The island of Bantayan lies off the northern shore of Cebu. To get there, land travel from Cebu City to the port takes more than 3 hours and another hour and a half ferry ride gets you to Bantayan, where visitors enter a place perfect for relaxation and beach getaways. The island is no doubt famous for its powdery white-sand beaches, but there is more to Bantayan than beaches. Read on and find out what you can do in Bantayan Island.
1. Beach bumming in Bantayan’s pristine beaches
Its beaches is the main reason why people travel all the way to Bantayan. Though a top destination in Cebu, it is not as crowded compared to other islands like Boracay, but it still has its island vibes. The shores of Bantayan are lined with these beaches with resorts, especially in Santa Fe. Thus, most beaches carry the name of the resorts. Popular beaches in Bantayan are Sugar Beach, Alice Beach, Beach Placid, and Kota Beach.
2. Watch the stunning sunrise and sunset
Being an island, guests can enjoy either sunrise or sunset, whichever they prefer more. While most islands have stunning sunsets, Bantayan Island of course being one of them, the island has postcard-perfect sunrises. Its idyllic shores come alive as the sun begins to shine. Turn on the alarm and start you day with a beautiful sunrise along the beachfront of the island’s eastern side. Of course, its sunset is equally stunning with golden hues until the magical blue hour - enjoy the serenity and calm as another wonderful day in Bantayan is ending.
3. Dip inside Ogtong Cave
One of the most popular non-beach activities in Bantayan is Ogtong Cave, with a freshwater pool perfect for those with little kids. This 20 meter (66 foot) cave is located within a resort, Ogtong Cave Resort, but non-guests can visit and enjoy for less than 3 USD.
4. Rent a bike and explore the island
See the island at your own pace by renting a bike for a few hours or for a day. Take a trip to the different beaches on the island, head to the market or find the best restaurant with a bicycle. For those who want to explore the back-roads of the island, motorcycles and scooters can also be rented out. See what most tourists never get to see like swamplands, coconut-lined dirt roads, rice paddies, and sleepy villages.
Address: Santa Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu
Facebook: Bantayan Cycles
5. Marvel at the historic church
The island was one of the first to be evangelized in the Philippines by the Spanish clergy accompanying their explorers. Bantayan’s St. Peter & Paul parish is a heritage colonial church built from coral stones. Easy to locate as it lies in front of the town square (like most churches in the Philippines), see its heavily decorated façade with plenty of relief sculptures of Saints and other figures in Catholicism. This church also served as a fortress against slave raiding Moro pirates.
6. Visit Bantayan’s off shore islands
Though an island itself, on its eastern coast are smaller islands that rouse the curiosity of some travelers, especially those who have been to Bantayan a couple of times. Silion Island or Virgin Island is privately owned with a fish sanctuary. Enjoy snorkeling and fish feeding while on Virgin Island. Hilantagaan Island is more “remote” and home to a small fishing village. If you want to see authentic raw island life, this island is must-visit.
7. Sustainable tourism at Bantayan Island Nature Park & Resort
Want to enjoy different scenery in Bantayan? While most tourists stay in beachfront hotels, Bantayan Island Nature Park & Resort offers an alternative – an 8-hectare (20-acre) property promoting environmental preservation and conservation. Surround yourself with endemic flora and fauna, while the beach can be accessed from a cliffside stairway. The nature park also has a mini zoo and small caves, with the largest cave pool on Bantayan Island.
Bantayan Island Nature Park & Resort
Address: Sitio Kalubian, Timiao, Bantayan Island, Cebu
Website: Bantayan Island Nature Park
8. Check out Omagieca Mangrove Garden
Another non-beach attraction on the island is the Omagieca Mangrove Garden or Obo-ob Mangrove & Eco Park, home to thousands of mangroves. Though heavily damaged during Typhoon Haiyan (local name, Yolanda), volunteers and community-based organizations are reviving the island’s mangroves. Learn about the significant roles of mangroves in marine ecosystems, as well as enjoy a relaxing side trip. There is a restaurant to provide food and other refreshments. To get a nice view, climb the makeshift bamboo “tower.”
Omagieca Mangrove Garden
Address: Obo-ob, Bantayan Island
Website: Omagieca Mangrove Garden
9. People watch at Bantayan’s Baywalk
Take a break from saltwater without skipping sea views at the baywalk. Relax as you gaze upon the calm waters or listen to the rolling waves. The baywalk is near Kota Park in Madridejos, home to the Spanish fortress ruins. Enjoy walking along the long mini pier, with the best time to come late afternoon. Flocked by locals, specifically teenagers, enjoy the views and observe local life.
10. Try Island delicacies
With the influx of visitors and foreign residents, looking for a place to dine outside your resort is not a problem on Bantayan Island. On Batobalanos Street is a strip of different restaurants serving local to Portuguese food. Everyone should never skip the fresh seafood offered in Bantayan. For some authentic and adventurous gastronomic quests, walk around and see what locals are eating. Grill stations are common in the Philippines, and when in Bantayan Island, look for that skewer with a round meat. The “round” meat is a chicken uterus with an undeveloped chick inside – an exotic and local delicacy. For other food products, head to the local market to buy the island’s main products – dried seafoods such as danggit (rabbitfish), squid, and anchovies.
11. Enjoy resort facilities as you learn to kite surf
Seabreeze Kite Club on Bantayan Island is a perfect way to enjoy the ocean and resort facilities. Learn how to kite surf, and if the wind is drowsy, enjoy the sparkling sea and clean, uncrowded beaches. The area is perfect for learners as the waves are small and the sea is shallow. Sometimes there’s no wind but mostly, there’s a good sea breeze to enjoy. Coaches are professional, helpful and quick to emphasize safety. Once you manage to actually surf across the waves, you’ll be looking for a meal. The resort offers meals and you can relax on their sunbeds.
Seabreeze Kite Club
Address: Santa Fe 6047, Philippines
Contact: +63 906 230 4202
Website: Seabreeze Kite Club
12. Adrenalin-pumping skydiving in paradise
An adrenalin-action activity is waiting for adventurous people who want to get a skydiving video to take home and share. The instructors at Skydive Cebu are USPA licensed, which brings peace of mind and they have thousands of hours experience. Although it’s a family-run business be assured there are multiple safety checks. It’s convenient too, as once you’re on Bantayan island, they provide transport. You’ll be guaranteed incredible views of the ocean and surrounding islands from way up in the air. This will surely be your most exciting experience in Cebu. The adventure will possibly have you bookmarking the activity for your next trip to the area.
Skydive Cebu Adventures
Address: Santa Fe Airport, Santa Fe, Philippines
Website: Skydive Cebu Adventures
More than just a beach destination
It can’t be denied that Bantayan’s charm lies solely on its white sand beaches, but the island is more than just that. Bantayan still has its rustic island vibe, that locals treasure. With all these activities like touring its off-the-beaten path and non-beach attractions, it’s no wonder locals and international guests keep coming back to Bantayan Island.
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