Taking a trip to the northernmost islands of Cebu is often considered the road less traveled.
Luckily, I had the chance to venture out and experience it for myself—and I'm glad I did! Located far away from the city crowds, these islands are definitely one of the province's best-kept secrets. Venture through the gorgeous islands of Bantayan and Malapascua for an off-the-beaten adventure you'll never forget!
The journey to Bantayan Island is probably the only hurdle of the trip. It takes 3-4 hours from the city to Hagnava Port (either by private vehicle, scheduled bus, or V-hire), and another hour to get to the island via the scheduled ferry.
TIP: The trip going there is quite budget-friendly! For only P180, you can take a V-hire or shared van from Cebu North Bus Terminal to the port. Together with the port and ferry fee, your trip to Bantayan from the bus terminal shouldn't cost you more than P370.
Don't forget to bring all your on-transit essentials! A book, playlist, earphones, snacks, and even Bonamine if you get motion sickness. Or who knows, maybe you'll even meet new travel buddies along the way!
The island is composed of 3 municipalities: Madridejos, a fishing village in the North famous for danggit (dried fish) and pusit (squid); Bantayan, the island's town proper in the West; and in the East, Santa Fe, where you can find the beautiful white sand beaches.
Getting from one place to another on the island is very accessible as the roads are paved. Locals on their trikes or habal-habal (motorcycles) are very friendly and would be more than happy to take you around the island for just P20 a ride!
2013 was a disastrous year for the island. Unfortunately, it faced the wrath of typhoon Yolanda, displacing 90% of the island's population. Over the years and thanks to the aid of various organizations, the people of Bantayan have regained their homes and livelihoods back, while also preserving the island and its ecosystems.
Imagine waking up to a surreal view like this one! Step outside your room and be greeted by the pristine and unspoiled stretch of fine, powdery sand and turquoise waters. No establishments, no crowds. What a surreal paradise!
The waters along Santa Fe's shoreline will leave you awestruck. I don't think I've ever seen water clearer than this anywhere else! Photos definitely don't do it justice, so you really have to see it for yourself.
On some days, the morning low tide can even surprise you with a tiny sandbar you can walk along!
TIP: You'll experience the best waters by the beachfront areas of Kota Beach and Budyong Beach Resort.
Obo-Ob Mangrove Garden
Obo-Ob Mangrove Garden by the Bantayan Proper is an amazing testament to the community's strength and efforts. It is slowly being rehabilitated by the people, and now many of its nurseries are bearing fruit. Visiting the garden is also your way of taking part of its recovery as proceeds are used for its rehabilitation and are given to the community.
FUN FACT: Did you know that Camp Sawi was shot here?
Take a day trip to the privately-owned Virgin Island that's just 30-minutes away by bangka from Bantayan. Here lies another unspoiled beach in Northern Cebu that will mesmerize you. You can be assured of its utmost cleanliness as there are no other resorts there but the owner's.
The island boasts of a marine sanctuary right by the shore! Snorkel through its crystal clear waters and be surround yourself with a wide variety of colorful fish and corals.
As they say, "What happens at Virgin Island stays at Virgin Island!"
TIP: As prices may be a little steep, it would be best to bring your own food. Bring your own snorkeling gear and wear a rash guard. Jellyfish are quite common there!
No trip to Bantayan is complete without a swim at Paradise Beach. A small stretch of white beach a little further West of Santa Fe, it really lives up to its name! The secluded beach is the definition of calm waters and unfiltered beauty—it's the perfect hidden place to lay back and unwind.
Wading in its shallow waters is truly magical. Just look at one of the exquisite creatures you can find. Don't worry, I put it back right after!
TIP: Visit the beach at around 9 or 10AM so you can have the whole stretch of the beach to yourself! And be prepared to shell out P50 for the entrance fee here.
Cliff Jumping Spots
The more adventurous travelers will get their fill of adrenaline rush as Bantayan is teeming with cliff jumping spots. If you see a small crowd gathered along the edge of a cliff, try going for the leap as well—that will be one thing off of your Bantayan bucket list! Make sure of course that it's a safe spot!
Santa Fe's Sunrise
Watching the sunrise along the shoreline is worth the early morning wake up call. Stroll along the beach and let the warmth of the sunrise fill you. Its stunning beauty gives you a sense of peace and calmness, that's very much characteristic of the simple, laid-back feel of the island and the locals.
Coming from Bantayan Island, I've come to find that Malapascua is definitely more for the adventurers. This tiny beauty attracts plenty of locals and foreigners alike, thanks to its diving schools and thresher shark dive experiences.
With a good balance of being a secluded paradise with a modern mix of nightlife, dining spots, bars, and upscale resorts, it's a great place to explore and experience while in the North of Cebu.
FUN FACT: Malapascua is such a tiny island that you can walk its entirety in less than 2 hours!
To get to Malapascua, you'll have to get on a V-hire, bus or taxi going to Maya Port. Once there, a 35-40 minute bangka ride will get you to the island. A ride aboard the public boat costs around P80-100 (depending on the tide).
TIP: Your best bet is to arrive early at the port to avoid a long waiting time and to ensure a steady flow of commuters. The boat won't leave unless there are enough passengers on board.
Infamous for its thresher sharks, Malapascua has many resorts that offer in-house scuba diving packages. There's no need to worry if you're not an accredited diver—they also offer Discover Scuba sessions to let you get a feel for diving. If you feel you're ready to take on a certification, good rates for PADI certified diving courses are yours for the taking!
Non-divers can have their own fun too. Day trips to Kalanggaman Island, an exquisite long stretch of beach around 2 hours from Malapascua, is a great option. Or, if you're looking to join in on some underwater fun, half-day snorkeling trips to Coral Garden, Dakit-Dakit, and a WWII Sunken Japanese Shipwreck by Guimbitayan Beach are also worthy of your time!
Beach bums will enjoy Malapascua's white beach areas like Bounty Beach, Longon Beach, and several secluded ones too. Sunbathe or take a refreshing dip in their clear waters. Up your relaxation with a restful nap on one of the many hammocks scattered around the island.
TIP: To gain easier access to dive resorts and a long stretch of powdery sand, it is best to stay along Bounty Beach. If you're looking for a more convenient way to be near Logon Beach, stay at Tepanee Beach Resort or Blanco Beach Resort.
Witness the splendor of a Malapascua sunset aboard a boat. From a fiery red-orange to a cotton candy mix of blues, violets, pinks, and yellows, the sky's colors dance and merge into each other to create a gradual darkness that fully transforms into the beautiful night sky. How's that for a breathtaking sight?
TIP: Before calling it a night, don't forget to gaze up at the sky and watch billions of stars look right back at you. With little to no light pollution, the skies are as clear as the waters in both Malapascua and Bantayan Island, you'll definitely be in for one of the best stargazing experiences ever! Spend your time spotting constellations, be on the lookout for shooting stars, or simply just enjoy the dark blanket of sky splattered with specks of glowing stars.
To be one with nature and be away from the crowds is an experience that doesn't come often. While taking photos may just be the greatest souvenir, we all know that the best moments can't be captured on camera!
Make the most of your travels by taking time to disconnect too. Trust that you'll be in for a full experience of the pure and unspoiled beauty of nature.
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