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… This Cebu travel guide is the answer.
A Little bit about This 3 Day Cebu Itinerary
Cebu island is a stunning island province brimming with gorgeous natural scenery, waterfalls, beaches and jaw-dropping wildlife, especially marine life! Not only that, but Cebu City has some fascinating history, which can be seen from Fort San Pedro and Magellan’s Cross. It has something for every traveler, so you can be sure you’ll never run out of things to do and places to visit in Cebu!
If you’re putting together your Cebu itinerary, then you’re probably wondering how many days you should spend. Honestly, you could spend a weekend in Cebu City and Mactan island for the beaches there, but you’ll be missing out on all the best nature spots on the island. Getting around the island of Cebu is not easy, and a lot of attractions are quite a distance from each other, so I’ll be focusing on what to do in Cebu City, and then provide you with some ideas for trips to other parts of Cebu island.
In this itinerary, you’ll find three days packed with gorgeous nature, wildlife, history and culture. I have listed an itinerary suitable for three days, but you could easily spend a week visiting all the Cebu tourists spots in other areas of the island.
I’ve chosen the ideal daily structure, added times, routes to get there and suggestions on how long you should spend at each spot. Of course, you can add your own spots in, swap things around, or even skip some places if you want to. Use this itinerary as inspiration instead of a fixed plan to get the most out of your Cebu trip!
3 Day Cebu Itinerary Overview
- Day One: Cebu Taoist Temple | Temple of Leah | Mountain View Nature Park | Terrazas De Flores Botanical Garden | The Kabang Falls
- Day Two: Casa Gorordo Museum | Heritage of Cebu Monument | Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House | Museo Sugbo | Carbon Market
- Day Three: Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary | Sky Adventures | Carmelite Monastery | SM Mall
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 my 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!
The first day of this Cebu itinerary is a Cebu City tour that takes you to some of the more historic and cultural parts of Cebu. It will also take you to some of the most beautiful waterfalls Cebu City has to offer.
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. This important building was erected by Cebu’s substantial Chinese community back in 1972, and is composed of two gorgeous temples!
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!
- Cost: Entrance is free
- Getting there: Take a taxi or Grab all the way there, or take a bus to JY Square Mall and then ride a habal-habal (motorbike) up to the entrance.
- How long should I spend there: Around 1 hour should be enough.
10:30AM – The Temple of Leah
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.
- Cost: Entrance is free
- Getting there: Walk down the hill from the last stop to Sudlon bus stop, then take the 04I to Busay and walk for 30 minutes. Or, take a taxi or Grab.
- How long should I spend there: It shouldn’t take more than an hour to see.
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. As the name suggests, you will see some of the very best views in the whole of Cebu from Mountain View Nature Park!
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!
- Cost: Entrance is 100 PHP ($1.80 USD) for adults and 75 PHP ($1.50 USD) for children
- Getting there: it’s a 6 minute walk from the last stop.
- How long should I spend there: Around 2 hours should be enough to see it all and get some food.
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.
- Cost: Entrance fee is 100 PHP ($2 USD)
- Getting there: it’s a 30 minute walk from the last stop, or you can take a taxi or Grab.
- How long should I spend there: I would recommend spending 1-2 hours there.
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 it’s 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!
- Cost: The habal-habal ride will cost around 70 – 75 PHP ($1.70 USD)
- Getting there: You will need to take a habal-habal or taxi.
- How long should I spend there: You could spend all day there swimming in the falls.
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The second day we will continue with this Cebu City tour which takes us to South Cebu City to some of the best museums and culture spots.
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!
This Museum dating from the 19th century is beautiful although slightly Westernized.
- Cost: Entrance fee is 70 PHP ($1.30 USD)
- Getting there: Take a bus to National Statistics Office and walk from there. Or take a habal-habal or taxi.
- How long should I spend there: I recommend staying for around 1-1.5 hours.
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!
- Cost: Free
- Getting there: It’s a 3 minute walk from the last stop.
- How long should I spend there: It won’t take more than 20 minutes to see and get a photo.
10:30AM – Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House
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.
