Bantayan Island hosts some of the best beaches in the province of Cebu, in the Philippines. Traveling to Bantayan Island from Manila takes a little over an hour by air, four hours over land, and then another hour over water, with a good amount of waiting time in between. However, if you’re up for an adventure and wouldn’t mind dealing with the effort of several transfers, Bantayan Island is the worthy paradise destination you should visit – a rustic island getaway, surrounded by sun, sand and other beautiful islands ringed by white sand and crystal blue waters. Just enough of nothing to get your mind off the concrete jungle you lemft behind. And compared to Boracay, it is relatively uncrowded. So, here’s our Bantayan Island Travel Guide to help you get there, get around, plan your itinerary and activities and choose your beach resort and hotel accommodations.
About Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island is located in the Visayas region of the Philippines. It is west of the northern end of the island province of Cebu. There are three towns in Bantayan Island: Bantayan (same name as the island it is in and its largest municipality covering the central part of the island). Madridejos (covering the northern part) and Santa Fe (covering the eastern part). It is Santa Fe that invariably defines the Bantayan Island experience for travelers seeking a tropical island beach getaway, since the best beaches – the wide, white and fine stretches of sand of Sugar Beach and Alice Beach – can be found in the southeast corner of Santa Fe.
How to Get To Bantayan Island from Manila
From Manila, take a plane going to Cebu City (Mactan International Airport), which is the capital of the island province of Cebu (technically/geographically, the airport is in Lapu-lapu City). If you don’t plan to spend few hours in Cebu City, then try to book the earliest flight you can find from Cebu Pacific (tied with Tiger Airways), Philippine Airlines or Zest Air (tied with Air Asia).
For some international travelers you can skip Manila and fly straight to Cebu City via Korean Air (from Seoul); Air Busan and Jeju Air (from Busan); Cebu Pacific Air (from Seoul, Singapore and Hong Kong), Cathay Pacific Airways (from Hong Kong); Philippine Airlines (from Hong Kong and Tokyo); Zest Air (from Hong Kong); Tiger Airways (from Singapore); Silkair (from Singapore); and Air Philippines (from Hong Kong).
Upon landing in Cebu City, you need to get to Hagnaya Port in the town of San Remigio, north of Cebu, which is the jump off point for the boat ride to Bantayan Island.
Three ways to travel from Cebu City to Hagnaya Port in San Remigio
Via taxi – This is the quickest and most convenient, albeit expensive, way to get to Hagnaya Port immediately upon stepping outside the airport. Rates vary depending on your haggling skills with the cab driver. Note that there are two types of taxis: the yellow taxis that are found immediately outside the arrival area and the white taxis that are found further out at the curb of the public road.
The yellow airport taxis run at rates about twice that of the regular white taxis.
Via rented van aka V-Hires (Van for Hire) – From the airport, take a very short cab ride to the North Bus Terminal in Mandaue City where there are vans and buses bound for Hagnaya Port. The North Bus Terminal is near the SM City mall. Vans are faster than buses since they make fewer stops, but if you happen to be the first passenger aboard, you’d have to wait until the van gets full before it leaves. However, if you’re travelling in a large group, around 10 or so, a van may be the way to go. Expect your group to pay anywhere from PHP 3500.00 to PHP 5000.00 (USD 77.00 – USD 110.00).
Via bus – This is option we usually take. Again, from the airport, take a short cab ride to the North Bus Terminal in Mandaue City. Find the bus bay for the air-conditioned Ceres Liner bus bound for Hagnaya Port. The Ceres buses seem to be always new and comfy – the coach we rode on had a Yutong brand decal, presumably made in China. They have buses leaving every thirty minutes starting at 5:30 AM up until 7:30 PM. This is the reason why we suggest that you take the earliest flight out of Manila – so that you can board the earliest departing bus. Travel time is around 3 – 4 hours with two stopovers at Carmen Town and Bogo City. Fare is around PHP 150.00 (USD 3.50). Enjoy the ride (and whatever Jason Statham movie is playing on the bus). You’ll be passing through interesting towns and rural landscapes.
