Travel Guide to Cebu, Philippines
The island province of Cebu consists of the long, narrow Cebu Island and 167 smaller, surrounding islands. Cebu city is the capital of the province of Cebu and the oldest colonial Spanish city in the Philippines.
Cebu city is the second largest metropolitan city in the Philippines. Often referred to as the Majestic Queen City of the South, Cebu offers a diverse topography that features sandy beaches, limestone plateaus, coastal plains and hills that rise up to a height of 1000 meters. The city is also home to a natural port which is an important cargo and cruise terminal of the Philippines. Cebu is in fact an import hub for commerce, trade and education in the Philippines. Aside from being a popular tourist destination, the city also hosts various other industries like shipping and ship building, information technology and furniture making.
Cebu’s origins can be traced to the 13th century, when it was known as Zubu or Sugbo. This kingdom was ruled by the Rajahanate of Cebu and was inhabited by Hindus and Muslims. Christianity was brought to Cebu by the Spaniards who followed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu.
Magellan who was on an exploratory and trading mission, for King Charles I of Spain landed in Cebu in 1521. After befriending the Cebu Rajah and his wife, he went on to baptize and convert them to Catholicism and this signaled the arrival of Christianity in Cebu. Today, Cebu is home to some of the oldest symbols of Christianity in the Philippines, like the Magellan’s Cross and the Basilica Minore de Santo Nino.
Cebu abounds with glorious sandy beaches, historical sights, shopping malls, golf courses and casinos, all attractions that help to make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines.
Best time to visit Cebu
Cebu is often described as a year round destination, for the island experiences mild temperatures of approximately 27°C (80°F) all throughout the year. However Cebu does have well-defined hot and wet seasons as well. The hot season in Cebu usually extends from March to May and features daytime temperatures that often top the 37°C (99°F) mark. The island’s wet season typically extends from July to August when torrential downpours are a common occurrence. Frequent visitors however advise that the best time to visit the island is between December and March, when the weather is often a bit cooler and not as humid.
Passport holders from more than 150 countries don’t need a visa to travel to the Philippines for tourism. They can enter the Philippines for up to 21 days provided that they have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond their date of entry into the Philippines and they are in possession of a valid onward/return ticket and sufficient funds to cover the expenses of their stay in the Philippines. More details about visas for the Philippines can be found at:-
Getting to and around Cebu
The Mactan-Cebu International airport located in Lapu Lapu City on Mactan Island is the main gateway to the island province of Cebu. This airport is the second busiest airport in the Philippines and welcomes a host of domestic and international carriers like Cebu Pacific, Airphil Express, Zest Air, Cathay Pacific, Tiger Airways, Korean Air, and Silk Air amongst others. These many varied air links make getting to Cebu quite easy.
Cebu can also be accessed by sea from the many islands of the Visayas region. Cebu city which is home to a major cargo port, receives many cruise ships as well as ferries from other islands.
Metered taxis and a local bus system provide transport on the island of Cebu, though the island is also equipped with several indigenous modes of transport like Jeepneys (people carriers which sport colorful trimmings and trinkets) and Tarantillas or horse drawn carriages. A ride on any one of these local means of public transport should be considered a ‘must-do’ on any visit to Cebu.
Family friendly hotels
Cebu is an immensely popular beach holiday destination, one which is also heavily marketed by package tour companies. Cebu city and its area beaches, serve as the focal point of most Cebu holidays and the city is thus equipped with a wide range of hotels that suit all travel budgets.
Sotogrande Hotel and Resort – Lapu Lapu City
The Sotogrande Hotel and Resort in Lapu Lapu City is located close to Cebu’s famous attractions like the Magellan Shrine and the Macatan Island Aquarium. This beachfront hotel offers myriad facilities like two outdoor swimming pools, a children’s pool and a fitness facility. The hotel also offers complimentary wireless Internet access in its public areas and also serves its guests free breakfast. The hotel offers 77 well-appointed rooms which are outfitted with conveniences like LCD TVs with cable and free movie channels, and hypo-allergenic bedding amongst others.
Marriott Cebu City
The Marriott is located within Cebu city’s business park opposite the huge Ayala Shopping center. The hotel offer 278 air-conditioned rooms and 22 suites. The hotel’s facilities include an outdoor pool, a dry sauna, 24-hr room service and babysitting services for parents traveling with young children. The hotel is also equipped with a café cum lounge.
Plantation Bay Resort and Spa
The Plantation Bay Resort and Spa is located within a secluded, lush, tropical enclave on Mactan Island. The resort extends over 28 acres and offers four freshwater outdoor pools, a salt water lagoon and a private beach. Other facilities at the hotel include a children’s center, a game room, a fitness center, restaurants and a shopping area. The hotel also offers complimentary airport transfers as well as free Internet access.
