mactan cebu

Looking for a tropical island destination that still has the comforts of the city? Head to Mactan Island in Cebu! What are the best tourist spots in Mactan? Where are the best beach resorts in Mactan located? What activities can you in Mactan? What food should you try in Mactan? With its rich history, cultural heritage, and natural attractions, you have a lot of activities to choose from for your vacation itinerary. Read on to find out what variety of things that you can do in Mactan!

Mactan is a little island in the heart of Central Visayas in the Philippines. Located beside the main island of Cebu Province, Mactan has become one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines.  It comes as no surprise since Mactan Island is a hub for world-class resorts, breathtaking diving sites, pristine beaches and islets, and unique Filipino dining experiences.

Mactan is separated from the island of Cebu by the Mactan Channel and connected to it by two bridges; the Marcelo Fernan Bridge and the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge. Mactan Island is also divided into Lapu-Lapu City and the Municipality of Cordova.

Lapu-Lapu City is a highly urbanized city complete with shopping malls, entertainment hubs, and an emerging business district. More notably, Lapu-Lapu City is called the Historic Resort City. It was historically the site of the Filipino’s first stand against the Spanish colonizers. Presently, the city houses top-notch hotel and resorts that have the best patches of white sand beaches in Mactan.

Cordova, on the other hand, is the quieter part of the island. You can find the freshest seafood as well as unique dining experiences here. The municipality also has its fair share of resorts, but Cordova is better known for being the jump-off point for island-hopping trips to several beautiful islets surrounding Mactan, including the Olango Island Group which is a wildlife sanctuary.

Overall, Mactan Island is very tourist-friendly. In fact, the Mactan Airport was awarded as the Asia-Pacific Medium Airport of the Year on 2018 which means you can expect a hassle-free experience right off the plane, the island houses world-class all-inclusive resorts, and it is home to approximately 470,000 residents who speak Cebuano-Bisaya, Filipino, and English.

If you like what you’re reading about Mactan so far, then take note that the most ideal time to visit the island is from January to April. These months are the dry season so you will get to fully enjoy the outdoor and water adventures Mactan has to offer.

The Cebu Province also celebrates magnificent festivals during these months. From Mactan, it is easy to travel to Cebu City to experience the colorful Sinulog Festival on the third Sunday of January. On April, you can witness the Kadaugan sa Mactan in Lapu-Lapu City.

If you’re already getting excited, then you’ll love Mactan even more. Read on to discover the cultural heritage, natural attractions, and other things to do in Mactan!


Learn About The Rich Culture and History by Visiting These Tourist Spots in Mactan

mactan island

Enrich your travel experience and make your vacation more meaningful by learning about the fascinating history and culture of Mactan. Here’s a short history lesson to get you started!

On April 27, 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan reached Mactan. He had previously befriended the ruler of Cebu, Rajah Humabon, in order to gain more colonies for Spain. To strengthen his influence on the Visayan ruler, the Portuguese led a Spanish force to Mactan. Besides imposing the authority of Humabon, Magellan intended to make Mactan a Spanish colony and convert the islanders to Catholicism just as he had done in Cebu. Unfortunately for Magellan, Mactan resisted. Led by the local chieftain, Datu Lapu-Lapu, the fierce warriors of Mactan defeated the Spanish forces and killed Ferdinand Magellan.

Philippine history books now recognize Lapu-Lapu as the first Filipino hero. What was once called the town of Opon in Mactan was renamed to Lapu-Lapu City, and on what was once the site of the battle now stands, the Mactan Shrine.

Here’s a list of tour attractions in Mactan that are worth a visit:

  • Marvel at the Monuments at the Mactan Shrine

A trip to Mactan would not be complete without a tour of the Mactan Shrine. The shrine was built in 1866 to commemorate the Battle of Mactan and honor Lapu-Lapu and Magellan with their respective monuments.

