Heads-up! Bantayan is not Boracay. This famous vacation destination in Cebu is laidback. There are no loud all-nighter parties, no lines of restaurants meters off the shoreline, no regular sighting of celebrities. You will even find it difficult to find beach resorts that offers a wide array of aqua-adventure facilities like jetskiing, parasailing, kit-surfing, bananaboat ride. They are almost non-existent in the island. But you can always amuse yourself like these foreign visitors playing badminton in the waters.
Fun time in Bantayan
Or this one who obviously loves sunbathing =)
Bantayan is NOT FOR YOU if you crave for action and for heart-stopping adventure, if you want large crowd to ogle, if you want to ‘be seen’. Go instead to Boracay, there you will have all that. Leave Bantayan for those who prefer a more subtle experience.
What will you see in Bantayan?
The island is blessed with wide shoreline and powdery white sand beach, the water is blue and clear. Palm trees and coconuts are everywhere, the roads are wide and almost unused, heavy traffic is nowhere, thank goodness.
To sum it up it’s a wonderful tropical getaway for those dreaming of simple island living.
When you come visit, you will see mostly Cebuanos escaping the city for the weekend; you will see foreigners enjoying the simple allure of the countryside.
There are only a few local tourists from other cities like Manila this is because Bantayan is far. It will take you at least 4 hours to reach Bantayan Island from Cebu City.
Read this post for commuting direction tips from Mactan airport to North Bus terminal to Bantayan.
Beach front accommodation – traditional nipa hut cottage
Attractions in Bantayan
There are also other attractions away from the beach and the underwater world in this popular summer destination in Cebu. You can visit Sto Nino Cave in Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort, the Ogtong Cave inside the complex of the Ogtong Beach Resort, the century old Sts Peter and Paul Church, Madridejos Kota Park, the mangrove conservation area in Madridejos, the Bontay Baywalk, the Sta Fe town itself and more.
The island is small, you can hire a tricycle for an island tour to visit all the 5 municipalities and you’d be done in just a few hours. That is if you just hop off – hop on your tricycle and will not stay long at a certain tourist spot.
If you are just staying overnight, I suggest you skip the island tour. Don’t be in too much hurry to visit all the attractions that the island offers. I think the best way to enjoy Bantayan Island Cebu if you are on short vacation is to just stay in your resort, enjoy the sun, the waves and be at peace with yourself and your surroundings.
Where’s the water?
I just want to point this out, the best time to go swimming is around noon when water is deep. Early morning and late afternoon, the water recedes and you have to walk about 100 meters to get to waist deep water level. Some will not mind the walk because the sand is white and fine, but others are particular and might be shock when they see there is no water near the shore hehehe.
This is just for note.
Your resort swimming pool will come in handy if you don’t like to walk to go swim. =)
Island Hopping and Side Trips
Island hopping rate is P800 for a small banca good for 6 persons. Bigger banca charges higher of course. If you want to enter Virgin Island, there is a charge of P500. Yep, extra charge.
If you are alone, this P500 entrance fee to Virgin Island can be steeped. But if you are with a large group, you can divide the cost to make it easy on the pocket.
Snorkeling is a preferred activity during island hopping in Bantayan. Deep diving is best for other beach destinations in Cebu like Moalboal in Cebu South and Malapascua Island in Cebu North.
You can request your boatman to bring you to Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort for a quick tour. Tour fee is P75 per pax which includes a visit to the Sto Nino cave. If you are staying in the park for a whole day, you will pay P150 as that’s their day tour rate, with this fee you can also swim in the park’s infinity pool.
Where to Eat in Bantayan Island?
If you are on budget travel, eating regularly on your hotel restaurant will bring disaster to your funds. Why? Let’s take for example the ubiquitous tapsilog, a favorite Filipino breakfast. Resorts like Budyong charges P150 to P175 for a simple silog breakfast, that’s expensive for backpackers and those traveling on a shoestring budget.
If you want to save on funds, go out of your hotel, walk, and find a carenderia.
Now, don’t look down at these carenderias for they have become the favorite restaurants too of visiting foreigners who stay in the Sugar Beach area. I am not sure if it is more on because there is little choice in the island or the food is really good.
There is this one which is walking distance from Kota Beach Resort and Budyong, a no frills carenderia. It’s around 2 blocks away from these resorts, they serve simple but lami food. The pusit, awesome!
Carenderia for a cheap meal in Bantayan
Prices of dish - pusit P40, pork P25, veggies, P15, rice 10
Also there is this other restaurant which is bigger than the first one, and much nearer the market called Daddy Dok’s. If you drop by there, don’t miss ordering the scallops in chili sauce, highly recommended! A plate of this hot, yummy dish was just P100. Sulit! =)
They also offer silog breakfast fare with price ranges from P55 to P65 – hotsilog is P55, dangitsilog is P65. The better news is Daddy Dok’s is open 24 hours!
Pasalubong Shopping at Public Market
Bantayan is one of the major sources of dried fish and pusit being sold in Taboan Market. Rates of these famous pasalubong in Cebu are cheaper in Bantayan by more or less P100. We bought pusit at P640 per kilo in the public market while a kilo of danggit cost P440.
Please have the tindera wrap your pasalubong well because the bus conductor will not like it if you bring it on board an air-conditioned bus and it starts to smell hehe. If found, they will request you to put your plastics of pasalubong in the bus baggage area.
Aside from danggit and pusit, you can also buy fish tocino, fish tapa and other buwad in the public market.
Continue reading the Second Part – Tips to Avoid Tourist Traps while visiting Bantayan Island.