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Travel Guide: Bantayan Island

Alice Beach Sante Fe Bantayan Island
Early morning at Alice Beach. Beach Placid Resort's banca shot in front of Anika Island Resort.

If getting to a destination isn’t half the fun for you, travelling to Bantayan Island from Manila can be daunting if you don’t enjoy multiple transfers; a little over an hour by air, four hours over land, and then another hour over water, with a good amount of waiting time in between. However, if you’re up for an adventure and wouldn’t mind dealing with an aching butt Bantayan Island is the worthy paradise destination you should visit -  a rustic island getaway, surrounded by sun, sand and other beautiful islands ringed by white sand and crystal blue waters. Just enough of nothing to get your mind off the concrete jungle you left behind.

Bantayan Island is located in the Visayas region of the Philippines. It is west of the northern end of the island province of Cebu. There are three towns in Bantayan Island: Bantayan (same name as the island it is in and its largest municipality covering the central part), Madridejos (covering the northern part) and Santa Fe, (covering the eastern part). It is Santa Fe that invariably defines the Bantayan Island experience of most travelers taking that quick weekend beach getaway, since the best beaches - the wide, white and fine stretches of sand of  Sugar Beach and Alice Beach - can be found in the south-east corner of Santa Fe.

Getting to Bantayan Island from Manila

From Manila, take a plane going to Cebu City (Mactan International Airport), which is the capital of the island province of Cebu (technically/geographically, the airport is in Lapu-lapu City). If you don’t plan to spend few hours in Cebu City, then try to book the earliest flight you can find from Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Airphil Express, Zest Air (tied with Air Asia), or Seair (tied with Tiger Airways). If you’re travelling light, avoid checking in your bags to shave time off by not having to wait for them to get through the baggage carousel. Unfortunately, I can’t follow my own advice because of the tripod I always lug around. So what I do is have the check-in people slap a fragile sticker on the bag and most of the time it’s one of the first things that plop onto the carousel.

For some international travelers you can skip Manila and fly straight to Cebu City via Korean Air (from Seoul); Air Busan and Jeju Air (from Busan); Cebu Pacific Air (from Seoul, Singapore and Hong Kong), Cathay Pacific Airways (from Hong Kong); Philippine Airlines (from Hong Kong and Tokyo); Zest Air (from Hong Kong); Tiger Airways (from Singapore); Silkair (from Singapore); and Air Philippines (from Hong Kong).

Upon landing in Cebu City, you need to get to Hagnaya Port in the town of San Remigio, north of Cebu, which is the jump off point for Bantayan Island.

There are three ways to get to Hagnaya Port

Via taxi – This is the quickest and most convenient, albeit expensive, way to get to Hagnaya Port immediately upon stepping outside the airport. Rates vary depending on your haggling skills with the cab driver. Note that there are two types of taxis: the yellow taxis that are found immediately outside the arrival area and the white taxis that are found further out at the curb of the public road. The yellow airport taxis run at rates about twice that of the regular white taxis.

Via rented van – AKA V-Hires (Van for Hire). From the airport, take a very short cab ride to the North Bus Terminal in Mandaue City where there are vans and buses bound for Hagnaya Port. The North Bus Terminal is near the SM City mall. Vans are faster than buses since they make fewer stops, but if you happen to be the first passenger aboard, you’d have to wait until the van gets full before it leaves. However, if you’re travelling in a large group, around 10 or so, a van may be the way to go. Expect your group to pay anywhere from 3500 to 5000 pesos.

Via bus – This is option we always take. Again, from the airport, take a short cab ride to the North Bus Terminal in Mandaue City. Find the bus bay for the air-conditioned Ceres Liner bus bound for Hagnaya Port. The Ceres buses seem to be always new and comfy – the coach we rode on had a Yutong brand decal, presumably made in China. They have buses leaving every thirty minutes starting at 5:30AM up until 7:30 PM. This is the reason why we suggest that you take the earliest flight out of Manila – so that you can board the earliest departing bus. Travel time is around 3 to 4 hours with two stopovers at Carmen Town and Bogo City. Fare is around Php 150.00. Enjoy the ride (and whatever Jason Statham movie is playing). You’ll be passing through interesting towns and rural landscapes.

