BANTAYAN ISLAND: A 24-Hour Travel Guide On The Cheap



Bantayan Island, a lovely patch of splendid things is situated north of Cebu and is the largest of the Bantayan Group Of Islands. It is consist of 3 municipalities namely Bantayan, Madridejos and Sta. Fe. This island which is 4 hours of land travel and an hour on the water offers one of the most breathtaking sights in all of Cebu Province. Long stretch of powdery white sand beaches and shimmering azure waters in Sta. Fe will instantly treat visitors to a grand welcome. Not only that it is a haven to beach lovers but the island itself is a paradise which showcases a plethora of hidden wonders from natural cave spring pools, abundant mangrove gardens, panoramic sunsets to a lively underwater environment guaranteed to swoon every diving enthusiast. With everything this exquisite island can offer, a visit is certainly a must whenever you are in Cebu but its proximity to the capital has been proven unfavorable especially to travelers whose time is quite limited. That’s when this budget travel guide comes in handy.


So how exactly can you make the most out of your visit in Bantayan Island given your limited time? Allow me to show you how we made it in 24 hours.


1200 MN: Kick Off

Going to Bantayan Island was not really part of our plans or should I say my plan. It was just one of those spur-of-the-moment-too-hasty-not-really-thought-about-last-minute decisions. We were so high after kicking off our adventure in the city that Rhea, my bestfriend and occasional travel buddy suggested that we go to Bantayan Island instead of heading to Bais Negros Oriental to check out Manjuyod Sandbar first thing the following morning. I am normally an over-the-top-too-conventional-too-organized kind of person and I hate abruptly changing plans especially when I had spent quite a time researching and doing all the planning. However, I was with my bestfriend and it has been ages since the last time we traveled together that I forcefully tried to loosen up a bit. Spontaneity is somewhat foreign to me and going astray of my hard-worked, well-thought-of itinerary took quite an energy from me. I was exasperated actually. 😀

Our plan was to start the journey to Bantayan Island at dawn of the next day but after we were told that it is a 5-hour painstaking journey from the city, we hastily went to the North Bus Station to catch ourselves the first trip at midnight. We could only allow one whole day for exploring the island and we wanna make the most out of it. We didn’t have any idea as to what to see and expect. Our only concern at that time was to be in the island before 6AM and whatever comes next would be decided once we get there.

0330 AM: Hagnaya Port

The bus we rode swiftly journeyed the roads to Hagnaya Port that at 3:30 AM I woke up to the gentle tapping of some stranger who told me that we had to get off the bus. I was seated in the isle seat and the woman who took the window seat beside me was such a pain that I didn’t get to sleep until she finally alighted to her destination at 1:30 AM. I looked at Rhea and she was still soundly asleep. I woke her up and together we went down the bus along with the other passengers to pay the fees at the port’s counter. We only waited for a short while and at exactly 4:00 AM ridden on a ferry, we crossed the waters to Bantayan Island.

0530 AM: The Glorious Sunrise And Arriving In Sta. Fe

We were restless during our travel aboard the ferry. We tried to sleep but the evening sky was just too alluring it kept us up for the remaining hours of the dawn. The moon, reflected by the sea dotted by many fishermen boats was such a spectacular sight to behold. A few minutes after the clock hit five, the sun peak at the range of mountains of the seemingly distant mainland Cebu. The majestic sunrise we saw while we near Sta. Fe invigorated us and made us excited to discover what awaits two misadventuress in some island we knew nothing about.

0600 AM: The Haggle

As we landed in Sta. Fe, several locals awaited us at the port hoping to score a good enough deal from 2 silly girls who didn’t seem to have the slightest idea of what they were doing. The offer consisted of motorcycle rentals, tricycle service, island hopping tour and so much more with the initial price skyrocketing to a whopping P2000! We thought that was crazy so we haggled as much as we can until we could no longer pull the price down and just settled for P1400 for both inland and island hopping tours. After closing the deal, we headed to the nearest panaderia to have breakfast over coffee and bread. At 7:30 AM when all the prepping was done, off we jumpstarted our adventure.

0800 AM: The Amazing Life Underwater

We went to explore the islands and the waters surrounding Bantayan Island right after breakfast. First stop was the snorkeling spot near Hilantagaan Island where I had seen some colorful and lively underwater environment. The corals were healthy with several species of fish sheltered in them. I got so ecstatic with what I was marveling at that I sort of lost track of time. If it wasn’t for the current getting a bit stronger by the minute, we would have stayed longer or could have gone to the other snorkeling spots in the area.

