low budget TRAVEL in BANTAYAN ISLAND, CEBU
It’s summertime and you still haven’t been to Bantayan Island Cebu. You are missing half your brain, my friend! But let’s not worry. I’m here to help you with your safe, affordable and memorable vacation.
Welcome to Bantayan Island, lads, a tropical island paradise known for it’s crystal blue water and powdered sand. It’s just one small island among 7000 that make up the Philippines.
If you want to chill, meditate or recharge, you really need to visit Bantayan Island.
I’ll be honest with you guys. I stayed at the BEST RESORT in Bantayan Island and below is a 24 HOUR ITINERARY of my whole trip.
Where to stay: Kota Beach Resort, for the win! Seriously. Proper island-style accommodation with a super friendly hostel-like vibe.
What to do… What to eat… Where to go… How to get there… Expenses… All the answers are found below. Let’s jump right in.
4 AM – LEAVE: CEBU CITY
From Cebu City, drive to Hagnaya Port | 2 hrs. (no traffic)
Hagnaya Port address: San Remigio, Cebu, Philippines
If you’re not driving/coming from Cebu City to Hagnaya Port, click here.
6 AM – ARRIVAL: HAGNAYA PORT
Take a ferry to Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island | 1 hr.
Ferry ticket w/out student I.D. = PHP 170/head | w/ student I.D. = PHP 144.50/head
7:30 AM – LEAVE: HAGNAYA PORT
8:30 AM – ARRIVAL: STA. FE PORT, BANTAYAN ISLAND
As I docked the port of Sta. Fe, it didn’t take me too long to find a man smiling from afar, “Ms. Karen?” the man asked. “Yes, are you from Kota Beach Resort?” I replied. “Yes, mam! Kamusta biyahe?” “Ayos lang, Kuya” I smiled while he carried my bag up the van. “Salamat. Kuya, unsa imong pangan?” I asked. “Dodong!” he said.
BISAYA/FILIPINO TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH: kamusta biyahe? - how was your travel? ayos lang - it was alright kuya - title used to address older male cousins (regardless if they are the eldest or not, but older than cousin addressing them) as a sign of respect. It may also be used for people who aren't necessarily relatives but are older salamat - thank you unsa imong panggan? - what is your name?
As I positioned myself into the van, I thought to myself: Dodong is a 5 star for his hospitality and knowledge about the island. I really like this guy.
A group of more than 10 passengers who also booked rooms for Kota Beach Resort entered the van. The van got louder as they started telling jokes and taking pictures. It suddenly made me reminisce about the outings I had in high school with by best buddies but then, I reminded myself why I came to Bantayan Island– for a personal getaway; to get away from the hustle and bustle; and to realign myself or as they call “recharge”. Nevertheless, it was nice seeing the passengers all excited about their vacation. Energy is contagious, people.
Dodong, contact info.: +639 109-168-714 (tell him Karen Ann Cabrera referred).
8:45 AM – ARRIVAL: KOTA BEACH RESORT
For some reason, my audacious self started walking towards the sand. Oh-my-gulay. I’m actually here, I thought to myself. I’ve never felt sand so soft to the skin! If I could describe the feeling in any way, it felt like Johnson’s Baby Powder. That’s the best way I can put it.
BISAYA/FILIPINO TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH: oh my gulay - oh my gosh/wow
I sniper spotted 2 teak loungers below a tree and darted– don’t mind if I do… Finally comfortable, I called my guardian, Cheryl, from Cebu to let her know that I arrived safe. Yada-yada-yada, fast forward.
It was low-tide at the sandbar when I lounged. So if you’re lucky, high tide comes around noon. Note this down now before you forget. But even if you don’t write this down, the friendly employees will offer themselves to guide you when they’re not busy.
Guys, I’m tryna stay low-key as much as possible but I have no words for the ocean view. It’s just 10x better than photographs. I swear by the moon and the stars in the sky.
I gave a self-fist-bump for making the greatest decision of my whole entire life– to travel during non-peak season. Your expenditure will be lesser than the average peak season rates. In addition to that, you will feel your body and the nature as one. Seeereeeenity and if you meditate, this will be the perfect opportunity. Olrayt! Payer!
