Welcome to my ultimate Cebu Island travel guide featuring 15 epic things to do and an awesome adventure itinerary for your next visit.
If I had to pick one, Cebu Island would have to be my favorite place in the entire Philippine Archipelago. Here, you’ll find unlimited adventure in the form of majestic jungle waterfalls, incredible snorkeling and diving, mountain hikes, and tropical vistas, as well as the world-renowned, friendly Cebuano culture.
In this comprehensive Cebu Island travel guide, I’ll fill you in on everything you need to know, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a returning traveler! I’ve included a full list of 15 epic things to do on Cebu island, all the main attractions, as well as not one, but two Cebu itineraries to cover your travel plans!
- Quicklist: Here are the Top Bookable Experiences on Cebu Island
- About this Cebu Travel Guide
- 15 Best Things to Do on Cebu Island
- 1. The Epic Kawasan Falls Canyoneering Trip
- 2. Chase Endless Tropical Waterfalls
- 3. Swim with Turtles in Moalboal
- 4. Snorkel With the Moalboal Sardine Run – The Most Unique Thing to do in Cebu
- 5. Swim With Whale Sharks in Oslob
- 6. Go Scuba Diving
- 7. Take a Day Trip to Sumilon Island
- 8. Explore Local Villages By Motorbike
- 9. Jump in a Filipino Tricycle Taxi or Jeepney – Cultural Thing to do in Cebu
- 10. Visit Malapascua Island
- 11. Dive With Thresher Sharks
- 12. Hike Up to Osmena Peak
- 13. Explore Cebu City
- 14. Hang Out in Moalboal
- 15. Visit Bohol
- Cebu Itinerary (2 Options)
- How to Get to Cebu Island
- Where to Stay on Cebu Island
- Best time to Visit Cebu Island
- How to Get Around on Cebu Island
- My take on Whale Shark Tourism on Cebu Island
- Wrapping up This Cebu Travel Guide: Final Notes and Things to Know
- Cebu Travel Guide Conclusion: More Recommendations For the Philippines
Quicklist: Here are the Top Bookable Experiences on Cebu Island
In a rush? Here are four unmissable activities you'll want to check out when traveling to Cebu!
- Oslob Whale Sharks & Kawasan Falls Canyoneering - a combined trip from Cebu that includes an early morning swim with the whale sharks in Oslob (more info below) followed by the epic Kawasan Falls canyoneering experience!
- Pescador Island, Sardines, & Canyoneering - a visit to Moalboal is a must to swim with turtles, & sardines. This trip combines a visit to Moalboal, Pescador Island, & Kawasan Canyoneering
- Sumilon Island Day Pass - visit the epic sandbar island of Sumilon with this day pass.
- Bonus: Bohol Day Tour - see the waterfalls, Chocolate Hills, and tarsiers of neighboring Bohol in a single day with this highly-rated day trip.
About this Cebu Travel Guide
Before you dive into this Cebu Island travel guide featuring the 15 best things to do on your next visit, here are some quick things to help you plan your travels in the Central Visayas.
- Separate posts – I’ve written comprehensive guides to many Cebu Island attractions listed in this blog. These include more information and photos, which you'll find a link within each item on the list.
- Adventure-focused - This Cebu island travel guide focuses on raw adventure! If you'd prefer to sip cocktails in the resort, you might not enjoy this list!
- Insurance for travel on Cebu– If you enjoy adventure and outdoor activities when traveling, you’ll probably want adventure insurance that covers things like canyoneering, motorbikes, and hiking. I recommend World Nomads as they’re one of the only companies covering these activities, or SafetyWing for longer trips in Asia.
- At the bottom of this post – you’ll find a more comprehensive Cebu travel guide with many more resources beyond just things to do on the island. Here, you'll also find an awesome Cebu itinerary for your one or two-week trip, as well as tips and FAQs about travel on the island.
15 Best Things to Do on Cebu Island
Before we get into the logistics and Cebu Island itinerary recommendations, let's take a look at what's on offer. Here is my round-up of the 15 best things to do on Cebu Island, the Philippines.
1. The Epic Kawasan Falls Canyoneering Trip
Another one of the best things to do on Cebu for the adventure enthusiast is a day of canyoneering through the jungles of Badian near Kawasan Falls.
