla Gigantes, Iloilo, Philippines

To reach the cave you’ll have to trek for about an hour, bring mosquito repellent, the forest is full of them. On the way, you can see people “making” charcoal. The cave is really big and really high, there are openings at the top so you can see clearly inside. It feels a bit like entering a lost world, really nice and very spectacular.

How to organize your trip to Isla Gigantes

This is the first time I say this, but the best way to explore the area is through a package tour. I always try to avoid those and do everything on my own, but in this case, the package tour was cheaper and easier to organize. If you want to go on your own, the boat to go is 600 pesos one way, plus you’ll have to arrange transportation to your resort, most of which are only accessible by boat, the resorts are not cheap and once you’re there you have to eat at the resort which is also expensive, and you’ll pay minimum 1000 pesos for island hopping. The package tour is only 1700 pesos per head, the price drops a bit if you’re a group, but you’ll still be joining a larger group. As a said it’s mostly Filipino tourists, so you’ll make tons of friends and have a lot of fun, it’s perfect if you’re solo traveling.

Antonia Beach, Isla Gigantes, Iloilo, Philipinnes

Another option is to go through the tourist office in Carles, they can arrange a day trip island hopping from the city proper for 2500 pesos for a boat good for 10, bring your own food and water. They can also arrange an overnight. It’s perfect if you’re a large group, they also have bigger boats if needed.

Isla gigantes Sur at low tide, Iloilo, Philippines

As the island hopping starts at 9am (try to go sooner if you book your own boat so you will avoid the crowd) you’ll have to spend one night in Carles, I stayed at Jaja’s Garden, for 350 pesos a night you’ll get a nice room good for two (add 200 pesos for a third person) and good breakfast. The hotel is facing the beach, there are a lot of hammocks and it’s really quiet. I really loved the place, the only down point is the lack of wifi but apart from this, it’s a great place to rest.

Don’t know where to go next? Check out my post about things to do in Iloilo.

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