Cebu is a stunning island province in the Philippines, with idyllic white-sand beaches, gorgeous natural scenery and incredible diving. The island has a booming tourism industry, thanks to its natural charm, yet it remains a paradise for relaxation and adventure.
I spent five days in Cebu and absolutely loved it, and I just knew that most of you would too! So I’ve put together my Cebu itinerary for you to gather inspiration for your very own Cebu trip. From thrilling canyon adventures and waterfalls to spectacular sardine diving and beach relaxation, following this Cebu travel guide will take you on an unforgettable journey!
Since the home base of my Cebu trip, as well as the majority of the activities, were in the South, this will predominantly be a South Cebu Itinerary.
Before you go, make sure you have everything you need for your Cebu trip with this Philippines essentials packing list!
- 1 Cebu 5-day itinerary
- 2 Cebu Travel Guide – General Information
Cebu 5-day itinerary
After arriving in Cebu City, make your way to Moalboal. Situated on the Southwestern tip of Cebu, Moalboal is one of the island’s most popular towns and will act as your base during your stay in Cebu. All the most fun adventures and coolest attractions in Cebu are located in the South of the island so you want to be based around there to save travel time.
The bus ride from Cebu City to Moalboal takes around 3-4 hours but is easy on the wallet (tickets cost under $3 USD), and the destination is well worth the journey. Depending on what bus you get this may or may not have air conditioning, and it will stop at various places along the way. Alternatively, you could make use of a private transfer for a more comfortable journey.
Depending on what time you arrive, you may choose to head out into the town for some exploration once you’ve settled into your Moalboal accommodation. There isn’t much to see in this small town, but walking around and absorbing the atmosphere is a great way to get settled in. If you get there in time make sure to head down to the beach for sunset, all the sunsets we saw in Moalboal were incredible!
Panagsama is Moalboal’s beachside tourist hub. It’s an idyllic section of the coast with a laidback vibe and a plethora of inviting beach-side bars, restaurants, and resorts. Spend some time exploring the area before stopping at Venz Kitchen for some delicious local food and, then head to one of the many seafront bars for a drink while looking at the ocean.
Head back to your accommodation and get some rest; day 2 is going to be packed full of adventure!
Wake up bright and early and make your way to Kawasan Falls on Badian. The journey to the falls is around 45 minutes, and you can get there via bus, rented car, or taxi.
Kawasan Falls is a popular destination in Cebu, and one of our absolute favourites. The water in the river is a brilliant string of turquoise, flowing through dense greenery in a jungle canyon. The colours are vibrant and the scenery is undeniably magnificent.
Many travellers choose to simply relax and enjoy the beauty of the falls, generally by setting up at one of the picnic tables next to the lowest and largest of the three main waterfalls.
However, while relaxing by the falls is pleasant, I highly recommend canyoneering down the river valley. It’s one of the most beautiful and exhilarating experiences I’ve had to date! Check out my Kawasan Falls canyoneering guide for the full scoop.
What is canyoneering? Good question. Canyoneering, also known as canyoning, is a multi-faceted adventure activity that involves making your way down a canyon/valley using a variety of methods. It’s generally a combination of climbing, hiking, swimming, and cliff diving, and it’s a whole lot of fun.
I strongly recommend that you only go canyoneering as part of a tour group, as having an experienced guide and safety equipment will help keep you safe as you make your way down the canyon. You can book your canyoneering experience online in order to ensure your place ahead of time.
The canyoneering experience will take up the majority of the day, but you’ll get to spend some time exploring the Kawasan Falls and relaxing in the natural pools.
Cebu, and particularly Moalboal, is famous for its amazing diving opportunities. The water around the island is home to some incredible marine life. Wake slowly on day 3 and head over to Panagsama Beach for a day of underwater exploration.
Moalboal is particularly famous for its unparalleled, year-round sardine run, that results in almost guaranteed sightings of sardines every day of the year! This phenomenon is entirely natural and ethical; the sardines are left untouched by humans and are marine protected.
Millions of sardines in tightly packed shoals form vast, sparkling balls that warp and wind their way through the clear water. Snorkeling amongst these incredible, harmonious schools of sardines is a breathtaking experience.
