One of the more major provinces of the Philippines, Cebu, is the combination of 187 islands. With that many surrounding islands, this region is definitely the place to make your tropical paradise dreams become a reality. Cebu offers so many activities to dive into (sometimes literally) and once-in-a-lifetime kind of magic to be explored so get ready to immerse yourself in the interesting history and culture of this unique area.
From expansive mountain landscapes and canyons to epic seaside getaways and world-class diving, it’s no wonder that backpackers and travelers from all over the world are completely enchanted by Cebu! It can be hard to choose how to spend your days in such an adventure-filled place.
Want to know what to do, where to go, what to see… Our Cebu travel guide is the answer.
Being a tropical destination, there is no real cold season as the temperatures are pretty much always high.
From December to February, the weather is at its most pleasant. The sun is consistently shining and the ocean waters are warm. May is the hottest month with the sun hitting its peak, so watch out for extremely hot temperatures, that even last into the night.
Typhoon season is between July and September, you might want to skip these months. If you are keen to watch some of Cebu’s most beautiful big storms, then visit during October, which is Cebu’s wettest month! After October the rain takes a break and it starts to get very dry during April.
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With so many islands and places to choose from, all brimming with life and vibrancy, deciding what you want to see and do can be a little overwhelming. Where to stay in Cebu will largely depend on that decision.
Cebu City, also known as the Queen City of the South, is the oldest city in the Philippines! The city may not be as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other parts of Cebu island, but it’s a thriving metropolis in an unexpected region of the world. Cebu City offers loads of history, culture, and energy, with an atmosphere that is purely captivating.
Moalboal city is another must-visit on the island, and for the most part, it is still off the beaten track. This lazy beach town offers relaxation and is a favorite for the locals and tourists alike. For people living on Cebu, Moalboal is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Mactan Island is a dream island for underwater enthusiasts. Located adjacent to Cebu City, and connected by bridges, you can find some amazing snorkeling and diving here. Also known as Lapu-Lapu, this island features white-sand beaches, enchanting marine life, and resorts that suit every type of budget, Matacan has everything!
Best Hostel in Cebu – Hostel Seven
Hostel Seven is definitely at the top of our list when it comes to the best hostels in Cebu! This space is fun and comfortable and suits every type of traveler whether you’re alone or traveling with your whole family. There is a mixture of shared dorms and private rooms to choose from. There is a 24/hour Bar and Kitchen, with a casual rooftop lounge for you to chill and melt the afternoons away.
Best Airbnb in Cebu – Beautiful condominium
This absolutely stunning Airbnb is the perfect place for your first stay in Cebu. Located centrally, yet in a quiet location, you can walk to the main hot spots in no time, while also being able to enjoy a good nights sleep. The condo is modern and designed in a Japanese style, has an amazing view of the city and gives you access to the rooftop gym as well.
Best Budget Hotel in Cebu – Zen Rooms Hamersons
Found in Cebu City, Zen Rooms Hamersons is a convenient 11-minute walk from Fuente Osmena Circle, one of the hearts of the city’s entertainment and dining scene! This laid back and affordable hotel offers travelers free wifi, air conditioning, and their restaurant for when you’re seeking an easy early morning fix. Close to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, and only 2.3kms from the Grand Convention Centre. Zen Rooms Hamersons is value for money, and offers comfortable rooms with excellent service!
Best Luxury Hotel in Cebu – Radisson Blu Cebu
Radisson Blu Cebu is located right in the heart of the thriving Cebu City near to SM City Cebu Mall. Sprawl out at the outdoor pool, treat yourself to the spa and enjoy professional cuisine at the 3 different restaurants offering authentic Filipino and international dining! The Historical attractions, Magellan’s Cross and the Basilica Minore del Sto Niño, are only a 30-minute drive away. The Rooms feature panoramic views of the city as well as the charming Mactan Harbor. After a long day in Cebu’s warm sun, you can enjoy cocktails at The Pool Bar and enjoy the company of other guests!
Located in the central part of the Philippine archipelago, called the Visayas region, Cebu island consists of the main island and 167 other islands and islets. The island of Cebu itself is long and narrow with coastal plains, vast stretches of rolling and rugged mountain ranges!
