Bantayan Island is an off-the-beaten-path tourist destination in Cebu and is said to be the Boracay of the south! There are so many awesome things to do in Bantayan Island including white sand beaches, saltwater lagoons, mangrove boardwalks, cave pools, old ruins, skydiving, and island hopping, to name a few.
I recommend spending at least 3 days on Bantayan to discover all of the best tourist spots and to get a real taste of the slow-paced island life here in North Cebu.
I have put together this complete travel guide of the 15 best things to do to help you craft together your own itinerary!
Also in this guide, I have included useful information on how to get to the island, where to stay, how to get around, and the best time to visit.
WHERE IS BANTAYAN ISLAND?
Bantayan Island is located in the Visayan Sea off the northwestern coast of Cebu Island in the Philippines.
HOW TO GET TO BANTAYAN ISLAND?
CEBU TO BANTAYAN ISLAND
The most common route is from Cebu City to Bantayan Island with the use of the public bus and then a short ferry ride to the island.
The bus from Cebu to Bantayan operates on a daily basis and departs every hour from the Cebu North Bus Terminal bound for Hagnaya Port on the northwestern coast of Cebu Island. The cost of the bus is around 185 pesos and the journey time is 4 hours.
Another option is to ride in a shared minivan or take a private transfer which includes a pick-up from your hotel in Cebu City and drop-off at Hagnaya Port in North Cebu.
This is the option that I went for because it was much more comfortable than the bus and the journey time was faster.
Book Now: Shared Minivan from Cebu to Bantayan
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The bus or minivan will arrive at Hagnaya Port and from here you will need to transfer to the ferry to the island which takes around 1 hour.
Ferries depart from Hagnaya Port, mainland Cebu to Bantayan, 7 days a week, between 4:00 am and 4:30 pm.
The cost of the ferry from Hagnaya Port to Bantayan is 185 pesos.
MALAPASCUA TO BANTAYAN
If you happen to be on Malapascua Island and heading to Bantayan from here, the most convenient option is taking an outrigger boat and the cost is around 800-900 pesos per person.
It’s best to find a small group of people heading from Malapascua to Bantayan so you can split the cost of the boat between you all. Simply ask your accommodation in Malapascua and they will be able to help organize a boat and skipper for you.
The journey time between Malapascua Cebu and Bantayan is 2 to 3 hours depending on the sea conditions.
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HOW TO GET AROUND
There are a couple of options on how to get around the island and they are by scooter, habal habal, tricycle, or jeepney.
You can rent a scooter in Bantayan for as little as 250 pesos per day and make your own way around all of the Bantayan Island tourist spots at your own pace. The best place to rent a scooter is via your accommodation.
If you are not confident driving a scooter, the other option is to hail down a tricycle or habal habal (motorbike taxi) along the main road in Santa Fe. For a 15-minute drive, you can expect to pay around 50-100 pesos.
Exploring the island by scooter
BEST TIME TO VISIT BANTAYAN ISLAND CEBU
The best time to visit, weather-wise, is between December and June when temperatures are hot and there is minimal rainfall. This is also high season in Bantayan so expect to see many tourists during these months.
I recommend visiting on the shoulder months of the high season which would be July and November which see a bit of rainfall but usually only lasts for a couple of hours and the rest of the day is sunny.
Try to avoid the typhoon season which is typically between August and October.
RELATED ARTICLE → 3 WEEK PHILIPPINES ITINERARY
WHERE TO STAY
Bantayan has dozens of accommodation options to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay to fit the needs of budget backpackers, luxury travelers, and everyone in between.
See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: Coral Blue Oriental Beach Villas
Coral Blue Oriental is one of the best semi-luxury accommodations on the island and is centrally located in Santa Fe. Offers beachfront villas and suites with free wifi, a private beach area, a seaside restaurant, and a bar. There are one-bedroom and two-bedroom villas available which are air-conditioned and fitted with a flat-screen tv, DVD player, lock safe, fridge, and balcony with ocean views. Recommended for couples, families, and friends!
Mid Range: Sf Cantina
I personally stayed at Sf Cantina, a small and cozy guesthouse located right on the beach in Sante Fe. The property features a beach bar and restaurant, free wifi, lounge chairs, and oceanfront accommodation. The rooms have air conditioning and are fitted with a flat-screen tv, large bed, wardrobe, and private bathroom. Continental breakfast is also available at Sf Cantina. Affordable place to stay for couples, friends, and families.
