Bantayan Island is Philippine paradise personified. Some say it's the Boracay of the South, and it's certainly deserving of the name due to its picture perfect beaches. One thing is certain, Bantayan Island is the jewel in Cebu's crown.
Powder Soft white sands, palm tree lined shores, aquamarine waters and a laid back vibe make this island a gorgeous place to visit. There are many awesome things to do on Bantayan Island besides topping up your tan, you can stroll through the mangroves, explore the island to discover secret beaches, go cliff jumping, and there’s even sky diving for adventure seekers!
This off the beaten track tourist destination is located only an hour's boat ride off the northern tip of Cebu. It’s definitely worth adding to your Cebu itinerary if you want to relax on some of the best beaches in the Province, and eat amazing food at reasonable prices.
Moalboal Eco Lodge share 15 awesome things to do on Bantayan Island, Cebu, Philippines.
Please Note: Things change, lockdowns come and go, new places open and established places close. Some activities survive, others don't, and although this is a guide to help you plan your trip, we recommend you always check the details first to avoid disappointment
Bantayan Island is a fabulous island in so many ways. It's small enough to scooter all the way around in less than a day, but big enough to provide you with a variety of things to do. We spent 3.5 days here which was enough to do everything we wanted at a slow enough pace to feel totally relaxed.
1. Stroll through the mangroves
Entrance fee: P55
On an overcast day, visiting Omagieca mangroves at Obo-obo was perfect for us. We took a leisurely stroll along the sturdy bamboo boardwalk through the lush green mangroves. We timed our visit at high tide because this is when we felt the mangroves are at their best, but also in case we decided to go kayaking (we didn’t end up kayaking).
There is a bamboo tower part way through which provides a stunning view of the mangrove channel into the open ocean. I'm scared of heights, but the view was so lovely, even I was persuaded to climb to the top. Thankfully it's a well-constructed tower with plenty to hold onto, so I definitely recommend you do this.
The mangrove boardwalk is popular with locals as it’s a film location for a famous Filipino Movie called ‘Camp Sawi. Along the boardwalk you will see a few Camp Sawi signs which are Instagram opportunities for many.
If you need a refreshing cold sprite, you will find a small restaurant near the entrance. If you are here around lunchtime, there are a few food stalls outside selling good food for around P55 including rice.
2. Sip a cold beer at Kota Beach Resort
We visited this beach bar on our first night and returned every single day (including having our wedding anniversary lunch at their beachfront restaurant. It was beautiful.
Located on the gorgeous white sand of Kota Beach, which is arguably one of the best on the island. It is lined with palm trees for that quintessentially Philippine paradise view. The sand bar changes throughout the year, so depending on when you visit you will see more or less sand.
Shoot some pool at the American Billiards table, sip an ice cold beer overlooking the stunning ocean, or order delicious food. The sharing platter was amazing, and reasonably priced at P300.
The vibe is lovely, and staff at the bar are friendly and efficient. A visit to Kota Beach Resort bar is highly recommended.
3. Experience one of the paradise beaches
There are many stunning beaches to explore around the island. Our personal favourite was Sandira Beach, also known as Paradise Beach, and for good reason.
This beautiful stretch of powder soft white sand is everything you look for when you imagine paradise. The crystal clear ocean laps gently onto the shore while palm trees look down on you. There are a few rocky outcrops, bangka boats parked on the shore, and pink borganvilla plants adding a splash of colour.
If you want to chill here, there are a couple of sunbeds to lie on with umbrellas.
To reach the beach, we parked at Paradise Beach Camp Site then walked through a green field. Cows were grazing, goats feeding with their kids, birds sung sweetly, it was perfect.
From our experience, the best beaches are Paradise Beach, Kota Beach, Sugar Beach, Beach Placid and Alice Beach.
4. Take photos of the palm tree lined road
If you take the coastal road to Paradise Beach and the mangroves, you will drive through a beautiful section of palm tree lined road.
There are a couple of curves along this straight stretch, and all you see are coconut palms each side stretching as far as the eye can see. It’s worth stopping for a few minutes to enjoy and take a few photos. It’s not as spectacular as the palm tree line road on Siquijor, or the Mahogany lined Bilar Man-Made Forest in Bohol, but it’s still beautiful.
