If you think Iloilo is all about heritage sights, think again. Gigantes Islands off the coast of Carles has island-studded sea, perfect for temporarily disconnecting from your harried lifestyle. Although it is geographically part of Iloilo province, the quickest and most convenient way to reach these islands is via Capiz.
What to do in Gigantes Island?
1. Go to Island Hopping
Since beaches are the star attraction on Gigantes Islands, the best way to soak up nature here is to go island hopping. During our visit, we availed of Las Islas Travel Tours Gigantes Islands Tour Package which includes an overnight stay at Maruja Flora’s Island Resort Paradise on Cabugao Gamay Island, land tour on Gigantes Norte Island and a visit to the following islands: Cabugao Dako, Antonia Beach, Bantigue Sandbar and Tangke Lagoon.
Las Islas Travels and Tours is the only-DOT accredited tour operator in Gigantes Group of Islands, their office is based in Roxas City, Capiz. Aside from Gigantes Island private tours, Las Islas offer Gigantes Island tour package for as low as PHP 999 per person during weekends of April and May and holidays.
Las Islas Travel and Tours
Address: Punta Dulog, Pueblo de Panay, Brgy. Lawaan. Roxas City, Capiz
Contact#: (G) +63 995 335 7310, (S) +63 929 595 8870
2. Climb Cabugao Gamay
Some of the beaches on Gigantes Islands are so unbelievably gorgeous that you have to see them in person to believe they’re not photoshopped. One of them is Cabugao Gamay, the most photographed of all the islands here. Luckily, this is where we stayed at overnight, and since it was off-peak season when we paid a visit, we had the island all to ourselves.
Cabugao Gamay Island has an Instagram-worthy stretch of palm-fringed shore sandwiched by two limestone hills. Visitors usually hike up one of the hills here for a scenic view of the island itself including the nearby Bantique Sandbar. Just be careful when holding on and stepping on the rocks because they are quite sharp, a make-shift ladder was installed recently near the summit to make the ascent easier.
3. Cliff Dive at Cabugao Dako
“Dako” in local language means big, while “gamay” means small. At Cabugao Dako, we were treated to a swirling mix of azure water and powdery white sand.
This is by far my favorite island on Gigantes because of its irresistible waters, ideal for swimming. I can probably hang out here the whole day. While I enjoyed swimming at Cabugao Dako, my friends tried cliff diving and they were absolutely thrilled.
4. Get a Tan at Bantigue Sandbar
On a sunny day, Bantigue Island‘s long stretch of talcum powder fine sand lapped by cerulean sea shimmers, beckoning tourists to lounge on its vanishing shoreline. Late in the afternoon, Bantique Sandbar is an impeccable place to just chill, soak up the tropical vibe and catch the last light of the day.
5. Swim at Tangke Lagoon
Tangke Lagoon was closed for a few months to let its beauty recuperate from the maddening crowd. Luckily, it was just re-opened to the public during our visit. Getting into the cove was adventure in itself, six mighty locals struggled to assist us to cross from our boat to the makeshift port. But it was all worth the trouble, as the lagoon is so unbelievably gorgeous. At Tangke Lagoon, limestone cliff drops hundreds of feet into the sea, surrounded by crashing surf. But the chaos outside is contrasted by the serenity inside the cove. Here, placid, emerald green water surrounded by karst formation will seduce you to take a dip like you have your own private pool.
6. Snorkel at Antonia Beach
Because it was the off-peak season when we visited, I didn’t get to see Antonia Beach in its full glory. But, if you’re looking for a good spot for snorkeling in Gigantes, this is the place to be. Just bring your own snorkeling gear as the ones for rent here (Php 50 per snorkeling gear) sadly need some scrubbing. Don’t forget to wear aqua shoes too to protect your feet.
7. Visit the Lighthouse
Hidden on the northern part of Gigantes Norte is a Spanish-era lighthouse ruins. The place is an impeccable spot for photo op. Climbing the lighthouse tower is prohibited though.
Gigantes Group of Islands is not all about beaches, there are seemingly untouched grottoes here too. Pawikan Cave has expansive hollow which makes spelunking here quite manageable, meanwhile, Bakwitan Cave on Gigantes Norte Island is recommended for the adrenaline junkies.
9. Feast on Seafood
It’s a sin not to eat fresh seafood while in Gigantes. This place is not dubbed as the Scallop Capital of the Philippines for nothing.
Imagine you can buy scallops here for Php 1 per piece! Yes, way cheaper than those sold in Iloilo and Capiz. Also try the freshly caught wasay-wasay, fresh lip black oysters, its shell is shaped like an axe. I find its taste similar to mussel.
10. Catch the Sunset
Just when I thought that life couldn’t get better than swimming in Cabugao Dako or taking a dip in Tangke Lagoon, we are cradled at day’s end by the blend of tangerine and red sky reflecting on the sea. It’s undeniably one of the most poignant take-home memories when in Gigantes Island, so don’t miss it!