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Cebu Island Travel Guide 2023-2024

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If you’re seeking a tropical haven brimming with cultural heritage, historical allure, and thrilling escapades, your ideal destination is Cebu Island. As the second-largest island in the Philippines, Cebu boasts a cornucopia of attractions and activities that cater to every traveler’s desires. Whether your inclination leans towards basking on pristine, ivory shores, embarking on underwater odysseys to explore vivid coral reefs, delving into the antiquity of temples and churches, or immersing yourself in the vivacious nightlife scene, Cebu has something tailor-made for you. This Cebu Island Travel Guide is your passport to making the most of your travel to Cebu.

Cebu Overview

Cebu, a captivating island in the Philippines, is a dream destination for diverse experiences. Immerse yourself in its rich history dating back to the 16th century at sites like Magellan’s Cross and the Basilica del Santo Niño. Explore world-class diving spots with stunning coral reefs, and embark on water adventures like snorkeling, kayaking, and meeting whale sharks. Thrill-seekers can opt for canyoneering, ziplining, or hiking to Osmeña Peak for panoramic island views.

Cebu’s pristine beaches like Bantayan Island and Malapascua Island offer relaxation and beautiful sunsets. The island’s vibrant festivals, particularly the Sinulog Festival in January, showcase the culture and traditions of the Cebuanos with grand parades, street parties, and fireworks. Cebu is a diverse and thrilling paradise for every traveler.

Philippines Cebu Island
Philippines Cebu Island

Top Things to Do in Cebu

Canyoneering at Kawasan Falls: Embark on an exciting adventure involving hiking, climbing, jumping, and swimming through Cebu’s breathtaking canyons and waterfalls, all set amidst lush greenery and turquoise waters.

Bantayan Island Beaches: Experience beach paradise on Bantayan Island, boasting white sandy shores, crystal-clear waters, and a laid-back ambiance. Enjoy relaxation, swimming, snorkeling, or rent a bike to explore the island’s beauty.

Temple of Leah: Marvel at the grandeur of this majestic temple, constructed by a wealthy businessman in tribute to his late wife. The temple showcases Roman-inspired architecture, statues, fountains, and a museum with the couple’s personal belongings.

Sumilon Island Marine Biodiversity: Explore the vibrant marine life on Sumilon Island, home to a marine sanctuary, a sandbar, and a lagoon. Snorkel or dive to witness colorful corals, fish, sharks, and turtles. Unwind with a picnic on the sandbar or in the serene lagoon.

Camotes Island Water Adventures: Camotes Island offers natural wonders like caves, lakes, waterfalls, and springs. Dive into water adventures like kayaking, spelunking, cliff diving, and swimming. Explore heritage sites and local markets on this picturesque island.

Malapascua’s Thresher Sharks: Dive into the famous diving spots of Malapascua, especially Monad Shoal, where you can encounter rare and graceful thresher sharks in their natural habitat. Explore the underwater world with manta rays, hammerheads, and seahorses.

Colon Street – Philippines’ Oldest Street: Walk the historic path of Colon Street, dating back to the Spanish colonial era. Discover shops, markets, restaurants, and historical buildings while immersing yourself in local culture and savoring street food.

Cebu Heritage Monument: Delve into Cebu’s heritage at the Cebu Heritage Monument, a sculpture that narrates the history and events of the region from pre-colonial times to the present day. Admire depictions of ships, churches, crosses, and influential personalities that have shaped Cebu’s history.

Philippines Cebu Temple of Leah
Temple of Leah in Cebu

Where to Stay in Manila

Below are some recommended areas and lodging options in Cebu Island:

Cebu City:

Cebu City, the capital and largest city of Cebu Island, is the perfect choice for those seeking urban amenities, vibrant nightlife, shopping, and diverse dining experiences. This area is replete with historical and cultural landmarks like Magellan’s Cross, Fort San Pedro, Basilica del Santo Niño, and Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. Consider staying at one of these fine accommodations:

  • The Henry Hotel Cebu: A four-star gem adorned with unique European decor and artwork.
  • Marco Polo Plaza Cebu: A luxury hotel with breathtaking city and island views.
  • Mad Monkey Cebu City: A fun and friendly hostel featuring an outdoor pool and sun deck.

Mactan:

Connected to Cebu Island by two bridges, Mactan Island beckons with its beautiful beaches, resorts, diving spots, and water sports galore. It’s also home to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, making it a convenient option for travelers aiming to skip the Cebu City traffic. Some top hotel picks on Mactan Island include:

  • Costabella Tropical Beach Hotel: A four-star resort boasting a private beach, swimming pool, tennis courts, and family-friendly activities.
  • Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa: A five-star retreat with a spa, golf course, marine sanctuary, and six restaurants.
  • Murals Hostel & Cafe: A cozy and vibrant hostel featuring a cafe, rooftop terrace, and complimentary breakfast.

Moalboal:

Located on the southwest coast of Cebu Island, Moalboal, a three-hour drive from Cebu City, is a sought-after destination for backpackers and divers. Here, you can revel in stunning coral reefs, diverse marine life, and the captivating sardine run. Moalboal is also conveniently located near natural attractions like Kawasan Falls, Osmena Peak, and White Beach. Consider staying at one of these notable hotels:

  • Moalboal Tropics: A three-star hotel with an outdoor pool, garden, and free Wi-Fi.
  • Pescadores Seaview Suites: A beachfront hotel offering an infinity pool, jacuzzi, and complimentary kayak rentals.
  • Chief Mau Hostel: A modern and minimalist hostel with a shared lounge, kitchen facilities, and a balcony.

