CEBU CITY, The Philippines
Cebu is a busy city with far too much traffic for our liking and a general sad situation of lacking walkable sidewalks. Most people don’t head to Cebu for sightseeing but rather pass through Cebu on their way to a more idyllic beach destination in the Philippines. So no matter where you are heading in the Philippines, it’s likely that you will at some point come through Cebu. The first thing that you should know, is that Cebu Mactan International Airport is not on Cebu Island nor in Cebu City, it is in fact on the adjacent Mactan Island, which is less than 15km from Cebu City. You could of course overnight on Mactan Island itself, but with the wide range of accommodation available in Cebu City, it often makes sense to spend a night or two in Cebu City.
CEBU CITY - HOW TO GET AROUND
No matter what your chosen mode of transportation is, the city traffic of Cebu City will make your journey longer than you expected. If you are only travelling short distances and know what direction you are headed, it is easy enough to hail down a shared Easyride (open small van), hop on and pay as you hop off at your desired destination. If you can’t figure out the routes, you may just end up further from your destination than where you started (as we have learnt)! We found the most convenient way to get to your desired destination in the shortest time and in comfort, is making use of Grab ride-hailing service. It is definitely not the cheapest, but it is still fairly affordable, direct and very convenient. If you are a single person, hopping on the back of a scooter taxi (habal-habal) is also a good alternative.
GETTING TO CEBU CITY FROM MACTAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
The cheapest way to reach Cebu City from Mactan International Airport is with the MyBus service directly from the airport. Buses depart roughly every 20 minutes from 6 am to 10 pm and cost PHP50 per person when we used it. You need to purchase a ticket at the MyBus ticket booth at the airport (very close to from where the taxis depart). This will take you either to SM City Mall or to the North Bus Terminal. From here you can get another MyBus if you need to reach an area closer to Cebu Pier 1 or the South Bus Terminal. For the final part of your journey, a Grab car could be convenient or you could also opt for a private transfer in a sedan or van depending on the size of your group.
CEBU CITY - What To See And Do
CEBU HERITAGE MONUMENT
Built with dark stone and bricks, the Cebu Heritage Monument is a sculpture of tangled ships, churches, crosses, and key historical figures that are both mysterious and thought-provoking. Cebu has centuries full of history including invasions, battles, and revolutions, so consider hiring a local guide if you want to get some inside local information.
FORT SAN PEDRO
Visit the Fort of San Pedro to understand a little more about the Spanish influence in the country’s currency, food, architecture, and even their language. Fort San Pedro was built in 1738 under the command of Miguel López de Legazpi to protect against Muslim raiders.
CEBU METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL
Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral provides an interesting history lesson of how Christianity came to have such deep roots in a country whose previous religion had deeper ties with Hinduism and Buddhism. Although not a specific tourist attraction, you can stroll through the cathedral while leisurely taking in the impressive architecture.
BASILICA DEL SANTO NINO
This is the oldest Catholic Church in the Philippines which was founded in 1565 and which still bring many locals here to worship on a daily basis. When there is not a regular service in progress, you can walk through the church halls to see ancient paintings, gorgeous archways, stained glass windows all within the awe-inspiring architecture.
If you’re looking for the most spectacular 360-degree view over Cebu, then this is the place to go. You can see lush greenery, the intricate city layout and winding waterways all in one view. The view at night is especially beautiful as you can see the city all lit up and sparkling against the darkness. Don’t expect to be alone here, the place is usually bustling with tourists with their selfie sticks!
TERRAZAS DE FLORES BOTANICAL GARDEN
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets immerse yourself in the natural beauty of The Terrazas De Flores Botanical Garden which offers terraced flower gardens planted in the sides of rolling mountains. It is a little outside the city centre but worth the trip.
Located 300 meters above sea level, you’ll find a beautifully designed Taoist Temple. You’ll have to climb lots of steep steps and winding paths as you make your way to the top, but once you reach the temple, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the island. Before you enter the temple, you’ll need to wash your hands and take off your shoes.
We stayed really close to this street and while it is not the best area and the sidewalks are dirty and crumbling, look a little closer and you’ll discover that there is much to see, do and taste. Colon Street is lined with markets selling jewellery, clothing, shoes and souvenirs. Part of the experience is haggling with smiley and friendly street vendors. Be sure to also try some street food while you are there or head into a mall food court if you prefer the air-conditioned comfort.
CROWN REGENCY SKY EXPERIENCE
The Crown Regency is a whole lot more than just a hotel, it is also home to a thrilling gravity-defying experience! Conquer your fears and dare to ride the Edge Coaster which circles the perimeter of the 38th floor or strap yourself up and walk along the translucent glass floor of the building which is 126.55 meters high, or take an extreme zip line 226 meters up in the air.
SM CITY MALL
If you prefer to escape the rather scruffy and dirty city streets, head over to SM City Mall and you will feel as though you have walked into another world! This enormous shopping mall is glitzy, glamorous and packed with modern fashionable trendy outlets. We were here in December and the mall was pack with locals frantically doing their Christmas shopping. There is even an ice-skating rink, children’s playground, and arcade if you’re looking to entertain the kids. Even if you’re not there for shopping, it’s a great clean air-conditioned mall also filled with more eateries than you could possibly imagine!
AYALA CENTER SHOPPING MALL
Yet another large shopping mall in Cebu City, Ayala Center Shopping Mall also has a fantastic food court. Shopping malls in the Philippines are also known for their entertainment and you may well find a live band playing somewhere within the vicinity. The mall is surrounded by beautiful green landscapes so you can sit back, have a drink and just watch the people go by.
A little further outside of Cebu City...
HIKE OSMEÑA PEAK
One of the highest peaks on the island of Cebu, Osmeña Peak stands at over 1 000 meters above sea level. It’s a fairly easy half-hour hike which rewards you with stunning views of jagged cliffs and the sea in the distance. Locals often like to call it Cebu’s version of Bohol’s Chocolate Hills, but these are not rolling curved mounds, they are sharp protruding peaks which really do resemble a field of gigantic green Hershey’s Kisses! Getting to the entrance in Mantalongon, Dalaguete, is likely more challenging than the hike itself. The road is really only suitable for 4 x 4 vehicles although many motorcycle taxis will also take you there. Although the ride is rather bumpy, it passes through some wonderful twisty mountain roads, before reaching Mantolongon, with stunning scenery and magnificent views of fields and hills.
ISLAND ESCAPES FROM CEBU CITY
Bantayan is currently the only place in the Philippines to go skydiving, so if you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled holiday beyond the sea, be sure to head here! It’s also fairly simple to reach Bantayan from Cebu City or Cebu Nacpan International Airport. Just take a bus from Cebu City (North Bus Terminal) to Hagnaya Port (3 hours) and from there take the ferry across to Bantayan Island (1 hour)! Bantayan has a wide range of accommodation both in the town of Santa Fe and dotted all along the beachfront. You can also choose a homestay for a more local Filipino experience. The island is wonderfully small, allowing you to easily cycle between the main towns of Santa Fe and Madridejos.
A very popular destination for those wanting to escape the City, but not yet on the main tourist trail, Malapascua Island is well worth fitting into your schedule. Here you have the incredible opportunity to dive with Thresher Sharks. The tropical waters are home to beautiful corals for both scuba diving and snorkelling. Bounty Beach is the main beach on the island but there are plenty more beaches across the island. The island is so small that you can walk from one end to the other in about one and a half hours! If you’re exploring the opposite side of the main strip, be sure to also check out the lighthouse.