UNDERSTANDING SOUTH CEBU
So much of what makes Cebu a top destination in the world is its southern part where lies a circus of nature-based entertainment for both tourists and travelers. Witness the gentle yet ginormous whale sharks dance along the small waves off the coast of Oslob, the mountain peaks of Dalaguete and Badian balance through the beaming vastness of Cebu’s horizon, and the majestic cascades of the waterfalls of Samboan trapeze to a hundred feet drop. South Cebu is an extravaganza of natural wonders – and it does not stop there!
Tourism is fascinatingly alive and sees no sign of slowing down. In fact, South Cebu is relentlessly scouting for more attractions. With its 50+ underdeveloped waterfalls, newly discovered caves, springs, beaches and mountain peaks, what we are enjoying now are but half of a full-scale tourism spectacle. While more are yet to be discovered, here are five (5) organized attractions that you can take pleasure in.
(Side note: There are three samples of 1-day itinerary at the last part of this blog post that you can combine for a multi-day itinerary. Alternatively, click the links if you are looking for a full Cebu budget travel guide or a layover tour in Mactan Cebu or check out the top 30 tourist spots in Cebu that also cover attractions in the north and other parts of Cebu island.)
GETTING TO SOUTH CEBU
Access to South Cebu is via South Bus Terminal which can be reached from Mactan airport through the following options:
- Option 1 (Cost-effective but takes more time because it primarily uses public transport.) Take a multi-cab at the airport and drop off at Marina Mall. Fare is about P10 and travel time is 10 minutes. At the mall, ride a v-hire (van) to SM City Cebu for P25. V-hire operates from 8AM to 9PM. Travel time to SM is 20 minutes. Once there, go to the terminal and take a 12G or 12I or 10M or 10H jeepney and inform the driver to drop you off at the South Bus Terminal. Fare is P10. The South Bus Terminal is a few steps farther from Elizabeth Mall.
- Option 2 (Most cost-effective and time-saving if you travel in group) From the airport, take a regular taxi (not the yellow ones) to SM City Cebu. The taxi stand is located outside the arrival area. Exit the airport and turn right for a few steps. You will line up to wait for your turn. Travel time is 20 minutes and fare is about P200. Once at SM, go to the terminal and take a 12I or 12L or 10M or 10H jeepney bound to the South Bus terminal. Travel time is 30 minutes, depending on the traffic. Fare is P10. (Note: If you want to go via taxi all the way from the airport to the terminal, fare is roughly P250.)
- Option 3 (The most convenient) Uber or Grab taxis are available in Cebu. You can either use the app or go to the booth (for Grab only) outside the arrival area to book for South Bus terminal. Fare is about P250. Travel time is 30 minutes.
- Option 4 SM offers a MyBus service which will require a reloadable tap card that would cost for P200. The card, which is available at their stations in the airport and at SM malls, gives P100 load that can be used for multiple persons per ride. Fare to SM City is P25. MyBus runs as frequent as every 30 minutes from 6:00AM to 8:00PM. Once at SM, you may take a 12I or 12G or 10M or 10H jeepney at the SM terminal or take a taxi to the South Bus terminal. Travel time for both is roughly 20-30 minutes and taxi fare is P100.
Once at the South Bus terminal, take a bus bound to your location in the south. In a nutshell, there are two routes the buses take: via Barili if you are bound to the towns of Barili, Moalboal, Badian, Malabuyoc, Ginatilan and Samboan; and via Liloan if you are bound to Oslob. To know the right bus and schedule for your location, click here.
(Note: 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 requires 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 Top Attractions in South Cebu (rank based on my rating which is found at the end part of each attraction).
Top 1: Canyoneering in Kawasan
- Description: Nothing gives you the most adrenaline rush among these attractions than the canyoneering in Kawasan. It’s a safe yet extreme adventure which starts with a walk down a forest, bemuse by the turquoise blue water, a quick heart beat while preparing to jump in, yell, adrenaline rush, submerge deep in the canyon, go out in the water, catch your breath, look around, a sigh of relief and finally, feel that great sense of joy! This attraction has drawn hundreds upon hundreds of tourists and travelers all year round and remains to be the top outdoor activity in South Cebu. While canyoneering, it is required that you wear the necessary gears and tour with a guide for safety. Bring only waterproof gadgets and wear tight swimwear for a hassle-free experience.
- Note: The biggest jump is at the last part which goes as high as 40 feet so muster up some courage and get your brave souls ready. Your first jump is an initiation. Afterwards, there is no turning back.. Kidding! 🙂
- Operating Hours: 8:00AM to 2:00PM (Getting into the canyon during sundown is highly dangerous. Please don’t ever insist for it.)
- Location: Brgy. Matutinao, Badian, Cebu
- To get there: Ride a bus via Bato/Barili at the South Bus terminal.The fare is P140 and travel time to Badian is around 4 hours. Tell the driver to drop off at the headquarters of Matutinao Beach Resort where you can arrange a canyoneering tour for P1,500 per person.