9:30 AM – BIKING
After greeting Kota Beach, I left my bag in the resort’s “dojo” and brought with me my essentials: wallet, water, sunblock, sun-repeller hat and of course, a GoPro, which I borrowed from my cousin that time. Thank you, Debbie! Gwapa ka.
BISAYA/FILIPINO TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH: gwapa - pretty
At the entrance of Kota Beach Resort, I rented an all-day-access bike and returned it when I checked out of the resort.
Bike rental = PHP 150/head
11 AM – LUNCH
It’s been about 3 years since I’ve left my country. So, I decided to eat pungko-pungko styyleee. The best part is that you don’t need to Yelp anything around here!
There are many karenderia’s and sari-sari stores within the island; all of a walking distance.
Perhaps bike around the island first and choose a karenderia. Food choices of BBQ, pancit, shrimp, humba, adobo and many more. They have all types of Filipino dishes. And guess what? It’s cheap and delicious. If you’re on a diet, please evacuate from Bantayan Island immediately.
BISAYA/FILIPINO TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH: pungko-pungko / karenderia - street food sari-sari - neighborhood variety store/a convenience store
While eating my dollar-yummy-lunch, I noticed that 50% of the island’s mode of transportation is by bike. I was in awe by how locals were friendly to their environment. And and and the lokals! The locals were extremely friendly! It’s all smiles and good island vibes.
After lunch, I bought snacks and water worth PHP 110 for the rest of my island stay.
12 NOON – CHECK IN: KOTA BEACH RESORT
I cycled back to Kota Beach Resort and checked in my Deluxe Cottage which is found on the 4th row but let me just say that all cottages are so near the ocean. This is why I LOVE the resort.
Deluxe Cottage = PHP 3,800/night CLICK HERE TO SEE OTHER ACCOMMODATIONS Kota Beach Resort, contact info.: (09) 487-993-787 or (09) 324-389-043 or email@example.com. Let them know Karen Ann Cabrera referred.
Initially, after booking your online reservation, the resort will email you a booking acknowledgement with the summary of your reservation. Below the summary, you will have to send them a deposit slip. But I requested a pay later at the resort and they considered. That just shows how flexible they are with customers which was a very good first impression.
After settling in the cottage, it was time to satisfy my cravings– beach bumming and I’m on time for the high-tide. The beach is all mine for the taking pero, ang jenet, bai. Jenet Jackson kaayo…
BISAYA/FILIPINO TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH: pero - but ang jenet (init) - it's hot bai - friend kaayo - very
Beach bumming: to be continued. Pramis!
3 PM – LAND TOUR
Up next for my agenda is the land tour! No need to do endless research about where to go, mare & pare. Your land tour driver has the blueprint to tourist happiness. Outside Kota Beach Resort, there are motorcycles on stand-by. Ask the friendly men if they do land tours.
BISAYA/FILIPINO TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH: mare - female friend pare - male friend
TIP: don’t expect too much from the driver. He’s there to drive you and not be your fluent tour guide. I suggest you research about the places you will visit beforehand so you sail smoothly. Olrayt? Payer!
Land tour = PHP 250/head
Incredible feels. The last time I rode a motorcycle was when I was 6 years old. This was fun. That’s my cousin, Mikee, behind me.
first stop: Obo-ob Mangrove Garden
Obo-ob Mangrove Garden entrance fee = PHP 50/adult | PHP 20/student/child
Mangroves play a vital role in the preservation of our ecosystem. They filter the siltation process of the coastal areas and act as windbreaker during typhoons. And most importantly, mangrove forests serve as a habitat for different marine organisms where it establishes a resilient environment to maintain a high level of biodiversity in the community.
OK, that’s too much environmental science. Where’s the fun stuff?
The photo below shows Obo-ob’s main connecting bridge, which is made from bamboo! Oh-my-gulay… I was scared, at first. But just trust the nature and keep walkeeenn, dude. Chill a tit. Go lang ng go!
BISAYA/FILIPINO TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH: go lang ng go - just keep going
This Obo-ob Mangrove Forest features interesting remains of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). As you visit, you are doing two good things in life: exploring nature & being part of its rehabilitation. You are also giving a small share in the fast recovery of the community (not just the garden) from the impact of Typhoon Yolanda. Nice moob!
