CEBU – ULTIMATE BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE (with DIY itinerary, top attractions, tips and how to get there)

Summary: This blog shares an ultimate budget travel guide for Cebu with some samples of DIY itinerary and budget that cover expenses for entrance, food and transportation. All needed details for each top attraction are laid out in the post including operating hours, entrance fee, location and information on how to get there. Moreover, this blog is intended for DIY budget travelers, either solo, family or traveling in group.

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CEBU AT A GLANCE

You are coming down to one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Philippines. CEBU, the Queen City of the South, is a royalty in the field of travel more so because of its well-distributed string of tourist attractions.

At its center is Cebu City, the first capital and the oldest city in the Philippines, which brags of its colorful heritage being the very first seat of Christianity in the country. While here, enjoy a heritage walk of colonial houses, monuments and streets that stretches for about 2 kilometers good enough for a layover or half to full day DIY activity. Here is a complete detail about the heritage walk.

Heritage of Cebu Monument
Cebu Heritage Monument at downtown Cebu.

At its ends are crystalline, pristine beaches and rich diving sites. The north end is where lies the islands of Bantayan and Malaspacua, the home of thresher sharks; The south end nestles the islands of Sumilon and Moalboal which are famous for sardine fish, dolphins and turtles.

The most visited of them all is South Cebu which teases of majestic waterfalls, walkable mountain peaks and (however you feel about it) gigantic whale sharks! Check out South Cebu’s top attractions here.

Adding up to this already jam-packed attractions are the night, shopping and food scenes in the metro and the nearby Mactan Island. With an active tourism, Cebu has seen a wave of bars, malls and restaurants proliferating in all corners of the city to cater the varying frills of modern living.

Truly, the province of Cebu is a dream destination. Yet, with so many things to explore, there is too little a time. So to help you plan a better trip, here is a detailed budget travel guide. Enjoy and make every information count. 😊

A far look at Candongao peak where a Philippine flag is installed. This photo was shot from another peak opposing Candongao which is only seconds away.

QUICK FACTS & TIPS ABOUT CEBU

Here are few facts and tips to consider when traveling around the province of Cebu.

  • Cebu is highly urbanized, next to Manila. Traffic situation at its three major cities: Cebu city, Mandaue city and Lapu-Lapu city are heavy especially from 8-10AM and 6-8PM local time.
  • Cebu is the gateway for most of domestic travel destinations, which makes for a strategic location for travellers.
  • The Sinulog Festival of Cebu which honors Sto. Niño, the child Jesus Christ, is one of the biggest and grandest festivals in Asia. It highlights a grand mardi gras parade where contingents from different towns in Cebu and in the Philippines gather for street dancing. The festival happens every 3rd Sunday of January.
  • The first skirmish against foreign invaders in the Philippine history happened in Cebu at the shores of Mactan Island in April 1521. The very place is now called Lapu-Lapu shrine.
  • Cebu has a number of great delicacies. The most popular of them are lechon (roasted suckling pig) and chicharon (deep-fried pork rind) in Carcar, Cebu.
  • There are more than 100 waterfalls in all province of Cebu. The most developed are the ones found in South Cebu.
  • Like most places, summer is the best time to visit Cebu, when you get to experience the best condition of its beaches and peaks. It is also when the sardine fish are mostly present at the coast of Moalboal and when the waters are most clear for whale shark watching.
  • Cebu has a kilometer zero post at the Capitol area.
Taoist temple of Cebu City. The place is open for public viewing. Go to JY Square mall and charter a motorbike for P20 to get here.

HOW TO GET TO CEBU

Here are your 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, below are the major destinations:

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 either Cebu city, South Cebu or North Cebu from the airport, click here!

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Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu
The Basilica Minore del Santo Niño at downtown Cebu.

By Ferry

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

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

Sirao flower farm at the highlands of Cebu city. Entrance fee is P50. Visit here in May or before Halloween when most flowers are in bloom.

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TOP ATTRACTIONS IN CEBU

Here are 10 top tourist spots that you can cover in a day tour or with an itinerary for 2 to 5 days while in Cebu. Please note that these are only few of the best places in Cebu. I have created a separate blog post for top pick attractions which showcases 30 of the best places in Cebu, including some of its finest beaches. For a quick list, please see below.

