Top 20 Cebu Tourist Spots & Things to Do: Canyoneering, Whale Shark Watching, Diving & More

Top 20 Cebu Tourist Spots & Things to Do: Canyoneering, Whale Shark Watching, Diving & More

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Diver in Moalboal, Cebu

Discover the province of Cebu, called the Gateway to a Thousand Journeys because of the multitude of fun and exciting Cebu tours and activities that you can experience here! Find out the prime Cebu tourist attractions and unique things to do so that 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 and activities to do in Cebu, not to mention good Filipino food to sate your cravings in between, easily making it one of the best tourist spots in the Philippines.

You'll also find it easy to discover the perfect Cebu hotels for your trip, as it is home to some of the most beautiful beach resorts in the Philippines.

History aficionados can revel in Spanish-era edifices just minutes from the Cebu Airport, while beach and sea lovers get access to beautiful Cebu beaches and scuba diving 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 airport that services international and domestic flights, including Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Baguio's reopened Loakan Airport, you can also easily other destinations in the Philippines.

If your visit falls in January, you can also take part in the fun and colorful Sinulog Festival, one of the most popular Philippine festivals

Get started with planning your Cebu trip. Here's a rundown of activities you can try and places you can visit during your trip:

1. Experience Canyoneering to Kawasan Falls

Canyoneering at Kawasan Falls in Cebu, Philippines

The most famous attraction in Badian is Kawasan Falls, a three-tiered cascade that features distinctly turquoise water. It is also one of the most famous waterfalls in the Philippines.

There are two ways to explore the falls. One is by choosing from the various canyoneering tours and having a journey for three to six hours from Alegria to Badian, and the other is by a short trek to the waterfalls.

Cebu Canyoneering to Kawasan Falls, Oslob Whale Shark Tour & Tumalog Falls | Meals & Hotel Transfers

Aerial view of Kawasan Falls in Cebu, Philippines

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 blue pools.

The final leg is the third and top tier of Kawasan Falls, also known as Kabukalan Spring, from where the water flows. Canyoneering is one of the best rainy season activities in the Philippines but it can be enjoyed all year round. 

For those who want to take the easier route, 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. 

You can also opt to book a Kawasan Falls canyoneering tour that includes swimming with whale sharks in Oslob to make the most of your trip in Cebu. 

2. Explore the Beaches of Bantayan Island

Kota Beach at Bantayan Island in Cebu, Philippines

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. They are some of the best tourist spots on 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.

3. Witness the Grandeur of the Temple of Leah

Fountain at Temple of Leah in Cebu, Philippines

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 spot 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, the 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, its 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. Similar to the Taj Mahal of India, the Temple of Leah was constructed as a symbol of the 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 house 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 and be entranced by this grand gesture of love. 

4. Discover the Vibrant Marine Biodiversity on Sumilon Island

Clear and turquoise waters around Sumilon Island in Cebu, Philippines

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 Cebu Island. It is privately owned by a resort, but it is open to the public for a minimal entrance fee. If you want to stay overnight, you can book a 2-day Bluewater Sumilon Cebu glamping package.

Sumilon Island is also a marine protected area and is home to Philippine 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 a leisurely hike. You will also find a natural lake and a gorgeous cliff on either tip of the island.  

5. Try Water Adventures in Camotes Island 

Camotes Island in Northern Cebu, Philippines

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.

It's a great relaxing activity for groups and couples. Lake Danao also prides itself on its cleanliness.  You can find several free-swimming ducks and tilapia in 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-foot cliff, a friendlier option that will still give you that adrenaline rush.

Top 20 Cebu Tourist Spots & Things to Do: Canyoneering, Whale Shark Watching, Diving & More

6. Dive and See Thresher Sharks in Malapascua

Thresher Shark in Malapascua, CebuMalapascua 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, all teeming with vibrant coral walls and large sea vertebrates.

The 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 of diving in Malapascua 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 tourist spots 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 features. 

The best part is that the beaches in Malapascua are less commercialized than the more popular ones in the Philippines, such as Alona Beach in Bohol and Boracay in Aklan.

It has a relaxing and friendly beach vibe that makes the island even more inviting. There’s also a lighthouse you can hike to for a panoramic view of the entire island. 

7. Smell the Flowers at Sirao Garden

Beautiful flowers by the lake at Sirao Garden in Cebu, Philippines

Another excellent Instagram-worthy spot in Cebu’s hillside is Sirao Garden. Dubbed 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. 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 were initially 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 flocking to the spot.

Now, Sirao Garden not only has rows of colorful flora, but it also features replicas of Dutch windmills, as well as a viewing deck.

8. Learn About Catholicism in the Philippines at Magellan’s Cross

Magellan's Cross in Cebu, Philippines

If you’re planning to visit 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 with bringing Catholicism to the Philippine Archipelago. History books tell the story of how Magellan reached 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 cross displayed in the pavilion is made of Tingalo Wood and is said to be encasing the original cross inside of it.

The unique crucifix was seen as a miraculous relic, so natives started chipping away pieces as a souvenir. To protect the cross, 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 where the original crucifix was planted on April 21, 1521.