From Hagnaya Port to Santa Fe Port, Bantayan Island – Ferry Schedule
Hagnaya Port Schedule: At Hagnaya Port, there are two shipping companies operating Roll On-Roll Off (RoRo) ferries plying the Hagnaya – Sta. Fe route: Super Shuttle Ferry and Island Shipping Corporation. These two companies have interspersing ferry schedules so that you have a ferry leaving for Sta. Fe every hour starting at 4:00 AM up to 5:30 PM. Regular passage is Php 170.00 (USD 3.70) plus a Php 10.00 (USD 0.20) terminal fee. If you’re a student, show them your school ID and pay only Php 145.00 (USD 3.00). Travel time is an hour to an hour and a half.
Caveat though, the departure time is sometimes arbitrary, if the shipping company higher-ups determine by departure time that there still aren’t enough passengers to make the trip worth their while they may delay departure a little longer. So there – assuming you check in at the airport 2 hours prior to your flight from Manila to Cebu City, it’ll take about 10 hours to set your feet on Sta. Fe Port, Bantayan Island.
Bantayan Island Map
Hotels and Beach Resorts in Santa Fe, Bantayan Island
When you arrive at the port, facing inland, Alice Beach is to your right. Sugar Beach and Santa Fe town proper is to your left. If you’ve booked prior to arriving, hopefully you’ve made transfer arrangements with your resort. Usually, they’re free. If not, hop onto a pedicab (bicycle coupled with a sidecar), sometimes also called trisikad, and tell them to take you there. Fare is 25.00 pesos (USD 0.50).
If you haven’t booked prior to arriving or decided on where to stay, local touts at the port have a way of sensing this . They can be very persistent in soliciting your business. If you’re not interested in what they’re offering, let them know in a firm but respectful way. The important thing is not to commit early and get stuck with their recommendation. Check out the resorts out first.
One time, upon disembarking, we decided to walk all the way to Anika Beach Resort, remembering that it didn’t look that far and that the well maintained asphalt pavement lined with trees would make for a very nice stroll. Well, it is – if you haven’t got a 40-liter pack on your back plus a camera bag and tripod bag with about 10 hours of travelling behind you. On the upside, we chanced upon a makeshift bibingka (rice cake) stall along the road and bought some. No cheese, no grated coconut but deliciously smoky in flavor.
All right, here’s a list of resorts, hotels and other accommodations to choose from, ranging from the cheap to the expensive. Indicative rates are for a twin-sharing air-conditioned room per night during the peak season. During holidays, like Holy Week and Christmas, these rates are sure to shoot up to super-peak rates.
Beachfront Hotels & Beach Resorts in Santa Fe along Alice Beach
From the port, turn right on F. Roska Street. The resorts below are listed in geographical order along Alice Beach, starting with Santa Fe Beach Club which is nearest to the port. Let me know if I mixed anything up. Nightly rates are estimates. Click on the links to check current Bantayan Island resort rates.
Beachfront Hotels & Beach Resorts in Santa Fe along Sugar Beach
From the port, turn left on F. Roska Street. Again, the resorts below are listed in geographical order, this time along Sugar Beach, starting with Hoyohoy Villas which is nearest to the port. Let me know if I mixed anything up.
Yooneek Beach Resort Nightly Rate: PHP 1890.00 (USD 42.00)
Nice beach bar and beachfront. Our favorite resort along Sugar Beach.
Sugar Beach Resort Nightly Rate: PHP 1800.00 (USD 40.00)
Cellphone: +63 921 7755058 and +63 918 3710627. Was told that this is a public beach resort. I’m not sure if that means this is owned by the municipality of Santa Fe. Very basic amenities but has a very nice beach front. They’ll allow you to pitch your tent on the beach for PHP 250.00.
