With a land area of nearly 5,000 square kilometers, the province of Cebu is home to beaches, rolling hills and mountain ranges, making it an ideal destination for different types of holidaymakers. The capital, Cebu City, is highly modernized and boasts world-class hotels and restaurants, museums, as well as shopping malls. Further beyond are quaint towns with friendly residents that welcome tourists with a smile.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Cebu in the new normal. While both the Covid-19 lockdown and 2021’s super typhoon Odette have dealt major blows to this tropical island, resilient Cebuanos are now ready to welcome back tourists with new and exciting hotels, restaurants and recreational centers to explore in 2022.
Once you’ve had your fill of Cebu, why not explore the rest of the Philippines? Cebu Pacific has direct flights from Cebu to Iloilo, Bacolod, Zamboanga, Manila, and other Philippine destinations. Visit cebupacificair.com for more information.
1. Drive along the longest and tallest bridge in the Philippines
Cebu’s newest infrastructure, the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway, cost P30-billion to construct and now lays claim to being the longest and tallest bridge in the Philippines. Spanning 8.9 kilometers and held in place by two 145m-tall tower pylons, the CCLEX tollway is only the third bridge that connects Mactan Island – where the airport is located – to the rest of Cebu province. Work on the bridge started in 2018 and not only is it beautiful to behold, it also offers a panoramic view of Mactan Channel to the right and Cebu Strait to the left as you head towards central and southern Cebu for whale watching in Oslob, among other activities.
2. Eat like a local at a pungko-pungko
Pungko means crouch and refers to the traditional way of eating street food in Cebu, where stools surround a tiny table and you pick from a container full of fried delicacies such as crab meat in a shell, thinly sliced crispy pork chop, longganisa, dried squid and more. At Pungko-Pungko sa Fuente in Cebu City, diners sit on long benches and eat on regular-height tables, but the food spread remains the same. Make sure you order ginabot (pork intestines) which comes with a dipping sauce of vinegar flavored with minced onions and chili, puso (rice steamed in coconut leaves) and a bottle of Mountain Dew.
Pungko-Pungko sa Fuente is located along J Llorente Street in Cebu City (just a few minutes’ walk from Fuente Osmeña) and is open daily from 9am-8pm. Lunch and dinner times can get crowded.
3. Visit a shrinking sandbar
Stretching at almost a hectare, Campalabo Sandbar in the municipality of Pinamungahan is teeming with rich marine life, making it ideal for both swimming and snorkeling. On a clear day, you can see across Tañon Strait and catch a glimpse of Mount Kanlaon in Negros islands. It’s advisable to come here in the morning or late in the afternoon during low tide, as it can get hot during noon. During high tide, the sandbar shrinks in size.
At the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City, take a bus bound for the población of Pinamungahan municipality. From there, hire a habal-habal to Barangay Tajao and then a pumpboat for the 20-minute ride to Campalabo Sandbar (an environmental fee is collected at the jump off point).
4. Pick strawberries in the highlands
Located high up in the highlands of Cebu City, Strawberry de Cantipla Eco Farm is an exciting destinations for families or barkadas. You can pick strawberries while enjoying the cool climate, a welcome break from the hot and humid city.
Strawberry de Cantipla Eco Farm (+63 960 670-9386) is located 26 kilometers from Cebu City along the Transcentral Highway and is better reached either thru a private vehicle or vans plying the route bound for Balamban town. The van terminal is located beside the main campus of University of San Carlos. An alternative is hiring a habal-habal at JY Square in Lahug, but that can be pricey.
5. Explore a DIY heritage trail around Cebu City
With its rich history and culture, downtown Cebu City is a heritage enthusiast’s playground. Start at Plaza Independencia and visit Fort San Pedro, built by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in the 17th century. Beside it is the aduana (customs) house, built in 1910 and being restored today to become the regional branch of the National Museum. From there, walk towards the 18th century Basilica del Sto Niño and pay homage to Cebu City’s religious patron and also the center of the annual Sinulog Festival. Nearby, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is another 19th century structure to behold. Across the road is the Cathedral Museum, where you can learn about the ecclesiastical history of Cebu province through its collection of antiquities and old photos.
