Nov 13

Crystal-clear blue water, slow pace of life, Bantayan Island Aside from Boracay, the famous island with the ‘whitest beach in Asia’, the Philippines have many more paradise islands with white sandy beaches to offer.

2 of them can be found in the Visayas, a region relatively protected from the onslaught of countless Typhoons, with the worst this year, Ketsana (Ondoy) and Parma (Pepeng) causing havoc in the Northern part of the country.

Although both, Bohol or Bantayan could be your very own paradise-beach islands, they are quite different from each other. Let’s check how they compare to the traveler in search for his very own beach paradise island:


Alona Beach, Panglao, Bohol, Philippines Starting with Bohol, the bigger of the two, it becomes clear that this is an island of plenty. There are countless beaches, hills and other natural tourists sights, the most well-known probably the Chocolate Hills. The most prominent beaches and resorts can be found on Panglao island, which is connected via 2 bridges with Bohol, the most famous beach is called Alona Beach; a long stretch of white sand with literally dozens of resorts and restaurants.

The oldest Catholic Churches in Asia, Bohol, Philippines There are hundreds of old churches on Bohol, being the cradle of Christianity in the Philippines, with Magellan, the Portuguese seafarer in the services of the Spanish crown, having landed not far from here at Mactan/Cebu in 1521. These old churches are colorful and in surprising good shape, considering the fact, that they are some of the oldest in Asia.

With over 1.2 Million people, it’s also one of the bigger island of the Philippines. The capital city Tagbilaran is pretty well developed and you can buy all kinds of things there, if you miss civilization. There are Cinemas, Karaoke Joints and also the usual suspects like Jollibee, McDonalds or KFC, if you are craving for fast food.

Better, try the countless Lechon Manok stalls, which feature broiled chicken for as low as 150 Pesos per whole bird.

Here is the short summary, what characterizes Bohol for the traveler:

  • Chocolate Hills on Bohol in the afternoon mist Easy to reach, with ferries from Cebu City (about 2 hours, 500 Pesos one way, tip: watch for return offers, which have to be booked 1 day in advance, but will save you 50% of the price – Weesam Express, Pier 4/Cebu)
  • Airport in Tagbilaran, can fly cheap there from Manila, Davao, Cebu and half a dozen other domestic destinations, (Manila-Tagb. around 1.800 Pesos one way)
  • Abundance of natural sights and activity options: Chocolate Hills, Tarsier Monkeys, Flying Lemurs, Waterfall, impressive Mahogany Forest, Whitewater Rafting, River Cruises and Firefly Watching on the Loboc River, Diving, Snorkeling – you will never be bored on Bohol.Lush Waterfall in Tropical Rain Forest in Bohol, Philippines
  • Good infrastructure and upgraded road system, Rental Bike Honda Spyder around 450 Pesos/day
  • Abundance of Entertainment options: Cinemas, Karaoke, Bars, Discos (I missed out on the famous ‘Lazer’ disco); Live Bands (check Marcosa’s Spiked Coconut Bar by the beach in Alona for daily live music)
  • Have a massage at the beach for 250 Pesos/hour



If you wonder, how I can compare a much smaller island to the northwest of Cebu with Bohol, you haven’t been on Bantayan. It’s the next best thing to a Robinson-Crusoe-like life, just with the comfort of some modern amenities, but for reasonable costs.

Your Lodging House just 20 meters away from the beach, pure Beach Paradise Island LifeIf you are looking for a quiet life and tranquility away from it all, you came to the right place. You can rent here a small apartment just by the beach for 6-8.000 Pesos a month. The small settlement of Santa Fe should be your first choice to look for accommodation.

Just arriving here with the ferry from Hagnaya/San Remigio will make you rave already about the snowy-white beaches near and around the port. The best beaches can be found to the west, with Sugar beach and Kota Beach being some of the favorites of visitors. The whole island has only 3 towns; Bantayan Proper, Santa Fe and Madridejos with a total population of around 120.000 souls on the whole island.

