bantayan cebu

Explore the pristine white sand beaches of Bantayan Island in Cebu! Find out which islands and beaches are must-visits when in this small island north of Cebu mainland. What historical and cultural landmarks should you visit here? Which resorts can you go to unwind and spend a lazy day at the beach? Where can you get a taste of the freshest seafood and the best local cuisine? Take note of the tips in this article to plan out your ultimate Bantayan Island getaway.

Years ago, Bantayan Island in Cebu was a quiet fishing village but today, tourists around the Philippines and the world are coming in droves to experience what is known to be one of the best alternatives to Boracay Island.

Bantayan Island is located in the northern part of Cebu, Philippines. Apart from its superb, white sand beaches, the 3 municipalities here (Bantayan, Madridejos, and Santa Fe) are also homes to centuries-old churches and fishing villages.

Majority of the tourists who come to Bantayan, Philippines go through Cebu City first. Bantayan Island is often just a part of many tours in Cebu but today, we’ll give you more reasons to stay in Bantayan longer, and even fly here straight.

Here are the best things to do in Bantayan Island that would convince you to make that trip to this part of the Philippines this year!


Explore and Unwind at Virgin Island and Other Prime Beaches in Bantayan  

What makes people come to Bantayan Island again and again? The white sand beaches! And it’s not just the crystal clear waters that draw people in, the very white, very fine sands also contribute largely to Bantayan Island’s allure. And speaking of beaches, the azure waters here are very shallow, which make them just perfect for swimming, especially among children.

So if you find yourself in Bantayan Island this year, there are the top island and beaches you should include in your itinerary.

virgin island bantayan cebu

1. Discover the Surreal Beauty of Virgin Island

Virgin Island, which is about 30 minutes away from Bantayan Island by boat, is touted as the main attraction here. It is privately owned with the cottages that you can rent and hammocks you can jump into for that perfect relaxing afternoon.

There’s a restaurant here that serves quite a spread of beach comfort eats and drinks. Looking for beach activities? You can snorkel, play beach volleyball, or simply enjoy the white sand beach that can rival that of Boracay Island any time. You can avail of an island-hopping tour to get here. The entrance fee to Virgin Island is PHP 250.00 per person.

2.  Enjoy a Quiet Day at Paradise Beach

If rowdy beach activities like volleyball aren't your thing, head to Paradise Beach and enjoy a quieter environment so you can concentrate on getting a tan. Semi-secluded and away from the foot traffic, you will definitely enjoy the peace here, especially during sunset.

But of course, you’re welcome to do some frisbee, snorkeling, and beach volleyball in Paradise Beach too. It’s just that many people come here to just lounge around.

The entrance fee to Paradise Beach is PHP 50.00 per head. Unlike on Virgin Island, there are no restaurants here. You can bring your own food and drinks but make sure that you clean up after yourself.

3. See the Lighthouse on Kinatarkan Island

Apart from its long strip of white sand beach (Bitoon Beach), Kinatarkan Island also has a lagoon (Laaw Lagoon) and several caves you can explore. Sometimes called people Guintarcan, this island is popular for its efforts to uplift and maintain responsible tourism activities.

Do include the Kinatarkan Lighthouse as part of your itinerary when visiting the island. You can go here by booking an island-hopping tour. The short climb up rewards tourists with a spectacular 360-degree view of the island.

4. Sink Your Feet in the Creamy White Sand of Hilantagaan Island

What’s better than a white sand beach? Two adjacent white sand beaches! On Hilantagan Island, you can swim, snorkel, and work on your tan at two gorgeous beaches! The white sand is very fine and creamy. If you walk along the shores of the two beaches, you’ll feel your feet sink into the powdery white sand and turquoise waters.

If you want a slice of the island life, you can head to the small fishing village on Hilantagan Island and say hello to the community members who keep the beaches clean. You can go here by booking an island-hopping tour that usually includes Virgin Island.

5. Enjoy the Beach Activities at Marikaban Beach

This beach may not have the finest sand but it makes up for the activities you can enjoy. There are several hotels and resorts, one of which is the Youneek Resort. You can snorkel, swim, camp out, and order a drink or two while watching the sunset.

If you plan to go snorkeling, head to the Coral Garden of Marikaban. This popular diving and snorkeling spot is well-loved by both newbies and pros.

6. Enjoy the Picturesque Sandbar at Kota Beach

This beach is famous for two things: first, it’s beautiful sandbar; second, it is the location of a Filipino romantic-comedy movie titled Camp Sawi. The views here are surreal, especially during sunset and sunrise. Just imagine how amazingly surreal the views are as the sun kisses the horizon with Kota Beach’s sandbar in the middle of it all?

