• Standup paddle boarding off the coast of Cebu City
    At the heart of the Visayas and indeed the whole Philippine archipelago is Cebu, and its capital city is the second largest metro area in the country. It’s much more manageable and pleasant than Manila as an urban base for exploring the region and province. A laid-back pace dominates this city, yet it offers most of the services and support a traveller might need, including the Cebu-Mactan International airport that has connections to Hong Kong, Singapore and other parts of Asia. Travel Authentic Philippines offers a variety of Cebu tours.

Spend a few days in Cebu City if you have time, there are several basilicas and mansions of historical interest, as well as the Magellan Cross and Lapu-Lapu monument that are steeped in the history of native and also colonial history of the area. Good restaurants, and a number of self-contained resorts on Mactan Island provide good hospitality, but are a bit ‘man-made’ with imported beach sand. Behind the city are hills and you can venture up into them for a nice view of the city and perhaps find a coffee-shop or place to eat with vistas.

The island as a whole has a number of worthwhile destinations that are not overrun by tourists, and boast some fantastic beaches or seascapes. Bantayan Island, on the east of Cebu province is perhaps the most popular resort area, certainly enjoying the best infrastructure. Off the Northern Tip of Cebu is Malapascua, an undiscovered gem that rivals Boracay in beauty, but without the tourist crowds and best seen before it too becomes too commercially developed. And then there is Moalboal, famous worldwide among divers for its coral wall.

Overall Cebu is a good central launching pad for exploring the Visayas. Travel Authentic Philippines offers a number of Cebu Tours. While it boasts good attractions of its own, it can also claim ownership of others nearby, such as Bohol, which are within easy reach. We have some great Cebu tours on offer.

What to see
In Cebu City are a number of buildings and sites of historical interest. The Basilica del Santo Niño is an ornately designed cathedral housing one of the oldest Catholic relics in the country; the image of the Holy Child. Housed outside the church in its own building is Magellan’s Cross, originally erected elsewhere on the island by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Then there is the old Spanish garrison, Fort San Pedro, renovated with pretty grounds around the Plaza Independencia.

On Mactan Island, where the airport is located, you will find the Lapu-Lapu Monument dedicated to the local chieftain who resisted Spanish occupation and is now a national hero. There is also the Olango Wildlife sanctuary, which is actually a wetland reckoned by birdwatchers to be one of the best, or certainly most practical to reach, in the Philippines. Also found here are the only beach resorts near the city, although access is controlled by the hotels. If you’ve just touched down from Europe, these resorts with their imported sand will satisfy, before moving on to more authentic and natural beachside locations elsewhere in the Visayas.

Bantayan Island is a favourite destination for local and international tourists, though requires a lengthy transfer and ferry ride. But the infrastructure is good and there are decent choices of resort. The beaches are fantastic, with possibilities for diving and snorkelling.

Malapascua is still a well kept secret (for now) a tiny island off the Northern tip, resembling Boracay, that is typified by crystal clear waters ideal for off-beach snorkelling. Dive shops have obviously set up here but if you were only here to relax on the beach and let others bother with excursions, you won’t be disappointed.

The Camotes Islands provide a similar experience but are more dominated by rocky outcrops, making them intriguing to explore by kayak or diving underwater caves. There are still nice beaches tucked in-between.

Those who prefer terra firma can make an easy day trip from Cebu City to explore the hills behind the city, but expect to trek among a heavily populated area. To escape this you must travel south to Dalaguete Town and trek to Osmeña Peak – the island’s highest (1,015m). While there make an excursion to seek out Kawasan Falls, the best of the limited number of impressive waterfalls on Cebu.

What to do
Not surprisingly diving and watersports dominate the ‘to do’ list of activities. While Bohol, to the south of Cebu island, attracts most the divers, those who are serious will find their way to Moalboal on the Southwest coast, reckoned to be one of the best wall dives in the Philippines. One of the great Cebu Tours.

Bird lovers can get satisfaction from Olango Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s by far the best place in the Philippines, and it’s on Mactan Island not far from the city. Those who fancy swimming with whale sharks, or at least observing them, can travel all the way to Oslob and the Sumilon Island resort offshore.

Trekking is another recommended activity while visiting Cebu province. The hilly interior provides interesting terrain, with some challenging walks and rewarding vistas, even in the hills behind the city. But the most popular is to ascend Osmena Peak, which is the highest point on the island and located in the Southern section, somewhat remotely. Another of our favourite Cebu tours. But, en-route you can pay a visit to Dalaguete, known as the Vegetable Basket of Cebu, and noted for sustainable farming practices.

Travel Authentic Philippines has many local partners so we can offer also more off-the-beaten-track Cebu tours. Cebu city and island also manages to benefit from its proximity to Bohol and Siquijor, so that you can base yourself here and make trips to these popular and interesting parts of the region. You can feasibly make a day trip by fast ferry and tour to see the Chocolate Hills, but Bohol offers plenty more besides, and it has wonderful beach areas on Panglao island, adjacent (connected by bridge).