Lapu-Lapu Monument is a majestic 20-meter bronze statue of the hero armed with a kampilan (a native sword) and a shield. It is erected to honor the bravery of the Datu on the very ground the battle was believed to have taken place. The Magellan Monument, on the other hand, is a large obelisk dedicated to the Portuguese explorer who brought Christianity to the Philippines. The shrine is open to the public, so don’t forget to stop by and marvel at the towering structures and their significance to Philippine history.

Also prominently displayed at the shrine is a sprawling painting depicting the Battle of Mactan. Truly, there is no better place to learn about the rich history of Mactan than at the Mactan Shrine.

Mactan Shrine is located by the shore of Punta Engaño in Lapu-Lapu City. You can get there by taxicab, or by hopping on a jeepney with Route Code 23 from Marina Mall. Just tell the driver to drop you off at Mactan Shrine.

  •  Immerse in Mactan’s Culture at the Kadaugan sa Mactan

Another way the city commemorates the Battle of Mactan is through the festival called Kadaugan sa Mactan (Victory at Mactan), which is celebrated every 27th of April. The highlight of this cultural event is a re-enactment of the historical battle by the shore at Mactan Shrine. These reenactments attract a huge audience as it typically cast famous Fililpino actors to play the roles of Lapu-Lapu and Magellan.

Besides the dramatic re-enactment, the city typically holds a week-long street party. There are concerts, parades, street dancers, minibars, food stalls, and souvenir and novelty stalls. If you want to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Mactan, there may be no better opportunity than this festival!

  • Witness the Mactan Locals’ Craftsmanship at Alegre Guitar Factory

mactan alegre guitar factory

Another cultural treasure Mactan has in store for you is its handcrafted musical instruments. Visayans are known to be avid music lovers. So, it comes as no surprise that Mactan, Cebu in Central Visayas is home to the Philippine’s best instrument craftsmen.

Mactan-made guitars, ukuleles, and bandurrias are renowned for their quality; they are sought after by musicians all over the country. If you’re a music enthusiast, don’t miss the opportunity to check out the island’s workshops. Getting a ukulele would be a great Mactan souvenir! You get to bring home the music of Mactan.

If you’re not the musical type or you’re not interested in buying an instrument, don’t cross out these instrument shops from your itinerary just yet. Shops like the Alegre Guitar Factory allows tourists to watch how the instruments are made for free! You’ll even be walked through the process by the store salesman who, if you’re lucky, may strum a few notes for you as a demonstration. How exciting is that?

You can find Alegre Guitar is in Abuno, Pajac. Take the jeepney Route Code MI-02B bound for Maribago and asked to be dropped at Pajac. From there, hop on a tricycle to take you to the Alegre Guitar Factory.   

  • Visit the Virgen Dela Regla National Shrine

The Nuestra Señora Virgen de la Regla or the Birhen Sa Regla is the patroness of Lapu-Lapu City. The city’s devotion to the Virgin began in 1735 when Father Francisco Avalle became the first parish priest in Opon. He brought a painting of the Virgin’s image with him and initiated the devotion to the locals. Since then, the Birhen has become an integral part of Mactan culture.

If you are not Catholic nor religious, feel free to visit the Shrine. However, keep in mind that the locals have a deep reverence for their patroness, so always be respectful. This is a solemn and holy place for the Oponganons, so dress modestly and observe silence on your visit.

If you come on a Sunday, expect a long queue to the special chapel where you can touch the statue of the Virgin. If you wait out the line, you will be greeted by its beautiful statue encased in glass and perched on an altar overflowing with flowers. The Birhen sa Regla is typically garbed in intricately embellished blue and white gowns sponsored by her many devotees.

The Virgen Dela Regla National Shrine is near the Opon Public Market and the Mactan Ferry Port. You can get there by tricycle if your hotel is not located by the main highway. If it is, you can get on any jeepney that’s bound for Opon Public Market, Mactan Ferry Boat Terminal, or to Cordova. 

Hop Around The Islands in Mactan and Explore Its Marine Life

Your tropical getaway to Mactan would not be complete without exploring the several islets off the coast of Mactan Island. These islets are surrounded by calm azure waters perfect for swimming. They’re also teeming with marine life, so bring your snorkeling goggles!

