Bantayan Island was my family’s frequent year-round destination while I was growing up. My mother hails from Madridejos, the 3rd municipality of the island. Because vehicles to her hometown were (limited) scarce , we always rushed to the bus area hoping to get a decent seat for an hour’s ride home. Hence, I never got the chance to see Santa Fe except as a port of arrival from mainland Cebu.
Read on for a sneakpeek into Sante Fe, a place renowned for its pristine beaches and clear aquamarine waters. Hope this will give enough ideas for your next beach vacation in one of the country’s popular islands and summer paradise, Bantayan.
In Cebu City, head to the North Bus Terminal and hop on a Ceres Liner for a 3-hour ride to Hagnaya. Halfway through is a 15-minute service area stop-over; so make sure to hop on back.
Purchase a boat ticket to Sante Fe at the port of Hagnaya, or get it from a staff on board. When
travelling during the summer season, it is wise to secure a ticket before boarding; otherwise, you’ll run the risk of being asked to disembark. You surely wouldn’t want to miss the last trip scheduled at 4:30pm.
Upon arrival at Sante Fe, don’t be threatened by kargadors who leap over rails and jump in to you asking for your baggage. Simply refuse if you wish otherwise and walk straight towards the gate. Vehicles await to bring you to your accommodation if you haven’t arranged for pick-up.
Arriving back at Hagnaya, be on the alert and find your way out of the boat as quickly as you possibly can. The aircon buses fill really fast and vehicles back to the city are scarce late in the day.
There is an array of hotels and resorts in Santa Fe. Choose from budget rooms to lovely beach front cottages. It helps to be clear with your purpose so you’d know which will best cater to your needs. You may browse through http://www.wowbantayan.com for accommodation options. Resorts are fully-booked during the peak season with understandably higher rates. You must book early if you plan to go in the summer months.
For a first timer like me, and tagging along my family, I opted for Kota Beach Resort. It offers budget rooms for 3pax maximum, and air-conditioned cottages that fit 5 or more if you don’t mind camping in. There is an in-house restaurant that serves meals at an affordable price and best of all, free Wifi connection. The over-all scenic view with sand bar was beautifully captured in the resort’s ads photo, that I immediately went to the beach the moment I arrived to check it out. I was frustrated to see most of the sand swept away further east, with a bunch of seaweeds lining the shore, blown in by strong habagat. Other than that, everything seemed great. I didn’t have high expectations to begin with. The beach resorts are uncommercialized and thus remain mostly natural. One has to be open to the sights and smell of “island-ish” life for a worthwhile experience.
Kota Beach is among the many resorts on the southern shoreline. Once you cross its boundary to Budyong Beach on the west, the seashore stretches long and wide as far as Yooneek Beach and yonder. So if you are visiting for the sole purpose of enjoying the white sand and clear waters, accommodation doesn’t necessarily factor in. There are no strict rules against crossing between resorts (is totally fine). Sugar Beach, in my opinion, is the best beach along this stretch. Its fine powdery white sand goes far into the sea casting a breathtaking aquamarine shade against the blue sky. No footwear is needed as it would feel like swimming in the safety of your favorite pool.
Ogtong cave is a famous resort, though a bit costly. Visitors will have to pay for entrance and use of facilities if not checked-in, except for guests from Sante Fe Beach Club. Recently gaining popularity is Bantayan Nature Park and Resort which offers a variety of activities and water sports. Most of the island-hopping ferries bring passengers to these places. One can also take the regular land route by tricycle for
a minimal fare.
If your taste buds have reached saturation point for restaurant food in the resort, navigate beyond its premises and try a different variety. There are a lot of choices to gratify your gastronomical cravings. “Eat all you can” at D’Jungle, or taste something Swedish at Blue Ice. Most, if not all of the dining establishments here provide a home-like ambiance and exceptional service on top of freshly prepared and deliciously cooked meals. But the locals’ all-time choice is HR Native Restaurant. According to them, HR hired the best cook in Sante Fe. It is truly worth a try. My sister, one who doesn’t go for vegetables, was converted after tasting and devouring a plateful of sauteed mixed vegetables. So “the best cook” story must be true. I would personally recommend this place, especially for families with kids – there’s no corkage fee! No need for reservations. Just walk in and have a satisfying dining experience. A superb dining alternative is to buy raw food direct from the market; hire a local to cook them as you wish; then bring the cooked food to your resort and eat in your cottage veranda!
- Photo Series: Bantayan Island (feelgoodavenue.wordpress.com)
- cheap hotels in santa fe (namsmanfastkachch.wordpress.com)
- Serenity at Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island (beachloversoul.wordpress.com)
- Magpale wants CAAP to develop Bantayan and Camotes airports (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Bantayan Island, Cebu, Philippines: Sea, Sky, Sunset, Cloud Galore (laaganyola.com)