In the city itself you will find that the public transit is made up of taxis and motorbikes, prices are super cheap and it is an excellent way to easily get yourself from place to place! If you enjoy walking, that is easy to do here and you will get a chance to experience street stalls and local life.
Our itinerary below takes in some of the best places to visit in Cebu as well as some day trips and excursions.
- Why it’s awesome: This important building was erected by Cebu’s substantial Chinese community back in 1972, and is composed of two gorgeous temples!
- Cost: Entrance is free
- Food Recommendation: Stroll over to Ananzi and treat yourself to some local cuisine served with style. This fabulous restaurant has everything, including suave settings and comfortable seating. We suggest giving the Wagyu beef burger a try.
Many Chinese temples have beautiful gardens and placid streams, but the Cebu Taoist Temple will also greet you with an eye-catching giant dragon! The dragon is a famous symbol in China for its good luck, strength, and power.
The two temples here are the Phu Sian Temple (which unfortunately is not open to the public), and the Main Temple that is a little walk to get to, being 270 meters above sea level. There are 181 steps leading up to the temple. These steps were originally made to represent the 81 scriptures of Taoism.
The entrance to the temple is a replica of the Great Wall of China, and within the serene grounds you will also find a library, church, and souvenir shop. Inside the temple complex you will have a chance to watch a performance of rituals and learn more about this unique culture and religion found in this area of the Philippines.
Insider Tip: If you arrive on a Wednesday or Sunday, watch out for the step-climbing ritual that the devotees go on!
- Why it’s awesome: You can consider The Temple of Leah Cebu’s own version of the Taj Mahal!
- Cost: Entrance is free
- Food Recommendation: Stroll over to the Delice Recipe and have a locally made breakfast! We suggest trying a Filipino style omelet.
The Temple of Leah was originally constructed 2012. It’s a new building that tells an ancient story! The temple has been built as a shrine to symbolize the undying love and ceaseless devotion that Teodorico Soriano Adarna has for his late wife of 53 years, Leah Villa Albino-Adarna.
The temple was designed to look timeless, channelling the Greek and Roman styles. It is intended to last the ages, hopefully this beautiful structure does.
- Why it’s awesome: As the name suggests, you will see some of the very best views in the whole of Cebu from Mountain View Nature Park!
- Cost: Entrance is 100 PHP ($1.80 USD) for adults and 75 PHP ($1.50 USD) for children
- Food recommendation: For food with a view make sure to stop at Top of Cebu.
The epic landscape on Cebu island has attracted people from around the world. Mountain View Nature Park is tucked in Cebu’s mountainside and in a popular area called Busay.
Busay is has become renowned for its awe-inspiring natural beauty. It is enveloped with indigenous fauna and flora, waterfalls, natural pools and wildlife, encapsulating the magic that mother nature provides. From the mountaintops of Busay, you can see a panoramic view of Cebu City and the surrounding towns.
You can also explore the Mini Zoo for free once you’ve entered, which is the home to Toucans, monkeys, snakes and other local animals!
- Why it’s awesome: This exquisite flower garden is at the top of Cebu’s famous mountainside!
- Cost: Entrance fee is 100 PHP ($2 USD)
- Food Recommendation: Treat yourself to some expertly baked sweets at La Vie in the Sky! From doughnuts to decorated pastries, you will find it all at this French-themed winery.
Terrazas de Flores is a mystifying and beautiful botanical garden that brightly sweeps over the mountainside of Barangay Malubog, in Cebu City. The slope of this botanical garden is adorned with vibrant and colorful wildflowers that have been carefully planted in rows that give off a powerful and artistic effect to the mountain. Each species of flowers were chosen specifically for their distinctive traits and the way they work together to form blossoming terraces of lush flowers.
Originally started as a fun family project, the atmosphere of Terrazas De Flores Botanical Garden is so alluring and peaceful that visitors come from around the world.
- Why it’s awesome: The Kabang Falls is one of the most beautiful natural waterfalls in Cebu!
