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12 Best Things To Do In Carles, Philippines - Updated 2020

things to do in carles philippines
Liezl
Liezl
Updated

Laid-back island life with your pick of fresh seafood is what awaits you in Carles. This town, located in the Visayas group of islands in central Philippines, is where the Gigantes Islands are found, a remote group of islands that spells nothing but serenity amidst nature’s bounty.

1. Island hopping to Islas de Gigantes

Islas de Gigantes is a group of small islands off the coast of Carles town. The biggest of these islands are Gigantes Norte and Gigantes Sur. According to local legend, these islands had different names before but were eventually renamed after giant bones were supposedly discovered in one of the caves, thus the name “gigante” or giant in Spanish. Both islands have resorts that can be your base for your island adventures in Carles, or you can choose to just stay on the island and chill out on any of its beaches.

Islas de Gigantes

Address: Carles, Iloilo province, Philippines

Access: From Manila, fly to Roxas, Iloilo or Iloilo City. From Roxas, take the bus going to Estancia (about 2 to 3 hours). In Estancia, go to the Estancia port where you can ride the boat going to Gigantes. From Iloilo City, go to Tagbak terminal take the bus or van to Estancia port (about 4 hours). The boat ride from Estancia to Gigantes is about 2 hours.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines

2. Visit the old lighthouse on Gigantes Norte

The northern island called Gigantes Norte houses a centuries-old lighthouse which is still functioning to this day. Built during the Spanish colonial period, the 12 meter (39 feet) high tower has a keeper’s house and a focal point. The original lighthouse was destroyed in a typhoon in 2008 and was replaced by a solar-powered tower which is said to flash every ten-seconds to serve as a beacon for passing ships. The structure of the keeper’s house still stands. Visitors can reach the lighthouse by motorcycle if staying in Gigantes Norte, or by motorized boat from Gigantes Sur. Visitors are also allowed to climb the lighthouse deck which provides a spectacular view of the surrounding islands.

Old lighthouse on Gigantes Norte

Address: Gigantes Norte island, Carles, Iloilo

Price: no admission fee

Opening Hours: no operating hours

Duration: around 2 hours required.

Access: With a guide. take a motorcycle to the lighthouse if you are coming from one of the resorts in Gigantes Norte. Most resorts offer a great package which includes board and lodging and guided island tours.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines

3. Rock climbing at Gigantes Sur

Rock Climbing Equipment
Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

You can try to get a different kind of vantage point on Gigantes Sur. If you are fit and adventurous enough, try your hand at rock climbing. Local guides can show you the way to the “Bouvelard,” a row of limestone cliffs on the island. Unlike the lighthouse which provides a limited view of nearby islands, the view here is a spectacular 360 degree view of the Gigantes group of islands.

Boulevard

Address: Gigantes Sur, Carles, Iloilo

Access: From nearby beach resorts, such as those in Gigantes Norte, hire a motorized boat to take you to Gigantes Sur. Visitors typically spend a whole day here as there are other places of interest to explore on the island. No resorts can be found on this side of the island.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines

4. Take a dip at Tangke Saltwater Lagoon

Floating Happiness at Tangke Salt Water Lagoon Iloilo
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Emman Asuncion Fo... used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Although this is a much smaller lagoon compared to the ones in Palawan, the Tangke Lagoon can still leave you in awe. Its crystal clear waters are a sight to behold amidst the limestone rock formations around it. The lagoon is found on Gigantes Sur, which means you can spend the whole day on the island visiting other sites as well, such as the Boulevard. To reach the lagoon, visitors need to climb up the limestone rocks and go down to the lagoon. The best time to visit is during high tide when the waters are high, and you can take a dip while admiring the natural beauty around you.

Tangke Saltwater Lagoon

Address: Gigantes Sur, Carles, Iloilo

Price: no admission fee

Opening Hours: best time to visit is high tide, usually between 3pm to 4pm.

Duration: around 3 hours required.

Access: Take a motorized boat to Gigantes Sur.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines

5. Island hopping at Cabugao Gamay Island

Gigantes Island
Source: Photo by Flickr user Patrick Poculan used under CC BY 2.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Cabugao Gamay is one of the smaller islands in the Gigantes group of islands. An admission fee of 20 PHP (0.5 USD) is required upon landing on the island. The island has a unique shape which you can take a picture of from one vantage point on the island. Many a selfie has been taken here, which has the view of the whole island in the background. You can enjoy a swim or sunbathe on the tiny white sand beach after taking tons of pictures.

Cabugao Gamay Island

Address: Cabugao Gamay Island, Carles, Iloilo

Price: from 0.5 USD per person

Access: Take a motorized boat to Cabugao Gamay island.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines

6. Have a picnic at Antonia Beach

A Picnic on the Beach
Source: Photo by Flickr user Garry Knight used under CC BY 2.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

After an enjoyable but tiring morning exploring places of interest on Gigantes Sur, what better way to relax than to enjoy a picnic on a pristine white sand beach. Antonia Beach is found on Gigantes Sur as well, so your motorized boat can take you here and dock on the beach. Most tour packages would include food for lunch, but the local resort may have seafood for sale as well. The beach is also perfect for beach camping if you are up to staying the night.