Visit Some of the Best Inland Tourist Spots in Bantayan  

There are many things to do in Bantayan Island that go beyond the beaches, sandbars, and other beach-side activities. Here are more Bantayan tourist spots you can check out with activities that you will surely love!

ogtong cave bantayan cebu

1. Take a Dip at Ogtong Cave

This natural cave can be found within the premises of the privately-owned Ogtong Cave Resort. While the cave is not that big for a full swimming session, its clear, bluish, and refreshingly cool waters are perfect for a short dip.

The resort and the underground cave is easily accessible by a tricycle (a local mode of transportation, usually a single motorbike with an attached sidecar). Or you can ask your hotel or your tour company for a direct transfer as it is usually part of tours. The entrance fee to the Ogtong Cave is PHP 120.00 which includes access to the beach and the resort’s public pool.

omagieca bantayan

2. Learn More About the Mangroves at Obo-Ob Mangrove Garden (OMAGIECA)

Bantayan Island’s local tourism office and government are firm believers in responsible tourism. The Obo-Ob Mangrove Garden or simply OMAGIECA provides tourists with information about the mangroves and its role in creating a vibrant marine ecosystem.

Apart from raising awareness about mangrove's role erosion control, coast protection, and more, the OMAGIECA also promotes local tourism and provides a livelihood to the local community. Entrance fee is PHP 50.00 per head.

After a short tour, you can head to the OMAGIECA Mangrove Garden Restaurant and order some of the best local delicacies Bantayan Island has to offer.

3. See One of the Oldest Churches in the Philippines: St. Peter and Paul Parish

Bantayan Island is home to one of the oldest parishes in the Philippines. The St. Peter and Paul Parish was founded in 1580 under the Spanish rule. During the colonial era, priests from outside of the Philippines would enter the country through the church. Before they are sent out to different parts of the country, they learned the Filipino language and culture at the church.

The original church was destroyed by Muslim rebels in 1600. The reconstruction was finally finished in 1863 using coral stones from the islands as a construction material. Today, tourists can visit the church and join the festivities during the Holy Week season.

4. Visit the Winged Creatures at Santa Fe Butterfly Garden

If you’re traveling with kids, a stopover at the Santa Fe Butterfly Garden is a sure hit! It is the home to about 22 species of butterflies and where you can learn more about their transformation and life.

The entrance fee is PHP 100 for adults. Kids can go in for PHP 50.00 per ticket. After a short tour, you can check out the manicured gardens and just enjoy the winged creatures in their natural habitat.

5. Check out the 1970s Fort at Kota Park

A trip to Kota Park in Madridejos is a welcome add-on to your tour itinerary. After all, there’s no entrance fee here. The park has a beach area, a pier, and a 1970s old fort. With all of that in the backdrop, you can expect the sunsets here to be just as awesome.

What’s even more interesting is that the scenes change with the tide. During high tide, Kota Park is picture-perfect for swimming. When the tide is low, you can see some exposed rocks.

Spend a Relaxing Day Amidst the Fine Sand and Pristine Waters at These Beach Resorts in Bantayan  

If you’re the type who wants to just have a relaxing island resort getaway, here are the best lodging options you can choose from with easy access to the best Bantayan beaches.

kota beach bantayan cebu

1. Wake up Next to the Beach at Kota Beach Resort

It's one of the top beach resorts in Bantayan. Millennials love Kota Beach Resort because it provided the backdrop for the Filipino rom-com movie Camp Sawi and because it really is a great place to just unwind and forget about your life in the city.

Apart from the amazing beach, Kota Beach Resort has a beautiful sandbar, which is best enjoyed during the low tide. The beach is teeming with towering coconut trees and there are lounge chairs around the resort. Each spot is perfect for a lazy afternoon.

The resort has different types of accommodation but the best one is the beachfront suite. Imagine waking up next to the pristine blue waters and stepping into the fine powdery sand before you even have your morning coffee.

2. Help Save Mother Earth at Anika Beach Resort

This family-run resort was once an event facility that catered to events of the owner’s family and friends. Today, it is open to tourists who want to escape to the beach.

They have different types of accommodation starting with the Garden View Room. There are many things to do at this beach resort in Bantayan. You can go island-hopping, rent bikes to tour the island, or enjoy water sports like kayaking, hopping on a jet ski, and snorkeling.

If you get hungry, just head to the in-house Chloe Café for some nosh, especially an ice-cold drink before you head out to the beach again. But you know what’s great about Anika Beach Resort? Their effort to save the environment. The resort makes use of recycled materials to help lower their carbon footprint.

3. Enjoy the Beach Front Cottages at Budyong Beach Resort

It is one of the resorts that was heavily damaged by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Budyong Beach Resort did some renovations and now offers several lodging options.

This beach resort in Bantayan is perfect for beach lovers who are looking for comfortable stays but still want a few luxuries here and there. After all, the beachfront cottages have its own balcony where you can sip an ice-cold beer during sunset.

