Explore Bantayan Island in Cebu, Philippines

Bantayan Island featured photo

Bantayan Island is what we are all so excited on this long vacation.  From South of Cebu, let’s go North!  As they say…save the best for last! And I couldn’t agree more.

To be honest, I’ve never heard of this island before until the movie Camp Sawi. The movie tells the story of 5 different women who are struggling to mend their broken hearts. This beautiful island became the retreat place for them. A camp that will help them recover from their painful experiences in love. The movie was released August 2016 and back then I just recently got my heart broken too. So I can totally relate! After watching the movie, I immediately added Bantayan island in my travel bucketlist.

This was NOT actually my first attempt to go to the island of Bantayan. My first was back in January 2017. Unfortunately it was raining really hard all day in Cebu. When we arrive at the Hagnaya Port, they said they canceled all the trips because it’s not safe. I was sad that I didn’t get the chance to see the famous Bantayan island. I thought it will take me a while till i can come back and finally see it…But alas, fate had something else in mind! Exactly a year after, I’m so grateful to my friends for inviting me to join their trip to Cebu. And yes, we definitely look forward to visiting this wonderful island.

Bantayan Island in Cebu City, Philippines
Bantayan Island in Cebu City, Philippines

About Bantayan Island

The Bantayan island is located at the very far northern part of Cebu. The island is divided into three municipalities: Bantayan, Madridejos, and Santa Fe. You might get confused it with Daanbatanyan, a separate municipality on the main island of Cebu.

The three municipalities of this island offer amazing and interesting activities for any vacationers. Bantayan is known for its picturesque sunset and centuries old church. Madridejos is a fishing village and well-known for its rich history. And lastly, Santa Fe boasts of its wide stretch of fine white sand beaches and its beautiful sunrise.

The island is famous for its white fine sand and crystal clear water. The beaches are also very shallow which is so perfect for kids and non-swimmers (like me). 😀

Language

Locals speak Cebuano. Nonetheless, they can also speak well Tagalog or Filipino. Not everybody can speak well the English language but majority can understand the language.

Things You Can Do

Apart from their beautiful beaches of the island, the following are a must-tries:

  • Rent a motorcycle or a bicycle to explore the island.
  • Rent a boat and go island hopping to visit neighboring islands: Virgin Island/Silion Island and Hilantagaan/Cabulauan Island
  • Try Snorkeling and scuba diving at the Marine Sanctuaries of the Island
  • Experience Natural Cave Swimming at Ogtong Cave Pool and Eden Resort
  • Check out the centuries old  and historical Saint Peter & Paul Cathedral of Bantayan
  • See the Kota Ruins in Kota Park, Baywalk and the fishing village of Madridejos
  • Take a picture of the Camp Sawi sign at Omageica (Mangrove Sanctuary)
  • Enjoy the beaches of  Santa Fe: Alice Beach (fronting east), Sugar Beach (fronting south), Maricaban Beach and Paradise Beach
  • Try to visit the fish market and see how cheap the scallops are.
  • Don’t forget to buy “Danggit” at the Fish Market of Bantayan Proper, fresh and very cheap.
  • Check out the heritage houses and establishments in Bantayan
  • Drop by at Dalton Pass Shrine and The Ruins
  • Experience nightlife by doing some Bar Hopping in various resorts on the Island
  • Spend a day or two in Malapascua Island, another famous island in the northern tip of Cebu.

How To Get There

Because of its peaceful beauty and laid-back atmosphere, this once to be a sleepy fishing village years ago has been enjoying the fruits of tourism. The easiest and most convenient way to reach the Bantayan island is via Cebu City.

  1. Cebu City to Hagnaya Port
    • From the Airport, go to North Bus Terminal.
      • You can take myBus. There’s a bus leaving the Mactan Airport every 30 minutes from 7am-11am, and every 20 minutes from 11am-9:30pm. For a fare of Php 25.
      • You may also take a cab, Uber or Grab. The fare is between P200-P300, depending on the traffic.
    • At Cebu North Terminal, ride a bus going to Hagnaya Port in the town of San Remigio. No need to buy a ticket ahead of time. The assistant conductor will collect the fare once the bus is underway. Fare is Php 165 for aircon bus and Php 140 for non-air.
    • You can also rent a Van (like what we did) if you’re travelling in a group.
    • Travel time is three hours
  2. Hagnaya Port to Santa Fe
    • Board the Island Shipping or Super Shuttle ferry bound for Santa Fe Port. First trip is at 3am, last trip is at 5:30pm. The travel time is 1 hour. The fare is Php 170 and an additional Php 10 terminal fee will be collected.
  3. At Santa Fe Port
    • Follow the covered walkway to the Tourism Office and pay the Ecological Fee which is at Php 30.
  4. From Port to your resort.
    • Take a tricycle. Fare is between Php 20 – Php 25.
    • If you have pre-arranged a shuttle service with your resort, they will be picking you up at the port.

Where To Stay

There are apartments for rent, hotels and resort in the island. That will cost you starting at Php 700 ($15) per night. We stayed at Kota Beach Resort. This is where the Camp Sawi was filmed.

Travel Tips

Getting around Bantayan is very easy and simple. Here’s some tips for you:

  • Tricycle and motorbikes are the main mode of transportation used when navigating the Island. For tricycle, minimum fare is Php 10.
  • Ask for your resort where you can avail of Motorbike Rental. We rented ours for Php 300 good for 24 hours use.
  • Some establishments are Renting Out Bicycles. This is also a fun way to explore the island.
  • There are also jeepneys and multicabs that go from Santa Fe to Bantayan and vice versa but the trips are limited.

More tips…

  • Some establishments accept credit and debit cards.
  • There are ATM Machines and banks in Bantayan Proper.
  • Best month to visit is from January to June because it less likely to rain.
  • Mobile signal is available to Globe, Talk and Text, Smart, Touch Mobile and Sun network. Even mobile data works!
  • Make sure to bring enough sunscreen with you.
  • There are free WiFi access on resorts.

Overall

The northern tip of Cebu is endowed with crystal clear waters and beautiful islands with white sand beaches, Bantayan Island is just one of them. Bantayan Island is therapeutic. No wonder it was chosen as the destination for the movie Camp Sawi. The laid-back atmosphere will definitely help you heal and be at peace.

I enjoyed snorkeling on this trip. You don’t have to go deeper because you can already see a few fishes not too far from the shore. A perfect for non-swimmers (like me!). My favorite and will definitely go back is the Paradise beach.

Though we’ve only stayed for two days, the place is really worth checking out. So peaceful and quiet, a perfect vacation getaway if you would want to run away from the noise of the city life.

There are so many reasons why I love the island. Definitely, one of my favorite vacation destinations in the Philippines. Hope to go back and stay longer. Thank you, Bantayan island!

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