CEBU: A PRACTICAL BACKPACKING TRAVEL GUIDE FOR FIRST-TIME TRAVELERS [UPDATED as of 2021]

Note: As a precautionary measure in this time of COVID-19 pandemic, it is best to check with the authorities the updated travel requirements and possible restrictions that might affect your travel plan. Contact Cebu Tourism Office at cebuprovincialtourism@gmail.com or at (032) 888 2328 to know the latest update.

Remember to always follow the health and safety protocols imposed from your travel origin to your destination. I wish you a safe trip ahead!

Backpacking Cebu for the first time? This detailed DIY backpacker travel guide is exactly what you need. Scroll down and take note of the outlined information from sample itinerary and budget, best places to visit, top things to do, recommended transports, budget-friendly accommodations, and other travel tips. Have a fun and enjoyable trip ahead!

START HERE!

BACKPACKING CEBU AT A GLANCE

CEBU is a dream destination for backpackers. Its attractions are low-cost, nature-based, the finest of its kind, and varied enough to bring a lasting excitement even for a long-term travel.

As a native Cebuano, I take pride to what our beautiful island can offer. On a good chance for other budget travelers and backpackers to experience the same feeling, I share to you this detailed 14-day itinerary which highlights the best of Cebu.

WHERE TO STAY IN CEBU

Considering that Cebu has four major tourist areas: Cebu City, Mactan Island, South Cebu and North Cebu, the best place to stay is largely dependent on your itinerary.

Note: Except during Sinulog festival, Cebu is walk-in ready when it comes to accommodation; but it is highly suggested to book your stay ahead of time.

ACCOMMODATION IN CEBU CITY

When spending a day or two around Cebu City, you want to consider an accommodation that is within or near the city proper for easy access to transport. Below are some of the top-rated accommodations at the city proper. Click the photo for more details.

Cozy, 2-BR condo w/ Wifi,near SM Seaside
Rating: 9.4 | Price: P1,489 for an apartment good for 4 persons
OYO 476 Hedda Hotel
Rating: 8.8 | Price: P1,277 for a family room good for 4 persons
18 SUITES CEBU
Rating: 8.8 | Price: P2,015 for a room good for 3 persons
HORIZONS 101, 34 CVIEW
Rating: 8.9 | Price: P1,600 for an apartment good for 3 persons

ACCOMMODATION IN MACTAN ISLAND

The best accommodations in Mactan are beach resorts to enjoy the waterfronts and water activities that Mactan Island can offer. Here are two of the beach resorts. Click the photo for more details.

CRIMSON RESORT & SPA
Rating: 8.4 | Price: 7,296 for a room good for 2 adults and 2 kids
MOVENPICK HOTEL MACTAN
Rating: 8.3 | Price: P4,080 for a superior king room good for 3 persons

You can also opt to stay at an accommodation near Mactan airport. Click the link for more details.

ACCOMMODATION IN SOUTH CEBU

Depending on your itinerary, here are best-rated accommodations at the key areas around South Cebu. Click the photo for more details.

MOALBOAL

PESCADORES SEAVIEW SUITES
Rating: 8.5 | Price: P1,607 for a room good for 3 adults and 1 kid
OCEAN SAFARI SUITES
Rating: 9.3 | Price: P2,325 for a deluxe room good for 3 persons

OSLOB

OSLOB MALONZO PENSION HOUSE
Rating: 8.8 | Price: P1,532 for a room good for 3 adults and 1 kid
SUSADA’S INN
Rating: 9.2 | Price: P1,600 for a family room good for 4 adults and 2 kids
BANGCOGON RESORT
Rating: 8.5 | Price: P1,213 for a room good for 3 persons

BADIAN

ACCOMMODATION IN NORTH CEBU

Bantayan and Malapascua Islands are two of the top tourist destinations in North Cebu. The best accommodations in these islands are resorts with access to white beach sands. Below are few of them. Click the photo for more details.

