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:
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
If 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.
Although 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
- Abundance 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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