10 Things to do in Cebu City/Island

1. Explore Fort San Pedro

IMG_8326Built by the Spainards when they conquered Cebu (early 1700s), the San Pedro Fort is one of the most magnificent defense structures in the Philippines.  This special fort is triangular in shape, with two of the sides facing the sea and the other one protecting the land.  An earthquake destroyed part of the fort in the past, but most of it is still intact.

For a very small price, you are allowed to tour all around the fort and learn about the history through photos and artifacts.  It’s a great place to spend an hour or two and admire some 300 year old fortress.  It’s located in Plaza Indepencia right next to the main pier, and a short walk away from Magellan’s cross.

2. Admire Magellan’s Cross

DSC05996This was the most unexpected, and coolest thing that I saw in Cebu!  I’m sure all of you know who Ferdinand Magellan is, but for those who don’t, he is a famous Catholic Portuguese explorer who was the first person to conduct an organized expedition across the circumference of the world (1500s).

Believe it or not, Magellan was the first to discover Cebu back in 1521, and he planted a cross in the city center.  Today, the cross is in a chapel next to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, in the exact same spot where Magellan settled in the Philippines. It’s pretty amazing to see, and try to imagine the history that took place under your toes.


3. Shop at SM Cebu

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 4.24.29 PMSM Cebu is the 4th largest shopping mall in the Philippines, and part of the 15 biggest shopping malls in the world.  Each day, over 120,000 people make a trip to this “shoppers paradise” that offers everything you can imagine.

Despite the Philippines being a ‘cheap’ country in general, I was expecting the mall prices to be average (especially in department stores).. But I was proven wrong! The prices at SM Mall were SO much cheaper here than I’ve seen at any other mall around the world.  I bought a new day backpack- that I use everyday- for $4USD.  I recommend spending a few hours in this mall and you’ll probably buy more than you are expecting.

4. Party in Mango Square

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 4.25.44 PMMango Square is the center for nightlife in Cebu!  All of the city’s best clubs and bars are located in this small compact area.  I partied there on Friday and Saturday night and it was a lot of fun.  The scene is quite interesting- with lots of young prostitutes and a wide variety of locals and foreigners- but I had a blast going out with the locals.  The drinks are extremely cheap, and the cover charge for the clubs were around $5USD and it came with a free drink!

If you want to have some fun in Cebu City, then head to Mango Square at night. It’s located on Mango Avenue near the Fuente Circle and the National Bookstore.

5. Go to Kawasan Waterfalls

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 4.28.28 PMKawasan Waterfalls are located about 2 hours away from Cebu, but it’s absolutely worth the day-trip!  I recommend booking the visit with a travel agent (it’s cheap) and they will provide you with transportation and food, etc.

The falls itself are stunningly beautiful. You can jump on a bamboo raft and float along, or just relax and hear the glistening sound of the falls.  The water is very cold, so hopefully you get some good sunshine!

6. Walk Down Colon Street

DSC06011The ever-so-famous Colon Street is an extremely crowded street in downtown Cebu City.   It is believe by many to be the oldest and shortest national road in the Philippines.

There are thousands of shops here, and everything is extremely cheap.  The entire street is busy, dirty and hot, but remind yourself.. You’re in the Philippines!  Just be careful and watch your pockets and purses, because people will try to snipe some of your belongings.  Also, I recommend going during the daytime beacuse it can get quite dangerous at night.  Such a cool and unique experience on Colon!

7. Visit the Basilica del Santo Niño 

Santo Niño, or the Basilica of the Holy Child, is an important religious place that was founded in the 16th Century.  It is the oldest Roman Catholic Church established in the Philippines, and it was built on the exact spot where the image of Santo Niño de Cebu was found in 1565 by Spanish explorers.

It’s worth checking out, and you might even be able to get inside.  I stumbled by this place and somehow found myself in a mass ceremony with thousands of other people.  It was crazy!