- Cost: The habal-habal ride will cost around 70 – 75 PHP ($1.70 USD)
- Food Recommendation: Head over for dinner at La Tegola Busay and feast on some of the most delicious traditional cuisines. We suggest trying of the many different kinds of pasta offered, each is served traditionally with a flavourful sauce.
Kabang Falls is a must-see attraction that is found within Budlaan in Cebu City. One of the intriguing parts of this stunning waterfall is that it is only accessible from the city.
Ease yourself away from the city and reconnect with nature by hiking up to Kabang Falls. Once you arrive its so much fun to just dive into the fresh water and laze on the rocks, soak in some sun and refresh yourself after a long day with the soothing surroundings of nature and the flowing energy of the waterfall.
Insider Tip: Pack water with you the weather is hot here and you will want to stay hydrated!
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- Why it’s awesome: This Museum dating from the 19th century is beautiful although slightly Westernized.
- Cost: Entrance fee is 70 PHP ($1.30 USD)
- Food Recommendation: The Museum’s Cafe offers a cup of thick, bittersweet sikwate (a local chocolate brew). If you want to taste a local meal, go for the ensaymada.
The popular Casa Gorordo Museum evokes the lifestyle of the families who experienced the transformation of the Philippines from a colonial province to the modern and free society it is today!
- Why it’s awesome: This is a site that shows off the rich history of The Queen City.
- Cost: Free
- Food Recommendation: Enjoy a legendary steak from The KKD Steak and Barbecue, and if you’re wanting a more light meal then definitely give one of their fantastic soups a go!
The Heritage of Cebu Monument is a massive collection and contribution of sculptures made from all kinds of different materials. Each sculpture depicts an important scene or event from Cebu’s history and heritage. (These are some of the most stunning artworks in Cebu)
The man responsible for gifting us these captivating sculptures is a local artist called Eduardo Castrillo, and he created every one of the masterpieces that make up the Cebu Heritage Monument!
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- Why it’s awesome: It is an example of an authentic and very old home of a Cebuano family!
- Cost: Entrance fee is 50 PHP ($1 USD)
- Food Recommendation: Our Place Bar and Restaurant is a fabulous and relaxed place to enjoy a delicious meal that fills the belly and delights your taste buds! We suggest trying one of the meats and enjoying a light beer.
The Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House is another of Cebu’s interesting and fun landmarks, and it is one of the oldest houses in the whole of the Philippines! The house was originally built back in the late 17th century.
This old house is now filled with colorful contemporary artworks, antique collector pieces, and Cebuano-made native furniture. Life-sized statues reign in this home now as homage to the original owners, as well as religious deities and images of saints.
Insider Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask the locals questions about the artwork and story of this home.
- Why it’s awesome: This museum was originally built as a prison, but has been transformed into an important and beautiful landmark!
- Cost: Entrance fee is 75 PHP ($1.50 USD)
- Food Recommendation: Have a lazy meal at Casa Verde, and treat yourself to yummy snacks! We suggest tasting one of their light tortillas.
The Museo Sugbo is an excellent sight as well as a truly exciting museum! You can venture the massive gallery that is full of both ancient and modern artworks, and admire the sturdy old coral-stone material that was used to create the building.
Originally, this eye-catching and beautiful structure was Cebu’s provincial jail from 1870, and it was only recently transformed into a museum in 2004. Each of the rooms is now dedicated to the different eras in Cebu’s long and captivating history.
This place that was once called “Carcel de Cebu”, the provincial jail of Cebu, has now become a thriving and entertaining Cebu Provincial Museum.
- Why it’s awesome: This is the oldest public market in Cebu City.
- Cost: Entrance to the market it free.
- Food Recommendation: Make sure you taste the authentic street food offered at the market; this is a must-do when visiting Cebu!
Join this uber vibrant and happening market. The Carbon market is a massive conglomeration of all different types of friendly vendors all selling unique and fascinating goods. This market has become a major tourist destination because of the many choices offered and the extremely inexpensive and beautiful souvenirs provided.
The Carbon Market is over 100 years old and named after the nearby Coal depo. The current location of the market used to be the final station of the railway line, where the “coal mountains” once used to power the steam engines were stored.
