Just off the coast of Cebu, Bantayan Island is known among backpackers as a hidden gem. It is a literal getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life, as well as of the busy tourist beaches like Boracay and Palawan (after all, who wants a truckload of tourists getting in the way of their bonding time with the sun and sea?).

But even now as more and more tourists pay a visit to Bantayan Island, there is still something enchanting about this gorgeous, white-sand beach that still begs attention from hideaway seekers. We’re not sure if it’s the amazing food that comes at amazingly cheap prices, or there’s some strange siren song that lures people in – but whatever it is, Bantayan Island definitely has its own brand of magic. If you’re traveling on a budget, here’s a handy travel guide you can pluck ideas from for your Bantayan Island getaway.

Must See and Things To Do

1. Paradise beach (PHP 50)

Paradise beach on Bantayan Island
Image credit: Image credit: bantayanisland.com

Imagine the white sands that made Boracay famous – minus the people, establishments, and loud music. That’s exactly what Paradise Beach is like. It’s a secluded strip of fine sand with crystal clear waters where you can take a dip or lay down with a book in peace and quiet. Though there are no restaurants available to serve food and water, you can pack your own lunch for a picnic by the shore. Make a day of it!

  • Operating hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily.
  • How to get there: You can get there via motorbike or pump boat (if you’re taking a lot of things with you) from Bantayan Island
  • Budget: Entrance fee is at PHP 50 for adults and PHP 25 for children.

2. Kota Park (Free)

Entrance of Kota Eco Park at Bantanyan Island
Image credit: commons.wikimedia.org

While Bantayan Island is better known for its gorgeous beaches, history buffs can find that Kota Park is a sight for sore eyes too. This beautiful park boasts of an old fort reconstructed in the 1790’s, used by villagers seeking refuge from Moro pirates. Kota Park also features a beach area you’re free to roam and a pier where you can freely bask in a breath-taking sunset.

  • Operating hours: all day, every day.
  • How to get there: take a right from Bantayan Town Square to the road leading to Madridejos. Kota Park will be on your left.
  • Budget: entrance fee is free.

3. Kota Beach and Sandbar (PHP 50)

If you’re looking for a place to take your Instagram shots, Kota Beach and Sandbar would be an interesting thing to see. Take photos jumping, cartwheeling, or just absorbing some much-needed sun on a thin strip of sand in the middle of the sea. Access to Kota Beach and Sandbar is only possible through the Kota Beach Resort, but luckily the entrance fee shouldn’t hurt your wallet.

Kota Beach
Image credit: Eugene | flickr.com
  • Operating hours: all day, every day.
  • How to get there: head to Kota Beach Resort. The sandbar is right in front.
  • Budget: PHP 50

4. Obo-ob Mangrove Eco Park (PHP 50)

Wooden pathway along Mangrove Eco Park
Image credit: bantayanisland.com

Cebu takes pride in preserving their natural resources and environment, and Mangrove Eco Park is no exception. This eco-park features a pathway made out of bamboo that cuts across mangrove, so it’s great for a peaceful walk especially if you just want to take a moment to clear your head. You can spend an afternoon here, or take a stroll early in the morning. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also go kayaking or boating to explore the eco-park.  

  • Operating hours: 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM daily
  • How to get there: travel to Bantayan Municipality. Under the “Welcome to Bantayan” sign, the Obo-ob Road will come up on your left. That road will be peppered with signs leading to the eco-park.
  • Budget: PHP 50 entrance fee for adults, while kayaking is at PHP 150 and boating is at PHP 350

Places to stay within all budgets

1. Kota Beach Resort (PHP 1600/night)

Kota Beach Resort Standard Room
Image credit: kotabeachresort.com

Situated right in front of clear blue waters and a gorgeous sandbar, Kota Beach Resort is famous because of its high quality and great prices. It features a restobar by the beach where you can play billiards, a wide beachfront peppered with palm trees, and a restaurant serving great food. If you also fancy an airconditioned room with good amenities, Kota Beach Resort is well worth the money.

  • Location: F. Duarte Street, Poblacion, Santa Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu
  • Price per night: PHP 1600 for two
  • Website: http://www.kotabeachresort.com/

2. Althea White beach resort and restaurant (PHP 400/night)

Althea's Resort
Image credit: booking.com

Also featuring a beachfront, Althea White Beach Resort also comes with on-site dining options and a bar (so yes, that Margarita-by-the-beach getaway you’ve been pining for is definitely possible). The resort also comes with free WiFi, so bringing work with you should be no problem. The resort also offers guests continental breakfast with American or Asian options daily.

