Have you ever dreamed of traveling around the 81 provinces of the Philippines? Or even globetrotting the world? But it seems a sad realization just hits you that certain circumstances (e.g., insufficient budget, hectic work schedules, other priorities) posed a hindrance in ticking some items off your bucketlist?
Cheer up and dream no more! You’ll be surprised to know that you don’t have to travel great distances for the rewards of awe-inspiring attractions and fun-filled jaunts, ‘coz Cebu might just have it all.
A New York-based magazine Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Islands list named Cebu as the World’s 6th Best Island. Rightfully so, there’s never a dull moment in Cebu. To demonstrate visual diversity of Cebu Province, here’s a personal round up of astonishing places of interest and exploits in Cebu that closely resemble some of the famous international destinations and impressive Philippine spots.
Satiate your wanderlust as I trot out twenty-five (25) charming feats around Cebu.
1.) Flower Farm
When the flower farm craze spread like wildfire in the social media, netizens flocked into the hillside of barangay Sirao to experience the Spring season and relish the beauty of the fiery multi-colored field of celosia akin to the tulip fields of the Netherlands. In light of the foregoing, it is branded as the “#miniAmsterdam” of Cebu.
ALSO READ: 10 IG-worthy Floral Destinations in Cebu
As of writing, burlas (local name of celosia) blooms anew, awaiting to stage your selfies. From JY Square Mall in Lahug, and take a habal-habal (motorcycle for hire) for PhP 100 per way. Travel time is about 30-35 minutes. Entrance fee is PhP 30 for unlimited photos and PhP 100 for taking videos. Its neighboring garden has a lesser fee of PhP 25.
2.) Maze Garden
Lose yourself and be a-MAZE-d with the most beautiful hedge-flavored puzzle in the country. This London-inspired living maze is situated in Capilla Santa Ana, just a 5-minute cab ride from Metro Plaza Toledo in Poblacion. After paying the entrance fee (i.e., local PhP 100, foreigner PhP 200, student PhP 50), visitors will undertake a 30-minute historical tour of the relics of local & international saints (one of the biggest collections of relics in the country), before one can solve the labyrinth garden.
To go to Toledo City from Cebu City, catch a bus at the South Bus Terminal bound for Toledo or take a van-for-hire (v-hire) near USC for PhP 100. Please note that as of writing, all v-hires (South GT Express Terminal) previously stationed near the Compania Maritima building and SM Seaside City Complex is now located at City Center, Junquera St. corner Sanciangko St., Kamagayan, beside USC main campus.
3.) Amorous Edifice
Jaw-dropping Romanesque edifice resembling ancient pantheons, embodying amorous significance and offering a remarkable view of the beautiful cities of Lapu-lapu, Mandaue and Cebu. That’s how I describe Temple of Leah. Be captivated with its inspiring story ~ erected as a tribute of a husband’s love (Teodorico Adarna) to his deceased wife (Leah Albino-Adarna). It serves as a reminder that undying love is more powerful than life, it lives beyond death. In short, forever exists! ❣ ♥ ❤
Though construction is still on-going, one can already play like a Roman God/Goddess while embracing the grandeur of this love-crafted architectural beauty for PhP 50 entrance fee. Take a habal-habal ride from JY Square, Lahug for PhP 75. To save on fare, avail of Manong Jan-Jan’s trifecta package: (Temple of Leah, Sirao Flower Farm & Tops) for PhP 150/way/person; mobile 0947-180-2705.
4.) Marmol Cliffs
You don’t need to get a visa just to see the gorgeous Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA. One can have a glimpse of this red-layered beauty in the quaint municipality of Tuburan, located in the northwest side of the province. Marmol Cliffs boast stunning solid rock formations, impressively carved by Tuburan river, and distinguished by its smooth red and mud-yellowish layer of marble walls.
To get there, one may opt to go to North Bus Terminal to (PhP 120 v-hire, PhP 100 non-A/C bus), or Ayala Center Cebu Terminal (PhP 140, v-hire only). Alight at Tuburan’s town center and look for a habal-habal (PhP 150-200 roundtrip). Getting there is a whole new ball game – maneuvering over the soft & shallow riverbed in swift mode.
