Pristine clean waters, pale fine sand, and uncrowded beaches. Those are what Bantayan Island boasts of. Water so clean that their waters near the port are still so blue and you can see the bottom. Located at the Northern part of Cebu, it’s pretty far from the city. The perfect getaway if you love the quiet and the sea. Transportation, accommodation, things to do, places to see, and everything in between!
General Information on Bantayan
Bantayan Island has two very famous towns. The Santa Fe town (which is where the famous resorts and beaches are) and the Bantayan town (which the capital of the island is). Both are very beautiful and charming in their own rights. When you get to the island, be sure to visit both towns!
First step is to get to Cebu/Mactan Airport. There are a multitude of airlines that land, especially since it’s an international airport. Cebu Pacific offers really inexpensive flights from Manila, so this is a great option if you’re saving.
Second step is getting to the North Bus Terminal to ride a Hagnayan bus. The easiest way to get there is to take a cab. It takes around 15 minutes (if there is no traffic) from the airport.
Third is the longest and most arduous of all. The freaking long 3.5 to 4 hour bus ride to the Hagnayan Pier. Along the way, there s one stop that lets you stretch your legs, use the bathroom, or get something to eat and drink. If you can sleep in a moving vehicle, please do so. It’s a tiring ride and 6 hours is no joke.
When you finally get to Hagnayan, all that’s left is a 1 hour 45 minute ferry. It’s a hardy travel, but the pristine waters, clean sand, and helpful locals are well worth it.
In Bantayan itself, there are a few ways to explore the area. You can opt to rent bicycles and motorcycles to go anywhere you please (Php100 per day). Of course, you can also hire a habal-habal (which to say is you ride tandem on a motorcycle) but prices vary. You can walk to their main road and take the jeepney for Php10. Or you can ride the tricycle to get to your destinations around town (Php30 around the own, Php150 outside town).
I am assuming that you’ll be staying in Santa Fe town because it’s their tourist capital. It’s where most of the resorts are located.
My favorite place to stay here is in Kota Beach. It’s pleasant, private, and very beautiful. It’s not the cheapest, but it is worth the price, for me. I always stay in the beach front cottages because of the stunning view.
There are, of course a lot of places to stay at aside from there. If you walk around the Santa Fe town, you’ll find a lot of options that suit your budget and style.
If you would like an advanced booking, this might help!
Things to do & Places to Visit
To get to Virgin Island, you need a boat ride. Your hotel can arrange your boats for you, but almost all the locals know someone that you can hire to bring you there. The normal cost is Php800 for a medium sized boat that can fit around 10 people. Included in that are snorkel mask rentals and your boatman can grill your seafood (which you can get from the market). Do note that you shoulder the cost of food, charcoal, etc.
The island does have a small carinderia that sell food and drinks. There’s also a small sari-sari store that carries little things you might have forgotten like matches, soy sauce, shampoo, and the like. They also have sodas and beer! It is forbidden for you to bring your own drinks to the island.
The entrance to Virgin Island is Php500 for 2 people and Php100 per additional person. You can stay there for as long as you’d like. But the cabanas and tables are for rent. The prettiest cabana is Php600 and the cheapest is at Php150.
The right side of the shore has an amazing rock formations that house many species of sea creatures. It’s amazing to snorkel there because of the many fishes you’ll see.
Ogtong Cave is within a resort in Santa Fe. You can reach it by taking a tricycle, biking, or taking a jeep and walk for 15 minutes. It costs Php30 to get a ride to there using a tricycle so it’s pretty inexpensive. Upon getting to the resort, you’ll have to pay a Php100 entrance fee. The fee includes a visit to the Ogotong cave, swimming pool use, beach use, and use of the other publicc utilities. So that’s not bad at all!
Rent a Bike
A bike rental is Php100 per day and you can get to explore the town as much as you want. Because the actual town proper is pretty far from the resorts, it’ll take an hour or so of biking to get there. It’s a serene road and pretty flat one so expect a calm ride. If you want, there are also motorcycle and scooter rentals available.
Santa Fe has a very pretty church in its town center, but Bantayan town has a bigger, more beautiful church in their city square. There are schedules of English mass and Cebuano mass so be sure to ask your hotel what the times are if you wish to hear mass!
Buying Seafood from Market
Every morning, if you wake up early enough, you can go to Bantayan town’s wet market and get yourself super fresh and really cheap seafood for lunch and dinner. Restaurants in Santa Fe town, even in Bantayan town, accept “paluto” which is that they’ll cook your fresh food for you for a small fee. Note that you have to get there before 7.30am or all the good fishes and seafood would probably be gone.
Santa Fe has a lot of bars that are frequented by tourists and locals alike. From a Filipino style Karaoke hub (single machine for the whole restaurant) to live bands to authentic German food and beer, Bantayan Island doesn’t sleep early. You can take your pick at a strip of numerous bars and pubs around!
- Visit the Virgin Island on a weekday so that you’ll feel that it’s your own private resort
- Don’t eat in the same restaurant twice so you can enjoy the different cuisines and restaurants. There are a lot!
- When going to the fish market, it’s too easy to over buy. Control yourself!
Need to know anything else? Ask me in the comments section below!