8. Travel to Oslob to Swim with Sharks

DCIM100MEDIAOslob is an amazing city on the Southern Tip of Cebu Island.  It is a little too far for a day trip (3+ hours bus), but I recommend going there for an overnight stay (or even longer) because there are so many cool things to do here.

My favorite thing to do in Oslob was swimming with whale sharks!! Yes, live whale sharks in the water with you, and no cages.  It is only like $30USD, and you get to swim with them for 45 minutes.  It was SO cool being inches away from them, and these whales are actually harmless (despite the name ‘shark’).  You must check it out!

9. Visit Tumalog Waterfalls

IMG_8417Also located in Oslob, near the whale sharks, is Tumalog waterfalls.

I’ve seen a lot of cool nature things in my life, and this absolutely makes my top 3 list.  Instead of fast moving water (like most waterfalls I’ve seen), this one sort of trickles down in an interesting way.  It’s mesmerizing.  I spent like 5 hours here with my friend, bathing in the water, exploring around the rainforest, and taking in the suns rays.

It’s a little difficult to reach the falls.  From the main road, you need to take a private car or jump on the back of a motorbike and go up a really steep hill.  Of course, you can walk, but it’s a little challenging.  Hopefully it’s a hot day so you can enjoy the cold water in the falls!

10. Bargain at Carbon Market

Cebu is home to a large assortment of street markets.  The oldest, largest and most famous market is called Carbon, and it’s located in downtown Cebu. I recommend taking a jeepney there (a decked out bus/taxi/jeep) for the experience!

You can buy anything from clothing, to food, to souveneirs and any hand-made goods.  The best part? It’s SO CHEAP! Seriously, one of the cheapest markets I’ve ever been to.. Enjoy!

Have you been to Cebu? What was your favorite thing to do?

9 thoughts on “10 Things to do in Cebu City/Island

  1. hi , can you recommend affordable decent hotels you stayed in please ? Both Cebu and oslop ,planning a trip for March. Thank YOU

  2. Hello, I just read your article about Cebu and I’m planning to go this January. I have some suggestions regarding yoir trip. Did you stay in Cebu city and just took day trips to Oslob and Kawasalan falls ? How did you find the schedules for the bus trips to jump from city to city? Also do you have any suggestions for accommodations? Thanks so much for your help in advance. By the way your blog and instagram are amazing and very helpful. 🙂

    1. I stayed in Cebu for a few days, and then a few nights in Oslob. It’s too far for a day trip in my opinion. Just ask around for the buses, your hotel will know how to help you.

      Have fun!

  3. In case you will visit Cebu again, drop by at Badian and experience Canyoneering there. It is definitely one for the books! It entails hiking, swimming, jumping off cliffs (25 ft is the highest jump), sliding and a bit of rock climbing. It is a trail to Kawasan falls. If you are seeking for adventure, try it! The rate per person costs 1,200 pesos (approx. $26). It includes all the gears needed, the guide in Canyoneering and the lunch after reaching Kawasan falls).

  4. I really enjoy reading how amazed you are with how cheap it is here in the Philippines. I enjoy Cebu too – best of both worlds – hustle and bustle of city life vis-a-vis the serenity of nature (just a short drive from the city and you’re in a spectacular beach).

    I live in Manila, by the way, and it gets really suffocating here (overpopulation, traffic jams, etc.) So, I frequently travel to escape 🙂

    1. Thank you, Andy! Yes, Cebu is a really great place. I am actually planning to go back to the Philippines (Palawan) in a few months to go SCUBA diving! Have you ever been there?

      1. Yup… been there several times. Where in Palawan? El Nido or Coron? Both are nice, but I think Coron has more wreck diving spots. And if you get your SCUBA license, you must go back to Cebu and visit Malapascua Island – a diver’s haven – the only place where you can see the Thresher sharks (aside from Palau – which is very expensive).

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