Antonia Beach

Address: Antonia Beach, Gigantes Sur, Carles, Iloilo

Price: admission fee 0.5 USD per person

Access: Take a motorized boat to Antonia Beach, Gigantes Sur

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines

7. Marvel at the Bantigue Island sandbar

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Bantigue Island, for a small island, has the longest sandbar in the area. However, the sandbar only appears during low tide. Only then can you see its length. The best time to go to Bantigue is in the morning. You can spend it running up and down the sandbar, or swimming in the pristine waters around the island. There is a nearby community where you can buy fresh seafood if they happen to have their catch for the day.

Bantigue Island

Address: Bantigue Island, Carles, Iloilo

Price: no admission fee

Access: Take a motorized boat to Bantigue Island.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines

8. Explore Pawikan and Bakwitan Caves

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Bakwitan Cave on Gigantes Norte is so named because it used to be an evacuation area for locals when they were hiding from Japanese soldiers. To this day, it sometimes serves as a hiding place during strong storms and typhoons, because its caverns can provide temporary shelter for people. The cave however is known for the legend behind it. According to local folktales, gigantic bones were found in the cave, which was used as an ancient burial ground. This is where Gigantes Islands got its name.

Another cave to explore is on Gigantes Sur and is called Pawikan Cave. The system of caverns of Pawikan Cave is much larger than Bakwitan. Pawikan Cave requires a steep climb up a cliff, which may take around 30 to 45 minutes.

Pawikan and Bakwitan Caves

Address: Gigantes Sur and Norte, Carles, Iloilo

Price: from 10 USD for the tour guide, per cave

Access: Bakwitan Cave can be reached via motorcycle service within Gigantes Norte. Pawikan Cave requires a motorized boat ride to the southern side of Gigantes Sur.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines

9. Island hopping at Pulupandan Island

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Another tiny island, Pulupandan only has a lone coconut tree and a small hut. One side of the island however has dramatic rock formations that you can climb. The black rocks offer a great contrast to the blue waters and white sand around them. This island is usually a quick side trip during a day of island hopping but its rock formations set it apart from the other small islands.

Pulupandan Island

Address: Pulupandan Island, Carles, Iloilo

Price: no admission fee

Access: Take a motorized boat to the island.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines

10. Enjoy scallops at The Scallops Capital of the Philippines

Opened scallop shell
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user YuryKirienko used under CC0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Did you know that Carles, particularly Gigantes Islands, is dubbed as the Scallops Capital of Iloilo? The main source of livelihood in the municipality is scallops. In fact, they hold an annual Scallops Festival every March, to celebrate the importance of the scallop. Most of the harvest actually becomes frozen scallop meat for the gourmet market, but you can manage to score some as local fishermen sell them to visitors and local restaurants. You can choose to have them cooked anyway you want - their freshness will guarantee you a satisfying seafood meal.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines

11. Staycation in Solina Beach & Nature Resort

Enjoy lounging on hammocks while being surrounded by relaxing natural greens. Towering trees are around the area and a stunning view of the sea can be seen from the resort. If you want to catch the mesmerizing view of the sunrise or sunset, you may hang out on its viewing deck. Stay on a cabin tent or villa to enjoy the comfort with a touch of luxury that the resort provides. Should you want to be refreshed, you can dip on the pool and enjoy its jacuzzi for a light water massage. Taste their in-house restaurant specialties like ‘kinilaw,’ ‘ceviche,’ 'pakbet,’ and ‘beef lauya’ to tickle your tastebuds.

Solina Beach & Nature Resort

Address: Brgy, Provincial Road, Balasan - Carles Rd, Carles, 5019 Iloilo

Website: Solina Beach & Nature Resort


Solina Beach & Nature Resort

Address: Barangay Guinticgan, Iloilo

Shuttle service (additional charge) Evening entertainment Live music/performance Swimming pool Shallow end Internet services Room service Kid meals

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines

12. Sicogon Island

Sicogon Island
Source: Photo by user

Life on this island is simple which makes it a perfect place to slow down. Meet and mingle with the locals to learn about their life on the island and learn how to create handicrafts by using cogon as raw material. Also, enjoy your sea adventure experience by swimming, kayaking and kite surfing. Should you want to explore the heights, you can climb Mt. Upaw, the highest mountain on the island. You may also explore Tumaquin Island if you are into trekking with rock climbing and you will be rewarded with an unforgettable cliff diving experience.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Iloilo, Visayan Islands, Philippines

Explore one island at a time

Most package tours to Gigantes Islands offer board and lodging and tours of the island group, but if you really want to enjoy island life, nothing beats chilling and taking it all in, one island at a time.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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I am a freelance writer living in the summer capital of the Philippines, Baguio City. I am passionate about writing and living and anything in between.

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