In fact, this activity is one of the most booked tours on the island– and for good reason. I enjoyed this unique activity that I actually did it twice on my visits to Cebu Island! If you're staying near or in Moalboal, then you'll be able to book a tour online for under $50 that includes hotel pickup which is really convenient.
This is the same tour that I went on twice and I highly recommend adding it to your Cebu itinerary.
Experienced guides will take you through several waterfall slides and jungle cliff jumps. The highest cliff jump is 13 meters. However, all jumps are optional.
2. Chase Endless Tropical Waterfalls
Cebu is known as the island of blue-water waterfalls. There are literally 1000 waterfalls in the jungles of Cebu. Most of these are easily accessible via a motorbike for the independent adventurer.
I've put waterfall chasing as the first item on this list of things to do on Cebu because they offer some of the best, raw adventures on the island. Some of my favorite waterfalls on Cebu include:
Most of these waterfalls are found near Moalboal and Oslob. Your best bet will be to rent a motorbike in either of these places and explore them on your own. You can pick up a motorbike in most tourist towns on Cebu Island for 300-450 pesos per day.
3. Swim with Turtles in Moalboal
In between hunting down the best waterfalls, make sure to greet the local turtle population in Moalboal. Moalboal is one of the main tourist hubs on Cebu Island and is recommended as the best place to stay by most travel guides.
While turtles are definitely not the only thing you'll spot while snorkeling in Cebu, they're certainly spectacular, so add snorkeling with turtles to your Cebu itinerary!
4. Snorkel With the Moalboal Sardine Run - The Most Unique Thing to do in Cebu
While you've still got your mask and fins on, make sure to swim out a little to check out the world-famous sardine run right in the heart of Moalboal.
These sardines form enormous schools of over one million fish per school. As they swim, they create amazing patterns and turbine into each other.
Conveniently, the best place to find the sardine balls is the same place where the local turtles like to hang out, right off Panagsama Beach.
It's an amazing experience as the sardines block out the sun and form an underwater tunnel around you. Keep an eye out for larger hunting fish that shoot into the sardine ball. It's no wonder that swimming with the sardine balls is often referred to as one of the best things to do on Cebu Island!
5. Swim With Whale Sharks in Oslob
For many, one of the main attractions on Cebu Island is the opportunity to swim with whale sharks in Oslob. There are dozens of local sharks that visit Oslob every morning.
Swimming with the Cebu Island whale sharks is one of the most popular activities that's featured in many Cebu travel guides.
If you're staying in Oslob, then you'll need to walk down to the whale shark area at around 6:30 am; pinned as "Oslob Whale Shark Watching" on Google. Here, you'll get a briefing and line up for your boat where you'll get to swim with the sharks that visit the shore every day.
If you aren't staying in Oslob, then I recommend booking this whale shark tour. This trip includes hotel pickup (bright and early) and return transfers from Moalboal or Cebu.
Note, there is some controversy surrounding whale shark tourism on Cebu Island. If you want to hear my take, you can read it below.
6. Go Scuba Diving
There's a reason why the Philippines is rated as one of the best destinations on earth for scuba diving. The unique underwater world, with its famous, deep reef drop-offs and incredible critters, and diverse marine life makes scuba diving easily one of the best things to do on Cebu.
My favorite place to go diving is in Moalboal. This is the place where I completed my Advanced PADI certification all those years back. I've since gone on to do my Dive Master's and work in the industry in a few different locations in the world. After all this time, I still consider Moalboal on Cebu Island as one of the best places for diving, especially if you want to see healthy coral reef!
One of my favorite dives in Moalboal is the Pescador Island Dive, which you'll definitely want to check out!
Tip: If you want to get a taste of scuba diving without going all in on an open water course, you can book an "intro to Scuba diving" experience on Mactan Island.
7. Take a Day Trip to Sumilon Island
If it's a tropical island vibe you're feeling, then taking a day trip to neighboring Sumilon Island is another one of the best things to do on Cebu!
Sumilon Island is a small sandbar island located on the eastern side of Cebu, close to Oslob.
The island is perfect for swimming in crystal clear waters, snorkeling in a protected marine sanctuary, and enjoying the tropical island vibes.
