Cebu IslandCentral Visayas : Cebu Island
Cebu Island is long and narrow with a mountainous central spine and the most important island in the Visayas region of the Philippines. The larger Negros Island lies just across the Tañon Strait to the west.
The largest city (and the oldest in the Philippines) is Cebu City, often called the Queen City of the South.
The main touristic areas are the islands of Mactan, Bantayan, Badian, Malapascua and Camotes where you can find large high-end resorts and hotels offering all kinds of luxury. Apart from that there are smaller resorts in fishing villages in the South and North, such as Moalboal, offering a more Filipino experience and amazing nature experiences. The upland areas also offers majestic views of the mountains and seas.
- A typical provincial town with friendly people. It is well known for producing TUBA, the coconut nectar wine which is best drunk fresh when it is still sweet. Malabuyoc is approximately 3hrs by bus in the southwestern part of Cebu island.
* Hot Springs and Waterfalls at Mainit, 2 kilometers on Barangay Road from Montaneza, North end of Malabuyoc. Small hot springs, great for a relaxing set in a tropical limestone valley. Explore the creek to discover several small waterfalls.
- Offers the only dedicated Dolphin Watching operation in the Tanon straight from Cebu island. Dolphin watching cruises should be reserved at least a week earlier in summer when chances of seeing dolphins are much higher. Best time is early morning so it is recommended to arrive by 6am or spend the previous night at Kawayan Marine, a small beach house which is run by the same local family which operates the dolphin watching. The "Cool Banana" boat can accomodate 20 guests. Boat fees start from 6,000pesos for the 2~3hr trip. Additional fees may be charged if you wish to park and go swimming or walking at white sands, an area near Bais, Negros famous for idyllic white stretches of white sand exposed during low tides.
Most tourists tend to go to the upscale beach resorts on Mactan Island or Badian Island. Of course, price levels there are high but hotel rates are still cheaper than in most of the 4 to 5 star accommodations elsewhere in the world. They will have beautiful pool areas, nice restaurants, spas, cable channel TV, internet and all kinds of luxury.
Budget tourists and those who are looking for a more Filipino experience should go to the beautiful South where there are some very nice best value resorts surrounded by idyllic fishing villages. Price levels for food, drinks, watersports and trips there are generally much lower as less tourists went there in the past. Some of these resorts have beautiful coral reefs right in front of the resort - perfect for those who plan to go snorkelling or to make some easy dives in amazing coral reefs.
Poverty is commonplace in Cebu City and up in the mountains and coasts. It is generally recommended not to show off too much luxury in front of those people who have to work hard to earn their daily food and drinks. Those people are generally very friendly and helpful but caution is recommended. Apart from the poor, there is a well established middle class and an extraordinarily rich upper class that come mostly from present or former government representatives or business people.
The main local language of Cebu is Cebuano / "Bisaya". Many people also speak English, other Visayan languages (such as Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray and Aklan language), Fukien Chinese and Tagalog, so communicating is usually not a problem.
Cebuanos have been great seafarers for centuries and because of the recent Filipino diaspora in search of employment opportunities, it's also not so rare to encounter talented Filipinos with at least a smattering of Arabic, Bahasa Indonesian and Malay, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.
Most flights come from Manila with service from the two major national airlines, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Air also have direct flights from Korea as well as Asiana Airlines or from Singapore with Silk Air and TigerAirways, from Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific or Cebu Pacific and from Doha with Qatar Airways direct to Mactan Airport. The airport is located on a different island and takes about 20-30 minutes to get to the actual city of Cebu. From the Airport you will need to hire a taxi (minimum prices of 150 Pesos using White Metered Taxi, 250 Pesos using Yellow Metered Taxi and 375 Pesos using Airport NonMetered Taxi ). There is also a terminal tax that needs to be paid before departing Cebu, this was 550 pesos per person for us when we were travelling internationally.
Asiana and Korean Air both have a non stop flight from Seoul, arriving around midnight.
For most tourists the only way to get around is via taxi. They are everywhere, cheap and efficient. You simply flag one down and tell them where you want to go. Most drivers know where almost everything is. If they don't then simply flag down another one.
Almost all of the taxis in Cebu are metered. They charge 40 pesos for you to get in and 3.5 pesos for every 5 minutes they wait, and 3.5 pesos for every half km. Most of the time a taxi driver is very nice but sometimes you will find ones that will want to charge your more than the meter or not use the meter at all. Avoid these taxis unless you enjoy getting ripped off. If they refuse to use the meter, or they go the wrong way more than once to try to increase the meter then get out and find another taxi. You are not required to pay more than what is on the meter no matter what the driver says. If the driver is pleasant, feel free to tip 10-20 pesos for nice service, and a bit more if he loads or unloads your bags.
