Discover the province of Cebu, the Gateway to a Thousand Journeys! Find out the prime tourist attractions and unique activities you can try to make the most out of your holiday.
Home to nearly 170 islands, Cebu lives up to its moniker as "The Gateway to a Thousand Journeys." There isn't a shortage of explorations to do here - not to mention good Filipino food to sate your cravings in between and some of the best Philippines luxury resorts, easily making it one of the best tourist spots in the Philippines.
History aficionados can revel in Spanish-era edifices just minutes from the airport, while beach and sea lovers get access to beautiful beaches and dive spots whether their base is in the capital or the extreme north or south. You won't run out of tours and activities to try in Cebu, and because of its location, accessibility, and its international airport, you can also visit nearby destinations.
If your visit falls in January, you can also take part in the Sinulog Festival.
Get started with planning your Cebu trip. Here's a rundown of Cebu activities you can try during your trip:
The most famous attraction in Badian is Kawasan Falls, a three-tiered cascade that features distinctly turquoise water. There are two ways to explore the falls.
One is by choosing from the various canyoneering escapades and have a journey for three to six hours from Alegria to Badian, and the other is by a short trek to the waterfalls.
Trying a canyoneering tour to Kawasan Falls is an exhilarating water adventure that takes you through towering gorges and stalactite boulders. You get to swim and rappel through the river canyons, and even jump off 30-foot high cliffs into the blue pools of Kawasan Falls.
The final leg is the third and most top tier of the Kawasan Falls - or Kabukalan Spring - from where the water comes. If you're not interested to try canyoneering, you can participate in a strictly Kawasan falls adventure instead.
For those who want to take the easier route when it comes to Kawasan experiences, you can go directly to the main entrance to the falls in Badian, then walk for a kilometer and a half to the first tier, where the basin and several cottages are located.
Most visitors prefer to end their visit here, although you can opt to walk further uphill to reach the second and third tiers of the falls.
Bantayan Island is a small island off the coast of northern Cebu. Don’t be fooled by this sleepy fishing village, the beaches of this humble island exude the same charm and beauty as the famous Boracay Island.
The best part is, Bantayan Island is not as commercialized and crowded as Boracay. If you want a relaxing vacation by the beach and witness one of the most beautiful sunsets, Bantayan Island won’t disappoint you.
Bantayan Island is blessed with several sprawling white-sand beaches and calm azure waters. Most of the beaches in Bantayan Island are within resorts or owned privately, but they are accessible to the public for a small fee.
You also don’t need to check in at any of the resorts to enjoy the beaches. It's one of the best tourist spots in Bantayan Island.
Bantayan Island's Kota Beach is one of the best beaches in the Philippines. It features a sandbar and a lagoon that makes a perfect spot for wading in and sunbathing. Paradise Beach, on the other hand, is a serene stretch of white sand beach that features beautiful rock formations.
Bantayan Island also boasts two natural cave pools, the Ogtong Cave and the Sto. Niño Cave. A natural cold spring feeds both caves, so you can expect chilly water that's great for cooling off after a morning of beach-hopping.
Hailed as the Taj Mahal of Cebu, the Temple of Leah has become one of the most famous landmarks in Cebu. This magnificent building is a sight to behold and a favorite Cebu activity for taking Instagram-worthy shots.
If you’re up for a Cebu hillside tour, the Temple of Leah is an excellent place to start. Located in the hills of Busay in Cebu City, Temple of Leah is a towering seven-story building inspired by ancient Roman architecture.
Said to have cost over PHP 80 Million, this grand structure boasts granite floors, Doric columns, a marble fountain, and several Grecian-style statues.
However, it’s most photographed features are the two golden lions by the main stairs and the nine-foot bronze statue of Leah V. Albino-Adarna, for whom the temple was built for. Similar to the Taj Mahal of India, the Temple of Leah was constructed as a symbol of undying love of Teodorico Soriano Adarna for his late wife, Leah.
However, unlike the Taj Mahal, the Temple of Leah is not a tomb. The 24 chambers of the Temple of Leah houses the namesake's massive collection of antiques, art, Chinese jars, and books. The temple is open to the public, so be sure to stop by or try Temple of Leah activities and be entranced by this grand gesture of love.