The island is run by the Bluewater Sumilon resort, but you can visit the island on a day trip even if you're not staying here. If you've got a bit of time, then I'd definitely recommend adding an overnight trip to Sumilon Island to your Cebu itinerary!
8. Explore Local Villages By Motorbike
There's no better way to see the real Filipino island life than by taking a motorbike out from the tourist beats.
You can pick up a scooter or motorbike in most Cebu Island tourist hubs for 300-450 pesos per day, which is great value. I recommend getting the more powerful 100cc or above scooters (often called clicks), especially if you have a passenger.
The way to check out some local villages and meet some locals is to head inland into the mountains. While I can't recommend a single place to head to, why not check some out when cruising through Ginatilan or Alegria when chasing the waterfalls, or check out the many white-sand beaches around Moalboal.
Your tourism dollar is often missed by those villagers who need it most. Help them out by having a local Filipino lunch or buying some snacks from local eateries.
Tip: Cebu Island is an adventure playground! If you're planning to rent motorbikes, I highly recommend travel insurance by WorldNomads. I swear by them as they are one of the only companies offering adventure insurance with cover for things like motorbikes.
9. Jump in a Filipino Tricycle Taxi or Jeepney - Cultural Thing to do in Cebu
Besides having your own motorbike, the best way to get around Cebu is by jumping in a local tricycle taxi or Jeepney.
Tricycles are similar to Tuk Tuks that you might find in other parts of Asia. The fares are usually very cheap, ranging from 30-250 pesos for the trip, depending on the distance.
Jeepneys are another option if you want to share a ride. They usually operate on a fixed route, and you'll need to ask a local where it's going. Jeepney trips are very cheap, often only 10-20 pesos per trip. Taking a Jeepney will really make you feel like a local and is a great opportunity to experience the famous Cebu Island hospitality.
Though they might be excellent transport options to get around the island, they're also an essential part of the Cebu Island travel experience and should be included any travel guide!
10. Visit Malapascua Island
Malapascua is an awesome little island located in the north of Cebu. This place is famous for diving but is also an adventure hotspot worthy of any Cebu travel guide or itinerary. To get here, you'll need to get a public bus or private transport to the New Maya Port in the north. The Pinay Solo Backpacker has a good guide on how to get here.
If you're a backpacker or looking for an authentic travel experience on Cebu Island, then I highly recommend staying at Villa Sandra. This epic sustainable treehouse hostel is made from completely recycled materials and was one of my favorite hostels I've ever stayed at.
11. Dive With Thresher Sharks
Looking for what to do on Cebu that will get your heart racing? This Cebu Island activity is one of my personal favorites!
This one is also located on Malapascua (see above). This island is known for scuba diving and its thresher shark dive is world famous! It was only discovered about a decade ago that very rare thresher sharks collect at a particular cleaning station just outside of Malapascua every single day.
These sharks are really amazing and very friendly. They have a unique tail that is longer than its body and actually uses this to hunt (like a giant whip).
You'll need at least an advanced scuba diving certificate to dive with thresher shark though, as the dive site sits at around 25-30 metres. Every single dive shop on the island offer thresher shark dives, so do the loop and take your pick.
Below is a quick video that I captured on my old GoPro back during my first visit to Cebu Island in 2017.
12. Hike Up to Osmena Peak
Osmeña Peak is the highest point on Cebu Island at 1013 meters above sea level.
This spot is a popular place to visit for hikers because of the incredible mountain views it offers. From the top, you'll witness an expansive vista of jagged hills sloping down to the ocean. The viewpoint at Osmena Peak is similar to the Chocolate Hills on Bohol.
If you're interested in adding Osmeña Peak to your Cebu Island travel itinerary, then you should know that this hike isn't actually as demanding as it first seems. That's because you'll likely take a motorbike (or Habal Habal) nearly all the way to the summit. From there it's just a 25 minute walk to the peak.
You can also book an Osmena Peak and Kawasan Falls combined trip on Get Your Guide which is quite popular as it combines two of the best things to do on Cebu Island in one full day of adventure.
13. Explore Cebu City
Chances are, if you're heading to Cebu you'll pass through Cebu City. This is the capital city and one of the largest in the region.
