Why go to Cebu?
I just realised I haven’t written anything about the Philippines yet. And I’m trying to amend that by writing a post about Cebu (which, btw, is not my hometown haha)!
In particular, reasons why Cebu is my favourite weekend destination when I want to eat a lot, and soak in the sights or beaches.
Coming from Davao, I’ve been to Cebu a handful of times to visit relatives. And truth be told, I didn’t get why people liked the city at first. When I was a kid, we’d always make a stop at Ayala and a few new restaurants but nothing more than that. Now a days, I can’t help but wait for seat sales en route to Cebu, telling all my friends to come with me and to just have fun the entire weekend.
With Cebu’s economy booming – more shops, stores, and local artisans have been trying to take shop in the city. It feels like going to Manila with all the Ayala-inspired storefronts, restos, and parks. But at the same time, everything has their own local appeal. You’ll still be able to find so many local bars and restaurants opening up on a monthly with many of them even getting recognised all over the Philippines.
Aside from that, everything’s so near! You can drive for 15 minutes from the city centre and then find yourself at Movenpick to have drinks while watching the sunset. Or maybe a visit to Tops Lookout. I don’t know. Take your pick.
What can you do in Cebu?
As Cebu is one of those cities in the Philippines where Spanish influence is huge (greater than most!), then it’s no wonder many of the tourist attractions date back to our history with Spain.
Oh, and in case you were wondering – the best time to go to Cebu is during June-August since it barely rains in this part of the country. The winds will be cooler and the entire city more welcoming. However, the only time I recommend not to visit Cebu is during January since everyone’s preparing for Sinulog. Unless, obviously, you’re planning to join in on the party.
Umm, yeah. Anyhow, since everything’s so near here, it’s definitely easier to go around Cebu without wasting most of your day in traffic. Here’s a little low-down of where I can recommend to visit for a weekend!
Tourist Stuff, first!
Basilica Minore del Santo Nino
The most famous Basilica in Visayas right at the centre of Cebu. I’m still not sure if it’s applicable today, but lines seem to be getting longer to get in here with the influx of tourists in the city. Oh, and the Basilica also houses the famous Magellan’s Cross which dates back to 1521.
Temple of Leah
This is a new attraction with a little bit of romance put into the mix. The man who wanted this temple built thought of creating something for his dying wife as a testament to his love. Personally, I think this is also a great place to see the entire city of Cebu without having to go to Tops Lookout.
To know more about Cebu’s history (and basically the rest of the Philippines), you can head on over the Lapu-Lapu Shrine or Mactan Shrine. The entire place gives you a little throwback to the Philippines’ Spanish and Portugese influence with a sole statue dedicated to Lapu-Lapu who defeated Magellan in the Battle of Mactan.
Cebu Heritage Monument
The entire monument consists of sculptures that showcase the city’s history and present-day life. It was completed in the year 2000.
Beyond the tourist-related stuff in Cebu
Since it isn’t my first time in Cebu, I made it a point to ignore tourist-related activities and went straight to the outdoors, restaurants, and coffee! I have this tendency to stick within the city’s limits more than going out if I were only staying within the weekend. But….then again, these new activities in Cebu seem too good to pass up.
Sirao Flower Garden
It really depends on when you go here rather than how. Since you have to catch all the flowers in bloom to have one of those great Instagram shots #priorities. Anyway, the flower garden is located 45 minutes at the outskirts of Cebu and contains hectares full of bright, red (and orange) flowers that will make you fall in love with it.
10,000 Roses Cafe in Cordova
Just read this on the news the other day, honestly! But I’m already making this a priority for when I go to Cebu on August. Anyhow, the 10,000 Roses Cafe is situated on top of a hill, in the outskirts of Cebu. The cafe is at the centre of the entire garden filled with dandelions, sampaguitas, and other flowers which bring together the colours of purple and white.
If there’s one thing that’s so great about Visayas, it’s their beaches! Honest. The beaches are so white, so clear, and…just really pretty to look at, okay? Beach hopping would take a day in itself starting from early morning way into the late afternoon. But it’s completely worth the experience.
One of the many things I can remember Cebu by is their night market at Colon. Unfortunately, it was recently put to a stop just shy of last year.
Are there any day trips from Cebu?
Canyoneering at Badian + Kawasan Falls
One of the main reasons why Cebu became so popular in the last two years is because of the canyoneering activity you can do. I booked a flight to the Queen City specifically for this! But unfortunately, when I was about to go, they had to close it down because of some equipment problems.
Now, however, it’s open. You can find more about it here.
