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Cebu City: A Premier Vacation Destination in the Philippines

Updated on February 29, 2016
Mactan Cebu Bridge by Flickr's elaine ross baylon
Mactan Cebu Bridge by Flickr's elaine ross baylon


The Philippines is one of the most visited tourist countries not just in Asia but in the whole world. According to the Department of Tourism, 5.36 million travelers went in the 2015, which has considerably increased over the last years with Cebu City being one those having the most number of visitors.

Cebu City referred to as the “Queen City of the South” by the locales, which is also the oldest city in the country, and dubbed as the “Gateway to a Thousand Journey” by local and international travelers, has welcomed a total of 74, 825 globetrotters last year. The foreign tourists accounted came from Asia, America, Europe, Australia, Middle East, Africa and others.

Ranking 2nd in the most popular and busiest airports in the country, Cebu has become a premier vacation destination in the Philippines for many awesome reasons. The most cited of which is the city’s undeniable beautiful and relaxing vacation spots.

Cebu is a province that comprises of the island itself (Cebu), its surrounding islands and islets. Up to this day, it is still one of the most visited provinces in the Philippines. In fact in 2014, the tourism in Cebu increased by 16% despite that it was hit by notable calamities in the last part of 2013.

So what to expect and do, when you visit Cebu? Why do most tourists prefer to visit this place among other relaxing and affordable destinations in the country?

Mactan Cebu international Airport by Flickr's Dominic Alojado
Mactan Cebu international Airport by Flickr's Dominic Alojado

Short Travel Time

It only takes 30 to 45 minutes by plane from Manila, depending on the weather condition. A short plane ride and voila! You can start touring and enjoy the scenery of the island. And, if you live near Cebu like Davao and other neighboring islands, the shorter is the travel time.

Cebu jeepney by Flickr's shankar s.
Cebu jeepney by Flickr's shankar s.

Affordable Fare

There’s no need to worry because it’s very affordable to go to Cebu. Just look out for airline promos and book your tickets ahead of time.

For budget conscious travelers, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia offers a plane ride ranging from $20 to $50 per person. But if you’re looking for another option, the country’s premier airline, Philippine Airlines, is the best. Going around the city by jeepney or taxi only costs more or less $1.

And take note, the famous landmarks are actually a walking distance to each other so if you have lots of energy for the day, walking can give you some of your unforgettable experiences there.

Unique Native Foods

Imagine yourself, enjoying the famous lechon de Cebu, fresh seafood such as squids, shrimps, prawns, sea shells, seaweeds, and fruits while touring around the island.

One of the must visit food stations there is called Larsian in Fuente Osmeña, where you can find all sorts of grilled seafood, while restaurants and establishments selling lechon are everywhere.

But you should try Rico’s Spicy Lechon – it’s perfect! For fresh fruits, try going to Carbon Market and you will be surprised to see the most affordable and freshest in Metro Cebu. And after that, when it’s time to go home, don’t forget to buy pasalubongs. Highly recommended are dried mangoes, mango puree, danggit and dried pusit.

Awesome Diving Sites

If you are the adventurous type, go for diving. Some of the best sites are the following:

  • Shangri-la Marine Sanctuary. This is located in the East Coast of Mactan. Amazing creatures can be seen such as batfish, barracuda, parrotfish and corals, to name a few. The views differ from shallow depth, middle depth of 15-30M until the deep of 30M or more.
  • Nalusuan Marine Sanctuary. This is a man-made island and ideal for kids due to the swimming area is well protected
  • Tresher Point. Situated just across from Mactan, this is the haven of Treshers, belonging to mackerel shark family and has a habitat of living in deep water and normally nocturnal
  • Tambuli. Even at a shallow deep water level diving, you can see a Mandarin fish which are not common in other diving spots. Some of the creatures to be seen here are angelfish, nudibranches, tiny anglerfish and anemone shrimps.
  • Talima Sanctuary. It is known for its beautiful and colorful coral angle
  • Marigondon Cave – diving site is under the cave and restricted for professional or experienced divers only, this is because of the depth of the wate.
  • Agus, Mactan. Another dive site in Mactan which is easy to find and safe for all those want to try diving, an average depth 12M
  • Kontiki, Mactan. This is great for those who want to try and learn diving, just go with the kontiki divers.

Historical Churches

A visit in Cebu will not be complete if you miss the historical churches. So you may want to check out the following churches and offer a prayer.

