HOW TO GET TO BANTAYAN ISLAND
Ride a plane/boat to Cebu and follow the steps below
Ride a bus in Cebu North Bus Terminal to Hagnaya Port
If you’re a large group, you can hire a private van from Cebu to Hagnaya Port
Purchase ferry tickets which costs 170 PHP and terminal fee of 10 PHP from Hagnaya Port to Santa Fe Port, Bantayan Island
Upon arriving Santa Fe Port, pay 25 PHP for the ecological fee that the Bantayan Island Government has set out for tourists
From Santa Fe Port you can hire tricycle or a multicab to get around the island
WHERE TO GO
1. KOTA BEACH
Kota Beach has a wide stretch of fine white powdery sand and is located in the town of Santa Fe, Bantayan. It’s among the busiest areas in Bantayan because a lot of tourists come here. It is also where most island hopping bangka (small motorboat) pick up their clients for the day.
2. PARADISE BEACH & CAMPSITE
Paradise Beach was by far the cleanest beach I have ever been to. The sand isn’t as fine and powdery as the one in Kota Beach but the waters is as crystal clear as the beaches in Siargao Island.
We rode our bikes to Paradise Beach BUT I WOULD HIGHLY ADVISE THAT YOU SHOULDN’T if you’re like me who isn’t used to riding bikes for long periods of time and with the trail that easily shifts from downhill to an uphill to rough roads.
The only good thing that came along with riding bikes was I got to take cute photos along the way. Smiling but was dying on the inside.
This is only a photo representation of what the road was like on the way to Paradise Beach but this is not in Bantayan Island
It was a vicious unpaved trail that we passed through because the local kid that we asked directions from got it all wrong because there are 2 roads now leading to Paradise Beach you see. One was already flattened ready to be paved I guess – the shorter way, which has a sign that said Saavedra Beach and the other, a little farther from the first road was this muddy catastrophe (kinda looked like the one above) – the super long way — the super long way was unfortunately the road we took.
After all the struggles we finally got to the registration area and payed the entrance fee of Paradise Beach which was 65 PHP per person. They had junk food, soft drinks and water for sale and comfort rooms at the registration area because the area also had a campsite for people who wanted to stay overnight.
Cottages like the ones above can be rented at 250 PHP if you and your companions want a proper table to set up food you brought
About a 10 minute walk from the registration area and past the campsite, was the stair way to Paradise beach.
My boyfriend didn’t waste time he went right into the crystal clear beach while I safely hid our stuff away from prying eyes.
This is like a makeshift treehouse on top of a cliff overlooking the beach. It was such a cute instagrammable spot. We spent some time there to relax and get ourselves ready for the bike ride back to the resort.
3. HILANTAGAAN ISLAND
Virgin Island was really expensive you had to pay an entrance fee of 500 PHP which is good for 2 people and an extra 100 PHP per additional person and our decided not to go there but instead we went to Hilantagaan Island.
It’s not really amazing as Paradise Beach or Kota Beach for that matter. We didn’t enjoy it as much because it was low tide when we got there and the sand was a bit rough and pebbly. Most of our group wanted to go back to the
4. CLIFF DIVING AT THE RUINS
We passed this by on our way to Paradise Beach. A lot of locals were swimming and some kids where jumping off the cliff but it wasn’t really awesome or magical for me. So I just took some videos and went ahead with biking to Paradise Beach.
These are other attractions in Bantayan but we weren’t able to go to these spots either because of the expensive fees or because it was too far for us:
5. VIRGIN ISLAND
6. OGTONG CAVE
7. MANGROVE ECO PARK
WHERE TO STAY
Anywhere around the Poblacion of Santa Fe is ideal if you plan on going out during night time because it sort of resembles the vibes of Alona Beach Panglao now and has been much more developed and commercialized compared to the last time I visited Santa Fe in 2014
1. KOTA BEACH RESORT
We stayed at Kota Beach Resort, I didn’t know what exactly our rooms were and the prices because we were only brought along by my boyfriend’s mother because it was their Office Summer Outing and they were allowed to bring guests.
We had a standard room that could be occupied by 3 to 4 guests comfortably. It was an ok room, each rooms had 1 queen sized bed and 1 twin bed with basic comodities such as CR, ceiling fan and an aircon unit. BUT they’re always fully booked so if you’re planning to stay there better book ahead of time, like 6 months prior.