Budget: Edsan Apartments
Edsan Apartment is the best budget accommodation on the island. The property is centrally located in Santa Fe and features a garden, bbq facilities, a shared kitchen area, a terrace, and free wifi. Enjoy your privacy in these budget apartments which can sleep 2 people and up to 6 people and are fitted with air-conditioning/fan-cooled, large beds, a private bathroom, and a patio. Perfect for solo travelers, couples, friends, and families!
FOR ALL OTHER PLACES TO STAY, SEARCH ON AGODA OR SEARCH ON BOOKING.COM
15 THINGS TO DO IN BANTAYAN ISLAND
Now that you’ve got all the information on how to get to the island, where to stay, the best time to visit, and all the logistics, let’s get to the fun stuff.
So without further ado, here is a complete guide to the 15 Best Things To Do In Bantayan Island!
The first thing that should be on the top of your list of what to do in Bantayan Island is to hit the beach! Kota Beach is rated as one of the best beaches for its glistening white sands and palm tree fringed shoreline.
Kota Beach is located in the main tourist area of Santa Fe. Most accommodations are situated in Santa Fe so it’s within walking distance to get to Kota Beach.
Kota Beach faces east making it one of the best places to visit on the island to watch the sunrise as it pops up over the horizon.
Take a dip during the day at Kota Beach to cool off and enjoy the idyllic scenes that this beach has to offer!
There are a few oceanside resorts and beach bars dotted along Kota Beach serving up cold brews and delicious meals. Most usually have happy hour between 4 pm and 6 pm, so make sure to get there around this time if you want to score some cheap drinks.
Apart from that, there isn’t a whole lot more to do on Kota Beach than go swimming in the ocean, lay in a hammock underneath the coconut palms, or read a book by the beach.
Sunrise on Kota Beach
PARADISE BEACH BANTAYAN
Paradise Beach Bantayan, also known as Sandira Beach, is another one of the best beaches and a must-see location to add to your list of things to do in Bantayan Island.
Paradise Beach Bantayan can be found on the southeastern coastline of the island. Using Google maps, simply type in Paradise Beach or Sandira Beach and this will direct you to the exact pin location.
From the main hub of Sante Fe, it’s approximately a 15-minute drive or a 45-minute walk to Paradise Beach Cebu.
When you arrive at Paradise Beach Bantayan there is a small tourist office where you will have to pay the 50 pesos entrance fee before continuing down to the beach.
Azure waters, a powdery white shoreline, small beach caves, and tall coconut palm trees are good enough reasons to visit this natural beach haven during your stay.
Roam up and down the coastline, dipping in the ocean, discovering the rocky outcrops and small caves, or relax in the shade under the sheltered beach huts.
At the western end of Paradise Beach Cebu, you can find half a dozen beach chairs and umbrellas which makes for another good spot to beach bum for an hour or so.
A small reef can also be found just offshore so you may want to bring snorkeling gear with you to explore the underwater world.
Full Blog Post → Paradise Beach Bantayan
Paradise Beach Bantayan
Azure waters at Paradise Beach
OMAGIECA OBO-OB MANGROVE GARDEN
The Omagieca Obo-ob Mangrove Garden is arguably the most popular island attraction! The reason being is that a famous Filipino Movie called ‘Camp Sawi’ was filmed at this location and is now frequented by many tourists, especially Filipinos that visit the island.
Omagieca Mangrove Garden and Boardwalk is a 20-minute drive west from Santa Fe along Obo-ob Marikaban Road.
Upon arriving at Obo-ob Mangrove Garden, there is a tourist office located at the beginning of the boardwalk where you will have to pay the 50 pesos entrance fee. This includes access to the bamboo boardwalk that leads in and around the mangroves.
The option is also there if you wish to go kayaking around the Omagieca Mangroves for an additional 150 pesos or go for a ride in a small wooden boat for 350 pesos. These activities are best done at high tide.
Omagieca Mangrove Garden requires no more than a 20 to 30-minute visit as you stroll across the bamboo boardwalk that takes you through the density of the mangroves and back again.
