Bantayan Island – Why Go and How to Get There?
Before coming to the Philippines, we never ever heard of Bantayan Island located off the northern coast of Cebu Island.
If you’re around the Cebu area and want to experience slow island life in a not too-overly crowded or overly developed environment, then Bantayan Island is for you.
Reasons to Visit Bantayan Island:
- Local Tourism – Bantayan Island has just as many (if not more) local tourists as foreign tourists. We like to think of this as a good sign as we hate to visit places with only foreign tourists because locals can’t afford it. During our visit, we even witnessed a Filipino surprise proposal.
- NOT Overly Developed – This island is the opposite of Boracay’s overly developed beach front. Bantayan remains relatively small. Beach front resorts are mainly clusters of cottages. The only boats that you’ll see on the shoreline are fishing boats which remain far from the white sand beaches where locals and tourists can enjoy swimming in the crystal clear water.
- Friendliness – The children of Bantayan Island were some of the friendliest that we met in the Philippines. We befriended a couple of kids our first night on the beach. Every time they saw us again on the island, they would shout our names to say hi. Another day, we decided to explore the whole island by scooter. At the very northern tip, we ran into 3 school girls who kept slowly approaching us and doing cartwheels and backbends. One hour later we were flying drones together, and Pierre was showing them how to do headstands.
- Good Food – We were pretty impressed with the food selection & variety on such a small island. The main street has plenty of options to choose from including a food court with the best Mexican food in the Philippines (Bantayan Burrito Company), in case you’re craving something different.
How to Get There & Budget?
It really only takes ONE BUS + ONE FERRY once your in Cebu City. For a couple that has been traveling around the Philippines for a month via sea & land (not flying is such a budget saver), the trip to Bantayan from Cebu City is so easy!
Step 1: FLY to Cebu.
Step 2: From Cebu Airport take the BUS (50 php) or TAXI (200 php) to Cebu Bus North Terminal – 45 mins depending on traffic
Step 3: From the North Terminal take the BUS (165 php) to Hagnaya Port – 4 hours (We arrived at the bus station at 8am and were immediately ushered on the next bus.)
Step 4: From Hagnaya Port take the FERRY (170 php + 10 php terminal fee) to Santa Fe Port in Bantayan – less than 2 hours
Step 5: Arrive in Santa Fe and pay the Ecological Fee (30 php)
Step 6: Take a tricycle to your hotel in Santa Fe (20-30 php)
Where to Stay?
Bantayan Island isn’t that big. Most tourist base themselves in Santa Fe conveniently located near the port of arrival. You can easily rent a scooter to explore the island from your base. As our trip to Bantayan Island was last minute, we didn’t book anything in advance. We ended up walking around town to get a survey of the hotels available.We were drenched in sweat with the sun beaming on us, but I was determined to find a hotel that met our budget and comfort standards. Hotels we surveyed ranged from 750 php to 1700 php.
*Travel Tip* – Something to note, you really can’t go wrong in terms of location for hotels in Santa Fe. The town is very small so unless you want to be directly on the beach, in-land locations are pretty much the same +/- a few blocks to the beach.
Nordic Inn – This is the first place we visited. Pierre found this location after reading a French blog posts on Bantayan. Cheap, small & basic rooms (perhaps too basic for me). Price: 750 php
Random Hotel – As we were walking to Sunshine Inn, locals asked if we wanted to see an available room for 950 php. We opted to see the room to include in our survey. The location was very central but on the corner of a busy street. The room was also too dim for my liking.
Sunshine Inn – Hotel with large grounds and lounging area for guests. Great if you don’t want to only stay in your room – which is also very large. Very clean and close to the beach. Unfortunately this was a little over our budget at 1,800 for an air-con room.
Coucou Inn – The hotel is popular probably due to it’s restaurant and location on Bantayan’s main street. There were many foreign guest and people having lunch when we arrived. This place may have been a little too appealing as all rooms were fully booked. Price: 1,500 php
Mickey Santoro Hotel – Located around the corner from Coucou this place seems very modern and clean when I visited. Run by a foreign couple. Price: 1,600 php asking, normally 2,000 php
Adelaida Pensionne Hotel – The last hotel that we visited. I texted the hotel ahead of time to make sure that they had a room. Modern, spacious, air-con room for 1,200 php a night. DONE. We opted for this one.
Recommended reading: Three “Must-Do” Things to Do in Bantayan Island
Recommended viewing: The Best Day Ever in the Philippines