I used to think that Cebu was just an ordinary place in the Philippines. Yep, beaches, beaches, beaches! As a guy living in an archipelago, I’ve been to many of them, and I believed that Cebu was just another place I know.
It was a shame that my mind worked that way because I have entirely proven myself wrong the week I stayed in Cebu. Ever since we left Cebu, I have never stopped looking forward to another chance to revisit it.
Our trip to Cebu was just incredibly exhilarating! And I wish it was longer, like 2 weeks or 3! I will tell you about them, the 7 best things to do in Cebu in this blog post.
The Reasons Why You Should Visit Cebu
Aside from English speaking locals and affordable travel, Cebu is a destination in the Philippines that will give you:
- Awesome life-changing adventures
- Paradise-like beaches
- Out of this world underwater sanctuary
- Stunning mountain views
- Roaring waterfalls
- Crazy city experience
- Mouth-watering food
- A lively and vibrant festival
- Colorful gardens
Cebu has everything that you’ll ever wish to experience, and it is only an island in the Philippines! You don’t need to fly, cross borders, and book many hotels just to experience everything.
Actually, Cebu blew my mind when I realized that I had all those experiences, all on one island and all in one week. It’s crazy! I’m sure your trip to Cebu will be jampacked full of unforgettable memories and amazing stories too.
The 7 Best Things To Do in Cebu
Indeed, we really had a great time in Cebu. Every one of us in our group said that we must redo our trip because it was just EPIC! I was dying from stress from work the day before we went to Cebu. But, after the trip, I felt great, like totally refreshed.
We’ve been to more than 15 specific places in Cebu. Among them, these seven places listed below made the most significant impact on me. I arranged the list from sites closest to the airport to the farthest and in appetizer-climax-relaxing order.
When you arrive in Cebu, I think it is better that you do the city exploration first. Let this be your appetizer for the amazing experience waiting for you on your vacation.
If you are a foreigner, don’t forget to hire a van or motorcycles to move around the city. It is much convenient and fun! You can also try public transportation, it’s a good experience, especially jeepneys.
Taste the best food from House of Lechon or check out the Cebu Sky Experience Adventure from the top of Crown Regency, the tallest hotel tower in the Philippines. They’re two of the best Cebu city experiences.
When you finished exploring the city, you’re ready to get farther.
TIP: If you will be exploring southern Cebu already, it’s better that you book accommodation in Moalboal. It is a town with better access to all the adventures in south Cebu.
Sirao Flower Garden
Sirao Flower Garden is located in barangay Sirao, in the highlands of Cebu City. It is the first best thing to do in Cebu once you arrive from the airport.
It is definitely an Instagrammable place, especially for women. There are seats all around the place where you can enjoy watching and admiring flowers of different colors and shapes. This is also the reason why this place is liked by many lovers.
There are also windmills here (but I think they are not actually windmills) to make you feel like you’re in the Netherlands while strolling around the garden.
Why did I include this on my list if I don’t have a partner or not a lady? Well, it’s just so relaxing. There is fresh air, scented with the flowers all around, and the mountain view from the garden’s slopes. If you love mountains too, you got to make it here!
It is a perfect place to go after being exposed to life in Cebu city. With just a couple of dollars (P100) for the entrance, you can enjoy and relax for an hour or two with nature and with the person you care about the most.
When is the best time to go to Sirao Flower Garden?
The best time to go here is during sunrise when the temperature isn’t yet hot and when the crowd is just waking up. You might catch a dreamy view of the mountain also at this time; the fog could still be covering the forest down the slopes. The Sirao Flower Garden is open from 6 in the morning until 6:30 pm.
How to go to Sirao Flower Garden?
If you plan to commute to Sirao Flower Garden, hop on a jeep with the following routes: 17D, 17C, 17B, 04M, 04L, 04H, 04D, 04C, 04B (source: cebuwanderlust.com). These jeeps stop in JY Square Mall, where you must alight. From JY Square Mall, get a motorcycle for hire service (Habal Habal) and tell the driver to bring you to Sirao Garden. The ride should not cost more than 4 USD (P200). You can ask the Habal-Habal driver to wait for you to go back to the city with additional payment.
Another option is getting a shuttle service. It is way more convenient than commuting! Check this tour agency which everybody is talking about. Lastly, you can download Smart Phone Angkas or Grab (both offer motorcycle rides for cheaper fare) to book a trip to Sirao Flower Garden.