Along the way, there are a few photo opportunities under the Camp Sawi sign and also from a watchtower that offers an elevated view of Obo-ob Mangrove Garden.
If you have a drone camera, it’s not a bad spot to fly to get an aerial perspective of the Bantayan Mangrove Garden.
Must Read → 3 Weeks Philippines Itinerary
Omagieca Mangrove Garden – What to do in Bantayan Island
The famous Camp Sawi sign
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LUNCH AT EVERY DAY SUNDAY CAFE
A common question among tourists is where to eat in Bantayan? Well, I can tell you now that some of the best food that I tasted was at Every Day Sunday Cafe!
Located in Santa Fe, Every Day Sunday Cafe is open from 7 am – 5 pm, Friday to Monday, and 7 am – 3 pm Tuesday to Thursday.
Every Day Sunday Cafe offers a range of Western-style and Filipino-style breakfast and lunch options including smoothie bowls, waffles, pancakes, nachos, quesadillas, pork adobo, wraps, and more. For drinks, you can choose from a range of fresh juices, smoothies, whole coconuts, and of course freshly brewed coffee.
Also inside the cafe is a small shop selling local handmade jewelry, eco-friendly products, and other trinkets which are great for gifts for your friends and family or to simply spoil yourself!
Lunch at Every Day Cafe
Every Day Cafe
ISLAND HOPPING TO VIRGIN ISLAND
Island hopping to Virgin Island Bantayan is one of the best day trips well-worthy of adding to your list of things to do. Boasting crystal clear waters, cliff jumping, beach bars, and coastal boardwalks, this is one of the most beautiful places not to be missed on your itinerary!
Virgin Island Cebu is a short 30-minute boat ride from Kota Beach.
An island hopping tour to Virgin Island can be easily organized through the reception of your accommodation or at one of the tour desks dotted around the main town of Santa Fe.
The total cost for a small outrigger boat over to Virgin Island Bantayan is around 800 pesos, so if you are a group of 4 and up to 8 people you can split the cost between you. Otherwise, you can take a private boat tour and pay the full price.
The island hopping tour includes a visit to Virgin Island Cebu and also Balidbid Lagoon before returning back to Kota Beach in Santa Fe.
When you arrive at Virgin Island Bantayan there is an additional entrance fee of 250 pesos per head for the first 2 guests and 200 pesos after that for additional people in your group. Ultimately, the more people you have in your group, the cheaper the entrance fee will average out.
There are many things to do on Virgin Island to keep you entertained for an entire day such as cliff jumping, snorkeling the reef, beach bumming in a hammock, swimming in the shallow turquoise waters, and coastal strolls along the wooden boardwalk.
Virgin Island’s main beach is as dreamy as it gets and it looks like something straight out of a postcard! Sugary white sands, azure waters, and shaded huts under the coconut trees are the definition of an island paradise.
A trip to Virgin Island Bantayan will leave you feeling sun-kissed and content after experiencing one of the best Bantayan Island tourist spots!
Full Blog Post → Virgin Island Bantayan
Virgin Island Bantayan
Coastal walks on Virgin Island
EXPLORE THE ISLAND BY SCOOTER
One of the best adventures to be had is to simply rent a scooter and do a full lap of the island which takes no longer than two hours.
You can rent a scooter for as little as 250 pesos per day from your accommodation or from a friendly local who is willing to lend you a set of wheels.
Once you’ve got your hands on a scooter, you can top up your gas at the petrol station in Santa Fe which costs around 150 pesos for a full tank.
Begin your motorbike adventure around the island by heading west along Bantayan – Sta. Fe Road until you hit Bantayan City on the west coast.
Make a quick stop in Bantayan City to visit the Saints Peter and Paul Church before continuing north along the coastal road, right the way to the northernmost tip of the island.
The coastal road to the north isn’t very well maintained but I guarantee you will be just fine if you take it slow. There are many hidden beaches and traditional fishing villages along the way that are worth stopping into for a quick photo.
As you pass through dozens of small villages, it’s such a raw and unique experience to see the locals going about their daily lives in the less touristy areas of the island.
When you reach the very tip, be sure to check out the Kota Park ruins before making the return 1-hour journey south back to Santa Fe.