5.) Sardines Run
Encounter school of Sardines in Cebu just like its counterpart in South Africa. Luckily, the sardine run in Moalboal is available to see for all year long. Plus, you can enjoy such phenomenon without paying for boat services. How? Since the sardines move closer ashore, you can dive right into the seemingly abyss from a reef drop-off in Panagsama beach (distinguished by a yellow boardwalk structure of a dive resort, Moalboal Ocean Blue) and witness spectacular underwater show that is the flittering of tiny, densely fish, dancing together in perfect harmony.
From Cebu City to Moalboal, you may opt for Ceres bus in South Bus Terminal (PhP 116) or v-hire at SM Seaside for PhP 100, about 2.5 – 3 hours travel time. Hire a trike from the town proper going to Panagsama beach (PhP 150 per way, good for 5 – 7 persons).
6.) Secret Oasis
There’s no desert to begin with but Olango graced a little secret oasis in the middle of a hot and sandy island, associating that futile portion of Sahara Desert in Morocco. Olango Island is good for a day trip, perfect for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the Metro while enjoying the scenic mangrove forests and migratory birds in the Wildlife Sanctuary. Diving, snorkeling and loafing around the island’s stunning beaches are some of the ways to maximize your itinerary. Best for budget travelers.
Olango Island is only about 20 minutes boat ride from Mactan Island. There are 2 piers to catch boats, one being next to Mövenpick Resort and the other next to Portofino resort, pay around PhP 15.
7.) Grand Festival
Touted as one of the country’s liveliest and most distinguished festival due to its month-long celebration, Sinulog gives Cebu a name, a vibe and a culture! Drawing lots of spectators from all over the world, it can rival Brazil’s glorious Rio Carnival. Whatever side are you on – religious or cultural aspect, joining Sinulog festivities first hand can surely guarantee a feel of a more celebratory spirit.
Held every 3rd Sunday of January, unleash your wild side and party your way into a festive mood at least once in your life! Book your flights and accommodations as early as possible. Click the banner below for a list of accommodations in Cebu!
8.) Sacred Heritage
Rediscover one of Cebu City’s rich past when you visit Taoist Temple. Built by the city’s Chinese community, it is the most prominent Chinese temple in the country where devotees and non-worshipers alike can pray, meditate and do some soul reflection. Em (IG handle: emsmithcb), a fellow Pinoy of Chinese descent, took this shot last weekend in what seems like a replica of the Great Wall of China, backdropped by the biggest dragon statue in the area.
Situated up in the hills of a posh subdivision, Beverly Hills in Cebu City, this sacred place can be visited by riding a habal-habal from JY Square, Lahug for PhP 10. From the gate of the subdivision, it’s a 15-minute walking distance along Woolbright Drive and Canyon Road. Almost everything is free ~ entrance, exercise and hot tea.
You don’t have to go to Dubai just to experience an extreme sport that is skydiving. Safe, world class skydiving is also available in Bantayan Island, Cebu! While this is still on my #bucketlist, I personally asked my buddy Claude (IG handle: evangelistaclaude) to share some tips and photo of his Skydiving experience in Bantayan.
For direction in going to Bantayan, please see list #21 (Boardwalk). Contact Skydive Greater Cebu (SGC) for the opportunity to race through the sky and experience the phenomenal sensation of freefall. SGC is the only USPA accredited and U.S. licensed Skydive center in the Philippines. Costing PhP 18,000 for first timer, 1-minute freefall from 12,500 ft in wind speeds of up to 120 mph will surely be your adventure of a lifetime!
10.) Shipwreck Diving
Known for its main attraction, the elusive thresher shark, Malapascua is also a shipwreck diving destination just like in Cuba. At Lighthouse, (one of the destinations included in an island hopping package), valuable remains of the wreckage of a Japanese World War II landing craft houses great marine biodiversity and offers impressive attraction to divers. Beyond diving, Malapascua Island offers an unassertive & promising appeal for all tourists.
Getting to Malapascua is a 4-hour scenic ride up north. Catch a bus in North Bus Terminal or v-hire, for less than PhP 200 fare. Once at the port of Maya in Daanbantayan, take a 45-minute boat ride to the island. When it’s low tide, you will be transferred to a small boat that docks in the shore. Lots of habal-habal is available in the docking station for a cheap ride.
Sight of seemingly endless plains with a lone tree in the center with the dramatic presence of wildlife animals. If you pictured Safari in mind, you may want to rethink about booking a flight to Africa because you can be visually delighted with one in Camotes Island, Cebu. This eggplant plantation, near the breathtaking Lake Danao, transforms into an otherworldly spot when cast by a summer dry spell, exhibiting a timeless sight that is just perfect for a Tanzania safari selfie.
