Bantayan Island, Cebu – a Small Island Paradise

Bantayan Island is a small island paradise just off the north west coast of Cebu. It also requires a long trip, 5-6 hours, from Cebu City but is well worth it.

Arrival via Ferry

Ferry to Bantayan Island
Ferry to Bantayan Island

From Cebu City we went to the North Bus Terminal and took a bus to Hagnaya Port. We arrived a few hours later and then took the first ferry available to the Santa Fe Port, Bantayan Island. Perhaps not the wisest way to travel, but we tend not make reservations and just make decisions as we go. Sometimes it works out, other times not so much. This time we took the advice of a tricycle driver and decided to stay the night at Anika Island Resort. It was just a few minutes from the port and ended up being a very nice place right on the beach.

Anika Beach Resort
Anika Beach Resort

Day 1 – Getting to Know the Area

We spent the day enjoying the beach and swimming. Amazing how many starfish were on the beach at low tide. Hundreds just below a layer of sand. You could see the outline of stars everywhere.

Big Starfish
Big Starfish
Not as common but we saw several sand dollars as well. That evening we went into town, walked around and had dinner. It felt very safe and people, as always, were very friendly. Another plus…the island doesn’t have that busy, overpopulated and polluted feel. Back at the hotel, we met a guide, Joel, who offered to take us to Virgin Island the next morning. It was on our list of places to see so we accepted his offer.

Sand Dollars
Sand Dollars

Day 2 – Virgin Island

5am and we are ready to go! We got up early, met Joel, and took a tricycle to a local spot where the fisherman bring their catch every morning. He said it’s best to buy our seafood here and cook it on the island.

Daily Fresh Catch
Daily Fresh Catch
This is why we got up early. The available seafood was incredible. Everything from fish to sea cucumbers. We bought several fish and squid for under 200 pesos. We also bought some rolls and coffee for another 50 pesos. Next up, a ride on an outrigger canoe.

Bangka to Virgin Island
Bangka to Virgin Island

We enjoy being on or in the water and riding in the bangka is no exception. They just slice through the water with the occasional sprays of water! In about 20 minutes we arrived and couldn’t help but get excited.

Entrance to Virgin Island
Entrance to Virgin Island
The white sand beach, crystal clear blue water, and the well maintained area under the trees with huts and hammocks. Plus we had the entire island to ourselves.

Island Ammenities
Island Ammenities

Joel pointed out a nice spot for snorkeling so off we went. The water was so clear and warm – it was a beautiful day! Before noon, he prepared the fish and squid we purchased earlier with rice, veggies, and plantains. No better way for lunch, we ate right on the beach. Fresh seafood is the best!

Fresh Cooked Lunch on the Beach
Fresh Cooked Lunch on the Beach

After lunch we walked toward the west side of the island on a short coral path. It opened up to a totally private beach with some benches and huts.

Bamboo Steps to Ocean
Bamboo Steps to Ocean
Near the largest hut were some bamboo steps leading steeply down to the ocean. The water was fairly calm and much deeper than the main beach but still worth snorkeling and exploring. Lots of cool looking fish right under the steps.

We eventually made it back to the main beach and we couldn’t believe it – four tourists! We decided to swim out to a fixed floating platform. I decided to snorkel a bit more and glad I did. Fish everywhere and some truly amazing sea urchins. They were large, black and they radiated/pulsated a blue color. Never seen this before but spent lots of time looking. They appeared to be plugged in and electrified.

Aimee Relaxing
Aimee Relaxing

We had so much fun we forgot it was my birthday, 29 again, and as we laughed about it Joel overheard us. He and his friends wanted me to share some birthday tanduay and coke with them. No twisting my arm…let’s do this. When the cup came to me I sipped it. It was strong! Very very strong! So strong I decided to drink it slowly. After a few minutes, Aimee told me that I had to hurry up because they were waiting for the cup. What?!?

Birthday Drink - Tanduay & Coke
Birthday Drink – Tanduay & Coke
I didn’t realize we were sharing a cup. So I drank and passed it. These guys poured and drank at record speed, said “tagay” then it was my turn again. Five drinks later we are all feeling pretty good. Definitely a great end to the day! Felt like the four of us had been friends for year!

Day 3 – Municipality of Bantayan & Ogtong

Aimee on the Scooter
Aimee on the Scooter

This morning we wanted to do some sightseeing and eat fresh seafood again – so we decided to rent a scooter. We drove to the same location to buy some fresh squid. Two squid 100 php – we’ll be back tomorrow. On our way back to the hotel we met a man repairing a bangka. Talking to him about his work was impressive and informative. It’s definitely an art. Once we arrived back at our hotel we asked the restaurant if they would prepare our squid and for 50 php they did! So tasty and don’t miss the passion fruit juice.

Rebuilding a Boat
Rebuilding a Boat

We rode our scooter to the municipality of Bantayan. We arrived at noon and all the kids were out enjoying lunch. We decided to park the bike and walk around. It was fun watching all the activities. Vendors selling fruits and candies and others had games set up where the kids paid 1 php for a chance to win a little fish.

Bantayan School Kids
Bantayan School Kids

Kids were daring each other to get near our scooter or say something to us. Some walked by and said hi then ran off and other just stared at us from a distance and smiled. One group of kids did come over to talk. I practiced my Tagalog and they practiced their English. We all had a good laugh.

Ruins Near Ogtong Overlooking
Ruins Near Ogtong Overlooking

Next we rode to an old ruin on the beach just past Ogtong Cave Resort, found a pathway down to the beach and spent a few hours swimming. Not nearly the coral as other places but lots of sea cucumbers, starfish and sea urchins. This was a great place if you want to have a place to yourself and just relax. And holding a sea cucumber is very strange!

Day 4 – Ogtong Cave Resort

Ogtong Cave
Ogtong Cave

Today is our last day and we heard Ogtong Cave was worth checking out, so off we went. This is a very cool cave. You head down steps into the cave, the water is very clear and mild. It’s not a large cave so going during off times would be best. When we arrived, we were the only ones in the cave.

Aimee in Ogtong Cave
Aimee in Ogtong Cave
We followed the cave to the back, it gets really dark and you need to move slowly to make sure you have good footing. We left the cave and walked around the resort grounds. It’s a very good looking place with a large pool and a private beach. Wish we had a full day to relax here.

As always, we hate to leave but it’s time to catch the ferry back to Hagnaya Port and then to Polambato for the night. Until next time…

More Area Information

Cebu City to Bantayan Island
• Go to Cebu North Bus Terminal
• Take the 3 1/2 hour bus ride to Hagnaya Port; 200 pesos
• From Hagnaya Port, take the 1 1/2 hour ferry to Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island; 170 pesos + 10 Env Fee

Anika Island Resort
• 1500 – 3500 php nightly depending on room size and closeness to beach

Boat to Virgin Island including preparing food
• 2000 php

Virgin Island entrance fee
• 500 php for the first two guests
• 100 php for the rest of the party

Daily Scooter Rental
• Varies but we paid 350 php per 24 hours

Ogtong Cave
• 100 php each

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