In the heart of the Philippines’ Visayas region, there is no better place to visit than the beautiful Island of Cebu. As the 126th largest island in the world, Cebu Island is packed with adventures for every type of traveler. It has narrow coastlines, beautiful plateaus, beaches, islands, coral atolls, rugged mountains, and rolling hills.

Allow me to walk you through some of the things that you might enjoy doing when you plan on traveling to Cebu, Philippines. Included in this guide are some things you might want to know about Cebu Island and Cebu’s historical background. Hopefully, this will equip every traveler with the knowledge you might need to enjoy the wonders of Cebu.

Cebu Island’s capital city is Cebu City. With its busy seaports and the second largest air hub in the Philippines, Cebu City is a great jump-off point for travelers visiting the Philippines. Centuries ago, Cebu was one of the commercial hubs in the days of naval trade. Consequently, Cebu was the gateway of the Spanish influence and the first European settlement in Asia.

The name “Cebu” came from the word “sibu” or “sibo” which translates to “trade,” a word short for “sinibuyang hingpit” or “the place for trading.” The term was often used in the harbors of the town of Sugbu (derived from Old Cebuano, which translates to “scorched earth” or “great fire,” the ancient name for the city we now know as Cebu.

In the 1500s, Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Cebu and befriended the Rajah, the King of Cebu, Rajah Humabon. Christianity was then introduced to the people of Cebu, which spread throughout the Philippines. Today, most of the population in Cebu are Roman Catholic, with roughly about 95% of the population. It is indeed the capital of Catholicism in the Philippines.

The primary language spoken throughout the island is Cebuano, also known as “Bisaya.” With over 20 million native speakers, Cebuano is the mother tongue for more Filipinos than any other dialects. Most of the people speak English as their second language, as well as Tagalog. In the metropolis, travelers will find it pretty convenient as most of the locals in the area are pretty fluent in the English language.

It is effortless to come to Cebu. If you travel by air, you will land at Mactan International Airport (CEB). Mactan International Airport is also the central domestic hub outside Metro Manila, with access to most tourist places such as Manila, Kalibo, Boracay, Puerto Princessa, Siargao, Bohol, Davao, and countless more. It usually takes around 40 minutes to an hour to get to Cebu City from the airport.

As part of the Philippine archipelago, Cebu has two climates, mainly the dry and wet seasons. It is hot and very humid most of the year because it is surrounded by large bodies of water with rain from June to December. Temperatures can go up to 36 °C (97 °F) and as low as 18 °C (64 °F) in high lands during the wet season. The average is about 24 to 34 °C (75 to 93 °F).

Now that you know more about Cebu, let us now walk you through the things that you could enjoy in Cebu. This list will include places to visit and activities to do in Cebu Island and some surrounding islands.

Historical Spots, Shrines, and Museums

As mentioned earlier, Cebu is one of the historical hotspots in the Philippines. Cebu is very much heavily influenced by a mix of early local culture and the Spanish colonialization. There are many historically significant places to visit in Cebu and other areas where you can immerse yourself more in the culture. Most of these places are not even far from the capital.

Basilica del Santo Niño (Basilica of the Holy Child)

In Cebu, you can find the oldest Catholic church in the Philippines. Established in the 1500s, the Basilica del Santo Niño is built on the very spot where they found the image of Santo Niño de Cebú during the expedition of the Spanish navigator Miguel López de Legazpi. The icon of this basilica is the same figurine of the Child Jesus presented by Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon and his wife.

The church was made a basilica by Pope Paul VI in 1965 and declared it a symbol of Christianity’s birth and growth in the Philippines. In 2013, the Basilica del Santo Niño was affected by a strong earthquake from Bohol, but it was immediately reconstructed and reopened to the public. You can find the Pilgrim Center, Basilica del Santo Niño Library, and the Basilica del Santo Niño Museum in this basilica.

How to get there:

From Mactan Airport, you can ride a “MyBus” to SM City Cebu. Travel will take from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the traffic condition. Then ride a jeepney with a code “121” or “10M” for about 10 to 30 minutes, then a right at Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. From there, you can walk your way to the basilica.

