The Bantayan Islands in Cebu is one of the many stunning islands in the Philippines that is yet to be fully commercialized. As of this moment, there are no luxury resorts, trendy cafés flocked by digital nomads, or boutique stores that generate foot traffic all over town.
But thanks to Instagram, all kinds of travelers – from backpackers to luxury travel – are starting to take notice of this tropical paradise.
Bantayan Island is an unspoiled tropical paradise that rivals the very best in the Philippines. Imagine secluded white sand beaches, calm aquamarine waters amidst the glistening sun, hidden caves that make you go whoaaa, narrow dirt roads lined up with tall coconut palm trees, and a whole lot more.
BANTAYAN ISLAND QUICK FACTS
The vibe and atmosphere around the island is serene and calming.
It’s hard to imagine that Bantayan suffered the most violent typhoon ever recorded in history not too long ago. From the pictures and videos online, the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Typhoon Yolanda) was chilling and unimaginable. It speaks volumes on the efforts of the volunteers from all over the world and resilience of the locals to bring back Bantayan Island what it was once.
Today, Bantayan Island is stronger than ever.
From meeting a few locals, you would never think for a second that Bantayan Island suffered the worst typhoon recorded ever in the Philippines. Walking around the island, you will be greeted by the warm and welcoming smiles of the locals.
HOW TO GET TO BANTAYAN ISLAND
Although Bantayan is in a remote location, traveling to Bantayan Island is more accessible than you may think.
Bantayan Island is located in the Visayas region on the northwest tip of the island of Cebu, about an hour flight from the main capital of Manila.
The Mactan-Cebu International Airport is Cebu’s busiest airport, with several daily flights to and from major tourist destinations in the Philippines, and over 30 international destinations.
HOW TO GO TO BANTAYAN ISLAND FROM CEBU CITY:
1. Travel to Hagnaya Port
For the luxury travelers who prefer comfort, Mactan-Cebu International Airport provides a private shuttle service that will take you to Hagnaya Port, where you will take another ferry to Bantayan Island. The approximate fare is about P3000.
As Cebu City can get highly congested with traffic, travel times can range anywhere between three to four hours. And if you get lucky without traffic, you can reach the port in less than three hours.
For travelers who are feeling a little bit more adventurous, you can catch a bus from Cebu City that will take you directly to Hagnaya Port. You can take myBus to the North Bus Terminal straight from Mactan-Cebu Airport. Otherwise, you can take a taxi (or Grab) from the airport to the North Bus Terminal. The fare difference is P25 (bus fare) versue P30 (taxi fare).
Considering the bus ride from Cebu City to Hagnaya Port will make frequent stops, the travel time will take a little bit over 4 and a half hours, possible longer if you hit traffic.
Quick note: the last ferry from Hagnaya Port leaves at 5:30 PM (as of the publication of this blog post). If you don’t think you’ll make it before the last ferry ride leave, I suggest to stay overnight at Cebu City as there aren’t many accommodations or hotels in and around Hagnaya Port. If you do stay overnight in Cebu City, you may catch the first ride the next day starting at 3 a.m.
2. Take the Ferry to Santa Fe Port
Once you get to Hagnaya Port, take a ferry straight to Bantayan Island.
Apart from the fare (P170), you will be required to pay a terminal fee (P10), and an Ecological Fee (P30) once you get to Bantayan Island.
The travel time from Hagnaya Port to Bantayan Island is approximately 45 minutes to one hour.
Note that many resorts in Bantayan Island offer shuttle service from the port to the resort. Make sure to check with your resort before hand and arrange pick-up times. Otherwise, you may take a tricyle (Filipino tuk-tuks) from the port to your hotel.
TOP BANTAYAN ISLAND RESORTS – WHERE TO STAY
As I mentioned earlier, Bantayan Island is one of the few remaining destinations in the world that is yet to be fully commercialized.
With that said, one shouldn’t expect to stay in the most lavish luxury hotels and resorts while on the island.
Bantayan Island key selling point are its pristine white sand beaches. Therefore, your priority when researching resorts in Bantayan should be its location!