BANTAYAN ISLAND

AMIHAN BEACH CABANAS RESORT
Rating: 9.0 | Price: P3,800 for a room good for 3 persons
ANIKA ISLAND RESORT
Rating: 8.6 | Price: P2,692 for a room with a garden view good for 3 adults and 2 kids
AMIHAN SEASIDE INN
Rating: 9.6 | Price: P3,174 for a room with balcony good for 3 persons

MALAPASCUA ISLAND

OCEAN VIDA RESORT
Rating: 8.9 | Price: P3,659 for a room with a garden view good for 3 adults and 2 kids
MALAPASCUA GARDEN RESORT
Rating: 8.4 | Price: P1,406 for a superior room good for 3 adults and 1 kid

HOW TO GET TO CEBU

Here are options in getting to Cebu.

By Air

There are 50 domestic and international cities that fly to Cebu. Here is the list specific to these cheaper airlines: Cebu Pacific and AirAsia:

Domestic

  • Puerto Princesa, Palawan
  • Cagayan de Oro
  • Caticlan
  • Davao
  • Iloilo
  • Kalibo (Boracay)
  • Manila

International

  • Hongkong
  • Singapore
  • Taipei, Taiwan
  • Tokyo, Japan

You will arrive at Mactan International Airport. To know how to get to Cebu city, South Cebu or North Cebu from the airport; or to get around Cebu in general, click the link.

By Ferry

Here are nearby provinces that offer a ferry trip to Cebu:

  • Bohol
  • Dumaguete
  • Leyte

Although available, traveling by ferry from Manila or Cagayan de Oro is highly discouraged as travel consumes close to 1 day.

BACKPACKING CEBU ITINERARY & BUDGET

Here is a quick view of Cebu backpacking DIY itinerary that is good for 14 days. However, this too can be shortened to 2 to 5 days or even a week-long itinerary, depending on your travel schedule.

  • Day 1:         Cebu City
  • Day 2-4:      South Cebu
  • Day 5:         South Cebu + Mactan Island
  • Day 6-11:    North Cebu
  • Day 12-13:  Camotes Island
  • Day 14:       Cebu City

Total Budget: P17,000+ (excluding accommodation)

The itinerary assumes a party of two and assigned budget per day is good for 1 person. Read through and feel free to comment below should you have further questions.

Tops of Cebu

DAY 1: Cebu City Heritage Walk and DIY Mountain Tour

Budget: P1,000.00+

  • Arrive at the airport
  • Breakfast | P100 average meal
  • Travel to Fort San Pedro to kick off the Heritage Walk (may take half to full day depending on your pace) | P340 total entrance fees
Built in honor of a man’s undying love to his late wife. Temple of Leah (which is still undergoing construction) has drawn thousands of visitors due to its renaissance-inspired temple with 24 chambers, museum, gallery and library that keep all of Leah’s favorite collection. If the ongoing construction is not a bothersome, check out the place preferably during late afternoon or sunset. For more information visit their site at templeofleah.com.

In bold are the best rated spots of the heritage walk:

  • 1st stop: Fort San Pedro
  • 2nd stop: Plaza Independencia
  • 3rd stop: Malacañang sa Sugbo
  • 4th stop: Magellan’s Cross
  • 5th stop: Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu
  • 6th stop: Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
  • 7th stop: Cathedral Museum of Cebu
  • 8th Stop: Rajah Humabon Monument
  • 9th stop: Colon Obelisk
  • 10th stop: Heritage of Cebu Monument
  • 11th stop: Jesuit House of 1730
  • 12th stop: Yap-San Diego Ancestral House
  • 13th stop: Casa Gorordo Museum
  • 14th stop: Museo Sugbo

You may want to check my vlog on DIY Heritage Walk Tour. Feel free to SUBSCRIBE.

Make use of the Google map to know which street or direction to go from one heritage site to another. In case you are not comfortable using the app , check this post about Heritage Walk for an easier guide.

  • From Museo Sugbo, travel to JY Square mall and arrange a City Mountain Tour with GotoTops at +63 942 518 0870 or to any motorcycle driver that park near the area| P1000 budget for tour and entrance fees. Caution: Motorcycle drivers may take advantage. Haggle and agree on the price before hopping on the motorcycle to avoid any inconvenience later on the tour.

