Top 15 Things to do in Cebu, Philippines
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Once you hear its name, you’ll find it hard to detach yourself from its charm- starting from the immaculate beaches, rich history, delectable cuisines, and lively people! If you haven’t been to Cebu, you’re missing a lot of fun.
Surrounded by 150 tiny islands, Cebu is the former capital of the Philippines which had been the center of commerce and attraction within the past centuries. It’s a well-known fact that the Philippines was under Spanish rule for 333 years. For that long period, Cebu is one of the pioneers where the Spanish was accepted and had settled. Even though it has been a century since the Spanish had lost their control in the Philippines, the traces of their culture remain vivid in every corner of the country, especially in Cebu.
From ancient houses that are decorated with vintage Spanish styles, its churches built with stones, and even cuisines that tastes like Spanish cookery. It’s not only these concrete things where you can feel its wealth in history, but you can also hear it from their locals too- from the way they speak, the similarity of the words they use to Spanish, and even the stories they tell!
Going to Cebu isn’t as stringent as you imagined it to be. You can book a one hour flight from Manila to Cebu or take a ferry in Batangas Pier. As you visit the city of Cebu, be it your first time or not, the array of the things you can do can be quite overwhelming. To save you from that, we bring you our top picks on the top things to do in Cebu City.
Useful travel tips for every traveler (Budget or not!)
→ Learn how to find cheap flights: Read our Skyscanner guide on how to find flights!
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Table of Contents
- 1 Quick information and Cebu travel tips
- 2 Where to stay in Cebu?
- 3 Short in time? Go sightseeing in Cebu on tour!
- 4 Experiences and top things to do in Cebu
- 4.1 Learn about Cebu by visiting the Heritage of Cebu Monument
- 4.2 Kawasan Waterfalls
- 4.3 Try the local fried dishes
- 4.4 Fort San Pedro
- 4.5 Go, Island Hopping
- 4.6 Sinulog Festival
- 4.7 Mactan Shrine
- 4.8 Pay homage at Basilica Minore del Santo Niño
- 4.9 Visit Tabo-an Market and learn how to bargain with the locals!
- 4.10 Try Lechon and Chicharon
- 4.11 Colon Street
- 4.12 Magellan’s Cross
- 4.13 Visit Malapascua
- 4.14 Relax in Camotes Island for a less touristy vibe
- 4.15 Visit the Temple of Leah
- 5 Need help to plan your trip? Start with these useful tips!
- 6 Do you need inspiration for your next trip? Here are our top posts!
- 7 Other countries to visit in Asia
- 8 Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
Quick information and Cebu travel tips
- Currency? Philippine peso ( ₱ )
- Languages(s)? Cebuano, Leyteño, Tagalog
- Where is this place located? Central Visayas Region, Philippines; Southeast Asia
- What is Cebu famous for? Cebu is best known for its stunning waterfalls to its historical landmarks, and beaches. Cebu is also most famous of its best tasting “Lechon” the very prominent traditional cuisine in Cebu
- Best time to visit Cebu and seasons? High season is between December to May, the weather is cooler and dry. Also, the Sinulog festival is held in January
- Transportation in Cebu? You can use the bus, jeepneys, tricycles (like tuk-tuk), boats, taxis, and vans could talk you around Cebu and its surrounding areas
- Which side of the road do they drive? They are driving on the right side of the road
- Which electric plug do they use? Type A, B, and C plugs. 220V. For more information, check our travel adapter reviews!
- Other famous places in the Philippines? Banawe, Cebu, Batanes, Bohol, Camiguin, Catanduanes, Donsol, Iloilo, Legazpi, Manila, Mindoro, Palawan, Siquijor, Vigan, Tagaytay – read more here.
- Famous neighboring countries? By sea: China, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Palau.
Do you need a visa for the Philippines?
The Philippines welcomes almost all nationality in the country by providing a loose regulation regarding visa exemptions. For instance, if you’re a citizen of Brazil and Israel, you can enter the country visa-free up to 59 days.
That said, if you’re a citizen of the EU group of countries, the US, most of Central and Southwest America, Australia, New Zealand, ASEAN group of countries can enter the Philippines up to 30 days on visa exemption.
However, if you’re a citizen of Taiwan, you’ll need to apply for an electronic travel authorization.
You can read more visa rules here.
Where to book your flights to Cebu?
Check our handy-dandy guide on how to find the cheapest flights around the world – read it here.
Do you need travel insurance for Cebu?
Remember this: anything can happen! Read our take on why you need travel insurance and how it can save you money when things go unplanned – read it here.
Where to stay in Cebu?
Short in time? Go sightseeing in Cebu on tour!
Experiences and top things to do in Cebu
Learn about Cebu by visiting the Heritage of Cebu Monument
Built at the center of Cebu City back in 1997, the Cebu Heritage Monument will welcome you to the diversity and rich culture that you can witness throughout the city. As each brick and dark stones carefully constructed on top of each other, it integrates into the live representation of Cebu’s adornment- large ships, old churches, a huge cross symbolizing the Catholics in the country, notable events in Cebu’s history, and the sacrifice the Filipinos did to set the country free.