If you're looking for things to do in Cebu City, check out the historical sites & points of interest below:
- Cebu heritage monument
- The 1730 Jesuit House
- Taboan Public Market
- Fort San Pedro
- The Yap San Diego Heritage House
In all honesty, Cebu City is a little bit crowded and not for everyone. In saying that, there are definitely some local spots and historic sites worth adding to you Cebu itinerary, especially since you'll be passing through anyway. Hotels and accommodation in the city are very cheap, and there are also loads of huge shopping centres making stocking up on supplies easy.
Related:Where to Stay on Cebu Island
14. Hang Out in Moalboal
Moalboal is an up-and-coming tourist hub and one of the best places to base yourself when visiting Cebu Island.
If you just want to spend some days chilling out and enjoying creature comforts like western restaurants, pubs, and resorts, then spare a few chill days on your Cebu itinerary for Moalboal.
There are some beautiful beaches here and you'll definitely not want to leave!
15. Visit Bohol
Once you've explored all of the best things to do on Cebu, you'll definitely want to check out Bohol! This neighboring island has plenty of things to do and you can experience the best of it in a quick day-trip from Cebu.
Like Cebu, Bohol has several waterfalls and a pristine jungle interior to explore. It also has some spectacular reefs and is home to the endangered Tarsiers, which you can visit at the conservation centre.
It only takes a short ferry ride to reach Bohol from Cebu City, and it's quite cheap.
Cebu Itinerary (2 Options)
That's a wrap for the 15 best things to do on Cebu Island, The Philippines! I hope you found some great ideas and travel inspiration for your trip.
Next up, I'll give you a quick rundown of both a one week and a two week Cebu itinerary to help you plan your trip.
Option A: 1 week Cebu Itinerary Ft. Best Things to do
Squeezing all of the epic things to do on Cebu Island into a one week itinerary is a difficult ask. However, if you're short on time, here's what I recommend:
Day 1: Cebu City
- Explore the city
- Check out Taboan Market
- Visit Fort San Pedro
- Stay in Cebu City or Mactan for an early start in the morning
Day 2: Early start. Book Accommodation for Moalboal
- Book a combined Oslob Whale Shark and Kawasan Canyoneering Trip from Cebu City or Mactan
- Sunrise at Oslob Whale Sharks
- Ask your driver to drop you at Moalboal instead of Cebu (this way you got free transport to Moalboal)
- Unwind at the Moalboal restaurants
Day 3: Moalboal
- Snorkeling with turtles
- Moalboal Sardine Run
- Relax in the afternoon
Day 4: Osmena Peak
- Wake up for a sunrise trip to Osmena Peak
- Optional visit to Kawasan Falls if you book the combined ticket
Day 5: Exploring out of Moalboal
- Rent a motorbike in Moalboal for a day of exploring. Alternatively, find a guide who will take you around on a Habal Habal (motorbike) or van
- Visit Cambais Falls and Montpellier Falls
- Optional: Stay in Oslob
Day 6: Exploring South Cebu
- Visit Tumalog Falls in the morning
- Day-trip to Sumilon Island
- Stay in Oslob (or back at Moalboal)
Day 7: Back to Cebu City to fly out
Option B: 2-Week Cebu Itinerary
I've visited Cebu Island a twice and both times I stayed 3-4 weeks. The following Cebu itinerary is a little fast paced but you can always adapt it to spend longer or take out a few activities if you're short on time.
Day 1 - 5: Same as the 1 week Cebu itinerary
Day 6: More time in Moalboal
- Scuba diving/discover scuba
- Night out at restaurants and bars
Day 7: South Cebu
- Visit Tumalog Falls
- Trip to Sumilon Island and stay the night at Bluewater Resort
Day 8 & 9: Explore South Cebu (stay in Oslob)
- Rent a motorbike or Habal Habal driver
- Visit Tumalog Falls
- Visit Inambakan and Aguinid Falls
Day 10: Transport to Malapascua (stay on Malapascua)
- Get the public bus from Moalboal or Oslob, or hire a private van
- Arrive in Malapascua, sunset at the beach bars and restaurants
Day 11: Explore Malapascua
- Cliff Jumping
- Walk the island circuit
- Optional: dive with thresher sharks
Day 12: Malapascua - Cebu City
- Enjoy Malapascua and get the afternoon transfer back to Cebu City
- Stay in Cebu City
Day 13: Day Trip to Bohol
- Book a day-trip
- Or, take the fast ferry in the morning, rent a scooter, and visit:
- Tarsier Conservation Centre
- Chocolate Hills
- Cruise Down the Loboc River
- Return to Cebu City
Day 14: Fly out of Cebu City
How to Get to Cebu Island
With the Cebu itinerary out of the way, let's get into the travel guide and logistics.