Check my vlog about Temple of Leah, Tops of Cebu and Taoist Temple.

In bold are the recommended places to visit:

1st stop: Taoist temple
2nd stop: Sirao Flower farm
3rd stop: Temple of Leah
4th stop: Tops

Here’s my vlog about Sirao Flower Garden and Terrazas de Flores.

The list of spots might be too much for a day. If you are saving up time, I’d rather that you visit those spots that are in bold. After the city tour, dine in any of the following,

  1. Larsian – A lineup of small eateries that offer cheap, grilled foods in authentic Cebuano flavor. It is located beside Chong Hua hospital at Fuente Osmeña rotunda.
  2. La Vie Parisienne – a restaurant which offers a variety of croissants and wine. It is located in Gorordo avenue, near JY Square mall
  3. The Pyramid – A pyramid-shaped bistro that offers quality food, wine and music. It is situated in IT park, Lahug; few meters away from JY Square mall.

Or better yet, head out to any bar in the metro and experience the night scene. 🙂

The Pyramid of Cebu
The Pyramid located at IT Park, Apas, Cebu City. It’s a unique bistro with the right blend of music and wine. Don’t miss this spot in your visit to Cebu.

DAY 2: Whale Shark Watching, Sumilon Island, Tumalog falls, and Cuartel Heritage Park

Budget: P1,500.oo+

An underwater shot of the gentle giant. A word of caution: Do not get close to the whale sharks to avoid deep bruises.
  • Wake up at 4:00 a.m. and head out to South Bus terminal. Take a bus to Bato via Liloan. Travel time to Oslob is 3 hours.
  • Drop off at brgy. Tan-awan in Oslob. Inform the driver ahead. Fare is P150.
  • Register, pay for P500 and enjoy the whale sharks for 30 minutes! Operating hours is from 7:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. only.
  • Arrange a boat for Sumilon Island. Boat rent is P1,500 for an entire day. Beach bum and rest!
  • Lunch
  • Back to mainland. Arrange a motorcycle driver outside the resort and head out to Tumalog falls. Fare is P50 per person. Travel time is 10 minutes.
  • Check in to your accommodation and clean up.
  • Head out to Oslob Cuartel Heritage park at 6:00 p.m.
  • Dinner at the nearby market. Try the local barbecue.
  • Lights out!

Day 3: Mountain peaks of Badian and Dalaguete and Waterfalls of Samboan

Budget: P1,000+

At the top most part is a less foggy view of Badian island and Tañon strait as seen from Osmeña peak.
  • Wake up early and take your breakfast. The activities for this day are energy draining.
  • Catch the sunrise or the morning fog depending on the weather at your first stop: Osmeña peak. You can arrange the mountain tour at the junction in Dalaguete where there is a lineup of motorcycle drivers offering a tour for P400 per person covering the three (3) summits, P200 if one summit only. Check out the link for the Mountain Trilogy complete guide.
  • The fog clears out usually at 9:00 a.m. Enjoy the view from the summit. Afterwards, head out to Casino peak for another view of the beautiful terrain of South Cebu.
  • Proceed to Candongao peak to complete your mountain peak trilogy experience. The three summits are only minutes away from each other and can be covered in 5 hours to half day.
  • Lunch
  • Take a bus to Samboan. Fare is P50.
  • Look for a motorcycle tour for P400 at the town proper that would cover the 3 waterfalls: Aguinid, Binalayan and Dao falls. The first 2 waterfalls are near the main road while Dao falls would require a ride to the highlands for 15 minutes. Each waterfall is a must-see. Check out the link for more details about the 3 waterfalls.
  • Dinner. Take a good rest.
  • Tip: The summits also offer  a good view of the sunset. You can have the waterfalls in the morning and the peaks in the afternoon. Suit yourself. 🙂
  • Lights out!