- Rating: 5/5
Top 2: Moalboal Beach, Marine Sanctuary and Diving Site
- Description: The attractions in Moalboal can be break down into two. On the one hand is the Panagsama beach 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. On the other is the White (Basdaku) beach which prides of its long stretch of fine, white sand suitable for beach bumming. At sundown, the beach also offers a perfect spot for sunset viewing.
- Note: As it is true for anything with nature, sightings of sardine fish and other marine life, although can be seen all year round, is weather permitting and not always guaranteed. It’s best to visit Moalboal during summer or dry reason for a clear view of its waters.
- Operating Hours: Scuba diving happens in the morning, afternoon and night time; while the rest of the activities usually start early in the morning and ends late in the afternoon
- Tour Fees: Island hopping for 8-10 persons would usually cost for about P1500. Free divers can enjoy the waters without paying. Scuba diving cost will range from P2000-4000.
- Location: Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines
- To get there: At the terminal, take a bus via Barili or Badian. Drop off at the bus stop in Moalboal. Travel time is roughly 3 hours and fare is P100. Depending on your sense of enjoyment, ride a tricycle (motorcycle with a side car) and head on either to White Beach (6 kilometers away) or to Panagsama Beach (2 kilometers away). You can also charter a motorcycle-for-hire for the same destination.
- Rating: 4.5/5
Top 3: Whale Shark Watching, Sumilon Island and Tumalog Falls in Oslob
- Description: The awesome Oslob and it’s three must-visit attractions: Sumilon island, Tumalog Falls and whale shark watching. First off is Sumilon, a 24-hectare island 10 minutes away at the coast of Oslob. The island is notable for its lagoon, adventure trek trail and long strip of white sand bar that changes location from season to season. Surrounding the area is a rich marine sanctuary home to baby sharks, and a well-elaborated coral reefs making the island a perfect place for snorkeling and diving. Most of the island is owned by Bluewater and visitors usually arrange a tour with them through their website: www.bluewater.com. The remaining area which is purely sand is a public place and can be reached by boat for P1,500 rent. The best time to visit the island is during low tide to get a glimpse and a full walking experience of its sand bar. Second is Tumalog falls, a huge waterfall that can’t be contained by a non-wide angle camera when captured. More details of this waterfall and other 6 waterfalls that can be found in South Cebu in this link. Lastly is the whale shark watching in Oslob. 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. Popularity sometimes equates to getting a lot of attention, including the not so favorable ones. For years, the whale shark encounter in Oslob has met several backlash from environmental groups like Greenpeace. This is due to the idea that feeding the whale sharks which are highly migratory species would eventually modify their behavior resulting to dependency to human food supply. This was true in my visit last January 2018. The whale sharks were observed to be actively parading to the boatmen as the they throw food at them. On the contrary, the local government of Oslob has set rules to regulate the encounter. Boats are without engine; guests are prohibited from using sunblock and are required to keep a certain distance to avoid causing injuries to the sharks. Life guards surround the area to ensure that these regulations are strictly enforced. Any guest who would dare touch the whale sharks will be penalized for a certain fee.
Things to note:
- Whale shark watching is limited to 30 minutes.
- Operating hours is from 07:00AM to 12PM
- Be there early. The number of tourists in a daily basis reaches to 500 to 800, and may reach 1000+ on summer and holy week.
- Whale sharks may measure up to 40 feet and have the tendency to swim close or beside humans. At all cost, do not approach them to avoid fatal injuries.
- The biggest of whale sharks are seen during the months of June and July.
- The encounter is best enjoyed from 7:00-9:00AM on a bright day during the first round of feeding as tens of whale sharks school around the “whale shark feeder” boat.
- Guests will be provided with a life vest. One need not be a good swimmer to enjoy the shark interaction.
Foreigners: watching from the boat (P500), snorkeling with the whale sharks (P1,000), scuba diving (1,500)
Locals: watching from the boat (P300), snorkeling with the whale sharks (P500), scuba diving (P600)
- To get there: Take a bus at the terminal bound to Bato via Liloan. Drop off at brgy. Tan-awan in Oslob. Travel time is roughly 5 hours and fare is P150. The whale watching is just beside the high way where you can arrange a tour for Sumilon island and Tumalog falls.
- Rating: 4/5
Top 4: Osmeña Peak and neighboring peaks in Dalaguete and Badian
- Description: At the hinterlands of Dalaguete and Badian sprawls a stage for a pageantry of ruggedly beautiful mountain peaks which launched the two municipalities to greater heights of fame among hikers and campers over the years. Reigning the prestige among this lineup of captivating summits are a trio of gigantic karst formation of jagged hills, namely Osmeña, Casino and Candongao peak… Read more details of these beautiful mountain peaks here.
