Cebu is surely a dream destination among local and foreign tourists who consider themselves beach bums, adventure junkies, or city explorers. The island has so much to offer, from pristine beaches to historical landmarks to mouthwatering delicacies unique to the island. These are the top 15 attractions that should be on your bucket list.
See the revered flemish statuette of the Child Jesus (Santo Niño) at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño to say a prayer or two. The image of the Santo Niño has remarkable value, especially to Catholics, as it was a baptismal gift by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon and Queen Juana, who were the first locals to be baptised on the island. Most tourists would go beyond visiting the oldest church and prefer to celebrate with locals and experience the Sinulog Festival held on the third Sunday of every year.
Similar to Manila’s Fort Santiago, Fort San Pedro is a triangular-shaped bastion fort which served as a military defense structure during the 17th century. Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, who founded the earliest settlement in Cebu, had the initiative to put up this fortress. As the oldest and smallest fort in the Philippines, you’ll discover the history of Cebu, legacies of the Spanish government, and well-preserved Spanish artifacts. About 14 cannons can still be found in what has become a leisure park today.
Within walking distance from the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, there lies a kiosk-like structure which houses the famous Magellan’s Cross. While Filipinos consider Ferdinand Magellan a villain in Philippine history, this landmark is considered one of the most important historical markers in Cebu City. That’s because it was established upon Magellan’s order to mark his arrival in the country. This also serves as a reminder of the birth of Christianity in the Philippines. While the original cross is enclosed in tingalo wood for preservation and protection, there are rumours that the original cross was destroyed after Magellan’s death.
In its capital, Cebu City, you may find the Carbon Market—the oldest and largest public market which houses all types of vendors and goods—you’re sure to find great deals here! Comparable to Manila’s Divisoria, Carbon Market is often crowded with locals searching for fish, seafood, meat products, and handicraft materials. It’s a huge market where everyone goes and travelers would instantly notice that it’s beaming with Filipino culture. When malls and supermarkets are closed and hunger strikes, you can find your way to Carbon Market which is open 24/7.
Casa Gorordo Museum is a former private home originally built in the mid-19th century. It was previously owned by one of Cebu’s most prominent families, the Gorordos, and later served as residence to the archbishop of Cebu. Within the museum, you’ll find Mactan coral stone blocks, antique furniture, and pure Philippine hardwood. Travelers are sure to have a trip down memory lane in this wood-and-stone type house in the Spanish era which turned into a museum housing period costumes, paintings, decorative art, and more.
Lapu-Lapu, known among Filipino locals as the first national hero of the country, is the chieftain said to have led the tribe in defeating Ferdinand Magellan and his troops. The chieftain strongly opposed Magellan and resisted the religion being introduced to them, which led to a battle between the two groups in the location of Mactan Shrine in Punta Engaño, Mactan Island today. There, you’ll find the statue of Lapu-Lapu and remember how he defeated Magellan–the first successful resistance to Spanish colonisation.
Built in 1972, this landmark aims to preserve the teachings of Lao-Tse, the 600 B.C. Chinese philosopher. While it was not built for tourism purposes, it caught the attention of travelers because of its peculiar and artistic appeal. Entrance to the temple is reminiscent of the Great Wall of China. In addition, it also gives an overlooking view of the city from its spacious balcony. It has two temples, namely Phu Sian Temple and the Main Temple, which is open even to non-shippers. Travelers can also find a chapel, library, souvenir shop, and a wishing well.
Dubbed Cebu’s version of India’s Taj Mahal, the Temple of Leah has been attracting foreign and local tourists for its Greek-inspired architectural shrine. Unlike India’s Taj Mahal, which is a mausoleum, the Temple of Leah serves as home to the treasures and memorabilia of the late Leah Albino-Adarna. Her husband, Teodorico Soriano Adarna, reportedly spent 80 million Philippine pesos to put up this temple as a symbol of his undying love for her. Located on top of a hill in Busay in Cebu City, the area provides travelers a scenic view from the top.
Tops Lookout is a relaxing spot located 600 meters above Cebu City and is the perfect place for anyone to get a good, full view of Cebu’s panoramic skyline. Best visited at sunset, this excellent sightseeing spot offers a breathtaking view of the Mactan Bridge and neighbouring islands. It’s surely worth the ride to the top to enjoy the view and amenities of the stone-walled park. There are cafes and picnic areas for those who’d like to stay longer and appreciate the view. At night, it gets quite chilly so better bring a jacket with you!
Experience a sky adventure at a theme park on top of Crown Regency Hotel and Towers. Here, you’ll have the chance to try different kinds of extreme activities such as the Skywalk Extreme, which lets you walk around the edge of the building while wearing an overhead safety harness. Or, challenge yourself and ride on their Edge Coaster—the first and only amusement ride of its kind in the world. If you have a fear of heights or are looking for a different kind of entertainment, you can instead explore their 6D theater or black light mini-golf.
Simala Shrine, one of the well-known religious places in the Philippines and the most-visited church in Southern Cebu, has thousands of devotees visiting every day. The popular church was built by Marian Monks from Pampanga after several miraculous events had occured, including the shedding of tears of Mama Mary. Thus, devotees and believers have been traveling down south for they believe that they will be healed and their prayers will be granted if they visit the Shrine. Because of its majestic castle-like features, even tourists with different religious beliefs are drawn to the picturesque structure.
Located in the municipality of Dalaguete, Osmeña Peak is considered the highest peak in the island of Cebu. Named after the famous Osmeña clan of Cebu, it’s the tallest of the hills in the Mantalungon Mountain Range. This mountainous area is rare compared with the other mountain ranges in the country because of its multiple jagged hills. Some say its overall visual appearance resembles that of the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, but the peaks are thinner and sharp. Upon reaching Osmeña Peak, visitors can get a 360-degree view of Southern Cebu as well as its neighboring province, Negros Oriental.
For a watersports adventure on the island of Cebu, it’s a must to visit Kawasan Falls and experience canyoneering! This three-stage cascading waterfall is one of the most beautiful falls in the Philippines and it would be a mistake for adventure junkies not to visit this wondrous attraction. Kawasan Falls sits at the foot of Mantalungon Mountain Range and so, it’s a refreshing experience after reaching Osmeña Peak. You’ll be fascinated by its beauty and enjoy swimming in its cold, turquoise-colored waters.
When travelling in Cebu, don’t miss the chance to get up close with the friendly giant sea creatures of Oslob—the whale sharks. Considered to be the largest fish in the world, whale sharks grow up to 40 feet and can weigh about 20 tons. They can only be found in temperate oceans such as those off the coast of Cebu island. Local fishermen hand feed brine shrimp to the gentle giants in the shallow waters off Oslob—therefore luring them to rise above the waters. Apart from whale shark watching, some tourists also opt to swim with them and experience a unique wildlife interaction.
While the island’s name means “Bad Christmas,” the tiny island of Malapascua is far from giving you a bad experience. You won’t surely get disappointed upon seeing its unspoiled white sand beaches, beautiful coral gardens, and beaming marine life. Thus, it has earned the attention of local and foreign travelers as Malapascua eventually gained the title of being the country’s best dive spot. Get the chance to spot thresher sharks, enjoy unlimited scenic views, and immerse yourself in a laidback, relaxing atmosphere.