Cebu Tops Lookout
It is a fort-like viewpoint of the city at the summit of Mount Busay north of Cebu City. Tops lookout reminds me of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, where you view the whole city. Visiting is a great thing to do in Cebu when the weather is clear.
The elevation of the Tops Lookout will make you feel that you are in the sky. You’ll see clouds float at a level same as yours. You are going to enjoy the sight from the edge of the viewpoint with the picturesque city skyline. If the climate is pleasant, you will be able to see the whole of Cebu City, Mandaue, and Mactan Island clearly. They say, sometimes, you can even spot the coastline of Bohol in there.
There are green benches at the viewpoint where you can spend time watching the city in relaxation. Actually, when we arrive in tops, there were people having Yoga. Well, that’s proof that this place is really relaxing! 😀
Photo credit: @louielaurenz
I like this place because it was so peaceful and quiet (at least when there are no people around, that is when we visited this place). For me, it is a good place for people who want to be relaxed and want a quality chill moment with someone.
When is the best time to visit Tops Lookout?
You MUST go to Tops Lookout late afternoon just before sunset on a weekday (As what most people suggest). The view from Tops Lookout will surely be amusing when the sun starts to hit the horizon. Just Imagine the color of the sky turning yellow to orange to red while you watch the city lights begin to glitter as it gets darker. It’s fantastic! After the sunset, it’s time that you eat your dinner, drink beer at the benches while overlooking the city.
Sadly, we did not have the chance to visit Tops during the afternoon because we were short on time. We just made Tops Lookout as our second stop after Sirao Flower Garden in the morning before we left the city.
By the way, Tops Lookout is open 24/7.
How to go to Tops Lookout?
Going to Tops Lookout is similar to the commute going to Sirao Flower Garden. First, ride a jeepney that has these routes 17D, 17C, 17B, 04M, 04L, 04H, 04D, 04C, 04B (source: cebuwanderlust.com). Then you must alight in JY Square Mall and get a Habal-Habal ride to the Tops Lookout. It’s better to get a legitimate motorcycle ride to Tops Lookout through Angkas or Grab if you find Habal-Habal riders sketchy.
Again, there is a shuttle service that brings you directly to Tops Lookout. They also transport people to the Temple of Leah, another destination you might also want to visit.
Osmeña Peak is the summit of Cebu Island, with an elevation of 1,013 meters above sea level. For me, it is the best way to kick off your adventure in Cebu. There at the top, you will see all the spots in Cebu you’ll be going to together with the spiky rugged hills almost similar to Bohol’s Chocolate hills. I chose to add Osmeña Peak to my list because of these sights.
Hiking Osmeña peak is a laidback trek. You don’t need any hiking gear to get to the top. But if you plan to hike in the morning to catch the sunrise (like we did), it would be better to bring an extra layer of clothing. You’ll probably encounter cold, humid air at the top of the summit, which might cause colds. We don’t want to colds during our trip!
Camping is allowed within the area. It would only take about 20 minutes of walking before you reach the summit from the jump-off point. At the peak, it shall feel that you can almost touch the sky as the clouds lie just slightly higher than you.
By the way, there are thousands of mountains in the Philippines. They might not be as beautiful as the Swiss Alps, but they are a spectacle to behold. Check out the rest from the previous link 😀
Check out my experience about Mount Pulag. The first time I hiked, it was a total heartbreak! But on my second, God, it was heaven!
When is the best time to hike Osmeña Peak?
It is best to hike the Osmeña peak around 4:30pm until sunset. It is also great to catch the sunrise, but the fog likely appear more likely during the morning. During the sunset and sunrise, the rugged hills of the Osmeña peaks turn golden.
How to get to Osmeña Peak?
If you are coming from Cebu City, go first to South Bus Terminal and hop on a bus heading to Oslob or Santander. Tell the driver or the conductor to drop you off at Dalaguete Junction for Osmeña Peak. You can hire Habal-Habal to get you to the jump-off site of the trail to Osmeña Peak at the junction. Renting a scooter would work as an alternative.
Suppose you decided that to lodge first in Moalboal before hiking Osmeña peak. In that case, you could rent a scooter in Moalboal and drive your way to the jump-off site. There are also Habal-Habal and tricycles waiting for you there.
Canyoneering in Badian and Kawasan Falls
Visiting Kawasan Falls and Canyoneering in Badian, for many, are one of the best things to do in Cebu
Canyoneering in Cebu stretches 5 kilometers starting from Barangay Sulsogan of Badian to Kawasan Falls. This is the adventure that will definitely make your adrenaline overflow like crazy! Prepare your mind and body to hop on a rock, scramble, slide on water slides; get ready to jump from a 50-foot cliff to the sparkling turquoise gatorade-like water of your life!
