Weekend Escapade: Bantayan Island

Kicking off summer in Bantayan Island

March has not been kind to me. My emotions for the first few days of the month were going up and down like a twisted roller coaster ride. Therefore, a beach getaway to greet summer is in order. Rounding up two of my friends, we packed our weekend bags, sunscreen and swimming costumes and head to northern Cebu. We’re going to Bantayan island!

Bantayan sunset view from Kota Beach

I’ve been to Palawan and fell in love with its natural beauty—the karsts, powdery white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Boracay, on the other hand, did not impress me much. The beach is too crowded, an occasional paraw zips past your line of sight, and upscale hotels and resorts fringed the beach from Station 1 to Station 3.

Stretch of white sand and blue sky

When my flip flops touched the pavement of Santa Fe port, I was greeted with clear blue green waters and Kota Beach is like a peaceful piece of Boracay with its long stretch of white sand and endless blue horizon that kisses the blueness of the sea. It cured my longing for Palawan.

Kota Beach cottages

KOTA BEACH RESORT
Santa Fe is frequented by tourists and can be a bit crowded during Holy Week. We stayed at Kota Beach Resort, located in Santa Fe, just 5 minutes ride from the port. We enjoyed unadulterated beach relaxation for 3 days and 2 nights. Their deluxe room—a lovely cottage, a stone’s throw away to the beach that costs Php 1,900.00 per night. There were three of us, so we split the total including the cost of extra person Php 300.00 per night. Our reservations come with free van transfers from Santa Fe port to the resort and vice versa.

St. Peter and St. Paul Parish

AROUND THE ISLAND
I have a beach weekend template programmed in my mind: rolling in the sand, swimming (though in my case, just soaking waist-level in the sea since I don’t know how to swim) and people watching and giving them celebrity monikers to unsuspecting tourists. Chumz and Majoy have been to Bantayan loads of time and I suggested we do a bit of sightseeing for a change. We’re planning on attending anticipated mass at the St. Peter and St. Paul Parish (oldest parish in Cebu)–30 minutes away from Santa Fe.

Due to the tempting waters of Kota Beach, we were not able to visit the Kota Ruins, 30 minutes away from Bantayan town where the parish is located, and where the sunset is much glorious than the one we caught from the beach the previous day. Santa Fe night scene can be spelled in karaokes, bars and live bands for those who fancy a nightcap.

There are no ATMs in Santa Fe, so bring enough cash. The nearest ATM is in the town proper which is 30 minutes away.

Seashell sellers

GRABBING GRUBS
Food plays an important role when traveling. It is a mortal sin not to indulge in local flavor every now and then. Food service in Bantayan is a bit of a challenge. The island is the process of recovering from the wrath of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013 and service is way slower than usual. Either that or this is how the way things are run in the island.

Ding Dong Café – Kota Beach Resort
When we arrived at the resort, we head straight to their in-house restaurant and ordered our lunch. If it wasn’t for the disclaimer A3 poster size banquet signage in the front desk, I would’ve complained big time. Disclaimer says to bear with the service as they are in the process of recovering from the super typhoon tragedy. Our lunch reached our table an hour and a half while our neighboring table received theirs after two hours. On our last day, we ordered our lunch 3 hours in advance to beat their ridiculous waiting time.

HR Music Bar and Restaurant
We had dinner at the HR. Not the human resources, mind you. So far, waiting time for our food this time is just 30 minutes. It is a far cry of improvement from our previous experience. They have this memorable lemon chicken dish we can’t get enough of. They also have a live band and ambiance is pretty good.

DSC_1146 calamariHuge calamari rings

DSC_1150 lemon chicken

Lemon chicken swimming in yummy sauce

DSC_1149 bicol express

Spicy Bicol Express

Arjaymay Sutukil
We decided to try the dodgy green-painted walls of Arjaymay Sutukil, a few restaurants away from HR. We had lunch and liked their food. On our last night, we asked the wait staff the fastest viand they can whip up in less than 10 minutes. Luckily, they have slabs of liempo waiting at our disposal and we got our dinner faster than the other tables.

scallops

Fresh scallops complete with hairy particles on the shells

Santa Fe port in Bantayan Island

GETTING THERE
By bus: from Cebu, go to North Bus Terminal in North Reclamation Area, Mandaue (not be confused with South Bus Terminal) to take the bus bound for Hagnaya or straight to Bantayan Island. Take note there are buses that go straight to the island, and there are some do not. Travel time is 3-4 hours.
By boat: from Hagnaya port, elbow your way to the ticket booth to buy boat tickets to the island. Travel time is an hour or two.

 COST  BREAKDOWN
Cebu City to Bantayan Island
Ceres air-conditioned bus
Php 160.00/ person
Boat tickets
Php 170.00/ person
Port terminal fee
Php 10.00/ person
Accommodations (Kota Beach Resort) with round trip transfers
Php 1,900.00 for 2 persons/ night
Php 300.00 for extra person/ night
Santa Fe to Bantayan town (motorsikad)
Php 25.00/ person; special trip is Php 250.00
Bantayan Island to Cebu City
Bus on board barge (boat ticket)
Php 170.00/ person
Bus (bound from Sta Fe to SM City Cebu)
Php 180.00/ person
**food per meal is maximum cost of Php 190.00 per person
Don’t get me wrong on the food department, there are a lot of carenderias available but we choose to indulge, hence we went beyond our Php 3,000 budget per person for the weekend escapade.
KOTA BEACH RESORT
F. Duarte Street
Santa Fe, Bantayan Island
Philippines
T +63 32 438 9042
C +63 948 799 3787
E kotabeach@gmail.com
W: www.kotabeachresort.com
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