The wandering Lagoon near Marlin Beach Resort, Bantayan IslandAlthough Bantayan has a (supposedly defunct or for charter only) airport, most visitors will reach here coming from Cebu City. Just go to the Northern Bus Terminal, take the Ceres Liner to Hagnaya for 60 Pesos one way. The trip will take about 3-4 hours. The ferry from Hagnaya to Santa Fe costs 150 Pesos and takes 1 hour. RoRo for vehicles is available also with all ferries.

Here is the short summary for Bantayan:

  • Relaxed, easy-going island with a slow pace of life. Imagine a time machine 20 years back to the good old time.
  • White sandy and powdery beaches with crystal-clear blue water abound
  • Spectacular views to surrounding islands of Cebu, Negros and even Panay, when the weather is clear.
  • Infrastructure with decent road network and phenomenal Internet Speeds (prepaid Smart 3G) due to dedicated tower and still few subscribers
  • About a dozen restaurants catering to foreign/expat taste buds (Tips: Coucou, best overall value for money, Blue Ice, best quality food, Da Jungle and Portuguese Restaurant just opposite each other for all-you-can-eat weekend buffets for 250 Pesos/head, including free flow of ice tea)
  • Cheap fresh seafood and chicken galore (on Bantayan there are hundreds of chicken farms) will secure your healthy staple diet
  • Some Entertainment options available (Tip: try Ginza Bar for free Karaoke, you only pay the reasonable priced drinks; Live Band daily in Tickety Boo resort), Massage is available for around 200 Pesos/hour
  • Octong Cave, Bantayan Island, PhilippinesAbundance of Water-related activities: swimming, diving, snorkeling, visit the Octong Cave – a water-filled hole in the ground, rent a banca (outrigger boat) to the surrounding islands (check out: Virgin Island for a weekend picnic, 1 Liter Gold Eagle Beer over there only 50 Pesos)


Bohol or Bantayan. Now, which island is for you? Only you can decide. Maybe you will love them both, depending what you are up to. Why not try both?

If you are looking to relax and rewind, to forget about worries and stressful work life – check out Bantayan. If you get bored here after a while, head down to Bohol and enjoy its friendly people and manifold activity options.

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written by Chris

30 Responses to “Wanted: Your very own beach paradise island – Bohol or Bantayan?”

  1. MikeNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Looks beautiful. Unfortunately I didn’t make it there when I visited the Philippines.

  2. SergeyNo Gravatar INDIA Says:

    hi. planing to chase you in philipines (now in india, previusly bali and thailand =)

    How much you spend on your 3g internet? did you tryed some landlines- do they make unlimited offers?

    The bikes price is crazy – 10$ a day =( what had happened to your trycycle?

    What about food here? 250 pesos for 1 head is bit about above my budget (it is actualy 2 time more i spend anywhere). is any cheaper option?

    Sorry for too much practical questions – i planing to go there, and trying to plan my budget.

  3. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Sergey, am meanwhile back in Bali, but will probably return to the Philippines end of January. Yup, the bike rental prices are really out of this world in Pinas, some of the highest in Asia.

    My Tricycle I sold on Bantayan. Somebody made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. ;)

    And no, I didn’t try landlines for internet, as I didn’t stay long enough in one place. Landlines mainly require a multi-month contract, residential address and other things, which I would have not been able to provide at that time. So yeah, 3G is the way to go for the constant traveler, I guess you checked already the more detailed article about it.

    Regarding food, yup, there are cheaper options also, the 250 Pesos are for the all-you-can-eat-buffet mentioned. You can eat for as low as 50 Pesos on the market in Bantayan, if you are happy with rice, some veggies and fried eggs.

    Have a nice trip! ;-)

  4. SergeyNo Gravatar INDIA Says:


    So basicaly philipines looks just a little more expensive than india.
    i mean 100-200$ range for small appartment, food 10$ for two a day, and internet less than 30$ a month. 1000$ should be ok budget for it?

  5. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Most people there live on a lot less than that. But even with some better amenities it should be okay to have a fairly comfortable life with that kind of money.

