5 Cebu islands to visit right now

With electrical and water supply as well as cellular signals restored in most of the province, Cebu's tourism industry is ready to pick up the pieces after super typhoon Odette – it's the perfect time to visit

moalboal

Nearly two months after super typhoon Odette struck Visayas and Mindanao, Cebu’s tourism industry is now slowly recovering. Electricity, water supply and cellular signals have been restored in most areas of the province, though broadband connections further away from the capital city are still not as reliable. Most resorts and restaurants have reopened, and locals are once again enjoying the natural attractions of Cebu. And now that the Philippines has opened its borders to fully vaccinated business and leisure visitors from abroad, it’s the best time to go for a holiday in Cebu and help revive its hospitality sector. Why not plan a trip to one of these beautiful islands?

Mactan Island

With public beaches, family-owned resorts and big-name hospitality brands lining its eastern shore, Mactan Island is your best bet if you want to hit the ground running as soon as you land at Mactan-Cebu International Airport. Head to barangay Marigondon for its public white sand beach, a popular local spot since the 1950s. Enjoy cocktails at Solea Mactan Resort’s Salt & Sky Rooftop Lounge while taking in a view of the Hilutungan Channel. Or hop into a pump boat from the Hilton Port for a day trip to Olango Island where you can go bird watching. If you’re looking for a place to stay, Be Resort Mactan is located in a quiet area in Punta Engano. Tip: The beaches of Mactan are just a short ride from the airport. If you are coming from Cebu City, you can take a taxi, bus or jeepney.

A sardine run in Moalboal, Cebu (Photo: Zhuang Yichen)
A sardine run in Moalboal, Cebu (Photo: Zhuang Yichen)

Moalboal

Popular for its breathtaking sardine run, the municipality of Moalboal was one of the hardest hit by super typhoon Odette. Its coral gardens took a beating, with some portions wiped out. Because of the severe damage of its underwater attraction, Pescador Island has been closed indefinitely. While resorts in barangay Basdiot and Basdaku are still undergoing repairs, the beaches are now open and activities like paddle boarding and kayaking are available. The sea turtles are also back and you can watch them while snorkeling. If you’re looking for a place to stay, Hale Manna Coastal Garden is expected to open half of their room capacity early this month. Tip: From the Cebu South Bus Terminal in Cebu City, it’s a 2.5-hour journey to journey to Moalboal. From the town center, you can reach the beach area five kilometers awayt  tricycle or habalhabal (local motorcycle).

sumilon island sandbar cebu
Sumilon Island’s spectacular sandbar (Photo: Stan Cabigas)

Sumilon Island

Located near Cebu’s southern tip, the municipality of Oslob is famous for whale shark tourism as well as Sumilon Island, which has a stunning sandbar and is also a popular diving spot. Part of Sumilon Island Marine Sanctuary, the country’s first-ever marine reserve, it suffered little damage from the super typhoon, and once fallen trees and utility poles were cleared, road access from the capital city was restored by end of December. Most of the activities on the island – from diving, swimming and hiking – are available via Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort, which manages the area. The sandbar, however, is open to the public and is a popular stopover for boat tours. Tip: Buses are available at the Cebu South Bus Terminal in Cebu City. Travel time to Oslob is four hours followed by a 15-minute boat ride from the whale watching area in Barangay Tan-awan.

sta beach bantayan island
A beach near Sta Fe (Photo: Stan Cabigas)

Bantayan Island

Located just off the northern tip of Cebu, Bantayan Island was luckily spared from the wrath of Typhoon Odette. Since there was not even a power interruption, it became a haven for freelancers, digital nomads and work-from-home employees since electricity and internet were unavailable in central Cebu until the last week of January. Here, visitors can go island hopping or swim at the beach. You can also head to Bantayan town for a tour of a heritage church built in 1863, while the public market is the best place to buy dried fish to bring home. From Sta. Fe, the main tourist area, cafés, a food park and beaches are just a short walk away. If you’re looking for a place to stay, Ceda Guest House is value-for-money and just within the población. Tip: To get here, ride a bus at the Cebu North Bus Terminal just beside SM City. It takes three to four hours ride to Hagnaya Port in San Remegio then a one-and-a-half-hour boat ride to the island.

beach santiago camotes island
An off-the-beaten-path beach on Camotes Island (Photo: Stan Cabigas)

Camotes Islands

A group of islands surrounded by the provinces of Cebu, Leyte and Bohol, Camotes Islands bore very little damage from super typhoon Odette and continues to be a popular choice for those looking for an off-the-beaten path experience. There are three main islands – Poro, Ponson and Pacijan – and the latter is home to a public white sand beach in Santiago town. Not only is it resplendent, it is also rarely visited, except by locals. In Poro, a 19th-century church made of coral stones will appeal to the heritage enthusiast. Another highlight here is driving through the 1.7-kilometer Poro-San Francisco Mangrove Highway. If you’re looking for a place to stay Santiago Bay Gardens and Resort has scenic views of the white beach right below it. Tip: From Cebu City’s Pier 1, it’s a one-and-half-hour ride to Poro Port via Oceanjet.

Written and Photographed

Stan Cabigas

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