It’s almost summer in the Philippines and that means it’s beach season. Summer came a little early for our family as we decided to take a break from our desks and travel to Bantayan island. It’s a long holiday for our little student. He didn’t have school on Monday (Feb 25) so we’ve got a long weekend ahead, so why not go somewhere?
This isn’t our first time as a family to visit Bantayan Island in Cebu. We just love coming back here because of the gorgeous long stretch of powdery white sand beach that is Bantayan, specifically in Sta. Fe.
Last week, however, was our first time to take the bus. So I will be sharing how to get to Bantayan Island by bus and some family travel tips so you can enjoy your stay in this lovely paradise.
How to Get to Bantayan Island via Cebu North Bus Terminal
Taking the bus is ideal if you want to experience fun travel with groups. We could’ve driven all the way north but Ivan came from the night shift and just couldn’t drive.
You can catch an air-conditioned bus by Ceres Liner to Bantayan Island at different times. The bus will take you to Hagnaya Port in San Remegio. From there you’ll take a ferry to Santa Fe. So basically, you’ll be riding to Hagnaya Port.
(Alternatively, there’s another aircon bus that’ll take you straight to Bantayan Island but is more expensive. I suggest you take the bus to Hagnaya, since you’ll, only be going to Santa Fe for the beaches. )
Here is the schedule for Ceres bus from North Bus Terminal to Hagnaya Port and ferry to Santa Fe, Bantayan (as of Feb 2019).
As of this writing, the bus fare to Hagnaya port is Php170 (aircon).
Once you get to Hagnaya, book a ferry ticket. Ticket is P180/head for adults There are different shipping lines with varying schedules. Make sure your bus trip coincides with the ferry schedule.
We took the 6am bus and arrived in time for the 10:30AM ferry. There were two shipping lines, and the departure time varies by 30 minutes or so.
Once you’re in Sta. Fe port, just ask a tricycle driver to take you to Sta. Fe’s town center where all the happenings are. We were dropped off at MJ Square – a must-visit in Bantayan when you want to go on a food adventure. Tricycle fare is just P20-25.
Where to Stay in Bantayan
There are many hotels, lodging houses and inns in Sta. Fe. Just a short walk from MJ square lines different hotels at each corner. There are just tons of choices. The problem is to actually get a place to stay.
We weren’t able to book a hotel beforehand and when we arrived, all the hotels – affordable or expensive – were already fully-booked. We managed to get a vacancy at RR Lodging House, which is located along Santa Fe’s white beach.
I have to be honest, it was a shitty room. But I would still give them credit because it was the only hotel that welcomed us and offered a vacancy. We figured, we didn’t want a luxurious stay, we just wanted a place to sleep in and keep our stuff because what we were after was going to the beach.
If you want to have a beachfront view/accommodation in Talisay district of Santa Fe, Bantayan, the following are worth checking out:
You can also visit this post to see more options.
How to Explore Santa Fe, Bantayan
There are bike and motorbike rentals available to get you around Santa Fe. This is the most convenient way to explore the town and discover other places and then get back to your hotel quickly. Motorbike rental is at P350/day while a bike rental costs P150/day.
Want to do a Bantayan Island loop? Check out this post!
Where to Eat in Bantayan
There are so many places to eat in Santa Fe Bantayan. As I’ve mentioned, MJ Square is the place to be if you want to go on a food trip. What I can share are the food shops you should not miss. This means you can’t leave Bantayan without ordering from these places
1. Bantayan Burrito Company – hands down – this is the place where I’ve had the best Nachos and Burrito in my life. Just writing about it makes my mouth water. The positive reviews you can see on their Facebook page says it all. You can’t go wrong with this one.
2. Santa Cafe – Santa Cafe was the only cafe available at that time when we wanted to have breakfast. There was Tapa Master but we vowed never to eat there again (read below). You might need to wait long for your meal but it’s worth the wait. I loved every bit of what I put in my mouth.
3. Hello Spank
I haven’t tasted this homemade ice cream but I’ve read mostly positive reviews about this shop. I saw someone eating this ice cream and it just looked so inviting. However, we just ate dinner that time and was so full I wasn’t able to make room for desserts. Most people say don’t ever leave Bantayan without having a taste of Hello Spank ice cream.
4. Shake Me
This is the best place to cool down after having fun under the sun. Their fruit shakes are delicious!
