Where I stayed: Private residence – I won’t give a bad review but wouldn’t recommend either
Reasons to go: Bantayan features on a lot of ‘best beaches in the world’ lists, mainly due to Paradise beach, but I didn’t like it much.
Things to do: Beaches, also check out the Butterfly Garden in Sante Fe. You get a personalised tour and the garden is beautiful, with thousands of butterflies.
How to get there: Transfer from Cebu City, roughly 2h in a car, then approx. 1.5h in a ferry
I went here because some of the beaches are named as the best in the world. It’s not on the backpacker route. I got a private boat from Malapascua which took two hours and cost me about £50, but it was either that or spend a full day travelling and it was nicer to be on the water. The island is located off the north west of Cebu.
This was by far the worst experience I had in the Philippines. I stayed in Santa Fe which is one of the main towns. There’s a few bars and restaurants, nothing particularly exciting. This is a haunt for older westerners with younger Filipino wives and second wave toddlers-children. Unfortunately the weather was appalling with non-stop winds and rain, and there was very little to do. The wifi tower had been taken out a couple of days before in a huge storm and the roads all around my homestay hotel were flooded meaning it was difficult to walk into town without wading through huge puddles. I braved the weather one day to walk to Paradise Beach, listed in plenty of Top 10 beaches in Asia, but with the tide in and too much rain it was a miserable experience. I couldn’t even hang out in bars with other travellers because there literally weren’t any. My 'hotel' was near a cockfighting place and the loudspeakers and sounds of the fights rang out all day, so noisy that even earplugs didn't block it out.
The beaches were full of rubbish and whilst there is clearly a lot of foreign wealth here judging by the suburb I stayed in, little seems to be pumped back into the local infrastructure. They’re building an international airport and massive casino – perhaps this will put Bantayan on the map, but more likely make it even more of a hellhole. For me it was a waste of 4 days and in fact I cut my trip short and headed to Cebu for a night instead.