Bantayan Island Cebu Travel Guide Blog

Bantayan Island

Bantayan Island: Guides, Places to Stay, Things to Do, and Itinerary.

Bantayan Island
Aerial of Kota Beach, Bantayan by @traversephilippines

Vitamin sea. This is my first impression at the shores of Bantayan. The laidback atmosphere, the feeling of freedom riding the motorcycle without a fixed destination, the cool tropical breeze, gentle noise of market, exciting white beaches and alluring clear waters in sight. 

 

Virgin Island Bantayan Island Cebu
Enjoying one of the fine white-sand islands - part of Bantayan island hopping.

Bantayan Island is an island northwest of Cebu with beautiful white-sand beaches. It lies in the Visayan sea, and surrounded by Negros, Cebu and Kinatarkan Islands.

Here’s how to go there, what to do, the weather, what resorts / where to stay, tour destinations and sample itinerary.

Most of the pictures here were taken during my first time to the island.

Three Municipalities of Bantayan Island

Better to get basic geography of Bantayan to maximize your stay. There are three major divisions or towns: 

  1. Sta. Fe – most white-sand beaches and islands are within this area. The port to/from Cebu is here.
  2. Bantayan Town – the capital and where commerce, banks, and schools are. The port to/from Negros is here.
  3. Madridejos – old name is “Lawis” meaning “a rock emerging out of the sea.” Was built by Spaniards to guard against the invasions of the Moros. Later renamed in honor of a religious leader.

How to Go to Bantayan Island

Bantayan is a part of Cebu Province. The easiest way to get to Bantayan Island is via Cebu City. The Mactan-Cebu International Airport is the second busiest airport in the country, so it’s easy to walk your way around.

FLIGHTS TO CEBU: Here are price ranges of fares to Cebu City from top airport hubs in the Philippines.

Check-out prices at real-time below: (Note: Booking is done via a Singapore-based booking system through API to the websites of the fastcrafts companies)

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Flights to Cebu

From Mactan-Cebu International Airport to Bantayan

Airport to Hagnaya Port. Ride a bus at Cebu North Bus Terminal in Mandaue City headed to Hagnaya Port. Hagnaya is the port from the mainland Cebu. Travel time is around 3 hours. You can also rent a van, taxi or car.

Hagnaya Port to Bantayan Island. First trip is as early as 4a.m. and last trip 5:30pm. The ferries are roros or barge, which carry both passengers and vehicles. Ferry will dock at Sta. Fe Port. 

From BACOLOD/NEGROS to Bantayan

From Bacolod/Negros to Bantayan Island: Bacolod to Cadiz by Ceres Bus105php, Cadiz Termnal to port 25php, Cadiz port to Bantayan 300php, Bantayan to Sta.fe 25php. Total: 455 php (Same Fare Vise Versa)  (You can bring School ID for Discount). Book flights to Bacolod below:

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Getting Around Bantayan

Bantayan Island Tricycle Transportation
Bantayan's version of tricycle that we used to travel from Bantayan proper to Sta. Fe. Use this if you're in groups. The drivers of these are waiting in ports when you arrive. Don't forget to negotiate.
Motorcycling around Bantayan Island
Motorbiking around the island - for me the best experience so far. The freedom to discover places and bond with friends and family. P200 - 250 per day.

Where to Stay in Bantayan Island

Cliff Syde Lodge Bantayan Cebu
Cliff Syde Lodge, Bantayan, Cebu

Going there and assessing the places myself, I recommend that the best places to stay are in the vicinity of Poblacion/Baluarte, Santa Fe (for beach and night gatherings) and in the surrounding vicinity of Sta. Fe if you prefer peaceful surroundings.

Why Stay in Poblacion Sta Fe., Bantayan Island?

  • Accessibility to markets
  • Beaches are at a walking distance
  • 4G signal is good
  • Most food places are here

We stayed at Cliff Syde (see picture above) which is very near Sta. Fe Cliff Diving Spot. We enjoyed a more tranquil surroundings, though we have to ride a rented motorcycle to go to the proper. 

Bantayan-Island
A chill spot place at twilight near our AirBnB where you can gather or watch the sunset.

Poblacion Sta. Fe Accommodations

Or Find Your Best Deals for Your Stay Using the Search Box Below

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Things to Do in Bantayan Island

Bantayan is a paradise for nature-lovers. You can find serene beaches, nature walks, chill night places, adventures, and warm local hospitality. 

I think this laidback island is most ideal if you’ll have a “long-cation.” There are a lot to experience and you’d need 3 or more days to enjoy the gifts of the Creator here.