And I’d also like to mention these restaurants that aren’t worth your time.
Tapa Master – it’s too expensive for the serving size of their meals. And it doesn’t even taste great! Honestly, Sinangag Express silog meals are waaaaay better. I heard this restaurant had a good reputation in Manila but it’s different here. When it comes to breakfast and silog meals, you’re better off dining at Santa Cafe.
Chef Panyang – if you check their Facebook reviews, most of them were negative and we’ve experienced it! Bad customer service, slow service and terrible food. They don’t even care if their customers are waiting that long. Despite the negative reviews and all that, people still flock to this restaurant and I believe it’s because their food is so affordable and they open early.
Bantayan Island with Kids
If your kid loooves beaches, like ours do, then Bantayan Island is the perfect getaway for the family. Don’t forget the essentials you need to bring when you are going to the beach with a kid. Depending on the age of your child (our is 4), don’t forget to bring:
Family Weekend Getaway In Bantayan Island
I will just share with you the places we visited and other things that we did in Bantayan last week. After arriving at our hotel at lunchtime, Kai and I went straight to the beach where he played with his sand toys. He’s been raving about going to the beach and playing in the sand for a week now.
After spending 2 hours in between shaded trees and under the scorching heat of the sun, we retreated to the hotel to take a nap. But we never woke up. So yeah, we slept from 5pm to 5am the next day. Haha! Kai surely rested more than enough and was prepared for the next day adventure.
On our second day in Bantayan, we decided to go to Sandira Paradise Beach. It is a hidden public beach, and you need a 30-minute drive on a bumpy road to get there. The place was beautiful, yes. There were huts lined for anyone to rest in. The sand is still the powdery white consistency, but not as fine as the beach in Talisay district.
If you want a secluded place to stay while enjoying a time of relaxation, head to Sandira really early. That’s not to say there won’t be a lot of people. They start to come around lunchtime when it’s really hot.
Kai had a great time at Sandira with his sand toys. There’s just so much love for the beach with this young man.
Quick Tips When you Decide to Visit Sandira:
- prepare P50/head for the entrance (kids = P25)
- Bring your own food and drinks
- Put on your sunscreen!!
- Bring a tent if you plan to stay the whole day
- Bring a change of clothes
- Watch out for those ants on the sand
- MOST IMPORTANTLY – Clean up after your mess. There aren’t a lot of garbage bins, there’s only a few on the entrance and they’re small. Be responsible with your trash. Keep them with you until you find a bin to throw them into.
After Sandira, we got back on our motorcycle and it was about past 11 am. Imagine the heat of the summer sun, but oh well. You gotta live the island life! haha! Kai fell asleep while we were on the way to the Omagieca Obo-ob Mangrove Garden. So we didn’t push through with the visit. We headed straight back to the hotel where he woke up, just in time – for another beach fun!
We decided to just stay on the beaches along Talisay district. It’s really beautiful there. And you get a wide stretch of pristine white sandy shore. It’s paradise for our little one.
We went back to the hotel to rest quick and allow our boy to have his afternoon nap. My mom was staying in another hotel since they arrived in Bantayan earlier that day. Kai had his nap at her hotel so Mommy and Daddy had time to themselves.
We had an early dinner at the Bantayan Burrito Company.
So, we got to spend only 2 hours on our date.
We picked Kai up and let him eat dinner. It was still 6 pm – early! So we had time to drive around town for a bit – and that’s just what we did. After an hour of driving around and passing the little streets of Santa Fe, we headed back to the hotel.
The next morning, we hopped on our motorcycle early and headed to Bantayan Town center because we wanted to buy some dried fish to bring home. Bantayan happens to be known as a big producer of these products.
We took our time and stayed on their park. Kai got to play a little bit on the public playground.
Things To Do In Bantayan
- Visit Sandira Paradise Beach
- Visit Omagieca Obo-ob Mangrove Garden
- Visit Ogtong Cave
- Visit the Ruins or go cliffdiving
- Ride the motorcycle around the town of Santa Fe
- Go on a food trip
- Island hopping
- Visit the Bantayan Town church
- Ride the motorcycle to Bantayn Town
- Visit dried fish market in Bantayan Town
- Hang around Bantayan Town’s plaza
- Ride a bike around Santa Fe.