5. Scooter around the island
It's worth taking a slow drive around the island, just to truly experience it's beauty. Scooters cost around P300 per day, and a full tank of gas/petrol cost us P240 which lasted all 3.5 days of our time here.
We drove past hidden beaches, local food stalls selling pork and chicken sticks, we admired the gorgeous green areas totally undeveloped. We saw cows, goats, and of course friendly Aspin dogs which are all over the Philippines.
Note: Please always drive slowly in Bantayan, Moalboal, Cebu or anywhere in the Philippines so you don't hit the dogs or cats. There is a street dog problem, and although there are free spay and neuter charities, it will take time to tackle the issue so always be aware.
6. Admire the artwork inside St Peters & St Paul Church
In Bantayan City, there is an unremarkable looking church, however inside holds a fabulous secret - beautiful ceiling murals.
Founded in 1580, at over 500 years old, this church is said to be the first and oldest parish in Bantayan, and the whole of Cebu Province.
The colourful ceiling was Painted by locals a few years ago, these stunning works of art are worth the trip.
7. Forget the diet and eat delicious food
Everywhere we ate we were left full and satisfied. MJ Square is the place to be after your sunset beer, and there are quite a few eateries to choose from.
Our go-to restaurant was the magnificent Bantayan Burrito Company, and we couldn't stop ourselves from returning multiple times. We even bought a take out for our return trip to Moalboal. (Since writing this article, the owner has now opened a restaurant in Moalboal so we are very happy!)
Everything we ate from the menu was incredible. The Notorious P.I.G chimichanga is a best seller, the pulled pork fajitas were insanely good, and the vegetarian chimichanga is delicious! We try to eat plant based, but pulled pork is a weakness of mine, so I was very weak eating here! The homemade chocolate brownies are melt in your mouth delicious.
8. Dinner on the beach at Amihan Cabanas
We visited Bantayan Island for our wedding anniversary, and on our special day we wanted to do someone nice. For dinner, we chose Amihan Cabanas restaurant. It's beachfront, has ambient lighting and a good, varied menu so ticked all our boxes.
The food was great, served stylishly, and although it is pricier than the usual restaurants, it was worth it for that extra special treat.
9. Have a relaxing massage
Cost: Thai P350, Swedish P450, Hot Stone P550
When we holiday, we always try and find somewhere to have a massage. The famous chain of Nuan Thai is on Bantayan (we also visited one in Bohol), so you can choose a Thai, Swedish or hot stone massage at a reasonable price. It’s professional, and the staff are excellent.
There can be many stresses in life; you work hard, travelling around takes its toll, and all this manifests itself as knots in your neck, shoulders and back. Make time for yourself and have a massage, you will not regret it! We left feeling less tight, relaxed and happy.
10. Balibad Lagoon
This saltwater lagoon is located at an inlet at the end of a beach, surrounded by mangrove trees and white sandbanks. As it is part of the ocean, there is sometimes a strong current so if you are not a strong swimmer, it's safer to admire the lagoon from the beach.
On our anniversary, we sat overlooking the multi coloured lagoon, listening to the birds, watching kingfishers hunting, and admiring the large butterflies. Nature at its finest.
Sadly, humans have left their mark permanently here, and the tides have brought in plastic which have clung to the lower parts of tress. Plastic pollution isn't just a huge problem in the Philippines but all over Asia and the world, which means the currents bring trash from thousands of miles/kilometres away.
Note: Since writing this article, someone has bought the land which provided public access. You can still reach the lagoon by walking along the public beach, but at high tide some parts may be impassable.
11. Kota Park and Ruins
We drove all the way around the island including right to the North, and made a quick stop at Kota Park for it's ruins. It's on the northernmost tip and only takes about 45 minutes to reach from Santa Fe.
There isn't much to do here other than swim in the ocean, admire the view from the long pier or take a few pictures. The ruins date back to the 1970's and are small, but it's a good pit stop on your trip around.
