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 this Cebu 5-day itinerary to give you some inspiration when you are planning what to do on Cebu in a limited amount of time. I tried to give you a few options for each place so you can choose the spots you think you will like the best.
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CEBU 5-DAY ITINERARY
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.
I wouldn’t hang out in Cebu City for too long if you do want an adventure. Especially if you only have limited time and are trying to fit many things into your Cebu 5-day itinerary. I did visit one waterfall called Budlaan Falls that was pretty nice if you are in Cebu city looking for an adventure.
Not all of the waterfalls on Cebu are in the south, although that famous blue water tends to be. However, if you find yourself near Cebu City there is a cool little waterfall trek up in the hills called Budlaan Falls. When I went, we did an Adventure Bag Adventure Day and had almost 100 people come too Budlaan Waterfall to clean up the trash. Hopefully, it is in good shape when you visit.
The waterfall itself is pretty big and you can get in behind the flow of the waterfall to the caves. You can also trek up on top of the waterfall and follow the canyon below. There’s lots of exploring to do at this waterfall trek that takes about 1-hour round trip.
Read the full blog post: ADVENTURE BAG ADVENTURE DAY AT BUDLAAN FALLS
MOALBOAL – 2 NIGHTS
I suggest staying at least two nights in Moalboal. I really think that if you are going to be exploring Cebu, the best place to stay is in Moalboal. There are a few reasons why!
Cebu City might be where you land at the airport but if you are looking for adventure, you will need to head south as soon as possible. Most of the best waterfalls, whale sharks, snorkeling with sardines and turtles are all down south. So where do you stay to do all of these adventures? Moalboal! Trust me I know… I rent an apartment in Moalboal and that is my base for all of the adventures you have just read!
Moalboal is a cool town, which is the free-diving and scuba capital of Cebu and even the Philippines. Here there are tons of hostels, hotels, and homestays. There are plenty of restaurants and even a small mall. This is really the last spot as you travel down south where you will have good wifi, 4G connection, western restaurants and lots of facilities. Once you head further south to Alegria and Ginatilan those towns just aren’t set up for tourists really.
Moalboal is just a short drive from most attractions and even all the way down to the Whale Sharks is just a 1-hour drive. There are a variety of accommodations in Moalboal but I will tell you my favorite for each style of traveler. I have a recommendation for budget travelers, mid-level and luxury.
MoHo Moalboal Hostel – Budget: I stayed at this cool hostel for a few days. It is brand new and pretty modern with a huge chill-out space. The WIFI works! I was blogging and using WordPress and the connection was fine. The dorm rooms are clean and modern with each bed having a blind for privacy. The staff were super chill and helpful. There was free water to refill your bottle and free coffee and tea. It is the cheapest option on booking.com at just 8 USD.
Teobas Homestay – Value: You need to click on that link just to see how rad this place is. It has a staircase down to the ocean into crystal clear water. I can tell you, I have snorkeled out the front of this place with turtles many times. For about $30 USD you get a private room with all of the facilities you need. There is not much better than having ocean access and a bit of a sunset view!
Dolphin House Resort – Luxury: If you are looking for a nice resort, Dolphin House is a 5-star resort with a huge pool for less than $200 USD per night. It has ocean access, great restaurant, chilling areas and a beautiful garden throughout the property.
To view all of the accommodation options in Moalboal head to the Moalboal search page on Booking.com
From Moalboal, there are many places to explore within motorbike or taxi range. Here are some of my favorite things to do when you just have a 5-day Cebu Itinerary in mind.
Inambakan Falls is known for having a beautiful 100-ft waterfall that plunges into a wide pool of blue water. Surrounded by lush jungle greenery it is indeed an amazing scene. However, what makes Inambakan Falls such a memorable adventure is the multi-level trek to different pools and waterfalls.
Inambakan Falls is a solid four-hour journey from Cebu City. When I visited, I was based in Moalboal and the drive took less than an hour on the motorbike.
The main waterfall is a 100ft flow of water, which crashes down into the blue pool of water. I really love the limestone cliffs behind the waterfall. The orange tinge contrasts so vividly against the strong blue of the pool below.
We swam behind the waterfall into the cave and explored the rocks of the main pool before sending a couple of jumps into the pool below. You could adventure here for hours and it is an adventure in itself. However, there are five levels at Inambakan so this is just part of the experience.
