My sun seeking self had the great need for blue skies and hot hot weather, so we decided on some island hopping in the Philippines for a mini break.
Bring on Bantayan!
Arriving on the ferry from San Remigio we were very surprised to see our names on a welcome sign. Our little hotel had someone waiting for us at the ferry pier, even though they didn’t know what time we would arrive that day….amaze!
This was a clear step up from what we were mentally prepared for. Research had not produced much beyond the budget accommodation category, so the shower shoes and silk liner sleeping bags had been strategically packed. A kind of wind-blown rustic charm met us at our hotel, as well as many many smiles as one comes across in the friendly Philippines.
There was some serious tuck and roll action into swimwear as we beelined into the sunshine. The beach was an interesting one… not quite the paradise were expecting from all the hype. The shoreline is clearly being washed away so they are in the process of putting in sandbanks to save it, but at the same time it is creating quite a sheer drop down to the water and an issue of how to go for a swim. Nevertheless we soldiered on and day one was spent soaking up the sunshine, combined with either sleeping, eating or reading the day away. Until the afternoon showers set in… after a 2 hour mini storm the skies cleared and it was time to head out on the town.
I am not quite sure how it is possible to get lost where there is just one main street on the island, but somehow we detoured down some back streets and were wondering just how deserted the island was. Once put right we came across the main street, taken up with bars, restaurants and street food sellers selling some of the best barbecued chicken on a stick I have ever eaten!
Blue ice restaurant appeared to be the most popular place in town, and I think it was down to their really unique set up. The had a large bar taking the far side of the restaurant, with a combination of sand floor and concrete paths in the restaurant making you feel as though you were back on the beach. The seating was a combination of long and round wooden tables with heavy wooden chairs or stools, and the ceiling had an assortment of sea shell chandelier hanging throughout the restaurant. The chandeliers screamed 70’s style timeshare by day, but by night they cast a glowing charm over the restaurant, all of which is essentially outdoors with just a protective thatch ceiling.
The main street was a fun street to walk up and down, with good bars lining the street to sit and watch the comings and goings. The street was most definitely not tourists only, and we could have spent hours watch the local kids playing their games. The girls were involved in dancing competitions – with some great moves – while the boys were racing and chasing each other through the streets.
Day two in Bantayan started with more glorious sunshine and blue skies. Nothing like reliable Philippines weather to make a great holiday!! While there is probably more to Bantayan island, our plan was most definitely chilling on the beach for a couple of days.
The beaches around our hotel weren’t that great. A beach walk around the corner to our right had a glorious looking stretch of beach and we were greeted by a vibey little bar. The sand however was a little shelly and rough and flip-flops were required. Walking along the beach towards the ferry pier took us through a local village area, and the beach was sadly strewn with lots of rubbish washed up on the shoreline.
Coming out of the village on the other side of the pier we found the beach front and sand was much softer and finer, and the beach was lined with gorgeous palm trees. Here the hotels even raked and cleaned their beach fronts for their guests – what a difference it makes! We got ourselves a spot outside placid beach hotel, which certainly had the best stretch of beach that we came across, and spent our afternoon there.
After a big day of doing nothing we caught a bicycle tuk tuk into town. We initially thought we were negotiating for two tuk tuks but somehow we both landed up in the same one. It was both extremely embarrassing and hilarious to see us cramped into the seats with the driver pedaling hard with his two heavy passengers onboard. We focussed on soaking up the scenery along the road from placid beach to the main street.
Then it was back to the main street to soak up the scene on our last night, before an early morning ferry out. What a cool little place!
Packing your bags? Getting to Bantayan island is not very convenient. We flew into Cebu airport at night and had organised a car transfer to Hagnaya Beach resort near the San Remigio ferry pier where we stayed overnight. The drive took 2 hours 20 minutes and cost us 2,500 pesos. We used a driver by the name of Danny (firstname.lastname@example.org) who was very good and reliable. San Remigio ferry pier is a hive of activity, and for those looking for a snack a barbecue chicken on a stick will cost you P40 and P15 for a bottle of water. First class ferry tickets cost us P185 each and P10 in tax.
Sleeping over? We stayed at the Hagnaya beach resort close to San Remigio ferry pier. The hotel then gave us a transfer to the pier in the morning. On Bantayan we stayed at Marlins Beach Resort, which is considered budget to mid-range accommodation. Basic rooms, clean and neat. The biggest downside was the restaurant, which took at least 40 minutes to serve you your food, even when the place was empty. Full reviews on tripadvisor – look for voyageindesign.
Eating out? Blue Ice was seemingly the most popular restaurant in town, with great interiors, a vibey bar and decent food. The service, as it seemed on the whole island, was desperately slow. We weren’t in any great rush to go somewhere so it wasn’t too bad, but just make sure you don’t sit down super hungry otherwise your patience will definitely run out. Directly across the road is what I considered to be the second most popular restaurant in town, but without a name?! It had a very popular bar, but the restaurant seating layout was a bit weird leaving a massive space in the middle which is what I think put people off. The food was decent and the service was probably the best in town. Definitely the nicest waitresses and bar staff around. A sizzling dish of prawns or squid cost P195, a pasta dish cost P175 and a caprioska cost P80. Cou cou bar was an easy little place for breakfast, with a nice garden set up, free wifi and okay meals.