0900 AM: The Unexpected Hitch

The boat we rented broke and the engine won’t come to life that we needed to stay in Hilantagaan Island until it gets fixed up. Plan was we would skip Hilantagaan Island and head straight to Virgin Island to spend some nice moments by the beach before we go back to Sta. Fe for lunch but the situation went totally out of our control that we had to content with waiting for help to come. We took the time while waiting for the boat to be fixed as opportunity to explore Hilantagaan Island and to get us some nice photos. The shores were filled with white coral stones and the entirety of it was purely untouched but I’ve seen nothing really spectacular or maybe I was just too not into it to even notice. Local houses stood not so far away but we chose to hang out in the outrigger boats docked by the shore in case it was okay for us to go.

1030 AM: Virgin Island – An Untouched Gem In Cebu

We thought the entire trip to Bantayan Island was gonna be screwed when over an hour have passed but we were still stuck in Hilantagaan Island with pretty much nothing left to do. Just when I was about to have enough of the bullshit, a thunderous roar of a mighty boat engine came reverberating from where we lied shaded by a palm tree. I knew it was time to head out that I rushed to the boat in no time.

Virgin Island was only 10 minutes away from its neighbor Hilantagaan but it was definitely a hundred times more beautiful. The water surrounding it was a clear turquoise shimmering like crystals under the blue sky. The sands was smooth and velvety under our feet and it was white so immaculate that I felt like a filth next to it. It was truly a paradise the kind which we normally just see in the movies. The only thing that betrayed its unspoiled charm was the native cottages which stood several meters away from the shores. Take all that away, add some wild imagination then we got ourselves a virgin island that everyone would probably love to get stranded into.

0100 PM: A Sumptuous Lunch

Coming from some eventful hours of the morning, we were too famished that we wasted no time and head to have lunch right after getting back to Sta. Fe. The thing was there were too many restaurants there that shopping around to find the best place to grab a bite can be such a task. Being the lazy ass chicks that we were, we let our local driver take us to where he thought was the best restaurant in their area. He then took us to what he called, the famous seafood restaurant in the entire Sta. Fe which we didn’t bother to argue with. After all we gave him the liberty to make the decision for us so it wasn’t our place to oppose his idea of a great lunch.

As soon as we reached the restaurant, the first thing we did was to find that sweet spot which would allow us some isolation from the rest of the customers as we hate bothering others with our boisterous chatter. After which we went to order our very first decent meal of the day. One serving of rice could have been enough but we were clueless that one serving could already feed three big tummies full that we ordered two. We had 2 chicken dishes and 1 seafood dish which we complimented with our favorite thirst quencher, a bottle of our favorite beer. Burp! There. No more room for dessert.. 🙂

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0200 PM: Ogtong Cave And The Refreshing Waters Of Its Pool

Imagine as a child you have this secret hideaway where you would drown your sorrows and curse every bully who dared pick on you. That’s exactly what Ogtong Cave is. It’s that kind of sweet little haven you would tell no one about, not even your bestest friend. Safely hidden within Ogtong Cave And Resort, this paradise has a natural pool that stretch to about 15 meters with pristine waters as cold as ice. The resort also features a man-made swimming pool and a white sand beach but I doubt you’d trade Ogtong Cave’s beauty over them especially when what you need is some place to hide from the midday sun.

0330 PM: Pantalan: Free Yet The Most Beautiful

After fully satisfying ourselves with Ogtong Cave, we then headed to Obo-Ob Mangrove Garden which is 45 minutes away through a tricycle. Our driver warned us about missing the trip back to Cebu but we heed not his advise and went to still see it anyway. After all we were more into what goes around comes around kind of travel at that moment that missing the last trip to Cebu didn’t really matter anymore.

We were entertained by towering palm trees while we journeyed the way to Obo-Ob Mangrove Garden which was absolutely stunning that it gave me flashbacks of the scenic bike trail I used to take as a child before seeing Christine, a close friend back in grade school. Passed the palm tree forest was a clearing to the sea. There we witnessed what I thought was the most picturesque view we had seen in the island. I asked the driver what they call this place as it was utterly breathtaking but he looked so unsure before he finally said “Pantalan”?… I blatantly blurted how could he not know about this place and how he dared not tell us about it when it was arguably the most beautiful spot in all of Bantayan Island. He just suppressed a chuckle and went to park his trike under a tree to allow us some time to take photos.

