Cebu island is where most travelers and tourists first set foot in the Philippines. It is a large island boasting incredible tourist attractions unlike any other.
If you are moving around and visiting other islands in the South of the Philippines, Cebu is a great place to begin with. You can easily reach Bohol (the chocolate hills) and Siquijor (Cambugahay Falls) with a 2-hour ferry or fast craft. And with an International Airport 15 km from Cebu city, it is really convenient for getting to Siargao (surf – Cloud 9) or Camiguin by air.
TIP: One of the perks while travelling in the Philippines is that almost everyone speaks English. It is easy to have a conversation with a local, ask for directions or even make new Filipino friends.
Besides offering logistical perks such as affordable and convenient ways of getting from one destination to another, Cebu is a great place to explore.
From Cebu City and its chaotic streets, beautiful churches and historical monuments to South Cebu’s stunning cascades over milky blue pools, millions of sardines cruising along the reef in Moalboal, epic viewpoints, and the infamous whale shark watching in Oslob, Cebu is definitely a great place to start your trip in the Philippines.
GETTING AROUND CEBU
There are various ways of getting around Cebu including local buses, jeepneys, tricycles, Taxis and Tours.
If you are traveling solo and are on a tight budget and also have time to spare, then the local transport (buses, jeepneys, tricycles) are the way to go.
But keep in mind that getting used to the logistics of getting around Cebu like a local, (especially knowing the exact route for jeepneys and tricycles) isn’t straightforward. Plus, like anywhere else in the world, local transport makes multiple stops which will consume a considerable amount of time.
CHEAP AND CONVENIENT TRANSPORT
Mactan International Airport to Cebu City or Moalboal
We pre-booked a taxi online for our trip from the airport to Cebu City. We didn’t have to wait in the long taxi line and got a good price for booking in advance.
CEBU CITY TOUR
If you are in Cebu only for a couple of days, a great way of getting around and visiting various tourist attractions within the City is by tour. A City tour combines the best historical sites, churches and also a visit to a local guitar factory.
LAND AND BOAT TOURS + SOUTH CEBU
From Cebu City or Moalboal
Most tourists head to the South of Cebu, home to stunning cascades and vibrant blue pools along a canyon surrounded by jungle. South Cebu offers loads of things to do! There are several tours offering day itineraries to different tourist attractions, waterfalls, viewpoints and snorkelling spots.
WHAT TO DO WHEN IN CEBU
There are so many things to do that you have to prioritize what to do when in Cebu. But usually when tourists land in Cebu (central of the island) they travel South to a seaside town named Moalboal.
Moalboal is the major tourist area on Cebu and is a great place for tourists to base themselves to visit all the South Cebu tourist spots.
Some of the popular tourist spots in South Cebu are Canyoneering at Kawasan Falls, Osmeña peak, a ball of millions of sardines gliding along a reef meters from accommodations in Moalboal and the whale shark watching in Oslob.
Tip: We decided to skip the whale shark watching in Oslob. After reading and hearing various stories about how the whole whale shark thing works, we gave it a miss. It just didn’t seem what we had hoped for after reading this National Geographic article.
Although those South Cebu tourist spots may sound rather cliche, they do answer the question of what to do when in Cebu.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPERIENCE WHEN IN CEBU
Cebu island offers a bit of everything. There is an adventure in the South Cebu tourist spots, the bustling streets and history in Cebu City, and further North is probably just as interesting as the rest of the island but more laid back, and for some reason not as popular as the South of Cebu.
Our recommendations for what you should experience in Cebu are to wander through the City and explore its cultural side. There are loads of beautiful churches around the City and historical monuments if you are into that kind of thing.
And while in the City, look out for food markets or local eateries. To be honest, the Filipino food doesn’t really look that inviting. But give it a try, if you forget about the shabby-looking eatery interiors, the food is some of the best we have had in Asia.
Tip: most of the local cuisine in the Philippines is meat based. In fact, we rarely came across any local eateries serving anything that didn’t contain any meat or at least eggs. So just keep that in mind especially if you are vegan.
If you are a foodie, an authentic experience in Cebu (or anywhere in the Philippines) is to try Lechon. Basically, Lechon is whole roast pork and is usually served at ceremonies or local gatherings. But it is very common to find a whole pork roasting at an eatery on weekend days.
Filipino’s are masters at cooking pork and go so far as to have master lechoneers who are known as the top-of-the-line roast pork chefs.
An infamous Filipino delicacy is Balut. Balut is a fertilized developing egg embryo that is boiled and eaten. I guess, probably only a handful of foreigners have tried Balut. Honestly, it isn’t that inviting to say the truth. But I must admit, it does have a punchy taste of egg, chicken broth and liver.
DAY TRIPS AND TOURS IN CEBU – MOALBOAL
There are various day trips and tours to do in Cebu. Most tours are either cultural tours within Cebu City, South Cebu Tourist spots tours and tours to nearby islands such as Bohol, Siquijor, or Dumaguete on Negros island.
Whichever tour you choose, it will include pickup and drop off from your chosen location, a guide, transport costs and lunch. Basically, it is like an all-inclusive thing.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY IN CEBU
Depending on your plans, you could spend a few nights in Cebu City and move further south of the island later on.