Ogtong Cave Resort Nightly Rate: PHP 3500.00 (USD 77.00)
At the far western end of Sugar Beach. Actually, we’re not sure if their small beachfront is still part of Sugar Beach. This resort is managed by the same group behind the Santa Fe Beach Club and named after the cave in front of their property. It’s a long walk from here to downtown Santa Fe, so make sure you rent a bike or motorcycle during your stay here.
Hotels, Inns and Guesthouses in Downtown Santa Fe, Bantayan Island
From the Sta. Fe port, you’ll be passing through downtown Santa Fe (aka the poblacion) to get to Sugar Beach. It is way nearer to Sugar Beach than it is to Alice Beach. The main street in downtown Santa Fe is A. Batobalonos Street. The church, market and other business & commercial establishments line this street. Last time we visited there was no ATM in town, but there are several pawnshops partnered with money remittance companies like Western Union, in case you need to have money sent to you. If you’d like to immerse yourself in Santa Fe’s daily town life, then spend a couple of nights in town. Here are a few of the places to stay:
Micky Santoro Hotel & Restaurant Nightly Rate: PHP 1350.00 (USD 30.00)
Near the corner of A. Batobalonos St. and G. Borraska St. One of the newer hotels in Santa Fe.
Kiwi Cottages Nightly Rate: PHP 750.00 (USD 16.00)
Native nipa and bamboo cottages behind the Hard Kock Kafe on A. Batobalonos St.
Cou Cou Bar Hotel & Restaurant Nightly Rate: PHP 1350.00 (USD 30.00)
Along A. Batobalonos Street, which is the main travelers’ drag of Santa Fe. Previously known just as Cou Cou Lodge. This is our favorite hotel in downtown Santa Fe, since it has the best central location. Good restaurant with a popular billiard table.
Heather and Aspen Inn Indicative Rate: Php 1500.00 (USD 33.00)
Located along a side street off Batobalonos. Just around the corner of the Marisquiera O’Portuguese restaurant.
Cellphone: +63 946 568 6646 / Cellphone: +63 923 504 3554 / Cellphone: +63 922 831 1552
Wacaba Haus Indicative Rate: Php 1500.00 (USD 33.00)
Located next to Heather and Aspen Inn.
Telephone: +63 32 433 7532 / Cellphone: +63 915 774 5500
These resorts are really out of the way, good secluded options if you just want to spend time in quiet. Just make sure you rent a bicycle or motorcycle for those quick trips to downtown Santa Fe.
Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort Nightly Rate: PHP 3000.00 (USD 66.00)
Located on the eastern side of Bantayan Island, it’s about 8 kilometers north of Sante Fe town. We rode our rented motorcycles over a few uphill/downhill dirt roads and made a few wrong turns. It’s not the easiest place to get to, as it’s out of the way. Out of the way so you have no neighbors. The cliff-side resort has a cave, a mini-zoo, a swimming pool and a small patch of beach.
Beach Montemar Resort Nightly Rate: PHP 1800.00 (USD 40.00)
Along Sillion-Tamiao Road, Baigad. Has a wide expanse of beach that you have all to yourselves.
Kandugyap House by the Sea Nightly Rate: PHP 3000.00 (USD 66.00)
Along Millionaire’s row past the Ogtong Cave Resort. A cliffside Santorini-inspired property. Has its own private beach a few steps down the cliff.
White Beach Bungalows Nightly Rate: PHP 2000.00 (USD 44.00)
Located in Marikaban, near the mangroves and a local fishing village. Nice beachfront.
Maia’s Beach Resort Nightly Rate: PHP 2000.00 (USD 44.00)
Has a small patch of beach and a swimming pool.
Where to Eat – Restaurants & Bars in Santa Fe, Bantayan Island
Most resorts have their own restaurants. But try out the restaurants and bars in Santa Fe town. Most of the eating places in town, below, are lined up along both sides of Batobalonos Street. Most of the restaurants serve European, American cuisine and Filipino cuisine.