If you fancy checking out this place first, be sure to get a guide! Each corner of the monument is thought-provoking, so you may want to address your questions right away. Don’t worry, this place is one of the most visited Cebu attractions, and finding a guide is surely as easy as pie.
Away from the city vibes, Cebu has in store, Kawasan Waterfalls flows majestically in the jungles of Cebu with its pristine, turquoise water cascading on the mountains of Alegria.
This waterfall is divided into three sections- each having tinier falls as you climb higher in the mountain. It’s a destination for both relaxation and adventure-seeking tourists- you can either swim below the falls and have a neck massage from nature, rest on a bamboo raft, rock climbing, canyoneering or have a refreshing deep on its enchanting lagoon.
To visit the hidden lagoon, you can take a bus, specifically the Bato via Barili, which stops directly on the west side where the entrance going to Kawasan Waterfalls is located. There will also be around 1.5 km walk before you can witness the waterfalls.
Expect an exuberant ambiance over there! Although the pictures seen over the internet may give you the expectation of serenity in the area, lots of tourists go there in reality. Nevertheless, it’s still a place worth exploring even when you’re seeking tranquility.
Try the local fried dishes
Once you check the authentic cuisines Cebu has to offer; you might notice that the majority of it is fried. Put, never miss putting these sumptuous local fried dishes in your mouth during your stay in Cebu!
Try their ginabot (also known as fried pork intestines), chicken proven, and ngohiong, which will make you feel the crisp of Cebu’s best on every bite you take. So you can enjoy these foods at its best, consider local condiments and dips, or ask from a local.
Fort San Pedro
If you think you’ve seen enough of Cebu’s fascinating history with the Heritage of Cebu Monument, wait ’til you explore the grounds of Fort San Pedro! Transfiguring history which dated back from 1738.
Fort San Pedro served as a fortress to both armies and rebel, became a prison camp, and eventually functioned as a city zoo. With its façade partly ruined and covered with lichens, this destination is among the well-loved Cebu tourists attraction. To increase the hype during your visit, make sure to drop by as the sunset nears as it’s more charming and brings a seamless retreat zone to every tourist.
Go, Island Hopping
As soon as you set foot in a country with 7,107 islands, it’ll be hard not to explore them as much as you can. Since many islands are surrounding the magnificent city of Cebu, you might as well wish to experience the barefoot luxury on its beaches. However, do remember you won’t get the best out of the beaches in Cebu if you’re just stationary in your hotel or resort!
Try island hopping and get to see several of Cebu’s beaches- from Pandanon Island and its white sandbar that awaits every visitor, Olango Island where you can hear the birds chirping in the sanctuary there, go scuba diving in Pescador Island and discover its wealth in aquatic resources, or watch the whale sharks in Sumilon Island!
Wondering what to see in Cebu aside from those historic places and pristine waters on the beaches? Partake in local festivals then! Luckily, Cebu brings you one of the Philippines’ grandest- the Sinulog Festival!
This Sinulog Festival is both a religious and cultural celebration in the Philippines, which held every 3rd week of January, lasting for a total of nine days, the whole city splattered with vivid colors worn by dancers joining the parades and walking down the procession. Through this festival, you can catch a glimpse of the Philippines’ pagan background as well as how it transitioned to Catholicism. Once you grab this event, never miss mingling with the locals! They’ll surely make your vacation extra pleasant and authentic.
This shrine might be just another ordinary Cebu points of interest, but the story behind it is intriguing. Situated on an island of the same name, Mactan Shrine staunchly stands as it memorializes the bloody battle long ago between a prominent Filipino warrior, Lapu Lapu, and a Portuguese conqueror commanding a Spanish battalion, Ferdinand Magellan.
Both warriors have their statues erected on Mactan Shrine with plaques and paintings placed around the area. A remarkable painting entitled “The Magellan Marker” depicts how the Lapu Lapu, the mighty Filipino warrior, fought against the conquerors led by Ferdinand Magellan.
Fun Fact: At the back of the marker is noted eloquently stating that on that very spot was where Ferdinand Magellan died back on the 27th of April 1521.
Pay homage at Basilica Minore del Santo Niño
Since the Philippines is known to have the most significant number of Catholics in South East Asia, what more can be more exciting in your long list of things to do in Cebu City than visiting the oldest Catholic Church in the country?
Established in 1565, Basicila Minore del Santo Niño embodies mercy and passion and keeps it as the Church’s tenet. As you view its façade, you can see its windows stained with oldness, nostalgic paintings, enchanting archways, and even relics dating back from the 17th century. Even though the site may seem so old to be attractive, it has retained its fame and still recognized as a must-see tourist destination in Cebu. Make sure to stop by and pay reverence once you get there!
Visit Tabo-an Market and learn how to bargain with the locals!
Travelers must know that by merely glancing or taking pictures of the places they visit isn’t traveling at all. Spice up your travel and taste what the local delicacies! You won’t find these delectable cuisines and products inside your hotel rooms. In Cebu, they have Tabo-an Market as Cebu’s tourism representative of local food products.