Sumilon Island is inarguably one of the most popular tourist spots in Cebu. Sumilon Island’s most prominent feature is its immaculate sandbar that changes shape every season.
The water surrounding the island is something to behold as well; the varying shades of blue and the clarity of the water will entice you to jump right in.
This 24-hectare island is situated on the southern tip of the leading Cebu Island. It is privately owned by a resort, but it is open to the public for a minimal entrance fee.
Sumilon Island is also a marine protected area and is home to diving spots teeming with blacktip sharks, colorful fishes, and sprawling coral gardens. You have the choice of frolicking by the sandbar or going snorkeling to marvel at the vibrant underwater scenery of Sumilon.
Aside from its gorgeous waters, the island also has mangroves that are home to various bird species. Flanking the beach are hectares-wide forests where you can go for leisurely hiking. You will also find a natural lake and a gorgeous cliff on either tip of the island.
Camotes Island in Northern Cebu offers a multitude of outdoor activities for thrill-seekers. Among the most popular ones is spelunking Camotes Island’s Holy Crystal Cave. The Holy Crystal Cave is unique in that its chambers are naturally shaped downwards.
Visitors can access the chambers through a small entrance above ground, then descend eight levels down. Well-preserved stalactites and stalagmites can be found inside the cave.
Another unique feature of Camotes is Lake Danao, locally known as the Lover's Lake. Fascinatingly, the lake forms the number eight. At 700 hectares, it is the biggest in the Visayas Region. Because of its sheer expanse, Lake Danao is an excellent spot for kayaking. You can also go on a sunset cruise through the lake.
To complete your exciting Camotes Island adventure, go cliff diving at Buho Rock. The ship-like rock formations of this infamous cliff make for an exhilarating jump-off point. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you can leap off from as high as 30 feet. On the other hand, first-timers can go for the 10-feet cliff, a friendlier option that will still give you that adrenaline rush.
Malapascua Island is a small island off the coast of Daanbantayan in the northern part of Cebu. It's well known for its plethora of spectacular diving spots in Cebu – all teeming with vibrant coral walls and large sea vertebrates.
Malapascua Island is famous among locals and international tourists, especially among divers, because it is the only place in the whole world where you can dive with thresher sharks daily.
A typical day at sea involves thresher sharks, hammerhead sharks, blue ring octopus, and manta ray sightings. But if you’re not too keen on diving, don’t worry! Malapascua’s attractions aren’t all underwater.
The island’s idyllic beaches are every beach lover’s dream. Indeed, apart from its breathtaking underwater scenery, Malapascua’s white sand beaches are its other best feature.
It has a relaxing and friendly beach vibe that makes the island even more inviting. There’s also a lighthouse you can hike for a panoramic view of the entire island. Because of its proximity to Leyte's piece of paradise, a day trip in Kalanggaman Island may also be arranged on-site, too.
Another excellent Instagram-worthy spot in Cebu’s hillside is Sirao Garden. Dubbed as the “Little Amsterdam” of Cebu, this picturesque flower farm is located in the highlands of Busay.
The colorful blooms of Sirao Garden will surely make you want to whip out your camera and take thousands of photos during your sightseeing tour in Cebu.
You can find rows of sunflowers, hyacinths, chrysanthemums, daisies, and asters in Sirao Garden. The main attraction, though, is the vibrant and multicolored celosia flowers.
Also known as wool flowers or cockscomb, the celosia flowers that were first planted in Sirao Garden have initially been meant to be harvested and sold during All Souls Day. But thanks to a fortunate turn of events, the celosias were never harvested, and instead, the farm was turned into a park.
The flower farm first attracted locals who wanted to take photos with the beautiful blooms. But soon enough, the word spread and hoards of travelers began joining Sirao Garden tours.
Now, Sirao Garden not only has rows of colorful flora, but it also features replicas of Dutch windmills, as well as a viewing deck.
If you’re planning to visit the historic Cebu spots, Magellan’s Cross is an excellent place to start. The province of Cebu has a rich history, and it has witnessed several monumental events. One such event is the birth of Catholicism in the Philippines, marked by Magellan’s planting of a cross on the island.
