With some of the best beaches and scuba diving in Southeast Asia, it can be hard to tear yourself away from the coast in Cebu—particularly if you only have a single day to explore. But there’s plenty of natural appeal on the island’s interior as well. Here’s how to maximize 24 hours in Cebu.
Things to do in Cebu
Welcome to Cebu
In the Visayas region of the Philippines lies Cebu, a narrow island that’s become one of the country’s most popular destinations. Historically a place for seafarers and tradesmen, Cebu—along with its nearby islands—is now known by travelers for its emerald mountains, colorful coral reefs, and wildlife of both the finned and furry varieties. Cebu City, the former capital of the country, is home to striking landmarks, including Basilica del Santo Niño. For a comprehensive sightseeing experience, take a tour that combines the sights in Cebu City with those on Mactan Island, home to cultural sites such as the Virgen dela Regla National Shrine and the Lapu Lapu Statue, built on the place where the chieftain Mactan battled Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. On neighboring Bohol, just a short ferry ride away, a guide can introduce you to the best of the island’s natural beauty. You’ll cruise down the Lomboc River and take in the Chocolate Hills in Carmen, and you’ll also want to keep your eyes open for tarsiers, the world’s tiniest primate. Sumilon Island offers unspoiled white sand and crystalline water; while Oslob is known for whale sharks, the largest fish in the world—a tour that includes gear means you can swim among them.
Top 10 attractions in Cebu
The first Spanish settlements in the Philippines were in Cebu City, called the Queen City of the South. After Magellan first landed in Cebu, the Spanish under orders from Miguel Lopez de Legazpi erected Fort San Pedro on what is now Cebu's pier. The first, smallest and oldest fort in the Philippines was originally built as an army garrison to defend against Muslim pirates....
In April 1521, Catholic explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived on the shores of Cebu and ordered a wooden cross planted there. According to local legend, the very same cross still resides in Cebu today, housed within an eight-sided stone chapel built over 300 years later near Cebu City Hall. A large mural on the ceiling of the building depicts Magellan in the act of planting the cross. You'll see a similar painting at Fort San Pedro....
Conceptualized by local award-winning sculptor Eduardo Castillo and unveiled in 2000, Cebu Heritage Monument is a brass, bronze, and steel monolith that showcases the country’s history in giant form. Telling a story of colonization and occupation, visit the monument to learn about the Philippines’ centuries-long struggle for freedom....
Built in the 17th century by Chinese-Filipino merchant Don Juan Yap and his wife Doña Maria Florida, Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House is one of the oldest preserved homes in the Philippines....
Cebu's Basilica del Santo Niño (Basilica of Santo Nino, Basilica Minore de Sto Nino) was literally born from fire. In 1565, the church was built on the site where one of conquistador Legazpi's men supposedly found a miraculous statue of Jesus in the burning ruins of a hostile native village. The statue -- considered the oldest religious artifact in the country -- was completely unharmed. The building still houses the statue, even after burning down three times since its initial construction. The basilica you see today dates back to 1737, and you can see the miraculous "Santo Niño," or Holy Child, within the aptly named Santo Niño Chapel inside the basilica. Each year, the Basilica del Santo Niño celebrates Cebu's largest annual event, the Cebuano festival of Sinulog, centered on this small Flemish statue of Jesus. The festival features a street parade with performances by brightly costumed dancers from all over the Philippines....
The Casa Gorordo Museum, located in downtown Cebu, was originally a private home built in the 1850s Alejandro Reynes Y Rosales and later owned by Juan Isidro de Gorordo, a wealthy Spanish Merchant. The residence was passed down through the Gorordo family, with a total of four generations living there, including the first Filipino bishop of Cebu, Juan Gorordo. Today, the recently renovated house serves as a public museum and national historic landmark filled with antique furnishings, historic books and documents, decorative arts, household items, period costumes and memorabilia from the Spanish colonial period. As one of only three remaining houses from the colonial period, Casa Gorordo offers an insight into what life was like during Cebu’s early days. The structure of the house itself is a fascinating study in architecture, as it draws from Spanish, native and Chinese influences....
Chances are a tour of Cebu City will take you to Colon Street, named after Portuguese explorer Christopher Columbus. The former main street is thought to be the oldest and shortest national road in the country....
Situated 2,000 feet (610 meters) high at the peak of Mt Busay, Tops Lookout, or just Tops to locals, provides the best unobstructed views in Cebu, especially at sunrise or sunset when the city seems to glow. The steep, winding drive up to the top will take you 30 to 45 minutes, but you'll be well rewarded with stunning panoramic views from the modern fortress-style viewing platform. On a clear day, you can see past the city all the way to Mactan, Bohol and Olango Islands....
With thick white walls built to withstand tropical typhoons, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral looks like a typical Philippine church. Decorated with griffins and floral motifs, the facade is the only original part of the chapel left, as the interior was destroyed during World War II. The restored cathedral has a gold altar and life-size statues of saints....
Reigning supreme over the city of Cebu, Mt. Kan-Irag, otherwise known as Sirao Peak, stands at an imposing 2,300 feet (700 meters). And while views from the top of the monolith are unrivaled, hikers can reach the summit in just 30 minutes via an undemanding trail that begins in the mountain village of Busay....
Top activities in Cebu
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What are the top things to do in Cebu?
What are the top activities in Cebu?
Top activities in Cebu include:
Discover the top things to do in Cebu.
- Oslob Whale Shark Watching, Kawasan Falls and Tumalog Falls from Cebu
- Private Day Trip from Cebu to Bohol with Chocolate Hills & Loboc River Cruise
- Cebu Whale Shark and Sumilon Island with Tumalog Falls
- Whale Shark Swimming Experience and Aguinid Falls from Cebu
- Oslob Whale Shark and Kawasan Falls Day Tour
Discover the top things to do in Cebu.
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