BANTAYAN ISLAND: A PRACTICAL TRAVEL GUIDE FOR DIY & BUDGET TRAVELERS [UPDATED as of 2021]

Note: As a precautionary measure in this time of COVID-19 pandemic, it is best to check with the authorities the updated travel requirements and possible restrictions that might affect your travel plan. Contact Santa Fe, Bantayan Tourism Office at santafetourism11@gmail.com or at +63 928 616 5391 to know the latest update.

Remember to always follow the health and safety protocols imposed from your travel origin to your destination. I wish you a safe trip ahead!

Traveling to Bantayan Island for the first time? This detailed DIY travel guide is exactly what you need. Scroll down and take note of the outlined information from sample itinerary and budget, best places to visit, top things to do, recommended tours and transports, budget-friendly accommodations, and other travel tips. Have a fun and enjoyable trip ahead!

START HERE!

BANTAYAN ISLAND AT A GLANCE

No other place that gives off the most breathtaking beach sight in all of Cebu than BANTAYAN ISLAND, a laid back tropical paradise notable for beach lovers for its long strip of white sands, azure waters, and imposing sunrise.

Sunset at Paradise beach is one of the finest. 😉

Bantayan island is divided into three municipalities: (1) Santa Fe is the access to the island. All travelers from Hagnaya arrive to its port. It is home of the best beaches and where most attractions in the island are found; (2) Thirty minutes away is Bantayan proper, the center and largest of the municipalities which takes care of the hundred-year old St. Peter and Paul church; (3) Further away is Madridejos (or Lawis), the municipality with the strongest presence of Bantayan Island heritage. It is where you will find some remains of the Spanish colonization, including a 19th-century colonial watchtower.

WHERE TO STAY IN BANTAYAN ISLAND

The best accommodations in Bantayan are found in Santa Fe for its easy access to the beaches, food chains, nightlife and major interests around the sland. During my 3-day trip, I stayed at Kota beach resort in Santa Fe where I experienced the best mornings with their sumptuous breakfast and late evening session underneath a clearly-mapped-out sky. Click the photo for the room rate and availability.

Kota Beach

Another good option is Amihan Beach Cabanas Resort which is just at a near location from Kota Beach. Click the photo below for the room rate and availability.

Amihan Beach Cabanas Resort

Other popular beachfront resorts in Bantayan Island 

Another ivory, white beach in Santa Fe, Bantayan island. Anika Island beach resort is one of the finest that you can find in the island in terms of service and accommodation. Click the link above for the room rate and availability.

Other top-rated, affordable and quality accommodations in Santa Fe

HOW TO GET TO BANTAYAN ISLAND

If you are already at Mactan International airport, you can reach the island of Bantayan:

By Air

Arrive in style through AirJuan, a seaplane that offers chartered flights to the airfield of Bantayan Island. Manage your booking here. For other reservation inquiries, call +63 2 718 8111 or email reservations@airjuan.com.

P.S. As of December 2020, Bantayan Island has officially opened its commercial airport which will soon accept flights from the key destinations around the Philippines.

By Land

  1. Take a white taxi or a MyBus outside the airport and head to the North Bus terminal. Fare is about P140 and P25 respectively. If you want to go local, take a yellow multicab (small jeepney) from the airport and head to Marina mall where you can ride a jeepney bound for Mandaue coliseum. From the coliseum, take another jeepney with a “Makro” or “North Bus” signage. Total fare is P24.
  2. At the North Bus terminal, take a Ceres bus or a v-hire (van) to Hagnaya port. Travel time is about 4 hours. Fare is P225 for aircon bus and P170 for vhire. At the port, book a ferry to Bantayan Island for P170. (Note that there are Ceres buses that have a direct trip to the island. The disadvantage is that each bus is assigned to a certain ferry. In case the ferry will not arrive on time, your trip will be delayed.)

For details about MyBus service, read here: Getting Around Cebu – Option 4

From Cebu City downtown area, take a 01k jeepney to get to the North Bus terminal, then read #2 in the above information on how to get to Bantayan island from the North Bus terminal.

From Cadiz City Negros Occidental at brgy. Banquerohan, take a large motorized boat from Super SM Express that goes directly to Bantayan island daily at 9 a.m. Travel time is 3 hours and fare is P300. Contact the operators through these numbers: +63 929 8840 284, +63 922 7422 597, and +63 919 7549 073.

From Palompon, Leyte, ride a SuperFerry that goes daily at 7:30 a.m. to Bogo City. From Bogo, take a jeepney, a bus or a taxi that goes to Hagnaya port. At the port, book a ferry to Bantayan island for P170.

Super Shuttle Ferry schedule from Hagnaya to Santa Fe and vice versa:

Hagnaya to Sta. FeSta. Fe to Hagnaya
DepartureArrivalDepartureArrival
4:00AM5:00AM6:00AM7:00AM
7:00AM8:00AM8:30AM9:30AM
8:00AM9:00AM10:30AM11:30AM
10:30AM11:30AM12:30PM1:30PM
12:30PM1:30PM2:30PM3:30PM
2:30PM3:30PM4:30PM5:30PM
4:30PM5:30PM6;00PM7:00PM

GETTING AROUND BANTAYAN ISLAND

In getting around Bantayan Island, you will charter a tricycle or jeepney for long-distance travel or from one municipality to another, fare is P25; and a trisikad (rickshaw) for short distances. Fare is P10-P15.