- Cost: Entrance fee is 50 PHP ($1 USD)
- Getting there: It’s a 1 minute walk from the last stop.
- How long should I spend there: Around 30 minutes to 1 hour.
11:30AM – Fort San Pedro
Travel back in time at Fort San Pedro, built by the Spanish in the 1730s to defend the city against Muslim attackers. You can see items salvaged from a shipwreck in the small museum in Fort San Pedro too.
It is the oldest bastion fort in the Philippines and served as the heart of the first Spanish settlement in the country, before it was taken as a Filipino stronghold during the Philippines Revolution in the 19th century.
The fort is not huge, but it’s one of the most important historical landmarks in the city.
- Cost: Entrance fee is 30 PHP ($0.57 USD)
- Getting there: it’s a 15 minute walk from the last stop.
- How long should I spend there: 1 hour should be enough to see it all.
2:00PM – The Carbon Market
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 Filipino 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!
- Cost: Entrance to the market it free.
- Getting there: it’s a 5 minute walk from the last stop.
- How long should I spend there: around 1 hour should be enough time.
3:30PM – The Museo Sugbo
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.
- Cost: Entrance fee is 75 PHP ($1.50 USD)
- Getting there: it’s a 20 minute walk from the last stop.
- How long should I spend there: You could spend anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours there, depending on how much you like history.
There are loads of day trips to enhance travels from Cebu City! I have listed some of the most exhilarating adventures for you to go on during your stay. Whether you’re just spending the weekend in Cebu or more than 3 days, I 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!
Take a boat trip to Sumilon Island and see the whale sharks
- One of the few places in the world you can see and go swimming with whale sharks.
- The ideal day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
- Get to spend some time lazing on the stunning beaches.
If you’ve had enough of culture vulturing around Cebu City then you might want to take a day trip to somewhere more iconically Philippino, such as a stunning beach island. Sumilon Island is not just known for its stunning beaches but it is also home to wild whale sharks.
Swimming with whale sharks is one of the biggest Cebu tourist attractions and certainly a unique experience. But it’s not for everyone. If you are conscious of wildlife and human impact on them, then this isn’t recommended. Some boats get too close to the sharks and there are a lot of people there swimming with the sharks, which can feel too intrusive.
However, if you are able to see them, it would be an awesome experience.
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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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 Cebu City 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.
If you want to venture further afield, you can take taxis or hire a car. I recommend hiring a car, as the island is quite big and it will make life a lot easier for you to get to the main Cebu tourist spots. You can also use Grab to hire cars and motorbikes. For long distances, it’s best to book your transfer in advance.
If you’re planning to visit the islands, ferries can take you across to Bohol, Pescador Island, Malapascua Island etc, but they are usually once or twice a day. It’s best to check the ferry times in advance rather than rocking up and expecting a boat. Of course, you can book private boat tours too, which are usually not too expensive.
It’s also worth noting that Mactan Cebu International Airport is on Mactan island, and not Cebu City. If you are arriving late at night, you should make sure to have transport to your hotel booked beforehand so you don’t end up paying a big taxi bill.
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 I 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 I know how heartbreaking it can be, I suggest that you do not give in. Politely say ‘No.’ If you’re worried about safety, follow these helpful tips:
- Don’t travel in a taxi alone, always try to find someone to come with you. If you stay in a hostel, you’ll be sure to make some friends.
- If you’re visiting the beach, keep an eye on your belongings when swimming and don’t leave them too far away from the shore.
- It is generally quite safe to walk around popular areas at night, but keep an eye out for dodgy characters.
Our guide to staying safe when traveling is full of basic good hints and tips and is well worth taking the time to read.
It’s good to get lost sometimes, but it’s also good not to get too lost. There are people that want you home in one piece.
There’s one travel insurance provider The Broke Backpacker trusts for all his wildest shenanigans… World Nomads!
Click the button below to get a quote on your insurance or read our in-depth review of World Nomads’ coverage. And then… let the shenanigans begin. 😉
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 a destination that can be enjoyed by tourists from all walks of life and all over the world! This 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!
Bye for now, but not forever!
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