Just off Panagsama Beach, snorkellers are also frequently graced by sea turtle sightings, as these large, majestic creatures swoop in for a sardine snack. The turtles are beautiful to watch in the water, as they soar through it with elegance and ease. We were fortunate enough to experience both the sardines and sea turtles while snorkelling in Moalboal!
Other common sightings include jacks, dolphins, thresher sharks, and even the occasional whale shark.
Moalboal is also a particularly affordable place to go diving, and Panagsama beach is lined with a vast selection of diving and snorkelling stores. The best spot to snorkel with turtles and sardines without going on an organised tour is on the beach right in front of the SeaQuest Dive Centre.
You can choose to explore on your own by bringing your own snorkelling gear or renting gear for around $2 USD per day. There are also many scuba schools in Panagsama Beach, so if you’d like to dive deep, scuba diving is another great option.
When you’ve had enough snorkelling for the day, catch a 20-minute tuk-tuk or taxi to White Beach. This beach is a stunning place to have a relaxed afternoon in the sun, before heading back to your accommodation for a good night’s sleep.
Get an early start and grab some breakfast in preparation for a busy day. We recommend renting a car on day 4, as it will give you the greatest amount of freedom and flexibility. Alternatively, if you’d prefer someone else to take the wheel, you can book a Osmeña Peak and Kawasan Falls guided tour.
Hop in the car, and head south toward Osmeña Peak. Cambais Falls is only a small detour on the route to Osmeña Peak, and one that’s certainly worth making. The falls are just as enchanting as Kawasan Falls but offer a different experience and scenery. Stopping by the falls is also a great way to cool down mid-way through a long car journey.
After a visit to the waterfall, continue the drive to the base of Osmeña Peak.
Osmeña Peak, also known as Mount Labalaslan, is the tallest mountain in Cebu, offering some of the island’s most famously stunning views. The hike up is a beautiful experience in itself, and is relatively easygoing, taking only around 25 minutes.
When you get to the top, you’ll be welcomed by views that extend across rolling mountainous terrain, rugged cliffs, and lush greenery all the way to the sea. This allows you to get an incredible perspective on the island from above.
Sunrise is a particularly popular time to visit Osmeña Peak, as the morning light dances across the dramatic landscape. However, mornings can be particularly foggy during the winter months, so sunset is sometimes a better option. If you visit at sunset you can make a full day out of it; starting your day at Kawasan Falls, then on to Cambais Falls and ending at Osmeña Peak.
Check out my Osmeña Peak guide for more information and a detailed breakdown of this day trip.
On your last day in Cebu, you can decide whether you’d like to head back north to Cebu City, or continue your journey further south to Oslob, where you’ll have the rare opportunity to swim with whale sharks.
If you choose to head to Oslob to experience the whale sharks, then get an early start and make the 2 ½ hour journey south from Moalboal.
Oslob is a small town on the southwestern coast of Cebu, and one of the best-known places in the world to snorkel with whale sharks. The practice involves feeding the sharks in order to lure them in, which is a point of contention.
Whale shark tourism has a series of proposed negative and positive consequences, from the supposed preservation of the species to unnatural patterns upsetting ecosystems.
Swimming with the whale sharks is a profound, once-in-a-lifetime experience, so it’s worth reading up on the controversy of the practice before deciding whether or not you choose to partake.
After a morning with the whale sharks, make the 10-minute drive to Tumalog falls. These falls are amongst the most revered on the island, for their gorgeous turquoise water and idyllic surroundings. The mossy rock formations and gentle misty streams create an ethereal atmosphere that’s well worth experiencing.
The drive to Cebu City from Oslob will take around 3 ½ hours, so be sure to leave plenty of time to get back if you’re flying on day 5.