WHALES SHARKS OF OSLOB

An underwater shot of the ginormous whale sharks of Oslob, Cebu.
There are three (3) guided whale shark watching centers in the Philippines. One is at Donsol in southern Luzon, the first of the three; second is at Southern Leyte; and the third which is also the most popular is at Oslob, Cebu.

OSMEÑA PEAK OF DALAGUETE & BADIAN

At the top most part is a less foggy view of Badian island and Tañon strait as seen from Osmeña peak.

KAWASAN FALLS OF BADIAN

The first level of Kawasan falls. As of January 2018, the rafts which are supposed to take guests near the cascades are prohibited due to the abuse of its operators.

CASINO PEAK OF DALAGUETE

The sweet panorama of karst, jagged hills as viewed from Casino peak.
Casino peak (or now officially Lugsangan peak) is a distinct monolith among an expanse of jagged hills at the highland of Dalaguete, Cebu elevating for about 1003 meters above sea level. The peak is easily identifiable because of its fang-looking shape. The hike en route to its top which stretches for about a kilometer is walk-able but more rocky and steep compared to that of Osmeña peak. It will take for about 20 minutes to reach the summit in a nonstop pace. Once at the top, the peak overlooks a visual treat of dotted moss-green hills reminiscent of that of Bohol. Casino can only cater 20-25 visitors at a time and walking through its peak requires extra caution because of its narrow form.

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SARDINE FISH OF MOALBOAL

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

MAGELLAN’S CROSS OF CEBU CITY

The cross was planted by the explorers in 1521 as ordered by Ferdinand Magellan to mark the start of Christianity in the Philippines. To preserve its form, it is encased in a bigger wooden cross and housed in an octagonal kiosk which has a ceiling decorated with murals that depict Cebu’s conversion to Christianity.

TEMPLE OF LEAH OF CEBU CITY

Built in honor of a man’s undying love to his late wife Leah. 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: http://templeofleah.com/

PARADISE BEACH OF BANTAYAN ISLAND

Description: The quiet, clean and secluded Paradise beach (or now known as Sandira beach). It’s a long strip of white, mostly powdery sand with a shallow, azure waters. Entrance fee is P50 for adults and P25 for kids. The private beach operates from 9AM to 5PM and does not offer cottages and food or drinks to keep it from becoming too commercial and touristy.

KOTA BEACH OF BANTAYAN ISLAND

The white, coralline sand of Kota beach at Santa Fe. The beach offers accommodation. Contact them at +63 956 276 4410, +63 948 799 3787.

10,000 ROSES OF CORDOVA

The roses all aglow at sundown.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN CEBU

Here are top things to do and activities that are worth a try in the province of Cebu.

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At the shrine is a statue of Lapu-Lapu on his armor and sword facing the old city hall of Lapu-Lapu city.

CEBU SAMPLE ITINERARY

For those who want to DIY to add value to their money, check out Backpacking Cebu post for an elaborate guide with details about sample expenses and contact info for each Cebu itinerary option below that you can combine for a trip good for 2 to 5 days or even a week:

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  • Option 1: Cebu City – Mountain Tour with P750 budget
  • Option 2: Cebu City – Walk Tour with P340 budget
  • Option 3: Mactan island – Layover activity with P600 budget
  • Option 4: South Cebu – Mountain Peak Trilogy with P400 budget
  • Option 5: South Cebu – Oslob Whale Watching, Sumilon island and Tumalog falls with P1500 budget
  • Option 6: South Cebu – Moalboal, Canyoneering in Badian and Osmeña peak (suitable for adventure seekers, can be spread to 2 days) with P3000 budget
  • Option 7: South Cebu – Samboan waterfalls – Aguinid, Dau and Binalayan falls with P400 budget
  • Option 8: South Cebu – Food trip in Carcar, Simala Shrine in Sibonga, Cuartel of Boljoon and Oslob whale watching with P1000 budget
  • Option 9: North Cebu – Bantayan island (would mostly take 2 days) with P3000 budget
  • Option 10: North Cebu – Malapascua island (would mostly take 2 days) with P1500 budget
  • Option 11: North Cebu – Carnaza Island with P1500
  • Option 12: North Cebu – Danasan Eco Adventure Park and Cebu Safari and Adventure Park P2500
  • Option 13: Camotes island (would mostly take 2 days) P1500
White beach in Moalboal
Beach bumming at the long strip of white sand at White (Basdaku) beach, Moalboal in South Cebu.