The third level was such an incredible spot. A crystal clear pool, deep enough for cliff jumping, sits in front of a backdrop of idyllic palm trees. It is a slice of paradise right in the middle of the jungle.
Inambakan Falls is a full-day adventure and is easily one of my favorite waterfalls on Cebu!
Read the full blog post: INAMBAKAN FALLS IN GINATILAN
SUNRISE HIKE TO OSMENA PEAK
From Alegria, we organized motorbike to take both myself, a friend and of course the driver to Osmena Peak. It was only $10 per person return and was a 1.5-hour journey each way. It was very uncomfortable but the budget option. You could take a car here but it would be much more expensive. We had to leave before 4 am in order to make it to the summit before sunrise.
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.
There is an entrance fee of a few dollars to the hike, which comes with a guide who you can choose to tip and of course the cost of the motorbike. It is quite a cheap adventure and an amazing sunrise experience.
Book a tour: You can do it DIY like me but there is a really good tour you can book as well. The tour I can recommend to you actually includes a visit to Kawasan Falls and Osmena Peak on the same day for just $30! You can Click Here to book it online ahead of time.
View the full blog post: OSMEÑA PEAK IN CEBU – A BEAUTIFUL SUNRISE HIKE
KAWASAN FALLS CANYONEERING
Canyoneering through the Gatorade blue waters all the way down the canyons into Kawasan Falls is one of the most popular tourist activities on the island. Thousands of tourists participate in the adventure every day. It’s definitely worth the $20-30 and the crowds but it definitely isn’t the biggest adventure you can do on Cebu. It may feel like it, but trekking to Dao Falls or Kabutongan Falls even feels more adventurous because you will be the only ones there. However, having said that, I do encourage you to do the canyoneering at Kawasan Falls.
The canyoneering starts in the jungle and you will wear a helmet and a life vest. Accompanied by a guide you will jump into the water and begin floating down the canyon. This goes on for the best part of 2 hours as you float, jump and climb your way down to Kawasan Falls.
The biggest jump was 50ft but it was optional. The biggest jump that was required to continue the journey downstream was only a few meters. Halfway through the floating and swimming comes to an end more or less and you begin to trek through the water and the jungle. It is quite an immersive experience but still quite safe.
Finally, you will end up at Kawasan Falls. Here you finish the experience with a big jump from the top of the waterfall. Note that you don’t have to jump you can walk down quite easily but it is the tradition to finish with the jump. Now you can enjoy Kawasan Falls and have a rest! If you prefer not to do the canyoneering you can just walk to Kawasan Falls at the base and enjoy it from there. It is definitely the most crowded waterfall on Cebu with lots of food outlets, umbrellas and touristy action going on. It’s definitely one of the most popular waterfalls on Cebu but it is worth battling the crowds!
In Badian, there are lots of tour companies you book with for your Kawasan Falls canyoneering adventure on Cebu. However, sometimes it is nice to book in advance and look at the reviews and prices before you arrive. Below is the tour company, I recommend as they have the best guides and also have good vibes and get involved with cliff jumping and make it a fun day.
My Recommended and the TOP-RATED Kawasan Falls Canyoneering tour in Cebu for under $40: Click Here to book
Read the full blog post: KAWASAN FALLS CEBU CANYONEERING
MAINIT HOT SPRING IN MALABUYOC
A 15-minute bus ride away from D’Allegre (costing less than $1) you will head to Mainit Hot Springs. A short walk through the jungle and you will arrive at some amazing hot springs, surrounded by lush greenery and a waterfall.
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
Read the full blog post: MAINIT HOT SPRINGS IN MALABUYOC
KABUTONGAN WATERFALL TREK
Kabutongan Falls trek is one of the most magical adventures on the island of Cebu. The trail follows the blue waters of a narrow stream up the canyon until you reach Kabutongan Waterfall. Here you will find a hidden cave behind the waterfall and several different cliff-jumps!
The trail is only a short 30-minutes but there are a few sections that require rope (it is installed). It is possible without a guide but the guide is vital to help protect natural areas like this and they will help keep you safe.
The trail crisscrosses the river and includes bouldering and some intermediate difficulty sections. The hardest part is climbing along the edge of the narrow trail but ropes guide you in all of the parts that are slippery or steep. Most people of average physicality will find this trail normal.
