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An Island at a Time: A Weekender Guide to Bantayan Island

By Mitch Labs

Cebu has got it all – the beaches, the mountains and the all within the embrace of the bustling urban landscape of Cebu City. Yet, at times, taking a vacation in the mainland may appear elusive since it is closer to home. There comes a moment when we yearn for a peaceful escape, a chance to reconnect with nature, and to leave behind the daily grind.

Fortunately, Cebu offers a selection of neighboring islands that beckon exploration, and at the forefront is the captivating Bantayan Island. From the city to Bantayan

Our journey commenced with a 3 AM bus ride from North Bus Terminal in SM City Cebu to Hagnaya Port in San Remigio, the northernmost part of Cebu. The bus fare was Php 200+ per person, and we reached the port by 6:20 AM. From there, we boarded a Super Shuttle Roro Ship with a peak season fee of Php 384 per person to reach the island. Upon arrival, we each paid an environmental fee of Php 30.

If you have access to a car, you can set out on a scenic 3-hour drive from the city and then take the RORO shuttle, with a fee of Php 1,400 to 2,000, for a sedan. Kindly note that most ferry trips are until 1:00PM only, so it’s best to leave the city as early as possible. To navigate the island, you have several options. You can rent a motorbike for Php 350 per day, lease a tricycle for Php 1,500 per day (suitable for up to 5 people), or opt for a bicycle rental at Php 150 per day.

For accommodations, there's a wide array of resorts and homestays to choose from. One notable option is Anika Island Resort, conveniently located within walking distance from the pier on F. Roska St. Anika is famous for its well-maintained private beachfront, swimming pool, and the delectable food at Chloe Café. You mustn't pass up the opportunity to try their halo-halo. When I say they spare no expense on the ingredients. I truly mean it.

For more information about the transportation and accommodations mentioned, visit their page at Anika Island Resort Beach People Hostel Transportation

Now, onto the itinerary.

Get your morning caffeine fix at Sunday Co. Café

sunday co cafe
Sunday Co. Café

Discovering an exceptional coffee shop in Bantayan may pose a challenge, but fret not—I've got the ideal recommendation for you. Nestled along G. Borraska St. within The Commune, you'll find Sunday Co. Café. Among their offerings, the crowd favorite is undoubtedly their signature fizzers, available in Strawberry, Peach, and Green Apple flavors. If you're a coffee enthusiast like myself, I highly recommend trying their Traditional Vietnamese Coffee. Additionally, they provide an array of breakfast options, including waffles, kimchi rice, and Hambugu Curry. For more information about Sunday Co Cafe, visit their Instagram page at

Take a dip at Ogtong Cave Resort.

Continuing our journey along the eastern side of Sta. Fe, a highly recommended destination is the Ogtong Cave Resort. To gain access, there is an entrance fee of Php 225 per person for adults (Php 125 per person for children). Here, you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear waters of Ogtong Cave or take advantage of their swimming pool. Additionally, the resort offers dining options and a range of accommodations.

Their lodging choices vary, starting at Php 3,500 per night for the Seaview Villa, suitable for 2 guests, and going up to Php 8,600 per night for the Family Room, accommodating 5 pax.

For more information about Ogtong Cave, visit their website at

photo op The Ruins
The Ruins

Following a dip in the Ogtong Cave, a mere 5-minute stroll will lead you to The Ruins – a highly sought-after spot for capturing photos and enjoying cliff jumps during high tide. Although it may appear as an abandoned, graffiti-covered building, The Ruins was once the residence of a German expatriate, which was destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

Head to Kota Beach for late afternoon to night cap

On the way back from The Ruins, you can visit Kota Beach for a night cap.

Kota Beach boasts a long stretch of pristine white sand beach, perfect for a stroll with your loved ones.

As night falls, the beachside comes alive with various businesses opening their doors to hungry folks and party‑goers alike. You can find local bands playing, and some even allow visitors to jam with them. One of the best hangout spots in Kota Beach is The Hungry Beach Co, a food park where you can find everything from coffee to alcoholic drinks and desserts. Additionally, they offer souvenirs that you can take home to remember your unforgettable experience.

A trip to Bantayan is not complete without exploring the nearby islets.

Booking an island hopping tour is convenient as you can find a lot of residents offering a boat trip around Santa Fe. A typical island hopping tour costs at Php 3,000 to 4,000, up to 10 pax. The tour mainly includes Virgin Island and Hilantagaan Island but you can customize your tour for an additional fee to include Paradise Beach, Balidbid Lagoon and Kinatarkan Island.

During my last trip, I had the opportunity to explore Hilantagaan Island, where we purchased fresh seafood and had a snorkeling adventure in the deep sea. After enjoying approximately 30 minutes of swimming with the fishes, we proceeded to Virgin Island, where we devoted the majority of our afternoon. It's worth noting that there is an entrance fee of Php 200 per person (Php 300 per person during peak seasons) for Virgin Island. Additionally, we opted to rent a hut for Php 500.

Our guide graciously prepared and cooked the seafood we had bought earlier. While awaiting our lunch, we partook in one of Virgin Island's most renowned activities—cliff diving. With three platforms that increase in height, each jump brings a bigger thrill than the last. For safety, life vests are provided for free, especially for those who prefer to play it safe (like me). However, be cautious of sea snakes that may be in the area.

After a sun-soaked day, the perfect way to cool off is some homemade rolled ice cream by Twisted Ice Cream & Café. Located in Batobalonos St., you can try their best sellers – Choco Intense and Oreo Monster rolled ice cream.

Black Pearl Restobar
Black Pearl Restobar

To wind down and enjoy a leisurely evening, consider visiting Black Pearl Restobar, conveniently located next to Twisted. Black Pearl offers a menu featuring burgers, pasta dishes, and a selection of alcoholic beverages. Worth noting is their ladies' night event held every Wednesday, featuring a buy one, take one promotion on drinks. A standout choice among their offerings is the refreshing long island iced tea, which is a personal favorite of ours.

If you got more time to explore the island, head to Bantayan Proper and visit the beautiful church of St. Peter and Paul Parish which is famed for its colorful tainted windows and scenic ceiling mural that leaves you in awe. As Bantayan is known for its dried fish, you can also drive by the Bantayan Public Market to purchase a wide variety of buwad (dried fish) at affordable prices.

Lastly, for all the foodies out there, you can also find small food carts all around the island that sells your favorite local streetfood like balut, taho, fishball and boiled peanuts. Bantayan is a treasure trove of wonders – which is why it is cherished by most Cebuanos. From swimming in its pristine white sand beach, to diving from varying cliffs, to hopping from its neighboring islands or dancing in the midst of its bustling nightlife, you can find whatever activity you desire in this tropical paradise. Whether you seek relaxation on its pristine white sand beaches, exhilarating cliff dives, island-hopping adventures, or the vibrant nightlife scene, this tropical paradise has it all. Despite having visited the island twice this year, I've only just scratched the surface, and there are still countless more to discover. I know this might be cliché but if you’re looking to take a vacation right now, this right here should be a sign to embark a journey to Bantayan. Till the next island to explore, one at a time.

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