The St Peter and Paul Church of Bantayan proper.

TOP TOURIST SPOTS IN BANTAYAN ISLAND

Except for Virgin and Hilantagaan islands, Bantayan Island top tourist spots and things to do are mostly concentrated in Santa Fe and are just 10-15 minutes away to each other. If you can ride a motorbike or a bicycle, better get one to save money. Motorbikes and bicycles can be rented along the high way of Santa Fe for P200-P300 and P100-P150 respectively in regular days.

The white, coralline sand of Kota beach at Santa Fe.

If you prefer to go on an arranged land tour and island hopping in Bantayan, contact Nestor at +63 922 376 3841. If you would like to look for more tour operators, go to the beach area of Kota and Marlin.

Here are the regular tour package rates good for 4-5 persons:

  • Island hopping (Virgin and Hilantagaan islands only) – P800, inclusion of Malapascua island is P2,000
  • Land tour (tricycle) – P600 for the 5 spots below, inclusion of Kota park and Saints Peter and Paul church P800-1,000
    • Butterfly garden
    • Paradise beach
    • Ogtong cave
    • German ruins and Cliff diving
    • Omagieca Mangrove garden

VIRGIN ISLAND

  • Description: Virgin Island is the single most important attraction in Bantayan in terms of island hopping. The resort is private owned and is often visited by travelers in group for its relaxing and cozy environment (except during peak season: Holy Week and Summertime). To get there, charter a motorboat from any beaches in Santa Fe for P1,000. Entrance to the island is P500 for the first 2 guests and P100 for the remaining.
  • Rating: 3/5

BEACHES IN SANTA FE, BANTAYAN

Below are 5 of the best beaches that you can find in Santa Fe, Bantayan which are included in my list of top and affordable beaches in Cebu.

PARADISE (SANDIRA) BEACH

Description: The quiet, clean and secluded Paradise beach (or now known as Sandira beach) is a long strip of white, mostly powdery sand with a shallow, azure waters. Entrance fee is P50 for adults and P25 for kids. The private beach operates from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Of late, it only has huts and a limited number of food or drinks for visitors to keep the beach from becoming too commercial and touristy.

Below are options on how to get to Paradise beach:

  • Arrange a boat with your resort (most boatmen that go to Paradise beach stand by at Kota beach)
  • Charter a tricycle for P100. If you can’t find them on the road, head out to Kota beach where tricycles usually park.
  • Use a private vehicle. Paradise beach is only 8-minute away from Ogtong Cave Resort, east of Santa Fe. From the resort, go down the road passing Gilemi Strand Huis towards Maricaban until you reach an open grassland with few huts or mini-stores. Get off and walk down the forest trail until you meet two paths. Choose the path on the right, the one on the left leads to Paradise Campsite which is a different beach. From the road, it is about a 15-minute walk to Paradise beach. Be careful when it’s rainy as the path becomes slippery and collects quagmires of mud.

Rating: 4/5

KOTA BEACH

Description: The white, coraline sand of Kota beach at Santa Fe. This beach resort is an excellent vacation spot for solo and group travelers which also offers accommodation for a reasonable price. Click here to check rate and availability.

An insider’s tip: There is no need to go inside the resort to access the beach. A small road between Kota beach and Marlin beach resort is available for public, even at night time if you want to go on a stargazing or plan a milky way shooting activity.

Rating: 3/5

MARLIN’S BEACH (situated just beside Kota beach)

Description: The beach shares the same shore with Kota beach but with some rooms  more affordable compared to its neighbor. Click here to check rate and availability.

Rating: 3/5

AMIHAN CABANA BEACH

  • Description: Another 3-star resort in Santa Fe, Bantayan that gives a sweet sea view. It is a pet-friendly resort which provides a reasonable accommodation to guests. Click here to check rate and availability.
  • Rating: 2.5/5

IN-LAND TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

The order of these 7 top attractions in Bantayan is based on its distance from MJ Square, an arcade of restaurants in Santa Fe.

BUTTERFLY GARDEN

  • Description: This new attraction in Santa Fe showcases hundreds of butterflies that come in 14 species. Butterfly garden dedicates an area where you can witness the transformation of a butterfly through its lifetime. Entrance fee is P100 for adults and P50 for kids. Contact them at +63 916 274 2321.
  • Rating: 2/5

GERMAN RUINS & CLIFF DIVING SITE

  • Description: German Ruin is a house destroyed by typhoon Yolanda. A few distance from it is a 20-feet cliff where you can jump off for a dip. For the faint-hearted, a staircase down to the waters can be found a few walking steps from the cliff.
  • Rating: 2/5
Looking at a 20-feet high jump off near the German Ruins.