  • Rent a Bike
  • The Public Beaches
    • Kota Beach (Free)
    • Near Queen Elizabeth Beach Resort
    • Beside Coral Blue Oriental 
  • Island Hopping
    • Virgin Island
    • Hilantagaan Island
    • Kinatarcan Island
    • Malapascua Island
    • Funtastic Island
  • Cliff Diving (Free)
  • Oboob Mangrove Ecopark / Camp Sawi
  • Okoy-Balidbid Lagoon
  • Paradise Beach
  • Nature Park Bantayan
  • Buy Dried Fish
  • Long ride to Bontay / Kota Park
  • Sta. Fe Butterfly Garden

Rent a Bike

Riding a Motor bike in Bantayan

Travel Tip: To maximize the enjoyment of the island, rent a motorbike. You’ll get fast mobility going to spots, beaches, buy food, ingredients and more. You can approach your landmaster or a tourist guide in the town proper.

The coconut-shadowed road to Oboob Mangrove EcoFarm / Camp Sawi signage.

The Public Beaches

When I go to a place, I usually look first for the free things to do. In Bantayan, it’s the free-access beaches. I want to see how they preserve public-domain.

I think you’ll not just to enjoy the privacy of your resort, but the serendipity of mingling and meeting the local townsfolks- to hear their stories, listen to their dreams and challenges. You’d meet visitors as well. One time I met foreigners and heard their stories why they migrated to Bantayan Island and enjoying the long-term benefits of it.

I enjoy watching fishermen pulling their nets and assessing their yields, children playing in the sand and building castles. As a tourist, I believe experience is not just with nature but in immersing oneself in another culture and experiencing change and new perspectives.

Kota Beach, Poblacion Sta. Fe

Kota Beach and Sandbar is the favorite place to go of beach-lovers. It’s the central spot of Sta. Fe, Bantayan, so don’t miss coming here. But this white-sand area usually gets crowded especially during peak seasons. So far this is the public beach at the poblacion with the biggest area.

Bantayan Island, Cebu
Color-mixed shot in Kota Beach Area / Poblacion Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island

Beach Near Queen Elizabeth Beach Resort

Public Beaches in Bantayan Island Cebu1
It was low tide when I visited. Not so fine sand but more townsfolks and local fishermen. I see foreign tourists strolling around here. Not crowded but you'd enjoy the sunset.

Beside Coral Blue Oriental

When I cam here, I was surprised that the sand is much finer than the others. The strip is shorter but there are people who swim around. I see this is the nearest to the center of the town / poblacion so far. 

So if you want a place near food hubs, night life and the “heart” of the town, try Coral Blue Oriental or those around this area.

Boating / Island-Hopping

The islands you can hop to during island-hopping: 

  • Hilantagaan Island
  • Virgin Island
  • Kinatarcan Island
  • Malapascua Island
  • Funtastic Island
Virgin Island Docking Area
The docking beach at Virgin Island when we arrived around noontime from island hopping

Virgin Island

The beach in Virgin Island at the back area near the jump-off spot

I’d recommend Virgin Island as the best destination if you’d go island-hopping, or if you’re short in time. 

Cliff Diving Spot

Cliff Diving Spot in Bantayan Island

Cliff diving has become a popular sport in Bantayan. This spot is near a ruined building along the main highway just south of the Ogtong Cave Resort. 

Cliff Diving in Bantayan
Cliff diving spot at Santa Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu.

Oboob Mangrove Ecopark / Camp Sawi

Oboob Mangrove Ecopark in Bantayan

Not just beaches, but Bantayan Island offers other eco-spots like this Mangrove eco-park which is also very educational for tourists.

Camp Wagi sign in Omagieca Mangrove in Bantayan Island

You may have heard about the Pinoy Movie “Camp Sawi” and may think that it’s about Kota Beach or the mangrove. The movie was shot in different attractions of the island made into one. The only remaining signage can be found in Oboob/Omagiega Mangrove Garden Ecopark. 

The best way to go here is by renting a motorbike. Entrance is P50. You can do kayaking at P150/person and the entrance fee is waived.

Average time walking around the ecopark is 20 minutes. Here, you getaway with the beaches, immerse in learning experience about nature, picture-taking, and fish-feeding. Try climbing the Bamboo Tower

Sta. Fe Butterfly Garden

Sta Fe Butterfly Garden Bantayan Island
This may not be new to you but if you have nature-loving kids, they may enjoy here.