9. Take a Leisurely Hike to Osmeña Peak

Sunset at the Osmeña Peak in Cebu, Philippines

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. En route the peak during your Osmeña Peak trek, 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.

The craggy rock formations and the breathtaking vista of South Cebu and distant Negros Oriental at the summit will surely make the trek to the top worth it.

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.

10. Go on a Pilgrimage to Simala Shrine

Inside the Simala Church in Sibonga, Cebu

Nestled in the hills of Simala, Sibonga in Cebu is the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, 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 its 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. 

Whether you are a devout Catholic or you want to admire the scenery and see Cebu's Castle Church, you are welcome at Simala Shrine. Just observe silence and be respectful while you are on the premises.

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 a stop at Simala Shrine if you want to visit other tourist spots as well.

11. Climb the 81 Steps of the Cebu Taoist Temple

Facade of the Taoist Temple in Cebu, Philippines

The Cebu Taoist Temple is 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, 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. 

12. Go on a Lechon Food Trip

Lechon at House of Lechon in Carcar, Cebu

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 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”) or 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 Cebu restaurants and take-out counters in Mactan and Cebu City that offer Lechon based on the Carcar recipe.

Among them are Rico's and House of Lechon. Other famous Cebu Lechon joints include Zubuchon and CnT. If you can't eat pork, there are also restaurants offering Cebu halal food

13. Marvel at the Sardine Run in Moalboal

Diver at the Sardine Run in Moalboal, Cebu

A popular tourist spot on the province’s southwestern 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 swim with 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 year-round, even with just a pair of swimming goggles.

However, diving is still considered the best way to witness this wall of millions of sardines. You can watch the schools of sardines closer as they congregate, move, and glide through the water.

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. 

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 beach and ocean lovers.

14. Explore Carnaza Island 

White sand beach of Carnaza Island in Cebu, Philippines

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 a bird's-eye-view of the island.

You should also check out 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.

When on Carnaza Island, be sure to visit Liog-Liog Twin Beach and the secluded Kailina Beach.

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. 

15. Check out Spanish Artifacts at Fort San Pedro

Facade of the Fort San Pedro in Cebu, Philippines

Cebu has a rich history. Luckily, structures that give us a glimpse of the past remain standing to this day. One such structure is 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 was built in 1738 and is considered 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.

16. Join a Birdwatching Tour in Olango Island            

Olango Island has been declared a wildlife sanctuary. It is endowed with a diverse coastal ecosystem: large sandy beaches, coral reefs, and a mangrove forest that is recognized as the most extensive in the whole of Cebu Province. 

 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 may witness 97 species of birds flocking to the island.

Thanks to its hectares of mangroves and mudflats, Olango Island is one of the stops for migratory birds coming from Siberia and China, including several endangered species. 

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.  

17. Taste the Best Cebuano Street Food at Larsian

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-hour 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. 

Chorizo de Cebu is a pork sausage made from lean ground pork, ground pork fat, sugar, anise liqueur, and several local spices. It has a distinctly red color because of the achuete seeds.

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.

18. Learn about the History of Cebu at Museo Sugbo

Museo Sugbo in Cebu, PhilippinesIf you are curious about the history and heritage of the province of Cebu, head to 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. The galleries of Museo Sugbo were 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 tell 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 II 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 signatures engraved in 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'll surely be fascinated by the exhibits at Museo Sugbo.

19. Admire the Exhibits at the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

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.

The 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.

In 2008, it was formally turned over to the care of Val Sandiego, who initiated a careful restoration of the house and opened it to the public. 

The 2-story Yap-San Diego Ancestral House now displays the treasured collections of the family, such as contemporary and ancient artwork and antique pieces, such as furniture and religious icons. You can also find life-sized statues and images of saints around the house. 

20. Go Island-Hopping in Mactan

Top view of Mactan Island in Cebu, Philippines

Don’t leave Cebu without exploring the several islets that surround this island province's waters, which are some of the best islands in the Philippines. Thankfully, the nearby Mactan Island is the perfect jump-off point to the beautiful islets of Talima, Caohagan, Cabulan, Nalusuan, Sulpa, and Hilutungan. 

Island-hopping tours from Mactan often start at Hilutungan since it is the nearest to the mainland (accessible within 30 minutes). The island is a protected marine sanctuary and boasts excellent underwater visibility and diverse inhabitants, including octopodes, crabs, and giant clams. 


Nalusuan Island is also another top place for island hopping in the Philippines. It is also a protected marine sanctuary with a vibrant ecosystem. You can swim with the fish 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 gear!

Start planning your trip to the islands of Cebu!

Top 20 Cebu Tourist Spots & Things to Do: Canyoneering, Whale Shark Watching, Diving & MoreExplore the best resorts in Cebu 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. 

Don't have flights yet? You can find flights to Cebu on this website, as well as Philippine travel packages for a hassle-free vacation.

If you have more time to spare, we recommend exploring nearby top Philippine destinations from Cebu. Check out our Cebu to Bohol itinerary, Cebu to Boracay itinerary, Cebu to Siargao itinerary, and Cebu to Bacolod itinerary to help you plan your trip. 

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