Local culture
Cebu was originally known as Sugbu when the Spanish first arrived. In fact Ferdinand Magellan landed here during his pioneering navigation of the globe and came to an unfortunate end under regrettable circumstances. Having converted local chief Humabon to Christianity, he was then ill advised to take on the chief’s rival, Lapu Lapu, who killed the famous Spanish explorer in a battle on Mactan island, hence the monument.

With Christianity woven into the fabric of the local culture at least since the late 16th century, a number of ancient churches can be found in Cebu city and elsewhere, or at least those that have survived earthquakes over the centuries including ones in 2013 and 2014. Today’s festivals and traditions blend Malay, Cebuano, general Pinoy and Christian roots.

The colourful Sinulog Festival, is celebrated on the third Sunday of January each year and is a feast for the camera as locals display elaborately made constumes and floats, all produced on a grand scale with troupes of locals dressed up for this religious but lively parade. It’s a highlight of the calendar in Cebu City and worth timing your visit for.

The island is, perhaps, at the centre of the second largest lingu-defined group in the Philippines, the Cebuano speaking Filipinos, complete with distinct cultural traditions. It stretches the breadth of the Visayas, and includes some of Mindanao, making it one of the world’s more significant languages, spoken by some 25 million. Join us on our Cebu tours.

Overview

Osmeña Boulevard slices through Cebu City, with Cebu South making up the area south of the busy arterial thoroughfare. It is the most important city in the Philippines, sitting in the center of Cebu Island along the eastern coast. Cebu South is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations thanks to its heritage tours, remnants of Spanish-influenced architecture, and nature attractions.

With its stunning beaches, historical sites and cosmopolitan feel, South Cebu is an extremely versatile destination. It is one of the best spots to swim with whale sharks, is home to the beautiful and often overlooked Carcar Heritage Houses, and is high on list of the places to go in the country for eco-tourism.

Cebu City is home to the busiest domestic port in the country, which is located just beyond the northern edge of Cebu South. Passenger ferries travel from here to Manila, Butuan City, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro. Mactan–Cebu International Airport sits on neighboring Mactan Island and is a 20-30 minute transfer away.

Cebu South has two climates; wet and dry. The weather is best from February to April when it is dry, though these are also the hottest months of the year. May to August is a good alternative, while October to December is when visitors are most disappointed with the climate.

What to see

Most visitors stay on the northern end of Cebu South close to Osmeña Boulevard and

Fuente Osmeña Circle or the famous Colon Street, which is the oldest street in the country. The majority of the city’s main attractions are within a short walk, jeepney ride or taxi transfer away. The busier Cebu North, on the north side of Osmeña Boulevard, is just a stone’s throw away and where the largest selection of eateries are found.

Magellan’s Cross is the most famous attraction in Cebu South, which was placed by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan on March 15, 1521 and marks the day that the locals converted to Christianity. The cross sits on Magallanes Street and is housed in a chapel, though it is encased in a newer wooden cross to protect it from damage. The chapel itself is also photo worthy, with its beautifully painted ceiling.

Right next to Magellan’s Cross is Basílica Menor del Santo Niño; the oldest Roman Catholic church in the country. The church was built in 1565 and features the Santo Niño (Holy Child), which is the oldest religious relic in the country. Unfortunately, the 2013 Bohol Earthquake damaged some of the building, though it has now been restored.

Although not actually in Cebu South, the Carcar Heritage Houses are usually a stop on a heritage tour of the area. The houses are located along Calle Saint Catalina in the picturesque town of Carcar and are great examples of the bahay-na-bato tradition. The houses all have charming features that display the prosperity of the sleepy town’s past.

What to do

Activities based around nature is the biggest draw of Cebu South, with diving, trekking, and river cruising being at the top of the list. Tours of surrounding hilltops offer spectacular views and a glimpse of life in the island’s countryside.

Whale shark tours is an amazing experience, and this activity has put Cebu South on the map as far as a tourist destination. It is the most popular thing to do here and you don’t even have to get in the water to spot one of these amazing creatures. This tour is usually combined with a visit to the Tumalog waterfalls.

The interior of Cebu Island is home to hills and peak that offer spectacular views and great trekking opportunities. Osmena Peak is the highest point on the island and to get there one must trek through valleys and jungles, seeing some amazing wildlife and breathtaking views along the way.

The calm waters and magnificent scenery along the Bojo River in Aloguinsan is best seen by taking a river cruise. It is an environmentally enlightening experience that also includes a short hike and a buffet lunch.

