There are few places as stunningly beautiful as Cebu in the lovely country of The Philippines. A self-governing province with a main island surrounded by 167 smaller islands and islets, Cebu is a paradise just waiting to be discovered!
The name of Cebu comes from “Cebuano” which roughly translates to “the place for trading”. Since before the arrival of Europeans in the Philippines, Cebu has been known as a marketplace for commerce. Originally part of the broader Rajahnates of Southeast Asia that combined into a culture of religion and trade, Cebu was thrust into the wider European sphere of influence in the middle of the 16th Century. Ferdinand Magellan, the famous explorer was the first European (of which we know) to reach the region in 1521 by sailing from Europe via South America to cross the Pacific Ocean.
Flush away your troubles in a Cebu waterfall!
You’ll probably reach Cebu by flying into Mactan-Cebu Airport which is located on the island of Mactan. Most flights arrive from Manila, the capital. If you’re flying internationally, you might connect from larger international hubs like Singapore or Hong Kong. A taxi is the easiest way to journey from the airport to the town and will cost you 150-250 pesos (£2.16-£3.60) for the thirty minute ride. Most tourists travel around the island by bus. Cebu public transport offers very good connections to all tourist hot spots and the islands just off Cebu can be reached easily by ferry.
Cebu is packed full of history, shopping, glorious nature and beautiful beaches. Here are my favourite sites to see:
- Cebu Heritage Monument – This is a great place to start your visit in Cebu. Right in the heart of the city, this monument tells the history of Cebu. The stone and brick structure is quite fascinating. It depicts historical battles, the introduction of Christianity and colonisation.
- Colon street – Lined with markets full of arts and crafts, this is the perfect place to hunt for souvenirs and local crafts. Try local street food and mingle with residents as you absorb the culture of the island.
- Basilica del Santo Nino– This is the oldest catholic church in the Philippines and a must-see venue. It’s been holding mass since 1565. This ancient building is very well preserved and even has a museum through which you can browse.
- Tops Lookout– Don’t miss this amazing 360 view of Cebu City. It offers incredible views at sunset as the city lights start to illuminate the sky.
- Kawasan Falls Canyoneering – This is for the adventurous at heart. Canyoneering among falls, jungle and bright blue water, this offers the perfect day out in nature. You’ll float, jump and climb through the canyons all day long. The highest jump is 50ft and, while fun, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Whale, well, well, what do we have here?!
- Mainit Hot Springs – Located in Malabuyoc, these natural hot springs are some of the most picturesque in the world. Surrounded by lush jungle with views of a beautiful waterfall, it’s definitely a must visit. The Springs are natural stone baths which range in temperature between 38-42 degrees Celsius.
- Swimming with Whale Sharks – The best place to see these magnificent creatures in the most ethical way possible is in Oslob. You can swim with these enormous animals but no touching is allowed. There is also scuba diving and snorkelling in the area.
- Beaches – The Philippines are known for its spectacular beaches but Cebu offers outstanding and mostly uncrowded slices of paradise. Here are my favourite beaches:
– Lambug Beach, in Badian, is around 3 hours from Cebu City. This white sand beach is rarely crowded so it is the best place for lazing around in the sun with a good book. It’s quite near Kawasan Falls.
– Panagsama Beach, in Moalboal, is unique because of what happens under the surface.
Space compares favourably to legroom on Ryanair!
– Paradise Beach, in Bantayan Island, is exactly that – an idyllic paradise. There are no modern buildings or developments to disturb the island vibe and it’s never overcrowded.
Here’s a pro-tip: If you’re exploring more of the Philippines, you can reach other islands, like Bohol, easily via ferry or fly from Cebu to larger islands like Palawan. The Philippines is a diverse country that is well worth the effort of exploring.
The Philippines draw on many cultural influences around Asia with their food. These are my favourite dining spots in Cebu City:
- House of Lechon– It’s hard to determine who serves up the best Lechon in the city but this restaurant is absolutely a contender! This traditional Filipino dish of spit roasted suckling pig with deliciously crispy skin is usually marinated in wonderfully aromatic herbs and spices.
- Joed’s Lutong Hapon– This Japanese restaurant offers sushi and others favourites with a delicious Filipino twist. It’s best enjoyed with friends and copious amounts of local beer. Munch down on maki platters with local ingredients to have a real taste of the location.
I likey Lechon!
- Yolk– this is a perfect brunch spot with Instagram worthy dishes. At Yolk, breakfast takes the form of deliciously aesthetic dishes; especially their eggs benedict a la Filipino which is almost too pretty to eat.
Cebu is a popular backpacker destination, so a vibrant nightlife with an international vibe is guaranteed. Cebu City has some great nightspots. Here are my favourites:
- The Distillery– This chain has a few branches around the Philippines and the owners are connoisseurs in all things liquor related. This bar is very popular among local residents and tourists; especially on Fridays. The Distillery retains a relaxed atmosphere which is great when you need a break.
- Liv Super Club – As the name suggests, this club is alive after hours. EDM blasts through the sound system as everyone dances to the vibes of international DJs.
- Morals & Malice– This upscale bar doubles as a unique art installation designed by The Philippines’s famous furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue. Apart from awesome interiors, the venue also offers the best craft cocktails and a cool atmosphere.
Here’s another pro-tip: If you’re island hopping and looking for an amazing beach club atmosphere, then look no further than Ibiza Cebu; perfect for dancing under the stars with a cocktail in hand. Located on Mactan Island, it has the best music, DJs and tapas around.
When visiting Cebu Island, I recommend choosing accommodation based around the activities you plan. Here’s where to stay in Moalboal, Mactan and Bantayan Islands:
- Costabella Tropical Beach Hotel– This stunning resort offers oceanfront views, a white sand beach and an array of activities. Located on Mactan island, it’s perfectly situated to explore both the island and Cebu City.
- Pearl of Santa Fe– Located in the beautiful Santa Fe area of the island of Bantayan, this tropical paradise is the ideal place for switching off. Set right on the cliff edge, this family-owned apartment is perfect if you’re looking for something intimate. With a lovely garden, direct access to the sea and beach and nearby fishing opportunities, it’s just ideal for a break
- Sambag Hideaway Bungalows– Where else can you stay in a tropical bungalow, step out into a warm sea and snorkel with sea turtles? This idyllic accommodation in Moalboal is also perfectly situated to access Oslob and Panagsama Beach activities.
Cebu is wonderful for relaxation!
Cebu is a beautiful slice of the Philippines that provides access to the natural beauty of this incredible country. I love the laidback island life and always long to return!