4. Get a Tan at Marlin Beach Resort

The beach resort is famous for its brightly colored beach umbrellas at the beachfront. There is a slightly elevated area near the beach that allows guests to enjoy the beach views more. There’s also a beach volleyball court if you want to break out a sweat. But if you want to get a tan, you can choose from any of the lounge chairs that line the beachfront.

Marlin Beach Resort also has its own in-house restaurant but if you’re looking for more dining options, the resort is a short distance from Santa Fe Town where there are more Bantayan restaurants to choose from.

5. Maximize Your Hotel Budget at Yooneek Beach Resort

The word yooneek is a fun twist on the English word unique. This beach resort in Bantayan is a motel-style resort, perfect for those who are traveling on a budget.

It only has 7 rooms and some of them face the ocean. Yooneek Beach Resort’s location is perfect for guests who want to jump from one activity to another be it sunbathing, snorkeling, island-hopping, island tours, and even beach games!

6. Enjoy the Amenities at Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort

The resort is proud of its campaigns for environmental preservation. For instance, the resort management makes sure that whatever they build on the 8-hectare property doesn’t harm the flora in their area. In other words, Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort is serious about living in harmony with nature. And you have to give them great credit for that!

Apart from the rooms, there are many amenities here that you and your whole family will definitely enjoy. Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort has a mini-zoo, small caves, a cave pool with fresh spring water, health and fitness facilities, pool bars, fish spa, restaurants, cliff decks and more!

Eat Your Heart Out at These Top-Rated Bantayan Restaurants  

The best way to know a place is to eat where the locals eat. In Bantayan, the best way to taste the island life is to go on a food crawl and try its best restaurants. Here are our top picks.

bantayan restaurants

1. Grab a Hearty Breakfast at Stumble Inn

Located at the popular open-air food joint called MJ Square, this small, unassuming restaurant offers breakfast all day long. They also serve old favorites like clubhouse sandwiches, onion rings, and pasta alongside Filipino classics like beef in mushroom and sinigang, a local sour stew with meat and vegetables for approximately PHP 200.00 per meal.

2. Grab a Burrito at Bantayan Burrito Company

Bantayan Burrito Company at MJ Square is popular for its bang-for-your-buck Tex-Mex offerings. You can get quesadillas here, as well as nachos, and chimichangas for about PHP 250.00 per meal. Their Tex-Mex dishes are best paired with a bottle of cold beer and eaten while checking out the beach scene.

3. Enjoy Italian Comfort Food at Caffe del Mar

Craving for some antipasto and homemade pasta? Head to Caffe del Mar for Italian favorites like gnocchi and their bestseller wood-fired oven pizza. Their pasta options like carbonara linguine start at PHP 320.00. If you happen to dine on a Friday night, you can even enjoy some live reggae performance here.

4. Load up on Authentic Thai Dishes at Thai-Phoon

So far, it’s the only restaurant in Bantayan that serves real-deal Thai dishes. It will remind you of the Thai restaurants that line up the beaches in Phuket, Thailand. You can load up on pad thai (Thai noodle salad) and tom yum goong (hot and sour Thai soup). Prices range from PHP 100.00 to PHP 900.00 here.

5. Savor the Seafood Delights at CouCou Bar & Restaurant

When you're vacationing on an island, it's best to take advantage of the fresh seafood on the menu. Some of the bestsellers include here at CouCou Bar & Restaurant include the crispy calamares at PHP 165.00 and kinilaw tanigue (fish ceviche) at PHP 175.00. There’s also a  billiard pool and a minibar that guests can enjoy while waiting for their food.

6. Check out the Good Eats at MJ Square

This food bazaar is home to some of the top-rated Bantayan restaurants. Interestingly, you’ll find other cuisines served here like Mexican and even Mediterranean. If you want some scrumptious Greek food like beef kebab (PHP 350.00) and pita burger (PHP 160.00), head to Hellas Taverna. For dessert, you can check the cute cupcake selections at Cupcake Island Cakery. People love the carrot cupcakes here. You can get one with frosting for only PHP 50.00.

7. Feast on Grilled Food at Arjaymay SuTuKil

The word SuTuKil is a combination of three words: sugba which means grilled; tuwa which means stew; and kilaw which means raw. The restaurant is located near the public market. The wide selection of food options can overwhelm you but don’t fret. We recommend getting the plate of scallops at PHP 120.00 per order. Have it steamed or grilled, these babies are part of the day’s catch, fresh, plump, and definitely a bargain!

Experience the Best of Bantayan, Philippines  

Go explore Cebu City beyond the popular island destinations and make your way to Bantayan Island. There are many lesser-known but equally beautiful islands and beaches here that are sure to wow you. Best of all, explore the island’s culinary offerings, especially the seafood dishes. And when you find yourself in Bantayan this year, don’t forget to take home the best parts of traveling: your experiences.

Use this list to come up with your ultimate Bantayan Island trip this year. Explore Bantayan Island tours and activities that can help you max out your stay in this humble island paradise in Cebu.