- Operating Hours: Trek can start as early as 5:00AM and ends at 6:00PM
- To get there: The mountain peaks can be reached by trail and road. The popular option is going by road. Take a bus bound to Oslob or Bato at the terminal which cost for about P106. Travel time is 3 hours. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Dalaguete junction where you can find a 7/11 store and Julies bakeshop fronting each other. From the junction, ask a motorcycle-for-hire (habal-habal for locals) to take you to the three mountain peaks. More details on how to get to Badian and Dalaguete mountain peaks in this link.
- Rating: 4/5
Top 5: Waterfall Trilogy of Samboan: Aguinid, Dao and Binalayan Falls
- Description: Samboan is home to three (3) of the best waterfalls that can be found in South Cebu: Aguinid, Dao and Binalayan falls. Each with its unique and come-on properties that leave visitors with a fun, relaxing and memorable experience… more details of these three waterfalls and other waterfalls in the South here.
- Operating Hours: 6:00AM to 5:00PM
- Location: Samboan, Cebu
- To get there: At the South Bus terminal, take a bus via Barili/Bato. Fare is P160. Travel time is 6 hours. Drop off at “Aguinid falls” stop where you will see a welcome signage. Take a walk to the registration area which is only 5 minutes away and ask for a tour covering the three waterfalls. Price is P400. Specific details for each waterfall is shared here.
- Rating: 4/5
3 Samples of 1-day itinerary (budget for 1 person)
Here are 3 samples of 1-day itinerary that you can combine for an itinerary good for 2 to 5 days while in South Cebu.
- Option A: Oslob and Samboan attractions
|Whale shark watching||7:00AM – 09:00AM||Php500.00|
|Sumilon Island||9:00AM – 12:00PM||Php1,500.00 (group)|
|Lunch||12:00PM – 1:00PM||Php200.00|
|Tumalog Falls||1:00PM – 2:00PM||Php120.00|
|Samboan Waterfalls||2:00PM – 5:00PM||Php400.00|
|Aguinid Falls||2:00PM – 3:00PM|
|Dao Falls||3:00PM – 4:00PM|
|Binalayan Falls||4:00PM – 5:00PM|
- Option B: Moalboal, Canyoneering and Osmeña Peak attractions
|Moalboal Island Hopping||8:00AM – 12:00PM||P2500 (Group)|
|Lunch||12:00PM – 1:00PM||Php200.00|
|Canyoneering in Kawasan||1:00PM – 3:00PM||P1500.00|
|Rest||3:00PM – 4:00PM|
|Osmeña Peak Trek and sunset viewing||4:00PM – 6:00PM||Php200.00|
Note: Take a motorcycle-for-hire to reach Osmeña peak from Kawasan. Fare is P500 per motorcycle good for 3 persons and travel time is 1 hour. If time constraints, Moalboal White beach can be a good replacement for Osmeña peak for sunset viewing.
- Option C: Mountain Peaks and Samboan Falls
|Mountain Peak Trilogy||5:00AM – 11:00AM||Php400.00|
|Osmeña Peak (Sunrise)||5:00AM – 8:00AM|
|Casino Peak||8:00AM – 9:30AM|
|Candongao Peak||9:30AM – 11:00AM|
|Lunch||11:00AM – 12:00PM||Php200.00|
|Travel to Samboan by bus||12:00PM – 2:00PM||Php60.00|
|Samboan Falls||2:00PM – 5:00PM||Php400.00|
|Aguinid Falls||2:00PM – 3:00PM|
|Dao Falls||3:00PM – 4:00PM|
|Binalayan Falls||4:00PM – 5:00PM|
WHERE TO STAY IN SOUTH CEBU
Ester Homestay (Basdaku): +63 927 578-5983
Moalboal Backer Lodge (Panagsama): +63 917 751-8902
•Villa Isabela (Ponong) : +63 916 370-9104
•Chateau de Tan-Awan (Tan-Awan) : +63 917 912-7783
La Playa Resort (Matutinao): +63 932 475-1194
MORE OF CEBU
Done with South Cebu? Go to the North at Bantayan Island. Here is the guide: Bantayan Island Travel Guide.
- Cebu City Walk Tour – A DIY Guide
- DIY Mountain Tour in Cebu City
- A Mountain Trilogy: Osmeña, Casino and Candongao Peak of Dalaguete and Badian
- Top 7 Waterfalls in South Cebu
EXTEND YOUR TRIP
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:
- Zambales: Anawangin, Nagsasa and Capones Budget Travel Guide
- Palaui Island Budget Travel Guide
- Pagudpud Budget Travel Guide
- Laoag Budget Travel Guide
- Vigan Budget Travel Guide
- Baguio Budget Travel Guide
- Sagada Budget Travel Guide
- Cordillera Budget Travel Guide
BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER
Lastly, have fun and don’t forget to be awesome! 😉
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