Retracing the Route to Islas de Gigantes

Sa Islas de Gigantes ko natagpuan
 Ang wagas na kagandahan ng karagatan.
Mapa-isla o kailaliman man,
Pangako, ika'y aking babalikan.
Aboard Tiger Airway's A320 bound to Iloilo at dusk

It was not part of my travel plans for the year, nor was I aware that a sliver of heaven on earth lies at the northern part of Iloilo. Thanks to Tiger Airways (and to my unwavering impulsiveness) and in a snap I found myself off to the idyllic Islas de Gigantes.

Islas de Gigantes is a small group of islands in Carles, Iloilo at the northeastern part of Panay. It has two major islands: Gigantes Norte and Gigantes Sur. The islands and islets of Islas de Gigantes are actually closer to Gigantes Sur. Since there is no established accommodation in Gigantes Sur, it is practical to stay at the Gigantes Hideaway Inn in Brgy. Asluman, Gigantes Norte – the only decent accommodation at Islas de Gigantes as of this writing. Gigantes Hideaway Inn is owned by the family of Joel Decano (09184685006), the tourism officer of Carles, Iloilo.

Islas de Gigantes is accessible via local flights to Iloilo or Roxas. We chose the Iloilo route because there are more flights available from Manila to Iloilo than Manila to Roxas, although it could have been faster if we took the Roxas route as it is only two hours away from Estancia, the gateway to Islas de Gigantes. Iloilo City is about four hours away from Estancia. We touched down at around 6:55 am. 

Panay Island (from GoogleMaps)
From Iloilo Airport, ride a van to SM and tell the driver to drop you off at Jaro Cathedral. The fare is Php 50 per pax. This is a cheaper alternative than taking a cab which costs Php 350/trip. From the Jaro Cathedral, board a jeepney going to Tagbak Terminal. Fare is Php 8 per pax.

At Tagbak Terminal, there are vans and buses (Ceres) bound to Estancia. If you’re there before 7am, you will be able to catch the aircon bus to Estancia. In our case, we missed it. The next aircon bus would be at 1pm. This left us with a choice between van and an ordinary bus. We chose to board the ordinary bus because we thought the van is too crowded, and we won’t be comfortable for the duration of the four-hour drive. However, based from our experience, the travel time via bus is lengthier than by van (which we took on our way back) because it has to pick up passengers along the way, and the ride is bumpy and uncomfortable as the driver maneuvered the bus as if we were riding the Hogwarts Express! The bus ride took four hours while the van took only 3 hours. Lesson learned, take the van, and if you’re a group of three, pay for the entire row for added comfort. Fare is Php 150 each (be it bus or van), so you’ll just have to add Php 50 each and you’re sitting like a princess already on your way to paradise!

Ordinary Ceres Bus at Tagbak Terminal

When you reach the Estancia terminal, ride a tricycle going to the port, (or the market if you want to have lunch and buy some supplies first). Fare is Php 10/pax. The boat “St. Michael” bound to Brgy. Asluman, Gigantes Norte leaves the port at 2pm. This is the only trip to Gigantes Norte, so make sure you are at the port before 2pm. To be safe, go there at 1pm!

Thai Sizzling Chicken at Lucky Sizzling Plate Restobar

In our case, we arrived at the port at around 12 noon so we went to the market first and ate at Lucky Sizzling Plate Restobar. It is owned and managed by Richard, a former assistant manager at a famous restaurant in SM Megamall. There were rice meals ranging from Php 65 to 70, and ala carte meals good for two to three pax at Php 65 to 95. You just have to order rice at Php 8 per cup. We ordered the Thai Sizzling  Chicken (deep-fried chicken wrapped in pandan leaves), rice and softdrinks. As far as I remember, my share costs around Php 70. Not bad for a decent meal! If you wish to order food in advance, you may reach Richard at 09072865785. He said he can also help arrange tours to Sicogon Island (an island midway of Estancia and Islas de Gigantes which is said to be the Boracay of the late 70s and early 80s where the movie “Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa” was shot.  Tetchie Agbayani’s Playboy magazine centerfold was also done in this island). However, I cannot vouch for his service since we already have a contact in Islas de Gigantes, and we did not hire him.

Richard in white polo

After eating lunch, we headed to the supermarket in front of Lucky Sizzling and bought our supplies for the rest of the trip. Most of the blogs we have read said we need  to bring drinking water as it is scarce in the island, so we hoarded some bottles, as well as some liquor and chips enough for the duration of our stay. However, when we arrived at Gigantes Hideaway Inn, Joel said that they had actually worked on a good water system so that guests won’t have to bring anything (except for personal belongings) when going to the island. Even the water in the bathrooms is clean, safe and potable. It turned out that the blogs we had read had their base camps in Gigantes Sur, where there is no decent accommodation yet, and the supply of potable water is limited.

The busy port  of Estancia

At 1:30 pm, we were already aboard the boat where we also met Jingle, the assigned tour guide who will accompany us to Gigantes Hideaway Inn. The boat left at a little past 2pm. Should you miss the boat, your options are either stay for the night at any of the resorts in Estancia (there are a few quaint resorts there), or rent a boat which costs around Php 4,500 and up depending on the size. However, based from what we experienced, I wouldn’t recommend renting a small boat because the waves can get really rough. The passenger boat, St. Michael, is already a big and sturdy boat but we can still feel the waves coming from a sort of a criss-cross direction! So, unless you want to feel like clothes in a spin dryer, be at the port before 2pm to catch the one and only passenger vessel. Fare is Php 80 per pax.

The only passenger vessel to Brgy. Asluman, Gigantes Norte

On our way to Gigantes Norte, Jingle helped us in deciphering the map which my friend had printed from the net. He showed us where Sicogon Island is, as well as Mt. Manaphag in Concepcion.  

A fishing vessel backdropped by Mt. Manaphag

From afar we can already see Islas de Gigantes – shaped like a sleeping giant on a bed of raging waves. It took us about two hours to reach the port at Brgy. Asluman, Gigantes Norte.

Islas de Gigantes

 The port, like the rest of the island, is so quiet and quaint, opposite of what the port at Estancia is. There’s no wharf at the port so during low tide, people (and we’re not exempted)  have to take a bamboo raft to reach the shore. From the shore, we took a single motorcycle to reach our base camp for this adventure – Gigantes Hideaway Inn.
The port at Brgy. Asluman, Gigantes Norte

Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn
Brgy. Asluman, Gigantes Norte, Carles, Iloilo

Joel Decano - 09184685006



  1. actually dapat pupunta kami dito but were running out of time .. can't wait for your next post ...


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