We can’t help but be in so much awe. The skies reflected by the sea as they meet at the far end of the horizon was just too good to be true. As we enjoyed taking photos, Rhea and I also talked about how we wanted to own a property and build a house fronting the sea like the ruined house filled with graffiti that stood there overseeing the panoramic view in front of us. We marveled at the thought of witnessing every epic sunset on our veranda while we sipped a cup of coffee reminiscing our travels together.

0415 PM: Obo-Ob Magrove Garden

After we left the place they call “Pantalan”, we continued our ride to Obo-Ob Mangrove Garden which took 30 minutes. It was that day’s last stop. Too bad. We planned to see Kota Beach after we explore the abundant mangrove forest in Obo-Ob before heading back to Cebu but time was not on our side. As we walked along the bamboo path to the end of the trail that faces the sea, I couldn’t help but think of staying for another day to explore the rest of Bantayan Island. I felt like missing something significant if we won’t spare another day to discover what else the island can offer. But. We had other plans. And didn’t they say that love is sweeter the second time around? So I figured we can always go back. Until next time I told myself while I marvelled at the harmonious collision of colors of the almost setting sun as it was once again about to kiss the ocean before it finally bids another day goodbye.

0530 PM: A Bittersweet Goodbye. Until Next Time Our Dear Bantayan Island

We finished exploring Obo-Ob Mangrove Garden a few minutes after 5PM. Afterwhile, we almost set the roads ablaze as we swiftly journeyed back to the port in Sta Fe. We reached the port at 5:30 PM, just minutes after the scheduled ferry left which got me worrying of missing the last trip. It quickly reminded me of how stupid I was to miss the ferry back to Dumaguete during my day tour in Siquijor. I thought I was gonna be okay given how I love to spend another day in Bantayan Island but I felt the same despair I felt when I was in Siquijor crying over my missed trip! (I couldn’t help but laugh as I am writing this. I felt so silly. Hahaha) Good grief the man on the other counter called us out and said that the last ferry was just about to arrive and we need to get our tickets quick before he closes

1100 PM: And Hello There Again Cebu City!

We arrived in Cebu City at 11:00PM and alighted at the South Bus Station. We had a quick dinner over grilled chicken and barbecue at a nearby canteen and went to doze off the night at a nearby love motel. I didn’t bother to check the name of the motel and get any contact numbers. Clearly it wasn’t some place you guys would dare spend the night with. 😀





What we missed to see in the island?


There’s definitely a lot of things that we had not seen while we were in Bantayan Island, reason why we are going back.

  • The beaches in Sta. Fe – We didn’t get the chance to explore the stretch of white sandy beaches in Sta. Fe long enough.
  • Bantayan & Madridejos Towns – We didn’t get the chance to get a glimpse of these towns and what they have to offer.
  • St. Peter & Paul Church – I feel really bad not seeing the oldest church in the island, probably the oldest church in whole of Visayas.
  • The ancient structures in the area – Could have been great to see some colonial work of architecture.
  • Touring on a bike – This is one of my favorite ways to explore unknown places as it lets me discover things we normally won’t even notice if we go on the usual tourists path.
  • The food – Experiencing the flavors of the island was one of the things I was looking forward to but sorely missed given the limited time.
  • Kota Beach (Camp Sawi) – One of the beautiful beach resorts in the island and the scenic spot where the trending movie Camp Sawi was shot.
  • Skydiving – Need I say why I’m going back for skydiving? It’s the insatiable rush of adrenaline dude!

Ways to get in and out of Bantayan Island


  • Via Bus – Taking the bus from the North Bus Station is probably the cheapest and easiest way to go to Bantayan Island. From the airport, you can ride a cab directly to the North Bus Station or take the airport shuttle to SM Cebu then ride a jeepney going to the North Bus Station. Once you get there, you can just hop on any bus ready to leave for the island. Travel take 4 hours to Hagnaya Port where you would alight the bus to pay the fees and ride a ferry to Sta. Fe Port. Once in Sta. Fe, you can either continue the trip to Bantayan town proper or get off in Sta. Fe to start with your tour.
  • Via Cab/Private Car – Another way to get to the island is hiring a cab or a private car which is way more expensive but gives you more flexibility as you can also use it to tour around the island. Prices may vary from one operator to the other but when we were there, the cab driver offered us P1000/way just for the transfer.