Tip: For photos and swimming, high tide is the best time to visit to avoid the rocks.
12. Cliff Jumping
If jumping into the ocean floats your boat, there are a few cliff diving points. The main jump off point on the island is at Kota Park which is about 6 metres, there is also a small beach cove to explore. Virgin Island is another popular spot which is part of an island hopping day trip.
13. Island Hopping
Virgin Island, Hilantagaan Island and Malapascua Island are nearby if you wanted to visit neighbouring islands. Virgin Island (also known as Silion Island) is about 30 minutes by local boat and boasts more beautiful white powder sand, cliff jumping and also beach bars if you wanted to people watch with a cold refreshing drink.
Hilantagaan Island is a small remote fishing village off the south east coast. There is a small sandbar here which is more visible at low tide.
Malapascua is an amazing scuba diving spot famously known for its Thresher Sharks. It's about 2-3 hours away depending on sea conditions.
14. Ogtong Cave Pool at Ogtong Cave Resort
Cost: P225 including access to a private beach and swimming pool at the resort
Unfortunately this cave was closed when we visited just after the pandemic so we couldn't visit, but it has since re-opened. We heard from friends who visited that the Ogtong Cave Pool is quite small in size, but the crystalline water inside the natural pool are perfect for cooling off on a hot day. Reviews on Trip Advisor say it is over-priced and you only need about 10 minutes here, but I believe you should judge for yourself if this is something you want to do. It’s definitely not as large or as impressive as Hinagdanan Cave on Bohol which was amazing, or as cheap and interesting as Busay Cave in Moalboal.
15. Sky Diving
Cost: P19,000 for 10,000 feet tandem jump
For adventure seekers, and diving of a different kind, at certain times of the year you can jump out of an aeroplane. If tandem sky diving is on your bucket list, check out the Skydive Cebu schedule, they also have a Skydive centre in Siquijor. They are the only USPA Member Dropzone in the Philippines, so safety is their number 1 priority. All tandem instructors are trained, licensed and experienced. We visited in early March hoping to skydive but sadly it was out of season, and the island was still opening slowly following the pandemic.
How to get to Bantayan Island:
Important Note: Ferry time schedules change and prices are subject to change. This information from our trip is to be used only as a guide, and you need to check the ferry’s latest schedule.
From Moalboal – budget option
Bus to Cebu City: 3-4 hours - P190 then
Bus from Cebu City to Hagnaya Port: 3-4 hours - P190
From Moalboal – travel in comfort
Private taxi to Hagnaya Port: 4-5 hours – from P6,000
Island Shipping Company and Super Ferry Shuttle alternative every hour from 4.30am. Both boats take about an hour depending on weather conditions, and don't always leave on time, so give yourself longer to travel (our 10.30am boat left at 11.30am, and the 9.30am departed 9.45am).
From Cebu: P290 plus P25 terminal fee
Bantayan arrival: P30 ecological fee
From Bantayan: P190 plus 2 x P5 terminal fee
Where to stay on Bantayan Island
We stayed at Carls Island Inn, Santa Fe and would definitely recommend it. It's well located, rooms are clean and stylishly decorated, and breakfast is great!
Budget: Casa Isabel Hostel, Althea White Beach
Mid-Range: Okoy Guest House, Paradise Beach Guest House
Treat yourself: Kota Beach Resort, Amihan Cabanas
Travelling the Philippines? Where to stay in Moalboal, Cebu
If you are planning a visit to Moalboal, Cebu, for the famous canyoneering at Kawasan Falls or seeing the natural phenomena sardine run, we recommend Moalboal Eco Lodge. Located in the middle of a peaceful field with no traffic noise, it’s close enough to amenities, but far away so you can have a good night’s sleep. There is plenty of space to observe physical distancing at the Eco Lodge.
Nestled in amongst palm trees, bamboo and coconut trees, Moalboal Eco Lodge have beautiful Bamboo Cottages suitable for solo travellers, couples and friends. There are two private rooms, a spacious 4-6 bed friends/family room, a breakfast area, kitchen, and a stunning hammock/yoga/sunset deck. Take a look at our rooms!
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