Cebu has greatly become the more sought after launching point when coming to the Philippines and if you’ve missed the memo and are still arriving in Manila, this is your kind heads up!
Cebu airport is not crazy or smelly or filled with heavy traffic like you can find upon first arrival at Manila, so you can ease into holiday mode simply and without the hassle or haggle!
Major TIP: download Grab app! Most of you that have been traveling throughout Asia before will have heard of this, it doesn’t work everywhere in the Philippines but it does in Cebu and you can get an accurate taxi price to your hotels without the fuss or overprice being charged at the airport
So, what about Cebu? Well the majority of attractions are actually closer to Moalboal as the launch pad, which I would highly suggest, Kawasan Falls, Osmena Peak (although still a trek) Pescador diving, hot scuba points and so much more are all more accessible without the 3:00am wake-up call you will find in Cebu City to these types of activities
If you want to go Island Hopping – Mactan is your best spot just near the airport on the other side of Cebu City, as it will be the last pick-up and first drop-off being closest to the pier.
There are still some great island hopping in Moalboal but they’re more scuba-focused as the marine and coral life is just so good in this region! Whereas Mactan is more snorkel / beach relax focused. Don’t get me wrong, you can do both in both places, it’s just they have a niche in each location. For a great hotel in Mactan I stayed at C-Suites which is aparthotel style which if you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know I love having my own kitchen/washing machine etc – makes a trip so smooth in my opinion!
I wouldn’t typically stay IN Cebu City unless its for a specific purpose (shopping / activity etc) I did love the wellness retreat I stayed at in the city which you can read about here and also enjoyed my first hostel at Hostel 7 Cebu which blew me away in terms of the hostel experience! There were lots of foreigners there too as well as locals so was a great friendly balance to be able to mingle and great for any solo travellers.
Funniest way I came about the hostel, I was in Siquijor and started chatting with a gorgeous French tour guide who happened to have a boyfriend (Michael – the owner) in Cebu with a Hostel. After purposefully missing my flight to extend my stay in Siquijor, I had forfeited my overnight hotel and both of them graciously offered me a private room at the Hostel which will stay in my memories forever. What an adventure!
So I’ll walk you through what I DID
What I missed and want to DO
What I did that you can SKIP
And what to absolutely AVOID!
As well as transport tips to other islands etc – so keep reading!
What I did in Cebu:
Hot Tip: Arrive 6:00am to avoid the crowds, the bamboo rafts will be tide up, but they don’t mind if you still climb on, which I think beats waiting for up to an hour wait in the middle of the day if you want your photo – WITH the crowds in it as well. I think this is common knowledge but just in case, there are THREE layers of falls, at the very top, there is an epic rope swing and nature made rock slide! Too fun!
Sardines Run:Hot Tip: You don’t really need to book a specific tour for this, pretty much most of the beach hotels will offer complimentary snorkeling and depending where you’re staying it’s not a far snorkel on your own to go and see the Sardines which are located right in front of “Chilli’s” restaurant.
Pescador snorkelling:Hot Tip: The turtles come in at high-tide (the afternoon) to eat the algae – I went in around 3:00pm til about 5:00pm and saw over 7 turtles, I eventually didn’t even turn on my GoPro which was rare for me 😛
Hot Tip: Staying at C-Suites offers complimentary beach access (I know, weird to have to pay for the beach) and also complimentary shuttle to and from.
Hot Tip: I went both sunset and sunrise – sunset is absolutely pointless as the entire rim is filled with people taking a photo, whereas sunrise there were two other people! Sunset is definitely more stunning but it was also quite cloudy my sunrise so don’t hold me to that. Also take a Grab up as taxi’s will charge FIVE times the amount! Grab drivers will ask for more and say it’s too cheap for them, but eventually one will accept – just give them a little extra as it really is a heavy trafficked drive for them for so little. It’s just nicer to offer extra than it being demanded.
Sirao Flower Garden:Hot Tip: I went just before sunset and it was packed! I would recommend either sunrise again OR when I was there I went down the stairs as soon as you enter to your left and within a few metres there are rows of flowers, literally no one was standing in the garden like this and as soon as I took this photo 100’s came to do the same as everyone is waiting in long lines to take photos with the novelty items like the basket swing and hand statue etc but there is more beauty further down and less crowds! Explore, take initiative and don’t follow the flock!
Taoist Temple:Hot Tip: Don’t bother taking a lot of camera equipment as photos are forbidden inside the actual temple and tripods are not allowed either. The photos you see on the internet make it seem like you can stand in the tower but it’s so tiny and a lot of areas are locked. I went at 8:00am which was a good time to visit, barely anyone was there, but I found it so heavily “policed” with guards that it wasn’t enjoyable.
Hung out with Locals:
Hot Tip: Philippinos are SO friendly and so many warned me about theft and danger traveling solo but I was greeted with so much kindness and friendliness that I wouldn’t say to disregard the warnings because of course those stories happen, but don’t be so guarded that you miss making some amazing connections and lifelong friendships!
People watching at the Markets:
Hot Tip: After all the beaches, sometimes it’s nice to just meander through the markets and watch locals and foreigners exchanging conversation. The markets are alive in the morning and it’s fun to watch people bargaining and locals offering deals.
