Traveling to Islas de Gigantes can take long – usually at least three hours, not including the plane or ferry ride if you are coming from Manila or elsewhere outside Panay Island.
It is best then to stay overnight in an accommodation in Carles, the municipality where the Gigantes islands are.
This is what my friends and I did during our own Gigantes adventure, so we were able to wake up bright and early the next day for our island hopping tour.
My friends and I stayed at Solina Beach & Nature Resort, and I would personally recommend it, too, for accessibility, comfort, and more.
Below are things I love about Solina – the same reasons why I would recommend it.
1) It is just 10 minutes away from the jump-off to Gigantes.
Solina is accessible to Bancal port, the jump-off for Gigantes island hopping tours. The resort is just around 10 minutes away by tricycle or hired van.
Coming from a day trip in Capiz, our group arrived in Carles, Iloilo, in the evening, and we had a chance to get a good night’s sleep before an early day of island hopping – we could sleep in if we wanted as the port was just near!
2) Its rooms and amenities are comfortable, with a touch of luxury.
Our group’s accommodation was a cabin tent, a cross between a glamping tent and a hotel room. Its exterior is covered by tent fabric, including its ceiling, but its glass doors and its walls from the inside look like those in a hotel room. And, the beds are soft and comfy, too, like typical hotel beds. The toilet and bath has the usual creature comforts.
Our rooms are good for four. There are other cabin tents, or pods (for the smaller rooms) good for two people. Prices start below P4,000 per room as of this writing. For those who want more comfort and luxury, Solina has villas, too.
In addition to its beautiful rooms, Solina has a luxurious pool with a view of the beach, too! It is picture-perfect both day and night.
The resort also has amenities for kids, including a beautiful kiddie pool.
Also, what made our stay more comfortable at Solina is the convenience of dining at its in-house restaurant, Angga. Here we had our buffet breakfast and dinner from its extensive menu.
More of our spread during dinner. The kinilaw, or ceviche, (top right) is also a restaurant specialty.
3) It has beautiful natural surroundings.
What makes Solina beautiful is not just its facilities but its relaxing natural greens and blues – the towering trees around the 7.8-hectare property, and the bright sea at the edge of the resort.
4) It has taken steps to care for the environment.
Solina preserved the resort’s beautiful natural surroundings by not cutting down trees in the area. The resort is designed and its facilities laid out to complement with nature as much as possible.
Some of the furniture at Solina, too, is made from reclaimed wood from fallen trees during Yolanda. Our table at Angga Restaurant is one such example.
Also, during our visit, the process of replacing plastic straws with reusable metal straws for drinks was in the works. Now, the resort has started to implement it.
During Solina-organized island hopping tours, too, biodegradable and compostable wooden utensils are used instead of plastic ones.
5) It has a heart for the community.
The resort’s name Solina comes from the combination of the names “Solis” and “Lina.” Solis is the surname of resort co-owner Joseph Solis, while Lina is from the name of the first owner of the resort’s land.
A native of Carles, Iloilo, Mr. Solis did not forget his roots. Even though he went to Manila to work, he said that “my heart always belonged to Carles.”
“Building this resort is my way of giving back to my hometown. This is the legacy I want to leave behind,” he added.
True to his love for his hometown, Solina employs a majority of locals from Carles, around 85% of the resort’s 50 employees.
I have a soft spot for tourism that has a heart for the local community and the environment, so I give my thumbs up to Solina. I look forward to the things they will do next.
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Contact numbers: +63 917-150-0570 / +63 939-918-2160 / 02 664-7515
ANGGA RESTAURANT (in-house in Solina Resort, but open to walk-in customers)
Operating hours: 7 am to 9 pm
Stay at least two nights so you have enough time to enjoy the pool and the beach and the trees around Solina. Spend the first day just walking around and lounging in the pool or relaxing in a hammock, then get up early for your Gigantes island hopping adventure. Catch the sunset by the beach when you get back from Gigantes, and swim at the pool again by night. You can also have drinks at the resort bar near the beach.
(Should you need help arranging your Gigantes adventure and also your overnight stay at Solina, contact local tour operator Las Islas Travel & Tours, which also has a focus on responsible tourism. You can also check out our P999 budget tour and itinerary here.)
LAS ISLAS TRAVEL & TOURS
Contact numbers: 0995-3357310 / 0929-595-8870
Office address: 1st floor, Bancal Public Market Building, Bancal Port (This is the jump-off to the Gigantes island hopping tour)
How to get there:
Solina Beach & Nature Resort is accessible by flight via Roxas City or Iloilo and land travel.
If coming from Roxas City, you can take a tricyle to the Integrated Terminal in Pueblo de Panay, where there are buses and vans going to Balasan in Estancia. Travel time is about an hour and a half. Fare is around P70. From Balasan, take a tricycle to Solina.
If coming from Iloilo City, take a jeep to Jaro, Iloilo and get off at Tagbak Terminal. Take a bus or van going to Carles. Fare is around P200 or less. Travel time is around 3-4 hours.
My friends and I are also grateful to Department of Tourism Region 6 (especially Atty. Helen Catalbas) for welcoming us to Panay and also providing our transportation.