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Friday, March 1, 2019

Bantayan Island: The Gem in the North of Cebu

I cannot deny it, Cebu is my favorite province, aside from my hometown. I have been mesmerised by the places I visited and the warmness of its people. Little did I know, I could fall in love with it even more. It was my fourth visit in Cebu when I decided to explore Bantayan Island. And it was the best decision I made in that trip.
Bantayan Island is a simple and peaceful island that raised my standards in terms of beaches. I have been to number of beaches in the Philippines and this became an instant favorite. I am recalling the days we've spent in the island and memories of crystal clear water and fine white sands are coming back to life. Oh, how I missed the place.

Bantayan Island is situated in west of the northern end of Cebu. It is approximately 5 hours away from Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
Bantayan Island is divided into three municipalities, Bantayan, Madridejos and Santa Fe. During my visit, I explored Santa Fe and Virgin Island (left side of Hilantagaan Island).

Let me share to you details, tips and our experiences when we visited the Island.

HOW TO GET TO BANTAYAN ISLAND
The most easy and convenient way to reach Bantayan Island is through Cebu City.

1. Fly to Cebu
Several airlines are offering cheap flights from Clark or Manila  to Mactan-Cebu International Airport. You can check Philippine Airline, Airasia, Royal and ofcourse my favorite, Cebupacific. We scored a Cebupacific flight Manila-Cebu and Cebu to Clark for only P1,155 RT.
2. Get to Cebu North Terminal
From Mactan-Cebu International Airport you have two options to reach Cebu North Terminal
a. (White) Regular Taxi
Follow the signages outside the arrival area and it will lead you to the taxi bay. You can either choose Yellow or White Taxi. I usually hire a White taxi because they are cheaper. The travel time is around 30-45 minutes depending on the city traffic. Fare was P180.

b. SM MyBus
Also located outside the arrival area, find bus with "MyBus" logo. A new bus arrives every 30 minutes and the fix fare is P40. This option is cheaper especially if you are a solo travel. However, there are few bus stops and MyBus won't pass by Cebu North Terminal. To get to the terminal, disembark at Parkmall and take a jeepney or cab to Cebu North Terminal. Taxi fare is around P70.

Since I am with my partner, and we are running after time, I chose Option A. 

3. Bus Ride to Haganaya Port
Ceres Liner has daily schedule from Cebu to Bantayan Island and vice versa. It is better to take into consideration the schedules in planning your itinerary because of the time intervals of the buses. The travel is around 4 hours and fare for air-conditioned bus is P185. For more details about Bus Schedule and Fare, click here.
In our case, we arrived in Cebu North Terminal at 6:00 AM. The bus was still there though it was already full. We thought of waiting for two hours more to get to the next bus. But my itchy feet tried to explore the terminal and saw non air-conditioned bus to Haganaya Port and it left at 6:30 AM. Not a bad choice. Fare is P140. I observed that the non air-conditioned bus we took had several bus stops as compared to air-conditioned bus (we rode air conditioned bus going back).

4. Ferry Ride to Santa Fe Port
There are two shipping line going to the island, Island Shipping and Super Shuttle. These ferries are RORO (roll-on, roll off) meaning you can bring your own vehicle to the island. They normally alternates every hour. The first trip is at 3:00 AM and last trip is at 5:30 PM. Travel time is around 1.5 hours and fare is at P185. For more details about ferry schedule and fare, click here.
There is also a Terminal Fee for P10.
5. Tricycle to Accommodation
Upon arrival at the Santa Fe Port, we paid P30 for the environmental fee. Kuya Lorenzo, our driver and tourist guide rolled into one, picked us up and accompanied us to our accommodation.
ACCOMMODATION
There are several resorts and guesthouses in the island. You can book through Airbnb, Agoda, or Traveloka. I have booked our accommodation, Comfy Little House, through Airbnb for P1,336 per night for 2-3 persons. It's a little house with bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Though we tried some of their local foods, we cooked most of our own meals during our stay. It is 5-10 minutes away from the market, restaurants and the beach.