Other Places to Visit in Bantayan

  • Okoy-Balidbid Ocean Lagoon – a less-popular destination but this is a body of water surrounded by peninsula-like body of land. The locals call it SUBA (River) because it resembles a river exiting to the sea. Its distance is ~3 km from poblacion Sta. Fe. 
  • Paradise Beach – visit this white-sound beach if you want a good beach with less crowd. Entrance is P50 and opens from 9AM – 5PM. 
  • Nature Park Bantayan – a serene resort between Sta. Fe and Madridejos. The resort offers a spring-fed cave pool which is the biggest on the island. It’s both family and eco-friendly.
  • Shop “Bulad” Pasalubong – Bulad is the visayan term for dried fish. It’s a famous produce of Bantayan Island. If you love dried fish, get to Bantayan Market in Bantayan Town by riding a rented motorcycle. Or if you’ll go back to Negros, drop by here before heading to the pier
  • Bontay Boardwalk and Kota Park (26 km from Sta. Fe) – A public spot if you want to visit  the further end town of Madridejos. The best time to visit is around 5-6 PM to see the sunset, inhale the cool breeze and enjoy the clear waters. Check recent reviews to see if the bridge has been repaired. 

Famous Pasalubong of Bantayan

Bulad Dried Fish in Bantayan Island
"Bulad" / "Uga" (ilonggo) / Dried Fish which Bantayan is famous for as well. Don't go home without bringing some of it.

Before our breakfast was served at 8am, I rode the motorbike from Sta. Fe and drove ~25 minutes to the west of the island to visit and shop for the famous pasalubong of Bantayan – the dried fishes.

Just look for the Bantayan Dried Fish and Vegetable Market beside the multi-purpose hall. It’s also near the Bantayan Wharf to Cadiz, Negros.

A best-seller is “danggit” – a salted, sun-dried rabbitfish, which are abundant in the island. There are two types: (1) Marinated and (2) Salted. They’re left under the sun to dry.

Many Filipinos go mouth-watering when they smell this fried in the morning. Eating with your hands and hearing the crunch in every bite engraves the Filipino food identity. 

It’s good to be served at breakfast paired with scrambled eggs. You can add chopped onions and garlic to the mix. 

Things to Note

Some infos to digest to make your stay more enjoyable.

  • Waterproof Bag. Bring OceanPak / waterproof bag to avoid wetting your things
  • Ecobag – contribute to the sustainability of Bantayan Island by bringing your own eco-bag and declining plastics when you shop.
  • ATM Machines. Bring cash but not so much because there are ATM’s. I saw EastWest and PNB ATM Machines in Sta. Fe Town Proper, Bantayan Island. 
Forgot some cash? Here's one of the ATM's. My two cents: Don't bring huge lump of money so you can enjoy the island with less to worry about. You can ATM anytime.
  • Credit Card in establishments. It depends on establishments whether they accept cards. But most use cash due to faster transactions and fewer connectivity issues.
  • Avoid sandy concrete roads. I had a friend that slipped on the concrete roads with sand. He got minor bruises and was brought to ER for anti-tetanus.
  • Tumblers – Say yes to refill and say no to single-use plastic bottles. Let’s give extra effort for the next generation of tourists. 

Street Smart Guides in the Island

Biggest Store in Bantayan Island
So far one of the biggest and most complete grocery store in the island. You can travel light! Shop here for necessities or raw ingredients if you'll be cooking your own food. You can market meat, fishes in other places.
Inside one of the mini mart
Chill Place in Sta Fe Bantayan Island
A chill spot zone in Sta. Fe Bantayan. across Petron (the only gasoline station in the island)
The Talipapa of Sta. Fe at night - a strip of commercial spaces where you'll find a kiosk for everything. Around this are night life restos, bands, acoustics and inns.
Eating out in Bantayan Sta Fe
Eating Out is not difficult in Sta. Fe - there are hospitable restuarants like this in the poblocaion area.
Sea deck in Bantayan Island
Sea deck in front of our accommodation

Wrap Up

Bantayan Island is a beautiful gem in the Philippines. It has precious gifts to share with humanity but has its challenges too. 

Just like with other island’s concern, over-tourism, irresponsible tourism, poor waste and sewage management, plastics and local livelihood losses, I hope Bantayan and its people will always prioritize its sustainability before profit so that more people can enjoy its Maker in the generations to come.

Contact Numbers for Emergencies

Actual Reference of Bantayan Hotlines

  • Bantayan Municipality Mayor’s Office:
    • (032) 460-9063
    • 09195256621
  • DRRMO (Rescue)
    • 09485141014
    • 09778017036
    • 09304778941
  • PNP (Police)
    • (032)460-9078
    • 0998-598-6375
    • 0998-967-3835
  • BFP (Fire)
    • (032) 460 -9079
    • 0922-404-8279
  • RHU (Birthing Home)
    • (032) 460-9076
    • (032) 460-9082
    • 0998-387-7749
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