Bantayan Island, a once sleepy town north of Cebu has now gained popularity among beach lovers and people who want to flee from the stress and bustle of the city. The island, composed of three municipalities, is surrounded by pristine beaches and houses historical sites, old churches and caves. My friend and I stayed in Bantayan for 2 days and I have summarized the many fascinating things we did and experienced while in the Island.
1. Go resort-hopping and see the many shore lines of Bantayan Island. A wide range of accommodation options have mushroomed in Bantayan Island to cater different kinds of people with different budgets. Some are in front of the beach and some are inland. Some are air-conditioned, while some are fan-ventilated. There are also places where you can just pitch your own or rented tent. During our stay in Bantayan, we visited four resorts – Sta. Fe Beach Club, Tristan’s Beach Resort and Restaurant, Sugar Beach Resort and Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort.
- Sta. Fe Beach Club. Sta. Fe Beach Club is visible as the fast craft nears Bantayan Island. Although it is just beside the port, the resort has clear waters and a well-maintained stretch of fine sand. Room range starts from 900.00 Php (fan room) to 3,500.00 Php for air-conditioned adjoining family rooms. For 1,000.00 Php, you can get a beach-front fan-room for two that I bet would have a stunning view of the sunrise. You may contact them beforehand so they could escort you from the port to the resort. You can walk your way to the resort from the port but their service is more convenient and comfortable, especially for your luggages. For more information about Sta. Fe Beach Club, you may visit their website, or call them at +639287787770/ +639325412954.
- Sugar Beach Resort. 10 minutes away from Sta. Fe Port is Sugar Beach Resort. Sugar Beach Resort’s main attraction is its broad stretch of sugar-like white sand and clear waters. It also caters backpacker by allowing them to pitch their own or rented tent in the beach for 150.00 Php to 250.00 Php depending on the tent size. Rooms with basic ammenities are available from 900.00 Php to 3,500.00 Php.
- Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort. The resort is one of the higher-end resorts in Bantayan Island but they offer a day tour for 75.00 Php per person. Their major drawer is their in-house natural cave pool and a large swimming pool. Their underground spring is available for swimming but they require proper swimming attire. The same goes true for their swimming pool overlooking the Virgin Island.
- Tristan’s Beach Resort and Restaurant. Another resort that is just a stone’s throw away from the port, Tristan’s Beach Resort and Restaurant offers basic and homey accommodation. The owner, Ms. Nancy, is kind, accomodating and goes out of her way to make you feel comfortable. You dont get to have a beach during high tide and there is just a stair if you want to take a swim. During low tide, however, you can just walk up to the sandbar below. An air-conditioned room for two in front of the beach (with its own cable TV, refrigerator and bathroom) is available for 1,000.00 Php. Click here for more information about Tristan’s Beach Resort and Restaurant. This is where we stayed at.
2. Have a taste of Bantayan
- Tristan’s Pizza. Okay. I know, why eat pizza in the distant island of Bantayan when there are so many pizza parlors in the metro? But their palatable thin crust Tristan’s Special is really worth trying. For 400.00 Php, the 16-slices of pizza is overflowing with toppings, especially with cheese that you can literally distinguish the cheese from the crust once you sink your teeth in it. My friend and I wasn’t able to finish our pizza and they were kind enough to heat the leftover for our breakfast the next day.
- D’ Jungle Mongolian Grill and Barbecue. D’ Jungle Grill was our first choice of resto for dinner apparently because of their famous buffet dinner every Friday and Saturday night. Sadly for us, they stopped offering buffet foods weeks before we went there, according to one of the staffs. We still ordered their ala carte menu since the d’jungle buzz also talks about the quality and taste of their foods. We had crabs in chilli sauce, a big bowl of sinigang na baboy, fried calamari, 2 cups of rice and 2 glasses of calamansi juice for 800.00 Php, a relatively cheap price against the Manila price of the same menu. They have huge servings that we ended up giving 2/3 of our food to the kid that drove the pedicab to and from our hotel.
- Ask the Locals to cook for you. You may opt to buy fresh produce from the market and have them cooked by the locals. You may also let them buy the ingredients themselves if you don’t know how to pick the fresh ones. We did just that during our boat tour to Virgin Island and we’re glad we did. Our boatman cooked our lunch and I really liked the dipping sauce he made, not to mention of course, that it’s cheaper compared with the already inexpensive foods in the island.
3. Visit Omagieca Mangrove Garden. One noteworthy stop at the island is Obo-ob Mangrove Garden Integrated Ecotourism and Conservation Association or simply Mangrove Garden. It is a mangrove park initiated and maintained by the residents. Walking through the wooden bridge made up of bamboo stilts allows you to have an intimate view of the mangroves that plays host to fishes and crustaceans. When we went there, the friendly residents were working together to renovate the wooden bridge. Nonetheless, they still allowed us to cross the bridge and go to the middle of the mangrove garden.
4. Pray at Bantayan Church. Sts Peter and Paul Parish Church was the first parish built in Visayas by Agustinians. The church was made of coral stones bounded by tree sap and limestones. The present church was actually the 5th church, the former being destroyed by fortuitous events and Moros that attacks the town.
