Why Cebu Is Number 1?
Even before the Spanish colonization, Cebu already played a vital role in trade and commerce in Asia because the island has been gifted with a natural harbor. Its channel is deep enough to accommodate the flow of goods through international cargo sea vessels, and the Mactan island serves as protection from winds and current. Cebu’s weather promises to be good for business because typhoon activities are minor and rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year. Moreover, the island is not located within any earthquake belt, there is no known active volcano and its international airport has been large enough to connect the island to several continents. There are many universities and other educational institutions that serve as magnet to students from other provinces, a major factor of a highly skilled and efficient workforce in Cebu.
Being part of a tropical country, Cebu is lined with pristine white sand beaches perfect for weekend and holiday getaways. Famous resorts include Alegre Beach Resort in the municipality of Sogod, renowned for its white powdery beach and efforts in marine wildlife preservation. At the sunset coast of Cebu another prominent tourist destination is the Badian Island Resort and Spa. A first class resort, it boasts of crystal blue waters, fine white sand beaches and the splendor of nature in the little island basking at Badian Gulf. In the metropolitan, entertainments centers thrive with vibrant discotheques and bars, specialty shops, savory restaurants and dinning areas, internet cafes and distinct shopping malls.
How Do I Get To Cebu?
If one would opt to travel by air Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Zest Air are taking care of most domestic flights. From NAIA in Manila these airlines would take you to Mactan-Cebu International Airport located in Lapu-Lapu City in less than an hour of travel. When I checked the rates, the cheapest that I found was the offer from PAL. It costs Php2500.00 approximately for a 2-way fare going to Cebu and coming back to Manila which already includes the taxes and surcharges.
As for sea travel, history has always seen Cebu as a natural port even before Spanish colonization. As of now several shipping companies service inter-island and international destinations: Sulpicio Lines, Gothong Southern Shipping, Cebu Ferries Corporation, Cokaliong Shipping Lines, George & Peter Lines, Inc., Lite Shipping Corporation, Negros Navigation Co., Inc. Ocean Fast Ferries, Inc., WG&A Super Ferry and Trans-Asia Shipping Lines.
Where Will I Stay In Cebu City?
There are numerous hotels, budget inns, bed and breakfasts scattered all over Cebu. In all honesty, I am having a hard time trying to locate the most affordable accommodations. When I went to the 20th Travel Mart held at SM Megamall, I have found several hotels in Cebu offered in discounted rates. But since I didn’t had a concrete travel date at that time, I wasn’t able to purchase any of the discounted offers. These are the hotels that caught my fancy and they are as follows:
Crown Regency in Cebu City. The house of the Edge Coaster and Skywalk. Their facilities includes swimming pool, aqua fitness pool and power gym. Their website is under construction right now but during the Travel Mart, they had a promo for Php7999 per person on a twin sharing room which includes 3 days and 2 nights accommodation, daily breakfast, 1 buffet dinner at Sparkz, 1 entrance pass & 2 Sky Experience adventure rides, one 4D theather show, use of amenities, round trip transfers and round trip airfares. I’m not sure if this one is still available though.
Lancaster Hotels in Cebu City. Offering such a fine accommodation in Cebu, the hotel provides two suite types: the Junior and Deluxe Suites, both of which display functionally striking décor. Their lowest rate start at Php2056 per room per night, which can accommodate 2 persons.
Waterfront Cebu City Hotel. At the center of the Queen City of the South is Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino, one of the Philippines’ famous landmarks. Located 30 minutes from Mactan international Airport, and a stone’s throw away from the city’s financial district and best attractions. Room rates start at $150 per night on twin sharing.
Plantation Bay Resort in Cebu City. This is highly recommended by Saey, one of my friends who just had a Cebu-Bohol tour last week. The lowest internet rate that I found on their website is $150 excluding taxes for the Club Room. This rate can accommodate 4 persons in a room with no breakfast but free use of all the amenities.
