Referring to the Philippines, people will immediately think of El Nido (Palawan province), otherwise Boracay, the most beautiful and famous island in this island nation with more than 7.100 large and small islands. But Cebu Island, with the second largest city in the Philippines, after Manila, has its own interesting, wonderful destinations and is no less than El Nido or Boracay. Bantayan Island with beautiful style of fish feeding is not inferior to Southern Sea of Thailand, Bohol with Tasier – Earth’s smallest primate species, Oslob – one of the few swimming spots watching whale shark in the world … are these such destinations! Now, let’s explore Cebu, the “Southern Queen” of the Philippines through our Cebu travel blog (Cebu blog, Cebu island blog, Cebu island travel blog) with the fullest Cebu island travel guide (Cebu island guide) for a great trip on a budget to Cebu for the first time from how to get to Cebu, best time to visit, where to stay… to top things to do in Cebu, what to eat… below.
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If you have traveled to El Nido or Boracay and want to return to the Philippines, or are simply looking for additional locations for your Philippine itinerary, to have more experiences, then you must definitely choose Cebu!
Cebu guide: When is the best time to visit Cebu?
Cebu is much less affected by storms than other Philippines islands, but you should not go in the rainy season.
- Peak season: From December to April is the dry season for most parts of the Philippines. The best time to travel is from December to February, the coolest and most pleasant days here.
- Middle season: May and November. May is the beginning of the rainy season and November is the beginning of the peak tourist season in the Philippines.
- Low season: From June to September there are many consecutive rainy days, often the hotel price decreases by 30%.
Cebu travel blog: Getting around Cebu
The quickest way to get to Cebu is by plane, you will have to transit at Manila Airport (Ninoy Aquino Interational Airport / NAIA), and from there fly to Cebu Airport (Mactan Airport) on Mactan Island with the airfare of about USD29.99 of the airlines such as Cebu Pacific or Tiger Air. Or catch a taxi or coach to get to Cebu.
The distance between Cebu city and Mactan Island is about 40km, you will take more than half an hour to get there if traveling by car, but if you are not too hurry, you can travel on the waves by catch a boat to Cebu Island, however this way slower than if you go by car.
Called bus but not used to travel in the city center like in other cities, or from one district to another, but used to travel destinations far from the city center, like coach/shuttle bus in Vietnam.
How to catch a bus in Cebu to travel between destinations?
Departure: Buses run from 2 terminals (South Bus Terminal and North Bus Terminal). Just come here to catch a bus, no need to book tickets in advance. Depending on the destination you want to go in the North or South on the island to go to the corresponding terminal.
Return: Stand anywhere, as long as along the main road, find the bus write Cebu word, then wave it. There is no need to stand at the right stop point, but there is no stop point to stand.
It is best to be at the bus terminal before 5:00AM to when you arrive is catch a bus right. If you haven’t come to the Philippines yet, you can’t imagine how crowded the bus terminal scene is. However, the people are very conscious, no matter how crowded, how long they wait, there is no jostle. People are line up and orderly.
In Cebu, you should choose the Ceres Liner bus company, bus is painted yellow. This bus has air conditioning, free wifi.
Grab Taxi can be used in the Philippines. In Cebu, I often go to the street to catch a taxi, in Manila, thanks to the hotel receptionist or a security staff call. There is no way to call up the taxi company call center like Vietnam.
From Manila Airport
If you take a flight to Manila early in the morning between from 4AM to 6AM, take a taxi to the city is quite easily. But if you come in the day, either choose Grab or White Taxi (more expensive, fixed price, do not turn on the meter), do not choose Yellow Taxi (cheap, turn on the meter, but wait for your turn is super long, average you have to spend 3 hours for waiting). Grab, white taxi and yellow taxi are divided into 3 separate areas outside of the arrival terminal of Manila airport, when you step out of the arrival terminal you will find.
From Cebu Mactan Airport
Choose a white taxi, DO NOT CHOOSE YELLOW TAXI (double price, my bitter experience).
Take a taxi in the Philippines, you just ask the driver to turn on the meter, especially in Manila, the taxi drivers either don’t turn it on or ask for more money. So you go on asking, or else choose another taxi, there’s no need to go! In Cebu I never had to ask for a meter to turn on, the driver also did not ask pay more money.
Yes! But not professional motorbike taxi. Motorcycles are not popular in the Philippines. But if you like to ride a motorbike, and if you see whoever runs a motorbike, you can wave him and ask for a price and riding. My experience is that anyone with a motorbike in the Philippines is willing to become a motorcycle taxi.
Popular means of transportation on Cebu Island are Rickshaw, Bus, Taxi, Jeepney. According to our Cebu Island travel guide, we recommend choosing a Jeepney to visit the famous tourist attractions in Cebu. A pretty interesting experience. Jeepney vehicles operating like buses also have stops, this is a pretty interesting means of transportation in the Philippines, you should try it. However there is a small note at the bottom when using this vehicle.
A few notes when traveling by public transport in Cebu in particular and the Philippines in general.
The first is CROWDED! You can spend up to 2 to 3 hours to catch a taxi or bus in the Philippines, whether at the bus stop or the airport or the pier. In Cebu, I often to stand outside the main road to take a taxi, the rush hour is from 6PM to 7PM and have to wait 45 minutes to find an empty taxi is normal.
The second is NOT SAFE! If you go by Jeepney! Colorful Jeepneys have become a culture feature in the Philippines, but it’s not safe if you go to alone, or bring valuable items. Because, normally your bag can be slashed, more seriously, a gun can be put on your body. So if you want to experience Jeepney, it’s ok, but please left all your belongings at home, only bring some coins and get on a Jeepney.
These are a few negative points, the remain we see the travel, moving in the Philippines is OK.