From Hagnaya Port to Sta. Fe Port, Bantayan Island

At Hagnaya Port, there are two shipping companies plying the Hagnaya – Sta. Fe route: Super Shuttle Ferry and Island Shipping Corporation. These two companies have interspersing schedules so that you have a ferry (RoRo - Roll on Roll off) leaving for Sta. Fe every hour starting at 4:00AM up to 5:30 PM. Regular passage is Php 170.00 plus a Php 10.00 terminal fee. If you’re a student, show them your school ID and pay only Php 145.00. Travel time is an hour to an hour and a half. Caveat though, the departure time is sometimes arbitrary, if the big bosses determine by departure time that there still aren’t enough passengers to make the trip worth their while.

So there - assuming you check in at the airport 2 hours prior to your flight from Manila to Cebu City, it’ll take about 10 hours to set your feet on Sta. Fe Port, Bantayan Island.

Anika Resort<span style=
Dusk at Anika Island Resort.

Places to Stay in Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island

At the port, facing inland, Alice Beach is to your left. Sugar Beach and Sta. Fe town proper is to your right.
If you’ve booked prior to arriving, hopefully you’ve made transfer arrangements with your resort. Usually, they’re free. If not, hop onto a pedicab (bicycle coupled with a sidecar) and tell them to take you there. Fare is 25.00 pesos.

If you haven’t booked prior to arriving and haven’t done your research or decided on where to stay, you’ll be emanating a certain vibe, your aura will vibrate in Technicolor and touts will flock to you as they have devices that can easily detect this vibe.You’re bound to encounter them at some point. They can be very persistent in soliciting your business. If you’re not interested in what they’re offering, let them know in a firm but respectful way. We’re the visitors. They’re the locals. The important thing is not to commit early and get stuck with their single recommendation. Check out the resorts out first.

One time, upon disembarking, we decided to walk all the way to Anika Beach Resort, remembering that it didn’t look that far and that the well maintained asphalt pavement lined with trees would make for a very nice stroll. Well, it is - if you haven’t got a 40-liter pack on your back plus a camera bag and tripod bag with about 10 hours of travelling behind you.  On the upside, we chanced upon a makeshift bibingka (rice cake) stall along the road and bought some. No cheese, no grated coconut but deliciously smoky in flavor.

All right, here’s a list of resorts to choose from. Indicative rates are for a twin-sharing air-conditioned room per night during the peak season. During holidays, like Holy Week and Christmas, these rates are sure to shoot up. Please check directly with the resorts for their current rates. I would personally recommend Anika (very nice) and Abaniko (inexpensive) – they’re adjacent properties.

Santa Fe Port Alice Beach Bantayan
Blue hour over Alice Beach. That's the Santa Fe port on the horizon.

Resorts along Alice Beach, north of the port. From the port, turn right on F. Roska Street.

I’ve tried to line these up in geographical progression. Let me know if I mixed anything up.

Santa Fe Beach Club
With its distinctive gable roof, this is probably the first resort you’ll notice as your ferry docks at the pier. They also run the Ogtong Cave Resort on the other side of Santa Fe, past Sugar Beach.
Telephone: +63 32 4389107 / +63 32 5128650
Cellphone: +63 928 7787770 / +63 932 5412954
Indicative Rate: Php 1800.00

Beach Placid
Telephone: +63 32 4065686
Cellphone: +63 917 7222993
Indicative Rate: Php 1700.00

Anika Beach Resort
Our favorite place to stay at in Santa Fe
Telephone: (+63 32) 3188402
Cellphone: (+63) 917 3284898
Indicative Rate: Php 1750.00

Abaniko Beach Resort
Telephone: +063 32 3187535
Cellphone: +63 917 3147654
Indicative Rate: Php 1500.00

St. Bernard’s Resort
Cellphone: +63 917 9636162
Indicative Rate: Php 1300.00

Tickety Boo
Telephone: +63 32 4389105
Mobile: +63 920 7490743
Indicative Rate: Php 1900.00

Children of Barangay Okoy Bantayan Island
Children of Barangay Okoy, Sante Fe, Bantayan Island.