Obo-ob Mangrove Forest is managed by a local organization called OMAGIECA, which stands for Obo-ob Mangrove Garden Integrated Ecotourism and Conservation Association. I don’t know. Just F.Y.I.
They call their water, miracle water, because it’s the nesting grounds of the fish. Suave, noh?
BISAYA/FILIPINO TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH: noh? - right?
I was heartbroken when I saw a turtle kept inside a net. To me, it’s like animal imprisonment/animal cruelty. I wish for all animals to be let out into their natural habitat, where they belong; where they are happy. They deserve better than this. Please free the turtle! Stay strong turtie…
If you’re looking for cold breezes in Bantayan Island, kick back in Obo-ob cottages. This is a decent dating spot– it’s so relaxing, you could fall asleep! There is a restaurant inside the forest too! No need to bring food! Guuuuys? (wink) you can thank me later.
Can we stay a little bit longer, please?
Rak n roll with Nanay.
BISAYA/FILIPINO TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH: nanay - mother
HOW TO GET TO OBO-OB MANGROVE FOREST ON YOUR OWN: From Santa Fe, travel on Santa Fe – Bantayan Road toward Bantayan Municipality. Pass under the “Welcome to Bantayan” sign and start looking for Obo-ob Road on your left. Turn left on Obo-ob Road. There are a couple of signs there that mention the eco park. The Mangrove Eco Park will be down on your right. I suggest talking to the friendly locals because there are no road signs.
SECOND STOP: THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST. PETER & PAUL
Truth is, younggin, the church is older than your grandma and your great grandma and your great great great grandma. It’s 500 years OLD! Weeeew… None of us were even in our mum’s placenta.
Quick history: it was built during the Spanish era and is considered the older parish in the Philippines founded in 1580. It was built during 1839-1863 and is referred to as a fortress church due to it’s construction and extremely thick walls, which are made of corrals, egg white, limestone and sap of local trees.
Praying to Sto. Nino.
Ayaw kalimot og sampit sa Ginoo.
BISAYA/FILIPINO TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH: Ayaw kalimot og sampit sa Ginoo - don't forget to pray to the Lord
THIRD STOP: KOTA PARK
Feels awesome to be standing at the northernmost point of Bantayan Island, Cebu, the Bontay Baywalk. Word on the island is that they have the best view of the sunset.
Every child you meet is a divine appointment.
I think children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression. I loved hearing the kids laugh. So care free.
Babayooo! Heading back to Kota Beach Resort.
5 PM – RECHARGE
There are lots of couches in the Kota Beach Resort lobby. Free Wi-Fi too…but that’s not too important when you want to get away from everyone and everything.
Cue song: “Edge of Desire” by John Mayer.
7 PM – DINNER
My 55 Peso BBQ recommended by Dodong was the boooooomb! So delicious!
10 AM – BEACH BUM
Grand opening, grand closing! This is my way of saying farewell to Kota Beach.
If you want the truth, ask the children.
12 NOON – CHECK OUT: KOTA BEACH RESORT
Before leaving Kota Beach Resort, I asked the front desk lady what “kota” meant. She said “tagu-anan“.
BISAYA/FILIPINO TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH: tagu-anan - a place to hide
I’m a living and breathing testament to what the lady at the front desk said. It felt like a place of retreat. The whole island belongs to you.
Kota Beach Resort was simply my safe haven.
12:30 PM – LEAVE: STA. FE, BANTAYAN ISLAND, CEBU
Ferry ticket (Hagnaya Port -> Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island) = PHP 144.50
Bike rental = PHP 150/head (all-day-access)
Day 1 lunch = PHP 50
Day 1 & 2 snacks & water = PHP 110
1 night Deluxe Cottage @ Kota Beach Resort = PHP 3,800/night
Land Tour = PHP 250 (good for 2 hrs.)
Obo-ob Mangrove Garden entrance fee = PHP 20
Day 1 dinner = PHP 55
Ferry ticket (Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island -> Hagnaya Port) = PHP 144.50
Total = PHP 4, 724