  • Location: Villaceran Street, Talisay, Cebu, 6047 Santa Fe, Philippines
  • Price per night: PHP 800 for two
  • Website: https://www.facebook.com/althearesort/

3. Bantayan Island Nature Park & Resort (PHP 1000/night)

Swimming pool at Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort
Image credit: facebook.com/bantayanceburesort

Maybe you want to bring your family with you for fun beyond the sand and sun. Bantayan Island Nature Park & Resort is fit for just that – it features a mini-zoo with tropical birds and animals for your exploration. It also has a cave pool with waters coming fresh from springs, a cliffside reaching the beaches, on-site dining with international cuisine, a bar and a swimming pool.

  • Location: Tamiao, Bantayan Island Cebu, Bantayan Island 6008, Philippines
  • Price per night: PHP 1000 for two
  • Website: https://www.facebook.com/althearesort/

4. Cocou Bar Hotel & Restaurant (PHP 1500/night) 

Entrance of Coucou Restaurant on a sunny day
Imag credit: hotelbantayan.com

Cocou Bar Hotel & Restaurant is known on the island for its superb service and delectable food selections, so when you’re in for some pampering, this is where you go. Cocou features an open-air bar and restaurant right by the beach, so you can definitely get your share of some Long Island Iced Tea on a long island like Bantayan. They also offer boat rentals and island hopping services, so you need not travel far to find things to do.

  • Location: Batobalonos Street Poblacion Santa Fe, Bantayan Island
  • Price per night: PHP 1500 for two
  • Website: hotelbantayan.com

Delicious places to Eat

1. Bantayan Burrito Company (PHP 200-250)

Bantayan Burrito Company
Image credit: facebook.com/BantayanBurritoCompany

Tex-Mex is the name of the game here, and for hearty servings, we’d say Bantayan Burrito Company’s offerings come at a bang-for-your-buck price. This humble restaurant offers nachos, quesadillas, burritos, and chimichangas, to name a few. You can also order drinks like beer (at only PHP 50 per bottle), margaritas or Cuba libre, then top it off with a sweet dessert.

  • Location: MJ Square, Santa Fe, Cebu, Philippines
  • Price per meal: PHP 200-250
  • Website: https://www.facebook.com/BantayanBurritoCompany/

2. Stumble Inn (PHP 200)

Stumble Inn
Image credit: Brunold Loidl | instagram.com

A simple restaurant that serves breakfast all day every day – which comes with free tea or coffee, no less – is what Stumble Inn is known for. Diners can avail of snacks like onion rings, or more filling meals like a clubhouse sandwich, pasta, curry, Filipino meals (like Sinigang) and other meaty options (like beef in mushroom or pork spare ribs). Stumble Inn also offers ice cold beers and wine at very affordable prices – in fact, almost no meal will set you back by more than PHP 200. Sweet, huh?

  • Location: MJ Square, Santa Fe, Cebu, Philippines
  • Price per meal: PHP 200-250

3. Shake Me (PHP 30 – 290)

Shake Me juices shop
Image credit: facebook.com/shake8me

What goes well with a hot summer’s day on the beach? Fruit shakes do – and Shake Me has figured it out. Featuring some of the best fruit shakes on Bantayan Island. Guests can enjoy tasty smoothies from mango to banana to watermelon, as well as flavored shakes like chocolate, bubble gum and buko (coconut). Shake Me also offers pure fruit juices, and their largest offerings will only set you back by PHP 290.

  • Location: MJ Square, Santa Fe, Cebu, Philippines
  • Price per drink: PHP 30 – 290

How to get to Bantayan Island

Man on the beach admiring the sea on Bantayan Island
Image credit: Allan Ascaño | Flickr

The only way to get to Bantayan Island is to jump-off from Cebu City, to which you can take a plane.

From Cebu City, you can take a bus to Hagnaya port, and then take a ferry to Bantayan Islands. From the Cebu City, travel will take about three hours at PHP 160 by bus to Hagnaya Port. The earliest trip leaves at 4:00 AM and the last one leaves at 5:00 PM.

From there, the public ferry to Bantayan Island costs around PHP 170 for a one-hour trip. The ferry departs earliest at 7:00 AM and leaves the latest at 5:00 PM every day.

Plan Your Budget Getaway and Shop Smart

Bantayan Island is truly a gem in itself, especially if you’re looking for some downtime from your everyday hustle. Unwind with a beer or shake in hand, dip your toes in the island’s cool, crystal waters, and lay down on its white sand beaches. All of it is possible at Bantayan Islands.

A trip to Bantayan Islands would set you back by around PHP 1000 – 1500 for a one-night stay, excluding airfare, and inclusive of the entrance fees mentioned above. But if you really want to make the most out of your stay and your budget, you can score travel deals right here. You can also get discounts on flight tickets by booking online on sites such as Traveloka and Booking.com.

Featured image credit: Allan Ascaño | Flickr