Magellan’s Cross

The Magellan’s Cross or Krus ni Magallanes is a Christian cross planted by Portugal and Spanish explorers ordered by Ferdinand Magellan upon arriving in Cebu in March 1521. The cross is housed next to the Basilica del Santo Niño, just in front of Cebu’s city center. It is considered one of the earliest Roman Catholic relics in the Philippines.

Lapu-Lapu Monument

Lapu-Lapu was a local hero who fought and killed Ferdinand Magellan in the battle of Mactan in 1521. Located at the monument is a statue of Lapu-Lapu and obelisk dedicated to Ferdinand Magellan and a plaque explaining the site’s historical significance. The area is surrounded by t-shirt vendors where you can get souvenirs and printed shirts.

How to get there:

If you are from Mandaue or Cebu, ride a jeepney that is bound to Lapu-Lapu City. Check the signage for Punta Engaño. If you visit Cebu via plane, you can hire a taxi cab that will take you to the Mactan shrine or take a PUJ from the airport.

Cebu Taoist Temple

Cebu Taoist Temple is the center of Taoism in the Philippines, a religion centered on Lao Zi’s teachings. Devotees in the temple perform rituals and prayers to grant one’s wish. Some of the traditions include climbing 181 steps, representing the 81 chapters of Taoism scriptures, the lighting of joss sticks, and having your fortune read by monks. These rituals are performed every Wednesday and Sunday.

How to get there:

The Taoist Temple is located at the Beverly Hills private subdivision in Lahug, Cebu. To get there, you might need a private car, a taxi, or you can use your Grab phone app.

Temple of Leah

The Temple of Leah is one of the most famous landmarks in Cebu. Hailed as the Taj Mahal of Cebu, this is a go-to place for taking those Instagram-worthy shots. The Temple of Leah is a seven-story building inspired by ancient Roman Architecture. It boasts granite floors, Doric columns, a marble fountain, and Grecian-styled displays. The Temple of Leah is located in the hills of Busay in Cebu Cty.

How to get there:

You can get there via public transport.   You can choose any of the Cebu Jeepney Route 04D, 04I, or 04H or a signboard that says “Lahug-Busay” jeepney traveling to downtown Cebu City. The cost is not more than P20 per person. Alight at the street to Temple Leah and walk for 5-10 minutes to the site.

Water Adventure

Cebu Island is one of the perfect places to visit for those expecting to get soaked and wet. After all, Cebu Island is surrounded by large bodies of water. You can expect beautiful coastlines and beaches. Not only that, you can bask in the grandeur of some of the most visited waterfalls in the Philippines. Here are some of the summer-perfect places to visit in Cebu.

Kawasan Fall

Located in the southwest portion of Cebu Island lies the majestic Kawasan Falls. Every traveler will appreciate the beauty of this multi-layered waterfall system. Famous for its turquoise-colored water, Kawasan Falls sits at the foot of the Matalongon Mountain Range. The cold and clear water from the falls originates from Kandayvic springs, emptying to Matutinao River and Tañon Strait.

At the waterfalls, you can enjoy canyoneering. Travelers will have to ride for 30 minutes until you arrive at the start of the waterfalls. From the top, visitors will descend through the canyons to various waterfalls and rock formations. There are also jump-off points of varying heights along the trail, a rapid slide, and a swing for those feeling a bit more adventurous.

How to get there:

From Cebu City, go to the South Bus terminal and hop on any bus bound for Badian. The bus will travel along the west side of the island. Usually, the ride will take about 3.5 to 4 hours, and the busses don’t start until 5 am. It is recommended that travelers should spend their night at Moalboal. If you choose to come from Moalboal, you can ride a bus southward and ask the bus driver to take you to the falls.  

Moalboal

Moalboal is famous for its beautiful beaches and its rich waters. Panagsama Beach in Moalboal is well-known to be a great snorkeling spot on Cebu Island. Travelers can enjoy watching thousands of sardines swimming along the shores of Panagsama Beach. Diving a bit deeper will bless you with the sights of sea turtles with whom you can swim with.

