First Timer's Guide To Cebu: The Best Tourist Spots and Itinerary Ideas
If you are planning your trip to the beautiful island of Cebu, these are the must-see tourist spots and my recommended itinerary to see everything.
Where Is Cebu?
Cebu (pronounced seh-boo) is in the central region of the Philippines in Visayas.
It is the first city to be colonized by the Spaniards.
From free diving to Spanish and Portuguese colonial landmarks, and from stunning waterfalls to canyoneering adventures, these incredible Cebu tourist spots should be on your itinerary when visiting the Philippines.
Tips Before Visiting Cebu
- Bookmark and read this guide before you go 🙂
- I highly recommend going with a tour to maximize seeing all the Cebu tourist spots without having to worry about building an itinerary
- There are various ways to get around the island including what they call “habal habal.” It’s basically licensed motorcycle ride where the driver can up to 6 people (WAY BEYOND CAPACITY). It’s definitely an option if you aren’t comfortable riding a motorcycle.
- Dress modestly when you are visiting religious landmarks. This means covering your shoulders and bottoms that cover the knees.
- If you get the chance, learn how to freedive! It’s cheaper than getting your diving license. There’s a huge freediving and diving community especially in Moalboal.
- Tip your guides generously. Tipping is not customary in the Philippines, but from our experience in Cebu, the guides and drivers go above and beyond. They keep you safe, make you laugh a lot, interpret for you, and make sure that you get the best travel pictures.
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This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase after clicking on a link I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, please visit my Disclosure Policy.
*However, I am NOT earning any commission nor affiliated to Niccolo Stevens or Nicco’s Place. I have also gotten permission to use some of his underwater pictures which I give credit to Nicco’s Photos. I am just a huge fan and love the family and community of travelers and divers he has cultivated. Our experience in Cebu would not be the same without him.
How To Get To Cebu?
If you are flying internationally outside of the Philippines, you mostly will be coming from Manila (Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport) and flying to the Mactan Cebu International Airport in Cebu City.
Direct domestic flights and international flights are available from a myriad of airlines in the Philippines and in Asia in general, to Mactan Cebu International Airport (CEB).
Of course, flying is the fastest way to get to Cebu, but there are also ferry systems that take you to Cebu and other parts of the Philippines.
The main ferry system is 2GO which acquired SuperCat, SuperFerry, and Cebu Ferries.
The best way to get to Cebu is to start in Cebu City.
Once you are in Cebu City, you can ride the bus to get to the rest of the island.
If you are unsure which mode of transportation to take, you can go to 12 Go Asia website, you can search how to get Cebu city, and the results will show you all the transportation options by air, water, and land.
CEBU AIRPORT TO CEBU CITY
You can take the taxi from CEB to Mactan Island where Cebu City is located.
Depending on the traffic, it could take 30 minutes to 1 hour. It should cost less than $10 (USD).
When Is The Best Time To Travel To Cebu?
Anytime is the best time! But really, whatever floats your boat.
The Philippines is hot and humid year-round.
People tend to come during the summer months between March and May to enjoy the sun.
This also means that places will be busier and crowded.
Wet season is from June through August where you may experience lots of rainfall and typhoons.
The colder (a very relative term for a tropical country) season is from September to February.
We personally went during the colder season and experienced a bit of rain which helped at night to cool down the temperatures.
- Check out my in-depth blog about SE Asia and my thoughts on going during off-seasons.
How Much To Budget For Cebu?
Honestly, if you want to maximize your time in Cebu to see the main tourist spots, I highly recommend going on tours with an already planned itinerary.
Tours in the Philippines typically include transport, guides, AND food.
Cebu City in particular was not very walkable.
Trying to figure out where to go and haggling with the grab driver would be a total pain (at least it was for us).
I traveled with friends during this trip and we made a mistake of doing Cebu city on our own without knowing that there was a specific tour for it.
We booked a tour for each day except for in Cebu city.
As a result, we were not able to see everything we wanted to see in Cebu city.
For each day in Cebu, I recommend budgeting an average of: $10-35 USD per day.
Visiting the island is fairly cheap.
Cebu Tourist Spots Itinerary Suggestions
Complete Cebu Island Itinerary (7 days 6 nights)
- Day 1: Cebu city tour
- Day 2: Free day for shopping + travel to Moalboal
- Day 3: Pescador Island, Panagsama Beach, Turtle Point
- Day 4: Badian canyoneering & Kawasan Falls
- Day 5: Osmena Peak, Oslob Whale Watching, Tumalog Falls, Binalayan Hidden Falls
- Day 6: Stay 1 night at the Blue Water Sumilon resort or learn how to free dive
- Day 7: Head to Bohol or other Philippine islands
North Cebu Itinerary (2 days 1 night)
- Day 1: Cebu city tour
- Day 2: Free day for shopping
South Cebu Itinerary (3 days 2 nights)
I suggest doing the Adventure Package with Nicco’s Place. Visit their facebook page here.
