Cebu, Philippines · 57 hotels available
Off the coast of the main island of Cebu Province lies the Island of Bantayan, which is home to an idyllic municipality of the same name. Famous for its laidback lifestyle, verdant forests, white sand beaches, and lovely sunsets and sunrises, the island makes for a truly perfect paradise destination.
Bantayan Island is composed of three municipalities, namely Santa Fe in the east, Madridejos in the north, and Bantayan in between. The last one of these is also the largest town among the three.
The island is largely an agricultural community that grows crops like coconuts, corn, sapodilla (chico) and mangoes. The island’s attractions include its diverse marine flora and fauna, protected mangrove forests, and the centuries-old ruins of a fort built as a lookout post against the raiding Moros in ancient times.
An airline company called Far East Aviation Services operates air charter services between Mactan-Cebu International Airport and the airfield in the town of Santa Fe. Cebu, on the other hand, can be reached from various locations in the Philippines and from major Asian cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Singapore, Doha, and Dubai.
Daily ferry services to the port of Santa Fe are provided by ferry companies based in Cebu Island’s Hagnaya Port. If you are coming from Cebu City, you can take a bus going to the town of San Remigio in the northwestern part of the island, where Hagnaya Port is located. If you are coming from the Island of Leyte, you can also take a bus from Tacloban, which will cross the Eastern Nautical Highway via a Ro-Ro Ferry from the town of Palompon. The bus will alight from the ferry at Cebu Island’s Bogo City, which is about an hour’s drive away from Hagnaya Port.
The most common modes of transportation in Bantayan Island are tricycles, motorcycles, mopeds, and bicycles. Locals also ride jeepneys and multicabs to move among the three towns.
Due to Bantayan Island having a wealth of biodiversity and pristine ecosystems, large portions of it have been put under protected status by the Philippine government. It has become increasingly popular among travelers because of the picturesque beauty of its mangrove forests, which gracefully alternate with the island’s coconut plantations.
In the town of Santa Fe, there are white-sand beaches which are still mostly crowd-free. On the other hand, Madridejos in the north features the ruins of a 16th-century kota (fort) which was built by the inhabitants as a watchtower against invading Moros. Finally, in the town of Bantayan stands the most important religious location in the island, namely the Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul, a structure originally built in 1839.
The beaches of Santa Fe are an awesome springboard for tourists wanting to engage in exciting aquatic activities like swimming, snorkeling, freediving, and scuba diving. If you’re up for some island hopping experience, you can also hire a boat to visit nearby smaller isles.
History enthusiasts can go around the island to visit Bantayan’s historic sites, which include the heritage homes and the old church in the town of Bantayan. As mentioned, the ruins in Madridejos’ Kota Park are also worth visiting, but you should go there not only to see the ancient structure but also to witness the island’s famous spectacular sunset.
Bantayan is a small place, so in terms of having an authentic local dining experience, your best bet is the many roadside food stalls and eateries in the three towns. One scrumptious treat you shouldn’t miss is the puto balanghoy, which is deliciously made from locally grown coconut and cassava.
On the other hand, you can also get a taste of cosmopolitan Bantayan by heading to Ogtong Cave Resort, where an in-house restaurant offers Asian options like Chinese and Thai dishes. You can also visit Tristan’s Beach Resort, which is best known for its pizza. On top of this specialty, they also have a number of other international and local offerings, including a variety of seafood dishes. Both resorts are in the town of Santa Fe.
Nightlife in Bantayan Island is mostly concentrated in the restobars of resident resorts. If you want to dine get a drink, make sure to come early because these establishments also tend to close shop early, with most of them putting up the shutters at around 10 in the evening.
One of the most popular resorts in Bantayan Island is the Ogtong Cave Resort, which has both an artificial pool and a natural pool. The latter can be found inside a cave, where visitors go in for a delightful dip into the cool, crystal-clear water.
If you’re hoping to stay in a place where you can have your own private cottage, then a good option is Beach Placid Resort in Santa Fe, which offers both beachfront and non-beachfront accommodations in single, duplex, and triplex options.
Travelers who want to go on excursions on their own can rent mopeds and bicycles from rental providers around the island.
Kota Park has a long pier that stretches out into the sea. Go here to see the island’s sunsets and sunrises.
Bring cash along with you because there are only two ATM facilities in the whole island, and even these might not be reliable.