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First Timer's Guide to Cebu, Philippines

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Felicia Malolos

Klook Travel Curator

It doesn’t take much to fall in love with the dynamic region of Cebu. It’s been given the well-deserved title of Queen City of the South, which should be enough reason for you to explore this charming part of the country. Additionally, tourists can explore the pristine beaches of Mactan Island, go on a shopping spree in the city, discover the roots of the country’s religious history, and even swim with the ocean’s gentle giants! Whether you’re craving for adventure or a cultural excursion, Cebu is where you need to be.

Passes that cover the city


1. Mactan Island Hopping Tour
  • Start: 9:15 AM
  • End: 3:00 PM

Places of Interest Covered:

  • Marigondon, Mactan Island
  • Hilutungan Marine Reserve
  • Nalusuan Island
  • Pandanon Island
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2. Private Rediscovery Tour Cebu
  • Start: 8:00 AM or 1:00 PM
  • End: 12:00 PM or 5:00 PM

Places of Interest Covered:

  • Fort San Pedro
  • Plaza Sugbu
  • Magellan’s Cross
  • Basilica de Sto. Nino
  • Taoist Temple
  • Magallanes St.
  • South Road Properties
  • Osmena Blvd
  • Fuente Osmena Park Cebu Provincial Capitol
  • Asiatown IT Park & Ayala Business Park

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Cebu Highlights


1. Mactan Island

Tourists don’t need to go far to enjoy a beach getaway from the Cebu’s bustling city center. Mactan Island is connected to Cebu City through a bridge, which allows visitors easy access to charming beaches and the perfect weekend getaway!

Aside from being home to some gorgeous resorts and beaches, the beach is also a great place to enjoy a multitude of water activities like kayaking, snorkeling and diving! Alternatively, tourists can also relax by the white sand beaches, rent a boat to sail through the ocean, or spend time with the kids at the waterpark! Once you’ve got your fill of sand and sun, drop by the Mactan Shrine - the location of The Battle of Mactan, one of the most historical moments in Philippine history.

2. Moalboal Island

Just over two hours out of the city, tourists can find themselves in one of the most exciting islands in the region! Moalboal is home to a wide range of land and sea activities that many find truly enjoyable. However, out of the many activities that the island offers, people from all over the world travel to Moalboal specifically for its amazing diving scene and underwater life.

Dive into the clear waters of Pescador Island and feast your eyes on some of the most beautiful marine sanctuaries in the country. If you’re lucky enough, you might get a chance to experience a sardine run or even spot some sharks! But if diving or snorkeling isn’t for you - don’t worry! The island of Moalboal doesn’t lack in beautiful white sand beaches to rest and relax in either.

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3. Kawasan Falls

Locals and tourists travel to the city of Badian to see the beautiful Kawasan Falls, one of the country’s most picturesque waterfalls. The great thing about this attraction that it’s hardly ever crowded and tourists don’t need to break the bank to enjoy it!

When in Kawasan, adrenaline junkies should give canyoneering a try. This activity is one of the most sought-after things to do in Kawasan and will definitely get your heart racing as you jump, swim, hike, climb, and rappel your way through Bandian! We promise that this excursion will be one of the highlights of your Cebu trip!

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4. Oslob Beach

Check off your bucket list and get up close and personal with whale sharks! Oslob Beach is famous for its whale shark watching activity, so swimming with these gentle giants is a must when in Cebu! Apart from snorkeling and swimming with what the locals call “butanding,” you will also get to feed them and get amazing views of Oslob’s rich marine life! This experience is truly unlike any other and one you’ll remember for a long time!

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5. Basilica de Sto. Nino

Cebu is deeply rooted in its religious history, so it comes as no shock that the city is filled with stunning age-old churches. But the first one to ever be established in the city is the Basilica de Sto. Nino. It has become one of the most important churches in the Philippines due to the fact that it contains the relic of the Santo Nino, a representation of the child Jesus.