Be sure to drop by Shamrock Pasalubong Center and buy Cebuano delicacies, like their famous otap, before heading to Colon Street, the oldest street in the Philippines. A few meters away is the Heritage of Cebu monument and across it is the Yap-San Diego Heritage House. There are two important museums a few meters away: the Jesuit House of 1730, the oldest dated house in the country, as well as the Casa Gorordo Museum, the former abode of Cebu’s first bishop. Your last stop is a former prison from the 19th up to the 20th century that is now the Cebu Provincial Museum.
Going around these areas is easy and safe. Refer to Google Maps for directions. There are QR codes in each of these spots that you can scan to know more of its history.
6. Check out up and coming restaurateurs at Sugbo Mercado
An incubator for food start-ups, Sugbo Mercado first opened in 2015 at the Garden Bloc in IT Park, a 27ha business park in Cebu City, and now runs three other food markets: one in Mandaue, another in Lapulapu, and the newest one at the Skypark of SM Seaside City Cebu – its first roofdeck food market. Sugbo Mercado is a go-to destination for both locals and tourists who want to try new food offerings that range from local to regional and international cuisines.
Sugbo Mercado has four outposts across Cebu Province and are usually open 12NN-10PM Wednesdays to Sundays with the one in SM Seaside open during mall hours.
7. Try plant-based dishes at Agwas Café
Located within Alhibe Farm in the interior of Carmen town, Agwas Café opened in March 2022 and boasts a lush mountainside setting in a sustainably built bamboo structure. Agwas means water source, while alhibe refers to a water cistern. These allude to the café’s location, which has been providing clean drinking water to the surrounding mountain communities.
Agwas Café serves Filipino cuisine, brunch meals, plant-based dishes, as well as fresh fruit juices and tisanes (herbal tea) using locally sourced ingredients. Utan bisaya (local herb infusion soup) is highly recommended. For dessert, try the blue biko, native rice cake colored with the flowers of the blue ternate, which is grown in the farm. Pair this with their pennywort juice.
Agwas Café (+63 905 545-0136 or +63 919 582-2623) is open 9AM-6PM daily and is nine kilometers from the town proper. If you are driving, Alhibe Farm is in Waze and follow the directions. If you’re commuting, take a bus from the North Cebu Bus Terminal beside SM City to Carmen public market then take a habal-habal to the farm.
8. Breakfast with a delicious view at SeaSalt Café
A popular pit stop among early morning cyclists as well as travelers heading to the many attractions of north Cebu, SeaSalt Café rewards diners with great views of Cebu Strait and the Camotes Islands. Grab a table and enjoy the cafe’s rustic interiors while tucking into beef tapa or chorizo de Cebu, both locally sourced. Their traditional puto-maya sikwate, another recommended dish, is a popular Cebuano breakfast fare of sticky rice paired with sweet Cebu mango and local hot chocolate.
SeaSalt Café (+63 32 342-0256 or +63 977 062-1303) opens as early as 6AM-7PM daily. They can be found via Waze. Look for their signage near the beach when you reach KM49 of Cebu North Road, Barangay Catmondaan, Catmon.
9. Authentic Thai food at a hole-in-the-wall
Winiver Agcang was living in Bangkok and working at his Thai brother-in-law’s construction business when he first ventured into selling food in 2004. Together with a friend, they would sell street food from a cart from 7pm till midnight. In 2019, Agcang moved back to Cebu, where he now runs AJ Street Thai Food. Other than Thai staples like pad thai and tom yum kung, Agcang highly recommends two of his bestsellers: yum goong nam prik pao, a delicious shrimp dish rich, and kai mamuang, a chicken dish topped with green mango strips.
AJ Street Thai Food (+63 919 310-8787) is located along Ayala Access Road beside Cebu Business Park and opens from 10:30am-8pm. Refer to Google Maps so you don’t miss the exact location.
10. Tuck into Indonesian and Dutch fare at Cribs
The couple that own Cribs – he is Dutch and she is Filipino – started cooking Indonesian dishes at home and serving them to friends in 2011 before joining Sugbo Mercado in 2015. Their mee goreng and chicken satay soon became a hit – enough to convince them to open their first stand-alone restaurant in 2021, which has been a hit with Cebuanos, the city’s small Indonesian community and Dutch people visiting or living in Cebu.The nasi goreng and beef rendang are both also highly recommended. Cribs imports some ingredients from Indonesia while they make their own kecap manis, sambal, and peanut sauce from scratch. During holidays, they serve Dutch delicacies like stollen (Christmas bread) and gevulde speculaas (stuffed speculoos).
