Bantayan Island is located on the northern tip of the province of Cebu. The island thrives on fishing, tourism, and its growing poultry industry. The island is also made up of smaller islets, some of which are uninhabited. Because of these untouched areas in Bantayan Island, it is home to several protected areas where marvelous flora and fauna and gorgeous white sand beaches are found.
The municipality of Santa Fe is situated on the southern coast of the island, and is said to be the gateway to the rest of Bantayan. Its beaches are not as popular as the ones in Cebu but are arguably much more pristine, which makes it perfect for those who want a calm and beautiful shore all to themselves. Some of the more popular resorts in Bantayan are also found in Santa Fe.
Also located in Santa Fe is the Ogtong Cave, a unique underground cave in Bantayan Island. The small cave has a pool of clear blue water where visitors can swim. Like most caves, it also has interesting limestone formations. The cool atmosphere makes the area a nice place where visitors can relax away from the heat of the sun.
Other fun activities in Bantayan Island are available in Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort. The resort has a "fish spa" where guests dip their feet in a pool of water with fish. The fish then nibbles on dead skin cells. Guests find the experience ticklish but definitely one-of-a-kind. The resort also has an underwater cave with a lagoon and swimming pools.
There is no direct flight from Manila to Bantayan Island, but travelers can fly to Cebu City first. Local airlines like Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and AirAsia have daily flights from Manila to Cebu in Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
Traveling by sea to Cebu is also possible but takes a lot longer. From Manila, a ferry ride to Cebu takes about 23 hours. From Cagayan de Oro, the travel time is about eight to 12 hours. 2GO Travel, Philippine Span Asia, Super Shuttle Ferry, Weesam, and Cokaliong are some of the shipping lines that offer trips to Cebu City.
By Land and Sea (from the airport or pier)
Once you’ve arrived in either Mactan or Cebu City, find your way to the North Bus Terminal where buses bound for Hagnaya are found. Land travel is about three to four hours.
Once in Hagnaya, you will then have to ride a boat that will take you to Santa Fe in Bantayan Island.
How to Get Around
Getting around the island is made possible with the use of tricycles or habal-habal. Public jeepneys are also available, though the routes and trips are limited.
What to See
Fort ruins serve as a reminder that colonizers once invaded the country. There are many of them found in the town of Santa Fe, but the most intact is found in Madridejos, known as the Kota Park. It was built in the late 1700s and remains standing even now. It now serves as a park for the locals and tourists to admire.
The Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church, located in the heart downtown Bantayan, is an imposing structure that will surely captivate your attention. This church made of corals is said to be the oldest parish in Cebu, having been founded in 1580 by the Augustianian Missionaries. Beside the church lies a small museum, but visitation is by appointment only.
Santa Fe, located on the southeastern section of the island, is known for its long stretches of white sand beaches. Lined with palm trees and resorts, the shores are ideal for anyone who want a relaxing vacation in a tropical paradise.
Sugar Beach is one of the island’s most famous tourist attractions. It is known for its beach with powdery sands that are white as sugar. The waters are blue and refreshing—perfect for a swim that will beat the heat, especially at summertime.
Paradise Beach, also in Santa Fe, lives up to its name with breathtaking turquoise waters that will surely lure you for a dip. There are no paved roads to Paradise Beach so getting there will be quite an adventure. Its promise of serenity and tranquility, however, makes the trip all worth it.
Another natural attraction worth visiting is the Virgin Island, just one short boat ride away from the Bantayan mainland. The island is a favorite destination for those who want to get away from it all. It is also a scenic spot to enjoy a picnic with your friends or loved ones by the beach with the soothing sound of the crashing waves and the cool sea breeze.
Casa de Antiguidades is a private home found on the island where you can see the owner’s collection: a number of historic artifacts. The Obo-ob Mangrove Garden is another attraction that visitors enjoy visiting whenever they are on the island. However, it was severely damaged during Typhoon Yolanda but is now undergoing repairs to restore it to its former beauty.
The Saint Helena Botanical Garden and the Bantayan Nature Park are also remarkable attractions to visit, especially for nature lovers who want to be fascinated with the distinct flora on the island.
For gamblers, there is a large cockpit is in Santa Fe. The cockfights are usually held on Sundays.
Events and Festivals
The population of Bantayan is known to swell during Holy Week. People often flock to the island not only to enjoy a beachside getaway but also to observe the religious celebration. Tourists usually join the processions of life-sized images that depict the Passion of Christ, which take place on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.
Street dances, rituals, and various age-old traditions are once again relived and celebrated every June as the whole island celebrates the annual Palawod Festival in honor of St. Peter and St. Paul.
Where to Eat
The CouCou Bar Hotel & Restaurant is one of the favorite dining spots on the island. The restaurant has a complete menu of chicken, beef, pork, and seafood dishes that will surely delight your palate.
Balikbayan Restaurant features a cozy ambiance made possible by its mood lighting and booths made from bamboo. The restaurant offers a delectable selection of Filipino dishes, using only the freshest ingredients. Try their best sellers sinigang na hipon and crispy pata.
Lasty, Arjaynay Sutukil is also another favorite on the island where you can enjoy sutukil, an authentic Cebuano dish made with seafood cooked in different styles.
Fare: PHP 3,000.00++
On average, air fare from Manila to Cebu starts at PHP 3,000.00 for a roundtrip journey. A ferry ride, on the other hand, costs about PHP 1,200.00 for a single journey. Take note that the fares could still go higher or lower, depending on the season and or promos.
The bus fare from Cebu to Hagnaya Port is about PHP 160.00, while the ferry ride from Hagnaya Port to Santa Fe is around PHP 170.00.
When around the island, the minimum fare for a tricycle or habal-habal ride is PHP 10.00
Food: PHP 250.00++
When dining on the island, meals normally cost an average of PHP 250.00 per person. The more upscale dining options available on the island can go as high as PHP 500.00 per head.
Shopping: PHP 20.00 to PHP 500.00
For shopping, there are no malls found on the island, but there are pasalubong stalls around. Key chains and ref magnets cost about PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 apiece. Souvenir shirts can also be had starting at PHP 200.00. Prices vary depending on the design and quality.
Accommodations: PHP 1,000.00 to PHP 3,000.00
For backpackers and budget travelers, there are rooms on the island that can go for as low as PHP 1,000.00 for an overnight stay. For rooms with more amenities, the average price is PHP 3,000.00 per night.
Activities: PHP 200.00 to PHP 800.00
You can go kayaking on the island for PHP 200.00, which covers the rental of the boat for an hour. Island hopping about PHP 800.00 for half a day.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
A small amount of PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 should be okay when leaving tips at restaurants. It is not necessary, however, especially if a 10% service charge is already included in your bill.