I’ve been to a whole lot of islands in recent years, as I’m fortunate enough to live here in southeast Asia and travel around at will since I can work remotely. But I haven’t seen an island nicer for a pleasant visit than Bantayan Island in the Philippines.
You’ve probably never heard of it, as it’s not on the list of usual tourist spots in this country. That’s probably because it’s a little hard to get to, but that also has kept it from being overrun with tourists.
In fact, 99.9% of tourists get to Bantayan by arriving in the disgusting city of Cebu, then taking a bus four hours or so north through the hills to the port on the northern point of Cebu Island, and then taking an hour-long ferry over. But there is another way – a four-seat puddle jumper flight from Cebu City with Air Island Tours. It’s a little pricey, but the views and magnificent and you get there in only about 40 minutes!
Totally unrelated, you should really see which airlines are safest!
Once you arrive on Bantayan, you’ll probably stay in San Juan, the cluster community where most tourists gravitate that’s right on a stretch of beach with a 90-degree turn. We stayed at a very simple accommodation that definitely wasn’t fancy – and a little overpriced for what we were getting – but the options are a little limited there.
My Visit to Bantayan Island, Phillipines
The great part was that it only took about 20 steps for us to get to the beach. The beaches right there do have white sand in certain areas, but I’d grade them as B+ or A- at best. But there are plenty of activities in the clean water, like snorkeling, scuba diving, and kite surfing is a big deal there.
But the best day trip you can take is island hopping to two tiny islands that are visible from the coast of Bantayan, and they only take about half an hour each to reach. One is a super cool way to see real life in a tiny fishing village, as there are no hotels or restaurants or any tourist amenities. The other is Virgin Island, which is truly one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever been on (I wrote about it for AllWorld here), and also perfectly organized and impeccably managed.
Other than island hopping, I suggest taking a trip on Bantayan to Paradise Beach, which takes some hiking or mountain biking p some remote dirt roads but is SO worth it, as it truly is paradise-like.
I was exhausted most evenings just from all of that sun, sand, and playing in the water, but there’s actually a small but really fun and funky nightlife scene on Bantayan. They have one whole avenue – called MG Square – that’s blocked off for pedestrians and filled with restaurants, food kiosks, craft shops, and a few bars. In fact, two of my favorites are the now-famous Bantayan Burrito Company and a wonderful Greek restaurant run by an expat from that country.
In the center of the avenue, you’ll find a free-standing bar with great mixed drinks where you can hang out and chat with other travelers and locals, alike!
In all, Bantayan was a wonderful vacation experience and one of my new favorite places!