Popular things to do in Cebu

Cebu, Philippines

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At the heart of the Visayas lies a busy hub that boasts a clutch of sightseeing attractions and numerous activities to keep you occupied for a few days before moving on. Beyond the city the island is home to some fantastic beach resorts or offshore islands that are famous for diving.

Cebu city is a large urban centre, catering to its population of some 800,000, and there is certainly a well-developed tourist infrastructure that puts on sightseeing tours, and activities that include diving, water sports, adventure parks, trekking and mountain biking. Alternatively you can simply lie on the beach – although the resorts on Mactan Island are a little fake, with their imported sand and coconut palms, but still a sunny experience if you’ve just arrived from frigid Europe.

Start by taking a tour of the city, there’s quite a bit of history to explore since this was the first place the Spanish settled in the archipelago and introduced Catholicism to the locals as early as the mid-1500s. Ferdinand Magellan left a cross, nowadays out of view but you can photograph a replica housed in a small pavilion not far from Plaza Independencia. It is here too that you can find Fort San Pedro, a modest site that is well kept and looks suitably old. Also of historic importance is the Basilica of Santo Niño. As far as Medieval era churches go, it’s not that impressive but does contain the famous child Jesus statue – a gift to the local queen from Magellan in 1565. The present building dates from the 1700s.

The Visayas is famous for its tropical waters and stunning beaches, but you’ll have to venture out of the city to discover this. The adjacent Mactan Island has no natural sand, but a boat trip will take you to nearby islands, during which snorkelling is on the itinerary, or else you can sign up for various water sports (go for the multi-activity day-trips), for a fun fill afternoon on banana boats and jet skis. If you are on Mactan Island (killing a few hours during an flight connection at the nearby airport) you can realistically seek out the Lapu Lapu monument that commemorates a local warrior chief who originally defeated the Spanish advances. Another suggestion is to catch a taxi to one of the resorts to enjoy their beach and pool facilities (they might charge you $10 however); there are no public beaches, unfortunately.

Diving is a must when visiting the Philippines and Cebu boasts two very well-known locations, Moalboal on the southwest coast, with the nearby Kawasan falls. Then there is Malapascua, a stunning island off the Northern tip and described as ‘the next Boracay’. Since it’s difficult to get to, presently it is the domain of dive operators but has fantastic paradise-like beaches for the non-diver to lounge around on all day. There are several other low-key off-shore islands for private tours and retreats, such as Banyatan (north), or Sumilon, and the shark diving beach area of Oslob in the south.

Hiking or trekking trips are worth considering, since this is a large island with plenty of natural jungle territory with hills. Right behind Cebu city is a range from where you can get a great elevated view if you rent a bike or car and have a sense of adventure. Mountain biking is offered here too. Then there is the Danasan eco- adventure park, an hour’s drive north of the city, which is much recommended for families.

Finally, no visit to the Visayas is complete without inspecting the famously bizarre Chocolate Hills. This unusual geological phenomenon, resembling a giant tray of Hershey Kisses, is found on neighbouring Bohol island and it’s possibly to take day trip that includes an hour long speed boat transfer, together with a morning visit to the hills, lunch cruising the lush Loboc River and a visit to the tarsier centre.

Of course, if you are a city slicker, you can lie by the pool at your comfy hotel and when that becomes boring head off to one of the many malls that are ubiquitous in all urban areas of the Philippines. Shopping is rewarding for the budget-minded when in Asia. These air-conditioned giants are a sophisticated and modern experience.

A Brief Love Affair with Cebu: Lessons and Unexpected Twists (Part 4)

Posted on 19 July 2016


When I first got to Cebu, I knew that I have instantly fallen for it. Then, as I have discovered its unique gems, I found out that we had many things in common. First, we are both sentimental: Cebu gives high importance to its heritage, just like how I treasure things from the past. Second, we are both quiet: Cebu is discreet and calm most of the time, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer. All you have to do is make an effort to get to know it to its core. Oh, and last but not the least, we love su

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