  6. Randy CNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Hi Chris – have you made it down to Davao and Samal Island yet? Wondering what your impression of Samal would be compared to these.

  7. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Randy C, hi – long time no see! No, I haven’t made it there, but planning to visit Davao for early next year, when I hopefully return to the Philippines. Samal I have to research a bit more, didn’t hear much of it yet, only what I read on Bob’s site, but that sounded very promising. ;-)

  8. dodong floresNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Hi, Chris. Just dropping by to check new entries here… :)

  9. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Dodong, you are always welcome! Not much happening right now, currently am just enjoying my real life more than the blog world. ;-)

  10. webpage makerNo Gravatar INDIA Says:

    :))me and my boy friend are going there for our 2nd anniversary.. last year we spend it at panglau, bohol and now we want to experience the paradise of BANTAYAN… see you there on APRIL 17-20….

  11. RandallNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Hey, I just found your blog. I am new to blogging but want to make a go of it! Great content. I love the way you are not afraid to rough it. I have a house in Iloilo ph. If you need a place to stay there you could stay at my house with my family. I am in the U.S. but could make arrangements for you.. Thanks Randall

  12. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Randall, thanks for the offer and best of luck for your own blog! Looks good already… :D

  13. julieNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    I’ve been there and it’s one of my favorite place in the Philippines. a lot of things to see!

  14. Allen TrottierNo Gravatar CANADA Says:

    Hey Chris.. great post. I’m on my way back to the Philippines in March. I was looking for a couple spots to check out after I go to Palawan. Both islands sound fantastic. I’ll check them out and post again (if i can choose).

  15. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Allan Trottier, let me know where you are heading when you are there. I’m currently in the Philippines until end of April, with Palawan also on my list – so maybe we’ll meet somewhere along the way. ;-)

  16. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Oh yeah, some update regarding Sandflies on Bantayan Island: they are here and come out during sunrise, sunset or at dusk. Kota Beach in Santa Fe near Budyon Beach Resort has them in droves. I have like 10 bites all over my feet, legs and underarms. Use ‘Off!’ or ‘Deet’ at all times at dusk or avoid romantic walks at the beach at night. Here is some more info about it.

    There is an antibacterial ointment called Mupirocin Bactroban, which helps very well, but it’s also very expensive on Bantayan (325 Pesos for just 5g). Better stock up in Cebu or avoid to get bitten by sandflies. Arlglglggl! :-?

  17. elayNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    just got back from bantay

  18. elayNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    whoops..sorry about that (no. 17..) i hate my computer! anyway, the rest of the text..:

    just got back from bantayan island! it was awesome like u described it! and of course i had to come see this post before we went – so thank you because it was very helpful (esp another post of yours that said there’s no atm on the island – that really saved me from a lot of headache). stayed at tickety boo, it was a little far from the “hub” though, we had to rent motorcycles..ate at those restos named above; sugar beach was fun and very much alive on holy friday – it was packed! the beaches were great for swimming, i think better than bohol (bec i think bohol is more for divers – or bec i have only been to alona beach); the sand is comparable to boracay, but the generally more laid-back (and less commercialized) atmosphere makes it even better. and of course that underground cave was great too..ooooohh…im definitely going back.

  19. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    elay, glad you liked Bantayan! There is an Allied Bank ATM in Bantayan town (about 10km or 30 minutes jeepney ride from Santa Fe) and it even accepts foreign bank or ATM cards. So just in case you run out of money next time, don’t worry about it. ;-)

  20. PenNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    I’ve been to Bantayan, and it’s a really nice and relaxing place. :) I’ll be going to Bohol next month. Do you know any good yet affordable places to stay there? Thanks.

