Cebu Travel Guide | Best 8 places to visit in Cebu

With the recent controversy surrounding the proposed closure of Boracay, I thought we would look into this situation a little further. To put into perspective how popular Boracay actually is, consider this – last year alone, it is estimated there were approximately two million visitors (half of which are foreigners) to this island paradise. When you consider the tiny island is only just over 1,000 hectares, it shows just how crowded and popular Boracay is. That is why a combined interagency task force consisting of the DENR, DOT, and DILG has been developed, to try and crack down on breaches of environmental law due to the ever-increasing demands being placed on the island by tourism. It is, without a doubt, one of the most popular Philippines destinations.

As a result, the task force has recommended to Philippine President Duterte for the island to be closed to tourism for at least six months, possibly up to 12 months, from April 26 this year for rehabilitation purposes. Although this isn’t a foregone conclusion at this point, I thought over the next 4 weeks, it would be a good opportunity for me to look at some nearby alternatives to visit in the lead up to April 26. For those who were planning to go to Boracay this year, these four locations I will focus on over the next 4 weeks will offer you some great alternatives. Boracay is only one of the 7,641 islands in the country, so there is plenty more to see out there!

This week, we will start by looking at the island province of Cebu (not to be confused with the capital, Cebu City).

1). Cebu City

Firstly, we will start with Cebu City itself. Cebu City is often referred to as the second capital city of the Philippines, after Manila. It is a fact that it is the second most populous city in the Philippines after Manila. Cebu City has a very rich Spanish Colonial history and was the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines. It was also the very first capital city of the country.

With such a rich history, there are a number of Spanish-Filipino heritage buildings and monuments around town. This gives you an insight into the role the Spanish played in the development of the City. This has helped to fuel tourism for those with a thirst for history.

Cebu City is right in the middle of the Philippines, a very convenient location for a number of reasons. This makes it easily accessible from just about anywhere in the Philippines. There are approximately 150 nearby islands and islets, so there are plenty of places you can visit a short distance from the city. Cebu City has a plethora of hotels and accommodation to suit all budgets and desires. So if Boracay does get closed down for tourism on April 26, Cebu is a great alternative.

Magellan’s cross (left) is one of the oldest landmarks in the Philippines while the Taoist Temple is one of the most popular attractions in Cebu.

2). Mactan Island

Mactan Island is located only about 3kms from Cebu Island and is part of Cebu province. The Island is only 65sqm and is the most popular tourist destinations in Cebu, and arguably the Visayas region. The island is blessed with plenty of raw, natural beauty and is also rich in history with the Spanish colonizing the island as early as 1521.

Aside from certain historical events, Mactan Island’s main claim to fame is the Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa, and Plantation Bay, both arguably the two best resorts not just in Cebu, but the whole of the Philippines. I have been fortunate enough to stay at the Shangri-La and also the Imperial Palace Waterpark. The Imperial Palace Waterpark is a fantastic place for families. It is basically a giant waterpark, featuring wave pools, swimming pools, water slides, beachfront, and my favorite part, a pool bar. However, you can’t beat the Shangri-La.

With a second terminal opening at the Mactan Cebu International Airport in June, there should be a steady increase in visitors. Mactan is very different to Boracay, but is also a great alternative should Boracay be forced into temporary closure.

Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa is probably the best resort I have been too. It certainly has the biggest swimming pool I have ever swum in!

3). Oslob

Oslob has something that Boracay doesn’t – whale shark watching! Whale shark watching is becoming very popular across the country due to the healthy whale shark population. Known locally as Tuki, these giant yet gentle creatures allow you to get up close and personal. For the cost of only P1,000 (USD20), you get to spend around about 30 minutes snorkeling with these magnificent creatures.

From Oslob, you are also able to partake in some tour packages that include visits to other locations such as canyoneering in Badian while taking in Tumalog Falls. Or, you can go snorkeling with diverse aquamarine species in the secret location of Sumilon Island. This certainly offers you a different experience from what you can expect in Boracay and is fast becoming one of the best places in the Philippines. Read more about what to do in Oslob by clicking here.

