Last June I had a chanced to visit one of the gorgeous islands in the province of Cebu with my family. Bantayan Island is undoubtedly rich with crystal clear beaches. It is situated to the west of the northern end of Cebu.
The island is administratively divided into three municipalities: Bantayan (the largest municipality, covering the central part), Madridejos (covering the northern portion), and Santa Fe (covering the eastern portion).
Sante Fe is known for its beautiful beaches, even before the film “Camp Sawi”. Aside from the beaches, there are other things you can do on the island.
1. Explore Omagieca Oboob Mangrove Garden Eco-Park.
Locals alike consider this park as one of the best spots in Bantayan Island. It will take you about 30 minutes to complete the bamboo bridge trail. The movie Camp Sawi was also filmed at this eco-park that made it a more popular spot to visit.
The “Camp Sawi” was also moved inside this park from its original location at Kota Beach. But why look for “Sawi” (loser) when there’s Camp Wagi (Camp Winner).
Camp Sawi and Camp Wagi are inside the eco-park.
Entrance Fee: Php50/pax
2. Visit Ongtong Cave.
My best friend with her sons
Ogtong Cave is just a small cave with fresh natural water. It can get crowded at times and it’s not really for swimming due to its size that is so small. All you can do at the cave is take a dip. And children under 14 years old is not allowed in the cave.
It can be accessed through the Ogtong Cave Resort. The entrance fee will entitle you to use the public pool and beach in the resort.
Entrance Fee: Php120/pax
3. Enjoy Kota Beach and Sandbar.
Kota beach & sandbar are opened to the public, so expect the crowd especially during summertime. It’s the most popular beach amongst tourists and locals as it’s easy to access, huge and it’s free entry.
Camp Sawi was originally located at Kota Beach Resort. It was moved due to the influx of visitors. It becomes widely known after the movie “Camp Sawi” was shown in Cinema.
4. Bar Hopping & Food Trips.
As a tourist like me, I think MJ Square is a perfect spot to bar hop and food trips. The food is good and affordable too, way better and cheaper than what’s available in the resort we had stayed in.
There are more resto-bars and food stalls around the area near MJ Square.
Check with your resort if they provide free shuttle service to MJ Square.
5. Try their Local Delicacy.
According to few locals I spoke with “Imbao Soup” is a delicacy in Bantayan Island. The Imbao (a type of clamps) is largely available on the island.
We tried it at Omagieca’s Restaurant (home of the authentic Imbao Soup). There’s nothing special about the taste of the soup or the way they cooked it.
6. Visit the Kota Ruins.
The Ruin has no significant history relevant to the Philippines. It’s just an old house with a backstory of a rich couple in Bantayan Island. When the couple died because of boat accident their home was left unattended and ruined by time.
Today the local government turns it to tourist attractions.
7. Enjoy the Cliff.
The cliff became popular when one of the scenes from Camp Sawi was filmed there. If you watched the film you’ll know that it’s where Bela Padilla and Sam Milby jumped off. But in reality, I don’t think it’s allowed to jump from the cliff.
This cliff is just in front of the Kota Ruins.
8. Enjoy the beach
Don’t be too busy exploring the island that you forget to enjoy the beach at your resort. The beach at Sta. Fe is a long stretch of white sands and crystal clear water (minus the seaweeds) with different accommodations around the beach area.
We are lucky that our beachfront has 2 sandbars that are so near to the shore.
9. Indulge in Seafood
If you love seafood, you’ll love chilling with your favorite drink at the beach with crabs, fish, and scallops. But you have to wake up early to grab some fresh seafood. In the morning seafood vendors are walking around the whole stretch of the beach and it’s super cheap!
10. Island Hopping
You can rent a boat in Bantayan Island for Php1500 (whole day) and visit the most popular Islands in Bantayan — Virgin Island and Hilantaagan Island.
Virgin Island has an entrance fee of Php500 for the first 2 pax and Php100 per additional head.
How to get to Bantayan Island from Cebu City
There are two ways to start your trip from Cebu City, either you take the bus (Php165/pax/way) or van (Php200/pax/way) from Cebu North Bus terminal to Hagnaya port in the town of San Remigio. Bus trips start as early as 4am and last trips at around 5pm daily. It’s a three hours land trip to Hagnaya port.
When you reached the Hagnaya Port catch a public ferry to Sta. Fe. The ferry ride is approximately one hour at Php180/pax/way (as of June 2019).
The ferry departs Hagnaya Port to Sta. Fe as early as 7am with the last trip at 5pm daily. Tricycle and motorbikes are the main modes of transportation around the island, the minimum fare is Php10.
The Sta. Fee Port collects a fee of php30/pax upon arrival.