White Sands at Bantayan Island
There’s nothing more I crave for every start of the summer (besides a good meal and ice cream) than going to the beach. It literally beckons me. It’s a family tradition and one that I’ve kept alive now that I have my own family. This year, we decided to visit Bantayan Island which is just a bit north-west of Cebu in the Visayan Sea.
First, you will need to fly to Cebu unless you’re already there. From Manila, we took a very early flight to Cebu so that we could get to the island by noon. Once we arrived at the airport we headed straight to the taxi stand. You’ll head to the North Bus terminal and take a bus to Hagnaya. The bus ride will take about 3 hours so make sure to pack some snacks. The taxi ride will cost you about P120 – P150, while the bus ride will cost P150 as of today’s writing.
Bus to Hagnaya PierThere’s no need to worry where to get off, because the bus will take you directly to the Hagnaya pier where you’ll board a ferry. But first, don’t forget to purchase some snacks while you’re at the bus station. And this is a must unless you have your own snacks already with you. One does get hungry on a long bus ride.
North Bus Terminal. Get some snacks!After the 3 hour air-conditioned bus ride through Cebu and its island scenery, you will finally arrive at Hagnaya Pier where you will take a ferry to the island. Once you get off the bus, head towards the ticket booths and purchase a Ferry Ticket (P170) with any of the boats heading to the island. Typically, there are ferries leaving for the island every hour, with the last ferry leaving at around 5:30pm.
Getting on the ferry
Safety first!Around this time it would be a good idea to take some anti-sea sickness medication, because you will be heading out onto the Visayan Sea. If you easily get sea sick this would be a good idea. Otherwise, enjoy the 75 minute ferry ride to your destination: the white sands of Bantayan Island!
At around this time I took a long deserved nap as I’ve been probably awake several hours already. Besides, I wanted to be up and about when we arrived so that we can go swimming right away. When we got near the island, it was looking more and more like the vacation I was looking forward to.
Look at that water!
View at the pier.After a 5 minute drive from the pier to the resort we finally arrived at our destination: paradise and white sands. It was time to break out the good old sun screen. With a view like this from your room, who wouldn’t be tempted to dive right into the water?
This is what I call a vacation!
Where to Eat
Luckily, one of the great places to eat at on Bantayan Island was the open air restaurant of the beach resort we were staying at: Beach Placid. Their open air restaurant boasts a great menu and has that great island feel decor. Talk about convenience, since we were only a few minutes away from the restaurant!
Eating al frescoWe tried their Pork Humba (P180) and Breaded Fish Fillet with Mushroom Sauce (P180). My wife and sister in law enjoyed their food so much that we had to order a second round of plates to appease their appetite.
Fish FilletThere are of course other great places you could eat at on Bantayan Island. Most of the bars and restaurants are located in Santa Fe town proper, just a short hop away from the resorts. We decided to explore this area during dinner. So before we headed out into town I asked the front desk what place they would recommend, and Cou Cou Bar was given. We got ourselves some transport and from the resort it’s a 10 minute padyak (pedicab) ride to get there. The cost of the padyak is P20 per person.
Cou Cou BarThe place was packed with tourists and that was surprising, since we haven’t even hit the high season yet. We were craving some familiar food, but we also wanted to try out the seafood, so we came up with a compromise. We decided on getting Sinigang na Baboy and Fish in Coconut Sauce. The fish it turns out was Mackerel bathed in coconut sauce. The total meal cost us P535 with a platter of rice.
Dinner in the garden
Fish and Coconut
What to Do
Besides the obvious like lying around on the beach, getting a tan, and swimming, you can also go rent a banka and go island hopping. You can visit the Virgin Island, supposedly to have really clear and blue/green waters. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do the island hopping part since we were only staying 3 days. But what we did instead was rent scooters and explored the island.
The scooters cost around P250 – P350 depending on where you rent them. At the resort it cost us P350 per scooter for a 24 hour rental. You also have the option of renting them on a per hour basis or 8 hour basis for a bit less. It was P300 for an 8 hour rental, so we figured the extra P50 wouldn’t hurt since we were still going to visit the market place the next day. You’ll have to gas up the scooters out of your own pockets, but that’s easily done since almost every few meters somebody is selling gas for P60 – P62 pesos. It’s a bit expensive, but a 2 liter fill up will get you through a whole day of motoring on the island.
Ready to go!As a safety precaution, I would suggest that only those who actually know how to drive a motorcycle should rent scooters. This is because there are areas on the main highway that do have cars and large trucks traveling on the same street. This is also because a helmet is not required here. Otherwise, I would ride with somebody who knows how to ride a motorcycle, or you could also rent a bicycle for P70 per hour. We were also told that you could rent a padyak for P100 for the whole day, but that is sans the driver -- you’ll have to do the hard labor yourself while your friends get to ride along.
What to Visit
If you’ve opted to rent a scooter or a bicycle, it’s highly suggested you take the path that is less travelled. These are usually the paths the locals take through their Barangay. Not only would this give you a chance to see the natural beauty of the island, but also the chance to interact with the locals. We decided to visit Saint Peter’s Church which is located in the Municipality of Bantayan (about 30 minutes by scooter). Along the way, we stopped at a few places to appreciate the natural beauty of the island.
Tree lined streetAbout 30-45 minutes later, we arrived at Saint Peter’s church in Bantayan. This church is nearly 500 years old and was established on June 11, 1580. An interesting fact about the church is that it’s made out of coral, and provides for an interesting architectural look and feel.
Inside the churchIf you still would like to use your scooter to ride, then you can head to another municipality of Bantayan Island. We headed north to Madridejos so that we could visit Kota Park. This place is famous for its Spanish fort ruins and its Bontay Baywalk. Be prepared to be on your scooter for a while since it would take you about 3 hours to get there (unless you ride really fast). The ride going there though is really fun, since there would be a lot of interesting sights to look at.