After welcoming 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I had something exciting to look forward to – my first time in Bantayan Island, or anywhere in Cebu. While I am not a fan of bus rides, I can endure as long as there is a promise of a rewarding experience at the end of the trip. In El Nido, for instance, I had a 5-hour bus ride from the airport to the town proper. I did this already twice and did not mind the length of the trip because I know my destination is going to be worth it. The same also holds true in the case of Bantayan. From the Mactan International Airport in Cebu, we had to to go to North Bus Terminal and rode a bus bound to Hagnayan Port (170 pesos) for 3 hours and a ferry (170 pesos + 10 pesos terminal fee) going to the island for an hour. Including the waiting time, it took us more than 5 hours before we have finally arrived.
The seclusion of Bantayan is perhaps its biggest selling point. The long stretch of the beach that is not crowded with tourists offers the perfect retreat for anyone who is in search of utter privacy. While they have limited restaurants in the area, almost every place we visited offered an unforgettable culinary delight. There are no bars playing loud party music, but we loved every night spent drinking beer and listening to reggae music. The beach itself isn’t swimmable, at least during the time of our visit. Nonetheless, it was compensated with a visit to the nearby island and an entire day of an inland tour.
Anika Island Resort
We booked a single villa room at Anika Island Resort from January 8 – 11 and paid only 2,200 pesos per night. I find the rate quite cheap, considering the ambiance at the resort. While the sand is fine, it was disappointing that the beach is quite dirty during the time of our visit. The room, set in a container van, is quite small but does not fall short in terms of the comfort it provides. Our room also has a private veranda. While the resort has its own restaurant, we personally felt it is not at par with what you will find around the area. Apart from being overpriced, there is nothing really special about their food. Anika also has its own beachfront area, which is the perfect place to chill under the heat of the sun, with a beer, of course!
Eating and Drinking
Bantayan is no place for fancy, five-star hotel dinners and sunset cocktails. However, this does not mean you cannot have a gastronomic adventure while in the island. During our 4-day vacation, were able to sample some of their best culinary delights, from mouthwatering pizza to the best pork sinigang we have tasted. The nightlife is quite laidback, mostly spent listening to reggae music or having intimate conversations by the bar. While this is no place to get drunk and wild, it offers a perfect stress-free nightlife you might just not experience somewhere else. Lost all pics from where we had dinner and drinks. Best places to check out include Bavarian Beer Garden, HR Native Restaurant, CouCou Bar and Restaurant, and of course, Blue Ice Bar and Restaurant.
Because it was windy during our trip, we were not able to swim at the beach in front of Anika. It was also kind of dirty that time. Good thing we visited Virgin Island, which is about 45 minutes away from the resort. We rented a boat for 800 pesos and paid 500 pesos for entrance good for two. We did not bring lunch because we were advised there is food in the island. However, it turned out they have nothing but fish, which can be only fried and does not look fresh. It will never be enough to get your stomach filled, especially if to plan to stay longer. Good thing they sell beer! If you are planning to include this in your Bantayan itinerary, be sure to bring lunch or at least pack sandwiches.
Bantayan Island is composed of three municipalities – Bantayan, Madridejos, and Sta. Fe. The island is relatively small and one whole day is more than enough for a tour. The best way to get around is to rent a motorcycle, which was what we did. We paid 700 pesos for the whole day and spent the day visiting caves, surrounding beaches, a church, the public market, and a nature farm.