The blue water of Cebu is exemplified no better than in the limestone-laden pools of the Kabutongan Waterfall trek. It is just pure crystal clear water with that trademark blue, common in all of the south Cebu waterfalls. Despite only being a 30-minute trail, you do feel truly immersed in the jungle as you make your way up and over boulders and through the vines.
After 30-minutes we reached the Kabutongan Waterfall viewpoint. From the viewpoint, you can only see half of the waterfall as the rock wall wraps around, concealing the waterfall. Luckily you can get a closer like by swimming down in the pool below.
You can even enter the cave by swimming on the left side, directly underneath the flow of the waterfall. Inside the cave, the water has that beautiful blue tinge and the cave goes back about 20-meters. It was one of my favorite parts about the trek.
The cliff jumps at Kabutongan are pretty awesome. From the viewpoint, you have two levels. One if about 5-meters and the other is about 8-9 meters. The water was really deep here, which makes it a risk-free jump unlike some shallower pools on Cebu. However, you must always check for yourself as rocks move below the surface or there could be debris or wood floating just beneath the surface. Your safety is your own responsibility.
Read full blog post: KABUTONGAN WATERFALL TREK
DAO WATERFALL TREK
Dao Waterfall offers not only an epic waterfall finale but it is the trek in that is truly astounding. For thirty minutes you wade through those trademark Cebu blues, while ferns and palms cover the canyon walls on either side. The trek to Dao Falls itself isn’t hard but it does require you to walk through the water and navigate your way around boulders and rocks. It is a moderate adventure with incredible scenery, which is far away from the crowds at Kawasan Falls.
The vibrant green ferns, palms and jungle plants come at you from all angles and contrast against the blues. The final piece of this incredible natural puzzle is the high canyon walls that slowly close in on you as you make your way up the cascades until you are walking through a narrow trail.
In the final parts of the trail, the locals have built a staircase, which is quite necessary as the waterfall gets fierce and steep. This is a very scenic part of the trail and you can actually get a glimpse of Dao Waterfall from the base of the stairs with the smaller waterfalls below it. This was probably my favorite spot on the trail.
Dao Waterfall is about 40-50m high and pours down into a large pool. You can swim safely in the pool and near the falls when the flow isn’t too crazy but of course be careful depending on the conditions. It was a great pool to refresh in after the short trail hike. I’ve heard that the falls used to be double the width but a landslide impacted the flow and it isn’t quite as impressive these days but it still impressed me!
Read the full blog post: DAO WATERFALL IN SAMBOAN
PALM TREE ROADS NEAR GINATILAN
On the drive to Kabutongan are some of the coolest roads on all of Cebu. If you are looking for a scenic road to take some epic photos and enjoy the jungle atmosphere, keep your eyes open on the drive up to Kabutongan Falls. However, there are palms all over Cebu and you will get some great shots with palms on the way to Inambakan Falls, Dao Falls, and Montpellier Falls.
Cambais Falls is an amazing waterhole in the hills of Alegria, Cebu. It’s less than an hour drive from Moalboal and there are several other great waterfalls nearby to make an epic waterfall adventure day. There are several waterfalls and different cliff jumping levels at Cambais as well great spots for swimming.
Cambais Falls has two distinct levels. On the first level, a huge, milky blue pool is surrounded by ferns, boulders, and trees. The waterfall at this level pours over the limestone cliff wall without extreme force, more of a pour! It seems to drip off the limestone in lines, which creates a beautiful scene from below. There is a lot to explore on this level like a few small caves and plenty of rocks to jump off.
On this first level, there is a solid cliff jump. From about 7 meters and then 10 meters you can jump directly from the waterfall. The spot to land it is quite small as it isn’t too deep and you need to hit the right landing area. Make sure you check the depth before jumping.
To get to the second level you clamber up a small cascade using a rope. You then wade your way through the blue water until reaching a bamboo ladder. This takes you to the second level where another beautiful waterfall crashes down into a private pool.
Read the full blog post: CAMBAIS FALLS IN ALEGRIA
Montpellier isn’t the most popular waterfall on Cebu amongst tourists. In fact, most probably don’t know about it. The locals are happy to share this one. They have painted a big mural and sign near the road, which marks the entrance. It is a great little watering hole without much of a hike and a great way to cool off after exploring Osmena Peak (on the same road).
Once you reach the waterfall you will have to crane your neck to take it in. It’s a tall one. A single flow of water plummets onto a giant boulder below before cascading into the emerald pool. It’s a great spot for swimming and hanging out with some of the local kids. I can’t imagine having something so epic in my backyard.. let alone my hometown! It’s one of the best waterfalls on Cebu for a relaxed afternoon.
