Laid-back Bantayan Island may not have the diving, nightlife or surf breaks of other Filipino destinations. But who cares? It has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. With few other distractions, it’s the ultimate destination for lying back with an ice-cold calamansi juice and slowing down. Here’s where to stay on your beach break.
Right on the flawless white stretch of Santa Fe beach, this low-key resort has a relaxed feel. All rooms come with air conditioning, a spacious closet and a hot-and-cold shower. The hotel also has a shady veranda for occasional breaks from the sun, and a large pool if all that sea swimming somehow isn’t enough. The enormous seafood selection at Chloe Café includes steamed crabs, adobo squid and garlic lobster straight from the ocean.
Within a minute’s walk of Santa Fe Beach and several eateries, this diminutive hotel is the perfect base for your Bantayan adventures. Interiors are a masterclass in Filipino design, with bamboo furniture, nipa palm ceilings and hammocks slung between wooden columns. The beachy bar serves a mostly Western-style breakfast of omelettes and bacon paired with mango. Staff can arrange kitesurfing lessons and island-hopping excursions.
For a true Pinoy-style holiday, look no further than these cabanas on Santa Fe Beach. While the exterior may look like a rustic bahay kubo (palm-roofed traditional home) the amenities are bang up to date. All come with air conditioning, cable TV, hot showers and – incredibly – wifi. For filling meals, there are numerous food stalls and restaurants in the surrounding area.
Occupying a pristine stretch of white sand at Santa Fe’s south-eastern corner, this collection of villas combines traditional bamboo and nipa style with modern amenities. Each villa comes with air conditioning, hot showers, a safety deposit box, flat-screen TV and refrigerator. Head to the Coral Blue Clay Pot restaurant for colourful salads, steamed crab and juicy prawns.
Edging Bantayan’s southern coast, this white, bright inn is just a 25-minute walk – or a seven-minute tricycle ride – from the isolated Sandira Beach, considered the most pristine on an island full of them. Tuck into a breakfast of bacon, fried egg and mangoes in the bamboo bar before heading to the beach; refresh with a hot shower and siesta in your air-conditioned room. Ask Rose and Carsten, the inn’s affable owners, if you have any needs – nothing is too much trouble.
There are three modern apartments in this smart complex on Bantayan’s southern shore, each consisting of three bedrooms and sleeping up to 10 guests – perfect for a large family group. Each comes with a kitchen, large living room and balcony. As the complex is relatively isolated, buy your groceries in Santa Fe ahead of time; alternatively, eat at the Greek restaurant next door or ask the reception staff to call a tricycle for you.