Top Cebu City Hotels
Popular sightseeing attractions are mostly found in and around Cebu City and Mactan Island. Built by Legaspie in 1740, Fort San Pedro is the smallest and oldest tri-bastion fort in the country. The green setting makes this fine little fort a good place to take a breather from Cebu City's chaotic streets. The Fort is home to the Regional National Museum which from Wednesday to Sunday exhibits Ming porcelain, cannons and helmets from a sunken Spanish galleon.
Portuguese explorer Magellan erected the Cross of Magellan in 1521 to mark the spot where the first Christian Filipinos were baptised. A simple shrine, which could be mistaken for a bus shelter from a distance, houses a wooden replica encasing the disintegrated original. This very significant part of Filipino history is only worth a quick glance before heading for the Basilica opposite. The first Asian Basilica, Basilica Minore de Santo Nio, was built in Cebu in 1740 and teems with devotees clambering to catch a glimpse of the oldest religious relic in the Philippines, the Santo Nio statue, given to Queen Juana of Cebu by Magellan. Sundays aren't the best time to visit the colonial church unless you wish to partake in a busy mass conducted in Filipino.
Casa Gorordo in downtown Cebu is a restored 19th century house displaying various antiques reflecting the European and local influences of the era. Casa Gorordo also exhibits contemporary art and claims to be a museum but the term ancestral house is more appropriate.
The attractive Taoist Temple looks a little out of place but is a pleasant detour for those with time on their hands. Fortune-tellers lend some authenticity to this slightly artificial-looking temple.
On Mactan Island are two uninspiring monuments to extremely inspiring events. The Lapu-Lapu Monument is a bronze tribute to the brave chieftain Lapu-Lapu, the first Filipino to resist colonialism. Not far away is his beaten adversary's monument, Magellan's Marker, the spot where the great explorer and his men fell in the 1521 battle of Mactan.
Tourist Information Offices
Tourist information desks are situated at Mactan International Airport and the tourist office is opposite the Fort San Pedro.
Shopping in Cebu is pretty average. Malls offer a fair range of goods at reasonable prices but few real bargains. Some good local arts and crafts exist among the more trashy souvenirs and plundered coral. Rattan, bamboo and stone furniture is widely available in Cebu.
The craftsmen of the Guitar factories on Mactan Island produce top quality classic or acoustic pieces to suit all budgets. Guitars can be custom-made from imported woods like mahogany or rosewood and shipped to customers in about 6 months.
The Carbon Market is a buzzing agricultural market selling housewares and handicrafts. Obtaining local crafts like capiz shells, native Filipino blankets and barongs, basketry and brassware will require sharpened bartering skills.
Busy Colon Street is the oldest in the country but there's no visible evidence of this among the crowds and the fumes. Set downtown it features fairly typical stores, shopping malls and cinemas.
Note: Downtown Cebu is particularly bad for pickpockets and can be unsafe at night.
The best shopping malls are in Cebu City. The Ayala Center displays a broad variety of items including international brand name products. Other choices would be SM Cebu and Gaisano Country Mall slightly further out.
Entertainment and Eating Out
Cebu City is reasonably priced with a multinational choice of restaurants. There's no real designated dining or drinking district but the most fashionable eating establishments are mainly found in the Ayala district. The city offers plenty of eating, drinking and dancing, the odd concert but little else. Filipinos disagree with those who describe their food as bland. The undecided should try a Filipino turo-turo - literally 'point-point' restaurant, where patrons point at whatever they fancy from a spread of local dishes.Â
Cebu's speciality is its excellent seafood cuisine. Alavar's Seafood House serves good bagoong-based meals. Another good place to eat out is Chika-an Restaurant along Osmena Street.
Cebu has no shortage of nightlife. A string of bars, karaoke joints, cafes, discos, and nightclubs line the streets from downtown Colon Street to Osmena Boulevard and Gen. Maxilom Avenue. Cebu has become a necessary stop for touring artists and most of the country's best bands come from the Visayas. Hotels/Resorts often have live singing in the evenings.
Cebu has two 24-hour casinos located in both of the Waterfront Hotels - Cebu City and Mactan Island.
The cyber scene is well established. Internet Cafes abound, especially in the city and tourist spots and rates are low.
Getting From A to B
Transportation varies greatly in Cebu. There are many cheap connections and the major destinations are well linked. Outside of the cities and main tourist areas getting around can be difficult, slow and uncomfortable; timetables and roads are often unreliable and safety can be an issue. Note: There are no trains on Cebu.
Taxis provide the simplest and most comfortable way to travel and can be easily flagged down in built-up areas but are rarer around resorts. Opportunistic taxi drivers will be reluctant but insist on using the meter.
The outrageously decorated jeepneys are a characteristic and hectic way of getting about and so cheap they're almost free. Communication can get garbled in the driver's eagerness to stuff as many passengers as possible on board a haven for pickpockets.
The backbone of Filipino transportation, jeepneys provide the cheapest and most convenient form of public transport for the streetwise and adventurous traveller.
Tartanillas or horse-drawn carts aren't a tourist gimmick but an authentic mode of local transport. Away from city centres they provide the most traditional and environmentally friendly way to travel short distances but do involve staring at the rear end of a horse.
Many resorts are fairly isolated and transport can be difficult. Hotel transport is much more expensive than a taxi but is the most convenient way to leave a more secluded resort.
Owing to generally uncomfortable and infrequent public transport, the best way to travel longer distances on Cebu for those with limited time is in a rented car.