During iti planning, I really wanted to have a beachfront resort. I was eyeing on Kota Beach (Camp Sawi fans would know why) but it was fully booked. I tried searching, until I stumbled upon the Comfy Little House with many positive reviews. I was hesitant because it was not beach front but I booked it anyway. I realised, that if you stay in Bantayan for couple of days, it is not necessary to have beach front accommodation since most of the time, you'll be out on the sun exploring the places or swimming in the beaches.

PLACES TO VISIT IN BANTAYAN ISLAND
We visited Oboob Mangrove Garden, Paradise Beach, Santa Fe Cliff Diving Site, Ruins, Ogtong Cave and Kota Beach via tricycle for only P500 for 2-3 pax. This tour is good for 4-6 hours depending on the guest. For Virgin Island, we chartered a private boat for P900 RT. We spent the whole day of our Day 2 here.

a. Oboob Mangrove Garden
This is a one hour tour inside the mangrove area. There are lot of instagram worthy area so it might take a little longer than that. Entrance fee is P50. This is famous for the "Camp Sawi" signage.
b. Paradise Beach
This is a well maintained private resort. Entrance fee is P50. A very serene place with white sand and clear waters. Aside from the little huts that cover you from the sun, it has no other amenities. But the beach is enough. Believe me.
c. Santa Fe Cliff Diving Site
A place for adrenaline junkies. This place is open to the public.
d. German Ruins
Just beside the Cliff Diving Site. This is also open to the public.
e. Ogtong Cave
We did not manage to visit this place. We just dropped by the entrance.
As per google, it offers a clear, swimming-pool like area in their underground cave.

f. Kota Beach
Yes, it is Camp Sawi. The beach is open to the public.
g. Virign Island
We allotted whole day for this island and it was worth it. From our accommodation, Kuya Lorenzo accompanied us to the boat bay where we road a private boat going to the resort. We paid P900 for round trip rent of the boat. The ride is about 30-40 minutes. We had calmer tides in the morning as compared in the afternoon. Virgin Island is a private resort so don't be surprised if they charge higher rates and food prices. Rest assured that the place is well managed and the whole island offers different activities for their guests such as cliff diving, snorkelling, volleyball, etc. The resort offers day tour and overnight packages.
Rates:
Entrance Fees - P500 for 2 persons, P100 per person in excess of two
Cottages range: P500 - P3,000 (depending on the size)
Tables and chairs - P300
We brought snacks and drinks during our visit but they have restaurant in the island. I also liked that the swimming area has calm to "no waves" and there are fishes swimming with you. The clear waters will make you want to swim no matter what time of the day it is.
DETAILED ITINERARY

DAY 1
06:00 am - 06:25 am - Travel from Mactan Airport to Cebu North Terminal
06:25 am - 06:30 am - Bought breakfast
06:30 am - 10:30 am - Travel from Cebu North Terminal to Haganaya Port
10:30 am - 11:15 am - Bought lunch and ticket
11:15 am - 11:30 am - Boarding time
11:30 am - 01:00 pm - Travel from Haganaya Port to Santa Fe, Bantayan 
01:00 pm - 01:15 pm - Travel to Accommodation. Check in.
01:15 pm - 02:00 pm - Rest. Prepared for tour
02:00 pm - 06:00 pm - Tricycle Tour 
Places visited were Mangrove, Paradise Beach, Ogtang Cave (we just passed by), Ruins, Cliff Diving Spot and Kota Beach.
06:00 pm - 06:30 pm - Went to market to buy food
06:30 pm - onwards  - Dinner, socials, lights off

DAY 2
07:00 am - 08:00 am - Breakfast, prepared for tour
08:00 am - 08:15 am - Travelled to port
08:15 am - 08:45 am - Travel to Virgin Island
08:45 am - 09:00 am - Check-in, registration
09:00 am - 03:00 pm - Explored the island, lunch, picture taking, swimming
03:00 pm - 03:30 pm - Head back to Santa Fe
03:30 pm - 04:00 pm - Went to market to buy foods/ Head back to Accom
04:00 pm - onwards   - Dinner, socials, lights off

CONTACT DETAILS
Kuya Lorenzo
Tricycle Driver, Tourist Guide, Private Boat Contact
0932-047-4079

Our visit to Bantayan Island is part of our 4 Days 3 Nights visit in Cebu. For complete itinerary and detailed expenses, please click here.

For Oslob and Canyoneering information, click here.

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