Your trip to Bantayan Island will be one of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences of your lifetime. From the moment that your tired feet touch the powder soft white sand beaches, till your aching body is soothed by the warm crystal clear water, you will never forget this island paradise.
I am proud to have been born in this tropical paradise. Although I now work in the city as a Software Engineer, I always find time to come home and bask in the glory of this wonderful place. In fact, one of the main reasons I started this blog is to write about my dear hometown. I have a number of people asking me similar questions such as how to get there, where to stay, what else is there to do aside from beaching, etc… Push came to shove so I finally went on and document these FAQs in the form of a blog.
Ok, that’s enough back story. Without further ado, here’s a list of things you shouldn’t miss when in Bantayan Island:
1. Get a tan.
It is a sin to go to Bantayan and not get a tan. Go out, comb the beach and let the sun kiss your skin! Take off your shoes and just stroll. Look for a heart-shaped shell or uniquely colored piece of stone. If you feel a little bit lazy, simply lay down on the beach and bask in the sun.
2. Visit the old church in Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island is famous not only for its crystal clear waters and white beaches but also known for its age-old churches. In fact, St. Peter and Paul Church is the first Parish established in Cebu by the Augustinians in 1580 and one of the parishes included in the Arch diocese of Mexico. The church is formerly known as the convent of Asunsion de Nuestra Senora.
3. Snorkel in Virgin Island
Hire a banca, about Php800-1000 pesos for unlimited time and prepare an additional 200 pesos for banca parking fee. Known to Bantayan locals as Virgin Island, Silion Island is an isle off the mainland. Rights to the island are owned by the Villacarlos clan, a political family in Madridejos town in Bantayan Island.
Just like in Daku Island, Siargao, I recommend to bring your own lunch. You can picnic on its calm and serene atmosphere renting cottages built on bermuda-covered lawns and white sand shorelines. The rich marine life of the Bantayan Marine Sanctuary not far off its shores make it also a good jump-off point if you want to experience the joys and thrills of snorkeling. If you are a good swimmer, you can circle around the island while snorkeling.
4. Rent a motorbike and explore the island
The town is idyllic and incredibly charming. If you start early, you can circle around the island within a day with a few stops. Be prepared to stumble upon little kids waving their hand with their big smiles. And if you happen to go around on a Sunday, don’t be surprised to see a lot of motorbikes parked on the edge of the road. Drivers are taking some time off to bet. Sunday is cockfighting day.
5. Explore the cave at Ogtong Cave Resort
From the name itself, Ogtong Cave Resort is famous for its cave. Where else have you heard of a cave in the middle of a beach resort? The place is usually filled with families during weekends. It has a cave pool where kids and adults can swim in its crystal clear waters.
The good thing is, you do not have to be a guest of the resort to go for a swim and explore the cave! Walk-in guests are welcome for a minimal fee. Entrance fee is Php100.
6. Discover the Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort
Once you enter the 8-hectare nature park, you will instantly feel as if you are in the middle of the jungle. Animal lovers will have a great time because the park is home to various kinds of animals that are not normally seen in other places. Entrance fee is Php150.
7. Support local artists
During the summer season, Bantayan is one of the homebases of many Cebuano artists. Walk around the town and you’ll find finely-crafted art pices to buy and wear. Amazing trinkets which are perfect souvenir items can be purchased at a very reasonable price.
8. Join the procession
One of the most well attended activities in the island is the annual Holy Friday solemn procession. A lot of tourists from all over the world come to Bantayan for the sole purpose of taking part in this religious activity.
9. Visit Kota Park and watch the Sunset at the Boardwalk
Madridejos Kota Park is an old Spanish Fort that was transformed into a park. The boardwalk is famous for getting an awe inspiring sight of the sunset.
Take a bus or van bound for Hagnaya at the Cebu North Bus Terminal. Personally, I don’t recommend taking the van because for 200 pesos, you’ll get cramped up along with 17 other passengers on a 14-seater vehicle. Buses are more spacious, frequent and it has an larger compartment for your luggage. Bus fare is at most 132 pesos for non-aircon, 160 for aircon as of June 2016. Or, if you are on a roll, you can hire a private transport or taxi for minimum 2500 pesos.
Once you reach Hagnaya Port, make your way towards the ticket booth and book the next ferry to Sta Fe. There are no air-conditioned cabins or VIP seats. A regular class ticket costs 174 pesos as of June 2016.
WHERE TO STAY
Every time I come here, I stay at my parent’s house so I cannot speak of any resorts or guesthouse for recommendation but WowBantayan makes a really good compilation of the best accommodation in Bantayan Island.
Hope you find this list helpful in your trip to my hometown. If you have any questions about Bantayan, let me know in the comments below:)