Beautiful beaches and bustling business

Famed for its photogenic beaches, the Philippine island of Cebu is a busting tourist hub, especially popular with people looking for underwater attractions – the diving here is incredible. It’s also peppered with Spanish Colonial architecture, cinematic forts and historic religious sites. Cebu is heavily populated – the capital of Cebu City is home to almost 3 million people alone. As you’d expect with a population that size, Cebu City is a thronging, high-octane metropolis full of urban delights. The bar, restaurant and retail scenes are booming, with epic malls and street markets selling local delicacies. Don’t leave Cebu without trying the Spanish-inspired signature Philippine dish of lechon. Step outside the city and you can dip into more natural wonders - frolic in misty waterfalls, go shark-spotting or scuba diving, or lounge on the white-sand beaches of Malapascua and Moalboal. Wander rolling, hillside botanical gardens, splash around at mountainside waterparks or get up high to take in the jaw-dropping sprawl of this fascinating place.

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Things to do: Cebu

  • The grand, stone entrance to the Museo Sugbo in Cebu.

    Get a dose of history

    Learn all about the fascinating and diverse history of Cebu at Museo Sugbo. Built in 1871, the coral-stone building was actually a jail up until 2004. Since its closure, it’s been renovated into a collection of galleries – 12 in total with further development slated. They tell the story of the different eras in Cebu’s history. Those interested in the Second World War will be fascinated by the upstairs gallery that includes a Purple Heart and an American bomb that was dropped here.

  • Little egret birds stand in the water at the Philippine Olango Island bird sanctuary.

    Flock with the birds

    Not far from Mactan, you’ll find the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, a vital wildlife reserve spread across more than a thousand hectares of sand flats and mangroves. This sanctuary is a haven for birds flying from colder climates, so some 48 species, many of them rare, migrate here for warmth, worms and fish to eat. It’s a majestic sight. Peak months are October to November, and February to March.

  • People swimming and splashing in Kawasan Falls in Cebu.

    Splash in the falls

    Kawasan Falls is a trio of waterfalls in lush, tropical jungle surrounds. You can splash and swim in these gorgeous swimming holes. You’ll find Kawasan Falls south of Moalboal, and the biggest fall is 15-metres high, descending into a wide, opaque turquoise pool. The main waterfall does get busy, so head for the smaller surrounding ones for a quieter experience. For adventure junkies, Kawasan Falls is an ideal canyoneering destination.

  • You’re the tops!

    If you really want to get a good look at Cebu City, head to Tops Lookout. Situated 600 meters above the city, it gives you an amazing view of the Cebu City skyline and the surrounding islands. This enormous, circular lookout with its honeycomb paving offers breathaking 360-degree views, and they’re particularly photo-worthy at sunset. There are some dining options and picnic benches there too. As it’s high up, it does get colder than you’d expect, so dress accordingly!

  • The ornate and colourful pagoda and dragon sculpture of the Taoist Temple in Cebu.

    Technicolour temple

    The Cebu Taoist Temple is a wildly colourful, hyper-ornate, multi-level temple, built in 1972 with the aim of preserving the philosophical teachings of Lao-Tse. There are two temples on the site: the Phu Sian Temple and the Main Temple. The entrance to the complex has definite Great Wall of China vibes. With arching dragons and ruby-red pagodas, it’s a magical vision sitting 300-metres above the city. As you’d expect, the views from the balconies are amazing.

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Airport information

Mactan Cebu International Airport opens in new window

Distance to Cebu City 15km

Bus: The MyBus runs daily, every 20 minutes between 7am and 10pm, to various points in Cebu City. (There is also a free premium bus that will shuttle you between the domestic and international terminals).

Taxi: White taxis will take you between the city and the airport. Yellow taxis will take you to local destinations.

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When to go

Cebu is pretty much hot and humid all year round, with temperatures averaging around 30 degrees most of the year. Spring (March-May) gets pretty hot and sticky, while summer is the wettest season. Winter (December-February) is the most manageable time, weather-wise, but it is still warm.

The Sinulog-Santo Niño Festival takes place on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City, and it is massive. It’s a cultural and religious festival that attracts millions of people to its Grand Parade, street parties and other events.

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Getting around

MyBus runs from 6am to 10pm to some specific spots in the city, including some malls and the North Bus Station. Motorbike taxies (habal-habal) also operate in Cebu, as do ride share services like Uber. Of course, there are the brightly coloured jeepneys (mini-buses) that can get you to major sites (their destination is usually written on the body of the bus) but taxis are generally the easiest way to get around.

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