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Two years ago I visited Oslob. It’s a small fishing town in the South of Cebu that had a surge of tourism as the magnificent whale sharks became a must-see attraction. You guys know I tell it like it is so here we go. Two years ago it was madness. Boats everywhere, snorkelers bumping into sharks, selfie sticks and life jackets everywhere! Oslob has had its fair share of bad publicity and to be honest a lot of it was warranted based on my experience two years ago. The main focus was for the tourist to have a good time. I returned two years later to Oslob. I was very interested to see how the situation really was with my own eyes. Had improvements been made? Since my first visit several conservation groups were introduced to Oslob. They tagged sharks and studied them. They found several older sharks didn’t migrate. They found that almost all of the whale sharks did migrate away as per normal. They also found some of the tagged sharks were killed in international waters while on their migrational journey. So how is Oslob today? The boats now line up 30 at a time maximum. All swimmers stay near their boat and the trained captains maintain watch the whole time on their small boatload of tourists. The whale shark enters from the wild and is then led up and down by the ‘feeder’ boat. As the Whale Shark passes by the tourist boats you get a great close-up look of this beautiful animal. A warden swims up and down with the shark watching to make sure the 4-meter rule and proper behavior from tourists occurs. The whale sharks are still being fed. The practice is not perfect but Oslob is showing that they do care about the Whale Sharks in a big way and it isn’t just about the tourist. It wasn’t perfect but it was a HUGE improvement. I have been to Donsol this year to swim with Whale Sharks where they DON’T feed them. This presents its own challenges as the boats have to find (felt like a bit of a chase at times) the Whale Shark and then it is a bit of madness once we all dropped in the water. Neither operation is perfect but Oslob and Donsol both seem to be moving in a positive direction. What are your thoughts? #oslob #cebu #whaleshark #philippines 📷 @jordentually
If you choose to not go to Oslob, you should still aim to get an early start in order to make the 3-4 hour journey back to Cebu City from Moalboal.
If you have some time in Cebu City before your flight, make the most of it by doing a bit of sightseeing with a DIY Cebu City tour.
Visit old colonial landmarks such as Fort San Pedro and Basilica del Santo Nino for a window into 16th-century Cebu. Next, stop by at Cebu’s stunning Taoist Temple, with its striking architecture and ornate detailing. Lastly, pay a visit to the Cebu Heritage Monument, an artistically crafted structure that vividly depicts the winding history of the island.
Alternatively, you could choose to streamline and enhance your sightseeing experience with a guided Cebu City tour. This is a great option if you’d like to hear some interesting facts and stories about the city and its sights.
If you’re staying in Cebu for one last night, or have some time before your flight, be sure to indulge in an incredible buffet dinner at Feria.
Now that we’ve gone over the day-by-day itinerary and best things to do in Cebu in 5 days, here are some essential tips on where to stay on what to pack for this Cebu tour itinerary.
Moalboal is my favourite place to stay in Cebu. It pairs great resorts, beaches, activities, and restaurants, with a quaint seaside town atmosphere. It’s the ideal place to use as a base during your trip to Cebu, as it’s not only a lovely town, but it’s also close to many of the cool activities.
Ocean Front Paradise Resort is situated right on the seafront and offers a wonderfully luxurious experience. With a stunning palm-lined terrace overlooking the ocean, a pool, and an on-site bar, this resort is in an ideal location.
For a more rustic and affordable stay, we recommend Titanic’s Nipa Hut. Tucked away in a rural setting, this authentic hut is just a 2-minute walk from the beach and a 10-minute walk from the main street.
If you’re looking for budget accommodation we stayed at MoHo Hostel which was spacious and clean, but we found out only once we arrived that it was a bit of a party hostel! Great if you want to socialise but not if you want to sleep. If you want something that is still budget but a bit more quiet my friend Annie stayed at West Coast Beach House, closer to the sea, and said she loved it.
Swimsuit – You’ll spend a lot of time in the water during your trip to Cebu. Between basking beneath the waterfalls and soaking up the beauty of the many amazing beaches, you’ll certainly want to bring a swimsuit!
Comfortable walking shoes – You’ll be doing a reasonable amount of walking during your trip to Cebu, so make sure you’ve got comfortable footwear. You may also choose to bring some worn out shoes for the canyoneering experience, although shoes are also available to rent.
Power bank – I always like to have a power bank with me when travelling. Long days out can drain your battery, and having a charged up phone will allow you to snap some pictures of your adventures and call on google maps in case you get lost!
Have you been to Cebu before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! Cebu is an incredible place, with some of the most stunning landscapes I’ve had the pleasure of seeing! A trip to this island paradise, done right, will leave you thrilled and enchanted long after you leave.
My five days in Cebu were amongst my favourite of my Philippines trip. Following this Cebu itinerary I’ve laid out in will guarantee you an awesome trip, but feel free to alter it to fit your personal tastes and interests. It’s a varied and exciting journey from start to finish, and packs in all of my favorite Cebu activities.
So, get booking and head to Cebu for an incredible adventure!
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