5. Buy Cheap Pasalubong in Bantayan Market. When in Bantayan, don’t miss Bantayan Market where you can buy Danggit (dried fish) and dried squids for your relatives and friends. The price here is way way cheaper than in Cebu City but it has the same delish taste.
6. Get in Touch with the Island History at the Spanish Fort Ruins in Madridejos. At the north of Bantayan is Fort Madridejos. This place used to be a look-out place for invaders and pirates. After the Spaniards left the island, it was turned to a local cemetery where relatives of local officials were buried. And then, it was renovated into a park known as “Kota Park” were local residents nowadays spend their afternoons.
7. Interact with the Locals in Bontay Baywalk. In front of Madridejos Fort is Bontay Walk where it is said to have the best view of sunset in the island. We arrived there after lunch and we still have to go to Bantayan Island Nature and Resort Park so we didn’t wait for the famous sunset of Bontay Baywalk. Instead, we interacted with the locals who were there picking up small shells and crabs that were trapped by the low tide.
8. Wake up with a Wonderful Sunrise. We woke up early on our second day to prepare for our sea tour to Virgin Island. As it was still early, we decided to walk along the beach and we saw the locals get the small fishes caught in their fishing nets. We went back to our hotel as the sun slowly showed its wonders, peeking from the horizon.
9. Snorkel, Frolic and Own Virgin Island. I enjoyed Virgin Island so much and took so may pictures of the island that I made a separate post for it.
10. Try Kayaking in Sta. Fe Beach Club. Okay, you may just skip it but the waters of Sta. Fe Beach Club is just so inviting that we hired a kayak to enjoy its calm, blue-green waters. My friend and I saw black and blue jelly fishes as we kayaked at the deeper part of the beach. Kayak rate is 200.00 Php for 2 people.
HOW TO GET THERE:
1. You first have to reach Cebu City, Philippines. Wherever you are in the country or abroad, you first have to reach Cebu City. Domestic Air Carriers like Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, AirPhil Express, Seair and Zestair offers daily trip to Mactan Cebu International Airport from almost all other airports of the Philippines. International Air lines like Silk Air, Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Asiana Airlines, Korean Air and Qatar Airways also has direct flight to Mactan, Cebu.
2. Hire a cab / Commute from Mactan Cebu International Airport to North Bus Terminal. Coupon taxis with fixed rates and yellow metered taxis with 70.00 Php flag down rate are lined at the arrival area of the airport. For a cheaper flag down rate at 45.00 Php, walk your way to the departure are of the airport where white metered taxis drop departing passengers. White taxi fare ranges from 180Php to 200 Php.
Alternatively, you may reach North Bus Terminal by riding a multicab and jeepneys.
- At the leftmost portion of the departure gates, yellow multicabs with that will take you to Marina Mall are available. Pay the 8.00 Php fare and alight at Starbucks and/or Island Souvenirs.
- From there, ride a jeepney with “Highway” signage and tell the driver to drop you off Mandaue Coliseum. Jeepney fare is 9.00 Php.
- In Mandaue Coliseum, jeepneys with signage, “North Bus” or “Makro” will bring you to North Bus Terminal for 8.00 Php.
3. In North Bus Terminal, there are three bus lines that may take you to Hagnaya Port – Ceres, Cebu AutoBus and Rough Riders. Hagnaya Port is located at the northwest tip of mainland Cebu and travel time is approximately 4-4.5 hours with 3-4 bus stops along the way. Earliest bus to leave Cebu City is 6:00 AM and bus fare is 150.00 Php for aircon buses. These buses will stop directly at Hagnaya port where you may take RORO or big ferries to Sta. Fe Port of Bantayan Island.
TIP: At the latest, take the bus that will leave Cebu City on or before 2:00 PM to reach the last trip to Bantayan Island that departs Hagnaya Port by 5:30 PM.
4. One-hour boat ride to Bantayan Island. Porters will meet you right outside the bus to carry your luggages, in exchange of a tip. Kindly refuse them if you can handle your things but keep your patience because they can get pretty pesky. Earliest ferry to leave Hagnaya Port is 6:30 AM. Ferry fare is 170.00 Php and terminal fee costs 10.00 Php each.
For ticket inquiries, you may call the following:
- Hagnaya: 032-435-2078
- Santa Fe: 032-438-0080
- Cebu City: 032-422-6330 and 032-422-6331
5. Arriving at Sta. Fe Port. There are two things to do upon arriving at Sta. Fe Port – look for schedules/reserve for tickets from Sta. Fe to Hagnaya Port and make your way to your hotel. You may arrange for your hotel to pick you up at the airport. But these services and the local trisikads were parked outside the port, 100 yards from the docking area so you still have to walk outside the port.
We hired a habal-habal to pick-us up from the port and tour us around the island. Well recommended habal-habal driver is Kuya Renato (0921-2781269). Original rate is 300.00 Php but we’re satisfied with his service that we gave him additional 200.00 Php tip.
Visit wowbantayan.com for more about bantayan island, accommodations options, restaurant and other information and tips.
DATE OF TRAVEL: October 13-14, 2012
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