Family-friendly attractions in Cebu
Cebu offers a good selection of interesting historical and cultural attractions that are suitable for all ages.
Basilica Minore de Santo Niño
The Basilica Minore de Santo Niño is one of Cebu’s most prominent attractions. This church which was originally built in 1565 was rebuilt in 1602 after a fire destroyed the original edifice.
The church is home to the oldest religious relic in the Philippines, which takes the form of an icon of the infant Jesus. This icon was presented by Ferdinand Magellan to Queen Juana in 1521 and it miraculously survived the fire that destroyed the church.
The Casa Gorordo Museum
The Casa Gorordo Museum represents a classic Filipino home of the late 19th century. The home is furnished with paintings, antique furniture, religious relics and more. The Casa Gorordo Museum is housed in an edifice which once served as the residence of the first Filipino Bishop of Cebu.
The Fort San Pedro
Fort San Pedro which dates back to 1565 has played a vital role in the history of the Philippines. The Fort San Pedro was one of the first Spanish settlements in the country and has played many roles down the ages. The fort was used as a watch tower to prevent pirate attacks in the 1700’s and then went on to house the US army barracks during the American Regime. The fort was also used as a prison camp for political prisoners during the Philippine Revolution of the late 19th century and then as a prison camp for Japanese POWs during the Second World War. For some time the fort also housed the Cebu City zoo. Today the fort is administered by the Philippine Tourist authority and houses the National Museum that offers displays like the San Diego shipwreck.
The Cebu Cathedral
The Cebu Cathedral dates back to 1591 and it originally existed as a rustic, barn-like structure that was fashioned out of wood and bamboo. The Cebu Cathedral served as the seat of the diocese which covered the whole Visayas, Northern Mindanao and the Marianaa Islands. Stone walls were then added to the cathedral in 1665 and it was slowly completed over the years. The cathedral was finally consecrated on June 24th 1909.
The Magellan Cross
The famous Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines in 1521. Magellan brought with him a wooden cross which was planted at a spot called Sugbu in Cebu. The cross was supposed to symbolize the colonization of the country on the behalf of the Spanish King. The original wooden cross deteriorated over the years and a replica which was made out of tindalo wood, went on to become the most important landmark in Cebu. The cross today is housed in small chapel in the heart of downtown Cebu.
Family-friendly activities in Cebu
Indulge in some beachside fun
Cebu affords easy access to several glorious beaches and islets. Whilst on holiday in Cebu, you can easily make day trips to beachfront spots like Mactan Island which is connected to Cebu city by a bridge and hosts numerous resorts that offer a wide range of watersports. Other beaches and islands easily accessible from Cebu city include Olango Island, Kansatik, Sagod, Moalboal (a famed dive destination), Badian Island and the area of Argao which offers pristine beaches like Mahawak, Mahayhay and Kawit.
Visit the Cebu City Zoo
The small Cebu City Zoo is situated in an area of the city known as Beverly Hills. The zoo extends over seventeen acres and hosts exhibits of various animals, reptiles and birds. A Bengal tiger, Burmese pythons, Philippine brown deer, leopard cats, monitor lizards are just some of the animals that are on display at the Cebu zoo.
Pay visit to the Julian Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary and Art Gallery
This weird but wonderful museum which is located in the Basak district of Cebu was established by famed lepidopterist Professor Julian Jumalon who created ‘leipdo mosaics’ or paintings with the discarded wings of butterflies. These unusual creations are housed in the professor’s private residence which has now been converted into a museum. The gardens surrounding the museum host a butterfly sanctuary, which is home to 56 species of beautiful butterflies and moths.
Feed the sharks at the Mactan Aquarium
The Mactan Aquarium showcases the rich marine life of Cebu. The aquarium offers constantly-changing displays of fascinating marine creatures like poisonous lionfish, trigger fish, frog fish, sea turtles, octopus, jellyfish, seahorses and much more. The aquarium also offers visitors the exciting opportunity to feed its resident sharks. The Mactan island aquarium is bound to be a hit with all ages.
Emergency contacts for Cebu
Philippines National Emergency Phone Number: 117
Department of Tourism
G/F LDM Bldg., corner Legaspi aand MJ Cuenco Sts.,
6000 Cebu City
Tel.: (6332) 254 2811 / 254 6077
Fax: (6332) 254 2711
Airport Office Tel.: (6332) 340 8229
Foreign embassies in Manila
United States Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 301 2000
British Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 858 2200
Canadian Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 857 9000
Australian Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 757 8100
South African Embassy, Manila: + 63 (0)2 889 9383
Honorary Consul of Ireland, Manila: +63 (0)2 896 4668
New Zealand Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 891 5358.