Visitors wanting a truly special ecological friendly experience should go on a sustainable farming expedition in nearby Dalaguete. The town is known as the Vegetable Basket of Cebu, with fresh vegetables being delivered daily to Cebu South’s Carbon Market.

Local Culture

Catholicism is extremely apparent in Cebu South, making it a major cultural center. Those that visit Cebu South in January will get to see firsthand just how important culture and religion are at the annual Sinulog festival. The lively festival is held on the third Sunday in January to celebrate Santo Niño.

The main highlight of the Sinulog festival is the 12 hour street parade, where participants dance to drums, gongs, and trumpets while dressed in brightly colored costumes. The festival attractions locals from all over the island as well as neighboring ones.

Overview

Popularly referred to as the Queen City of the South, Metro Cebu is the capital of the sword-shaped island of Cebu right in the heart of the Philippine archipelago. Metro Cebu comprises Cebu City and a number of satellite suburbs which include Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu (where the airport is), and a few others. The metropolitan area is the country’s second largest city and is the veritable hub of transport, business, and education in Southern Philippines.

For many visitors, Metro Cebu has all the things that a typical Philippine city has to offer, with less chaos and traffic to contend with when compared to arriving in the country via Manila. There are a huge range of accommodations and restaurants for every budget. The same goes for nightlife, shopping, and entertainment.

Being the second largest city in the Philippines means the city’s Mactan-Cebu International Airport is not only connected to Manila and other domestic destinations but also to global flight hubs like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Hong Kong. To get around within Cebu City, visitors have the option of taking cabs or, for a more local experience, the jeepneys or multicabs—local minibuses plying set routes in town.

Unfortunately, Metro Cebu suffered from an earthquake very recently—in October 2013. Many buildings, including the city’s most beloved basilica, were damaged. The good news is that the city, as with most of the Philippines, is resilient and has gotten back to its feet since.

Many parts of the Philippines, including Metro Cebu, experience the typhoons in the months of June to December. A visit at any point from January to May is ideal.

What to See

The commercial center of Metro Cebu is Cebu City and most of the tourist attractions are located here. The city’s history as a settlement occupied in the name of the Spanish crown can still be seen in the busy downtown area. Here, visitors can head to the Basilica del Santo Niño, or the Basilica of the Holy Child. This large, ornately designed place of worship houses the oldest Catholic relic in the country—the image of the Holy Child—brought to the islands by the Spanish.

Outside the church is Magellan’s Cross. Housed in a small octagonal building, the cross is said to have been erected by Ferdinand Magellan himself when he arrived in Cebu, or Sugbo as it was known at the time.

Close to the port area is Fort San Pedro, the site of an old Spanish garrison now renovated into a handsome museum with stone fortifications enclosing landscaped grounds. Outside the fort is a small park called the Plaza Independencia.

In the city of Lapu-Lapu, close to the airport, visitors can see the Lapu-Lapu Monument dedicated to the local chieftain, now considered the first national hero of the Philippines, who resisted Spanish occupation. Lapu-Lapu led the Battle of Mactan where Magellan was killed and his fleet driven away.

Being a center of trade during the colonial times, the Chinese have also made Cebu their home. One of the most visited attractions in the city is the Taoist Temple, which was constructed by the Chinese community of the city.

Visitors whose trip to Cebu coincides with the end of the month can see the famous dancing inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center. The orange-clad prisoners perform large musical numbers monthly, some of which like the inmates’ performance of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, have gone on to become one of the most viral videos of all time.

What to Do

Eating is a great activity for many visitors. Being a city means that food options are practically unlimited here. Local and international cuisines are represented here. Cebu is particularly known for one of the most beloved dishes in the Philippines: the spit-roasted pig called the lechon. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain even called Cebu’s lechon “the best pork ever.” Some of the most recommended restaurants to try lechon is CnT, Rico’s Lechon, and Zubuchon. All three restaurants have various branches around town.

Another local eating experience is called the sutukil. There are a lot of sutukil places around town where diners can choose from an array of seafood and have it cooked in one of three ways: sugba (grilled), tula (with soup), or kilaw (ceviche-style).

After dinner, visitors can also head to one of the many nightlife spots in town. Larsian is a local favorite. Long communal tables are laid out in front of stalls serving all types of meat on skewers. A combination of drinking and eating spots can also be found in Cebu’s IT Park and nearby Crossroads. Meanwhile, hip and happening dance clubs are found along Mango Avenue and Mango Square.

Thrill-seekers are in for a treat in Metro Cebu. They can head to Crown Regency Cebu, the tallest building in the city and get on the hotel’s Xtreme Rides. Among the exhilarating experiences to be had here are walking along the top ledge of the building or sitting on a chair that tilts on the edge.

Finally, for nature lovers, there is the Olango Island, a nature reserve a few minutes by boat from Lapu-Lapu Island. The most popular activity here is bird-watching as the island, composed of mangrove forests, sandy beaches, sea grass beds, and mudflats, is a wildlife reserve for migratory birds.