The so-called private taxis should be avoided. They try to take advantage of tourists by charging 5-10 times the price that should be paid. If you call a metered taxi to pick you up at one of the isolated resorts on Mactan Island, be prepared to pay more than you actually should. Drivers will manipulate the meter or simply ask you for a fixed price.
However, if one is indeed adventurous enough, another way to get around the city is via the colorful (and noisy) jeepneys that can be seen almost everywhere on the road. Jeepneys have specific routes assigned to them and will stick to that route only. The routes are marked by number plus letter (ie 03B, 03G, 13C, 04L). Jeepneys also place the route on the side of their jeepneys. Most jeepneys, though, go around the downtown area first before heading back to the start/end of their route.
Jeepneys are usually safe. During rush hour, though, be warned that it tends to get crammed and stuffy.
To get in a jeepney, call the attention of the driver by waving one arm as the jeepney approaches you. Drivers usually stop once they see this arm-waving. To get off one should say "LUGAR LANG" in a loud voice. Make sure the jeepney driver hears you, if not, he will continue to drive away.
For trips around the island there are several bus operators (e.g. Ceres or Sunrays) leaving from Cebu South Bus Terminal. Most routes are serviced with airconditioned buses, too. Prices are very cheap. A 2 hour trip to Dalaguete in the South from Cebu City in an aircon bus will cost you around 110 Pesos. Tickets are bought at a conductor inside the bus who comes to you after getting in. The same route by taxi would cost you around 1500-2500 Pesos as the driver would usually have to get back empty.
- Basilica Minore Del Santo Nino: The Catholic church where the statue of baby Jesus (Santo Niño) is enshrined. The Santo Nino was a gift given by the Portuguese explorer Magellan to Raja Humabon upon Magellan's and the Spanish explorers' arrival in March 1521.
- The Mactan Shrine- the shrine to local chieftan Lapu Lapu, who lead the defense of his island in 1521 that resulted in the death of Magellan.
- Lapu Lapu Shrine
- Mactan Cross- The cross given by Magellan to Raja Humabon, located near the Basilica Minore Del Santo Nino.
- Casa Gorodo- Former residence of the provincial governor of Cebu. (Located in the Fuente Osmena neighborhood)
- Cebu Cathedral-The birthplace of Catholicism in Asia. Also has a museum with many historical artifacts from the cathedral.
- Fort San Pedro- The first, oldest, and smallest Spanish fort in the Philippines. It is located near the port area near Pier #1
- Cebu Tops- An overlook point at the "top" of the island. A good place to look over the city.
- Ayala Center Cebu
- SM City Cebu
- SM Seaside City Cebu
Outside Cebu CityEdit
- Bantayan Island - white sandy beaches, noted for Holy Week festivities
- Osmeña Peak - highest peak in Cebu at 1015 m, it is a popular hiking spot in Dalaguete town in the south. Hikers can traverse the island to Kawasan Falls in Badian.
- Kawasan Falls - a series of falls (two are open to public) in Matutinao, Badian town.
- Mactan Island - diving and beaches nearest to the city. Home to high-end resorts and hotels, but several inexpensive beaches and resorts popular among locals are present. Island hopping and water park also available.
- Malapascua island - scuba diving, thresher shark watching, uncrowded white sand beaches with an expat community.
- Oslob - whale shark watching, old church & watchtowers, Sumilon Island
- Moalboal - excellent vertical wall dive spot at Panagsama Beach & Pescador Island
- Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary  - supports the largest concentration of migratory birds found so far in the Philippines
- Camotes Islands - The Camotes is a group of four islands on the northwest. Attractions include white-sand beaches, natural pools, waterfalls and a lake.
Cebu is a good place to relax and enjoy the beautiful island. For those who want some more activity, most resorts offer watersport activities such as diving, snorkeling, kiteboarding, windsurfing etc. Resorts also offer trips around the island to see all the beautiful churches, fishing villages and the amazing Kavasan Falls. Of course these activities will be relatively costly if you are residing in one of the upper-end resorts on Mactan Island. If you go further South to some of the nice value resorts near Dalaguete or Oslob, activities can be much cheaper and be conducted by enthusiastic local guides.
Eat at Siomai sa Tisa - Although there are a lot of spin-offs of this 'restaurant', there is only one Siomai sa Tisa and it is, obviously, located in Tisa, Labangon. It's only open during the night until the wee hours of the morning. This 'restaurant' is just tables and chairs located at the side of the road. They serve the best siomai (Chinese food, steamed) coupled with the best sauce and the best halo-halo (Filipino dessert). This is true Cebuano dining out.
To get to this place, one may take a cab - the driver probably knows this place. or one can take a jeepney. All 12L jeepneys pass through there.
