It’s impossible to talk about the Philippines without thinking about clear blue waters and white sand beaches. Having three out of 20 islands ranked as the best in the world, this once overlooked country archipelago is gaining popularity with travelers from all over the world.
For first-timers to the Philippines, you cannot miss the cosmopolitan-rural-tropical island of Cebu. It is chock full of hidden gems and stunning beaches.
Cebu is one flight away from Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. There are also international flights flying straight to Cebu, which is why more and more people are beginning to discover this province of over 800,000 people. All flights arrive at the Mactan Cebu International Airport, but Cebu is also accessible via ferry from neighboring provinces like Bohol and Dumaguete.
Cebu is part of the Visayas region, a group of islands in the middle of the Philippine archipelago. English is widely spoken in the mainland, as well as the local dialect known as Bisaya.
The main island of Cebu is one long narrow piece of land surrounded by waters, with a splattering of smaller islands here and there. Travel is pretty straight forward – just take the main bus at the Northern or Southern Bust Terminal near the airport, and follow the main road until you reach your destination. From the bus stops, it’s a matter of riding another tricycle (a local mode of transportation) to the port, while some terminals end at the port itself. A boat ride, which normally takes just 30 minutes, brings you to the island paradise of your dreams.
If riding a boat is not on your agenda, the mainland of Cebu itself has more beaches than you will ever have time for.
Cebu is a much cheaper city than Manila. This province has all the conveniences of a big city combined with the adventure and relaxation that the Philippines’ has to offer.
Out of all the beaches in Cebu, Mactan is the most accessible. Right off the airport, just head to any of the resorts surrounding the island and you’re sitting on a white sand beach within 30 minutes. While budget accommodations are readily available, this developed cosmopolitan is best known for its luxury resorts such as the Shangri-La Mactan and Movenpick Cebu, both having their own secluded private beaches.
Along the M.L. Quezon Highway, heading from Mactan towards Marigondon, are rows of dive shops offering courses and trips within and around Mactan Island.
Mactan is also connected via two bridges to the mainland just a few kilometers away from the main Cebu City. This gives travelers to Mactan a never-ending list of places to go for food, parties, and sightseeing.
Sumilon Island is within the municipality of Oslob, a 2-3 hour drive from Cebu City. The island is unfortunately overshadowed by another attraction in Oslob – the whale shark encounter. However, a 15-minute boat ride from the port takes you to even more beautiful white sand beaches.
A small catch: Sumilon Island is privately owned by Blue Water Island Resort. There is a day trip fee of $30 on the weekdays and $40 on the weekends. This gives guests access to pool, spa, and lounge amenities of the resort. Still, non-guests can enjoy the sandbar on the side of the island. If all you really want to do is lay on the sand without a care in the world, the sandbar is enough of an experience.
If you’re not staying overnight at the resort, spend half a day at the sandbar, then head to other attractions in Oslob. The Heritage Park, Tumalog Falls, and Samboan Falls are all one tricycle ride away from the port.
Moalboal is a 2-3-hour trip by land, coming from the Southern Bus Terminal in Mactan or Cebu City. It is best known for the sardine run where snorkelers or divers can swim off the shore and be immediately surrounded by a giant school of sardines swirling around the water. Even though Moalboal is a sleepy town, it has some of the most colorful underwater landscapes. There is also nearby Pescador Island, which is home to even more sardines, frogfish, and some occasional hammerhead sharks.
Divers should head to the numerous dive shops and accommodations found along Panagsama Beach. Non-divers and leisure travelers can find cottages and resorts on White Beach in Basdaku.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!