Bantayan Island. 25 years of living in Cebu and I’ve never been to this much talked about island.
Well atleast not until last June.
It was only 2 months ago when I had finally been able to experience Bantayan for myself. Thanks to an invitation from one of Bantayan’s most long running, most well loved resorts, Kota Beach Resort! :)
I brought my family to this 2- night staycation and I was even more intrigued when my mom told me that back in their days, Kota was immensely popular and was a favorite place for honeymooners. I read various reviews about this resort and how it has evolved, peaked, devastated by Yolanda, and how it had been rebuilding from there. I was curious and excited to find out for myself.
Frankly, there is no easy way to get to Sta Fe. But the journey should be rewarding.
We drove all the way to Hagnaya Port for about 3 hrs. When we got there, we parked our car in one of the private properties offering parking spaces for a fee per day. If you wish to commute, you can get either an aircon or non-aircon bus at the North Bus Terminal to Hagnaya, San Remegio. There are trips 4am-5pm daily from different liners. Upon reaching Hagnaya, get onboard a public ferry to Sta.Fe. It's approximately a 1hr ride. There are trips7am-5pm daily so schedule shouldn't be a problem. (Going back sched is 6am-430 PM daily also).
When we finally docked, a service from Kota picked us up at the port. On the ride to the resort, I couldn't help but muse and bask in the warmth of this charming small town.
Kota Beach Resort
Ambiance and Architecture
Alas we've finally arrived! A friendly front-desk escorted us to our rooms. Kota got me a deluxe room for me and my sister while the rest of my family booked for the beach-front cottage (since the suite that fit 4 people without the need for extra beds was no longger available. ).
The resort was simple but charming. It isn't plush or grand as the resorts in Mactan but it's definitely classy. Unpretentiously homey, comfortable, cozy, and everything looks up-to-date and tastefully done. Kota has several options for accomodations ranging from:
Standard Aircon Room
Standard Non-Aircon Room
Beach front Suite. This is their largest room, perfect for families. It has a queen sized bed, bunk beds at the back, working desks and hot and cold shower. The room can fit 4, and can fit more as there are more spaces for extra beds. They only have 2 of these and they are located at the very front of the beach and nearest the resto.
Deluxe Suite. This is for 1-2 persons and has a sofa the doubles as a single bed and a balcony. This one's smaller compared to the other rooms but charming, no doubt. They are located at the 2nd-3rd row behind the beachfront suites and cottages.
Beachfront Cottage. Also in the first row, this one has a queen bed but no bunk. Although it has enough space to put 2 single extra beds. I also loved the ambiance of this room. Plus it has a personal ref, hot and cold shower and balcony. If you're not going with a big group, I suggest get this one as its so accessible to the beach.
I took photos but frankly, they wouldn't do justice so I suggest you check them out with full details here. I was very happy with the rooms as they were clean, comfortable, serene, quiet. It's just the perfect place to retire to after a long day of adventure. Frankly, I wouldn't look else where. This resort will be the first in mind when I look for a quick get-away not too far from the city! :)
Can I just add that I love how they used bamboo in a japanese zen kind of way instead of the usual Barrio Filipino look? :))
So we grabbed lunch in the resort's restaurant after we settled down and to my surprise, food was actually good and affordable! They serve tasty native Filipino dishes like pork belly, grilled squid, sisig, crispy pata, shrimp sinigang, scallops, grilled fish. They also have fresh fruit shakes perfect for a hot day. Rooms come with breakfast. And Wifi? check!
The beach front, needless to say, is the star of the show. Kota has one of the (if not THE) widest beach fronts and vastest shorelines in Sta. Fe. I noticed this as we were island hopping and we got to tour the entire shoreline and saw the difference. Got to love the white sand, crystal clear waters, and to top it off-- a sand bar!
Kota beach arranges island hopping/ diving activities, room service massage, and offers bicycle and motorcycle rentals to help you go around and explore the city.
And at night? My favorite part. The shore is magical. The first night I turned in early but on the second and last night, I decided to lounge around by the sea. The breeze was cold, the waves were crashing, the sky was star-filled and seemed like the perfect place at the perfect time. Ive always wondered if it was that lovely every night. It's perfect with your ipod/ journal (me) or light conversations over beer (my dad and brother) or talking to someone on the phone (my sister). And then when all is done, you retire back to your cozy room close by. I wouldn't have ended that trip any other way.
In the afternoon, high tide came and more of the fine white sand came to show connecting the beach with the sand bar. Look what it formed. :))
Virgin Island + Ogtong Cave + Other Activities
Whether you are out on an eat, pray, love sort of trip/ out to look for adventure with a group of friends/ looking for quality family time/ or a getaway with a lover; there's always something you can do in Bantayan. People say it's the next Boracay. I'm not quite sure that's true. But I really adore the fact that there are inns, backpacker places, resorts, lodges mushrooming all around the island and quirky restaurants/ cafes/ outdoor bars with live entertainment here and there (Hello, Corner Inn and Ritzi's Pizza.. other restos I wish I tried but didnt get to were HR, Cafe del mar, and Blue Ice). You can go around and explore the island in a bike, motorcycle, or hail a pedicab. We didnt get to go to the market but they said there are fresh seafood there that you can have cooked where you are staying.
The moment you arrive at Virgin Island, you will feel a high as it looks like you're walking into a "Survivor" episode shoot. :)) There are tribal decors everywhere, mostly made of shell (done right, again.) Quirky signs like this, photo corners, and best of all, for rub in your sense of arrival, live tribal music. You can ask your boat man to cook you fresh seafood for lunch and chilled soft drinks/ fruit shakes.
Ogtong Cave! About 5-10 minutes away from the resort via motorcycle. It was basically just a small cove with clear, cold water you can swim in inside. :)
Thank you once again, Bantayan Island for your impeccable charm, and Kota Beach Resort for your warm hospitality. And Special thanks to my friend Chris Eli Hubahib for taking me to your quaint paradise!
Bantayan, I will definitely be back for more! :)