Eat lechon, or roasted pig. Among the recommended lechon makers are CNT and those sold at stalls in Talisay City, Carcar City and Lilo-an. A newer version of this beloved Cebuano fare is the boneless lechon sold at Park Mall in Mandaue City.
- Whale shark watching - In the south of Cebu island between Boljoon and Santander you will find Oslob. Oslob is famous for their whale sharks. Whale sharks are one of the biggest animals on this planet. Everyday between 7am and 1pm you can watch or even snorkel with this beautiful animals. The cost for foreigners is about 1000 PHP including snorkel and life jacket. Locals pay 500 PHP. To get to Oslob just take the bus at the south bus terminal in Cebu city. The journey will be about 3 hours and will cost you about 120 PHP. By taxi the price should be around 2000 PHP when fixed. Note on Eco-tourism: The operation at Oslob is unethical as the whale sharks are fed regularly to attract them close to the shore for tourists to swim with, and despite rules against it, many tourists sadly initiate physical contact with the whale sharks. However it remains a popular activity. For visitors who are eco-conscious, consider diving with whale sharks at Donsol. Please remember that whale sharks are now endangered and by going here you are supporting this profit-generating scheme without regard for their conservation.
- Scuba Diving - Near the city of Cebu there are plenty of good and cheap diving places from coral reefs to shipwreck. Also there is one of the cheapest places in South East Asia to get your Open Water Diver certificate. One dive school is SiDive. Simon Timmins is a really helpful Diving Instructor with lots of knowledge of the area and diving places. +63 0906 2222000. PADI Open Water PHP13,000. He also offers free accommodation with his dive courses.
- Mactan as the Hub of Scuba Diving in Cebu - Due to its convenience and strategic location, Mactan has long been the center of Scuba Diving in Cebu. This is a convenient place to book your dive training and dive trips. Mactan itself and its surrounding smaller islands are hosts to over 20 dive sites, 5 of them are among the best marine sanctuaries in Cebu, namely Nalusuan, Hilutungan, San Vicente, Talima, and Shangri-la. Mactan is the perfect place to stage your dive travels to Oslob, Moalboal, Malapascua, Alcoy, Santander, Bohol and Leyte. Proximity to other popular dive sites is truly what makes Mactan the Hub of Scuba Diving in Cebu.
- Kontiki reef while not among those considered as protected areas, it is undeniably the best scuba training area for recreational scuba diving certification in all of Mactan. The terrain, the water movement, the wall, the varying depth, the marine life, the visibility and the convenience of not having to take a boat out to enjoy your dives. Host to a number of PADI Dive Centers and Resorts, not to mention other centers affiliated with other agencies and those run by independent dive professionals, finding a suitable center or resort for any diving needs will never be a problem. Among all operators, one is emerging as a solid dive center in Mactan, primarily training in Kontiki is Dive Funatics, a center co-founded by a PADI Instructor Darwin Bawasanta, a long time IT & BPO Executive and an accomplished management consultant. They are known to be expensive and equally known to employ reputable instructors who strictly adhere to PADI dive training standards. Dive Funatics believes that in trade and service economy, there are 3 important considerations that drive a consumer or a customer to decide where to go or where to buy - cost, quality and time, and sadly, customers can only have 2, but never all 3 favoring anyone at the same time. Interestingly, scuba divers are notoriously fixated to get the most value for their money. This mindset apparently manifests in their choice of gears, accessories, destination plans, training centers and food!
The water in Cebu is generally considered safe. Bottled water is as cheap as 15 or 20 Pesos per litre. Most establishments offer beverages such as Coca-Cola, Sprite, Pepsi, 7-up, Iced Tea and other local non-alchoholic beverages. Alchoholic beverages are also served at your request. Local beers are San Miguel, San Miguel Light and Red Horse Stallion (stronger beer also brewed by San Miguel). Beers from abroad can also be found in more touristic areas but will be much more expensive if not brewed somewhere near.
Around Cebu island you will find many hotels and resorts. Prices vary between 7 usd to 150 or even higher. You can also find pension houses, those are privately managed rooms with most of the time no restaurant but the price can be good if you are on a budget. If you are looking for a hostel like in other Asian countries that might be difficult but there are a few.
Noordzee Hostel Boljoon A hostel managed by backpackers. This sea side hostel has dormitory, family and private rooms available. A perfect and safe stay for backpackers or travelers on a budget. While they are cheap they are on a beautiful spot in the south and have the same services and quality as hostels else where around the world. They have motorcycle, snorkeling gear and windsurfing equipment for rent.
Just the same as other cities, there are areas in Cebu City which should be avoided especially at night. The Carbon market area in the center of the city is best avoided by foreigners. Pickpocketing and robbery are a problem in the market area. Also, use caution around the main port area; tourists are mobbed by cab drivers looking for fares and the pickpockets take advantage of this.
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