Resorts along Sugar Beach, south of the port. From the port, turn left on F. Roska Street.

Again, I’ve tried to line these up in geographical progression according to how I remember them. Let me know if I mixed anything up.

Hoyohoy Villas
Telephone:  +63 32 4389223
Telephone:  +63 32 4389018
Indicative Rate: Php 5000.00

Tristan’s Beach Resort
Telephone : +63 32 4389041
Cellphone: +63 919 5371536
Cellphone: +63 947 7830123
Indicative Rate: Php 1200.00

Marlins Beach Resort
Telephone: +63  32 4389093
Indicative Rate: Php 1950.00

Kota Beach Resort
Kota’s property, and also Budyong’s below, sits on what is probably the best stretch of sand in Sugar Beach. Like below too, the cottages and rooms are clean but look tired as of this writing. They could really use a makeover. But if you’re on a budget and would not mind the lack of frills, both are good places to stay. If you’re finicky about bathrooms, then skip their least expensive accommodations.
Telephone:  +63 32 4389042
Indicative Rate: Php 1300.00

Budyong Beach Resort
Telephone: +63 32 4385700
Cellphone: +63 921 314 5275
Indicative Rate: Php 1300.00

The Coral Blue Oriental Beach Villas & Suites (formerly The Bamboo Oriental Villas & Suites) 
Telephone: +63 32 4389009
Cellphone: +63 912 4986746
Indicative Rate: Php 5500.00

Yooneek Beach Resort
Nice beach bar.
Telephone: +63 32 4389124
Telephone: +63 32 4389050
Cellphone: +63 917 9993829
Indicative Rate: Php 1890.00

Sugar Beach Resort
Cellphone: +63 921 775 5058
Cellphone: +63 918 371 0627
Indicative Rate: Php 1800.00

Sunday Flower Beach Hotel and Resort (50 meters from the beach pass through Queen Elizabeth)
Cellphone: +63 946 8717756
Indicative Rate: Php 3360.00

Queen Elizabeth
Cellphone: +63 920 4156441
Indicative Rate: Php 1500.00

Mayet's Beach Resort
Cellphone: +63 917 3107791
Cellphone: +63 906 3093166
Cellphone: +63 915 4320633
Cellphone: +63 927 5458743
Cellphone: +63 921 7618763
Telephone: +63 32 4065668
Telephone: +63 32 4181659
Indicative Rate: Php 1500.00

Playa Estrella
Telephone: +63 32 2545829
Cellphone: +63 917 6235198
Cellphone: +63 917 3265066
Cellphone: +63 917 7200015
Cellphone: +63 933 5125268
Indicative Rate: Php 1600.00

Roumel's Beach Resort
Cellphone: +63 923 1171392
Indicative Rate: Php 2500.00

Ogtong Cave Resort
At the far western end of Sugar Beach. Actually, we’re not sure if their small beachfront is still part of Sugar Beach. This resort is managed by the same group behind the Santa Fe Beach Club and named after the cave in front of their property. It’s a very long walk from here to downtown Santa Fe, so make sure you rent a bike or motorcycle.
TeleFax: +63 32 4389129
Telephone: +63 32 4389436 
Telephone: +63 32 5128928
Cellphone: +63 920 8999456
Cellphone: +63 932 4336282
Indicative Rate: Php 3500.00

Madridejos Sundown
Madridejos Sundown. Madridejos is one of the three towns in Bantayan Island.

Places to stay in Sta. Fe town proper

From the Sta. Fe port, you’ll be passing through downtown Santa Fe (aka the poblacion) to get to Sugar Beach. It is way nearer to Sugar Beach than it is to Alice Beach. The main street in downtown Santa Fe is A. Batobalonos Street. The church, market and other business & commercial establishments line this street. Last time we visited there was no ATM in town, but there are several pawnshops partnered with money remittance companies like Western Union, in case you need to have money sent to you. If you’d like to immerse yourself in Santa Fe’s daily town life, then spend a couple of nights in town. Here are a few of the places to stay:

