Bantayan Island Travel Guide: How to Go + Places to Visit

“A piece of heaven on Earth” that’s how I would describe Bantayan Island. Just right stepping on Santa Fe port, you would notice its crystal-clear waters and would have a glimpse of all the beautiful things this island could offer. I visited Bantayan Island last May for a girl’s summer getaway and it gave me one summer to remember. Though it was the summer season in the Philippines and our visit fell on a holiday week, we were surprised that the island was not loaded with tourists so we were able to relax and enjoy the scenery without the crowd. The island was added to my travel bucket list after being featured in the famous local film “Camp Sawi”. The said movie made the place known and opened tourism opportunities to its locals.

Knowing Bantayan Island

Bantayan Island is an island located in the northwest part of Cebu Island. The island is about 5 hours away from Cebu City and a popular vacation spot among Cebuanos. If you are living outside Cebu and you want to enjoy your vacation with a lesser crowd, compared to Boracay or Palawan, you might opt to visit this majestic island. The island is divided into 3 municipalities namely Santa Fe, Bantayan and Madridejos. Santa Fe is the heart of tourism where beautiful white beaches can be seen, Bantayan is the largest covering the central part and Madridejos is located on the northern portion known to be the best spot on the island to watch the famous Bantayan sunset.

How to go to Bantayan Island?

From Cebu City, make your way to the North Bus Terminal and ride a Ceres bus or van bound to Hagnaya Port. From Hagnaya Port, ride the Island Shipping or Super Shuttle that will take you directly to Santa Fe Port. Upon arrival at the port, you may take a tricycle that will take you directly to your accommodation.

In our case, from Cebu-Mactan International Airport, we opted to rent a private car that will take us directly to Hagnaya Port. It costs us Php 3,500 for a 6-seater SUV, we took this option for a more comfortable and less hassle trip. We had an early flight to Cebu so we didn’t have enough sleep that day, the private ride allowed us to rest and get us to our destination at an earlier time. We were able to take the 11:30 AM trip to Santa Fe of Island Shipping which costs us Php 325 (regular fare of 300 + terminal fee of 25). Upon arrival at Santa Fe port, we were picked up by the shuttle provided by our accommodation.

Island Shipping schedule and fare (as of May 2024)

Where to stay in Bantayan Island?

We’ve seen a lot of beautiful accommodations around Santa Fe but what stands out to us was Santa Fe Beach Club and it didn’t disappoint! With its proximity to the port, I would definitely recommend this premier resort. Upon your entrance, you’ll be accommodated by their friendly staff and welcomed with a welcome drink. The villas and overall interior are aesthetically designed, perfect for those pretty snaps, and the beachfront is clean and well-maintained by the caretakers. I love the beach chairs and open cabanas you could use to lie down and relax while watching the pristine beach right in front of you. The resort is simply amazing, cozy and such a picture-perfect drop every corner. It exceeded my expectations and would definitely book here again next time I visit.

Here are their room rates as of May 2024: (Rates may change without prior notice)

  • Beach Villa for 4pax @6,700/night with free breakfast
  • Standard Family Room for 4pax @4,300/night
  • Standard Room for 3pax @3,600/night
  • Standard Room for 2pax @2,900/night

Note: This already includes pick up and drop off in Santa Fe port (7:00AM-7:30PM) + Free entrance to the iconic Ogtong Cave Resort and Sandira Beach.

For more information, you may contact Santa Fe Beach Club through their official Facebook page here.

Places to Visit on Bantayan Island

Omagieca Obo-ob Mangrove Garden

This is a mangrove eco-park located in Brgy. Obo-ob, Bantayan Island. Managed by OMAGIECA stands for Obo-ob Mangrove Garden Integrated Eco-Tourism & Conservation Association not only promotes the place as an attraction but also raises awareness of the importance of mangroves on our coastal ecosystem.

You have to wander around by walking on their bamboo boardwalk passing through mangroves. Since Bantayan Island is the home of the movie “Camp Sawi”, the famous signage can also be found in this mangrove garden.