There are also other dive sites you can visit in Moalboal. This sites includes Pescador Island, Sunken Island, and the marine sanctuaries of Basdiot and Saavedra. As for the beaches, you can enjoy beach bumming at the white sands of Basdaku Beach, where you can enjoy beach volleyball and beach frisbee, and other sports.

How to get there:

In Cebu, go to the South Bus Terminal. Catch a bus bound to Moalboal via Barili or Badian. There are Vans also available at One Citilink Terminal in Cebu. Usually, the ride will take about 2.5 to 3.5 hours.

Oslob

Oslob, Cebu is a small coastal town located in southern Cebu with a population of around 30,000. Like Moalboal, there are lots of places to visit for those seeking adventures in the waters. Among all others, Oslob is very well known for its whale shark sighting – which is a must when you are planning to visit Cebu. Visiting this exotic creature is part of the efforts to attract tourists and preserve the whale sharks.

The best time to visit Oslob’s whale sharks is around 9 am during the weekdays as there are fewer tourists, and you get to spend more time swimming with the whale sharks. Tourists can spend about 30 mins with the whale sharks for about 20 pesos each visitor. There are strict guidelines for interacting with the whale sharks, so be sure to follow them because touching them could result in a fine and jail time.

After visiting the whale sharks, you can enjoy beach bumming at Sumilon Island. Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort privately owns Sumilon, but the resort allows non-resort guests to stay at the sandbar, which is remarkable and only for a minimal fee.  There are no facilities in the sandbar, but you can go around the area and even to the rock formations to look at a more panoramic view.

How to get there:

By now, the South Bus Terminal should be familiar. There you will travel to Oslob. You can also travel by taking a public van. The ride usually would take 3 to 3.5 hours. A taxi could also be an option but would take you about 2.5 hours of travel time and cost you more.

Malapascua Island

Another shark celebrity is the thresher sharks of Malapascua Island. The island is located at the very northern tip of Cebu. It might be small, but it is worth the visit as it boasts beaches with clear waters. Compared to other more popular islands, Malapascua is not commercially developed, thus having a relaxing and friendly beach vibe.

Malapascua Island has an area of not more than 2.5 square kilometers, so you can go around the island in 2 hours. Even when travelers go to Malapascua for the sharks, the long stretch of white sand beaches, culture, and the small but friendly crowd is what makes travelers come back for more.

How to get there:

From Cebu, you can catch a bus going northwards to New Maya Port. The ride usually takes around 4 hours, but you will enjoy the trip with fantastic coastal sceneries along the way. From New Maya Port, you’ll hop on a boat to Malapascua Island, which will take about 30 minutes to 1-hour long. Again, you will not get bored as when you draw closer to the shore, you will see sea creatures easily through the clear waters.

Camotes Island

If you want to experience more local beach life in Cebu, Camotes Island is undoubtedly the place to go. Camotes Island is a group of three islands located in the eastern part of Cebu. One of the beauties that this place possesses are white sand beaches and clear water. The best thing about the island is that there are no huge hotels, large buildings, huge malls, and commercial business.

Get your legs ready as there is no public transportation on the Island, but it’s pretty much easy to go around. But if you prefer, you may find a motorbike rental. If you’re deciding on a place to stay as well, Camotes Flying Fish Resort is an excellent choice as they have the best beach among the other resorts. Some of the things that you might enjoy in Camotees are snorkeling, island hopping, beach bumming, and more.

How to get there:

From Cebu North Terminal, ride a bus to Danao. Alight at Danao-Camotes Ferry Terminal and ride a ferry to Camotes. Travel will more or less be 2 hrs to get to the island. From there, you can take jeepneys or rent out motorbikes to go around the island.

Food Trip

Cebu’s food culture is as lively, diverse, and vibrant as their culture. Some tourists even claim that Cebu offers the best culinary experience in the whole country. Cebuanos are well-known for their seafood, street food, and grill. Cebu also claims to have the best roast pork, or Lechon, in the Philippines – one of the dishes that Filipinos are proud of.