The alternative is the bus, often confusing, arduous and an experience in its own right. It is common to see dilapidated buses in the rural areas bulging with people and passengers spilling headfirst out of windows at their stops. It is an incredibly economical way to travel but requires a sense of humour.
Tricycles are common in towns and villages - with a bit of haggling they provide a convenient and cheap method of transport.
Outriggers can be chartered for independent island hopping.
A flotilla of boats, from luxury liners to virtual floating wreckage link Cebu to other islands and cities. Bohol is a 90-minute ferry ride away and Manila can be reached in a day.
Cebu is just an hour by plane from Manila and is well connected to other parts of the country. There are also direct flights between Mactan International Airport and several major Asian cities.
For lush greenery, the Kawasan Falls close to Badian, is a scenic picnic spot with some good nearby trekking. The falls are a 2-hour drive from Cebu City - a long way to go for a picnic - best recommended for people staying in the south. The town of Carcar, an hour from Cebu City, features a Spanish baroque church, quaint colonial houses and the huge local shoe-making trade. There are also several interesting caves to explore nearby.
Cebu is predominantly Catholic and follows the Christian calendar with Christmas and Easter celebrated with almost fanatical excess. Festivals and saint's days are regularly held in small towns and villages around the province.
In late January Cebu City hosts the biggest and most spectacular local festival - the week long Sinulog Festival. This dance ritual parades the holy image of the Santa Nino through the streets to rhythmic processions, painted tribal warriors, religious somberness and a carnival atmosphere. A uniquely Filipino occasion and well worth seeing.
Kadaugan Sa Mactan is a re-enactment of the historic Battle of Mactan between Lapu Lapu and Magellan. An audience gathers at the Lapu Lapu Monument on 27th April to watch an enjoyable melodramatic slaying of the Conquistadors.
Lapu Lapu hosts the Virgin of the Rule Fiesta on November 20th-21st to honour the patron saint of Opon. Celebrations include a carnival, food fair and the coronation of the Fiesta Queen.
The Kalag-Kalag Festival is a two-day holiday held over All Saints' and All Souls' Day. Filipinos visit departed loved ones and pay homage to the saints, flocking to the cemeteries with flowers, candles and food for the deceased. The celebrations include graveside picnics and later the young engage in spooky Halloween traditions.
Cebu City hosts many trade events. Larger conventions, exhibitions, trade fairs and fashion shows are held at the Cebu City Waterfront Hotel.
Featured Cebu City Hotels
Cebu City Travellers Tales
Cebu City was a two day stop in our month long vacation to the Philippines. Since we have have spent a week in Boracay we thought two days would be enough to go shopping and visit some of the tourist spots. We went shopping at a couple of malls, Ayala Center and SM where the prices are really good compared to back home. The public market was of interest to us specially for the fruits, mangoes, mangosteen, etc and dried fish. We rented a van which was recommended by the hotel staff which took us to the Magellan''s Cross, St. Nino church, the fort and to the Otap factory where they also sell dried mangoes. We plan to visit the Philippines again and next time we will spent more time in Cebu, tow days we found out is not enough.
Cebu is very good for backpackers. You can visit "Carbon Market", a traditional philppine market, not far from Magellan Cross. Cebu people are very friendly. It''s very convenient to take jeepney around the city. Jeepney fare is about 6 to 8 pesos depending on distance.
- Is very convinient in the airport upon arrival - Do not miss the local Market Opom in Lapu Lapu; very colorful, warm hospitality...) - Should try the local FRUIT and local specialty: BBQ Chicken and Willy''s Lechon (BBQ Pig) IT''S GREAT! Q: How to find the good place for take away? A: Follow the crow of local people and advise from the local people, then surely you will find the right place satisfying either your visual & your stomach need.
I was there to research retirement options. Realtors provided transportation. Traffic is congested and I don''t recommend renting a car, unless you like high risk activities.
Very reasonably priced taxis and jeepneys available to malls, and internet cafe just next door. Cebu much nicer than Manila in ALL respects. Can call US consulate for medical/dental links-for great quality services at low costs.
The Lami-ah is a nice seafood restaurant nearby with a cultural show at 8 pm. They offer free transfer to the restaurant and back to the hotel. Reservation is recommended. Transportation can be annoying since most taxi drivers refuse to use their meter.
Island hopping tour is very nice, including snorkeling. Olango bird sanctuary was out of season, the season is October to March. Restaurants in Lapu Lapu are very good for fish dishes. The taxis provided by the hotel are very expensive, better hire one outside.
Cebu is a great place for a family holiday (I just would not stay at the White Sands). Our kids enjoyed the beach, water sports and touring. We took a tour of Cebu City, which was fun. Being Easter Week, we had the opportunity to see a couple of the Good Friday Processions which were interesting and an excellent example of the local culture. I recommend the Green House Seafood Restaurant on Mactan Island--a market restaurant where you pick out live sea critters and have them cooked to you liking. Very fresh and tasty! The restaurant was clean, the food excellent and the hosts and waitstaff were friendly and helpful. A very kid-friendly restaurant as well.
Recommend "Joe''s Chicken" as a good authentic Filipino eating place.
Having a wonderful cousin who provided us a vehicle made our stay in Cebu enjoyable. If she''s not available, taxicabs are affordable and are air-conditioned!!! SM City has very nice resort wear, can''t find it in Manila. If you just want relaxation or time with your family or loved one/s, secluding yourself in a resort is the best way to go!! Prior to touching anything in your room, check the list that you''re supposed to have in your room and make a note as to what''s missing, any missing item/s will be charged to you whether you''re about to check out or gone already.