Kiwi Kottages (along A. Batobalonos Street)
Behind the Hard Kock Kafe are the native nipa & bamboo Kiwi Kottages. They’re not beachfront but that’s hardly a deal-breaker since they have very affordable rates and they’re only a couple of blocks from the beach. Great location, we’d recommend this.
Telephone: +63 32 4389013
Cellphone: +63 920 6681268
Indicative Rate: Php 750.00

Cou Cou Bar Hotel & Restaurant (along A. Batobalonos Street)
Previously known as Cou Cou Lodge, and like Kiwi Kottages, it is behind the Cou Cou Bar & Restaurant. It’s possibly the hotel with the best restaurant in Santa Fe. Another great location, we’d recommend this too.
Telephone: +63 32 4389385
Cellphone: +63 918 4541960
Indicative Rate: Php 1350.00

Bantayan Cottages
Cellphone: +63 908 3094717
Telephone: +63 32 4389358
Indicative Rate: Php 650.00

Maria Dolores Suites
Cellphone: +63 922 4060331
Cellphone: +63 920 9026291
Telephone: +63 32 4389034
Indicative Rate: 1500.00

Annie's Rest Haus
Telephone: +63 32 438 5336
Telephone: +63 32 583 9713
Cellphone:  +63 908 3094752
Cellphone:  +63 919 8652061
Indicative Rate: Php 1000.00

Heather and Aspen Inn
Located along a side street off Batobalonos. Just around the corner of the Marisquiera O’Portuguese restaurant. 
Cellphone: +63 946 568 6646
Cellphone: +63 923 504 3554
Cellphone: +63 922 831 1552
Indicative Rate: Php 1500.00

Wacaba Haus
Located next to Heather and Aspen Inn.
Telephone: +63 32 433 7532
Cellphone: +63 915 774 5500
Indicative Rate: Php 1500.00

Moby Dick’s/Blue Ice Extension
Telephone:  +63 32 438 9003
Cellphone: +63 917 624 4108
Cellphone: +63 917 794 4443
Indicative Rate: Php 1000.00

Onde Guest House
Telephone: +63 32 438 9154
Cellphone: +63 929 534 6506
Indicative Rate: Php 1300.00

Seaview Apartelle
Cellphone: +63 919 4381296
Cellphone: +63 919 865979
Telephone: +63 32 4389179
Indicative Rate: Php 1150.00

Swallow Cottages
Cellphone: +63 938 800 7471
Indicative Rate: Php 1000.00

RR Lodging House
Located next to Marlin's Beach Resort.
Telephone: +63 32 438 9999
Cellphone: +63 910 371 2053
Indicative Rate: Php 900.00

Nordic Inn
Cellphone: +63 947 3936847
Indicative Rate: Php 800.00

Villa Allanah Bantayan
Across Yooneek Inn.
Cellphone: +63 923 6316418
Indicative Rate: Php 1500.00

Madridejos' Bontay Baywalk
Madridejos' Bontay Baywalk

Other Santa Fe Resorts That Are Not Along Alice Beach and Sugar Beach

These resorts are really out of the way, good secluded options if you just want to spend time talking with yourself. Just make sure you rent a bicycle or motorcycle for those quick trips to downtown Santa Fe.

Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort
Located on the eastern side of Bantayan Island, it’s about 8 kilometers north of Sante Fe town. We rode our rented motorcycles over a few uphill/downhill dirt roads and made a few wrong turns. It’s not the easiest place to get to, as it’s out of the way. Out of the way so you have no neighbors. The resort has a cave, a mini-zoo, a swimming pool and a small patch of beach.
Cellphone: +63 928 5064468
Telephone: +63 32 5144420
Telephone: +63 32 5144421
Email :
Indicative Rate: Php 3000.00

Kandugyap House by the Sea
Located past Ogtong Cave Resort. Little patch of beach in front.
Telephone: +63 32 4389034
Cellphone: +63 920 9026291
Indicative Rate: Php 3000.00

White Beach Bungalows
Located in Marikaban. Nice beachfront.
Cellphone: +63 999 4116223
Indicative Rate: Php 2000.00

Maia’s Beach Resort
Has a small patch of beach and a swimming pool.
Cellphone: +63 917 6358612
Cellphone: +63 918 5714297
Telephone: +63 32 4067743
Indicative Rate: 2000.00

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