However, should you ever yearn for a real wild encounter up close, then fret not ‘coz in Carmen, Cebu, an ongoing development by the Lhuilliers of a 100-hectare Safari Resort, will showcase some of the popular Safari circuit residents (e.g., lion, zebra, camel, giraffe, tiger, etc). Slated to open to the public in 2017.
Cebu to Camotes: Taking the 2-hour ride on a ferry (Danao-Camotes) is the best way to get to the island. Take a bus from Cebu City to Danao Port (PhP 30) and a boat ride going to Camotes (choose any boat going to Consuelo, San Francisco) for PhP 180. Upon arrival on the island, lots of tricycle drivers awaits visitors, standard fixed rate to every destination applies.
Cebu to Carmen: Minibuses or jeepneys are available in Sun Gold, in front of SM Cebu, for (PhP 40–50). Alight at Nacional, the third street from Super Metro Store in Carmen, wherein you’ll see the billboards of Shemberg Biotech Corporation and St. Benedict’s Monastery. Habal-habal is available for PhP 30 per person.
12.) Of Church, Castles and Cherry Blossoms
Typically compared to the century-old castles in Europe, Simala Shrine, or the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, is a massive castle-like church located at Marian Hills, Lindogon, Sibonga, Cebu. As they say, no place is too far to visit for a miracle. Crowds of pilgrims flock to Simala Shrine daily, bringing with them their faith and prayer petitions.
While in Simala, you can teleport from Germany to Japan at an instance. Well, right at the corner of Sibonga town plaza, Cherry blossoms or Sakura trees can be found. During April to May, one can witness the blooming of Japan’s snow-white pinkish national flower for free.
From Cebu City South Bus Terminal, there are lots of mini buses that will go directly to Simala, costing Php 100 for a trip of not more than 3 hours. Alternatively, you may take a van at SM Seaside for the same amount for a more comfortable and faster ride.
13.) Rice Terraces
Ubud (Bali), Indonesia? Nope. Batad (Banaue), Ifugao? Close, but nah! Maligcong, Mt Province? Strike three!!!
Tucked away in the outskirts of Argao’s mountain barangay is an amphitheatre-like rice paddies cultivated into perfection. Carved through time, supported by rock walls, and well-irrigated with natural spring (tubod in bisaya) coming underneath a leviathan balete tree, shaping Barangay Butong’s agricultural and sloped terrains. Shot captured by my best buddy’s drone (IG handle: iameleimath). See list #24 (Natural Skylight) on how to get there.
14.) Cave Connection
Been wanting to try cave connection in Sagada but it was never materialized? Prepare to get wet and muddy as you experience one of a thrill-filled caving expedition. Tight-crawled three caves in just one day – the marvelous Binuthan Cave, and the panoramic Satuhan Cave interconnecting the treacherous Pangasag Cave.
While enjoying the subterranean journey, one may also satisfy his/her religious inspirations to pray inside an underground chapel. Cebu City’s Satuhan cave offers such spiritual activity just like in Callao Cave of Peñablanca, Cagayan.
Couldn’t get any more awesome with them #AdventureGrammers (IG handles: roycats, iamjumper, count_gabz, neverbeendan and foureyedlaagan -> check our experience in his blog). For guiding and transportation services, contact Manong Philippe at 0943-399-4386.
15.) Enchanted River
AhHh, Cancalanog Falls, Alegria – such a mystical paradise, away from the city’s hustle and bustle. A 15-minute trek from the jump-off point will lead you to a pleasant surprise. Though the water drop itself is not that majestic compared to some other famous falls, the clear and deep catch basin is so inviting. There’s something in its emerald hue state that entices you to jump, dive and cool off in its natural pool, making it note-worthy to be labeled as Cebu’s version of Hinatuan’s Enchanted River.
Going to Cancalanog Falls is made easier by the boom of Cebu’s canyoneering adventure. You can take a bus at Cebu South Bus Terminal bound for Bato (via Barili) and alight in Brgy. Compostela, Alegria where a conspicuous signboard “Canlaob Canyoneering” is erected. Ride a habal2x and enjoy the scenic, albeit winding, 15-minute ride. Fare is not more than PhP 75 per person. Entrance fee is PhP 20.