- Day 1: Pescador Island, Panagsama Beach, Turtle Point, Badian canyoneering & Kawasan Falls
- Day 2: Osmena Peak, Oslob Whale Watching, Sumilon Sandbar, Badian canyoneering & Kawasan Falls, Binalayan Hidden Falls
- Day 3: Relaxing beach day, travel day
Tour Packages In Cebu With Itinerary
18 Cebu Must-See Tourist Spots To Include in Your Itinerary
This famous cross is believed to have been placed by Ferdinand Magellan, a well known Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain, to claim the Philippines as a Spanish colony in 1521.
This time also marks the birth of Christianity in the islands and the start of the Spanish rule which would last for 333 years.
Ferdinand Magellan named the Philippines from King Philip II.
In the old days, people started chipping away the cross because they believed it was miraculous.
The government decided to put the cross in a wooden casing to preserve it and prevent further damage.
Basilica Del Sto. Nino
Walking distance from Magellan’s Cross is the Basilica del Sto. Nino.
This is the oldest and first Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines.
You can catch outdoor masses here on Sundays and Fridays.
When visiting, make sure to dress appropriately since this is a Catholic Religious place.
Do not wear shorts or a sleeveless top. Bring some type of scarf or shawl.
Temple of Leah
Is this in Rome, Italy? Or in Athens, Greece?
No, girl. This is the Temple of Leah in Cebu City!
It is definitely one of the striking Cebu tourist spots to put in your itinerary.
Unlike the Parthenon in Greece, which was built 447 BC, Temple of Leah was built in 2012 AD.
Yeah, pretty recent.
Teodorico Soriano Adarna had this built for his wife Leah Albino-Adarna as a sign of his eternal love.
HE RICH RICH alright.
The Adarna family owns hotel chains in Cebu.
Why yes, malls count as tourist spots in Cebu!
While Cebu City offers white sand beaches and all the site seeing, you also cannot miss going to the shopping and experience the urban life.
Plus, there’s AC to help cool you off!
No worries. You don’t have to order the whole thing.
Lechon is a Philippine delicacy. It is served during parties, celebrations, or on any type of special occasion.
If not for the cholesterol, I will happily eat some everyday.
ALWAYS pair it with garlic rice.
Similar to how Americans from different states take pride in having the best pork barbeque, Cebu prides itself in roasting THE BEST Lechon in the entire country.
Places to try Lechon:
- House of Lechon
- Rico’s Lechon
The Heritage of Cebu Monument
Eduardo Castrillo built the Heritage of Cebu sculptures to commemorate the various important events in Cebu.
Events and statues that you might see:
- Rajah Humabon
- Revolution against the Spanish rule
- The fight on April 21, 1521 where Lapu-Lapu killed Ferdinand Magellan
- Basilica Del Sto. Nino
- Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
- The Saint John the Baptist Church
- Magellan’s Cross
- Spanish Galleon
- Sergio Osmena Sr.
- Blessed Pedro Calungsod
Sugbo Museum (Museo Sugbo)
Formerly the Carcel de Cebu, Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center from 1870 and was later converted to the Sugbo Museum in 2004.
This place was also used by the Katipunan (Filipino nationalist organization) and the Japanese during and after the wars.
The Sugbo museum is home to several galleries that feature artifacts from the Philippine colonialization periods by the Spanish, Americans, and Japanese.
Some of the things you will see:
- Political and presidential stories and pictures
- American bomb that was dropped in Cebu
- Japanese propaganda newspapers
- Gold and ceramics the famous San Diego shipwreck of 1600
Philippines is undeniably a heavily Christian influenced nation, but did you know that there is a Taoist Temple in Cebu City?
The Taoist Temple was built in 1972 as a place of worship for the Chinese Taoism community.
There are 81 steps to the temple which coincides with he 81 chapters in the Taoism scripture.
Painted and adorned with vibrant red and green colors, it is one of the tourist spots your Cebu itinerary that is perfect for picture taking.
It is perfect for someone who is looking for a spiritual and relaxing experience.
Sirao Flower Farm
While writing this post, I really feel like I was taking you through different parts of the world. First Spain, Greece, China, and Italy. And now, Netherlands!
Sirao Flower Farm, also known as Mini Amsterdam, got its name because it is reminiscent of all the flower gardens and windmills in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
It is a flower farm owned by the Amaranth family.
We’re talking about over 30 acres of flowers complete with Instagram worthy spots like a nest, windmills, a heart, a giant hand and other installations.
Who would not want to pose in front of a giant heart? (me, lol).
I personally think it is super cheesy, but tourists love this place.
The flowers that you can find here include: Celosias, sunflowers, chrysanthemum, daisies, and various others.
Located in Badian which is the southern part of Cebu, Osmena Peak is the highest mountain in the island. It is also known as Mount Labalasan.
When you get there, you are required to have a local guide to take you up the peak.
The guides are actually a big help when taking pictures.