Microtel Inn & Suites in Mactan, Cebu. Microtel Mactan accommodations ensure value for your money by combining comfort and functionality. Its chiropractic-approved beds are relaxing and induce healthy sleep. Cable TV, private toilet and bath, room safe, and other room amenities guarantee you a pleasant stay. The double room rates start at $76.43++ taxes per night which includes free breakfast.
Sugbutel Bed and Bath. So far the cheapest accommodation that I have found. It’s Php250 per person per night. It prides itself of being the Cebu’s first bed and bath facility of its kind, inspired from the capsule hotel concept popularized in Japan. This hostel type of accommodation is one of the many projects of Carlos A. Gothong Holdings Inc, a recognized real estate company of talented young professionals who successfully launched One Edison Place in 2006.
SDR Serviced Apartments in Mactan. Your own slice of paradise for $46 per night. You will have a cozy, fully furnished 36.5 square meter high-standard apartment in a great location plus high-speed internet via cable, personal telephone, cable TV and DVD player with a selection of movies, kitchen with cooking facilities and utensils, private balcony and stylish contemporary furnishings and free use of their swimming pool.
Gran Tierra Suites in Cebu City. This is a new, budget boutique hotel situated within the hospital belt and doctor’s clinics. It is also near Fuente Osmena Circle, the heart of Cebu City. Within a 5-10 minutes ride from the suites, one can reach the Ayala Center, Downtown Cebu City and other important areas. Their rates are also reasonably priced at Php990 for 2 persons already.
Roseate Pension. A cozy and exquisite hostel, situated at the heart of Cebu City offers a delight stay to relax. They offer clean rooms, a private telephone, a hot-and-cold shower to refresh your senses, a free wifi zone to access the Internet, a cable television and a hanging garden. Cheapest rate is at Php800 per night for 2 persons already.
Europa Mansionette Inn. European inspired inn nested in the heart of the business, industrial and entertainment center of Mandaue City, Cebu. They provide a classy European chic and cozy accommodation with personalized service at very affordable rate of Php1000 per night good for 2 persons.
The rooms are quite pricey. I’m still trying to search for the most affordable accommodation in Cebu, so if you have a suggestion, you may post it below.
What Can I Do In Cebu?
I have since been dreaming of going to Cebu. Not only because of the promise of pristine white beaches but most importantly, having that one chance to know more of our cultural heritage. I have invited several friends for this trip slated on 17th – 21st of January 2010 (in time for the Sinulog Festival) and so far, only Allan and Sheila has responded with gusto. Cebu City is an important cultural center in the Philippine Islands. In Cebu City I will have to visit the following: The city’s most famous landmark, the Magellan’s Cross. A few steps away from the Magellan’s Cross is the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño (Church of the Holy Child). It is built of hewn stone, and features the country’s oldest relic, the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu (Holy Child of Cebu). This religious event is celebrated on the islands cultural festivities known as the Sinulog festival, held every third Sunday of January which celebrates the festival of the Santo Niño, the patron saint of Cebu. There are a number of shopping establishments in the city, the most popular of which are the SM City Cebu, Ayala Center Cebu, Robinsons Plaza and Gaisano Malls. Away from the city, is the Cebu Taoist Temple. It is a Daoist temple situated in Beverly Hills, a premier community within the city. The Philippine Taoist Temple gives a commanding view of Cebu City, and the nearby cities of Mandaue, and Lapu-Lapu. Of course, I would never forget the Edge Coaster ride in Crown Regency Hotel in the heart of Cebu City. The Edge Coaster and Skywalk Extreme were featured in TV for its opening last year and I wanted to try them since then. According to my sources, both adventures costs Php1000 per head and if you want your photos/videos taken during the adventure, that’s an additional charge. It’s pricey yeah! But the best option is for one to avail of the promo at Sparkz. Avail of the eat-all-you-can at their Sky Restaurant and this will come with a free Edge Coaster ride or Skywalk, including an entrance to the Sky Observatory and Sky Bar, all for only Php600. Remember to ask the receptionist for this buffet plus ride option since it is not offered to all customers unless you ask for it.