Entrance Fee:

  • Adult – Php 75
  • Senior Citizen/PWD – Php 60
  • Children (4-12 years old) – Php 20

Sandira Beach

Also known as “Paradise Beach” is probably my personal favorite place I visited during our land tour. The beach is somehow secluded and not as developed compared to other beaches on the island but its natural and bare beauty makes it more special than the rest. Fewer tourists are visiting here so if you are looking for a place to chill and relax, then this would be the perfect spot. It was called paradise for no reason, the beach has fine white sands, crystal blue waters and rock formations. Less crowd, quieter with a great view, we really enjoyed our stay here and will recommend it to your Bantayan bucket list.

Entrance Fee:

  • Adult – Php 70
  • Children – Php 30

Note: If you are staying in Santa Fe Beach Club Resort, you are free of charge.

The Ruins Bantayan

It’s literally just ruins of an abandoned house but people started to make craze of this place that it started to be part of their travel itineraries. As per locals, the house was once owned by a German who left the property after some time. The ruins or walls are now covered by graffiti making the place perfect for picture taking. Just get that angle, and you will be loaded with those instagrammable photos! Just below the ruins are famous spots now for cliff diving and swimming.

Entrance Fee: Free

Kota Beach

Kota Beach is one of the famous and developed beachfront resorts in Bantayan Island. The resort made fame as this is the actual beach where the “Camp Sawi” movie was filmed. The place also highlights a beautiful sand bar and a good place to catch the sunrise.

Entrance Fee: Free

Little Siargao

Are you familiar with the famous coconut palm tree road in Siargao? Bantayan Island also has a smaller version of it. Take those photos with the coconut trees but be mindful of the vehicles passing by the road.

Entrance Fee: Free

Ogtong Cave Pool

This enchanting cave pool is located inside the Ogtong Cave Resort. Don’t miss out on taking a dip in this natural pool, the clear blue cool water is a heavenly reward after all the tours you do under the sun.

Entrance Fee:

  • Adult – Php 225
  • Children – Php 120

Note: If you are staying in Santa Fe Beach Club Resort, you are free of charge.

Kota Park and Ruins

You haven’t gone to Bantayan if you haven’t witnessed yourself the famous Bantayan sunset! Since we are staying in Santa Fe (where most of the resorts are located) which is located on the right side of the island, sunset watching is not possible. We badly wanted to watch the sunset, so as suggested by our tour guide, we visited Kota Park in the town of Madridejos.

Here you can see a historical fort built in the 1790s that served as a lookout for Muslim and Moro invaders. Just a few walks from the park is a coastal shore and a boardwalk where you can take a stroll and watch the sunset.

Entrance Fee: Free

Balidbid/Baigad Lagoon Beach

This lagoon/beach is also one of the scenic places I visited on this trip. This specific beach is located at the end of a lagoon, so one side of it faces the lagoon while the other side faces the open sea. While the scenes here are another level of paradise, there are lots of resting chairs, tables and hammocks that can be seen here making the place the go-to spot for a relaxing time. Waves coming from the open sea might be strong at times, so most visitors take a dip instead on the lagoon on the other side. There’s an in-house restaurant on this resort but if you opt for a cheaper menu item, just go to the smaller stores located at the side of the resort. Food options there are affordable yet delicious and have big servings! Don’t miss out also their yummy fruit shakes, one of the best I had in my life!

Entrance Fee:

  • Adult – Php 200
  • PWD/Senior/Locals of Bantayan – Php 100
  • Children (under 6 years old) – Free of charge

Virgin Island

A must-destination in Bantayan Island if you are doing an island-hopping trip. It is a majestic private-owned small island located east of the main Bantayan Island. Virgin Island offers white beach shores, pristine waters, and a lot more activities such as snorkeling and cliff diving. This resort island is much bigger compared to Baigad Lagoon Beach with more activities and facilities to see. It is also not crowded so we really enjoyed our stay here and took all the time to relax and swim. Unlike the other known Virgin Island of Bohol, this island is not bare, it has a lot of trees, tables, cabanas, accommodations and even a cactus garden.

Entrance Fee: Php 200

For a hassle free Bantayan land tour, please contact our recommended tour guide, Kuya Lito, at 09365451858. If you’re looking for an accommodating, good photographer and the best tour guide, Kuya Lito is the man to call.

We traveled by air, by land, and by sea just to arrive on Bantayan Island, but the exhaustion we had after the long trip completely faded away after getting all the love and allure this island blown to us the moment we stepped on its land. We found Bantayan Island but the island kept a piece of us, our hearts.

Ask me about my trip