RELATED ARTICLE → 15 Things To Do In Cebu
Discovering hidden Bantayan beaches
The northern tip of the island
Balidbid Lagoon was the highlight of my trip during my adventures around the island. This unique saltwater lagoon is a must-see destination during your stay.
Balidbid Lagoon can be found on the eastern coastline.
From the main hub of Sante Fe, it’s approximately a 15-minute drive or a 1-hour walk to this Bantayan lagoon.
When you arrive at Balidbid Lagoon, one of the local landowners will make themselves known to you and you will have to pay them a small entrance fee of 20 pesos before continuing down to the lagoon.
This insane tourist spot blew me away when I sent my drone up to capture some aerial shots of Balidbid Lagoon and it somewhat reminded me of the Whitsundays in Australia!
Balidbid features a saltwater lagoon with an ocean inlet that is surrounded by lush greenery and boasts glistening white sandbanks along the edges.
There was a slight current in the lagoon when we visited, so we walked upstream, jumped in the water, and floated down towards the end of the inlet. We did this several times as it was lots of fun and also very relaxing!
Do note that the current can be quite strong so know your limits and listen to the locals if they advise against swimming in the lagoon.
Full Blog Post → Balidbid Lagoon
Cooling off in the lagoon
TRY TRADITIONAL MAMON CUPCAKES
After all of the adventuring around the island, you are surely going to be keen for a snack and I highly recommend going on the hunt for a street-side vendor or bakery selling Mamon’s.
Mamon’s are traditional Filipino fluffy chiffon cakes that taste soo good and I guarantee you will want to eat the whole batch when you find them!
My first experience tasting a Mamon was from a street-side vendor in a small village on the west coast. The lovely Filipino woman running the stall had just finished cooking up a fresh batch of these mouth-watering sponge cakes and I bought a bag of 5 Mamon’s for 25 pesos.
I don’t usually include food reviews in my travel blogs, but this was an authentic experience more than anything and I highly recommend noting it down on your list of what to do in Bantayan Island.
Traditional Filipino Mamon Cakes
SUGAR BEACH BANTAYAN
Sugar Beach Bantayan is up there with one of my favorite beaches on the island that I had the pleasure of enjoying during my visit. Crystal clear waters, sugary white sands, and a palm tree fringed shoreline are what makes Sugar Beach a popular tourist spot!
Sugar Beach Bantayan can be found in Santa Fe, just 10 minutes walk to the south of Kota Beach.
Sugar Beach also faces east, making it another great spot to watch the sunrise if you’re an early bird like me! I low-key witnessed one of the best sunrises I have ever seen on Sugar Beach, so be sure to set your alarm.
There are a number of beach resorts and beach bars along the water’s edge at Sugar Beach Bantayan and some of which welcome outside guests to enjoy their facilities as long as you purchase something to eat or drink.
I personally stayed at Sf Cantina Resort which is located a stone’s throw from Sugar Beach Bantayan. During the few days I spent here, I went for countless swims in the crystal clear waters to cool off and sipped on a few beers while I was at it!
Drone shot of Sugar Beach
Sunrise on Sugar Beach
EXPERIENCE THE NIGHTLIFE IN BANTAYAN
Bantayan isn’t just all about beaches and typical tourist spots, there is also a happening nightlife scene around the main hub of Santa Fe.
There are dozens of sports bars, karaoke bars, billiard tables, restaurants, night markets, and many more lively establishments that are open every night of the week till late.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a solo traveler or with a group of friends, it’s a great way to get out of the house and mingle with the friendly locals and other tourists while sipping back a cold beer or cocktail.
There is no need to worry about being out in the streets after dark as the island is completely safe and I had no issues at all while I was out enjoying the nightlife in Santa Fe.
Nightlife on Bantayan
OGTONG CAVE POOL & RESORT
One of the most unique Bantayan Island tourist spots is the Ogtong Cave Pool which is located at the Ogtong Cave Resort on the south coast of Santa Fe.
If you wish to visit the Ogtong Cave Pool the entrance fee is around 200 pesos and this also gives you access to the swimming pool and private beach area at Ogtong Cave Resort.
The Ogtong Cave Pool is quite small in size and the crystalline water inside the natural pool is shallow making it a perfect spot for a dip to cool off.