This is one of the most unique Cebu tourist spots in the itinerary because you get a stunning 360-degree view at the top.
You will feel like you are at the top of the world among all the greenery and rock formations.
Unfortunately, it was super cloudy and gloomy when we went up and could not get the full experience.
The hike itself is easy and it took us less than 30 minutes to summit.
There were slippery parts because it had just rained, but still a relatively easy hike.
Don’t feel like hiking, but want a 180 degree view of Cebu?
Put Badian Highlands on your Cebu tourist spots itinerary!
Talk about an amazing spot for sunrise and sunset photos.
This panoramic view deck will give you the view of all the towns in Badian, Cebu along with the view of the Tanon strait, Badian Bay, and Kanlaon Volcano.
Tip: get here during nighttime to see all Badian skyline.
There is a mini store that sells snacks and drink.
You can enjoy the scenery while drinking some local beers.
This is day 1 and the first part of our tour with Nicco’s Place.
Before you even get to the boat, they take everyone participating in island hopping (from different tours and companies) to this office where you watch videos of all the safety precautions that you need to take.
They provide all the swimming and snorkeling equipment and safety gear.
The water is crystal clear blue and you get to swim with all types of fish and corals.
Panagsama Beach- Moalboal Sardine Run
I hope your goggles and lungs are ready for the best dive of a lifetime.
As someone who is not an avid free diver, I literally did not know what a sardine run was until I got there.
Raise your hand if you have ever seen Finding Nemo.
Now, remember the part where Dory and Marlin were lost and this school of fish made all kinds of formations to help them get to Sydney.
The Sardine run looks exactly like that, except there are literally MILLIONS of sardines.
To get to the sardines, we took a 15 boat ride from the Panagsama beach shore.
It is so fascinating being able to swim among a blanket like congregation of fish and seeing how the sunlight reflects on their scales.
Along with the sardines, there are also turtles and all the corals you can imagine.
You definitely get an underwater nature show.
Unlike the famous sardine run in Southern Africa, the Moalboal sardine run is here all year long.
If I had to pick one of the top Cebu tourist spots in this itinerary, it would be the Sardine run in Panagsama beach, Moalboal.
Canyoneering in Badian
OH MY LORD (or if you are Filipino, you might say OH MY GULAY).
I know I said what I said about the sardine run, but canyoneering in Badian is also one for the books.
- As I mentioned in my Backpacking Southeast Asia post, this canyoneering adventure is not for the weak.
Do not worry, the guides here are certified and know exactly where you need to step, where to slide, and to make sure that you are safe at all times.
Even if you are inexperienced, as long as you have the excited attitude and energy, you will enjoy this.
You will hike, swim, crawl, climb, cliff jump, rappel and scramble your way through canyons that will lead you to the beautiful Kawasan falls.
From what I can remember, there are several falls to jump off from varying from about 8 to 40 ft.
The jungle itself is so beautiful, but the turquoise water and all the waterfalls are the highlights of this adventure.
Badian is such a gem and I still can’t believe we have a place this amazing in the Philippines.
It takes about 2-3 hours to get to the end.
As I mentioned in my blog post, we came here during rainy season, so we had the whole place to ourselves and did not even experience rain that day!
Of course, all your work is not all for nothing. At the end of all of this, you will be welcomed by the beautiful Kawasan Falls.
Kawasan falls has got to be one of the most famous falls in the Philippines. It is literally all over Instagram.
And why would it not be? I mean, look at it.
Whale Shark Watching in Oslob
Before you do this, I would really advice to do more research on how they get the whale sharks to get closer to the shore. We did not do much research before doing this.
It was a crazy and thrilling experience (so thrilling I am pretty sure I had a panic attack because I was so nervous).
That is my husband in that picture!
Another great island to check out!
Going to Sumilon Island is usually a part of the island hopping tours.
People flock here because of the sandbar.
The beach is a bit more rocky compared to other popular ones.
For those who are looking for a more luxurious experience, you can stay at the only hotel in the island. It is called Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort.
Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort also offers day passes with a complete buffet lunch, access to the pools and bars, and roundtrip boat transfers.
Add me on instagram!
Binalayan Hidden Falls
I feel like Cebu never runs out of amazing waterfalls and the not so hidden Binalayan Hidden Falls is one of them.
You will come across swings and other smaller creeks and waterfalls that are ideal for pictures and relaxing.
You are required to have a guide while you are here and for a small cost (around $2-$10 USD for the fee and tip).
I honestly love the guides because they help with taking pictures and make sure that you are safe.
For the thrill-seekers, you can jump off of the Binalayan Hidden falls.
There are jumping spots ranging from 10 to around 60 ft. The water itself about 5-8 ft. deep.
One of our guides jumped from the highest point. He was insane in the best way possible.
Traveling to Cebu? I hope this list of the best Cebu Tourist Spots helped you with figuring out your itinerary.
Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments.
Have you been? Which one is your favorite?
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