You’ll definitely conquer your fear of falling and fear of heights. Like, before my first jump off the rock, my knees were shaking so bad that I felt I’m gonna slip and make myself a big embarrassment! HOWEVER, after a few times splashing around, I no longer want to stop. It’s exhilarating and liberating at a point. IT’S EFFING GOOD FEELING, MAN!
There are three stations in Badian Canyoneering; each has platforms higher than the previous station. You’ll begin with 15 feet, 30, then 50 at the end. The activity is both exhilarating and tiring. It will make you hungry, but don’t worry about that! There are food stalls in the middle of the canyon. YEP! There is! They sell coke, hotdogs, sweet potatoes, sandwiches.
It’s fantastic that they put stores in the middle of the jungle. So, when you try canyoneering in Badian, don’t forget to bring money for snacks! The food’s gonna make you energized to continue the adventure.
You can finish the whole course in two hours. However, I’m sure you’ll take more than that, especially if you have a mate who makes 10+ screams before every jump. It’s the factor that’s gonna make your canyoneering experience a blast! I had one, and I was like, laughing. all. the. time! Hahahha! Our adventure in Badian was one of the happiest moments of my life LOL (I am so mean. Haha!)
But, seriously, it was so great I want to repeat it one more time. AND these guys (on the photo below) are the best. The fun could not reach the level I had without them.
When is the best time to go canyoneering in Cebu?
Anytime during the dry season in the Philippines is terrific, that is, from January to April. Just check the weather the day or week before you do canyoneering. The guides will probably stop the trip if it is rainy and the water current is too strong. Of course, for everyone’s safety.
How to go to Badian for Canyoneering?
You must already have accommodation around Badian or Moalboal before you start your canyoneering adventure. Book kawasancanyoneering.com and Klook tours and let them arrange everything for you, including your transportation to and from the jump-off site. Check the next section to know how to go to Moalboal.
Don’t forget to bring your gadgets to capture all the crazy moments while canyoneering!
Moalboal Beach and Sardine Run
Moalboal will be the peak of the wonder of your trip to Cebu, definitely one of the best things to do in Cebu.
There, you’ll see beautiful sunsets, clean, warm seawater, white sand, colorful corals, rich marine life, and of course, the sardine run. Moalboal is located on the west side of the island of Cebu facing Negros Island.
There are a lot of activities that you can do in Moalboal. From hanging out to camping on the beach to meeting starfishes, snorkeling, diving, nightlife, there will be endless activities for a week of stay in Moalboal. There is just one activity that you should not miss out on, and that is watching the sardine run!
Moalboal is my game-changer. I was a solid mountain lover, and I love mountains more than any other destination. But when I saw the sardine run, my eyes opened wide.
I could not believe the things I saw beneath the surface of the sea. An ABSOLUTE wonder, and you must see it too! It’s another wonder of nature I would want to experience over and over again.
The amusement I felt watching the sardines is much greater than what I had in Tokyo Disneyland or Universal Studios in Singapore. I have never felt that level of awe aside from my sea of clouds experience in Mount Pulag, the third highest mountain in the Philippines.
Aside from the sardine run, there are turtles too in Moalboal. I have seen turtles from zoos but seeing them fly underwater with you feels more fascinating. Oh, one more thing, on your trip to Moalboal, don’t forget to check Pescador Island. It is full of beautiful fishes and colorful reefs.
With all these, I can say that Moalboal is the paradise that you might be looking for.
How to go to Moalboal?
Coming from Cebu City, head to Cebu South Bus Terminal and take a Ceres bus to Bato via Barili. Tell the conductor or the driver to drop you off at the Moalboal Hall or bus stop. The bus fare should not cost more than 120 pesos. The travel time is about 3 hours. When you arrive in Moalboal, you can hire tricycle cabs or rent your own motorbikes to move around the area.
Watching sardine run is free! This is how you get it.
You can see sardine run and turtles for free. If you are already in Moalboal, you just walk to SeaQuest Dive Center. There, you’ll find a path going directly to the beach and start swimming to get a sight of sardine run and turtles.
Oslob Whale Shark Watching
If you haven’t seen any marine animal that’s so big and incredible in close-up, then it’s your chance to see one in Oslob. Located in almost the southern tip of Cebu, it should be your epic final adventure on the main island.
