Life on a Budget in Santa Fe

I sat on a bamboo bench, caressed by the wind. I watched the very turquoise water that you see in the above picture. Words come to me, as naturally as the palm branches of the coconut lifting gracefully.

The upside to living on the island sans TV, there’s a lot of room for creativity. Two hours passed felt like 6 hours. We wake up before 7AM and sleep by 8PM or so. Traveling with our baby daughter leaves us no time to hang out in bars at night. No complaints, we had plenty of time doing that in the past.

This time, it isn’t just vacation. It’s an attempt to live the way locals do.  How to get to this paradise- Santa Fe, Bantayan Island in the province of Cebu? Click here.

Santa Fe is the touristic part of the island of Bantayan. Due to its fine white sand and clear waters perfect for swimming, many B&Bs, resort hotels, beach villas and restaurants are situated in this side of the island.  Bantayan on the other hand is more commercial which I will feature separately in another post. 

Where to stay in Santa Fe?

For a weekend getaway, there are multiple options depending on your budget. Pre-book hotels in advance. It got super busy during the Holy Week that Santa Fe ran out of accommodations last March. Coming from the Cebu Ports Authority Passenger Terminal, on your right, you will find a few resort hotels but they're a bit secluded.  To those who would like to be in walking distance to restaurants and bars, you're better off staying somewhere closer. The long stretch of Kota Beach is the most popular area to stay.

Living on a Budget on Kota Beach

We’re currently staying in one of the cottages along the beach of Sante Fe. A Php 500- 600 per day fan room with an open shared kitchen that allows us to cook meals. It's called Bahay Kubo also known as Jasmin Guesthouse, a series of beach front cottages along Santa Fe Coast with direct access to the beach. My husband stayed here during his first visit to Bantayan alone. It was recommended to him by a friend from Cebu City.

 Fan Room with Double Bed & Private Bath at Php 600
Fan Rooms With Double Bed & Private Bath at Php 500 
 Toilet & Bath with Shower
Open Kitchen and Dining Area for Guests' Use
Rolly and Mila,  the couple managing the property are both warm and lovely. We felt like their own family guests spending vacation in their home.

For bigger groups who would like a 2-bedroom beach villa facing the beach , they have 2 villas that can be rented for Php 1300- Php 2500 per night. Each house is equipped with its own open terrace, living area, kitchen and bath.

You can also rent a large tent for Php 500 and bring your own and pitch it up here for Php 300.

Update:  This beach resort has a new management.  They have kept the same rates. However, a down payment is required to book the rooms in advance.

Should you decide to stay longer on a monthly basis or more, there are available fully furnished two bedroom houses on the island for monthly to long-term lease.  The rent can stretch from Php 9K to Php 25K excluding water and electricity. The price depends on the location, proximity from the beach, design, look and feel of the property.

The Public Market of Santa Fe

Ideally, we should head out to the public market for fresh goods and fresh catch of the day before breakfast. We ended up going there daily around mid-morning.


Per meal, we end up spending Php 90-200 for 2 people and a baby. Should we have a refrigerator, We can reduce that cost even more because we can cook and use ingredients for a much larger portion and store them for another meal, thus saving gas.

There are small gas bottles that can be purchased at Php 55. This gas lasts for 2.5 times of cooking.

There are fish and seafood vendors going around selling the fresh catch of the day such as prawns, scallops and large fish.

There's Kerwin Mini Mart as well along the bend of F. Roska Street where we buy toiletries. If you do rent a motorbike, the market in Bantayan 10 minutes away is a great destination to purchase everything you need. There's Mercury Drug there around the plaza.

For evenings we don't feel like cooking, MJ Square is a great destination for affordable meals.  If you're craving for western dishes, Kev's Diner in front of Sta. Fe Public Market next to M. Lhuillier, offers combo meals with rice, a main dish with iced tea for Php 95.

Scallops (Php 30 uncooked and Php 40 cooked per kilo) and fresh seafood like crabs, squid and fish are a must try on the island.

Island Life

We are slowly getting into the rhythm of living on the island.  My daughter asked for Barney only once.  She was preoccupied bathing in the sea, playing with sand along with other children running around, enjoying the hammock.

For my husband and I, we spent a lot of time meeting and hanging out with both travelers and locals, reading a book, exploring the island on a motorbike, taking afternoon walks along the sea and inland, occasional browsing on social media, and gradually learning more about the place and its lovely people.

Is an island lifestyle something you'd like to consider?
Wishing you all a lovely week.
Love and light,

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  1. For about 500 per night, I say that's cheap and the room looks decent. I agree, life in the province, disconnected from all the chaos in the city, time seems slower.

    I haven't been to Sta. Fe, actually I haven't been to rural parts of Cebu. I am seriously considering moving to an island now that I don't have a job and I am looking into the possibility of doing some freelance work. I would love to go to Sta. Fe and see if it would be an ideal place for me.

    1. It is a good idea to try since you can work remotely. Someone I met here mentioned some friends of hers having online work staying around rural parts of Cebu for a much longer time. There are some students as well who spent their summer doing their research work here. I suppose there are less distractions and more work done. 😊 It would definitely be a nice change.

  2. all that fruit and vegies! Twould be the only thing that would make me happy in a tropical place :)

    1. We have been eating more fruits and vegetables since we came here. 😊

  3. What a lovely spot. Sounds very idyllic. I love it

    1. Right now , it feels like home. We wonder how we would feel during the low and rainy season.

  4. Such a nice place! The life is so simple and tranquil, yet the place is so beautiful at the same time.

    1. Thanks Rosemarie, welcome to Travel Gourmande.


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