After experiencing the wild Cebu city tour which can be accomplished in a day, the next stop would be a day tour on one of the famous white beach resorts along Mactan. I would also like to visit the Casa Gorordo Museum. A perfect place for tourists to be able to grasp the heritage and tradition of the Filipino culture. The Museum was once the home to the Filipino man Juan Gorordo, who became Cebu’s first bishop. Housing a large number of artefacts, antiques and relics, this unique museum was named a historic landmark of Philippines by the National Historical Institute Board. The site mainly focuses on the lifestyle and heritage of the Filipino people who lived between the periods of 1860 to 1920 and is an interesting place to visit. Among the other places to visit is the Liberty Shrine located in Punta Engano, Mactan Island, a good walking distance from Shangri-La. This monument stands to honour the spot where on April 27, 1519 the first Filipino hero, Lapu-Lapu, and his warriors killed Magellan in battle and drove his troops back to the sea. Another landmark that I wouldn’t want to miss is the Fort San Pedro. Visitors to the site are still able to admire the rich history of the place which lies embedded within the lush gardens of Fort San Pedro. Made of stone, the Fort houses 3 towers and is a magnificent sight to behold and a wonderful spot to picnic in. Many old ruins and artifacts can be seen, including a cannon gun of ancient Spanish origin within the gun enclosure area at the Fort. A museum is also found on site, where various Spanish items belonging to the Government like sculptures, paintings, dungeons, old coins and other relics are on display for public viewing. After which I’m off to visit one of the Mactan resorts.
All these Mactan resorts allow day visitors for a minimal fee, which in some cases also includes a buffet lunch. This allows us to enjoy a day in the sun and ocean without having to travel far. You can check out the following rates which are updated as of January 2009:
- Vista Mar Resort charges Php400 for lunch buffet and use of swimming pools and beach. Buffet lunch is good with extensive choices. You can use a locker for free. To get there, you can take a taxi or a jeepney, transfer to a tricycle then walk to the resort.
- Hudsan Beach is a public beach and charges Php40 for entrance fee. You can reach it easily by jeepney. Expect to see a busy beach during weekends and public holidays. Bungalows are also available for day rental if you want to relax out of the sun’s rays or catch a quite moment with your partner!
- Costella Bella Beach Resort charges Php595 for lunch and access to its swimming pools and beach. The lunch is limited so don’t expect too much. The resort’s buffet lunch on Sundays for the same price is a much better deal. There’s no locker. To get to the resort, you can take a jeepney, transfer to a tricycle, then walk to the resort.
- Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort charges Php600 for use of swimming pools and beach, meal or locker use are excluded from the fee. There is a special dinner by the beach every night for less than Php1,000. Use of the swimming pools and beach is included in the dinner price. This is a good deal if you arrive after lunch hours and stay for dinner. You can easily reach the resort by jeepney, which stops right in front of the resort. You can also go via taxi.
- Cebu White Sands charges Php600 on weekends and legal holidays; fee is inclusive of a lunch buffet and use of swimming pools and beach. The resort charges Php400 during weekdays without lunch. To get there you can ride a jeepney, which goes right in front of the resort gate.
- Portofino Beach Resort charges less than Php400 including lunch. The resort also has jet skis for rent so it’s a good option for the more adventurous.
- The Shangri-La also allow day visitors, but the charges are scary in the case of the ‘Shang.’ As of January 1, 2009, Shangri-la charges Php2,000 for a local and Php4,000 for foreigners for a day pass, which includes an awesome buffet lunch. Shangri-La has two massive resort pools, a brilliant beach, and all the trimmings.
- Plantation Bay Resort has a small private beach but one of the biggest seawater swimming pools in the world. They charge Php2,000 per head; 50% less for kids from 4 to 12 years old, and free for kids below 4 years of age. Buffet lunch is served at Kilimanjaro Kafe. Plantation Bay is set on 11.4 hectares, and the themed “Tropical Plantation” architecture is very different.