There are two ways to get to Cebu Island, either by flight or by ferry.
The main airport serving Cebu Island is called Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIAA). Being an international airport, there are several route options making it easy to fly here directly from 21 international destinations or many other major islands in the Philippines.
Those already in the Philippines, have a few options for getting to Cebu Island by ferry or fast craft. However, this is not the most convenient option as the distances are usually pretty far. If you're set on a ferry, check out 2Go, Oceanjet, and Weesam Express, which operate regular transfers from Dumaguete, Manila, Bohol, Iloilo, Leyte and Butuan.
I don't have any personal experience with getting to Cebu Island via ferry. But, from what I've read online it's usually quite long and a frustrating process.
Where to Stay on Cebu Island
The best place to base yourself is in Moalboal as it's close to all of the best things to do and all the epic attractions you'll want to add to your Cebu itinerary. However, if you're planning to travel around the island, then I'd also recommend staying at:
- Cebu City/Mactan
- Sumilon Island
Here are the best hotel picks for each budget.
- Best Luxury Resort in South Cebu: Ancelle Cristo Re - the top-rated luxury resort situated on a private beach near Moalboal where you can snorkel with sea turtles. This hotel is run by three amazing sisters who use their proceeds to support a local orphanage.
- Best Resort in Mactan/Cebu City: Bai Hotel - a great mid-budget resort in Cebu City with large rooms, daily buffet breakfast, and rooftop swimming pool. Located verry close to the Cebu International Airport.
- Backpacker Hostel With a Vibe in Moalboal: Chief Mau - a great hostel with a relaxed backpacker vibe in the heart of Moalboal. Large rooms, an onsite bar, and tours can be booked straight from the front desk.
- Sustainable lodging in Malapascua: Villa Sandra - an awesome treehouse accommodation on Malapascua Island - an awesome place to scuba dive with Thresher Sharks
- ...10+ More Top-Rated Hotels on Cebu
Stay on Sumilon Island
Sumilon Bluewater - stay on a pristine private island complete with a beautiful white sandbar and crystal-clear water for swimming and snorkeling.
Best time to Visit Cebu Island
The best time to visit Cebu Island depends highly on the Typhoon seasons. Being a tropical island, there are two main seasons in Cebu; Dry and Wet Seasons.
Cebu dry season – December – June
Cebu wet season – June – December (peak typhoon season: July/August)
Most people say that the best time to visit Cebu is between December to February. However, if you want to beat the crowds, then the best time to visit Cebu Island is in the shoulder season, between late March and early June.
During the rainy season, you can expect very wet days.
How to Get Around on Cebu Island
Here is a breakdown of transport options to get around Cebu Island between main hubs.
Cheap local option: Bus
Buses offer the best way to get from Cebu City to tourist spots and hubs like Moalboal, Oslob or Malapascua.These buses run from Cebu South Bus Terminal. The buses you'll want are called Ceres liners. They are large, comfortable, air-conditioned coach liners with storage underneath for your bags and luggage.
These buses are also quite cheap at around 120 PHP ($5.85 USD) for the 2 hour ride to Moalboal from Cebu. You can also jump on these coaches and buses once you're at the tourist spots to get between each. For example Moalboal to Oslob.
Private transfers: Vans and cars
You'll also find really nice vans and private transport vehicles all over Cebu. The cost for a private transfer from Cebu to Moalboal is roughly 1500 pesos for a one-way trip. If you have trouble finding a driver who wants to do the long trip, I recommend checking 12Go. This way, you can book a private trip online in advance.
Transport options for Exploring Cebu Island
By far, the best way to get around on Cebu Island is to rent scooters. You’ll find Cebu travel guide blogs recommending scooter rentals for as high as 500 pesos per day. However, I’ve rented bikes multiple times for between 300-450 pesos per day. If you’re planning to stay a while, you’ll get a cheaper price of around 250 pesos if you rent them for long term (1 week or more).
