Cebu is one of the most diverse travel destinations in the Philippines. From island and beaches, snorkeling and diving spots, heritage sites, countless activities, the exciting Sinulog Festival, an award-winning international airport, to delicious local cuisine - Cebu has them all.
Cebu consists of one main island and more than 100 surrounding islands. Its capital, Cebu City, is an economic and commercial powerhouse. In fact, it’s the oldest city in the Philippines.
Travelers who love beaches, islands, and the general outdoors will easily fall in love with Cebu. This is why Cebu is a great alternative to Manila as an entry point when going to the Philippines. Other top Philippine destinations nearby can easily be visited from Cebu.
Prominent Cebu tourist spots are scattered across the province. If you have a considerable amount of travel time, you can create an itinerary that can cover most of the must-visit spots in Cebu that fit your interests and preferences.
For a hassle-free adventure, there’s a wide range of organized Cebu tours you can sign up for that already includes transfers.
Here is a comprehensive list of Cebu tours and activities that you can add to your travel itinerary:
Cebu has a tropical climate so it’s hot and humid for a good portion of the year. Although sunny weather is ideal for sightseeing, it can get pretty hot and sticky. This is why cold spring tours have become very popular among visitors to the province!
From Cebu City, you can arrange transport to bring you to some of the most notable cold springs in the province’s remote towns. The town of Tuburan, for example, is gifted with an abundant number of springs, so you may book a day tour to this area to satisfy your cold springs craving.
One of the popular springs in Tuburan is the Molobolo Spring, which features a large rectangular pool where freshwater flows continuously.
Other worthwhile spring water towns to check out are Dalaguete, Balamban, Carmen, and Tabogon.
Many of Cebu’s surrounding islands are serene, beautiful, and worth escaping to. One of these tourism gems is Camotes Islands.
Camotes is situated east of the main Cebu Island and is actually composed of three islands: Poro, Pacijan and Ponson.
The main draw for Camotes Islands is its gorgeous sandy beaches. One of the go-to spots is Santiago Bay, which features a 1 km stretch of white sand coupled with clear shallow water.
Exploring intricate cave networks is also one beloved tourist activity in Camotes. These caves are tourist-friendly as they are well lit and have concrete stairs. Bukilat, Paraiso, Timobo, and Holy Crystal are some of the frequently explored caves on the islands.
There are many Cebu tour packages that are tailor-made for Camotes Islands. Such tours would typically highlight attractions like Lake Danao, Bakhaw Beach, Buho Rock Resort, Tulang Diot Island, and the majestic Busay Falls.
Photo by the Philippine Department of Tourism
Just 5.5 kilometer east of Cebu’s Mactan Island lies another striking tourist spot called Olango Islands.
This small archipelago is composed of the main island of Olango and six other nearby islands, which are Sulpa, Camungi, Nalusuan, Gilutongan, Pangan-an, and Coahagan.
Much of Olango’s travel popularity is attributed to its wildlife sanctuary status.
Organized day trips to this island from Cebu are common. To reach the main island, you need to take a boat from the Punta Engano Pier on Mactan Island.
The Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary is home to one of the largest populations of migratory birds in the country. There are about 100 species of bird staying in the sanctuary at a time. Thus, most Olango Islands tours will definitely include a stop to this sanctuary.
Another common Olango tour activity is snorkeling in Gilutongan Marine Sanctuary, near Gilutongan Island. Aside from bird watching and snorkeling, Olango tours can also involve visits to mangrove forests and beautiful beaches.
For a distinct dining experience, Olango recommends floating restaurants - eateries built on stilts and specialize in serving fresh seafood dishes.
Photo by Ryan Yoo
Mactan Island's travel appeal has a lot to do with its accessibility and tourist facilities.
Frequent Cebu travelers are familiar with Mactan as this is where the province’s international airport resides. But more than just an airport site, Mactan Island serves as the base to some of the best Cebu island hopping tours.
Hilutungan Island, Caohagan Island, and Nalusuan Island are some of the major islands that tours usually stop at.
Hilutungan is one of Cebu’s oldest protected marine habitats known for its wide fish variety and thriving coral reefs. Thus, visitors to this island usually come here to mainly dive and snorkel.