Cribs (+63 927 130-6334) is open from 10:30AM-9PM daily with their restaurant located along Escario Buildling along Escario Street beside Parklane Hotel and less than five minutes’ walk from Ayala Center Cebu. They’re also in Sugbo Mercado in IT Park.
11. Best pasta in the city at Tales & Feelings
Another welcome addition to Cebu City’s growing international cuisine scene is Tales & Feelings. Opened in 2021 by a newly married couple (he’s Lithuanian, she’s Filipina) who decided to venture into food after finding it difficult to get a job during the Covid-19 pandemic, the restaurant has already been cited in SunStar newspaper’s annual Best in Cebu listing for their truffle cream pasta – calling it the Best Pasta in the city. Other must-tries are the miso-braised pork, deconstructed bruschetta with cream cheese and feta, as well as the foie gras with squash and apples. Pair these with their selection of award-winning wines or with fresh juices. Tales & Feelings also serves brunch.
Tales & Feelings (+63 995 895-5429) is located at the second floor of Diaz Building along Ramos Street and just across Cebu Velez General Hospital. Because it has only eight tables (can go to max of 16 especially for booked events), reservation is highly recommended.
12. Clean eating at GAÏA Simply Nature
Advocating a healthy lifestyle, GAÏA Simply Nature is a food stall that offers 100% animal-free, all-natural vegan meals and detox juices that are friendly to the wallet. Try the Black Burger which uses a patty made with mixed vegetables and drizzled with soyannaise (soya mayonnaise). The added activated charcoal is said to promote good digestive health. Their detox juices are nutrient-rich with different flavors like fermented watermelon, kamunggay juice. There are also vegan condiments and alternatives like vegan oyster sauce, vegan Spanish sardines and even vegan ginataang bagoong. Teas and healthy spinach chicharron are also available.
GAÏA Simply Nature (+63 917 803-9605 or +63 945 890-5888) is at Food Choices located at the 4th Floor of Ayala Central Bloc in IT Park.
13. Dig into a smorgasboard of Cebuano dishes
Literally meaning Battle of Mactan, the signature food of Savoy Café pays homage to early hero Lapulapu and his fatal encounter with Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. The Batalla de Mactan is a feast good for five persons, a smorgasbord of well-loved Cebuano dishes with different types of meat and seafood, ranging from kinilaw na talong, garlic buwad rice, grilled bangus, inasal na manok, bam-i guisado, a mixed seafood soup, local salad of guso, lukot and more.
Batalla de Mactan is available at Savoy Hotel’s +63 2 494-4000 all-day dining venue located in Lapulapu City’s hip destination, The Mactan Newtown.
14. Stay the night at a converted 1970s mansion
Two mansions built in the 1970s have been refurbished and joined together to make Banilad Flying Fish Hostel. While the rooms have been updated with modern walling and furniture, the receiving area retains the original design. Artworks adorn the walls while a mural by one of Cebu’s well-known artists, Mark Copino aka Kidlat, makes its presence felt. There is also a bar and restaurant, as well as an elevated pool. Private rooms as well as dorm beds cater to different budgets.
Flying Fish Boutique Hostel (+63 956 942-6273) is located within El Dorado Subdivision. The hostel is just a short walking distance to Banilad Town Center, Gaisano Country Mall and Streetscape Mall.
15. Hang out at Bayfront Hotel Capitol’s roofdeck pool
The latest addition to Cebu’s vibrant hospitality scene is Bayfront Hotel Capitol, which opened in September 2021. The beautifully designed modern mid-rise building has 110 rooms, 58 serviced apartments and, most importantly, a roof deck pool and bar (only few establishments in Cebu have this) that offer great views as well as a glimpse of the historic Cebu Capitol built in 1937.
Whether you dine in at Caja Kitchen (the main restaurant) or Deck at 19 (the rooftop bar) you should order the pochero soup, one of the best versions in Cebu, with a warm and comforting ginger and chili broth, and very tender beef n bone with marrow. Pochero is the province’s equivalent to the bulalo of the Tagalogs and the kansi of the Ilonggos.
Bayfront Hotel Capitol (+63 32 505-3333) is located along Yap Street corner Ramos Extension. Cebu Capitol and Fuente Osmeña are just a short walk away.
