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Bantayan Island Guide: Explore Cebu’s Best-kept Secret

Before images of Bantayan Island began dominating our news feeds, the island was Cebu’s best kept secret. The paradise is tucked away on the northern end of the province and requires quite a number of air, land, and water transfers to get there.

If you’re up for a worthy adventure of bumpy roads and potentially choppy waters, the view alone will wash away all the exhaustion.

Check out this guide to the beautiful island of Bantayan.

Island Highlights

Bantayan view

Bantayan island is composed of three towns: Bantayan (the largest municipality), Madridejos, and Sante Fe.

The highlight of your Bantayan Island experience will be in Santa Fe’s Sugar Beach and Alice Beach.

White sand, crystal clear waters, and the therapeutic sound of nature, are just some of the things you can expect the moment you step into the island. Imagine Boracay in the early ‘90’s only with finer sand and more places to explore.

Despite the growing number of tourists, the sleepy fishing town has managed to maintain its laid-back atmosphere, which is hard to find in other mainstream destinations.

Best months to visit

Since a trip to Bantayan Island requires an hour-long boat ride, it’s best to avoid visits during the rainy season (June to October).

If you want to avoid the crowds, the off-season from November to February is a great time to visit. Peak-season is during the summer months from March to May, particularly during Holy Week.

How to get to Bantayan Island

If you’re flying in from Metro Manila, flights to Cebu are available daily via multiple airlines. Flying time from NAIA is one hour and 15 minutes.

1. Go to the North Bus Terminal

From the Mactan Cebu International Airport, you can take a 30-minute cab ride to the terminal.

Once there, look for the bus going to Hagnaya. Travel time to Hagnaya could take up to four hours, so it’s highly recommended to choose the air conditioned bus (PHP160).

2. Catch the ferry to Santa Fe

From the Hagnaya Port, take the next ferry heading to Sante Fe (PHP170). There are two companies that can take passengers to the Sante Fe port; Island Shipping and Super Shuttle Ferry. Travel time is approximately one hour.

*Take note: Buses to Hagnaya are available all day but the last ferry to Bantayan leaves at 5PM sharp. Make sure to schedule your trips accordingly.

Getting around Bantayan Island

Bantayan beach

  • By foot – Since Sante Fe is the only town with amenities for tourists such as inns, restaurants and swimmer-friendly beaches, you’ll be spending most of your time here. The town is generally small and easy to navigate, so there’s no better way to explore it than by foot — it’s free!
  • Tricycle/Trisikad – The most convenient way to get around town is by hiring a tricycle. It’s an easy way to tour the island and it’s extremely affordable too. Tricycles can be found all around town and cost PHP20 per head, per trip.
  • Rent a bicycle – Another fun way to explore the island is via bicycle. Most resorts would have available bikes for rent for about PHP150 a day.
  • Get on a scooter – If you’re the adventurous type, the fastest way to get around would be via motorbike. With this, you can easily explore beyond the main town. But before committing, make sure to test drive the bike and note down any pre-existing wear and tear.

Things to do in Bantayan Island

Obo-ob

Though laying by the ocean under a shaded palm tree sounds like a good enough activity to fill your day, there are many activities and tourist spots in Bantayan Island worth exploring.

What’s best is most of them are accessible via tricycle or motorbike, and will only take you about half a day to accomplish.

  • Explore the nearby islands – After beach hopping within Bantayan, you can also rent a boat to Hilantaga-an Island and Silion Island. Boat rentals usually come with a free set of snorkels.
  • Go kayaking through a mangrove – Obo-ob Mangrove is located in an enchanting eco park which can be explored either by foot or by boat. Aside from the the numerous mangrove species around the area, you can also spot different animals and marine life.
  • Discover historic spots – Bantayan is home to the Saints Peter and Paul Church, the oldest parish church in the entire Visayas and Mindanao region. Kota Park in Madridejos Town is also a historic spot as it used to be a fort in the late 1800’s.
  • Hang with the locals – Explore it like a local. The town has a great atmosphere and people are incredibly friendly. In fact, a lot of expats have chosen to settle here. Before heading back, don’t forget to take home some danggit (dried fish) for pasalubong.
  • Try out skydiving – SkyDive Cebu, one of the few skydiving schools in the country is located in Bantayan Island. If you’re brave enough to try it, and if you have the budget to spare, this is definitely a bucket-list worthy experience.

    One jump will set you back PHP19,000 with an additional PHP1,000 for a beach landing.

Where to stay

Bantayan

Ever since its sudden rise to fame locals and expats alike have decided to open a number of inns, resorts, guest houses and hotels all over Bantayan Island. So if you’re planning to stay a night or two, you won’t have a problem looking for a place. Here are our top picks:

Where to eat

With the breathtaking ocean ahead, there’s nothing more satisfying than a feast of seafood. Luckily, you won’t have a hard time finding the freshest catch, and someone to whip up a meal for you, in Bantayan Island.

For the best selection, head over to the market and shop for your favorites right before breakfast. After shopping, you can have your hotel cook your food just the way you like it. Boatmen and locals can also fire up a grill for you.

If you’re not up for some shopping, there are a couple of local gems to choose from:

  • HR Music Bar and Restaurant – The perfect choice for grilled seafood and fresh buttery scallops straight from the ocean.
  • D’ Jungle Mongolian Grill – A European-owned Mongolian restaurant popular for their buffet. Make sure to order the 6 hour slow-cooked spareribs.
  • Caffe Del Mare – A quaint Italian restaurant that specializes on homemade pastas and pizzas.
  • Bantayan Burrito Company – A Tex-Mex stall famous for their made-from-scratch XXL nachos and margaritas.
  • Marisqueira O Portuguese – Best for a night-out with friends, this karaoke bar makes you pay for your songs with a drink!

Ready for your trip? Don’t forget to book your flights and hotels with Traveloka to get the best deals!

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