These sites are famous snorkeling spots, but you are more than welcome to just wade in the shallows or sit on the white sand beaches for a couple of hours before moving to the next islet.

There are six island-hopping destinations you can explore in Mactan:

  • Have Fun Under the Sun at Nalusuan Island

Nalusuan Island was originally a mere sand bar in the Cebu Strait, nestled between the island of Bohol and Mactan. It was later developed into the Nalusuan Island Resort and maintained as a fish sanctuary to protect its vibrant underwater ecosystem.

Now, the island is a thriving tourist destination for beach bumming and swimming with the fishes and occasional turtles. The resort also offers various water activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and other motorized aqua sports. So, knock yourself out! 

  • Chill at Caohagan Island

Caohagan is a small inhabited island that is an hour and 15 minutes away from the shores of Maribago. The island boasts lush tropical greenery with a white sand beach that’s lined with cottages. It is surrounded by sparkling crystal-clear waters that are great for a leisurely swim. If you’re up for more underwater adventures, the east side of Caohagan island is a good spot for snorkeling!

  • Have a Feast by the Sea at Pandanon Island

mactan pandanon island

Technically part of the Bohol Province, Pandanon Island is the farthest island-hopping destination from Mactan.  Pandanon Island boasts a white sand bar and stunning blue-green waters that you simply can’t resist but to take the plunge!

There is a small resort that maintains Pandanon and rents out cottages for visitors, as well as a thriving fishing community on the island. You can buy affordable fresh seafood from local fishermen and have a grilled seafood feast by the beach! It is a great spot to have your island-hopping lunch break.

  • Go on an Eco-Adventure at Olango Island

Olango is a 4,482-hectare protected island blessed with a diverse coastal ecosystem; it has an immense sandy beach, coral reefs, and a mangrove forest that is considered as the most extensive in the whole Cebu Province. It’s a natural paradise and one that would make every nature lover’s heart skip a beat.

Aside from its coastal treasures, Olango Island is also a declared bird sanctuary. If you visit during November to February, you can go birdwatching here where you will witness 97 species of migratory birds flocking to the island. Or you can explore the island and observe its wildlife on a kayak or a bike. It’s your choice. Either way, Olango Island will fill your senses with the beauty of nature. 

  • Snorkel at Hilutungan Island

Like Nalusuan Island, Hilutungan Island is also a fish sanctuary and a beautiful snorkeling and diving spot. Its aquamarine waters are teeming with colorful fishes and vibrant corals that make for a breathtaking underwater view. Strap on your goggles and dive in!

Aside from island-hopping, you can go diving in Mactan. Top diving sites in Mactan include the Marigondon Cave, Kontiki House Reef, and Olango’s Mabini Point. 

Get the Luxurious Treatment you Deserve at These Top-Rated Mactan beach resorts

mactan resort

The best Mactan beaches are typically tucked inside the island’s many top-notch resorts. These private beaches boast white sand, crystal clear waters, pools, modern facilities, water sports equipment, and many more. It’s every beach-lovers dream! Experience the natural gifts of Mactan paired with world-class service at these top Mactan resorts:

  • Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island Resort

Experience the lap of luxury at Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island Resort. This Mactan resort is a five-star establishment with Mediterranean-inspired architecture, posh Greek style interiors, and its own private white sand beach. The resort has giant pools including an infinity pool and lounging chairs under coconut trees with a nice beach view. Movenpick is also famous for its Ibiza Beach Club night scene. If you want to experience an upscale nightlife, this is the place to be.

  • Abaca Boutique Resort

Get the VIP treatment at Abaca, one of the most exclusive boutique resorts in Mactan. Abaca Boutique Resort is a tropical beachfront hideaway that offers the tranquility of very private luxury suites, an outdoor infinity pool overlooking the ocean, and plush open-air dining experience. You can also get the fully pampered with their indulgent in-room spa service. It’s the dream accommodation for anyone who wants a lavish private retreat by the ocean!