Stroll around the market, and you’ll find seafood delights such as tuyo, squid, shrimp, dangit, and dilis. Not only that, but they also offer otap, nuts, rosquillos, chorizo de Cebu, dried mangoes, and much more!
A quick tip: Even if you’re a foreigner in the area, haggle as much as you can, to get the best rates!
Try Lechon and Chicharon
Raking the title as the “Filipino’s pride” when it comes to the uniqueness of cuisines and delicacies, Lechon and Chicharon have a crunchy surprise to every tourist.
In every celebration, be it a family gathering or not, Lechon is the real VIP and the visitor every Filipino expects to be present. This culinary treasure is roasted and served whole- with all parts utilized, not a single skin to be thrown. Fortunately, Cebu prides itself as one of the best produces of this delicious cuisine and you can easily find a succulent Lechon around Cebu to satisfy your cravings.
If you opt for something casual, then chicharon is the one you must be looking for, it’s made out of pig’s skin and has a similar appearance as those bread crunches you can find in the malls. To boost the flavor, try dipping chicharon in vinegar just like what the locals do.
Looking for some touristy activities in Cebu? Walk past Colon Street, and you’ll surely find the end in inquiring what to do in Cebu. Although it may seem a bit dull at first glance, this narrow street is one of the best in Cebu’s tourist spots as it brings you an array of souvenir shops, local delicacies, local items, and all sorts of material you might need.
Quick Tip: Wear your friendliest smile and bargain with the locals so you can get the best deals! Not to mention, you can even gain some friends.
Planted by the Spanish and Portuguese conquerors back in 1521, the Magellan’s Cross is now a Cebu City tourist spot and one of the most adored places to visit in Cebu. Its structure is nothing extravagant, nor it’s filled with great opulence. Instead, its historical symbolism makes it worth visiting.
In front, the cross may look like a simple one you can easily find around the world- but this one marks the birth of Catholicism in the Philippines, and probably why the Magellan’s Cross is a significant Cebu destination you should include in your day trips in Cebu. Ride a taxi or take a jeepney going to the basilica of the city hall to reach Magellan’s Cross.
Dive your way to the best beaches in Cebu! As Malapascua is prominent for being a hotspot for divers, it also houses astonishing beaches with fringed sands covering the shores throughout. With its abundant marine life, snorkeling never fails to capture the heart of every tourist. Not only does the place serves as a trendy hub for diving, but thresher sharks also come into the area and will make your underwater experience more exhilarating.
Speculating where to stay in Cebu? Malapascua Island gives you multitudes of choices with hotels ranging from the cheapest to the most luxurious you could ever book.
Relax in Camotes Island for a less touristy vibe
Priding with its moniker “the Lost Horizon of the South,” Camotes Island remains as a remote island offering a slice of paradise under a tranquil ambiance with the rays of the sun gleaming over the azure waters of Cebu. Palawan and Boracay are indeed one of the best beaches you could visit in your entire life, but if you’re not into large crowds of tourists, but prefer a less touristy location instead, then Camotes Island is the answer.
Many tourists prefer serenity in their getaways; thus, Camotes Island is a must-include in your bucket list of places to go in Cebu. Consisting of three islands in total- Ponson, Pacijan, and Poro Island, Camotes Islands is home to adverse relaxation and will make you feel like you’re at home.
Fun Fact: According to the local folklore, Camotes Island got its name back when the Spaniards went to the place for the first time. It was when the natives were planting sweet potatoes, locally coined as “kamote.” The Spaniards then asked for the name of the place, but the locals thought they were asking for the name of the plant they’re harvesting. Hence, the name “kamote” or “Camote” in Spanish, named after the island.
Visit the Temple of Leah
If India has the world-renowned Taj Mahal, the Philippines have their own too! Most people would dub the place as “Cebu’s Taj Mahal,” the Temple of Leah follows a Roman-like style which built Teodorico Adarna’s gesture of love for his late partner, Leah Villa Albino-Adarna.
Set in a strategic location where you can view the whole city, it’s no wonder as to why the place is tagged as one of the best spots when it comes to Cebu sightseeing.
There are indeed many things to do in Cebu City, some of which you could never imagine- like witnessing the unconditional love of a guy to his late wife through the construction of this temple. Inside the temple is another sight tourist must behold, there is a total of 24 chambers housing Leah’s collections of Chinese jars, antique items, and tons of books.
Need help to plan your trip? Start with these useful tips!
- Best Carry On Backpack: Top Weekender Backpack Reviews
- Best Luggage: Top Suitcase Reviews
- Backpacking Minimalist: How to Travel with Less (Minimalist Travel)
- Minimalist packing list for women
- Minimalist packing list for men
- Backpack vs Luggage: Which One to Use for Long Term Travel
Important travel tips and tricks:
- Before Flight Travel Checklist: Make Sure You Have Everything You Need!
- How to Find Cheap Flights Everywhere (Using Skyscanner)
- Why You Should Get a Travel Insurance for Your Next Adventure
- Hotel, Hostel, Airbnb, or Guesthouse: Which One to Choose for Accommodation?
- Top Travel Tips to Use When You Get to Your Destination
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Other countries to visit in Asia
Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, Cyprus, Georgia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, The Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Yemen.
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