Cebu is a great place to spend a week in the Philippines, exploring waterfalls, hot springs, hikes and swimming with the incredible whale sharks. There are so many natural attractions in Cebu you will be spoilt for choice, deciding where to adventure. I visited for 4 nights and 5 days and managed to see some of the best Cebu destinations. I put together my Cebu itinerary to give you some inspiration when you are planning what to do on Cebu.
CEBU CITY – 1 NIGHT
We landed in Cebu city planning to spend 1-2 nights couch-surfing about an hour from the city. Our hosts were brilliant, accommodating us and cooking us dinner and breakfast. When couch surfing it is inevitable not to be overwhelmed by how generous complete strangers can be. A night of drinks and stories was a great introduction to the friendliness of locals we would experience throughout the next month. We left the next morning, taking a bus for a couple of dollars down to Alegria where we would base ourselves for the next two nights. Sandeep, a recently divorced Indian from Bombay had also been couch surfing at the same place as us and joined our crew while in Alegria.
ALEGRIA – 2 NIGHTS
For $7 USD a night we stayed at D’Allegre, a wooden guest house that rose above the ocean on stilts. Each night the sun set over the ocean from our patio and we couldn’t help but feel we were underpaying for our accommodation.
On our first night we still had a few hours of sun, which was seemingly begging us to take off on a short adventure. The guest house owner suggested we visit Mainit Hot Spring in Malabuyoc, a 15 minute bus ride away.
The Hot Springs were steaming. So hot we could hardly sit in some of the springs which ranged from 38-42 degrees celsius. Set in a rainforest just beyond a local village we could feel this was just the beginning of an amazing trip.
Our next adventure began at 3:30am the next morning. Jorden and I crammed onto the back of a motorbike with our expert driver. An hour cruise in the dark through the mountains and a complete loss of feeling in my butt had us arriving at the base of Osmena Peak in Guadalupe. The Peak is known for having amazing panoramic views across jagged cliff lines and the ocean. We were told it would be best for sunrise and we were left speechless by the scene from the summit of the short 20 minute trek.
One of the nights we ventured 1km down the road looking for a restaurant. We had a great chicken adobo before wandering into a collection of tents. What we had just stumbled upon was a outdoor, makeshift casino. The game was fairly simple. Three ping pong balls were dropped into a funnel and they dropped down onto a game board, which had six even sections. Each sector was a card number. If the ping pong ball didn’t land on your card you lost. If one ping pong ball landed on your card you doubled up. If two landed on your square you tripled and three quadrupled. For example if I laid down $2 and two ping pong balls landed on my card, I received my $2 back and $4 profit. We ended up walking away with $20 US each and felt nervous walking home but we strolled home uninterrupted with our winnings exploding out of our wallets.
While still staying in Alegria we visited a town just north called Kawasan. Famous for the spectacularly blue Kawasan Falls. We planned to do a canyoneering adventure from Alegria to Kawasan that cost about $25 USD. After a few communication breakdowns with tour agents we were finally taken to a village in the jungle where locals had a community discussion for about twenty minutes over who would be our guides. In the end four young guys in jeans and flip flops took the lead and we began our canyoneering adventure.
This was definitely a highlight of the Philippines backpacking trip. The adventure began by jumping into the vibrant blue water of the river. From that point on we floated, jumped and climbed our way down the river. All the time guided brilliantly by our expert local guides. The highest jumps were 50ft but they were optional. The highest jump that everybody had to make to continue the course was only about 10-15 feet.
Halfway through the tour, our guides let us loose as it was mostly just walking and wading in the water to come. We didn’t need any more guidance about where to land or how to stay safe, so we spent the next hour nomadically exploring the canyons.
After 4 hours we finally arrived at Kawasan Falls and celebrated by finishing the day of canyoneering with one last 45 ft jump into Kawasan Second Falls.
OSLOB – 1 NIGHT
While there was plenty more to see in the Kawasan/Alegria region we decided to continue our journey south in Cebu to Oslob. A one hour Tuk-Tuk journey along the coast was a relaxing way to transit out of Alegria.We arrived at the small coastal town, well known for being the prime tourist location for swimming with whale sharks. Sharky Hostel was our home for the night and the owners are well versed in organizing tours and transfers for the guests. They organized our whale shark tour for $20 as well as our next boat trip.
Jorden found himself in trouble as soon as we arrived, discovering he had left his passport and a wad of cash under the bed in Alegria. Too smart for his own good. I said adios as he had to make the journey back to grab his cash and passport. I sat down for lunch and made friends with a boat captain who took me out no charge to Sumilon Island to explore. An unexpected afternoon with a couple of new friends on a beautiful slice of paradise in the middle of the ocean was a perfect introduction to Oslob.
At 6am the next morning we woke to watch the sun rise over the ocean as all of the tour guides began organizing the boats ready for the first batch of whale shark watchers to arrive. I don’t do too many animal based tourist activities but I did swim with whale sharks. The experience was amazing. We swam alongside gigantic whales, who circled the tour boats while vacuuming fish out of the water like no-one’s business.
The experience was a little tainted by the number of tourists in the water. A 5-feet rule was explicitly explained before the tour but it was seemingly thrown out of the window when underwater. I think tighter guidelines and a reduction in the number of tourists will help to keep this industry sustainable for both the local people and the sharks, whose well being should be the major concern.
A quick shower and we were off on a fishing boat for an hour journey to Bohol. The journey took about an hour and a half and there were 6 of us on board. The trip cost $8 and meant we didn’t have to drive all the way to Cebu city for 5 hours and then catch a ferry from there.