HR Music Bar
Blue Ice Bar & Restaurant
Café del Mare
D’ Jungle Mongolian Grill
Marisquiera O Portuguese
Coucou Bar & Restaurant
Daddy Dok’s – Cheap eats. – Closed already.
Carlito’s Chicken – Cheap eats.
The Hard Kock Café – Closed already.
Arjaymay Sutukil – If you want grilled food. SuTuKil is a Cebuano play on the words Sugba (grill,) Tuwa (stew) and Kilaw (raw.)
Khel’s BBQ – corner of Batobalonos front of the market. Order their chicken BBQ with puso (steamed rice wrapped in coconut leaves). They grill anything.
Let us know if you find a new one! If you want beer for less, visit the sari-sari stores (general store) near the market, on the same side of the road as Coucou. Grab a seat and banter with locals and expats drinking Red Horse or San Miguel Pale Pilsen.
Getting Around Bantayan Island
Get on a pedicab – These are bicycles with a sidecar. They can be found all around Santa Fe. Fare is Php 20.00 (USD 0.40) per person.
Rent a bicycle – Single-speeds are widely available for Php 150.00 (USD 3.25) a day. You can get it for less than that if you rent it for 3 days. Bantayan Island’s terrain is generally flat and the exercise is good for you. 🙂
Rent a motorbike or scooter – Underbone 110cc – 125cc motorcycles are aplenty in Bantayan, like the Honda XRM. Rental is Php 350.00 (USD 8.00) a day. Like the bicycles, you can get it for less a day if you rent it for 3 days. Be sure to test drive the bike before renting it, and note any pre-existing cosmetic wear or minor body damages to the owner so that you don’t get charged for them when you return the bike. The owners generally don’t ask for a driver’s license, instead they just confirm with your resort that you’re actually staying there.
All-terrain Vehicles? Unfortunately, I’ve never seen anyone renting out ATVs and several readers have gotten back to us that there are indeed no ATVs being rented out – so far.
Activities: Things to Do and Places to Visit in Bantayan Island
Plan your Bantayan Island itinerary around some of these activities and attractions …
Go Island Hopping & Snorkeling – Rent banca and go island-hopping to Hilantaga-an Island and Silion Island, the latter referred to by the islanders as “Virgin Island“. Rent a 5-passenger capacity banca for Php 1000.00 / USD 22.00. Rent comes with a set of snorkels and face masks for all.
Walk the stretch of Alice Beach and Sugar Beach – take this at a leisurely pace. Aside from the beach resorts, you’ll be passing by small villages and see the friendly residents going about their daily routine.
Explore Bantayan Island on a Motorcycle – Rent a scooter and do the 50 kilometer Bantayan Island loop at a leisurely pace. We started from Anika Resort in Santa Fe and headed north via the eastern Atop-atop road until we reached Madridejos town. From there we rode south via the Bantayan – Madridejos road until we reached Bantayan town. Then from there we rode east until we were back in Santa Fe again. Allot a whole day for your ride, because you’re going to be making a lot of stops as there’s a lot to see.
Buy Bantayan’s famous “danggit” or “buwad” (dried fish) to take back home at the Bantayan public market. Should you ride along the coast and see fish being dried on suspended netting, talk with the village folks – we’re sure they’ll sell you the dried fish cheaper by the kilo.
Ride to Millionaire’s Row – The locals call this Santa Fe cliff-side coastal community as such because this is where a lot of expats chose to build their large houses. The ocean view is beautiful during sunset.
Visit the Obo-ob Marikaban Mangroves – We rode through beautiful coconut plantations and small charming communities to get here. Also explore the beautiful here that have yet to be taken over by resorts.
Visit Kota Park and Bontay Baywalk in Madridejos Town – Built in the late 1800’s, it was originally a fort built to protect against seaborne marauders.
Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Church in Bantayan Town – Spanish-era church built from coral stones.
So, how was your stay in Bantayan Island? Let us know in the comments below!