Read the full blog post: MONTPELLIER WATERFALL IN ALEGRIA
BINALAYAN (HIDDEN) WATERFALL
Tucked away in Samboan is a beautiful waterfall at the end of a tranquil jungle trail. It is also the place of one of the most dangerous cliff jumps I’ve ever done in my life. It’s a beautiful but short little adventure, which you can combine with the other waterfalls in the Samboan region of Cebu.
Binalayan Waterfall is also known as ‘Hidden Falls’. Like many ‘hidden’ places around the world, it is not hidden at all. It is advertised with a road from the sign, which directs you to a parking lot and the ticket office.
The trail only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish but provides a beautiful coconut palm-lined path and peaceful scenery. Most of the path is a steady dirt trail, which we traversed in flip-flops. Enormous palm trees cover the land. One of our guides showed off his rapid climbing skills and gathered some coconuts for us, which was super impressive.
Read the full blog post: BINALAYAN FALLS (HIDDEN FALLS)
Aguinid Falls has become one of the most popular waterfalls on the island of Cebu. While it may never surpass the popularity of Kawasan Falls down the road, the Aguinid Falls trek is a great, adventurous activity for explorers of all levels. Personally, I think this is one of the best things to do on Cebu.
You can do a tour that lets you see Aguinid Falls and swim with the Whale Sharks all in one day! That is a great way to see one the best of south Cebu waterfalls and swim with the Whale Sharks on a tight schedule from Cebu City! You can book this tour online and check the availability for your dates by Clicking Here.
Aguinid Falls is split up into multiple levels. The adventure used to take you to eight levels. However, since there were a few accidents and fatalities on the higher levels, you are now required to take a guide and you will only reach level five. Don’t worry this is more than enough adventure!
The adventure to the waterfall is the attraction. You will walk through the water, along with bamboo bridges and at one point scale straight up the waterfall aided by a strong rope. Don’t worry it isn’t vertical. It is more of a 45-degree angle and not slippery at all.
After about half an hour we reached the level 5 waterfall, which pours down over the rounded waterfall. Caves inside can be explored and it is a great place for a refreshing dip. This is definitely one of the best waterfalls on Cebu if you want a big adventure!
Read the full blog post: AGUINID FALLS IN SAMBOAN
FREEDIVING WITH SARDINE BALLS IN MOALBAOL
One of the coolest things to do on Cebu is to head down to Moalboal and get amongst the diving scene. The big attraction at Moalboal is the sardine balls. A sardine ball is a collection of thousands of sardines that all swim together in unison. When you dive down they move as a collective this way and that way in what is an incredible dance.
The best part about this activity is that it is only 30-meters from the shore. This means you don’t need to pay for a tour or rent a boat. All you need is your goggles and mask. To be honest you may not even need fins if you are trying to save money. You can rent these from any of the dive shops for less than $5 and enjoy the clear water of Moalboal! It’s definitely one of the most unique things to do on Cebu so don’t miss this one.
SWIM WITH THE RESIDENT TURTLES
Moalboal is home to hundreds of turtles. Every day swimming and snorkeling near the drop-off I would encounter sometimes up to five turtles!
You don’t need to go chasing and annoying the turtles as they just cruise around doing their thing and will often swim closer towards you if you just stay still. The best place near Moalboal to look for turtles is in between Tongo Point and Main beach at Moalboal although they seem to be everywhere. You will also find turtles around other spots in the south of Cebu but I have only personally swum with them in Moalboal.
The best way to experience the turtles, Sardines and island-hopping of Moalboal is with this combo tour. It combines swimming with the sardines, swimming with the turtles and island hopping to Pescador Island all in one trip. You can Click Here to book online in advance.
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 an 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.
OSLOB – 1 NIGHT
While there was plenty more to see in the Kawasan/Alegria/Moalboal region we decided to continue our journey south in Cebu to Oslob. A Tuk-Tuk journey along the coast was a relaxing way to transit out of Alegria/Moalboal. The bus system is probably a better option these days. We arrived at the small coastal town of Oslob, well known for being the prime tourist location for swimming with whale sharks.
Why you should stay in Oslob: Oslob has long been known as the whale-shark capital of the Philippines. It processes the most tourist swims with whale sharks in the entire country. However, because the procedure at Oslob involves feeding the whale sharks and can be intrusive to their environment it is definitely a contentious issue. Having said that, there is still a reason to travel to Oslob aside from the whale sharks.