10,000 Roses Café & More

Did you know that you can find one of Korea’s famous tourist spots here in Cebu? Inspired by the 20,000 lighted rose garden display in Dongdaemun, South Korea, the 10,000 Roses Café and More sure is the place to visit for good food and Instagram worthy photos. This place boasts of its Korean-inspired cuisine and the sea of 10,000 LED-powered roses that will surely light up your night.

Since this is the main attraction, it is best to visit this place from dusk till night. The Café operates from 10:30 am to 10:00 pm. The entrance fee is 20 Php per person. 10,000 Roses Café & More does not accept reservations.

How to get there:

10,000 Roses Café & More is at Cordova, Cebu in Lapu-Lapu island. It is more convenient to get there from Cebu via Grab, Taxi, or a private car. If you wish to travel via public transportation, you can ride a Van for hire (v-hire) from SM Cebu Terminal to Cordova. Alight at Cordova Grand mall and ride a tricycle to the café.

Lantaw Floating Native Restaurant

Besides 10,000 Roses Café & More is one of the unique dining experiences in Cebu. Lantaw Floating Native Restaurant is the only floating restaurant in Cebu. The place boasts of the gorgeous sea view, incredible sunsets, a breath of fresh air, an inexpensive bill, and of course, authentic Filipino cuisine. The interior design theme is Filipino native displayed with the use of bamboo poles and wooden fixtures.

It is best to visit Lantaw during daylight so you can enjoy the beautiful waters of the Cebu Strait. Don’t worry about running out of seats as there are plenty enough for many guests.

How to get there:

As noted earlier, Lantaw Floating Native Restaurant is just beside 10,000 Roses Café & More.

Balay sa Busay

On the subject of good food and a great view, Balay sa Busay sure is a place to eat. Situated at the Beverly Hills of Cebu, Balay sa Busay offers the best modern Filipino food and an unobstructed, magnificent Cebu view. Balay, which translates to “home,” is the ambiance you would expect at the restaurant with its high ceiling and cozy, homey vibe.

How to get there:

The best way to get to Balay sa Busay is via Grab, taxi, or a private car.

The Pyramid

Inspired by one of France’s breath-taking Louvre Pyramid, The Pyramid is a must-go restaurant on the list. Located at the busiest district of Lahug, Cebu, The Pyramid offers one of the finest fusion cuisine – perfect for hanging out with friends and families. It also has an art gallery, so it’s a two-in-one destination.

Surprisingly, this cafe is very affordable even with the classy exterior – with meals starting at about $2 and $5 for a wine bottle. The restaurant highlights pizzas, pasta, salads, cheese bars, and of course, wine. Breakfast, brunch, and dinner menus are offered daily with a specialty selection of entrees for different parts of the day.

How to get there:

The Pyramid is situated in Central Bloc, Cebu I.T. Park, Lahug, Cebu City. It is right across eBloc 3, beside Yakski, and near to Sugbo Mercado I.T. Park. To get to I.T. Park, you can ride a jeepney or taxi.

Other Attractions

Cebu always has more to offer. If you think you’re done with your itinerary based on the places to visit mentioned earlier, don’t be surprised that there are more things to try out in your visit.

Sirao Gardens

If you are in the Philippines, but for some reason, you want to experience Amsterdam, then you are in a treat when you visit Cebu. Sirao features two garden settings – the original Sirao Flower Garden (The Little Amsterdam of Cebu) and the Sirao Pictorial Garden and Camping Site. Sirao Gardens is a must-visit place if you are looking into collecting Instagrammable photos.

Sirao Gardens will definitely let you become closer to nature. You will be mesmerized by the hill-top view and the very relaxing ambiance of the place. The colorful flowers will surely be a very refreshing sight to see. You can also take a dip at their infinity pool.

How to get there:

The best way to go to Sirao Garden is via private car or taxi. However, if you chose to ride public transportation, you can ride a van for hire at Ayala Cebu Terminal to Sirao. The drop off point is somewhere near the location, but you have to ride a “habal-habal” (motorcycle) to get to the gardens.

