First and foremost a tropical island haven for well-to-do package tourists and adventurous flash packers, Cebu boasts some of the best beaches in the archipelago and is deservedly its most popular destination. Idyllic sun-kissed beaches are only the start, however, and even the most energetic travellers will be hard pushed to see and do it all while in Cebu.
Scuba diving is the big thing here but nature lovers, thrill seekers and history buffs can explore a wide variety of rewarding sights or partake in a bit of sporty fun and games. If the mood takes you, indulge in a round of golf or while away a few hours admiring lavish colonial era artefacts or ancient Cebuano tribal art in one of several inspiring museums.
Cebu was the cradle of Catholicism in Asia and still boasts a wealth of historic riches such as quaint churches, Spanish forts and imposing colonial buildings. The island is unsurprisingly a water sports Mecca where people come to get a fix of snorkelling, kite boarding, windsurfing or a day of big game fishing.
Cebu’s natural beauty is not just restricted to its coastline. Venture off the beaten track a little and you will be rewarded with stunning waterfalls, ancient underground cave systems and lush green nature reserves.
One of Cebu’s must see attractions, these three panoramic waterfalls are a fairly arduous 30 minute walk from the town of Badian but definitely well worth the effort. Surrounded by weirdly shaped rock formations and lush vegetation, it is the quintessential tropical hideaway where you can swim or dive into seemingly bottomless pools of unbelievably clear and fresh water. (Badian Town, South Cebu)
Southwestern University Museum
The pick of Cebu’s many museums, this history and cultural centre showcases an amazing collection of artefacts from early Cebuano and pan Asian history including relics from prehistoric times. There is everything from Ming Chinese pottery, priceless jewelry and colonial wood carvings. Not to be missed are some ancient tribal oddities such as boat coffins and gold plated death masks. An interesting day out with lots to learn for all ages. (Urgello Private Road, Cebu City, Open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 – 17:00)
This crumbling 16th century fort is one of the oldest colonial buildings in the Philippines and worth a visit for its idyllic location alone. It faces across the ocean and commands wonderful views especially during early evening sunset. It has walled gardens which are beautifully maintained and there is nowhere better than here to escape the maddening pace of life of downtown Cebu City for an hour or two. There is also an excellent museum displaying military history, coins, jewelry and art. (South Osmena Boulevard, Cebu City, Open daily 08:00 to 19:00, admission PHP15)
The oldest Christian place of worship in the Philippines, this diminutive church is so named after its famous relic – a 16th century carving of Jesus depicted as a local child. The church has some wonderfully expressive ceiling murals and is designed in baroque and neo classical style. It houses a small museum which charts the history of Christianity in Cebu and visitors can attend English language mass each evening. Entrance by donation. (Osmena Boulevard, Cebu City, Open daily 08:00 to 21:00)
A paradise for scuba divers, Mactan Island overlooks the metropolis of Cebu City, yet is fringed by stunning coral reefs and idyllic beaches. It is dotted with numerous upscale beach resorts, breezy oceanfront boardwalks and delightful beach restaurants with views to die for. You could easily spend all day messing about in the water trying your hand at kite boarding and wind surfing and don’t forget to take the kids to the excellent aquarium.