View of the Kota Beach Resort beachfront lounge area
Had a bad experience here though, my boyfriend and I wanted to stay on those white gazebos on the far right area of the photo and the resort security guard asked us to leave in a very harsh way, thinking we weren’t guests of the resort EVEN THOUGH THERE WEREN’T ANYONE AROUND. We told him we were guests of the resort and he got mad said the spot was reserved already. Other guests lounging nearby also said that “For real? who even gets to sit there, sir? Celebrities?”. We later knew he also asked to leave in a bad manner. We just brushed it off because we didn’t want him to ruin our vacation buzz.
2. BUDYONG BEACH RESORT
This is what it look looks like now. Instead of only the abundance coconut trees around the area, a lot of bungalows for rent are now available in the Budyong Beach Resort and Kota Beach Resort
Last time I visited Bantayan we stayed at Budyong Beach. Before it was so bare, only cottages were standing but now it already had been developed and the resort had a lot of bungalows erected in their area. I think it’s a cheaper alternative than the Kota Beach Resort and it is situated right next to it and it has the same view of the wide stretch of fine white sand
3. AIRBNBs and HOSTELS
You can also look up AirBNBs and Hostels around Bantayan as there are also a lot of other options and other places to stay in and explore within the island. My 2 suggestions above are located in the buzzing part of Bantayan. If you’re looking for a quiet place to stay in I suggest to stay in a place that is a bit far from the Santa Fe Poblacion.
*check available rooms and current prices at their websites*
4. or you could stay ON A TENT
Pitched a tent // circa 2014 when Budyong Resort was still bare and undeveloped
This was what me and my friends also did when I first visited Bantayan in 2014 but I wouldn’t suggest it because it’s too much of a hassle and it’s a bit crowded now in Bantayan compared to what I witnessed before BUT just recently, friends of mine went to Bantayan and slept on tents and said it was perfectly fine and mind you they were girls so I guess if you’re up for it and are on a super tight budget, then by all means give it a go
WHERE TO EAT
Suggested below are the restaurants and food joints we got to try within our 2 days and 1 night stay at the island. There are a lot of other choices in the Santa Fe Poblacion too, they’re not hard to find.
1. KOTA BEACH RESTAURANT
If we saw their menu first then we wouldn’t have instructed the staff to rearrange their tables so that they could be able to accommodate our group 17 people because their meals for me were overpriced af. I wouldn’t suggest this place if you’re on a budget. On the bright side, the view of the Kota Beach whilst eating was great and I loved their simple tropical interior.
2. MJ RESTAURANT MALL
Photo credits: Travels with a Hobo blog
It’s like a food strip with lots of food options but I’m guessing most of it has the same owner because they’re mostly owned by someone named Chef Panyang — because that’s what I saw at most of the restaurant’s signage.
We ate Gyros at Mike’s Greek Taverna (which is still a sub restaurant of Chef Panyang) for breakfast but I suggest when you order it to tell them not to place the french fries inside the wrap but if you like it that way then it’s the wrap for you.
3. CAFE DEL MARE
Cafe del Mare had a sort of Kermit Restaurant in Siargao vibe to me. They had a live band playing when we went there (Saturday night) and they were playing chill reggae music.
The pizza here was delicious — we haven’t got a chance to try the rest of their food though (which were mostly based on Italian cuisine) because we came there to chill and have a few cold ones.
4. SANTA FE MERKADO
If you want to cook your own meals then you can always head down to their market and buy yourself some fresh meat or seafood.
5. FRESH SEAFOOD VENDORS
There are a lot of seafood vendors roaming around with fresh seafood products. We were lucky enough to come across a fresh scallop vendor that sold scallops at 100 PHP for 3 bundles. In Cebu City, that amount of scallops would’ve costed about 500 PHP or more. The scallops were already boiled in Sprite (yes, the soft drink — this gives it a slightly sweet flavor). My boyfriend’s sister and I ate almost 4 bundles in 1 sitting and we even asked the lady if she could come by the next day because we wanted to bring some home.
I was looking forward to crabs though because a friend of mine told me that when she visited Bantayan recently, they were able to buy crabs at 200 PHP per kilo but was disappointed because we were not able to come across a crab vendor.
In Kota Beach Resort you can let them cook your freshly bought seafood or whatsover at 200 PHP per kilo —- it doesn’t matter what it is but their service charge is 200 PHP per kilo.
HOW TO GO AROUND THE ISLAND
This is the option my boyfriend and I opted because not only is biking cheap and eco-friendly but it added an aesthetic when taking photos and videos (lol). 1 day bike rental costs at around 100 PHP to 150 PHP. Don’t be fooled by prices beyond that.