Asking how much did we spend for the entire 24 hours? Here it goes.


BANTAYAN ISLAND EXPENSES 
TOTALP2100
Island Hopping Tour @ P700/2P350
Inland Tour @ P700/2P350
Entrance Fees
–Virgin Island P100
–Ogtong Cave P100
–Mangrove Garden P50
P250
Food
–Breakfast P15
–Lunch P310
–Dinner P65
P390
Roundtrip Fare
–Bus @170/way = P340
–Ferry & Terminal Fee @110/way = P220
P560
SleepP200


Travel Tips And Other Information


  • Awp-1477390604327.jpgs a general rule, you can save more when you travel with a group. If you are on your own, you can join the other groups to save more on the inland and island hopping tours.
  • Riding a bike to tour around the island is another fun alternative for those traveling alone.
  • Virgin Island is a must see whenever you are in Bantayan Island but bear in mind that entrance fee is kinda pricey. First 2 people in a group is P500 and the rest is P100 so if there’s only the two of you then it’s going to be P250/head any other way unless you are lucky to find you Good Samaritans who would allow you to split the cost with them.
  • If you only have 24 hours to spare for visiting Bantayan Island, it is important to take note of the bus schedules. First trip going to the island is at 11:30 PM and last trip back to Cebu City is 6:00 PM. Kindly check updated schedule.
  • If you can drive, another cheap alternative is touring on a motorcycle. You can rent one for a price of P500 which you can share with your buddy. Just make sure to have your driver’s licence handy.
  • If you are looking for someone to help you arrange your tour, kindly contact Kuya Junjun – 0910 488 7575

If you found Bantayan Island too irresistible that you were compelled to give it another day or two, then you can spend the nights in these budget accommodations


  • Marlins Beach Resort – Offers first class accommodation at affordable rates.
    Location: Talisay District, Sta. Fe
    Rate: Starts at P1750
    Contact: 032 438-9093
  • CouCou Lodge – Centrally stationed in Poblacion Sta. Fe with rooms complete with AC and plush beds.
    Location: Batobalonos Street, Poblacion Santa Fe
    Rate: Starts at P1500
    Contact: 0918 454 1960
  • Beach Placid Resort – Occupies the longest stretch of Alice Beach.
    LocationF. Roska Street, Santa Fe
    Rate: Starts at P1500
    Contact: 0917 722 2993
  • Anika Island Resort – A beachfront resort that offers a place where you can create your story and brand new memories.
    Location: F. Roska Street, Santa Fe
    Rate: Starts at P1500
    Contact: 0917 328 4898
  • Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort – An 8-hectare wellness and liesure resort with private garden and massage services.
    Location: Tami-ao, Bantayan Island
    Rate: Starts at P1100
    Contact: 0918 940 8066
  • Saint Bernard Beach Resort – A beachfront resort offering views of Hilantagaan and Virgin Islands with lavish garden scenery dotted by round cottages with nipa roofing.
    Location: Tami-ao, Bantayan Island
    Rate: Starts at P950
    Contact: 0917 963 6162
  • Kota Beach – Home to the famous Camp Sawi.
    Location: F. Duarte Street Santa Fe
    Rate: Starts at P700
    Contact: 0948 799 3787
  • Bantayan Cottages – Offers a quiet place as it is remotely located away from the rest of the crowd.
    Location: F. Roska Street, Santa Fe
    Rate: P500 all year
    Contact: 09083 094 717

Note: Get up to 70% discount when you book with Agoda!


24-Hour Epic Adventure Captured


Surely we had a blast in Bantayan Island even with the limited time we had. I hope that you do the same on your visit. To inspire you, here are some snaps from our adventure.


There you have it folks. I hope you found inspiration on our 24-hour adventure in Bantayan Island which was part of our 5-Day Cebu Madness in July this year. If you’re looking for the same tour package, please contact Kuya Junjun – 0910 488 7575. For questions, just drop ’em on the comments box and I promise to get back to you ASAP. Until next time. Happy Travels Everyone! 🙂

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