Day 4: Moalboal Island hopping and Canyoneering in Badian

Budget: P2,300.00+

Panagsama beach of Moalboal is where all water adventures happen. Its shore is filled with diving centers which offer scuba and free diving courses both for beginners and advanced divers; and an island hopping experience to Pescador and its neighboring islands. Common sights under its water are slow-swimming turtles, dolphins, a tornado of tiny flickering sardine fish, and unadulterated coral reef which make Moalboal one of the best diving sites and marine sanctuaries in the Philippines
  • Breakfast
  • Take a bus bound for Moalboal. Fare is around P70. Head out to Panagsama beach where you can arrange an island hopping adventure: Pescador island, sardine fish, and turtle point. Contact Vicmar at +63949-337-0450 to charter a boat for P2,500. (You may invite joiners to save up some budget.)
  • Lunch
  • Go to Badian for canyoneering. Bus fare is around P30. Drop off at Matutinao beach resort and look for a canyoneering guide in the area.
  • You may check in at any accommodation in Moalboal. Spend the rest of the afternoon at White (Basdaku) beach and enjoy the sunset.
  • Dinner
  • Lights out!

For a hassle-free experience, arrange your Badian Canyoneering Adventure and Kawasan Waterfalls Private Tour with KLOOK. Click the link for details.

Day 5: Lechon, Simala shrine and Mactan island

Budget: P700.00+

10,000 Roses
  • Take a bus to Sibonga. Visit Simala shrine.
  • Take a bus to Talisay. Head out to their market to buy lechon and chicharon.
  • Take a bus back to Cebu city. Travel time is 2 hours.
  • Drop by Taboan market if you want to buy dried fish.
  • Ride a jeepney to SM Cebu City. At SM terminal, take a van to Mactan Island. Here is a link dedicated to the top spots in Mactan island. In bold below are the recommended places.

1st stop: Cebu Yacht club
2nd stop: Lapu-Lapu shrine
3rd stop: Alegre Guitar factory
4th stop: 10,000 roses
5th stop: Cebu Happy World museum

Mactan Island is a haven of fancy beach resorts. You may skip the tourist spots and spend the afternoon to any resort. Or better yet, skip this day entirely and replace it with Day 6.

Day 6: Bantayan Island Part 1

Budget: P1,000.00+

Sunset at Paradise beach is one of the finest. 😉
  • Head out to North bus terminal and catch the latest bus bound for Bantayan island. Fare is P225 for bus, P170 for van. Travel time is 5 hours. You will arrive at Hagnaya port. Last ferry trip to Bantayan from Hagnaya port is around 5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Fare is P170.
  • In Bantayan, rent a motorbike for P300 and head out to Paradise beach and enjoy the sunset.
  • Dinner at MJ Square – an arcade of restaurants located in Santa Fe, Bantayan.
  • Lights out!

Day 7: Bantayan Island Part 2

Budget: P1,200.00+

The white, coraline sand of Kota beach at Santa Fe. The beach offers accommodation. Contact them at +63 956 276 4410, +63 948 799 3787.
  • Sunrise at Kota beach
  • Breakfast
  • Island hopping: Virgin Island and Hilantagaan Island for P1,500. Contact Duke Rio at 09569342846.
  • Enjoy the beach or visit other spots in Bantayan using a rented motorbike. Here is a separate blog dedicated to Bantayan island.
  • Lights out!

Day 8: Malapascua Island

Budget: P500+ (excluding scuba diving)

The best that Malapascua island can offer. It is a long slice of white sand devoted to entertain tourists for its natural beauty.
  • There are 2 options to get to Malapascua from Bantayan. First is by an outrigger boat which you can arrange with a local at the beach of Santa Fe for P1,500 or take a ferry back to Hagnaya port at the mainland. Fare is P170. From the port, take a Rough Riders bus for direct travel to Maya port, the access to Malapascua island. If it’s not available, take a Ceres bus bound for Bogo for P12, then to Maya port for P50. At the port, take a passenger boat for P100.
  • Enjoy the beach or go scuba diving and catch a sight of the thresher shark!
  • Dinner
  • Lights out!