  21. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Pen, the cheapest deals you would obviously get in Tagbilaran, with Aircon rooms with TV and hot water for as low as 650 Pesos (i.e. Meridian Hotel), in famous Alona Beach on Panglao prices are quite inflated and usually well above 1.200 Pesos per night. For cheaper stays around the 1.000 Pesos mark, check the 2nd row of hotels, like ChArts Cafe and Hotel, Cherrys Home Two or Citadel (lthis one with outside CR only). Enjoy your trip! ;-)

  22. PenNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Thank you very much for your kind advice! :)

  23. Teresa OrlandoNo Gravatar CANADA Says:

    Hey Chris,
    I thought from the title that these islands were up for sale. :P
    I am sure we can share them, they look amazing. And from your response to Sergey it seems like they have very reasonable living costs. Not to mention great deals on chicken. Nice. ;)

  24. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Definitely Teresa! They are nice islands with still affordable Costs of Living, just not for sale. Oh well! ;-)

  25. dNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    Just have to ask, how safe is the country for single travellers? Places like Bali and resort areas of Thailand are paraded about as safe(r) for young tourists, while most you hear of in the news of the Philippines here is of violence or disasters, even more so than any other country in SE Asia.

    All the travel agents I have been to will offer extensive lists of places to stay in traditionally poorer places such as Cambodia and Laos, not to mention most of Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, but not the Philippines. Is it wisest to avoid Manila, most of Luzon and Mindanao as I have been advised, and stick to Visayas flying in via Cebu city?

    Personally I enjoy avoiding the most heavily tourist filled areas because much of the crime winds up there, and there are some genuinely beautiful areas I would like to visit there but I just wonder how safe I would be as compared to elsewhere (and don’t use the “bad things can happen anywhere” side-step, I want to know if it is *more* likely in the Philippines.)

  26. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    The Philippines is as safe as any other destination in Asia. In fact, here less tourists get into troubles, than on any given day on the streets of Phuket/Thailand alone or elsewhere in a ‘tourist haven’. It’s strange, that there is a general bad misperception about the Philippines. But it has its good points also, as you can get the country unfiltered and unspoiled, if you come and visit. Just use your common knowledge to avoid shady areas. There is no real ‘heavily tourist filled area’ here, maybe with the exception of Boracay, but then, it’s also a veryyy safe destination. Go and enjoy, you won’t regret it!

  27. KathleenNo Gravatar JAPAN Says:

    Hi Chris,

    This is by far the most helpful site I have read so far about travel in the PI. Thank you for writing so much detailed content! I am planning to go to Bantayan with my husband and daughter next month. I was wondering if you know anything about applying for visa extensions while in Bantayan. We plan to stay there for a year or so (depending on how many times we can apply for an extension), and I know that we have to go to immigration to extend the tourist visa. Do you know if you could pay someone in Bantayan to go to immigration for you? It seems like a huge hassle to go all the way to Cebu just to apply for the extension. Thanks so much!!!!

  28. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Kathleen, currently there is no Visa office on Bantayan. You might be able to find someone who do the run for you or you might simply ‘negotiate’ with the Immigration Officers to simply stamp your passport for 1 whole year for the right amount, but maybe you also want to do the trip to Cebu from time to time. Bantayan is really small and when I stayed there for 3 months last year, I was quite happy to do the trip down to Cebu once a month, if only for shopping, partying or seeing something else of the countryside. ;;)

  29. Philippines and Bali soon directly connected » nomad4ever UNITED STATES Says:

    […] Boracay, El Nido and Bohol would be just one plane change away from Bali! Something really unheard of since the discovery of […]

  30. LiaNo Gravatar CHINA Says:

    Upon seeing and gttieng through your blog about our beautiful country, Philippines, I am very proud and happy that passionate travelers like you really enjoyed staying here. Your blog was really a great help for everyone who really wants to know the details in gttieng here, from the costings of the hotel/resort accommodations to the transfers. It was amazing!Hope you and your friends would visit us again here in the Philippines and we would love to be in service of you for your future travel plans here, from the Culture and Heritage to the beautiful sceneries and hidden treasures of nature that the Philippines could offer to people like you. PS. I also enjoyed watching the video! =DThank you very much and looking forward for more interesting travel blogs from you. =)

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