Cebu blog: Where to stay?
There are many hotels, guesthouses and resorts in Cebu. You can easily find a guesthouse right there or search online. With a few dollars you have a comfortable room to lie on. If you want to be more luxurious? Great mid-range and upscale hotels are ready to serve and you don’t have to pay too much. Hotel room rates and budget guesthouses on Cebu Island range from USD12.85 to USD64.27/night. And luxury hotels cost from USD85.69 to USD214.23/night. Prices may vary by season.
Below are some best cheap, budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
Marco Polo Plaza Cebu (Address: Nivel Hills, Cebu Veterans Dr, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu, Philippines / Phone: +63 32 253 1111), a 4-star hotel with room rates from $50/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Quest Hotel and Conference Center – Cebu (Address: Archbishop Reyes Ave, Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines / Phone: +63 32 402 5999), a 3-star hotel with room rates from $50/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Radisson Blu Cebu (Address: Serging Osmena Boulevard, Corner Pope John Paul II Ave, Cebu City, 6000, Philippines / Phone: +63 32 505 1700), a 5-star hotel with room rates from $130/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Best Western Plus Lex Cebu (Address: Juana Osmeña Extension Road, Lungsod ng Cebu, 6000 Lalawigan ng Cebu, Philippines / Phone: +63 32 416 5511), a 4-star hotel with room rates from $58/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Red Planet Cebu (Address: 36 Archbishop Reyes Ave, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu, Philippines / Phone: +63 32 232 0888), a 3-star hotel with room rates from $31/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
The Henry Hotel Cebu (Address: Paseo Saturnino, Cebu City, 6014 Cebu, Philippines / Phone: +63 32 520 8877), a 4-star hotel with room rates from $54/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
ABC Hotel & Homes (Address: 107 F. Ramos St, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu, Philippines / Phone: +63 32 412 8788), a 3-star hotel with room rates from $24/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Mad Monkey Hostel Cebu City (Address: 79 Echavez St, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu, Philippines / Phone: +63 32 231 0370), a hostel with room rates from $11/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino (Address: Salinas Dr, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu, Philippines / Phone: +63 32 232 6888), a 4-star hotel with room rates from $69/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Montebello Villa Hotel (Address: Gov. M. Cuenco Ave, Apas, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu, Philippines / Phone: +63 32 231 3681), a 4-star hotel with room rates from $45/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Cebu island travel guide: Best places to visit and top things to do in Cebu Island
The north of Cebu
The first destination is the Camotes Islands. Camotes islands include 3 main islands: Poro, Pacijan and Ponson. Poro and Pacijan are two main islands, connected by a concrete bridge with mangrove forests on both sides of the road. The other island, Ponson, is little known, as it is located quite far from the other two islands, and there is no direct boat from Cebu. The main activities in the Camotes Islands are diving, sea jumping, visiting Danao Lake (lake of mistress), including pedal duck games, waterfall … or participating in exploring caves and impressive stalactites at Bukilat in Tudela island. You can spend 2 days 1 night to explore Camotes islands.
Getting to Camotes Islands
Option 1: You should depart from early morning for less crowded. From downtown Cebu take a taxi to the North Bus Terminal, tell the bus driver to Danao Port (to go to Camotes Islands). From here, the bus runs about an hour will reach Danao port, buy boat tickets to Camotes. The boat runs about 1 hour and 30 minutes is reach Pacijan Island. Bus tickets without air-conditioned: 40 Peso, quite cheap; 210 Peso for boat ticket.
Option 2: From the center of Cebu take a taxi to Pier 1 (Cebu port), getting on the Golden Express to depart to Poro town (the boat runs at 5:30PM, the ticket is 380 Peso, travel time: 2 hours). This boat departs from Poro to Cebu at 6AM.
Getting around Camotes
The main means of transport in Camotes islands is motorbikes, the rental price is 400 Peso/day.
Eating and staying
There is no luxury restaurant, no fast food, no 24 hour convenience store in Camotes island, so keep going on the road and find where to sell food and then drop in. Tourist spots also sell food.
On the accommodation, we recommended to stay in Santiago Bay Beach, or stay in Santiago Bay Garden & Resort with budget room rates, and look straight to the Santiago Sea – the most beautiful beach in Camotes Islands, awesome!
Otherwise, staying in a homestay, if you go with large group, it is reasonable and 2 people are not much cheaper than resort.
The next destination is the beautiful island of Bantayan. Brief introduction, Bantayan belongs to the top 10 most beautiful islands and beaches in the Philippines. According to CNN’s Travel section, Bantayan ranked 5th (in the article: The Philippines’ best beaches and islands – 2014). According to Lonely Planet book, those who are looking for a place to lazy lie on the beaches will love Bantayan. Without activities such as snorkeling, diving, rafting, or volcanoes climbing, this island in northeastern Cebu has only sunny beaches with countless food stalls and beer shops.
The island’s capital is Santa Fe town, located in the south of the island, where you can choose resorts and beaches that are not too noisy. If you intend to go to Bantayan on the occasion of the Filipinos like Holy Week, Easter … remember to book hotel in advance and come from early!
Getting to Bantayan island
Because Bantayan Island is located in the north of Cebu, so from Cebu city you can take a taxi to the North Bus Terminal. From here, take the bus to Port Hagnaya, travel time about 3 hours, price for 132 Peso/way. At Hagnaya port, you buy a boat ticket to Bantayan Island (to Santa Fe port) for 170 Peso/way. After 1 hour sit on boat, you will reach super beautiful Bantayan island!
Getting around Bantayan island
Similar to Camotes islands and other small Philippine islands, motorcycles are the main means of transportation. Anyone who likes to explore the island, just rent a motorbike, the price is the same as in Camotes with rental price of 350 Peso/day.