Bantayan is a very low key island of 120,000 people that makes up part of the Visayas Island group. It is located north-west of the larger island of Cebu. The island is flat, covered in coconut palms and has sand so white that it could give Boracay’s White Beach a run for its money!
The neat thing about Bantayan is that there is one area of tourist development, the town of Santa Fe in the south-east of the island, but the rest of the island functions as a regular local Island where you can experience authentic laid-back Filipino island life. The island is big enough to make for some quality exploring but still small enough to feel like you’re really living island life!
Bantayan island produces eggs for both Cebu and Mindanao – both of these larger islands are densely populated meaning a lot of eggs and a whole lot of chickens! As you drive around Bantayan Island by motorbike you can see numerous chicken farms along the way.
Where to stay on Bantayan Island?
There are about 40 different types of accommodation on the whole of the island that range from budget (less than 400 PHP per night) to super luxury (more than 3,000 PHP per night). Camping is also possible at a few of the resorts so if you’re on a real budget take your tent!
Most of the resorts are located in the south of the island in the main resort town of Santa Fe. Santa Fe is a good spot to be based with lots of restaurants and cafés within walking distance. It’s easy to explore the rest of the island from here by hiring a motorbike. Some of our favourite budget options include:
Casa Isabel: A favourite amongst travellers to Bantayan, this colourful casa is very homely, friendly and best of all, affordable, with dorm beds from $8 USD per night and a standard room from $12 USD per night. The casa is located just a few minutes walk to the beach and has a shared kitchen for guests to use. All in all, a super friendly budget place to stay.
Edsan Apartment: This place is super clean and great value for money with an AC apartment with balcony costing just $12 USD. The Slovenian owner will do everything possible to make your stay enjoyable and give you tips on exploring the island. The apartment is located walking distance to the beach, as well as bars and restaurants.
Stevrena Cottages: Another good budget option in Santa Fe is this guesthouse located just a few minutes walk from the beach. Basic bungalows with a balcony are $23 USD.
Yooneek Beach Resort: For a place right on the beach in Santa Fe, Yooneek Beach Resort is a fun and friendly midrange place to stay on the beach with super nice staff. The resort also doubles up as a rather lively bar and restaurant which does a good breakfast. Room prices are around $20 USD per night depending on the season.
Things to do on Bantayan Island
The School of the SEA:
The Philippines is becoming increasingly aware of the need to protect its coral reefs. Unfortunately, overfishing and other factors have destroyed some areas of reef already and the School of the SEA (Sea and Earth Advocates) aims to educate people in sustainability and nurturing the environment. They have a marine reserve out the front and run presentations for those who are interested.
Hire a bicycle or a motorbike and explore!
Bantayan is a reasonably flat island which means that even the unfit can enjoy a bike ride around the streets of the island or into the small village of Santa Fe. Hiring a bicycle for the day will cost you around 200 PHP for 24 hours, 150 PHO if you’re good at haggling.
Kota Beach Sand Bar:
Don’t miss the most Instagrammable spot on the island!
Head to the Western Pier for sunset:
Take a ride to the western facing side of the island and watch the day disappear.
Island hop in a Banca Boat:
Take a traditional banca boat to any one of the neighbouring islands for an island hopping adventure. Some of the most beautiful outlying islands are Virgin Island, Hilantagaan Island and Kinatarkan Island. A full day tour with a banca will cost you around 1000 PHP, again it’s wise to haggle on the first price that you are given. Access to Virgin Island costs 500 PHP for 2 people and then 100 PHP per person after that.
How to get to Bantayan?
Bantayan is roughly four hours bus from Cebu and then a two-hour roro (roll on, roll off) ferry. If you’re taking bikes from Cebu just put them on the ferry to explore Bantayan. Take a yellow Ceres bus from the terminal in Cebu.
Where to go next?
- Malapascua Island: Hire a banca boat and head to the much smaller Malapascua Island
- Return to Cebu: Head back to Cebu for some more city life. You might like to stop by the Camotes Islands on your way back to Cebu!
- Boat ride to Bacolod: Get a pump boat to Negros and travel to Bacolod with friendly locals and fab food.