16.) Kawa Hot Bath
When in Antique, one of the most popular destinations for travelers is the Kawa Hot Bath in Tibiao. Do you know you can experience being cooked in a hot kawa in Cebu? Yes, at Fantasy Lodge Cebu Resort, Samboan, take a moment and recharge by immersing oneself in a massive cauldron with waters 40 degrees Celsius hot, scented with essential oils. A fellow mountaineer, Judylyn (IG handle: del_bacz), shared her shot in the boiling kawa while overlooking the panoramic view of Tañon Strait and Negros Island as backdrop. See full review here!
Hop into one of the yellow buses bound for Bato (via Barili). Apprise the conductor to drop you off at Fantasy Lodge in Dalahikan, Samboan with the resort located on the right side of the road (4 hours travel, PhP 192).
17.) Man-made Forest
With sprawling lush and woody landscapes that is densely stretched over a panoramic area and divided by a long and winding road, this hidden wonder of Minglanilla can easily be mistaken for Bohol man-made forest. While adventure seekers begin their spelunking excursion in the seven white caves that lies deep within the bosom of the town, cave explorers will surely pass by this thick foilage of mahogany trees leading you to believe you are transported to Bilar, Bohol at an instance.
To reach there, board a yellow bus bound for Bato-Oslob (Southern Cebu) and tell the conductor to drop you off at the Minglanilla plaza. Hire a habal-habal and tell the driver you’re heading to the Seven Caves in Campo Siete. You may contact Marc Oralde (facebook only, no mobile # as of writing) of Gamayng Paraiso Tours for affordable guiding services.
18.) Chilly Highlands
Standing approximately 1,000 meters above sea level, Cebu’s highest peak, Osmeña Peak will leave you breathless. While its jagged multiple hills resembles the famous Chocolate Hills of Bohol, the chilly weather of Mantalongon allows for growing of veggies earning its moniker “Little Baguio” or the “Summer Capital of Cebu”.
Lots of buses ply South-bound assuring a heritage and coastal journey to the royal town of Dalaguete. After a 4-hour trip, alight in the town junction and take habal-habal ride all the way to the foot of Osmeña Peak. (PhP 100 per person, travel time is 30 minutes).
19.) Cliff Diving
Zip, dive, swim and paddle in FUNtastic Island, ‘coz it’s always adventure time! Nestled on the western part of Gibitngil Island, this action-packed destination offers cliff-diving, among others, just like in Siquijor’s Salagdoong Beach. It has more or less the same height with more or less the same rush of adrenaline experience. While at the top of the diving board, you will be lured to jump right into the emerald hue water below making it a must-try activity in your lifetime.
From North Bus Terminal, hop a bus bound for Kawit Medillin, and alight at Alpine pantalan in Kawit. Bus fare is PhP 150 for aircon bus, non-A/C is PhP 143 (3.5 hrs to 4hrs est. travel time). For faster approach, take a v-hire for PhP 150 (2hrs &30mins.)
Video edited by my idol and collaboration partner, Jack (IG handle: jak73). For affordable FUNtastic boat service, you may contact Jhondel Monato via mobile 0933-302-6638.
20.) White Sand Beach
Cebu is dotted with a lot of beautiful beaches comparable with that of the famous Boracay or Palawan ~ Sugar Beach in Bantayan and White Beach in Moalboal, to name a few. But personally, I’d love to loaf in a less touristy paradise, where I can have a little piece of heaven all to myself, treading the turquoise waters and brushing my sole onto the fine white sands. The splendid Lambug Beach in Badian equally fits the criteria. Make a new discovery on one of the best secret beaches in Cebu, and unwind on a tight budget.
From the South Bus Terminal, take a bus with a Cebu-Bato (via Barili) route (PhP 120). Inform the conductor to drop you to the drop-off point on the way to Cebu International Golf and Resort. From there, ride a tricycle to Lambug Beach for PhP 25 each.
A concrete version of Siargao’s Cloud 9 Boardwalk can be discerned visually in Madridejos, a town of Bantayan Island. Kota Park’s main draw, a 187-m footbridge known as Bontay Baywalk, connects the shore to a watch balcony, wherein one can catch a glimpse of the setting sun, feeling the sea breeze while appreciating the charming and laidback vibe of the island.