OGTONG CAVE RESORT

  • Description: There is nothing spectacular about Ogtong cave, but if you are in for a good, cold dip, don’t hesitate to visit the place. It is located inside Ogtong Resort, an annex to Santa Fe Beach club, one of the pioneer beach resorts in Bantayan island. For day-use guests, entrance to the cave is P200.  For rate and availability of the resort, click here.
  • Rating: 2/5

OMAGIECA MANGROVE GARDEN

  • Description: Omagieca Garden is conservation area for mangrove. The place is explored through a snake-like boardwalk which has watchtowers on some of its curves. Come here during high tide to see the mangrove on its full beauty. Entrance fee is P50. You can also find the only “Camp Sawi” signboard in this area, as the one in Kota beach has already been removed.
  • Rating: 2/5

KOTA PARK

  • Description: Kota Park safekeeps the remains of a colonial-era fortress which is often visited for its historic value.
  • Rating: 2/5

ST. PETER & PAUL CHURCH

  • Description: The Roman Catholic church is 5-century old located at Bantayan proper.
  • Rating: 2/5

Extreme Outdoor activities

  1. Kite Surfing – Kitesurfing Bantayan is a kite-school. Contact them here.
  2. Sky Diving – Learn to skydive with Skydive Cebu. Contact them here.

Santa Fe, Bantayan also offers a good spot for sunrise (at Kota beach) and sunset (at Paradise beach) viewing

Sunrise at Kota beach.

Bonus tip – If the weather condition permits, the beaches of Santa Fe can be a good spot to capture the Milky way at night.

BANTAYAN ISLAND SAMPLE ITINERARY & BUDGET

Bantayan island can be enjoyed by just walking on its blinding, long strip of white sand beaches in Santa Fe, waking up to a beautiful sunrise in Kota and Amihan beach, and munching on its tasty seafoods at its market. If these do not sound enough, go on for a day trip, either with an arranged tour or by a rented motorbike or bicycle.

Below is a sample Bantayan DIY itinerary good for 2 to 3 days.

DAY ONE

ActivityTimeBudget
Arrive at Santa Fe12:00PM 
 Lunch1:00PMP150
Check in2:00PM 
Paradise beach3:00PMP50
Sunset viewing at Paradise6:00PM 
Dinner at MJ Square7:00PMP150
Socials (or by the beach at Kota)8:00PM 

DAY TWO

The long strip of white sands in Paradise Beach, Santa Fe. 
ActivityTimeBudget
Sunrise at Kota beach5:00AM 
Breakfast7:00AMP60
Island Hopping8:00AMP800
Virgin Island  
Hilantagaan  
Back in Santa Fe12:00PM 
Lunch1:00PMP150
German Ruins and Cliff Diving2:00PM 
Ogtong Cave2:30PMP200
Omagieca Mangrove Garden3:00PMP50
St. Peter and Paul church4:00PM 
Kota Park5:00PM 
Sunset viewing at Kota6:00PM 

Total expenses: P1,610.00
plus Motorbike rent for 2 days: P500.00

Bantayan Island - Paradise Beach
Bantayan Island – Paradise Beach

WHERE TO EAT IN BANTAYAN ISLAND

At MJ Square, Panyang’s restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat buffet for only P150. For other restaurants, click here.

Santa Fe during Holy Week. During the season, the whole of Bantayan Island is crowded with guests, all types of accommodation are mostly fully booked. It is advised that travelers bring their own tent.

TIPS FOR TRAVELERS

Here are few facts and tips to consider when traveling around Bantayan Island.

  1. Watch out for zealous porters once your arrive at Santa Fe. They will offer to bring your things and ask for payment. Refuse politely if you can carry it yourself.
  2. For backpackers, Paradise Campsite is another beach near Paradise (Sandira) beach (10-minute away on foot) which offers tents for accommodation. Unlike Paradise beach, the campsite has toilet with shower.
  3. Buy fresh fish and meat from the market and cook them at your accommodation to save money.
  4. Tours should be cheap if you come in small party. Haggle the cost of your island hopping if you can.
  5. Check the weather upon planning your trip, especially during the months of October to December. Any sea voyage from and to Bantayan Island is weather permitting.
  6. Bantayan Island triples its number of tourists during Holy Week. There will be a long queue upon going in and out of port. The beach will be crowded and prices in all activities and accommodations will be costly.
  7. If you opt to visit the island during Holy Week for its festivities, reserve your accommodation as early as February.
  8. Bantayan Island is not a good spot for snorkeling and scuba diving.
  9. Spat on a sunscreen while going out for a tour. The place can be so hot during summer.
  10. You will get wet for most of the activities. Wear something that dries quickly.
  11. Trisikad or motorbike drivers and tour operators may take advantage. Always ask a local for the right fare and price before going for the tour.

USEFUL PHRASES

Like in any parts of the Philippines, the locals can speak and understand English in Bantayan Island. However, here are some good phrases that might prove useful when you find yourself endearing with them.

English to Cebuano (the prevalent language among the locals in Bantayan Island)
Thank you – Salamat
Good morning – Maayong buntag
Good afternoon – Maayong hapon
Good evening – Maayong gabii
How much is… – Pila ang…
Where is… – Asa ang…

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Leaning on our boat at Punta Sibaring 1. This photo was taken during a high tide.

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