Ultimate Guide to Cebu, Philippines

Locally referred as the Queen City of the South, Cebu Island in the Philippines boasts a healthy and thriving tourism. With a unique mixture of the new and the old, Cebu attracts millions of travelers every year to visit the country’s oldest city as well as experience what the second biggest regional economy has to offer. As such, Cebu charms local and foreign tourists alike with its several historical sights, colorful religious festivals, white sand beaches, pristine waters, world famous diving sites, variety of delicious food, shopping districts, and active nightlife.

For a short introduction, here are some basic facts about Cebu:


Population: Around 2.7 million as of 2010

Drives: Right

Religion: Roman Catholic

Size: 5000 square kilometers

Language: Cebuano/Bisaya (local language), Filipino, English

Currency: Philippine Peso

Peak Season: Christmas, New Year, Lunar New Year, Easter

Low Season: May to October



One-hour plane ride from Manila, Cebu can be reached with Cebu Pacific Air, AirAsia and Philippine Airlines. The international airport in Cebu can also receive guests flying from Hong Kong and Singapore.


As one of the busiest ports in the country, Cebu is well-connected to the majority of shipping lines in the Philippines, making sailing to the island affordable to those who have a luxury of time to travel.


Jeepneys are the king of transportation for nearby destinations, but to explore other regions in Cebu, bus and boat rides are necessary. The north and south bus terminals, as well as ports, are easily accessible from Cebu City. Cabs are also available and Grab Taxis are increasing in numbers.


Cebu, like in almost all places in Philippines, is an affordable province to travel. Small hotels, new hostels and guesthouses are for budget  travelers and backpackers while there are Shangri-la, Mövenpick, Marco Polo, etc. for those with more money to spend. Food will never be an issue as a wide array of restaurants serving local and international cuisines can be easily found. Affordable eateries and bakeshops are also everywhere. When in doubt, a trip to local markets where fresh produce, dairy, and meat are on their cheapest can solve anything.


Sky is the limit for luxury travelers and there are international hotel chains, which can suit their accommodation needs. For budget travelers and backpackers, on the other hand, there are a lot of hostels, guesthouses, and affordable hotels and apartments. Moalboal, for instance, is a backpacker haven where hostels can go as cheap as €4.50 per night. You can also pitch a tent for free or rent a three-person tent for €5 along Panagsama beach.


Where Monica Goes recommends these areas and islands in Cebu where the author has frequented. Later, separate travel guides and tips will be created to include itinerary, accommodation, and budget breakdown.

Cebu City

If you want to unique and traditional dining experience, taste delicious delicacies, and rich nightlife, Cebu city is for you. There are also a number of bars where live bands play and you can witness Cebuanos’ flare for music.

Mactan Island

Joined with Cebu city through a bridge, but not to be confused with the latter. This is where the local and international airport is. It is also a host of expensive and luxury hotels which are perfect for idyllic vacations.


2.5 hour bus drive south of Cebu city, this island is internationally known as the diving Mecca in Southeast Asia. Clear, emerald waters rich with marine life will definitely amaze travelers. Pescador Island, White Beach and Panagsama Beach are highly recommended especially for most budget travelers.

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Kawasan Falls, Badian. Image Source


Also two hours from town proper, Badian is always flocked with tourists who want to see the majestic beauty of Kawasan Falls and do adrenaline-pumping canyoneering.

Bantayan Island

The only area featured here which is located in the north, Bantayan island boasts a natural beauty that is incomparable to its neighbors. It has tranquil sea and white sand beach, which will make the four-hour trip to this paradise worth it. 

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Whaleshark encounter, Oslob. 


On the southern tip of Cebu, this area has been known worldwide as home to the largest mammal on the planet – the whalesharks. In here, travelers can have interaction and swim with the gentle giants.


  • Visit Magellan’s Cross and other historic churches

In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan conquered Cebu and planted a wooden cross to symbolize the conversion of Cebuanos from paganism to Christianity. The rich religious history of the Philippines arguably started in Cebu and thus made it a tourist destination especially for devoted locals who want to pray at the holy site.

  • Attend Sinulog Festival

Cebu is famous in the entire Philippines for its loud and colorful Sinulog festival. Once every third Sunday of January, local and foreign tourists flock the Queen City of the South to witness the celebration of Christianity dedicated to Santo Nino, the child Jesus.

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  • Island hopping

Cebu is a group of islands by itself and it would never be a bad idea to explore each of these islands.

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  • Snorkeling and diving

Cebu’s islands are rich with underwater life that it would be a shame not to go in and take a dip. A famous diving spot, Moalboal will simply take the breath of anyone with its coral reefs teeming with marine biodiversity. What’s best is that snorkeling and diving lessons for absolute beginners are very budget-traveler friendly! Interact with the whalesharks in Oslob as well or swim with thousands of sardines in Pescador island.

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Sardine run, Moalboal, Cebu
  • Canyoneering

Badian is popular for this thrilling and exhilarating activity. Try to be in a bigger group to save money and gain more friends.

Cebu is Where Monica Goes’ favorite island in the Philippines and she tries to visit it at least once a year. Even as a frequent traveler, she still discovers many places to explore. From idyllic beaches, wonderful marine biodiversity, rich heritage, and friendly locals, the coastal pleasure one can experience in Cebu will surely make any tourist to keep coming back. The author can attest to that.

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Have you been to Cebu? Which is your favorite destination? Share your experiences with me!