“What strikes me most about Kota Beach, at the southeasternmost tip of Bantayan Island in Cebu, 778km southeast of Manila, is that it’s the only 'changing beach' that I’ve ever seen. The main beach, which is about 100m long, faces a curving sandbar, which at low tide exposes a huge bowl of sand, like an empty swimming pool. And then as the tide rises, you will see the water seeping in slowly from the right until it fills the bowl with water. The process of water coming into the bowl is a magical sight. You can walk into this bowl until you’re in the middle of the pit and find yourself at chest-deep water. You can swim around like it’s your own natural pool. The sand is powdery white, the water gin clear, vibrant with marine life.
“The best part is that you’re on an island that’s come to embrace the backpacking culture well. The locals are very friendly to foreigners and see them as equals.
“Also check out the main town of Bantayan where bars and restaurants can be found, a five- to 10-minute walk from Kota Beach; Bantayan’s mangrove area, which you can observe as you walk along elevated bamboo walkways; and Sts. Peter and Paul Parish located at the heart of the town, the oldest structure on the island and one of the oldest parishes in Cebu, founded in the 1500s by Augustinian missionaries. It’s said to house one of the biggest collections of relief sculptures of saints in the Philippines.”
WHERE TO STAY Coucou Bar Hotel & Restaurant in the main town, a homey three-star native theme resort with villas and cabanas and private airconditioned rooms with ensuite bathrooms with hot and cold running water. The hotel has Wi-Fi, a bar and restaurant, and bicycle rental. From P1,050 (US$21) for two on Agoda.
HOW TO GET THERE Take a Philippine Airlines flight from Manila to Cebu City. From Cebu City, head to the North Bus Terminal to get on a Ceres Liner bus bound for Hagnaya port in San Remigio Cebu. The trip takes about two and a half to three hours. At Hagnaya port, catch a ferry bound for Sta. Fe port on Bantayan Island, about an hour's travel. From the main port of Bantayan, flag down a tricycle or a habal-habal, motorcycle taxi with a sidecar for passengers, to Kota Beach.
Originally published in InFlight Traveller January 2016 to February 2017. Updated January 2017