(Note that Bantayan Island’s main tourist spot is in Santa Fe): Santa Fe is the main town that caters to the tourists. Much of the action in the island happens here. The town has pretty good selection of restaurants, bars, market, and… an ATM.
Check out these Bantayan Island resorts:
1) AMIHAN BEACH CABANAS
Amihan Beach Cabanas is one Bantayan Island’s popular resort.
We specifically love Amihan Beach Cabanas’ location, right on the pristine white beaches of Bantayan Island.
The rooms itself adds to the tropical tribes with the banana leaves roof, and bamboo furnishings from the wall to the bed. Each room also comes with a terrace with a seating area, with a sweeping view of the ocean.
Amihan Beach Cabanas provides shuttle services to and from the Santa Fe port.
2) ANIKA ISLAND RESORT
This beautiful beachfront resort is popular for couples and families.
Anika Island Resort receives rave reviews from guests on Booking.com due to its location, amenities available on-site, and hospitality of the staff.
The oceanfront Bantayan resort features free WiFi, on-site restaurant that serve Filipino and international food selections, and its own private pool for their guests.
3) KOTA BEACH RESORT
Guests love Kota Beach due its proximity to Santa Fe, Bantayan Island’s popular town center.
This oceanfront resort features cottages that are set right on the beach, offering sweeping views of the pristine blue waters and a picturesque white sand bar that’s perfect for your Instagram feed.
Kota Beach also features a restaurant right on the beach, serving mostly local cuisine. We love hanging out here sipping our coconuts while enjoying the tropical ocean view!
4) HOYOHOY VILLAS
One of my favorite places I’ve stayed so far in the Philippines is Hoyohoy Resorts in Bantayan Island. The resort has 8 mini villas that felt more like an estate.
The room itself is very comfortable with a lot of character. I think my favorite part is the shower, set out in the open just outside the bathroom. It made our visit feel even more exotic!
THINGS TO DO IN BANTAYAN ISLAND (WHAT TO EXPECT)
For such a tiny tropical paradise, there is definitely enough things to do and explore in Bantayan Island.
1) PARADISE BEACH
Let’s start with the obvious.
The beaches in Bantayan Island are some of the best beaches in the world. The finest, white sand with the clearest (and warm!) azure waters, with the backdrop of towering coconut trees.
There are no shortage of beaches Bantayan – so definitely expect to spend a few hours of your day just lounging around the beaches!
2) THE RUINS
Some of the best views in Bantayan Island is in this area.
The ruins is essentially an abandoned structure, perched up on a hill that overlooks the ocean. Try to catch the sunset here!
3) SAND BAR AT KOTA BEACH
It almost doesn’t feel like a tropical destination without a sandbar – and Bantayan Island won’t disappoint.
Kota Beach features a picturesque sandbar that I’m sure will end up on your Instagram.
4) RENT A SCOOTER
The best way to get around the main town in Bantayan Island is on a scooter.
Santa Fe is relatively small, so it’s easy to get around. But there is something about exploring a remote tropical island on a scooter that makes you feel a sense of liberty and freedom.
5) BANTAYAN PUBLIC PLAZA
Take a stroll through Bantayan Island’s main part of town, the Bantayan Public Plaza. You will find the oldest Church on the island here (dating back from 1580 during the Spanish rule), along with a few shops and restaurants giving a bit of activity and energy on the island.
6) MANGROVE GARDEN
Visit the Mangrove Garden and enjoy the lush tropical setting with hundred of towering coconut trees surrounding the area. There is an elevated boardwalk that is a pathway around the Mangrove, passing through some picture perfect scenic spots.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BANTAYAN
The busiest month for tourism in Bantayan Island, the Philippines is March until May, which is considered the summer months in the Philippines. During this season, expect to spend quite a bit of time under the shade as the heat can be unbearable at times.
Personally, I would recommend October and February as the perfect months to visit Bantayan island. The weather is not too hot (apart from a few rainy days), while the island remains relatively quiet without many tourists flocking over during the holidays.