  • Basilica Minore de Santo Niño and Magellan’s Cross. One of the most visited church and notable spot that lies in the city of Cebu. It is also the oldest Roman Catholic Church built in the Philippines. According to history, Spanish explorers Miguel Lopez de Legaspi found a statue that looks like an image of Child Jesus. This is also the same image given by Ferdinand Magellan to her wife. From then on, the church was also called and commonly known as Santo Niño de Basilica
  • Monastery of the Holy Eucharist. This is located in Lindogon Simala, Sibongga, Cebu. A must included site when you plan to visit Cebu. From it structural details of the church down to the living testimonials of the devotees, a visit here will all be worth it. This church also serves as the pilgrimage center of Marian Devotees.
  • Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. As the name indicates, the church was name after the queen and patroness of Cebu.
  • Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. One of the oldest churches in the Philippines; had a groundbreaking in 1689 and construction was completed in 1909. After the World War II, the church was rebuilt. This church also serves as the ecclesiastical seat of the Metropolitan Archdiocesan of Cebu. It is located in Mabini St. Cebu City

Taoist Temple Cebu by Flickr's travel oriented
Taoist Temple Cebu by Flickr's travel oriented

Heritage Museums and Temples

Looking for something fun and light? Try visiting the following museums:

  • Cathedral Museum. This is also known as the ecclesiastical museum of the Roman Catholic and focuses the regional Catholic architecture and artifacts
  • San Carlos Museum. It showcases the history of the University of San Carlos
  • Carcel de Cebu (Museo Sugbo). Translated as jail of Cebu, the museum comprises of pre-collonial gallery, The Katipunan Revolution and Vicente Rama Special Exhitibion to name a few
  • CAP Arts Center. Previously owned by and the house of Don Sergio Osmeña and it showcases the events happened that contributed to the Philippine history.
  • Rizal Memorial Library and Museum. Located in Osmeña Blvd and houses in 3-floor building where in thousands of books, antique collections, paintings and other artifacts can be found, even those who are hard to find ones.
  • Casa Gorordo Museum. This is previously the house of the first Filipino Bishop of Cebu

While there are so many churches in Cebu, there are also historical temples offering an overlooking view of the city namely: Taoist Cebu Temple, Fo Guang Shan Chu Un Temple, and Heavenly Temple of Charity.

Big Malls

Cebu City has just opened the country’s biggest mall – SM Seaside, which offers leisure activities like those in Manila. You can also shop at Ayala Center, Robinsons, and Elizabeth Mall. Almost every city in the province of Cebu has malls.

Vibrant Sinulog Festival

One of the best times to visit Cebu is during the celebration of the Sinulog Festival, which is held every year on the third Sunday of January. This is characterized by a very long parade with many group of persons dressed in colorful costumes, finding their way to the streets while dancing the Sinulog.

The Verdict

With so many places to visit and activities to do in Cebu, for sure you will never get bored and will intend to come back for more. Start planning your trip now and find out more about Cebu!

Which of the Cebu tourist destinations above are you most interested with?

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    • Evane profile image

      Ave 2 years ago from Philippines

      @ tebo Yeah. It will not cost you much to visit Cebu. Mark my word. :)

    • Evane profile image

      Ave 2 years ago from Philippines

      @ ladyguitarpicker Oh wow! Your neighbor is from the Philippines?

    • Evane profile image

      Ave 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hi mackyi straight from Philadelphia!!! :D Yes visit Philippines now! Choose Philippines! Beauty is not just with the tourist spots but also with the many beautiful, hospitable and welcoming people.

    • Evane profile image

      Ave 2 years ago from Philippines

      @ MsDora from the Caribbean. Have you ever tried vising any part of Asia?

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 2 years ago from New Zealand

      I too hadn't heard of Cebu. It sounds and looks like a lovely holiday destination. I did enjoy watching your video of SM seaside Cebu city. It looks so beautiful.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos of Cebu, it looks like a great place to visit. My neighbor is there visiting, I hope to see his photos.

    • mackyi profile image

      I.W. McFarlane 2 years ago from Philadelphia

      Thanks for sharing this awesome bit of information. Hopefully, one day I will get the opportunity to experience some of this beauty of the Philippines.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Never even heard of Cebu. Now, thanks to your very informative and interesting article, (plus great pictures) I not only heard about it; I can imagine a beautiful and adventurous visit there. Thank you very much.