The province of Cebu is one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines.
The capital, Cebu City, is a bustling hub in the Central Visayas region, moving at the same fast pace as Metro Manila. Even the traffic in the city is comparable to Manila!
The province comprises Cebu island and more than 150 surrounding islands and islets. The vibe gets more laid-back as you venture away to towns in the North, South, and Central Cebu.
From dive sites and beach resorts, to waterfalls and mountains, there are a lot of beautiful natural attractions and outdoorsy activities to do beyond the city. If you’re planning on going there, here are some Cebu solo travel tips to help you out.
Arriving in Cebu City
Cebu is an international destination with flights coming directly from Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, to name a few. Flights arrive and depart at the Mactan International Airport daily.
From Manila, Cebu is an hour away by plane with numerous flights throughout the day. This makes Cebu an an alternative entry point for international travelers who want to skip Manila and an ideal jump-off point for other destinations in Visayas and Mindanao.
The airport is about 40 minutes to one hour away from the city proper, and the fastest way to get there is by taxi, Uber, or Grab. Public transportation, mainly jeepneys, are also available, but make your trip much longer and more complicated. There is also one shuttle bus going to the mall (SM City Cebu/SM Seaside).
Cebu is also a major port city so it’s accessible by sea travel. Daily ferries depart to and from Manila, Bohol, Negros, Leyte, Butuan, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Ozamis, and Iligan, among others.
Where to Stay in Cebu
For business and leisure travelers who want to enjoy modern amenities near the city, options include the five-star Radisson Blu Hotel and Marco Polo Plaza Cebu with its hip rooftop Blu Bar.
For a more relaxing and secluded getaway, Crimson Resort & Spa in Mactan offers a peaceful beachfront experience. If you don’t mind splurging, you can stay overnight in Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort.
For backpackers and budget travelers, there are lots of more affordable options to choose from including Mandaue Hotel Cebu, a business hotel with standard air-conditioned rooms starting at P850/night.
The town of Moalboal, two hours from the city, is a good place for backpackers to base for a few days, with AirBnB options like Bamboo House Resort offering private fan huts for P565/night.
Those doing canyoneering tours can opt to stay in Matutinao Beach Resort in Badian. Rooms are basic, but they face the beach and the place is accessible from the highway.
Cebu Solo Travel Tips: What to Do and Where to Go
For first-time travelers, the most basic landmarks and points of interest in the city include: the Magellan’s Cross, Sto. Nino Basilica, Fort Pilar, and the Taoist Temple.
Rising attractions include Sirao Flower Farm and the Temple of Leah, a mansion complex that boasts of Roman-style columns and architecture. There’s also the castle-like Simala Shrine in Sibonga. However, the most beautiful natural sights can be found a couple of hours or more away from the city.
For outdoor enthusiasts, a great day half-day trip can be done by hiking up Osmeña Peak in Dalaguete, the highest point in Cebu island, offering a majestic view of jagged karst formations. It is an easy 15-20 minute hike from the jump-off point reachable by habal-habal (motorcycle taxi).
Hardcore hikers can opt to camp out overnight and traverse back by foot to Kawasan Falls.
For a more extreme adventure, try canyoneering in Kawasan Falls from the town of Alegria through Kanlaob River leading to Badian. You can also visit numerous other off-the-beaten track waterfalls in South Cebu including Ginatilan Falls, Binalayan Falls, and Aguinid Falls, to name a few. There’s also the famed sardine run in Moalboal.
For a more luxurious getaway, visit Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort, a secluded island that boasts of white sand beaches, a lagoon, a hiking trail, a cave, and top-class resort facilities including swimming pools overlooking the water.
Villas are available for overnight stays, though tourists can opt to visit on day tours departing from Bancogon pier in Oslob, the town known for the controversial whale shark interactions. (If you want to go backpacking in South Cebu, read this post: Backpacking Solo in Southern Cebu)
Foodies are in luck, because there are a lot of great places to eat in Cebu, from hip bars to streetside eateries. Lechon (roast pig) is one of the most popular dishes. Though it’s served widely everywhere in restaurants and malls, locals recommend heading to the Carcar Public Market for an authentic experience.
Another popular dining destination is Larsian, a night open air market where barbecue slathered in spicy sauce and puso (rice cooked inside coconut leaf wrappers) are the main specialties.
For those looking for fine dining Filipino fare, Abaseria Cafe and Deli serves simple, yet delicious home-cooked meals in a quaint homey setting. This hidden restaurant also doubles as a shop selling jewelry and unique native products.
The craft beer craze is also booming in Cebu, with two local breweries — Turning Wheels Craft Brewery and The Cebruery offering small batches of craft beer!
Day Trips from Cebu
From Cebu, you can go island-hopping to nearby islands including Olango, Bantayan, Malapascua, or Pandanon Island.
You can also cross over by ferry to the island province of Bohol, which is another top Philippine destination. Pandanon Island is actually geographically part of Bohol, but is just an hour’s boat ride from Cebu, offering a quick getaway.
Scams to Look Out For in Cebu
Like many top tourist destinations, Cebu has its share of scams and tourist traps. Colon Street, a busy street selling lots of cheap goods in the downtown area of Cebu City, has a reputation for having many pickpockets and thieves. Be extra careful of your belongings when going around here.
In other areas around top tourist spots and beachfront resorts, some operators may try to overcharge you for tricycle rides, boat tours, and the like. In some of the waterfalls in South Cebu, you are required to hire a guide (who expect a tip) on top of the entrance fee, even if the sights are perfectly navigable on their own.
Research the standard rates beforehand or agree on a price with operators beforehand to avoid problems.
Safety Tips for Solo Travelers in Cebu
Cebu is generally one of the most tourist-friendly places in the Philippines, with lots of amenities for international travelers. Though Bisaya is the main dialect, locals can all speak English and are generally very helpful.
Practice common sense when going around. Choose centrally located accommodations where it’s easy enough to get around by public transport.
If you know how to drive a motorbike (and are traveling light), renting one is a good option to get around, especially in South Cebu, so that you are not bound by bus schedules and habal-habal or and tricycle drivers who may overcharge you.
For riders coming from Manila, you can transport your motorcycles on the 2Go Ferry. Motorcycle rentals are available around Cebu City. Another option is to take a bus to Moalboal and rent a motorbike from there.
Solo female travelers who want to do activities (like canyoneering or hiking) should join up with other groups or travelers. Not only will this lower costs, but there’s always safety in numbers.
In general, just be alert when you go around. Travel during the day and be sure to get back to your hotel or resort by night to be safe.
About the Author
Kara Santos is a biker, gamer, craft beer enthusiast, and fellow crazy cat lady. She runs the blog Travel Up and writes for various online and print publications. Follow her adventures on Facebook and Instagram.
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Aleah Taboclaon is a freelance writer and editor. She likes running (completed one marathon, training for the next!), diving (PADI open water diver), and traveling with her Kindle. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also email her; she would love to hear from you!