Here you can enjoy a variety of products, services, and cuisine. It is a typical Filipino market, so the items offered range all the way from fresh fruit to handcrafted local artwork. Make sure to try out the food at this market, as you will not get a more traditional experience of Cebu’s flavors. One of the most fun ways to travel around this market is to take a ride on the “karetela”, which is a local horse carriage that tours around the market!
There are loads of day trips to enhance travels from Cebu City! We have listed some of the most exhilarating adventures for you to go on during your stay. Whether you’re just spending the weekend on Cebu or more than 3 days, we have you!
- The Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary is one of the most popular tourist spots on Cebu.
- There are over 50 different species of rare and exotic butterflies in this sanctuary.
- Entrance fee is 50 ($1) for adults and 25 (50 cents) for children.
The Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary was built in 1974 by a passionate Cebuano artist by the name of Julian Jumalon. Whilst he was still alive, he planted many varieties of plants food in his garden that now attract these rare beauties. This garden has now become one of the most gorgeous butterfly havens in the world, and boasts the oldest butterfly collection in the Philippines!
Whilst walking through the park, you’ll experience a unique and vast garden that provides you with the chance to see all different types of butterflies in a natural spot where they are free to flutter about flaunting their vibrant and eye-catching colors!
Along with the magical experience of the butterfly-haven itself, you can also indulge in modern art at the Jumalon Art Gallery or even browse the museum. Learn about each rare breed of butterfly, its story and its origin. These beautiful creatures are majestic and are sure to captivate you as you relax in this paradise.
- The Crown Regency Sky Adventure is an exciting way to push your boundaries and conquer your fears in Cebu!
- This adventure is not for those with a faint heart or squeamish stomach. You will be experiencing some pretty extreme heights!
- Entrance fee is from 250 PHP ($4.80 USD) to 1150 PHP ($22 USD) per person.
Fun in the sun has never been quite so exhilarating! Whether you go during the day, or even during the night whilst the stars are out, you will not be disappointed by this once in a lifetime view and experience! This adventure will take you high up into Cebu’s sky to see the city from a bird’s eye view.
This experience will have your heart thudding as you will be 126.55 meters up! You can also brave the skies by going on the Tower Zip that takes you across two buildings – the country’s first and only urban zip line! The views are outrageous, so it is well worth taking the leap.
For a more chilled and less gravity-defying experience, you can simply go to the 6D movie theatre. It is an in-your-face thrilled adventure complete with rain, wind, bubbles and motion seats to blow you away. After your movie, be sure to check out the blacklight mini golf course.
- The monastery attracted a lot of attention after the late president Cory Aquino sought refuge within the monastery from the People Power Revolution.
- Entrance is free
- The Weekend is a restaurant worth visiting and going to again and again. We suggest any one of their light meals – amazing.
Carmelite Monastery is found in Cebu City and it is the home of the well respected Carmelite nuns.
Plenty of the devotees in Cebu visit the chapel to hear mass or to light up candles and say their prayers. The Clementine Monastery is a true haven of solitude in the middle of a busy and bustling metropolitan city
The architecture is magnificent, and as you arrive you will step through huge double doors that are framed by elegant white curved walls, stained glass windows, and religious artwork.
- The SM City Cebu Mall is massive, but very well designed so you wont feel too crowded. It is the 6th largest mall in the Philippines!
- You can find 3D Imax movie theatre in the mall.
- Entrance is free
If you are a shopper or you enjoy dazzling places, then be sure to check out the SM City Cebu Mall. This gigantic mall haven is the 11 largest mall in the entire world. The SM City Cebu is an elegant building that sprawls a four-level complex, featuring eight world-class cinemas, department store, massive food court, bowling center, traveler’s lounge, an 8,000-square meter amusement arcade, and a 2,000-square meter trade hall. Above all of that, the mall also hosts around 500 glamorous retail shops, wonderful restaurants, and laid back urban cafes.
When SM City Cebu first opened in 1993, it was only catering to the broad middle class, but to now Filipinos from across the social spectrum can afford to enjoy the mall. The northwing opened in 2007 and provides two whole floors of retail restaurants, cafes and retail stores that cater to the leisure market. We all love leisure!