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(Tip when traveling around South Cebu: Only a motorycle-for-hire can cross one town in the east towards an opposite town in the west which would usually cost P500 and can be quite risky as travel would require scaling through the highlands. The popular option is to get a bus to Bato, the tip of the south where lies the bus terminal, and transfer to another bus of your destination. Remember, safety first!)

The fifth level of Aguinid falls which gives off a shallow catch basin and a small cavern in its center where you can freely climb up for a photo op.

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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.

Look for discounted deals from Klook from the major destinations in Asia, including the Philippines.

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WHERE TO STAY IN CEBU

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. Below is a list of mid-range to luxury accommodations from the key areas around Cebu. Click the link or use the search box for the rate and availability of each suggested accommodation.

CEBU CITY

Horizons 101 by Versteeg Vacations, with an exceptional 9.4 rating in Agoda. The place is located 5 minutes away from Ayala and SM mall. Click the photo for the rate and availability.
RedDoorz Plus @ Mabolo Cebu, rated an exceptional 9.1 out of 46 guest reviews. The place is also located within 5 minutes from Ayala and SM mall. Click the photo for the rate and availability.
ZEN Rooms M. Velez Street, one of the top-rated budget hotels at downtown Cebu. The property offers free Wi-Fi access, 24-hour security, and flat tv. Click on the photo for the rate and availability.

MACTAN ISLAND

MOALBOAL

ZEN Rooms Basic Gerty’s Place Moalboal. Rated 9 in Agoda out of 59 reviews.

SAMBOAN

Fantasy Lodge at Samboan, Cebu. The place has its own pool and a kawa bath for a more unique experience. Click the photo for room rate and availability.

OSLOB

Susada’s Inn at Oslob, rated 9.3 in Agoda out of 63 reviews. Click the photo for room rate and availability.

BADIAN

Quite a splurge but Cuestas Beach Resort has its own beach and pool that you surely going to love. Click the photo for room rate and availability.

USEFUL PHRASES

Like in any parts of the Philippines, the locals can speak English in Cebu. 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…

Tumalog is a huge waterfall that can’t be contained by a single shot from a non-wide angle camera. This immensity is well put to use as it waves at visitors even at a hundred meters away from its jump-off point. The falls cascades strongly in a horsetail and never misses to contact with its wall as it descends to the ground. Its spray when catches by a light creates a well-defined rainbow ornamenting an already breathtaking waterfall. The catch basin is shallow and wide which can accommodate a multitude of visitors.

EXTEND YOUR TRIP

For more trips in the Philippines, check out the off-the-beaten path Gigantes Islands of Iloilo. Gigantes Budget travel guide here!

Or, visit these major destinations in the Visayas:

Or, go to the surfing capital of the Philippines – Siargao! Budget Travel Guide here.

Or, visit other top destinations in Luzon:

Tour around the city of Puerto Princesa on a budget tour. Click the link for details.
After Puerto Princesa, El Nido is always the next stop over. Check out this El Nido Budget Travel Guide to know more about this top tourist destination.
San Vicente Palawan is four hours away from Puerto Princesa. Check out the San Vicente Budget Travel Guide which includes a travel itinerary to Port Barton, its most visited barangay, and learn few things about this laidback municipality. And oh, did I mention that San Vicente has the longest beach in the Philippines? Just look at the photo.
Balabac Travel guide with top things to do, travel itinerary and sample expenses.
How about extending your trip to Balabac at the southmost part of Palawan. Personally, Balabac group of islands is the best place Palawan can offer. Plus, it’s not touristy. Check out this link for details: Balabac budget travel guide.

Or visit other countries in Asia:

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2 Responses

  1. Selvi K says:

    In my list! Nice post..