The Portuguese explorer, Magellan, is attributed to bringing Catholicism in the Philippine Archipelago. History books tell the story of how Magellan reached the Cebu in 1521, planted a crucifix, and successfully converted the natives to Christianity. The city of Cebu soon grew around that historical site.
Magellan's Cross is housed in a Spanish-style octagonal pavilion in front of the Cebu City Hall. The large wooden CrossCross displayed in the pavilion is made of Tingalo Wood and is said to be encasing the original CrossCross inside of it.
The unique crucifix was seen as a miraculous relic, so natives started chipping away pieces as a souvenir. To protect the CrossCross, the 10-feet replica was built to encase it. Today, the replica stands atop a marble podium with a plaque that states that this was the very site that the original crucifix was planted on April 21, 1521.
Standing at 1,013 meters above sea level, Osmeña Peak is Cebu’s highest. The peak is one of several spire-like formations comprising the Mantalongon Mountain Range in Dalaguete. The town of Dalaguete is known as the “Vegetable Basket of Cebu” because of the crops it supplies to the whole province.
So en route to the peak during your Osmeña Peak hiking experience, you will pass by several vegetable farms and see livestock grazing the terrain.
The picturesque trail to Osmeña Peak is an easy leisurely hike that takes about 30 minutes to an hour. Once you reach the top of Osmeña Peak, you will be greeted by a stunning jagged skyline, a panoramic view of Cebu’s southeast coastline, and a glimpse of Negros. It can be windy at the peak, so take care not to lose your footing.
Mantalongon, Dalagutes is also dubbed as the “Summer Capital of Cebu” due to its chilly climate. Many local travelers from the lowland cities come to the scenic Osmeña Peak to escape the summer heat. You may want to bring a light jacket if you’ll be hiking early in the morning, as it can get cold during this time.
Nestled in the hills of Simala, Sibonga in Cebu is the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, or popularly known as the Simala Shrine and Cebu’s Castle Church. As the name title implies, the sprawling religious complex looks like a castle by the hillside.
Simala Shrine first rose to popularity when the word spread about the miraculous Virgin Mary statue it houses. Several Catholic and Marian Devotees flocked to Simala to pay their respects and pray for miracles and the Virgin’s intercession.
As its fame increased, the church began a series of renovations that transformed their once humble chapel into a grand castle-like shrine.
Today, Simala Shrine attracts foreign and local travelers. There is a testimonial hall wherein stories of devotees’ answered prayers are posted. You will also find a “Dagkutanan” (a candle-lighting area), where you can light multicolored candles and say a prayer.
If you don’t mind long queues, you can see and kiss the miraculous Virgin Mary statue up-close.
Additionally, the shrine has a strict dress code. When you visit Simala Church, don't wear shorts, skirts, crop tops, or any body-hugging and revealing garments. You can join a historical excursion in Cebu with Simala Shrine if you want to visit other tourist spots as well.
The Cebu Taoist Temple one of the famous landmarks in Cebu City. Built-in 1972 by Cebu's Chinese community, the Taoist Temple is a colorful and multi-tiered complex located inside the Beverly Hills Subdivision. The temple has an elevation of 110 feet above sea level and features a facade that is inspired by the Great Wall of China.
The Cebu Taoist Temple is the center of worship for the followers of the ancient teachings of the Chinese Philosopher, Lao Zi.
Devotees visit the temple to light joss sticks, have the monks read their fortune, and perform rituals and pray for the gods to grant their wishes. Unlike the neighboring Phu Sian Temple, the Cebu Taoist Temple is open to worshippers and non-worshipers alike.
You can explore the three winding routes of the temple, and climb the 81 steps that represent the 81 chapters of the Taoist scripture. The temple complex has a chapel, a wishing well, a library, and a souvenir shop as well.
There is also a balcony with a panoramic view of downtown Cebu. Don’t forget to include the Taoist temple in your Cebu sightseeing trip!
A visit to Cebu won’t be complete without trying out its trademark meat: Lechon. Truly, Lechon is the ultimate pork dish and is one of the must-try Philippine cuisine. It is perfected by slow-roasting a pig over a charcoal pit.