Swimming with the whale sharks at Oslob
Usually, when you book to go canyoneering, it goes hand in hand swimming with whale sharks the following day. Oslob is a four hour drive from Cebu where you have to wake up at 3 in the morning just to catch them. But man, it would be worth it.
If you’re looking for a place to relax, drink coconut juice, and gaze at the beauty of our stars, look no further than Sumilon Island! Haha I sounded like an infomercial just there. The entire island is deserted and a boat ride away from the city. You’ll have the chance to rent a villa or go glamping.
You can find out more from their official website.
Cross over to either Bohol or Dumaguete
Since my father was originally from Negros Occidental (that’s still in Visayas fyi), I spent one summer visiting my cousins in Dumaguete. It was my first summer where I wasn’t completely in Davao and really enjoyed the slow-pace the city brings. But I’ll let you in on something else, Dumaguete is famous for both their silvanas and foreign expats. So for the latter, you can expect many restaurants hosting European (mainly Spanish) food. Depends on your preference but a good 3 days here would be great.
With Bohol, you’ll find the famous Chocolate Hills and Tarsier. Since there are not many activities to do here, a good 1-2 days would suffice.
What can you eat in Cebu?
Obviously, there are so many places to eat in Cebu! I really, really, really mean it. You can even spend a weekend in Cebu just going around the city and eating tons. And trust me, you won’t regret a thing.
But if you’re looking for a guide, I personally like Sutukil, Mediterranean-inspired restos, and great sushi places when going around. However, I’m going to solely focus on my top 3 picks on Cebu old-favourites and new ones I discovered during the last time I was here.
Top 3 picks:
#1 La Vie Parisenne
Note: My cover photo for this post was taken in this restaurant
If you’re anything like me and you like a good bottle of wine alongside a live band who plays r&b, slow pop, or jazz — then this is the place for you! Seriously, I can’t stress enough how much I love it here especially if you’re planning to hang around here during the evenings.
#2 Larsian Barbecue
Good barbecue is arguably hard to come by. Exotic Visayan dishes that are extremely good even more so. But Larsian seems to know how to blend both. A classic favourite, I strongly recommend eating here just to try that weird soup where you don’t know the ingredients but is surprisingly really good. Yep.
#3 Lantaw Busay
On the way to Temple of Leah, you’ll come across Lantaw Busay. It’s one of the top restaurants in the city which also overlooks the better part of Cebu. The menu comprises of your usual Filipino favourites mixed with a beautiful sunset over the ocean.
Top 3 picks:
#1 Room For Dessert
Still laughing at the time when I went to SM Seaside and my eyes bulged out at how big the cotton candy here was. Then after trying out, I later on realised it wasn’t cotton candy but soft-served ice cream. Holy Moly.
If you’re a fan of over the top desserts, this place is for you.
#2 La Marea
Is it just me or La Marea has been around for ages? Probably just me. Anyhow, the desserts here are classic to a point but will leave you wanting more from this place before you board that plane ticket back to wherever you came from.
#3 The Chocolate Chamber
If you’re a big fan of chocolate…Okay wait, who isn’t?! Anyway, the Chocolate Chamber boasts of creating rich, chocolate desserts and chocolate-inspired meals. It’s also known for creating ‘Sikwati’ which means: Chocolate Bitter Water.
As a serial coffee drinker (har har), I took it upon myself to try as much coffee shops as I could while in Cebu. And so, after everything, here are my top 3 picks:
Top 3 picks:
#1 Amigdala Cafe
Umm, in case you didn’t know, I’m a big Star Wars fan. That’s also why I dragged my cousin here, grumbling not withstanding, right before their opening time just so I can finally enter the first Star Wars inspired cafe in the Philippines! You have freakshakes galore over here and a bit of coffee too.
#2 Gentlemen Cafe
For a small place, you’ll have everything any cafe can offer. No kidding. It’s pretty cozy once it isn’t crowded and with the meals + coffee, it’s actually really great. Plus having nice interior is always a plus!
#3 Sunday 2PM Cafe
Many coffee shops here in Cebu are Korean-inspired. But nothing is as classic as Sunday 2PM Cafe, with its quirky design and great eats. If you’re a fan of K-Pop, I’ll have you know this place is filled with posters of almost all the famous bands.
So, why is Cebu a great place for the weekend?
Basically what I’ve been trying to say, is that Cebu is an amazing city. It’s not too commercial like Manila and still has local charm. Plus, a lot of great local places here are getting tons of recognition. Why I’m saying it’s only the weekend is because you can literally go everywhere around the city, finish your itinerary, and still be able to want more. Trust me, a weekend in Cebu will keep you coming back.