Day 9: Carnaza Island

Budget: P1,000.00+

Carnaza Island has become the hottest summer go-to destination in Cebu last 2018. It is new and characterizes the powdery, white sands that can rival that of Bantayan and Malapascua islands. The island offers a glamping experience where guests can sleep in glamorous tents as seen in the photo.
  • Take a bus bound for Tapilon port in Daanbantayan.
  • Travel by boat to Carnaza island. Fare is P150. Travel time is 2 hours.
  • Enjoy the beach.
  • Contact the following for reservation and inquiries about Carnaza island: 0936-731-6495 / 0999-860-9761 / 0936-731-6495

Day 10: Danasan Eco Park Adventure in Danao

Budget: P1,500.00+

Head out to the great outdoor and go rappelling, trekking, waterfall exploration, high cable traverse, zipline, wakeboarding, or ATV ride. Contact them at +63 917 301 3171, +63 922 865 5779.
  • Take a bus and drop off at Danao, Cebu
  • Contact them ahead to arrange for pick up. Contact nos. +63 917 301 3171 or +63 922 865 5779 or visit their page. 
  • Go trekking, rappelling, ATV trailing, skybike and waterfall exploration.

Day 11: Cebu Safari and Adventure Park in Carmen

Budget: P900.00+

Get giddy at the biggest zoo in the Philippines. Visit is pre-arranged and is good for a full day activity for P800. Contact them at +63 995 835 3460.
  • Enjoy the full day activity. Experience the wild!
  • Cebu Safari and Adventure Park in Carmen (North Cebu) is the biggest zoo in the Philippines owned by pawnshop tycoon Michel Lhuillier. The visits here are regulated and pre-arranged. Contact them at +63 995 835 3460 or visit Cebu Safari Facebook page.

Day 12: Camotes Island Part 1

Budget: P1,000.00+

A public beach with a blanket of powdery, white sand. The beach faces east and is a perfect location to wait for the sun as it rises in the morning.
  • Head out to the port in Danao and catch an outrigger boat for Camotes Island. Boat ride is 2 hours. Fare is P200.
  • Explore the beauty of a remote and less visited tropical paradise.

Day 13: Camotes Island Part 2

Budget: P1,000.00+

  • Camotes has a number of small caves. Go for a spelunking adventure! There are a number of motorcycle drivers that offer a tour that range from P1,500 to P3,000.
  • Snorkel. Enjoy the beach. Rest!

Day 14: Back to Cebu City

Budget: P200.00

Cebu City’s Temple of Leah
  • When you are back in Danao, head out to their jeepney terminal at the back of Gaisano mall and ride a jeepney (P35 fare) or van (P50 fare) bound for Cebu city. You can also wait for the bus at the main road bound for North Bus terminal. Travel time is 1 hour.
  • Head out to the airport. Bid goodbye. 🙂

TIPS

While this article is best suited for DIY budget travelers, we also share the same sentiments with those who love to go on a tour package. KLOOK offers the most affordable and hassle-free tour services for Cebu.

Here are some of its tour packages. Click each link for more details.

For other KLOOK services like transport and tour offers, use the search box below:

Klook.com

USEFUL PHRASES

Like in any parts of the Philippines, the locals in Cebu can speak and understand English. However, here are some good phrases that might prove useful when you find yourself endearing with them.

English to Cebuano (the most prevalent language among the locals in South Cebu)
Thank you – Salamat
Good morning – Maayong buntag
Good afternoon – Maayong hapon
Good evening – Maayong gabii
How much is… – Pila ang…
Where is… – Asa ang…

MEET THE BLOGGER

Leaning on our boat at Punta Sibaring 1. This photo was taken during a high tide.

Hey there! I’m Ker, The Fun-sized Traveller. Fun-size because I’m a short guy from the Philippines. Thanks for checking out this virtual block I have started building since my 30th birthday to document my 2nd quarter life. Yup, it’s more of a personal pursuit, but a part of me also wants to give back to the travel community that is why I make it a point to share travel articles out from my trips around Asia.

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