What I wished I did in Cebu:
*Pic sourced from Google*
This is pretty much in the middle of Cebu City and Moalboal although closer to Moalboal, I skipped it this trip because of the distance and also the roads tend to be pretty windy and I was done with my car-sickness from the buses at this point. But for some great 360 views it looks appealing for sure.
Mini island hopping – Sumilon Island / Caohagan Island
*Pic sourced from Google*
So unfortunately I was scheduled to go with KKday island hopping and they changed my tour dates three times and the third time I was moving to Moalboal so I couldn’t go and pretty much lost out, which is a shame because I was in a prime spot. The last time it happened I asked my hotel about bartering with people at the pier and they advised against it, saying that in some cases when you are out on the islands they ask for more before you board to return and I didn’t want that stress so I would recommend a tour company, although not KKday. But I don’t know, there’s quite a few mixed reviews about the size of the groups, time allowed on the islands and also the noise of the boats during the lengthy travels. I’m not sure an alternative not having tried a few options but keep an eye on this space as I plan to go back this year and will hopefully update this space!
Scuba Diving at Pescador
I didn’t Scuba at all in the Phils due to my own time constraints but it looked amazing! I do feel I didn’t miss out on too much though in opting for snorkeling, as I like to free-dive as well and would go pretty low, but that definitely spiked my interest even more as I enjoyed it more the lower I was, especially the Sardine Run as you can literally just swim inside the swarm!
What to avoid:
Oslob Whale Sharks!Guys, this has such a bad rap and is such a tourist trap. Everyone I know that has done it wished they hadn’t, there are plenty of ways to naturally come across a whale shark. I don’t believe in supporting something that is endangering the marine life and feeding money to something so immoral.
The boats have points that scratch the whale sharks, they come to the surface as they’re being fed and everyone is scrambling for a photo snorkeling on top of the whale sharks, it is not a genuine “swimming WITH” photo in the depths, you may as well be at Seaworld paying for a “snorkel” despite being in the ocean. Also, due to constant food, the whale sharks don’t migrate which greatly effects the eco-system. It’s not worth it.
What to skip:
Taoist Temple: I didn’t really rate the temple, it’s beautiful but eh didn’t make or break my trip. It could be really magical but I think the rules and restrictions, although in place for respect, defeat enjoying it as someone who likes to photograph and document their journey. It depends what type of traveler you are – very much a case of each to their own!
Tops Lookout: It is nice, but again, bit of a drive for some pics and the crowds. However I WOULD recommend Sirao Garden and Tops is a short 10min drive from the Garden, so you may as well visit both if you’re in the same area, just plan your time so it’s not a dull experience or waste of an entry fee, i.e – sunrise!
So. I must’ve bussed from Cebu to Dumaguete at least 5 times – why you ask? Well, I broke my Drone in Dumaguete the first time and needed to fix it asap and the only place was Cebu so within a day I had taken a Car Ferry from Dumaguete, from Cebu return a bus to Santander, Ferry to Dumaguete, tuk tuk to a different port, Ferry to Siquijor and cab to my hotel. I then needed to reshoot in Dumaguete and took a Ferry from Siquijor to Dumaguete and back and then on the way to my flight from Cebu to Coron I took the Ferry from Siquijor via Bohol to Cebu. So…..all of that being said I can say these below tips!
Bus: Cheap, reliable, car-sick from Moalboal to Santander and vice versa. I bussed that route four times and every time that last two hours (or first two on the return) I got car-sick. The roads south are very bumpy and windy. But Bus from Cebu to Moalboal was enjoyable and not bad at all – highly recommend. The fares are around 100-200pesos which is like $2-$4 – for like, a four hour journey! Get….OUT!
Ferry: This is obviously the most enjoyable way to travel but is limited by days and times. The Ferry to and from Siquijor is at very specific times, from Cebu is 8:00am in the morning and return from Siquijor I think is 10:50am and just one per day. The only way to get to Dumaguete easily is via Bus to Santander (which does have that 2 hour car-sick area) and then Ferry to Dumaguete. Ferry is not too bad at all in terms of price. To be honest, anything other than taxi is very cheap on price in the Philippines.
Taxi: If you HAVE to take a taxi, at least look up the price on Grab first so you know your LOWEST point of fare, so that you aren’t under-bargaining and they think you have no clue. For example if Grab is listing it for 200pesos and you try and say 80 when the taxi is trying to charge 500, they’re going to think you’re out of your mind. Either catch the grab, or match the grab. But by looking it up you can at least know a rough idea and reason. Also, if grab is in high demand, they may be similar price to taxi anyway, you can always wait and refresh the app if you’re struggling to book one so you can find out prices.
I hope all of my tips helps even at least one of you. I was only there for just over a week but definitely tried to see and do as much research as possible. If you have any tips of your own, leave them for readers in the comments below. I don’t claim to know everything, this is just my opinion based on my experience 🙂 I highly recommend Cebu as a great starting point and would highly recommend the most time being spent in Moalboal.
Thanks for reading! xxxxx