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CEBU – ULTIMATE BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE (itinerary, expenses and top attractions)

UNDERSTANDING CEBU

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.

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 situates 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 jampacked 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

  • 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. Here are seven (7) stunning waterfalls that you can visit in the south.
  • 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

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 click here!

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.

TOP ATTRACTIONS IN CEBU

I have created a separate blog post for top attractions which showcases thirty (30) of the best tourist spots in Cebu. Click here. For a quick list, please see below.

  • Whale 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 and 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.
  • 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.

MUST-TRY ACTIVITIES IN CEBU

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

There are a number of tour operators in Cebu if you are up for ease and convenience. 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 itinerary option below:

  • 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

(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!)

Some tour operators in Cebu:

  • Gift Tours Cebu +63 922 866 0900,+63 995 913 2945
  • Biyahing South and North Cebu +63 977 762 6470, +63 923 869 8818
  • JDG Cebu Travel and Tours +63 921 831 5508
  • Rent a Van c/o Gariel +63 995 122 7808
  • Wonders Car Rental Cebu +63 917 632 2695
  • RufBuc Car Rental +63 956 800 0615
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.

WHERE TO STAY IN CEBU

Except during Sinulog festival, Cebu is walk-in ready when it comes to accommodation. From budget to mid-range and luxury, here are some of its accommodations:

CEBU CITY
Mayflower Inn (032) 255 2800
Naps x Adventure (032) 415 1065
Cest La Vie Pension (032) 253 2376
AllSon’s Inn (032) 232 1640
Hotel Stella (032) 238 5050
Fuente Oro Business Suite:  +63 (32) 268-7912
Hotel Sogo +63 (32) 254-1042
Marriot Hotel: +63 (32) 411-5800

MACTAN ISLAND
Jo-Cris Apartelle +63 933 509 3702
AOSMEC Square (032) 316 4600
Ayo Homtel +63 917 701 6182

SOUTH CEBU

MOALBOAL
Ester Homestay (Basdaku): +63 927 578-5983
Moalboal Backer Lodge (Panagsama): +63 917 751-8902

SAMBOAN
Villa Isabela (Ponong) : +63 916 370-9104

OSLOB
Chateau de Tan-Awan (Tan-Awan) : +63 917 912-7783

BADIAN
La Playa Resort (Matutinao): +63 932 475-1194

NORTH CEBU

BANTAYAN ISLAND
RR Lodging House (032) 438 9999
White House +63 950 299 6617
Casa del Mar House +63 919 463 2919
Onde Guest House (032) 438 9206 | +63 919 666 7090
Seaview Apartelle (032) 438 9058 | +63 919 438 1296

MALAPASCUA ISLAND
Logon Beach Resort: +63 920 472 1451
SLAM’S Garden Resort: +63 905 343 3495, +63 926 785 3743

CAMOTES ISLAND
Mangodlong Rock Resort: (032) 345 8599, (032) 344 6899
Santiago Bay Garden and Resort: (032) 345-8599, +63 917-3292448

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.

USEFUL PHRASES

English to Cebuano (the main language)

Good morning – Maayong buntag
Good afternoon – Maayong hapon
Good evening – Maayong gabii
Thank you – Salamat
Where is… – Asa ang…
How much – Tagpila

BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER

Lastly, have fun! Don’t just travel for Instagram. 😉

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2 Comments

    • thefunsizedtraveller thefunsizedtraveller

      Thanks for visiting my site, Selvi. Keep in touch! 😉

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