Oslob:

Situated on the southeast coast of Cebu Island, Oslob is approximately a four-hour drive from Cebu City and is famed for its whale shark watching tours, offering the opportunity to swim with these gentle giants in their natural habitat. Oslob is also in close proximity to other attractions such as Tumalog Falls, Sumilon Island, and Boljoon Church. For your stay, consider these notable options:

  • Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort: A four-star retreat on a private island, featuring a lagoon pool, sandbar beach, and nature trails.
  • Oslob Malonzo Pension House: A budget-friendly guesthouse with air-conditioned rooms and free Wi-Fi.
  • Stay N Save B&B: A charming bed and breakfast offering a garden, terrace, and complimentary breakfast.

How Many Days to Stay in Cebu

Cebu Island stands out as a picturesque spot in the Philippines, teeming with numerous attractions and activities for your delight. The duration of your visit hinges on your personal inclinations and financial means, but seasoned explorers recommend setting aside five days to capture the essence of this island.

An exemplary five-day plan for exploring Cebu Island might be as follows:

  • Day 1: Arrive in Cebu City, then head to Moalboal for a beautiful sunset and vibrant nightlife.
  • Day 2: Enjoy canyoneering at Kawasan Falls, with jumping, sliding, and swimming in turquoise waters.
  • Day 3: Snorkel with sardines and turtles in Moalboal’s marine sanctuary.
  • Day 4: Explore more waterfalls in the south and hike Osmeña Peak for panoramic views.
  • Day 5: Return to Cebu City or visit Oslob to swim with whale sharks, or explore Cebu City’s historical attractions, like Magellan’s Cross, Fort San Pedro, and the Basilica del Santo Niño.

Nevertheless, this is merely one recommendation, and you have the freedom to tailor your trip to align with your passions and available time. Cebu Island brims with numerous other sites to explore and activities to partake in, from diving, island hopping, mountain biking, to exhilarating ziplining adventures, and more. You also have the option to extend your stay and venture to the nearby islands, such as Bantayan, Malapascua, or Camotes.

Philippines Cebu Kawasan Falls
Kawasan Falls

Cebu Weather & Best Time to Visit Cebu

Cebu Island is a top destination in the Philippines, famous for its beautiful beaches, historic sites, and vibrant cultural festivals. It experiences two seasons: dry from January to May and wet from June to December.

The best time to visit is from January to April for sunny weather and outdoor fun. In contrast, June to September is the rainy season, which means lower costs but potential inconveniences like canceled tours. From October to November, Cebu offers stable, pleasant weather with fewer crowds. December kicks off the dry season, bringing holiday festivities but higher prices and more tourists, so booking ahead is wise.

Cebu Transportation: How to Get to and Travel around

How to Get to

By air: The most popular and straightforward way to reach Cebu Island is by air. Cebu boasts an international airport known as Mactan-Cebu International Airport, situated on Mactan Island, connected to mainland Cebu by two bridges. This airport facilitates flights from both domestic and international locations, including Manila, Bohol, Tacloban, Boracay, Iloilo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo, Dubai, and more. Booking flights is easy – you can check schedules and purchase tickets online via various airline and travel websites.

By sea: Alternatively, you can access Cebu Island by sea. Numerous ferries and boats link Cebu to various islands and provinces in the Philippines like Bohol, Negros, Leyte, Samar, Palawan, Mindanao, and more. For those starting in Manila, there’s a ferry option to Cebu, an approximately 11-hour journey that costs around P1900 for a one-way trip. To book ferry tickets, you can check schedules and make reservations through multiple websites or directly at the port.

By land: If you’re already in the Visayas region, you have the option to travel to Cebu by land. Buses run from different cities and towns to Cebu City or other areas within Cebu Province. Alternatively, you can rent a car or motorcycle and enjoy a scenic drive along Cebu’s coastal roads, but do keep in mind traffic conditions and adhere to road safety rules when opting for land travel.

Philippines Cebu Flight
Mactan-Cebu International Airport

How to Travel Around

Exploring Cebu Island in the Philippines offers a variety of transportation options. Here are some of the most common ways to get around:

  • Bus or Coach: Ceres yellow coaches and GT Express people carriers are budget-friendly and convenient choices for traveling between towns and cities on the island. Look for them at bus terminals or along the main roads.
  • Jeepney: These colorful, open buses are a beloved and iconic mode of transportation in the Philippines. With fixed routes and fares, you can easily hop on and off. Jeepneys are typically lively, crowded, and a fun way to experience local culture.
  • Tricycle: Found mainly in rural areas and smaller towns, tricycles are motorbikes with sidecars that can accommodate up to four passengers. They can reach places that buses or jeepneys can’t. While they’re cost-effective and negotiable, they might not be the fastest or safest option.
  • Pump Boat: Wooden canoes with small engines power pump boats, commonly used for island-hopping and coastal exploration around Cebu. These are often rented by groups of tourists or locals and can be arranged at ports or resorts.
  • Taxi: Taxis offer the most comfortable and convenient mode of transportation in Cebu, particularly in the city. You can find them at airports, malls, hotels, or on the streets. Online booking options, like Uber or local ride-hailing apps, are also available. Taxis are metered and regulated, but they can be pricier and harder to come by during peak hours.
Jeepney in Manila
Philippines Jeepney

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