You’ll find fuel around the island to top up from road-side pit-stops. This fuel comes in glass bottles. 150 pesos worth of fuel will last most a day of exploring around the island.
Alternative Transport Methods
If you’re not too interested in renting a motorbike, you can also pay for transport via:
- Tricycle – a popular mode of private transport in the Philippines that accommodates a few more passengers (2-4) than a motorcycle. You can pay a driver to take you around to different spots and check out the awesome things to do in Cebu.
- Habal Habal – This refers to “scooter taxi”, this is a good way to get around cheaply as a single passenger without renting your own.
- Jeepney - Jeepneys also called Dyipni or simply "jeeps" are colorful buses that many locals use for transport in the Philippines. This is a ride-share with a fixed route, give one a try and mingle with the locals!
- Van – You’ll find a few resorts, hotels and private transport companies offering van transport. This is the priciest option for getting around but can be worth it if it’s raining or if you’re in a large group.
My take on Whale Shark Tourism on Cebu Island
After chatting to locals to better understand their perspective, I've found that thousands of people who were once working in unsustainable fishing operations now have the opportunity to work in tourism instead. The tourism machine is now the biggest industry in the region.
This shift, combined with tighter ecological regulations to protect marine life means better protection for the aquatic life of South Cebu.
But what does this mean for the sharks themselves?
To ensure that the giants keep coming back, locals feed them from these small boats. This has caused suspicion that the sharks would adopt unnatural feeding and migration behaviors. However, in the past few years, after extensive research and tagging, researchers have concluded that the younger sharks are still continuing their regular migration. It is only the old sharks that can no longer breed that choose to stay in Oslob. It's also important to note that most of the tagged sharks that have died during the past few years have died in international waters.
The practice has also improved dramatically in quite a short time. This proves that increased awareness with the support of conservation groups is helping make the Cebu Island whale shark swim an increasingly sustainable tourism model.
On the other hand, other practices that I've witnessed in Asia get much less attention from conservation groups and are much worse. Namely, those that chase the sharks with large powerboats for tourists to jump literally on top of them.
If you're interested in swimming with the whale sharks in Cebu, make sure that you:
- Don't touch the sharks
- Keep a respectful distance
- Don't wear sunscreen (it can be poisonous for them)
- Dispose of all plastic waste and trash properly
- Educate other tourists about not touching the sharks and keeping a safe distance
What do you think? I'd love for you to join in on the discussion. Let me know in the comments below.
Wrapping up This Cebu Travel Guide: Final Notes and Things to Know
Before we wrap up this comprehensive Cebu travel guide, here are some last points you'll want to know before visiting.
- Language – Locals on Cebu speak the Cebuano language, which is different to what you’ll hear in Manilla or Palawan. However, most locals also speak Tagalog (Filipino) and up to four other languages, including English!
- Roosters - Cock fighting is a large part of Cebuano culture. Don't be surprised if you see roosters perched on small stands all throughout the island. These guys will wake up you every morning– but it's just part of the Cebu Island travel experience!
- Filipino bakeries - If you stumble upon a local Filipino bakery (there are loads in Mactan), make sure to ask for recommendations. I personally love the bread and pastries from the Philippines, make sure to try pan de coco.
- Karaoke - Filipinos love karaoke and that's probably an understatement! No doubt you'll hear karaoke parties nightly wherever you stay on Cebu Island. Locals love it when you join in!
- Internet on Cebu - Wifi exists on Cebu but is a little hit-and-miss outside of Cebu City and Mactan. The fancier hotels and nice cafes around Moalboal will all offer usable speeds. If you're staying for a while, you can pick up a prepaid sim card; I recommend Globe for the best 4G coverage.
- Locals - Locals on Cebu are extremely friendly and accommodating. Cebuanos will always go out of their way to help you and love when you genuinely want to learn about their way of life.
Cebu Travel Guide Conclusion: More Recommendations For the Philippines
And that's a wrap for this epic Cebu Island travel guide. I hope that you've enjoyed my epic list of things to do on Cebu and the recommended travel itinerary.
While you're here on my blog, make sure to check out some of my other travel guides to the Philippines. Here are a few of my favorite islands in the archipelago:
Otherwise, check out some individual posts below for more things to do in Cebu and the Philippines.