Once is never enough. No, it’s not when it comes to Cebu. My most recent travel to this region was my third time (and definitely not my last). Why I keep coming back? Well, the reason is simple: The place does not run out of beautiful attractions to offer for its visitors – from highlands to islands, as they say it.
The above map provides the trail of my 5-day Cebu tour: Cebu City-Badian-Oslob-Dalaguete-Carcar-and back to Cebu City
If you have recently booked a round trip ticket for a 5-day visit to Cebu, where would you like to spend it? Read on as this guide is for you. This will help you build a “realistic” 5-day Cebu itinerary. And by that, I mean, having a list of things to do in Cebu without desperately racing against your limited time.
DAY 1: METRO CEBU TOUR
The Metropolitan Cebu is composed of several cities (and some municipalities), including Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City. That means, you have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to visiting tourist spots. But given your limited time, I would suggest that you restrict your activities to at most three, particularly if your chosen attractions are not in the same place or city. With that, there should be enough time to spend for your first day in Cebu, which is needed considering the traffic situation in the metro.
If it is not your first time in Cebu, chances are that you have already visited a number of its popular tourist attractions such as the Magellan’s Cross, Lapu-Lapu Shrine, Taoist Temple, Fort San Pedro, and other heritage sites. If that is so, I would suggest that you visit newly-established attractions instead, including the following:
Temple of Leah
Located along the Transcentral Highway, Cebu City, this elaborate temple is a privately-owned structure, built (actually, still under construction) to have an ancient Europe feels because of its Greek architecture-inspired designs. From the outside wall of the main building to the interior of the temple, seeing it makes you feel as if you have gone back in time. The temple has an art gallery, museum, a library, among other interesting collections.
Apart from its breathtaking architecture, the place also offers a panoramic view of Cebu City and the rest of the island. Indeed, a beautiful hangout place for those who want to breathe some fresh air, away from the city center.
Happy World Museum or Sirao Flower Farm
After visiting Temple of Leah, you can either head right away to Sirao Flower Farm or to Happy World Museum. If you choose the former, you have the option to drop Happy World Museum from your itinerary (I will explain why in a moment below).
Happy World Museum is another newly-established attraction to visit in Cebu. It is located in Cordova, Cebu. It has been attracting more and more visitors since its opening. What’s in this place? They’ve got, well, an array of 3D art displays – images that create three dimensional optical illusions.
If you are not into 3D art, then go for a Sirao visit, where you can see flowers in bloom in their vibrant array of colors, blanketing a pretty wide field.
After visiting either Sirao Flower Farm or Happy World Museum, it is nice to wrap up your first day in Cebu by visiting 10,000 Roses Cafe. With that, head right away to Day-As (still in Cordova) to see those synthetic roses, which are pretty magical at night as they illuminate into a sea of pearly whites, making the place more romantic.
Apart from this attraction, the place also offers a nice venue for food trip as a chain of restaurants and bars are also available within the area. The famous Lantaw Floating Restaurant is also just a stone-throw away.
So, why consider dropping your visit to the 3D museum if you visit Sirao (or the other way around)? The answer is pretty obvious: Time constraints. Sirao Flower Farm is pretty far from Cebu City Proper; in fact, it is 17-Km away from Lahug.
Again, considering the traffic in the metro, I would suggest to limit your activities in your day one to at most three (just choose three from your list of options). And, remember that more fun and exciting activities are waiting for you in South Cebu, so you should take enough rest as early as possible in your first day. You will be early for the following day activities.
Where to stay in Cebu
Metro Cebu has a lot of options to choose from – from luxurious to budget hotels; from homestay set-up to backpackers’ accommodations – so there should be no problem about finding where to stay. In my case, I was able to find a pretty good deal at a newly-inaugurated Rumah Highland Hotel (
will make a review on this hotel, watch out for it here’s my review in more details); I had a really nice room priced at just a little north of PHP 1000 per day (the regular prices range from PHP 3000-5000 per day). I booked through Agoda, a website that is quite good at sorting list of accommodations worldwide.
Here are the current rates of Cebu hotel accommodation options listed on Agoda website. .
DAY 2: KAWASAN CANYONEERING
After spending your first day in Metro Cebu, and supposing you still want to follow my trail, then you’ll wake up early in the morning the following day to catch a bus ride at South Bus Terminal bound for Kawasan in Matutinao, Badian for your canyoneering activity. They say that the first trip departs at 4am, but based on my experience, there are buses departing earlier than that. To avoid long waiting time, however, I would suggest to catch the 4am trip. At the terminal, hop on a Ceres bus bound for Bato via Barili. The travel time from SBT to Kawasan is approximately 3.5 hours, so you should have enough time for Kawasan canyoneering that starts at 8am, which I think the most ideal schedule you can take, lasting until 1pm (5-6 hours). If you’re done at 1pm, you have enough time to take some rest and get ready for your next destination.
A big shout of thanks goes to the team at Kawasan Canyoneering (the tour company where I subscribed the package), for guiding our group with patience and professionalism during the whole course of our canyoneering.
