Cebu (pronounced as Say-Boo in Cebuano) is the kingdom of adventure. Being one of the bigger islands of the Philippines, it stands out with its abundance of glorious scenery and diving sites that Mother Nature has to offer. No wonder it’s one of the most visited islands by Filipinos themselves in the Philippines!
Bear in mind that when I say Cebu, I am referring to the Cebu Island. The capital city is called Cebu City. There are many towns dotted across the island. Although it doesn’t seem that far away from each other on Google Map, travel time is usually long as buses might not be on time, road condition can be unfavourable and so on.
Hence, to decrease the uncertainty to the minimum, here’s a 7-day sample itinerary. It’s basically my itinerary – tested and happiness guaranteed! Happy planning
Cebu Mactan International Airport serves both domestic and international routes. It will take around 20 minutes to travel from the airport to Cebu City proper by taxi if the traffic condition is good. However, during rush hour, it can easily become a 1-hour adventure.
I hailed an official white taxi which goes by meter to the city. You can also book a private transfer in advance (not expensive and reviews are very good) if you would love to plan ahead or if you have a big group of people travelling with you.
Depending on the time you land in Cebu, you can probably squeeze in some activities. I suggest going straight for food.
Cebu is famous for its lechon. It’s a whole spit-roasted pig that is left rendering in its own fat for a few hours. The best part? The skin. It is crazy crispy and flavourful. One piece is not gonna suffice no matter how sinful it looks. But who cares? You are on a vacation, not a diet.
There are many stores in Cebu that sell Lechon and I had it in Zubuchon and House of Lechon. I would say both are equally good, although the one in Zubuchon is much saltier. Zubuchon has many outlets whereas there’s only one House of Lechon (to my understanding) in Cebu. Furthermore, the interiors of House of Lechon is really instagrammable.
Think you know what’s Pinoy BBQ? I guess not – at least I didn’t know that Filipinos barbecue everything from the inside to the outside, literally. Go to Larsian and you will be awed by the variety of BBQ there is in the Philippines. I love Pampanga Longganisa (Filipino Sweet Sausage) and Isaw (Chicken intestine)!
I stayed at Hostel 7, which offered comfortable bunk beds with sufficient private space. The beds are partitioned in a way that you won’t see other travellers when you are in your bed. Hostel 7 is also house to one of the few award winning restaurants in Cebu called Orange Karenderia. It’s also walking distance to Larsian so if you have a grumbling stomach in the middle of the night, just walk there and feed yourself.
If you are thrill-seeker and have too much to spare, go to Crown Regency for the Sky Experience. Go all out and ride the edge coaster encircling the perimeter of the 38th floor. Doesn’t sound exciting enough? Soar in the air by taking an extreme zipline at a height of 473 feet! There are more activities that you can take part in depending on your time and budget.
I remember waking up at 5am just to catch an early bus to Badian for the Kawasan Canyoneering experience. If you want a more chillax experience, you can go with a bus that leaves later. Ceres bus (the big yellow bus) leaves every hour so you can just turn up and get your ticket at the bus terminal.
We wanted to leave earlier because the traffic in Cebu is just like a clog toilet – literally nothing is moving. There was already significant traffic coming along when we were leaving at 6am. If you are planning to leave at 8am, may God bless you.
If you take the bus at 6am, you will be there around 8am. The tour company that we chose was called “Kawasan Cayoneering“. I am really satisfied with their service. For more information about my canyoneering experience, stay tune as I will get it up soon! I also included tips on how to avoid regrets.
As it is physically straining, some might prefer a small rest after canyoneering. If you are still feeling pumped, you can head straight to Osmena peak. You can rent a habal-habal (a motorbike that can take two passengers) for a few hours and have the driver wait for you. It’s not near (1-hour journey each way) so it cost both of us 1200 PHP to go there from Badian and have him wait for us till sunset and come back. My friend is Filipino so I reckon if you don’t speak Tagalog, you will pay a little more than that.
I stayed at Chief Mau Hostel, which is located at the touristy area (beach area) of Moalboal. It was close to all the touristy stuff. However, the downside of staying at the touristy area is you have to pay for people to take you from the town area to the touristy area. It’s walkable – around 30 minutes normally but might take 1 hour if you’re drunk.
If I can choose again, I would stay at Moalboal Tropics, which is located at the town area. You get a more diverse range of food options. It’s also close to supermarkets and shops that locals frequent (a.k.a cheaper). Moreover, when I was meeting up with my newfound friends at Moalboal Tropics, I had a glimpse of their dorm and their lounge – it was incredible. They have a humongous swimming pool and the complimentary breakfast they served is gorgeous. And it’s pretty cheap too!
If you choose to stay at the beach area (touristy) of Moalboal, you are literally a few minutes walk away from the dive site to see the famous sardine run. It is also known as the Pescador Island. I don’t know why it’s called an island as it’s connected to the mainland.
Compare prices from different shops which offer the Pescador Island tour. I basically tagged along my newfound friends which were already in a tour group. I paid 300 PHP to the boatman and 100 PHP for the environmental fee. If you know how to dive and/or have your own snorkelling tools, just go on your own. It’s free!
Apart from seeing trillions and trillions of sardines, we also saw different fishes and most importantly, turtles! They aren’t hard to spot so you are almost guaranteed that you’ll see turtles according to my Filipino guide.
You can have lunch at Ven’z Kitchen, which serves overpriced Filipino cuisine and it is made to please foreigners’ taste buds. You pay around 200 PHP for a plate of sisig, but it is really good. If cooking fancies you, they also offer cooking classes.