Whale sharks may be the main attraction in Oslob, but there are also plenty of beautiful places nearby.

4). Moalboal

Moalboal is regarded as one of the best diving locations in the whole of the country. With its abundant and diverse marine life, it is also home to the hammerhead shark who indulge heavily on the local sardines. If you are a diver, There are a couple of dive shops there in which you can hire some gear.

Moalboal is also blessed with unspoiled white sand beaches and epic sunsets. The town itself is pretty laid back and not as full-on as what Boracay is, so it makes for a more relaxing atmosphere. There is also the opportunity to tie in a side trip to Badian where you can check out Kawasan Falls (read more below).

Beautiful beaches and amazing underwater treasures make Moalboal a great place to visit.

5). Bantayan Island

Bantayan Island has long been regarded as one of the most beautiful islands in the whole of the country. The great thing about it is that unlike Boracay it isn’t overrun with tourists. With powdery white sand beaches and elegant palm trees swaying in the breeze, this place typifies a true tropical paradise.

There are several activities that you can partake of. This includes scuba diving and snorkelling, visiting the centuries-old churches of St Peter and St Paul or you can go swimming in the cold water of Ogtong cave pool. Or if you just want to chill out, there are plenty of palm trees and white sand that you can enjoy and relax with. There are also a number of accommodation options to suit most budgets. For more information, you can click here.

Bantayan Island is considered one of the best not only in Cebu, but the whole country.

6). Badian

Badian has a number of tourist attractions with the most popular being Kawasan Falls. The canyoneering craze that is becoming so popular with many thrillseekers can be fully experienced at Kawasan Falls. With tempting cliffs and rocks to jump from and the beautiful turquoise colored water, these falls are becoming more and more popular for adventurers. You can read more by clicking here.

Some of the other tourist attractions include Lambug Beach with its epic sunsets, Osmena Peak which is part of the Mantalungo mountain range and resembles Bohol’s famous Chocolate Hills and Pescador Island, which is a diving haven. For the golfing enthusiasts, there is also the challenging Cebu International golf course. Then, of course, less than an hour away is Moalboal with its great diving and beaches. Who needs Boracay with all this beauty and adventure so close to each other? Read more about other attractions in Badian by clicking here.

Kawasan Falls is the most famous place to visit in Badian thanks to the canyoneering craze sweeping the country.

7). Malapascua Island

Malapascua is the northernmost island of Cebu province. It is well renowned for its unspoiled beauty, beautiful white sand beaches, and its diving spots. Bounty Beach is considered to be the best beach on the island with a long stretch of white sand, complemented with bars and restaurants. This is a sleepier version of the bustling white beach found in Boracay.

For diving enthusiasts, Monad Shoal is considered to be the best place for scuba diving. Here you can spot thresher sharks as well as other marine life that includes seahorses, shrimps, and crabs amongst other coral and fish species. You can also check out Lighthouse Beach which offers you the opportunity to explore an old Japanese wreck that has become an artificial reef over time. To learn more about Malapascua Island please click here.

Malapascua Island has beautiful white sand beaches that are complemented by amazing sunsets.

8). Camotes Islands

Located in between Cebu, Leyte, and Bohol, Camotes Islands are a group of 3 islands – Pacijan, Poro, and Ponson. Camote is also the native name for sweet potato. This small group of islands is just a2-hour boat ride from Danao, just north of Cebu City.

There are a number of attractions that include sensational white-sand beaches, such as Santiago Bay or the awesome experience of the islands’ caves, synonymous with that region. Being somewhat off the beaten track, unlike Boracay, Camotes Islands are not crowded with tourists making it a great place for a romantic getaway, or a chilled out relaxing holiday. Click here to read more about transport and accommodation options.

Camotes Islands offer a peaceful getaway from some of the other more popular tourist places.

So let’s wait and see what will happen in the countdown to April 26. In the meantime, stay tuned for next week’s blog to see what I have in store as another nearby alternative to Boracay. Please don’t forget to like and share this article and please feel free to leave comments below.

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