Without going into too much depth. The whale sharks are better off than when they were being hunted. They are also better off now than 2 years ago when the whale shark tourism was a circus. Oslob now has pretty strict rules and while it is definitely not perfect it is getting better every year and the sharks are not harassed or touched.. only fed.
Sumilon island is a short boat trip away and it is also a good base for your transfer to Bohol, the local way. There are also several waterfalls in the area if you do stay more than one day in Oslob such as Tumalog Falls.
How long to stay: 1-2 nights
Where to stay: I stayed at a cheap hostel right next to the beach. From here I took a day-trip out to Sumilon Island. The hostel was called Sharky Hostel and was only $8 per night for a dorm room.
There are also multiple higher-end accommodations right on the beach in Oslob such as Sascha’s Resort, which has a pool and a really fun atmosphere if you want to splash a little more cash.
If you have just one night in Oslob you can still visit three really cool attractions. Sumilon Island, swim with Whale Sharks and visit Tumalog Falls. You can actually book a day-tour that includes all three attractions. You can click here to book your tour that includes Sumilon Island, swimming with Whale Sharks and visiting Tumalog Falls all in one day
VISIT SUMILON ISLAND
The boat ride to Sumilon island is only 15 or so minutes and I drove the boat for five or so minutes in the middle of the ocean. Music was playing on board and everyone was having a great time.
The tour to Sumilon Island costs about $15 per person return trip and runs for about half a day depending on your tour. Once you are at the island, you can relax, hang out in the crystal clear water, unwind and enjoy your isolated island looking back towards Oslob.
You can actually book a day-tour to Sumilon Island to visit the sandbar and snorkel spots. You can click here to book your tour to Sumilon Island
View the full blog post here: SUMILON ISLAND PHOTO BLOG
Tumalog Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls on Cebu. You can swim here and enjoy the morning after swimming with the whale sharks. It only costs $1 for entry and is just a 10-minute drive from the whale shark area.
SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS
The experience costs about $20 if you are already in Oslob. If you are in Cebu City you can CLICK HERE for the number one rated tour, which includes a fully guided day tour that also includes Kawasan Falls. This tour will pick you up from your hotel in Cebu City and show you all the sights including the whale shark experience.
You can actually book a day-tour that includes all three attractions. You can click here to book your tour that includes Sumilon Island, swimming with Whale Sharks and visiting Tumalog Falls all in one day
To get around Oslob you can walk to all of the restaurants nearby, which are within a 1km distance. Tricycles will regularly pass by, which will take you a couple of kilometers for a dollar or two if you prefer not to walk.
Tricycles can also transit you from town to town for journeys more than an hour and will cost from $5 upwards depending on your destination.
The south end of Cebu has one main road that runs along the coast. You can get on a bud that is going in the right direction and just yell when you want to get off. You will pay from $1-5 depending on how long you rode the bus.
Now that you have seen lots of Cebu you may want to head down to Bohol or take a flight over to Coron or El Nido. I’ve written guides on all of those places so if you found this guide helpful for you, you can check those out too by clicking any of the links on those destinations.
MORE PHILIPPINES BLOGS
I have also visited many other places in the Philippines that you may want to add to your itinerary and remove one of. the locations I visited. There is no right way to travel to the Philippines. The reality is that you will miss some awesome places no matter what Philippines backpacking route you take. You can check out the links below to my other Philippines backpacking guides.
Siargao: 30 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON SIARGAO
Caramoan: CARAMOAN ISLAND HOPPING
Romblon Island: ROMBLON TRAVEL GUIDE: 17 AWESOME THINGS TO DO
Tablas Island: TABLAS ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE: 20 AWESOME THINGS TO DO
Sibuyan Island: SIBUYAN ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE: 9 AWESOME THINGS TO DO
Sohoton Cove: SOHOTON COVE NATIONAL PARK TOUR – CAVES AND LAGOONS
Carabao Island: CARABAO ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE: 5 THINGS TO DO
Cebu Things To Do: 16 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON CEBU
Philippines Backpacking Guide: PHILIPPINES BACKPACKING: 2019 BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE
Ultimate Philippines Travel Itinerary: ULTIMATE PHILIPPINES TRAVEL ITINERARY FOR 3-4 WEEKS