Gaze at the magnificent decor, find bargains and explore the fun that this mall has to offer you!
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Filipinos are by and large, very friendly and helpful and crime against tourists is rare.
Some taxi drivers in Cebu will try to rip you off by taking you the long way to your destinations, so we suggest that you get familiar with the map so you know if you might be going off track. Make sure that you discuss and agree on the cost of your trip before accepting the ride.
Snatch-and-grab happens in a lot of famous tourist destinations, and so it is a good idea to pack your things in a backpack that has a lock or to keep your handbag safely and firmly in your hands when walking down local streets.
The children in Cebu are often forced to beg, and sometimes it can get quite excessive. Although we know how heartbreaking it can be, we suggest that you do not give in. Politely say ‘No.’
Our guide to staying safe when traveling is full of basic good hints and tips and is well worth taking the time to read.
And have you thought about getting Travel Insurance for your trip? We’ve put together a roundup of Travel Insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads, our favorite travel insurance provider.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Fill your sunlit days with fun escapades around Cebu island, learning about the culture and experiencing some of the best parts of this colorful province!
Half Day Cebu Arts and Crafts Tour
Cebu is known for having some exquisite art, so come and see for yourself how it is made. You will watch in awe as local craftsmen make these magnificent works using indigenous, natural materials! Embark on an adventure into the world of Cebu’s artists.
Oslob Whale Shark Swimming and Kawasan Falls Canyoneering
Start your tour with a once-in-a-lifetime ocean dive that you will stay in your heart forever! Enjoy a swim with wild Whale Sharks. Despite this species’ intimidating name you will see they are actually docile creatures who are remarkably friendly. Whale sharks are an endangered species, and having a chance to be in their habitat will only enhance your appreciation for their beauty.
This is included with a private tour that will also take you canyoneering in the picturesque cliffs of Badian as you take for the hills. You will easily understand why Cebu has become renowned for its rolling landscapes and mountains!
Day Tour Island Hopping Adventure With Picnic Lunch
Bask in the sun for the whole day and work on that perfect tan! Go on a full day tour of Cebu’s best and most beautiful tropical beaches. This fun-filled and exciting ‘island hop’ tour will take you to all of the islands in the Mactan channel.
Not only that but you will be going to these beaches on a motorized canoe, known as a “banca” and have an opportunity to go snorkeling with the island’s magnificent aquatic life and diving in the warm ocean waters. After you have worked your appetite up, chow down on a delicious grilled lunch served in a picnic style whilst you laze on the white sands of Cebu.
No backpacking trip to the Philippines is complete without at least some time spent island hopping.
Mactan and Twin City Tour With Lunch
Explore the Queen City of Cebu and discover all of the wonders that await you in this uniquely tropical metropolis! The oldest city in the Philippines has so many spots and sights to share, and a private tour will show you all of them on this full-day tour. Embark on your sightseeing to the Basilica of the Holy Child, See Magellan’s Cross, and plenty of other fascinating historical sites that date back to the 16th century.
This Cebu city tour is rich with its diverse heritage and each of these sites capture the essence of the many marvelous stories.
Cebu: Southern Countryside
Cebu not only has some of the most amazingly beautiful seashores and cliffs, but also a scenic countryside with plenty of indigenous plantations! Enjoy a tranquil journey as you explore the gorgeous countryside surrounding Carcar. As you walk, you will catch glimpses of local rural life with this fantastic Cebu tour guide.
Watch as they go about shoemaking, cooking gourmet dishes, carving ingenious wood sculptures and relaxing as they weave baskets. You will see all of this and more as you see the authentic life of Cebu’s people, all whilst visiting centuries-old churches and prominent historical sites.
FAQ on Cebu Itinerary
Find out what people want to know when planning their Cebu itinerary.
Backpacking Cebu on a budget is an unforgettable ride. Cebu is destination that can be enjoyed by tourists from all walks of life and all over the world! Our Complete Cebu Travel Guide will make each and every day of your Cebu trip an eye-opening and exciting journey!!!!
Cebu has an unending array of scenic, tropical and heart-stopping beautiful adventures just waiting to be had by you!
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