The native pigs used are stuffed with lemongrass, tomato, vinegar, and a mixture of local herbs and spices. You can find Lechon anywhere in the Philippines. However, Cebu's Lechon is recognized nationwide as the best.
Cebu's Lechon is famous for its signature crispy skin and the juiciest, most flavorful meat that will make you crave for more as soon as you taste it.
Unlike other versions of Lechon, Cebu’s version is so savory that you don’t need any sauce to pair it with. It’s best eaten with puso (a local term for “heart”) - rice in heart-shaped coconut fronds.
The best Lechon is said to be from Carcar, a municipality two hours away from Cebu. If you can't make it to Carcar, there are notable restaurants and take-out counters in Mactan and Cebu City that offer Lechon based on Carcar recipe.
Among them are Rico's and House of Lechon. Other famous Cebu Lechon joints include Zubuchon and CnT.
A staple in tourist spots in the province’s south-western coast, Moalboal is best known for its Sardine Run. Imagine swimming amidst millions of sardines in crystal clear waters. If you’re lucky, you may even come across sea turtles while snorkeling.
Travelers who experienced this underwater marvel have described it as a breathtaking and surreal experience. What makes this spectacle even more magical is the fact that the sardines don’t leave the shallows of Moalboal. You can experience them all year-round, even with just a pair of swimming goggles.
However, diving is still considered the best way to witness huge dancing balls of millions of sardines. You can watch the schools of sardines closer as they congregate, move, glide through the water to evade predator fish like jacks and tuna.
If you wish to go diving in Moalboal, Pescador Island is the place to be. Accessible a few minutes by boat from Panagsama Beach, the island houses extensive reefs populated with jacks, sponges, lionfish, and more. Go on a Moalboal adventure in Cebu.
From pockets of pristine beaches perfect for swimming and lounging under the sun to the vibrant marine life down below, Moalboal has everything and more for the beach-lovers and ocean-lovers.
Malapascua isn’t the only thing worth seeing in Daanbantayan. One of the newest tourist spots in Cebu, Carnaza Island is two hours away from Malapascua and is a beautiful tourist destination in itself. Spanning 173 hectares, you won’t run out of things to see on this turtle-shaped island.
Carnaza Island boasts mangrove swamps, lagoons, rolling hills, and forested terrain amid the Visayan Sea. The island's beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear waters will entice you to take the plunge. There are also caves you can explore, and a cliff where you can catch bird's eye view of the island.
You should also check out the Skull Cave, where you can find an actual human skull. According to locals, the cave was used as a shelter for Japanese soldiers during World War 2. Sunsets are pretty dramatic here as well, as are nights when stars show up on the horizon unbridled.
Because Carnaza has only recently garnered attention, it’s not crowded and commercialized. Kailina Beach, in particular, is an excellent swimming spot and a great place to commune with nature.
Cebu has a rich history. Luckily, structures that give us a glimpse of the past remain standing to this day. One such structure Fort San Pedro. This stone fort served as a military defense structure in Cebu during the Spanish occupation.
The original fort was made of wood; it was later replaced with stone in the 17th century to fight off Muslim raiders. The stone structure that still stands dates today to 1738 and is considered as the oldest triangular bastion fort in the Philippines.
Fort San Pedro is located in the pier area of Cebu City. It has two sides facing the sea and one side facing what is now called Plaza Independencia.
The three bastions of Fort San Pedro are named La Concepcion (southwest), Ignacio de Loyola (southeast), and San Miguel (northeast). The fourteen cannons that were mounted on those bastions are still there today.
Now, Fort San Pedro is a museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Spanish Government. You can find several artifacts, such as Spanish documents, sculptures, and paintings. Aside from perusing the exhibits, you can also have a picnic inside the fort or explore the walkways on the three bastions of Fort San Pedro.
Olango Island is declared a wildlife sanctuary. It is endowed with a diverse coastal ecosystem; a large sandy beaches, coral reefs, and a mangrove forest that is recognized as the most extensive in the whole Cebu Province.
More impressive, this 4,482-hectare protected island is a flyway for migratory birds. If you visit from November to February, you can go birdwatching here where you will witness 97 species of birds flocking to the island.