  • Costabella Tropical Beach Resort

Costabella Tropical Beach Resort is a contemporary Filipino-Spanish styled beachfront resort with a private white sand beach, outdoor pools, and masterfully landscaped tropical gardens. The resort also boasts the luxurious LEMA Filipino Spa which offers guests soothing traditional spa treatments.

If you’ve had enough relaxation and beach bumming, you can go for Costabella’s water sports and various activities; from diving, island hopping trip, to their cruises. The resort also offers jet ski, kayak, parasailing, banana boat rides, and water skiing. You’ll never run out of activities here.

  • Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa

Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa is a sprawling luxury beachfront complex that features a pristine beach cove, two outdoor swimming pools, a golf course, three restaurants, and a spa village with six private villas, garden suites, and spa pools. Talk about all-inclusive. The resort certainly knows how to spoil their guests.

Even more impressive, Shangri-La has its own marine sanctuary that is home to 160 species of fish. The sanctuary is just near the shore of their beach. When you’ve grown bored of wading in the shallows, you can grab your snorkeling gear and swim out to check the sanctuary.

  • Jpark Island Resort & Waterpark Cebu

Jpark Island Resort & Waterpark is a five-star resort that offers a mix of luxury and excitement.  The resort has six themed swimming pools, 10 dining choices, a casino, an activity zone, a dive shop, and even a private white sand beach. The water complex flaunts three towering waterslides, a lazy river pool, and a wave pool.

If you’ve had enough water activities for the day, you can relax and watch the sunset at the Havana by the Sea. The Havana is a beautiful deck with a breathtaking view of the ocean. Sounds like a great way to cap the day, wouldn’t you say?

Eat Authentic Cebuano Food in Mactan

what to eat in mactan

Being an island, you can expect the freshest seafood in any Mactan restaurant. But more than that, Mactan also offers unique local culinary treats and the native Filipino dishes that will make you want to ask for seconds.   

Here are the top restaurants you don’t want to miss on your trip to Mactan.

  • Satisfy Your Seafood Cravings at SuTuKil

SuTuKil is a unique Mactan dining experience; you won’t find it anywhere else! The name SuTuKil is a combination of 3 Bisaya words, Sugba (Grill) + Tuwa (broth) + Kilaw (Raw, similar to ceviche). 

At a SuTuKil restaurant, you have a wide variety of fresh seafood to choose from; different kinds of fish, shellfish, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and even seaweed. The best part is that you also get to decide how you want it to be cooked.  And as you can guess you can have it grilled, with broth, or prepared like ceviche!

One of the top SuTuKil restaurants is Lapu-Lapu City is Manna SuTuKil Food House. Manna Sutukil Food is strategically located beside Mactan Shrine. The establishment has two floors and a scenic view of the Shrine. If you’re tired and hungry after your Mactan Shrine tour, then head straight to Manna SuTuKil.

  • Taste Cebu’s Best Roast Pig at Rico’s Lechon

Lechon is the culinary pride of Cebu. If you’re visiting the province, don’t pass up the opportunity to sink your teeth into this ultimate pork dish. Imagine savory golden crispy pork skin, the juiciest meat seasoned with traditional herbs and spices, and a layer of fat that just melts into your mouth. That’s lechon! The best one can be found at Rico’s Lechon.  

Rico’s Lechon uses native organic pigs stuffed with lemongrass, tomato, vinegar, ginger, and other local herb and spices, and then roasted over charcoal. Rico’s Lechon is also the pioneer of the famous spicy lechon. But if you’re not into spicy food, fear not! Their regular lechon is just as sumptuous!

You don’t have to travel to Cebu City anymore to experience this one of a kind. Cebuano gastronomic experience because the famous Rico’s now has a branch in Mactan Island.

You can find Rico’s Lechon at the Mactan Promenade, along the Airport Road in Ibo, Lapu-Lapu City.

  • Go on an exotic food trip at Entoy’s Bakasihan

The bakasi or saltwater eel is Mactan’s top exotic offering. It was already a popular local delicacy in the town of Cordova, where these eels are abundant. But Cordova’s Bakasi was catapulted into to even greater fame when Entoy’s Bakasihan was featured in Netflix’s Street Food episode on Cebu Province.