Nalusuan and Caohagan are also protected marine sanctuaries so they also make rewarding snorkeling stops. Some tours stop at Pandanon Island to treat guests to the island’s picturesque white sandy stretch.
Mactan Island tours especially island-hopping excursions usually include transport and lunch. Make sure to clearly sort out the details with the operators including lunch arrangements, stops, equipment, entrance fees, among others.
Located in the southernmost part of Cebu, Oslob is one of the most prominent Cebu tour destinations.
Much of the tourism buzz surrounding this small coastal town is because of tours where you can go swimming with whale sharks. Whale sharks, locally called tuki or butanding, are one of the biggest fish species on earth.
More than whale sharks, there are more tourist spots and activities in Oslob that you can explore. Above water, it has sandbars, waterfalls, caves, and historical sites worth exploring.
You can book a tour to check out popular tourist spots like the majestic Tumalog Falls and Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort. At Sumilon, you can spend a day kayaking in lagoon, hiking, and snorkeling.
If you’re interested in history, then stop by Baluarte (19th-century fort and watchtower), Cuartel Ruins (preserved Spanish colonial-era structures), and Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church.
Hiking is one of the many outdoor pleasures that Cebu can offer to the intrepid traveler. One particularly notable hiking destination is the Osmeña Peak. This peak is located in Cebu’s Mantalongon Barangay (village) Dalaguete Municipality. Dalaguete is around 85 kilometers from Cebu City.
Osmena Peak stands at about 1,013 meters above sea level. Waiting at the top are spectacular panoramic views of limestone cliffs, the sharp Mantalongon range, Tongo Bay, and Negros Island.
The trek is mainly composed of an uphill trail. Some Osmena peak tours may add a drive down to Mantalongon vegetable market, where you can interact with locals and have a sumptuous lunch.
If the combination of gorgeous unspoiled beaches and peaceful authentic island life appeals to you then going for a Bantayan Island tour is an excellent choice.
Bantayan Island is located just off the coast of Cebu’s northern region. The highlight of a Bantayan Island tour is arguably the island’s powdery white sand beaches.
Paradise Beach, Kota Beach, Alice Beach, Maricaban Beach, and Sugar Beach are just some of the spectacular beaches Bantayan is proud of. These beaches have crystal clear but shallow water, ideal for swimming.
Ogtong Cave, Kota Park, Obo-ob Mangrove Eco Park, and Kota Sandbar are the other must-see attractions on Bantayan Island. The island is also the jump-off point for boat tours to islands like Virgin Island, Kinatarkan Island, and Hilantagaan Island.
If you’re the daring and adventurous kind, you can test your nerves and try tandem skydiving with Skydive Cebu.
It’s possible to book a day tour to Bantayan from Cebu or Mactan Island. But you can also stay on the island for a couple of days. Santa Fe, which is the main tourist town, has several small hotels and resorts to choose from.
Diving aficionados who travel to the Philippines seeking diving tours would have most likely heard of Malapascua Island. This seemingly unassuming island, located off the coast of northern Cebu, has earned quite a reputation in the diving community.
Malapascua is, in fact, one of the rare spots in the world where diving with the thresher sharks is almost guaranteed. The best thing about this incredible underwater experience is it's completely eco-friendly.
The thresher sharks are not lured by local tour operators; they naturally go to the island’s Monad Shoal, where they are cleaned by hundreds of small electric blue fish called wrasse.
You can conveniently book the Malapascua thresher sharks diving tour or upon your arrival to Cebu. The tour begins early in the morning as this is the shark’s normal visitation time to Monad Shoal. After this, the tour usually moves on to other interesting sites.
Take note that this particular is not for inexperienced divers. You need to have an Advanced Open Water certification to do this dive. Fortunately, there are diving schools in Malapascua that provide an array of scuba diving courses, from beginner to instructor level.
Thresher sharks are indeed the prime attraction but Malapascua’s underwater habitat is also a diver’s dream as it’s filled with marine life, wrecks, lively coral reefs, wall dives underwater caves.