What you’ll see in Oslob are Whale Sharks. They are the LARGEST known extant fish species. To see one of them in person is both fantastic and terrifying! It is another thing to do in Cebu that you must not miss.
One boat trip to the whale sharks lasts for 30 minutes. It will be enough to feed all your excitement. You can dive or just snorkel to watch them just below the surface. But before you do, you should have your registration on the Whale Shark Watching center and for a quick orientation.
To watch whale sharks from afar is absolutely marvelous! You’ll see how their gills open and close, how they move their enormous fins to swim and open their mouth to eat the tiny fishes the fishermen throw on the water.
I had an instance when a whale shark went close to me, and it opened its freaking colossal mouth! If only I could scream underwater from fright. I thought it’s gonna swallow me alive! I immediately crawled up to our boat and ask the guide if whale sharks eat humans. Our guide in our boat laughed! HAHA! He said their whale sharks only chomp fish and small marine animals.
What Best time to go to Oslob Cebu for Whale Shark Watching
The best time to watch whale sharks from Oslob is from 6am to 11am. There is no specific season when you should visit. Just ensure that the weather is fine when you visit Oslob by using weather apps. You got to be early to arrive. In normal circumstances, the queue for whale shark viewing gets lengthy very fast.
Either you’re from Moalboal or Cebu City, you need to start moving by 3am to 4am. It is necessary to arrive at Oslob early, especially when you plan not to get accommodation in Oslob. There are lockers in Whale Shark Watching Center where you can place your stuff temporarily, though very limited.
How to go to Oslob for Whale Shark Watching
If you are coming from Moal Boal, you have to wait for the passing buses. Provincial buses in Cebu run 24/7. They usually run in an interval of 30 minutes. From Moalboal bus stop, wait for a bus heading south to Bato. When you arrived in Bato (the conductor should make an announcement), hop on another bus heading to Oslob. The travel time is 2.5 to 3 hours.
If you are coming from Cebu City, start from South Bus Terminal. Then, ride a bus going to Bato. Ask to be dropped in Barangay Tan-awan in Oslob or Whale Shark Watching spot.
Sumilon Island and Sandbar
Sumilon is the ultimate paradise destination at the southern end of Cebu. In Sumilon, you will fill your eyes with sights of turquoise fading to blue waters with powder-like white sand. There are also diving spots, snorkelling activities here. During low tide, a magnificent sand bar appears at a portion of the island.
All these make visiting Sumilon Island one of the most compelling things to do in Cebu.
Impressively, there is a 4-star hotel on the island, the Bluewater Sumilon Resort. When you book a night here, you’ll gain access to the infinity pool, private beach area, freshwater lagoon, and restaurant. You can even rent a kayak to float around the lagoon while watching the sun soar up from the horizon.
Sumilon Island is a perfect destination after all the adventures in southern Cebu. It’s a beautiful place to relax and or have your HONEYMOON! I will bring my wife here when the time comes.
After you finished Cebu, I recommend that you visit Sagada. For me, it is the most beautiful place in the northern Philippines. It’s not a beach, though. But I’m sure you’ll like the experience. Sagada is full of Adventure, delicious food, and scenic places
When is the best time to visit Sumilon Island and Sandbar?
If you plan to visit the island in less than a day, do it during the afternoon, from 2pm to 4:30pm. According to our guide, it is the time when fewer people go to the island sandbar.
You could go directly to Sumilon island after watching the whale sharks in Oslob. If you finished early, people might still be queued up in whale shark watching. This could be your opportunity to enjoy the island in peace.
How to go to Sumilon Island and Sandbar?
From Oslob, get the boat ride going to Sumilon Island. The boats run every hour, starting from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. Going back to Oslob from Sumilon, you ride the same boats after they unload their new passengers. Unless you are staying on the island, you must get a boat that comes in between 4:30 pm to 5 pm.
You can as well book accommodation and arrange trips from the official website of Bluewater Sumilon Resort.
The best part of the year to visit Cebu
If you like going to these places, you must visit them anytime from January to April. You might also want to consider attending Sinulog Festival, a lively celebration for Sto. Nino, which occurs every third Sunday of January.
Cebu is absolutely the number one adventure destination in the Philippines. The money we spent on all our experiences is worth it! These seven places I put on the list are the ones I will surely visit again. They gave me relaxation, joy, awe, and most importantly, they taught me how to never underestimate any destination. Cebu is a mind opener and a life changer. I 100% recommend it.
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