Ever since I saw Islas de Gigantes back on November 8, 2014, I fell in love with the place. It is now on top of my list of favorite destinations in the Philippines. And to honor Gigantes, I am making my first travel guide for it.
HOW TO GET TO ISLAS DE GIGANTES:
Islas de Gigantes is politically a part of Carles, which is the northernmost town of Iloilo. However, the passenger boat going to and from Gigantes Norte is stationed at the Estancia port. I have learned from locals and other visitors I have met that private boats can be rented at the Carles port but at a steeper price.
The passenger boat only has one trip from Gigantes and another one trip from the Estancia port. The boat from Estancia leaves at 1:30pm (I have never taken the passenger boat going to Gigantes but I was first told by a staff member on my first visit that it leaves at 2pm; however, I was told the last time I was there that it now leaves at 1:30pm) and the boat from Gigantes leaves at 9am.
The town of Estancia can be accessed from either Iloilo City or Roxas City. All buses and vans are stationed at the Estancia bus terminal. You would need to hire a tricycle to get to the Estancia port. The fare for the tricycle is P10 per person.
From Iloilo City to Estancia:
From the Tagbak Terminal, you can take a Ceres bus going to Estancia. I have not seen any air-conditioned bus going to Estancia, so if you want to be more comfortable, you can just take a two-stop air-conditioned going to Sara and just ride another Ceres bus from Sara to Estancia. The fare from Iloilo City directly to Estancia is P152 and travel time is three hours. I have not tried taking the two-stop bus going to Sara but it looked easy.
You may also take the UV Express vans going to Estancia. The passenger vans are stationed on the left end of Tagbak terminal (if you’re facing the terminal). They usually wait until the van gets full but it does not take that long. The fare is P150 and travel time is two and a half hours. Less leg room though.
From Roxas City to Estancia:
From the Lawaan Terminal, you may take a Ceres bus going to Estancia. The fare is about P80 and travel time is around two and a half hours. (Source: freedomwall.net)
I have also seen UV Express vans plying the Roxas City-Estancia route. I have no information though as to the fare and travel time, but I am presuming it is faster than the bus and costs just around the same.
From Manila to Iloilo City or Roxas City:
Both Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have daily flights from Manila to either of these cities. There are more flights going to and from Iloilo City though with only one to two daily flights going to Roxas City. However, I have heard if you start from Roxas, the ride is shorter.
Since the Iloilo International Airport is located in Cabatuan which is several kilometers away from the city center (just like many other airports around the country), you may still need to take public transportation going to the city center. For more information, you may go to Explore Iloilo’s site.
2GOTravel has scheduled ferries every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from Manila to Iloilo City and every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from Iloilo City to Manila.
Philtranco has daily air-conditioned and ordinary buses from Cubao and Pasay. The AC bus leaves the Cubao terminal at 10am and the Pasay terminal at 12noon. The regular bus leaves Cubao at 12noon and Pasay at 2pm. The fare is P762.30 and P623.70, respectively. Notice how they just interchanged the digits. Neat! (Source: phbus.com)
According to this Facebook post of Ceres Liner dated October 2012, there are buses plying the Cubao-Iloilo route. There is even one from Cubao to Estancia. I will update this guide as soon as I have clearer information regarding this.
From Bacolod City to Iloilo City:
Weesam Express, OceanJet and SuperCat have several daily trips from Bacolod to Iloilo. You can just go directly to the BREDCO port in Bacolod and select the most convenient trip for you. The first trip is at 6am and the last trip is around 5pm. These ferries are stationed at the Lapuz port in Iloilo. The first and last trips from Iloilo to Bacolod are around the same time.
RORO is available from the BREDCO port in Bacolod to Dumangas port. From Dumangas, you may just then go to the highway and wait for the bus there. (Source: exploreiloilo.com) According to my friend, fare is only P70.
There is also a ferry from the Daan Banwa port in Victorias City in Negros Occidental going to the Culasi Port in Ajuy. You may also then go to the highway in Ajuy and wait for the bus going to Estancia.
From Cebu City to Iloilo City:
Cebu Pacific has daily flights from Cebu City to Iloilo City and vice versa.
Cokaliong Shipping Lines has trips from Cebu City to Iloilo City every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 7pm and every Wednesday at 6pm. They also have trips from Iloilo to Cebu every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday at 7pm.
From Cagayan de Oro City to Iloilo City:
Cebu Pacific has direct flights from Cagayan de Oro to Iloilo and vice versa every Monday and Friday.
From Davao City to Iloilo City:
Cebu Pacific has daily flights from Davao to Iloilo and vice versa.
From Puerto Princesa City to Iloilo City:
There are RORO ferries available from Puerto Princesa to Iloilo via Cuyo Island every Thursday and Sunday and from Iloilo to Puerto Princesa every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. (Source: exploreiloilo.com)
WHERE TO STAY IN ISLAS DE GIGANTES:
The largest and the most popular resort in Islas de Gigantes is the Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn. You may contact Mr. Joel Decano, who is the tourism officer of Carles and the owner of the resort, at 09184685006 to book a cottage/room and everything else while on the island. The entire package, which usually includes the passenger boat fare, full-board meals, cottage, habal-habal rides, spelunking, trip to the lighthouse and a guide during the entire stay, would cost depending on the number of people in your group. Based on my experience, we paid P2730 per person during my first time when there were only two of us and P2025 per person during my second time where there were five of us.
I highly suggest to contact Mr. Decano especially if you want to take a private boat instead. He can arrange a boat for you at a lower price. I have seen some visitors who was not able to enjoy much of the place because they just went directly to Gigantes.
There are also other homestays and resorts in Gigantes Norte but the Hideaway Tourist Inn is the best.
WHAT TO DO IN ISLAS DE GIGANTES:
If you were able to contact Mr. Decano ahead of time, one of his guides who will be assigned to you or your group, will take care of the itinerary. But the usual activities include:
– Swimming and snorkeling at Bantigue Sandbar (or simply the Sandbar).
– Hill climbing and swimming at Cabugao Island where that iconic image of Gigantes is taken.
– Swimming at Tinagong Baybay which is the best beach I have ever been so far (not on the usual itinerary but can be visited if you have plenty of time). – Swimming, snorkeling and picnic lunch at Antonia Beach.
– Swimming and cliff diving at the Tangke Lagoon.
– Going up the lighthouse.
– Spelunking at Bakwitan Cave.
*If you have anything to add, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.