Aside from being a commercial hub, Cebu City is also home to some of the best Filipino cuisine. Food is an important part of Cebuano culture. It’s common for locals to invite visitors to eat as a way of showing hospitality and warmth.
Take the opportunity to go on a Cebu City food tour to sample some of the region’s well-loved dishes. These tours highlight Cebuano cuisine history as well as beloved cooking techniques. Some of them take you to authentic local street food adventures.
Some of the dishes you can try during a Cebu food tour are lechon (juicy roasted pork), lumpia (spring roll), and nilarang (sour fish soup).
If you have a more adventurous palate, you can also try unique dishes like ginabot (deep fried pork intestines) and tuslob buwa (wrapped rice dipped in sauteed pig’s brain).
Evening food tours promise can be equally exciting as Cebu does have a lively nightlife and dining scene. Tours can include visits to gastro pubs, stalls and night markets. Larsian sa Fuente and Sugbo, Mercado at Inez Villa Street are two of the most popular open-air dining centers in the city.
Cebu City may seem highly urbanized and commercial, but it’s actually home to highly valuable historical and cultural sites. To gain insight into the rich culture and heritage of the “Queen City”, delegate a day for an insightful sightseeing tour.
Any Cebu City sightseeing tour will not be complete without dropping by Magellan’s Cross. This is a highly important historic site not only for Cebu but for the entire Philippines.
The wooden cross was planted by explorer Ferdinand Magellan upon his arrival to the country in 1521. Magellan’s Cross is considered to be the birthplace of Roman Catholicism in the Philippines.
Aside from Magellan's Cross tours, the Basilica Minore Del Sto. Niño and Sirao Garden are the other top Cebu tour attractions. The Basilica is the country’s oldest Roman Catholic church while Sirao Garden is fondly called “Little Amsterdam” for its large collection of flowers.
The Temple of Leah is another favorite city tour destination that you may find fascinating to see. This Roman-style temple mansion is often compared to the Taj Mahal as it was built by an architect to remember his late wife.
Other popular tour stops include Fuente Osmena Circle, Capitol Site, and the historic Colon Street.
Photo by Giachen's World
The Moalboal sardine run tour should be on top of your Cebu Itinerary. You will get to swim with thousands of sardines, a truly remarkable travel experience. The Moalboal sardine run is available all year long and occurs just off the Moalboal shore on Cebu Island.
An insane number of sardines gather just about 30 meters off the shore of Panagsama Beach. This gathering takes place naturally as this is a way for the sardines to protect themselves from larger prey.
It’s possible to make your way to the beach on your own and snorkel from there. An organized tour to the site is one of the most popular activities in Moalboal and quite ideal for a large group as they conveniently provide transport and snorkeling equipment .
There are also packaged trips like the Pescador Island tours that combine the sardine run and stops to other beautiful islands and snorkeling sites. You may also opt for a diving tour to take you closer to the sardine run action.
The Kawasan Falls canyoneering tour is arguably one of the best extreme outdoor adventures in the Philippines.
Kawasan Falls is a popular three-tiered waterfall located in the town of Badian. It features clear turquoise-colored pools surrounded by a serene and lush landscape.
Some travelers who just want a laidback experience go for the basic Kawasan Falls tours. However, if you’re looking for more thrill, then you should definitely sign up for the Kawasan Falls canyoneering trip. Your canyoneering experience starts with a hike from Alegria. You will then travel down through canyons until you reach Kawasan Falls.
The tour is meant for adventurous individuals who are in good physical condition as it involves climbing, rappelling, and jumping from 30 to 50 feet cliffs into the water.
This particular tour requires a guide as it’s difficult to navigate through the area without extensive local knowledge. Local guides would know the route well and the safe places to stop and jump off.
Try These Adventures in Cebu
From beaches to hiking trails, cold springs, waterfalls, and cultural sites, Cebu may be your next ultimate travel destination! During your visit, consider doing some of these top Cebu tours and activities listed. You may initially plan a one or two-day travel itinerary but Cebu is actually more of a long-term holiday spot.
Cebu is where you can experience both a vibrant urban scene and explore nature’s wonders. Immerse in the quiet Filipino provincial life, eat unique dishes, and get to know the Cebuanos’ hospitality and friendly nature.