There are other places around for you to have lunch too but generally, it’s not cheap because you are at the tourist area. Head back to town if you wanna save some kaching kaching. Cheaper, better, more options. There’s a McDonald’s if you got sick of Filipino food although that sounds blasphemous to me.
The beach around Pescador island is not the cleanest so if you would to chill, go to White Beach. It’s also one of the best places in Cebu to watch sunset too as it’s facing west. It’s a 30 minutes motorcycle ride from the touristy area (Pescador) to White beach. Remember, bargain with the habal-habal driver before you get on!
If you are going budget, go with a Ceres bus (Bato via Barili) and upon arrival in Bato terminal, transfer to another Ceres bus (Cebu via Oslob). If you prefer convenience, arrange private transfer from Moalboal to Oslob – it’s only 1-hour car ride and you save a lot of time (and precious sleep).
One thing to note though, I didn’t do the Oslob whale shark tour as I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of the business. Hordes and hordes of tourists will arrive in big buses, the whale sharks come because there’s food for them, their natural habitat is disrupted… I included it in here so that people know that there’s somewhere in Cebu for you to see whale sharks. For completeness sake.
If you are not going for the whale shark tour, you can do some hiking and see one of the best loved waterfalls in Cebu – Tumalog Falls. It’s advisable to check if there’s water coming down to avoid disappointment. Water might be scarce in that region during the dry season. Ask around.
Take a night bus back to Cebu. It’s not that comfy in the bus in my opinion but you save money on accommodation and save time.
When you are back in Cebu City, take the ferry from Pier 1 to Bohol. You will be surprised by how well-equipped the piers in Cebu are. There are different companies that offer ferry trips to different locations in Bohol so check them out. I took that one that was headed towards Tagbilaran – the main city in Bohol. It costs 400 PHP one way.
Head straight to Danao Adventure Park if you are an adrenaline junkie. There are so many activities that you can go for:
1. The Plunge – it’s like bungee jumping but you swing forward.
2. Ziplining – this is a must-do as the view is gorgeous and it only costs 400 PHP for a two-way trip.
3. Rock climbing – I didn’t have enough time for this
4. Kayaking – I prefered stand-up paddling that I am gonna talk about later
5. Caving – There are many caving options around Danao. But if you wanna do it for free, you can also head to Hinagdanan cave (which will be talked about later). It’s not like caving caving, but you get to see a magnificent cave embellished with stalactites and stalagmites.
If you wanna do many of those activites, you might wanna stay a night at Carmen so you can enjoy the famous Chocolate hills the next day. Mind you – from Danao to Alona Beach (the touristy area), it’s not that close. Thus, it’s preferable if you stay for the night after a hectic day of extreme activities. From Danao to Carmen, it’s much nearer and it’s on the way to Alona beach.
Hopefully you are renting a motorbike so you can cruise around Bohol fairly easily. Rental for a day costs around 400 PHP – I rented one that is almost brand new. If not, you can always rent a habal-habal driver for a day but obviously that will be more expensive.
Avoid all the tourists (okay maybe not all) by heading to the Sagbayan Peak instead of the Chocolate Hill Complex. There’s a resort at Sagbayan Peak and you pay a small fee (which I forgot how much it was) to go up.
After enough photos with the obligatory chocolate hills, head to the Tarsier Sanctuary. There are a few sanctuaries out there so make sure that you go to the more ethical one – Tarsier Conservation Area. They really take care of the tarsiers. When we were there, it started to rain for a little bit and the conservationists took the tarsiers in for a little before bringing them out again! Entrance costs 50 PHP.
Bilar Manmade forest is just around the corner so stop by and take some photos. It’s really cool as you see this tall trees lining up at two sides of the road forming a natural canopy.
I stayed at Bohol Coco Farm AND ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT THERE OMG. And it’s only 5 USD per day.
Head straight to Hinagdanan cave. It’s free, it’s near, it’s amazing.
After that, go to Loboc river to do stand-up paddling. It is offered by one of the river resorts. I was pretty sceptical before going there because, how much more fun can it be than kayaking? Oh man lemme tell you it’s much more fun than kayaking. The tranquility of the forest and the amazing water – just so worth it. It’s a bit more on the expensive side though. It’s 15 USD for an hour of river paddle boarding. If you have more time, you can do the one that lasts a few hours and you will paddle towards the waterfall.
After that, go to Dumaluan beach for the sunset. What’s a better way to see only few tourists and have an overpriced halo-halo (Filipino dessert)?
Take the morning ferry back to Cebu city. If you have got more time, there are many more things that you can do in Cebu.
Fun time comes to an end – fly out.
I haven’t had enough of Cebu and I wish to go back there again. There are so many things to do there, from hiking the weirdest-looking peak, to diving with trillions of sardines, I am glad I had the best time there.
If you are going to Cebu, congratulations! You just scored yourself a key to the Filipino Shangri-la!
Love it? Pin it!
I have also done an interview on the “Travel Better, Expatriate Better” series with a local from Cebu (who is my friend now) and he definitely has a better insight of Cebu, simply because he lives there! Here’s what Edrian has to say about Cebu!
Born and raised in Malaysia, Aaron is a medical student that is deeply in love with travelling. He loves to inebriate all his readers with the crazy travel stories and personal travel tips that he has gathered throughout years of travelling experience. Learn more about him here!
This post contains affiliate link(s). An affiliate link means I may earn advertising/ referral fees if you make a purchase through my link, without any extra cost to you. It helps to keep this little website afloat. Thank you for your support! Hugs and kisses from Melbourne!