- The Hilton Hotel & Spa charges Php1,500, kids below 4 years old are free. The fee includes a buffet lunch at their Vanilla Beach Café. The Hilton has a small private beach and huge resort swimming pool.
After visiting either one of these famous resorts in Mactan, I’m now set to visit at least one of the famous island destinations either Malapascua, Camotes or Bantayan Island.
From Cebu City, Now What?
There are several destinations in Cebu. Among the famous destinations and activities done are as follows:
Argao. Argao prides itself with a heritage tracing back to Spanish and early American influences. Public stone buildings dating centuries back are well preserved. Its main attraction is the town’s richly endowed Rococo-Baroque church, the St. Michael Archangel Church. Adding to Argao’s affluence is the man-made Riverstone Castle built entirely from the stones found in the nearby river. A two-hour bus ride from the Cebu South Bus Terminal brings visitors to the town. Guests may opt for air-conditioned or ordinary buses. Vehicles for hire or v-hire as most people call it, also bound for Argao, are also within the terminal premises. Going around the town is also easy. Tricycles or trisikads are widely available in most corners of its streets.
Badian. Majority of the town’s visitors are drawn toward a serene little island in Badian Gulf, the Badian Island Resort and Spa. Known for its powdery white beach, first class amenities and warm, friendly staff, vacationers are in for a luxurious treat. From the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, the resort driver brings guests to the pier of Badian by car. The island is only about 5 minutes from the pier. Another must see in Badian is the famed Kawasan Falls. Tourists and locals alike flock to this magnificent place to take a dip in its cool deep waters, some 15-minute walk from the national highway. To reach Badian, one needs only to ride an aircon or non-aircon bus at the Cebu South Bus Terminal. Vehicles-for-hire (v-hire) are also available.
Bantayan Island. Comprised of the municipalities of Bantayan, Sta. Fe and Madridejos, the island is well-known for its row of excellent beach resorts, succulent cuisines with an array of seafood. The island is also the egg basket in the region, supplying the demand for egg in Cebu, Leyte and Negros. The island is easily accessible from Cebu City. A bus ride from the Cebu North Bus Terminal takes the tourist to Hagnaya port, which is three hours away. From the port, several ferry boats travel one hour to the pier in Sta. Fe.
Camotes Group Of Islands. Discover islands of unspoiled paradise in Camotes. The group of islands consists of Pajican Island, Poro Island, Ponson Island and the small Tulang Island. The enchanting beauty of the islands captures the hearts of travelers as they bask in the unending splendor of the municipalities- San Francisco, Tudela, Poro and Pilar. The best way to roam around Camotes is by motorcycle. To reach the islands, a boat via Danao City in mainland Cebu and in Ormoc, Leyte brings travelers to the island.
Carcar City. A city with immense heritage structures dating back to the Spanish Era, a trip down Carcar City is like a trip back to old Cebu. Well-preserved ancestral houses and buildings still line up the streets in Carcar. Known in Carcar are its native delicacies like ampao, made of sweetened rice crispies, and delectable chicharon. The St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, Theotokos Shrine and Mainit-Mabugnaw National Park are also a must-see in Carcar City. Reaching the city is easy enough. A bus ride, choices of aircon or non-aircon bus, from the Cebu South Bus Terminal takes one to the city within an hour’s time. Mini buses and vehicles for hire are also available at the terminal.
Malapascua Island. A peculiar name for a well endowed island, Malapascua means “unfortunate Christmas.” Far from being unfortunate, Malapascua boats of its shores comparable to Boracay. Experience an enchanting panorama up in the lighthouse of the island which served as watchtower during the colonial times. Rock formations, coconut forest and the island’s friendly people greet visitors as they walk around the island’s interior. How to get to the island? Easy. Buses bound for Maya-Daanbantayan, the northernmost town of Cebu are widely available in the Cebu North Bus Terminal. These buses usually leave every hour and the trip takes 3-4 hours. Upon arriving in Maya wharf, outrigger boats are available to take tourists to the island which takes around 40 minutes.