If you are interested in canyoneering, you might want to consider this group as one of your options. With that, here’s how to contact them:
6021 BADIAN, CEBU, PHILIPPINES
+63-0918 654 4111 / +63-0905 333 2623
You can also follow them on their social media account here.
So, where to next?
After canyoneering, they (your guide) might suggest that you to go for Osmeña Peak climb. But, if you still want to follow my trail, visit Oslob first. With that, take a bus ride from Badian to Bato Terminal and from there, hop on to another bus bound for Cebu via Oslob. Just tell the bus conductor the specific place you are to stay in Oslob to spend the rest of your day. They are quite familiar with the municipality, so there should be no problem finding your place.
If you are able to catch a bus in Badian at 3pm, you should arrive in Oslob at around 5 or 6pm. After checking in at your chosen accommodation, you still have time to roam around their “lungsod” where you can have your dinner. The place is quite popular for its night market and barbecue by the road.
DAY 3: WHALE SHARK ENCOUNTER IN OSLOB; TUMALOG FALLS; OSLOB HERITAGE PARK; OSMEÑA PEAK CLIMB
You start your day in Oslob early for the whale shark encounter. That is because, there are lots of tourists flocking to the area and you don’t want to be at the tail of the line. Yes, there are literally thousands of people queuing in a single day (if my own experience serves me right) to get a glimpse of these breathtaking harmless sea creatures.
Please note that you can either negotiate with the place where you stay or you go directly all by yourself at the whale shark watching center for this activity. In my case, I chose to have my place work it out for me. All I did was to wake up at 6am and wait for my habal-habal driver (doubles as tour guide); he guided and instructed me all the way through the process. It was a piece of cake having him.
Swimming with whale sharks in Oslob lasts only for 30 minutes; they start to clock you once your boat arrive at the area (of whale shark sightings).
After a fun and tiring swim with whale sharks, the next activity I would recommend is to take a side trip to Tumalog Falls. Going there from the whale shark area would just take about 20 minutes by a motorbike ride. This spot offers not just another breathtaking experience with nature but a good way to get yourself refreshed after having fun under the scorching sun at whale shark watching area.
What is it like to be at Tumalog Falls? Simply breathtaking! When I was there, after taking some photographs, all I did was to watch the refreshing water cascading smoothly from above for I think about an hour. This 300-foot high waterfall offers a very relaxing nature treat.
After getting refreshed at Tumalog Falls, it’s time to have yourself immersed into the realm of Oslob’s rich history and local culture – visit Oslob Heritage Park. It is a park by the sea where old (hundred-year-old) structures stand proud against the passing of time. There, you’ll see a centennial stone church, an old barracks called Cuartel, the Oslob Museum, among others.
All of the Oslob activities mentioned above can be finished before noon. So, when done, go back to your place, take your lunch, and get ready for your next destination.
Assuming that you still want to follow my itinerary, your next stop would be Osmeña Peak .
Your trip to Osmeña Peak can be done in the afternoon of your day 3. So, from Oslob, hop on a bus bound for Dalaguete; the travel time is 45 minutes to an hour. If you leave at 1pm, you can reach Dalaguete at 2pm and have some time to rest at your chosen place before climbing the highest peak of all the Cebu islands.
If you’d ask me about the most ideal time to climb Osmeña Peak , I’d say that it is in the late afternoon (just like what I did). You can tell your contact (usually a habal-habal/motorbike driver) to fetch you at exactly 4pm. This way, you can reach the peak without enduring the heat of the afternoon sun (the way to the peak is pretty bare), while you still have a clear 360° breathtaking view of the surrounding at the top – and the sunset is amazing up there too! (Read more here: Osmeña Peak Climb: A Handy Guide For First-timers)
After spending an hour or so at the top, it’s time to wrap up your day 3 by taking a delicious barbecue at the Food Lane, a chain of open barbecue and other food stalls by the sea in the town proper, before heading back to your place to spend the rest of your night and get ready for your day 4.
DAY 4: SIMALA CHURCH, CARCAR CITY TOUR; CEBU CITY NIGHT OUT
Start your day 4 early; wake up at around 5:30am to prepare for your visit to the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist or more popularly known as Simala Church, which opens at 8am.
From Dalaguete, hop on a bus bound for Cebu again and tell the bus conductor that you are going to visit Simala Church and he knows where to drop you off (don’t forget to remind him along the way, just in case).
Located in Marian Hills of upper Lindogon, Simala, Sibonga, Cebu, this holy place has been attracting both tourists and devotees since its establishment in 1998 not just for its beautiful palace-like architecture, but also to experience the place of the miraculous Virgin Mary, as what many faithfuls claim.
Please note that visiting the church requires proper attire; revealing outfit is not allowed. So, wear an attire that fits the occasion.
Your visit to Simala Church could last an hour or more, depending on how long is the queu of the people going inside.
Your last stop in your South Cebu Tour is Carcar – a city that is popular for its delicious delicacies, chicharon, and, of course, their famous lechon. Your travel to the south would not be complete without taking some of these delicious food with you as you go back to Cebu City.
Apart from food, however, the city offers many treats that tourists can enjoy – they are famous for ancestral houses, churches, and museum too!