The most popular tourist destination in South Cebu is Moalboal, a seaside town on the West coast of Cebu. Here you will be close to the best tourist attractions including stunning cascades, great beaches and reefs, the Canyoneering adventure at Kawasan Falls, the sardine run and Osmeña Peak.
Tip: The Sardine Run is directly in the tourist area of Moalboal, just a short walk from accommodations and restaurants. And Kawasan Falls is a 45 minute drive from Moalboal
Mainly, South Cebu is the most popular part of the island and Moalboal is the main tourist area. But there are other options such as Badian (close to Kawasan Falls) or Alegria. Oslob is on the opposite side and on Cebu’s East coast.
BEST HOTELS AND HOSTELS IN CEBU
The list below includes the best accommodation options in Cebu and Moalboal. Each hostel or hotel listed is highly rated for cleanliness, location and have a rating over 9 out of 10.
Peach Haven – Peach haven is a colorful hostel offering shared rooms. The property is located about in the middle of everything and nothing is too far away. Fuente Osmeña Circle is less than 1 km and the ferry terminal is close by. The property features A/C rooms and wifi and there is also a shared lounge to chill out.
Khalil’s Horizons 101 Studio Type Condominium – This studio apartment in the heart of Cebu City is one of the best you will find. The apartment is complete with all amenities. A kitchenette, seating area, satellite TV and even a dishwasher, you have everything in hand.
Travelbee Fuente Inn – Whether traveling for business or leisure, Travelbee will surely take care of all your needs. The fresh tones in every room offer a spite of relief from the City’s hot and bustling streets. This property is the best option for those that want to be centrally located and pay a reasonable price.
ApartHotel Citadines Cebu City – A higher end luxury apartment with hotel amenities. Here you get all the comfort and privacy of an apartment with a few extra benefits like daily continental breakfast, garden and pool and even a kids club. All units have A/C, private bathroom, kitchenette, TV and everything else you would find in an apartment.
Pescador View: Facing onto the ocean this property offers a range of stays ranging from twin rooms to an ocean-front apartment. Guests can make use of the on site restaurant facility.
Laguno Bed & Breakfast Hostel: This property is a 15 minute ride from Moalboal’s main tourist strip. It is a great place to stay for those on a budget and is surrounded with some great restaurants. We personally stayed here and chose to stay away from the main tourist area for a bit more privacy and quiet. For solo travelers bunk beds are available or private rooms for 2 guests.
Moalboal Eco Lodge: Here guests are treated to a chill vibe with sleeping options in huts in a beautiful garden dotted with tall palm trees. This property is truly amazing and is just one of few of its kind. Moalboal Eco Lodge is a short ride from the main tourist area and Panagsama beach.
Ancelle Kristo Re: A villa-style property set in a beautiful garden and facing the ocean. You could easily spend whole days lounging around and watching the stunning sunsets. Each villa is fully functional and equipped with kitchenette, fridge, A/C and a private terrace.
CEBU SAMPLE ITINERARY
Unless you have already planned out your days in Cebu, follow the sample itinerary below. It is an easy to follow itinerary that will give you enough time to see the very best of Cebu.
Most travellers arrive in Cebu by air and start off their trip in the City. Although some tourists head directly to South Cebu, I suggest spending at least 1 night within the City.
Here are some tourist spots worth visiting in Cebu City
Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral – beautiful contrasting white Cathedral
SM Mall – for a shopping spree
Basilica Santa Nino – Oldest church in the Philippines
Colon street – market selling handy crafts and souveniers
Taoist Temple – stunning Temple 300 meters above sea level
It would be easy to spend more days in Cebu City. However, the City is rather chaotic and not many tourists would want to stay much longer than a night or maybe 2.
Head to South Cebu. Whatever way of getting there you choose, it will be an interesting ride along Cebu’s lush mountains and along the West coast of the island.
South Cebu boasts some of the best tourist spots on the island and is one of our favourite destinations in the Philippines. You could spend an entire week in the South exploring all it has to offer. But if you plan on just visiting popular attractions like Kawasan Falls Canyoneering, Osmeña peak and the sardines run, 2 nights will be enough.
Lesser known tourist attractions
Mainit Hidden Falls
Binalayan Hidden Falls
As you can see most of South Cebu’s attractions are water based. It would be a good idea to bring a pair of watershoes.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Having a tropical climate means the weather in the Philippines is either wet or dry and temperatures rarely drop below 20° C.
Weatherwise, the best time to visit the Philippines and Cebu is from November to March. You can expect mostly sunny days and almost no rain during those months.
November – March: Best weather + peak tourist months and higher prices
April – October: Rainy months but not constant + cheaper prices and less crowds
The dry season is also when most tourists visit the Philippines. Besides having to deal with lots of tourists at popular attractions, hotel and accommodation prices are usually higher than low season months.
Rainy season doesn’t necessarily mean it will constantly rain. Usually, during the rainy season, rain tends to come in heavy bursts and only lasts about an hour.
So if you want to find less tourists and get cheaper accommodation prices and rain isn’t an issue, then the Months between April and October (rainy season) should be your choice.
South Philippines Guides: are you planning a trip to Cebu, Siquijor, Bohol, Dumaguete, Siargao or Camiguin? You can hop from one island to the other by ferry. We have visited all these islands and wrote detailed guides specifically for each island’s very best tourist attractions.
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