Every January, the Basilica de Sto. Nino plays host to one of the most anticipated festivals in the country - Sinulog. Although the festival has become more than just a religious celebration, thousands of devotees from all over the country flock to the eastern side of this island-province to profess their faith and to celebrate the feast of the Santo Nino.

6. Magellan's Cross

Just right outside the Basilica de Sto. Nino, tourists will find a pavilion that houses what is called “Magellan’s Cross”. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan inducted Christianity in the city and instructed that this cross be planted in the heart of town. Although it may be small, it holds a huge significance to Philippine history and Christianity.

In the past, people believed that it held miraculous powers so visitors started taking off pieces of the cross for personal use. This resulted in the government deciding that it be best that the original cross was encased to best preserve the artefact.

7. Fort San Pedro

Just a couple minutes walk from the Basilica de Sto. Nino and Magellan’s Cross, visitors can stop by another prime attraction in the city - The Fort San Pedro.

This fortress was built under the instruction of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, one of the country’s conquerors. The structure was initially made out of mud and wood, but was later reconstructed using stone and corals.

Through the years the function and purpose of the structure changed constantly - it was used as barracks by the Americans, a school during WWII, a hospital for Japanese soldiers, a park and then even a zoo.

However, at the present time, the fort is now a museum showcasing paintings and artifacts from the colonizations the country had gone through. Tourists and locals alike visit Fort San Pedro for its beautiful courtyard, which is actually often used for weddings.

8. Taoist Temple

Located at an upscale neighborhood in the city, the Taoist Temple was built by Cebu’s Chinese community in 1972. The temple is reminiscent of the temples in China as it features prayer rooms, wishing wells, an oriental design, dragon structures sprawled along the structure, and even a replica of the Great Wall of China. Though it is often visited by devotees of Lao Tzu’s teachings, the ornate temple also opens its doors to the public 8am to 5pm daily.

All visitors are expected to observe and respect this holy sanctuary. Therefore, visitors must follow a strict dress code and a set of rules as they explore Cebu’s Taoist Temple.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/traveloriented/16024840607

What to eat


1. Lechon

Lechon (which roughly translates to roasted pig) is the ultimate Filipino delicacy. We are not exaggerating when we tell you that Filipinos go crazy over this dish - however it’s made or prepared. Usually, this pork dish is served for more special occasions and events, but there’s no rule that’s stopping you from how often you can eat this - just your health!

The Cebu Lechon is melt-in-your-mouth delicious, making it incredibly famous all over the Philippines - to a point wherein you can actually have it delivered cross-country! With an abundance of restaurants serving lechon in the city, you’ll surely get the chance to indulge in this well loved Filipino dish. Though we don’t think any Cebuano restaurant can prepare the lechon wrong, we do recommend House of Lechon, CNT Lechon, and Rico’s Lechon!

2. Ihaw-ihaw

All throughout streets and restaurants in Cebu, tourists will notice stalls heating up meat and seafood over charcoal grills. This type of food is called ihaw-ihaw, a Filipino version of a barbeque.

Ihaw-ihaw is so easy to eat, you’re bound to go through multiple of these! Apart from that, it is also incredibly cheap - maybe 3 to 5 pieces for just 1 USD! So if you’re looking for quick fulfilling bites, ihaw-ihaw is the best option! Locals recommend that you visit Larsian and order their grilled seafood, chicken, isaw (intestine), or pork barbeque!

Larsian Address: Don Mariano Cui St, Cebu City, Cebu

How to get there: Car sharing apps are very popular in Cebu as well, and with the traffic, this is most probably the best way to get to Larsian, which has several restaurants in the city

3. Green Mango with Bagoong

In the Philippines, the unusal combination of unripe mangoes and salty fermented shrimp paste (bagoong) will have Filipinos drooling!

The dish is simply prepared and can be eaten as desert or a snack. Once you start eating this delicacy, it's seriously gonna be hard to stop!

Try it out at Gerry's Grill Cebu, or at Golden Cowrie restaurant!

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tofuprod/10323606746