FUNNY UNSOLICITED STORY (which i’m going to write any way): After having breakfast, a restaurant staff approached us and said if we wanted to eat at their restaurant and we declined and said that we just ate. He smiled and then suggested us about where to go and directions to the nearby tourist spots. We asked about Paradise Beach and he said it was just a near bike ride from MJ Square.
So we went on our way and I ALMOST DIED (figuratively) pedaling my way to Paradise Beach and back to the resort. My boyfriend and I bickered because I was being a complete liability because I didn’t know how to ride a bike properly and I easily got scared when the road was downhill or jagged. It was farther than what we expected and we passed through the longer and unpaved muddy road.
Upon arriving at the Paradise Beach parking lot, we were the only ones on bikes and the rest either rented tricycles or motorcycles. Even the caretakers were appalled at our misfortune and said that we should’ve taken the first road with the paradise beach sign.
We both just laughed at our mistakes and charged it to experience!
If you know how to ride a motorbike and have a driver’s license then you can rent motorbikes. They’re faster and can cover longer distances.
3. TRICYCLE or MULTICAB
For big groups, I suggest you rent out a multicab or tricycle when going to the island’s tourist spots but I’m guessing it’s a bit pricey because when we were renting our bikes we overheard
4. BANGKA / OUTRIGGER BOAT
When Island Hopping, make sure you don’t get fooled by high rates of some bangka operators. You can request to the place that you are staying or ask them if they have reliable contacts that can take you and your company on an island hopping tour.
Island Hopping TIP:
Start your island hopping tour early because it doesn’t matter if you had agreed upon 2 to 3 stops with your bangka operator because when tides are low the bangka operators will not push through with some of the places like what happened to our tour. We were supposed to make some pits stops at the Ruins and Paradise Beach during our tour but wasn’t able to do so because of the LOW TIDE.
EXPENSES (As of April 2018)
So far these were the fees and expenses that I remembered during our trip to Bantayan last April 14-15 2018
TRANSPORTATION & TERMINAL FEES
170 PHP – Ferry from Hagnaya, Cebu to Santa Fe, Bantayan
170 PHP – Ferry from Santa Fe, Bantayan to Hagnaya, Cebu
1500 PHP – Island Hopping — 1 Bangka good for 15 to 20 people
010 PHP – Hagnaya Port Terminal Fee
025 PHP – Bantayan Island Eco Tourism Fee
020 PHP – Santa Fe Port Terminal Fee
60 PHP – Paradise Beach fee
150 PHP – Rent a Bike fee
360 PHP – Gyros wraps @ Mike’s Taverna for 2
200 PHP – Scallops 6 Bundles (@ 100 PHP per 3 Bundles)
1500 PHP – Standard room overnight stay @ Kota Beach Resort
This was our itinerary. You can devise your own. Remember to set priorities and manage your time well when heading back to the mainland of Cebu because during peak season lines for buying ferry tickets get really crazy long
05:00 AM – Meet Up with group
06:00 AM – Left the city
09:00 AM – Breakfast at Danao, Cebu
10:00 AM – Arrived at Hagnaya Port and purchased Tickets
11:00 AM – Boarded ferry
12:45 PM – Arrived at Santa Fe Port
12:55 PM – Arrived at Kota Beach Resort, had lunch
02:00 PM – Unpacked into our rooms and got ready for Island Hopping
02:30 PM – Boarded the Bangka and started island hopping
04:30 PM – Went back to the resort
05:30 PM – Got ready for dinner
06:30 PM – Roamed around to look for a place to eat dinner at
06:45 PM – Found a place to eat at
07:45 PM – Finished eating dinner
08:00 PM – Went to Cafe del Mare
11:00 PM – Went back to the resort
04:00 AM – Watched the sunrise @ Kota Beach
06:00 AM – Rented bikes
06:30 AM – Ate breakfast @ Mike’s Taverna in MJ Square
07:00 AM – Started biking to Paradise Beach
07:30 AM – Stopped by the Ruins
08:15 AM – Arrived at Paradise Beach
09:25 AM – Started biking back to the Resort
10:05 AM – Arrived at the resort and packed my things
10:15 AM – Got ready for lunch and to leave
11:00 AM – Finished getting ready
11:30 AM – Went to find a place to have lunch at
12:30 PM – Went back to the resort to get things
12:45 PM – Waited for Resort’s provided Van
01:00 PM – Arrived at Santa Fe Port and purchased tickets
01:30 PM – Boarded ferry
THANKS FOR READING!