Sumilon Island. A dive down its cool clear waters is like entering a world like no other. Colorful schools of fish, exceptional coral reefs and diverse aquamarine species all create a perfect underwater picture in every angle. The island is the country’s first marine protected area and has been proclaimed a fish sanctuary in 1974. Immaculate white sand beaches are to be found in different places of the island. Famous in Sumilon is its shifting sandbar which changes shape, depending on the season. From the town of Oslob, about a two-hour drive from Cebu City, a 7-minute boat ride takes visitors to this marvelous place.
Moalboal. Dive spots offer enthusiasts with shallow and deep reefs, drop–offs that plunge down to more than 40 meters deep abundant with colorful fishes, corals, anemones and sponges. The Sunken Island in Moalboal should also not be missed. It is the finest place for morning dives flourished with schools of big fishes. To get there, bus rides from Cebu South Bus Terminal or a taxi cab from the Mactan International Airport are widely available.
Medellin. A dream town for retirees to settle, Medellin exudes living everyday life like a vacation. With its lush vegetation, cool sea breeze and peaceful community, this municipality three hours away from the bustling city is haven to everyone who calls it home. Set amidst its scenic sugarcane valleys are theme parks, golf clubs and other joyous treats for local guests and foreign tourists. To reach Medellin, buses, taxicabs and vehicles-for-hire abound at the Cebu North Bus Terminal.
Aloguinsan. A jewel in the southwestern coast of Cebu, Aloguinsan brags of a picturesque river cove, immaculate white sand beaches, serene marine sanctuaries and a vast array of sea foods. Discover its rich history which stands as testament to the courage of its early inhabitants. Guests can still see old watchtowers used as vantage point to see incoming pirates. The municipality can be reached by public buses or vehicles-for-hire for an estimated travel time of 2-3 hours.
Dalaguete. Naturally gifted with white sand beaches and lengthy coastlines, crystal blue sea and marine sanctuaries, a trip down to Dalaguete is a memory to treasure. Known as the vegetable basket of Cebu, one could enjoy a trek on the mountains of its Barangay Mantalongon lined up with farms full of all sorts of vegetables. Bus ride, taxicabs and vehicles for hire are widely available in Cebu South Bus and Mactan International Airport for local and foreign tourists who want to reach this famous destination.
How Would My Travel Be Like In Cebu?
In short, what would my itinerary be like in Cebu? I have 5 days to enjoy the sun and sand in Cebu. It’s like having Cebu all to myself after the Sinulog Festival. I bet the first day, January 17 would be pretty intense since we would have to travel from Mactan all the way to Cebu City just in time for the Sinulog party. The days would have to spent like these:
Day 1 Arrival at Mactan City, Cebu (Sinulog Grand Parade)
The day that we arrive in Mactan, Cebu. From here we would have to travel for like 2 hours all the way to Cebu City where the center of activities are being held. I’m guessing that this would be a mad dash from our hotel to the festivities. This is day is alloted particularly in enjoying the activities of the Sinulog Festival. I believe this is the last day of the festival and the activities are as follows:
9:00 AM Sinulog Grand Parade Carousel Kick Off
7:00 PM Grand Fireworks, Cebu City Sports Center
7:30 PM Street Party Bands, Fuente Osmeña
It will be party party party all day and night. I’m hoping to capture in all its splendor the most colorful and the happiest event in Cebu City.
Day 2 Cebu City Tour
The day would be solely for visiting the famous spots in Cebu City which includes historical and religious sites such as the Magellan’s Cross, beside it is the Basilica Minore del Sto.Nino, then the Taoist Temple in Beverly Hills. Afterwhich we will try to visit some of the malls along the way. I would also like to experience the Edge Coaster and Skywalk Extreme on this day.