While most travellers arrive via the airport on neighbouring Mactan – where five-star spa resorts have exclusive beaches and dive sites teeming with life – many then head for neighbouring Cebu, home to Cebu City, an economic hub peppered with grand colonial architecture, or Moalboal on the island’s west side, which delivers high-adrenaline canyoneering and deep-diving thrills, and Zaragosa with its postcard-perfect beaches. Here’s our pick of the best hotels on this vibrant island in the Philippines.
Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa, Lapu-Lapu
Courtesy of Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa / Expedia
The rainforest comes to Lapu-Lapu at this five-star resort fronting an exclusive strip of white beach in the Mactan district. The 530 rooms sit in 13ha (32 acres) of blossom-laden gardens. There are also two pools and Chi, the Spa at Shangri-La, which uses native coffee and mangoes in luxurious treatments. Borrow a pair of fins and dive among angelfish and soft corals in the Shangri-La Marine Sanctuary. For dinner, the seven dining options include Filipino, Chinese and Italian.
Set on a plum seafront location in Mactan, the Mövenpick has everything you need. Flop onto a lounger on the private beach, or book parasailing, scuba diving and island-hopping experiences through the concierge. Return to the Ibiza Beach Club for a 15-course Balearic seafood dinner before settling into an evening of entertainment featuring anything from fire spinning to Broadway-inspired dance numbers. Refresh the next day with a traditional hilot massage at the Spa del Mar.
The Radisson Blu sits right in front of SM City Cebu and all of its promised retail and culinary delights, including succulent barbecued chicken at Mang Inasal and photo-worthy halo-halo at Kuya J Restaurant. Inside the hotel, you’ll find five-star room amenities such as rainfall showers and This Works toiletries; head to the spa for further pampering. At the hotel’s on-site restaurant Tanoshi, chow down on artistic edomae sushi served with a selection of sakes and Japanese beers; round off the evening with a poolside signature cocktail at the Pool Bar.
Sitting on the end of the Punta Engaño peninsula, this five-star resort may be far from the action, but there’s little need to leave. Deluxe rooms come with rainfall showers and crisp linen and become more luxurious as you rise through the tiers to the 160sqm (1,722sqft) Admiral Suite with all-day complimentary refreshments. Indulge in an aromatherapy massage at Namm Spa, lounge on the private beach or sink into the infinity pool. Finish your day at Benjarong dining on chicken with cashew nuts.
The clue’s in the name – just in front of this Moalboal resort is Tongo Point, filled with green sea turtles, barracudas, razorfish and mandarin fish. Staff will also arrange trips to other popular dive sites, including Pescador Island and White Beach, or sporting adventures such as kayaking and canyoneering. Rooms are far more than a crash pad between dives; they’re kitted out with elegant hardwood furniture, crisp white linen and a well-stocked minibar. Head to Bay View Bar for pizza in the evening.
Edging a private white-sand beach in San Fernando, this destination resort excels in the details. A fruit platter will greet you upon entry to your villa – most come with an individual pool and a garden Jacuzzi. Each room has a luxurious corner sofa and L’Occitane toiletries, but if that’s not indulgence enough, have a traditional massage in a floating cottage before feasting on tender seafood at Ripa. If you need supplies of any sort, walk to the Cebu South Road in five minutes to hail a taxi into San Fernando proper.
Enjoy a true Pinoy welcome at this four-star resort in the Maribago district, an area known for its dive shops and creative Korean restaurants. Thoughtful touches include weekly cultural dances at Allegro Restaurant. The Amuma Spa’s signature treatments use banana fronds and papaya to loosen muscles and soothe the skin. If adrenaline’s more your thing, head to the Aquamania facility for jet-skiing, scuba diving and island hopping.
Famed among local people as one of the most luxurious getaways in Mactan – and a popular wedding venue to boot – everything about the Crimson is photogenic perfection. Bask on the hotel’s private sugar-white beach, plunge into the infinity pool or simply siesta among bamboo and rattan furnishings in your room. Six drinking and dining options range from signature cocktails at Rock Bar to lobster and scallops at Azure Beach Club. But it’s the award-winning Aum Spa, with petal-filled baths and endless relaxation and therapy rooms, that will linger long in the memory.
You won’t jostle for pool space here – neocolonial villas ring a saltwater lagoon so large that it has a central island with a cafe. Rooms make the most of the grand setting, with ground-floor Lagoon-tier rooms offering direct access to the water. Four restaurants serve everything from American diner-style burgers to kimchi; the Alien Abduction bar serves sci-fi-themed desserts and cocktails for a novel end to the evening. For diving and island-hopping, the excellent Fun & Sun dive shop is minutes away.
On Zaragosa’s southwestern edge, this chilled, unfussy resort invites travellers to lie down – be that on a lounger or a massage table – and fully decompress. The spa’s signature tandem massage involves two therapists moving in sync; alternatively, slip into a hibiscus-filled bath facing the sea. Elegant rooms sport dark bamboo bed frames, capiz-shell windows and a marble bathtub. Dine on the ocean at the stilted Shell Beach Bar, or grab your fins and dive into the Coral Garden, a marine sanctuary just five minutes away.
This classy four-star hotel sits on a corner of the buzzing Kamputhaw district, near multiple léchon (roasted suckling pig) houses and the landmark Iglesia Ni Cristo. Rooms have a relaxed Western style, with air conditioning, tea- and coffee-making facilities and a daily newspaper delivered to your door. Take breakfast in the H-Cafe, which also serves international lunches and dinners. Head to the roof for Asian fusion cuisine and live music at the Highlights Lounge.
The epitome of business chic, this sleek hotel towers between the cities of Cebu and Mandaue, near Parkmall and the Gaisano Grand Mall. The 668 rooms come in three tiers, with the lowest Deluxe level coming with an ottoman set and a mini-fridge and the premium suites with a larger TV and a kitchenette. Work up a sweat in the fitness room, then chow down on sushi or steak at one of the on-site restaurants. Finally, grab a cocktail by the infinity pool and watch the city lights twinkle.