During my trip, I went to Carcar with the main goal (apart from buying pasalubong) of visiting Can-Asujan Dam, the biggest dam of all of the Cebu Province. Unfortunately, when I was there, the locals said to me that it is no longer open to public. So, exclude it to your itinerary.
If you arrive in Carcar City from Simala Church by noon, you still have enough time to do some city tour and to buy pasalubong, which can be bought at stores by the highway. Then, get ready for your trip going back to Cebu City, where you are to spend the rest of your day 4.
After checking in at your chosen accommodation and freshen up, you still have an ample time for a good night out. After all, it is your last night in your Cebu Tour. Where should you go? Again, following my trail, you should visit Cebu IT Park or other nightlife spots in the city proper. In my case, I spent my last night at Cebu IT Park, had some drinks and roamed around. I enjoyed taking a walk around the IT Park and tried some cool stuff and food in the area – lots of cool places to hangout in the area.
Day 5: Pasalubong / Keepsake Items
This is the last day of your Metro Cebu and South Cebu Tour. How do you want to spend it? If you have extra time, you can choose to visit some spots that you think you missed during your first day. Then, make your way to buy pasalubong and other keepsake items for your loved ones back home. Make sure you are not missing something for someone in your list.
METRO CEBU AND SOUTH CEBU SAMPLE ITINERARY
DAY 1: METRO CEBU TOUR
|ETA at Mactan-Cebu International Airport||12 noon|
|Lunch at your chosen diner||1pm|
|Check-in at your chosen accommodation||2pm|
|Temple of Leah||3pm|
|Cebu 3D Museum or Sirao Flower Farm||4pm|
|Dinner at your chosen diner||6pm|
|Back to hotel / accommodation||10pm|
Note: Habal-habal drivers usually offer trip packages; you might want to consider those who are willing (and many of them are) to take you to both the Temple of Leah and Sirao Flower Farm to be more efficient in time. They usually charge you 600 pesos for such a package. Of course, try to negotiate for a deal better than that, if you can.
DAY 2: KAWASAN CANYONEERING
|Depart for South Bus Terminal||3am|
|Depart for Kawasan, Badian||4am|
|ETA at Kawasan, Badian||7am|
|Start of canyoneering activity||8am|
|End of canyoneering activity||1pm|
|Depart for Oslob||3pm|
|ETA at your place in Oslob||5pm|
|Dinner at your chosen food house||7pm|
Note: There is a popular dining place in Oslob called Lungsod where you can find a chain of barbecue, food stalls along the highway; a good place to dine that you might want to try. Convenience stores such as the popular 7 Eleven are also available.
DAY 3: WHALE SHARK ENCOUNTER IN OSLOB; TUMALOG FALLS; OSLOB HERITAGE PARK; OSMEÑA PEAK CLIMB
|Prepare for whale shark encounter||5am|
|Depart for Whale shark Watching Center||6am|
|Swimming with whale sharks||7am|
|Oslob Heritage Park||11am|
|Depart for Dalaguete||1pm|
|Check-in at your chosen accommodation||3pm|
|Dinner at Food Lane||7pm|
Note: After dinner at Food Lane (or at any diner in the area) you still have an ample of time to stroll around the town center, you might want to visit their church, park, and other historical structure in the area. They are just near the Food Lane.
DAY 4: SIMALA CHURCH; CARCAR CITY TOUR; CEBU CITY
|Depart for Lindogon, Sibonga for Simala Visit||7am|
|ETA at Simala Chuch||8am|
|Depart for Carcar City Tour||10am|
|Lunch in Carcar City||12 noon|
|Carcar City Tour (Visit Museum, Carcar Dispensary, Carcar Rotonda)||1pm|
|Buy pasalubong, keepsake items||3pm|
|Depart for Cebu City||4pm|
|Check-in at chosen accommodation||6pm|
|Dinner / Tour Cebu City at night (e.g. IT Park)||7pm|
DAY 5: CEBU CITY TOUR (Cont’d)
|Cebu City Tour (Visit near landmarks, stroll the streets near your hotel)||8am|
|Buy more pasalubong; take lunch (you can have this at malls (e.g. Ayala Center Cebu)||11am|
|Back to hotel to prepare for departure||1pm|
|Check out; Depart for Mactan-Cebu Airport||2pm|
Note: The 5th day is more flexible, so feel free to make adjustments.Just make sure you arrive on time at the airport. 😀
SOME TRAVEL TIPS – THINGS THAT I HAVE PROVEN TO BE USEFUL DURING MY CEBU TRIP
- Make sure your smartphone has enough data to stay connected with the Internet (leading networks offer like 2GB of data valid for one week for 100 pesos).
- Powerbank is useful (and you why).
- Activate GPS (it’s very helpful to stay on track).
- I know Grab, Uber, and Taxi are more convenient, but it is also okay to commute when roaming around the city – you’ll save some good amount, considering the heavy traffic in the metro.
- Don’t forget to bring some travel essentials; gather them ahead of your departure and review your checklist to make sure you do not miss something.
- Lastly, be a more responsible tourist; as they say, “leave only footprints”.