From Cebu City, catch a bus or van in Cebu North Terminal going to Hagnaya Port in the town of San Remegio (PhP 160) or Ceres bus direct to Bantayan town proper via Sta. Fe. (PhP 200). Travel time is 3 – 4 hours. From Hagnaya’s Port you’ll hop a 45-min. ferry boat (PhP 170 fare + PhP 10 terminal fee) to Santa Fe, Bantayan Island. Tricycle (PhP 25/person fare) can take you from one municipality to another (going to Madridejos from Sta. Fe or Bantayan and vice versa).
22.) Summit Chasing
A combination of Rizal’s Mt. Lubog rocky summit, Pampanga’s Mt. Arayat forested trail and Benguet’s Mt. Ugo historical significance, Mt. Manunggal is a summit chaser’s dream destination. Considered as one of Balamban heritage sites, an Annual Adventure Trek is held every March to commemorate the death anniversary of President Ramon Magsaysay, wherein weekend warriors or families alike can camp-out or just go on a picnic. You may also climb Mt. Mauyog (famous for its brain-like peak) as it’s just an hour-trek from Mt. Manunggal.
From Ayala Center Cebu Terminal, ride a v-hire for PhP 120. You’ll have scenic ride for 45 minutes along Transcentral highway before arriving at the jump off point (Barangay Gaas). From the jump-off, one can start hiking or ride a habal-habal to the chapel in Mt. Manunggal for PhP 50. Alternatively, take the challenging route, get off the van once you have this signage in sight “Welcome to Cantipla/ Tabunan Integrated Sch)” and from there, ride a habal-habal going to the jump-off point, a bridge in Brgy. Tabunan separating Cebu City from Balamban.
Cebu City’s Tagba-o river system offers a unique scenery and activity much like that of Tinipak river in Daraitan, Rizal in the sense that adventure seekers will hop from boulders to boulders, braving every gush of the river and giving your journey a thrilling ride. The river system is riddled with challenging passages, many of which are extraordinary and spectacular.
From JY Square, Lahug, a 45-minute habal-habal ride will lead you to the jump-off point ~ a concrete footbridge/ mini dam in barangay Tagba-o ~ while actually enjoying the scenic view of Cebu City’s rural side. Fee is not more than PhP 100. Locals offer guiding services with no fixed fee (depending on your generosity).
24.) Underworld Skylight
Majority of Argao’s Balay sa Agta Cave is still drenched in raw darkness but somewhere along its chambers, it boasts a gigantic ceiling with a natural skylight that is typically compared to the one inside Langon-Gobingob Caverns in Calbiga, Samar (largest cave system in PH). Leading to this eerily beautiful spot is not an easy feat as the trail going to the mouth of the cave lies a narrow path with a protruding wall. Safety rope, coupled with extra caution, is needed. You may also include chasing Bugasok Falls in your itinerary (30-minute trek from the cave) or witness the glorious beauty of Cebu’s version of rice terraces at a nearby mountain barangay.
Take a bus bound for Bato (via Oslob) and alight at Argao poblacion (fare PhP 83). Travel time is 3 hours. It is advisable to contact the tourism office first for regulation and safety purposes (landline#: 032 – 485 – 8063). Guide will be provided at a fee of PhP 500 per guide and habal-habal (PhP 100 per person) from the jump-off point to the cave. Just add a considerable amount going to the rice terraces.
25.) Whale Shark Encounter
Donsol, Sorsogon may be the “Whale Shark Capital of the World”, but the whale shark experience is more fun and dramatic in Cebu with the presence of boats or whale shark feeders. For a reasonable price, one can have a thrilling encounter with the gentle giant of the deep (butanding in Tagalog, tuki in Bisaya). Please note, however, that the whale shark interaction guidelines (e.g., no sunscreen lotion, no touching of sharks, 4-m distance) must at all times be complied.
From South Bus Terminal, hop a yellow bus bound for Bato (via Oslob) costing PhP 155. Tell the conductor to drop you off at barangay Tan-awan whale shark tour area and head to briefing station for registration, orientation and payment of fees (PhP 500).
Seems a cliche but there’s no denying that it’s really more fun in Cebu! It’s such a big hodgepodge of various worldly and local wonders and activities, awaiting to be experienced. So you don’t really need to leave Cebu for there is always something for everyone – adrenaline junkie, seasoned traveler, religious devotee, eco-tourist or plain weekend warrior – Cebu has got you covered!
How many spots have you been to? Do you have anything to add to the list above? Are you now ready to unleash your wanderlust? Travel locally, support #LaagSugbo and always exercise responsible tourism.