16. Get fit at Dawata Wellness
Dawata means “to receive” in Cebuano and this all-around center takes pride in welcoming everyone from all walks of life, offering yoga classes like Vinyasa and Ashtanga, sound bath and bodywork healing therapy, as well as fitness classes including dance, HIIT and boxing for the more active. Private sessions are also available.
Dawata Wellness (+63 917 555-2959) is located at the ground floor of Zenith Central Building in Cebu Business Park, along Luzon Avenue. It is open from 6am-10pm daily.
17. Attend an Olympic trainer’s yoga class
Two months before Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the country’s first Olympic gold medal, the Philippine Olympic Committee started incorporated yoga practice to complement her intense training. It was focused on mental clarity to lessen anxiety and stress brought about by the pressure of the competition. The yoga teacher they contacted was Ayn Latonio. He has been doing yoga for eight years and for the past six years, been teaching traditional yoga which is a more holistic approach following the 8-limbed path described in Yogic texts and scriptures. This type of yoga uses the physical practice to support meditation which brings about stillness of the mind and ultimately spiritual realization.
Ayn Latonio teaches traditional yoga weekly at Holiday Gym & Spa (+63 32 232-4828) and is along Gov Cuenco Ave.
18. Dance the night away on a Salsa Night
Started by a three friends who couldn’t find suitable dance venues in Cebu City, Cebu Salsa Club is now a full-fledged group of dance enthusiasts that meets every Wednesday night at Maya Mexican Restaurant for Salsa Nights, a fun night dedicated to the Cuban-originated genre, an amalgamation of mambo, pachanga, and rumba as well as American dances, such as swing and tap.
Salsa Nights are free to join and happens every Wednesday nights at Maya Mexican Restaurant at the Crossroads near IT Park. You can ask anyone to dance with you! Cebu Salsa Club (+63 923 105-8508) offers social dancing with classes on salsa, bachata and kizomba. Private sessions are also available.
19. Sunset kayaking with Islaviva Adventures
This recreational center in the municipality of Cordova opened during the height of the pandemic and offers loads of outdoor activities such as kayaking, canoeing, standup paddle boarding and camping. Islaviva Adventures’ sunset kayaking, in particular, is a memorable experience.
Islaviva Adventures (+63 956 368-3251) is located along Catarman Road about a kilometer away from the San Roque Parish Church. Use Waze or Google Maps to guide you to the location. With the opening of the CCLEX, travel time from Cebu City is greatly shortened.
20. Admire street art by Bart Bros
The works of Bart and Jude Bartolome – known as the Bart Bros – are almost always environmentally themed and can be seen on Rahmann, Gorordo and Escario Streets in Cebu City, among other locations. With their unique style and colorful rendition of flowers and vegetation, interspersed with animals and mythic beasts, Bart Bros hopes to bring a touch of nature to the city. Check out bartbombs and yummyfaceart on Instagram for their latest works.
21. Visit a new art gallery
Visual artist Wyndelle Remonde, whose colorful works were shown at the recently concluded Art Fair Philippines, is now back in his hometown of Argao in southeastern Cebu, where he has opened Studio 201 Gallery. The opening exhibition, “Dayo(n)”, runs throughout May 2022 and features collaborative works by Koliktib-Koliktib, comprised of 22 students and alumni under the University of the Philippines-Cebu Fine Arts program.
Studio 201 Gallery (+63 905 404-9920) is located in Sunshine Beach Club, Baha-baha, Argao, and is open from 10am-6pm.
22. Get work done at Workplace Café
If you’re a remote worker or a digital nomad, there’s no excuse to not get work done while visiting Cebu. The city has plenty of of coworking spaces, and we recommend Workplace Café, which provides high speed internet in a well-designed and comfortable café setting, with ergonomic chairs, cubicles, open tables and meeting spaces. They were vital immediately after super typhoon Odette struck the province, as they were the only one with an internet connection.
If you’re work entails showing up at a different time zones, all four branches are open 24 hours. Rates vary and you can choose to pay by the hour or purchase a daily, weekly or monthly pass. There are coffee and non-coffee-based drinks, as well as meals and desserts. They’re also open to students and gamers.
Workplace Café has two branches in Cebu City with the new one opened this year in Raintree Mall across Robinsons Place Fuente. They also have branches in the cities of Mandaue and Lapulapu.