Entoy’s Bakasihan is not a fancy establishment. But it is very famous for its Linarang Bakasi which is eel sautéed in soy sauce, black beans and tamarind. They also serve other freshly caught seafood like shellfish, adobong pusit (squid adobo), piniritong nokos (fried octopus), suwaki (raw sea urchin), and sunlutan (sea cucumber).

It’s not a 5-star restaurant, but Entoy’s serves simple yet hearty meals that are a testament to the Mactan local’s ingenuity and resourcefulness. And despite the simplicity of this small eatery, the ambiance is very immersive. You can feel and smell the ocean breeze and see fishermen on their boats in the distance as you enjoy your Bakasi meal.

You can find Entoy’s Bakasihan at Buagsong, Cordova. You can take any jeepney that’s bound for Cordova. Once you reach the town, simply ask locals where it is, and they will gladly point you in the right direction.

  • Indulge in Filipino Cuisine at Lantaw Floating Native Restaurant

If you want to experience quintessential Filipino dining that’s a bit more upscale, then head to Lantaw Floating Native Restaurant.  Not only will you be treated to an authentic Filipino feast, but you will also enjoy the restaurant’s stunning seaside ambiance.

Lantaw has a scenic view of the Mactan Channel and Cebu City. But more importantly, they serve mouth-watering traditional Filipino cuisine. Their bestsellers include Crispy Pata (deep-fried pig knuckles), lechon manok (roast chicken), pancit canton (stir-fried noodles), utan bisaya (mixed vegetable soup), and of course fresh seafood dishes like spicy scallops, squid adobo, and tuna belly.

Feast on authentic Filipino cuisine in this open-air restaurant by the sea! Come in the afternoon so you can catch the beautiful Mactan sunset over dinner.

Lantaw Floating Native Restaurant is located at the tip of Cordova at Day-as. You can get there by hopping on any jeepney heading to Cordova.

Other Mactan Attractions You Can Check Out

Mactan also has a couple of unique fun attractions that you can check out if you still have time to spare in your itinerary.

  • Be Amazed at the 3D Art at Happy World Museum

Check out the fascinating 3D paintings and optical illusion exhibits at Happy World Museum in Barangay Gabi in Cordova. The museum features more than 70 superb three-dimensional artworks, interactive art, and optical illusion exhibits. 

The museum is divided into themes such as the Philippine Pride, Jurassic Animals, Religious Beliefs, World Famous Art, and Ocean Section. Stop by Happy World Museum and have fun posing with their 3D painting.

  • Witness flowers lighting up at 10000 Roses Café

The 10000 Roses Café is a Korean café in Day-as Cordova just beside Lantaw Floating Native Restaurant. This Korean cafe is best-known for its field of roses; it’s not an ordinary field, and there aren’t any real roses either. It is, in fact, an expansive display of 10000 LED-powered roses that light up in the evening. It’s truly a sight to behold!

The cafe is often crowded with tourists posing for that Instagram-perfect shot in front of the beautifully lit roses. Check out 10000 Roses Café and get your photo taken at this Instagram-worthy café!

Experience a Tropical Paradise Without Leaving the City at Mactan Island!

If you’re looking for a tropical island destination that also offers the comforts of the city, then look no further! Mactan Island is home to a bustling urban community with a rich history, beautiful beaches, and pristine islets are just a few minutes away!

Whatever type of island adventure you want to pursue, Mactan has something for you. If you prefer to immerse in the local culture, Mactan’s cultural heritage will captivate you. If you’re seeking a retreat in nature, the island’s natural attractions will satisfy your soul. 

Mactan Island welcomes the continuous stream of both local and foreign tourists craving for a tropical island experience with the convenience of the city in arms reach. If you’re also craving for such an experience, then Mactan Island is for you!

Now that you’ve read about the things to do in Mactan, start planning your trip and experience it yourself! Research Mactan tours and activities that you can add to your itinerary now.