Local Culture

The locals of Cebu, the Cebuanos, are particularly noted for taking pride in their distinct regional culture. Though most speak the national language of the Philippines—Filipino, many prefer to communicate to outsiders, both fellow Filipinos and foreigners, using English. However, learning a few Cebuano words such as pila for “how much” or lami for “delicious” may go a long way.

The Holy Child is the Cebuanos’ patron saint and every third week of January, a festival is held in honor of the Holy Child. The Sinulog Festival features large street and fluvial processions with floats or boats elaborately decorated in colorful flowers and streamers. Accompanying the floats are representatives from the local communities dressed in equally elaborately decorated costumes dancing to the loud music. It is always best to plan ahead when visiting during the Sinulog festival as the city population swells up during this time of the year.

Overview

Cebu is a large sword-shaped island located in the center of the Philippine archipelago. The capital, Cebu City, is found mid-way through and provides an easy jump-off point to either the northern or southern part of the island. For travelers looking for the best diving or the best beaches in the country, North Cebu will more than occupy their vacation time.

North Cebu is famous not only in the Philippines but in the diving community for its pristine reefs and rich marine wildlife. For most local and international tourists, however, the white-sand beaches and quiet, laid-back island life is reason enough to come here.

Being the transport and economic center in southern Philippines, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, located just outside Cebu City, is well-connected not only to the Philippine capital Manila but also to popular flight hubs in this part of Asia like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong. Within the island, regular buses and ferries link towns and islands.

It must be noted that in 2013, one of the most powerful typhoons in recorded history—Typhoon Haiyan—devastated this part of the country. Since then, through the locals’ determination and help from outside, communities here have been slowly rebuilding. Sustainable living programs have been set up to reconstruct fishing boats damaged by the typhoon, to purchase pedicabs (locally called trisikad) giving people a source of income, and to hire locals for construction work. Slowly but surely, North Cebu is recovering its beauty.

What to See

Perhaps the first destination tourist will hear of when they decide to come to North Cebu is Bantayan Island. It is only a few hours from Cebu City, including the hour-long ferry ride. Bantayan has numerous resorts offering guests rooms just a few steps from white-sandy beaches with brilliant blue waters.

Away from the beach, Bantayan’s historical legacy as a former Spanish outpost can be still seen in the commercial center of the island. The central plaza is dominated by the Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church. At the northern tip of the island, in Madridejos, you can visit the ruins of an old Spanish fort, Kota Park.

Off the northeast coast of Cebu mainland, there is also Malapascua Island. Divers who have visited the Philippines will undoubtedly hail this destination as one of the best in the country. Non-divers can absolutely enjoy this island, too. Malapascua has long stretches of fine white-sand beaches and clear turquoise seas. It is no wonder visitors have called this place a tropical paradise.

Another destination in North Cebu worth mentioning is Camotes. This group of islands can be reached via ferry from the town of Danao, just a couple of hours north of Cebu City. Things to see here include Buho Rock, a rocky outcrop looking out onto beautiful waters. The more adventurous can jump off the rock, too. Finally, another tourist attraction in Camotes is Timubo Cave, a submerged cave system with crystal clear waters.

What to Do

For the most part, experiencing the slow island life is already a huge draw to visitors to the islands of North Cebu. The best way to soak it all in is by hiring a motorbike, a tricycle (similar to a tuk-tuk), or any private transport. It is easy to drive through the quiet provincial roads and cover an entire island within a day.

In Malapascua, diving is a must for those who want to see how rich the marine life is in this region. Apart from colorful coral reefs and their equally colorful fishy inhabitants, most people dive here to see thresher sharks with their easily-recognizable long tails, sometimes as long as their bodies.

Island-hopping is also a popular tourist activity, especially in the Bantayan group of islands. Small, isolated, and uninhabited islands can be found in the area, all with pristine waters. Visitors can swim, sunbathe, and go snorkeling here. Most resorts can arrange tourist boats run by local tour operators.

Local Culture

As with many parts of Southern Philippines, Cebuano is the language spoken here, a language distinct from Manila’s Tagalog. However, Cebuano and Tagalog have the same word for “thank you,” which is salamat. Note that those who work in the tourist industry will certainly be able to communicate in English.

Being a predominantly Catholic country, the Philippines celebrates religious festivals more than any other types of festival. It is certainly the case during the Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Those visiting Bantayan Island around late March to early April may be able to catch the solemn procession taking place around Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church featuring elaborately decorated floats depicting the Passion story.

For a more joyous event, Bantayan Island also has the Palawod Festival held in honor of Saints Peter and Paul. The festival also depicts Bantayan’s origins and traditions as a fishing community. During the festival, visitors will see street parades dominated by loud music and colorful costumes.

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