Bantayan Island is located near the northern tip of Cebu in central Philippines. It was devastated last 2013 by the typhoon Haiyan, yet the island remained resilient and its white, powdery beach is still at its best. Bantayan Island ranked fifth as the Philippines best beaches and island in 2014 by CNN.
Getting There and Away
There are several transportation options to Bantayan Island, from Cebu City one can take a van or a bus from the North Terminal Bus Station in Mandaue City to Hagnaya Port in San Remegio town. A van can cost you around Php 170 while an air-conditioned bus would cost Php 160. Travel time via van or bus will take around 3 to 4 hours, I depart Cebu City around 0500H and arrived at Hagnaya Port by 0800H. From Hagnaya Port, take a boat to Sta. Fe for Php 170 plus a terminal fee of Php 10. Travel time from Hagnaya to Sta. Fe is around 1 hour. If one has booked a resort, upon arrival to Sta. Fe port, a van will usually fetch tourist to the resorts. I booked at Kota Beach, and they conveniently fetch me at the port around 0900H.
Where to Stay
Beach front resorts have standard rooms for as low as Php 900 during off-peak season (June to October) but during summer (March to May) this usually doubles especially during Holy Week. I choose Kota Beach although it is quiet rustic due to its location and affordability. It has a wide white sand beach located in front of a sandbar and fan rooms that would cost around Php 900. In addition, it is also very accessible to the town center.
Other resorts in the island includes Sta Fe Beach Club at Sugar Beach, Ogtong Cave Resort, Budyong Beach Resort and Bantayan Nature Park to name a few. At the time of this writing, an accommodation at Sta Fe Beach Club will entitle you a free entry to Ogtong Cave Resort. Coucou Bar and Restaurant also offers accommodations but it is located a few minutes away from the beach.
Bantayan Island is divided into three municipalities, namely Bantayan, Madridejos and Sta. Fe. It is a small island that you can actually explore the island using a bike for a whole day. Bike rental will cost you around Php 150 for 24 hours. But since I don’t have the luxury of time, I hired a motorcycle, known as “habal-habal” in Cebuano dialect, to tour me around the island. Motorcycles can cost you around Php 400 to 500 for a few hours of tour around the town of Bantayan, Sta. Fe and Madridejos. Aside from island hopping and swimming on a white sand beach, Bantayan island is also a home to the church of Sts. Peter and Paul which is a 500 year old church located in the town of Bantayan. The island is also a home of a number of caves including Ogtong Cave in Sta. Fe and numerous caves at Bantayan Nature Park, both caves have a pool inside where you can swim. Sunset watching is also one of the suggested activities on a fine day, the best view for the colorful sunset is at Kota Park in the town of Madridejos.
In Bantayan Nature Park, you may visit a mini-zoo where you can find monkeys, eagles and pigeons to name a few. A guided tour inside the park would cost around 100 pesos, swimming inside the cave would entail additional charges. In addition, Bantayan Nature Park also has an infinity pool and a cliff-side view of the adjacent island located on the east.
Where to Eat
Food options are not that much in the island, although it is located on a rich fishing grounds, fish products here still remained expensive or almost the same price like those sold in Metro Cebu. Resorts usually serves food but if you are trying to save there is a descent restaurant near the town center of Sta. Fe named Daddy Dok’s which offers value meal for Php 70, they also offers breakfast for as low as Php 60 for a dried fish complete with coffee. Other popular options if you have enough on you pocket is Cou-cou’s Bar and Restaurant which offers value meals at Php 165 including rice, blue marlin and drinks.
Bantayan Island has limited ATM Machines so make sure to bring enough cash since ATMs at times are offline. The best time to visit the island is between January to June.