Ogtong Cave Pool is so inviting with its blue-tinged springs inside that you could spend at least an hour chilling out here. Though you should definitely make use of the private beach and swimming pool during your visit to Ogtong Cave Resort.
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Ogtong Cave – Photo: Guidetothephilippines
KOTA PARK & RUINS
Kota Park is a beach area on the northernmost tip of the island and a great spot to spend an hour or two during your visit.
Kota Park is located in Madridejos which is approximately a 45-minute drive north of Santa Fe.
The beach area at Kota Park is best visited at high tide when the water comes right up to the shoreline making it an inviting spot to cool off and get salty. At low tide, there are quite a few rocks that become exposed and it’s not that ideal for swimming.
There is also a long pier that stretches out into the ocean at Kota Park where visitors can take a stroll out to the end and enjoy extensive views of neighboring islands.
Oh, and don’t forget to check out the old 1970’s fort ruins at Kota Park too!
Old fort ruins
STS. PETER & PAUL CHURCH
Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church is the most historic landmark on Bantayan Island Cebu and a must-see for those interested in history and architecture.
Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church is located in Bantayan City directly across from the Bantayan Public Plaza. Head west along the main road from Santa Fe and the drive takes approximately 20 minutes to reach the church.
This church is considered to be the first and oldest parish not only in Bantayan but in the whole of Cebu as well. Sts. Peter and Paul Church was founded in 1580 and it still remains intact to this day, 500 years on.
Inside this centuries-old church, you can find beautiful decor on the walls and colorful paintings on the ceiling which are worthy of a photo for keep-sake.
Sts Peter & Paul Church
Outside walls of the church
Colorful ceilings inside the church
TAKE PHOTOS ON THE PALM TREE ROAD
During my lap around the island on the scooter, I came across the most picturesque palm tree road and couldn’t resist stopping to take a few Instagram-worthy photos!
This particular palm tree road can be found along Obo-ob – Marikaban Road, halfway between Paradise Beach and Obo-ob Mangrove Garden.
There is a dirt road that acts as an enchanting pathway, cutting through the natural-arched tunnel of large coconut palms!
When you enter this parallel tunnel of tall coconut palm trees, you’ll feel like you’ve just entered another realm. You will also notice the temperature drop as you pass through because the canopy of palm fronds above almost completely cuts out the sun.
Palm tree road on Bantayan
GO SKYDIVING IN BANTAYAN
Skydiving is one of the best experiences you can have that I guarantee you will remember for a lifetime! What better way to finish off your adventures on the island than jumping out of a plane from 10,000 feet!
Skydive Cebu is the only USPA Member Dropzone in the Philippines and your safety is their number 1 priority. All tandem instructors are trained, licensed, and experienced to ensure you have the most incredible experience knowing that you are completely safe at the same time.
The Skydive Cebu office is located at the Bantayan Airport in Santa Fe. You can either drop by their office or head to their website at www.skydivecebu.com to book your skydiving adventure! The cost of a tandem jump is around 19,000 pesos.
One of the best parts about skydiving in Bantayan is the phenomenal view of the island from 10,000 feet in the air! But don’t get too comfortable because your instructor will shortly be opening the doors of the plane to take the leap.
Whether you’re interested in just a tandem jump or getting your solo certificate, Skydive Cebu has got you covered!
RELATED ARTICLE → MALAPASCUA ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE
Skydiving in Bantayan
BEST TOURS IN CEBU
MORE PHILIPPINES TRAVEL GUIDES
- Philippines Guide: 3 Weeks Philippines Itinerary
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- Boracay: 15 Things To Do In Boracay
- Siquijor: 3 Day Siquijor Itinerary
- Malapascua: 11 Things To Do In Malapascua
- Camiguin: 13 Best Camiguin Tourist Spots
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- Dumaguete: Best Dumaguete Tourist Spots
- Sumilon Island: Sumilon Island Itinerary
TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or it’s your first trip overseas, here are some useful travel resources to help you kick-start your next adventure!
- BOOKING.COM – search and book accommodation worldwide
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- GROUP TRIPS – join one of my epic small group trips
- TRAVEL INSURANCE – purchase World Nomads travel insurance
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I hope you enjoyed reading this article and if you have any questions at all, please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. For a quicker response, be sure to join Jonny Melon’s Travel Tribe on Facebook and post your questions or recommendations to our awesome community.
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