Commonly seen here are egrets, herons, terns, kingfishers, fly-eaters, and others. Birds can reach more than 40,000 during peak season, which starts from November through February. Be sure to drop by at sunrise or sunset for the best chances of seeing them, as they come out to feed during these hours.
If you’re looking for the ultimate Cebu food trip, don’t pass up the opportunity to experience Larsian at Fuente Osmeña in Cebu City. Larsian is Cebu’s 24 hours barbecue heaven. It is a market-style dining strip similar to a “dampa” where you pick your food and have it cooked for you.
The best part is that the food here is delightfully affordable. You can choose from several stalls that offer a wide selection of ready-to-grill fare.
You can go for different types of pork and chicken barbecue, or have grilled seafood such as squid. When you dine at Larsian, be sure to try the savory yet sweet Chorizo de Cebu.
This mouthwatering local favorite is a must-try. Aside from barbecue, you can also taste local dishes such as "larang," a local fish stew that's perfect for chilly evenings.
If you are curious about the history and heritage of the province of Cebu, head to the Museo Sugbo. The building of the museum itself has a fascinating history.
The old coral-stone structure of Museo Sugbo formerly held Cebu's convicted felons. Indeed, the galleries of Museo Sugbo was previously Carcel de Cebu or the provincial jail of Cebu from 1870 to 2004.
Today, the chambers of Museo Sugbo house a wide array of well-preserved artifacts that tells the history of Cebu. Each room is dedicated to a specific period in Cebu's history.
The American-era gallery boasts an interesting collection of letters and memorabilia from the Thomasite teachers who arrived in the Philippines in 1901.
There is also a World War 2 gallery that contains an American Bomb that was dropped in Cebu, Japanese propaganda newspapers, and a Purple Heart and Bronze Star awarded to the local hero, Uldrico Cabahug.
If you want to learn about the political history of the country, Museo Sugbo's presidential gallery is a great place to start. This gallery features portraits of Philippine presidents with their signature engraved in a 24-karat gold plated metal.
You can also find various archeological artifacts from excavations in Cebu, including gold and ceramics from the famous San Diego shipwreck of 1600. History-buff or not, you're surely be fascinated by the exhibits at Museo Sugbo.
Another place you can add to your tour of Cebu's historic spots is the Yap-San Diego Ancestral House in Parian, Cebu City. Built during the Spanish colonial era, the Yap-Sandiego house is believed to be one of the oldest houses in the Philippines.
It was constructed out of coral-stone, Molave and Balayong wood, terracotta, and glued using egg whites sometime between 1675 and 1700.
Yap-San Diego Ancestral House was initially owned by a Chinese merchant named Don Juan Yap and his wife, Doña Maria Florido. Albeit weather-beaten, the house survived many generations of the Yap-Sandiego clan.
The 2-story Yap-San Diego Ancestral House now displays the treasured collections of the family, such as contemporary and ancient artworks and antique pieces such as furniture and religious icons. You can also find life-sized statues and images of saints around the house.
Don’t leave Cebu without exploring the several islets that surround this island province's waters. Thankfully, the nearby Mactan Island is the perfect jump-off point to the beautiful islets of Talima, Caohagan, Cabulan, Nalusuan, Sulpa, and Hilutungan.
Mactan island-hopping excursions often start at Hilutungan since it is the nearest from the mainland (accessible within 30 minutes). The island is a protected marine sanctuary and the province’s oldest too. Hilutungan boasts excellent underwater visibility and diverse inhabitants, including octopodes, crabs, and giant clams.
Nalusuan Island is also another top island-hopping destination. It is also a protected marine sanctuary with a vibrant ecosystem. You can swim with the fishes and the occasional turtles here.
The rest of the islets have sandy beaches and are surrounded by calm azure waters perfect for swimming or lounging. They’re also teeming with marine life, so bring your snorkeling goggles!
Start planning your trip to the islands of Cebu. Explore the best Cebu hotels and resorts and Cebu tours and activities that you can book and add to your itinerary for a hassle-free adventure. You may also rent a car in Cebu so you can explore the province more conveniently.