Osmeña Peak

Suppose you love reaching new heights in a very literal sense. Let’s take you to a higher level – even the highest mountain in Cebu. Osmeña Peak is definitely one of, if not the best viewpoints in all of Cebu. Don’t be intimidated, though, as the hike to the peak is relatively a piece of paradise easily achieved. You will be rewarded at the peak, with a 360-degrees view of Cebu Island.

At the trail, you will find a lot of tour guides. However, the hike is literally very well-marked, so you can actually easily follow the path to the summit and can be easily done by people of all fitness levels. Don’t expect any intense activities as you scale the mountain heights. It is recommended that you time your hike before dusk so you can see the marvelous sunset at the peak.

How to get there:

From Cebu, take a bus to Oslob at the South Bus terminal. You can tell the driver or the bus conductor that you are visiting Osmeña Peak, ride for about 3 hours. Alight at Dalaguete junction. From there, rent a “habal-habal” directly to Osmeña Peak. The ride is about 45 minutes.

Colon Street Shopping

You can’t say that you have been to the Philippines if you have not experienced a market day in the country. The best place for a market day at Cebu is Colon Street. Colon Street is a preserved piece of history in the Philippines. The avenue was actually part of the initial town plans of the early Spanish conquerors in the Philippines.

Today, you can enjoy haggling over a multitude of products at Colon Street. The best way to do this is to travel with a local and let him or her do the haggling for you. It’s a great shopping experience that you should try for sure. Don’t get carried away shopping, as Colon is easily the busiest street in Cebu – so be alert and watch out for scammers or pick-pockets.

How to get there:

From SM City Cebu, ride a bus to Colon Street.

Crown Regency Sky Adventure Experience

Who says that hotels are only for resting and sleeping when traveling? Well, Crown Regency made theirs a must-go-to spot in Cebu. Located at the heart of the capital sits the tallest hotel tower in the Philippines. The hotel not only boasts of its excellent accommodation, but it also has an amusement center as well – featuring spine-chilling rides, romantic dining, and a picturesque view of the city.

The highlight of the hotel is the world’s first and only “Edge Coaster,” which takes the guests around the outer edge of the hotel’s 38th level for 360 views of Cebu City. The seats feature state-of-the-art NASA technology restraint systems. And if that’s not enough, you can take a stroll at the 37th level through the edge of the hotel and encounter suspended walkways.

How to get there:

The Crown Regency Hotel & Towers is located along Osmeña Boulevard (aka Jones Avenue) near Fuente Osmeña, about less than an hour’s drive from Mactan International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City.

Tops Lookout

One of Cebu’s most splendid viewpoints is actually very accessible from the city. Located in the mountainous area of Busay sits Tops Lookout. As you visit the place, you will be awed by very ingenious architecture. As you tour the site, you will be greeted by circles everywhere. Even the corridors are all circles and appear as if they were portals of some sort.

Every inch of Tops is Instagram worthy. However, everything else is almost unmatched by the natural beauty of the panoramic view of Cebu. The edge of the atrium of the structure serves as a perfect spot for an overlooking view of the city. To “TOP” it all up, the venue also features a bar – perfect for the relatively cool climate of the area.

How to get there:

The easiest, but expensive way is by taking a taxi to and from Tops. If you want to commute, ride a Lahug bound jeep from Osmena Boulevard and asked to be dropped at Tops, but you have to walk a little bit. You can also rent a “habal-habal” directly to Tops.

There are literally endless ways to enjoy your travel in Cebu, but one thing is for sure – that you will get to enjoy every last moment of it. Visiting Cebu will satisfy every visitor of different appetites and passion for traveling. Make sure to get yourselves ready, your camera or video cam on hand, and with excited hearts, visit Cebu. You are indeed in for a treat of a lifetime.

Don’t worry if you think that you can’t fit everything in one visit – there’s always time for seconds.

Author

The Eyerly Family is a tight knit family from Texas. Married for 10 years Dane and Deena are the parents to six awesome kids! In 2021 the Eyerly's are leaving normal life behind to travel full-time throughout the United States in their Double Decker Bus which has been converted to a tiny home. They've been featured in Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Style, Medium, and Latestly. Learn more about The Eyerly's here.

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