Cebu – the center of the Central Visayas
Cebu is the main island in the Central Visayas and has the biggest flight and ferry network in the Philippines next to Manila. This makes it almost impossible not to visit Cebu Island and Cebu City when traveling to the Central Visayas. Luckily, Cebu is definitely worth a trip because it has many stunning places and adventurous activities to offer. If you have enough time to travel around Cebu, go for it! We will show you important travel tips for the nearby islands Siquijor, Bohol, and Camiguin. Also, we will explain why you should skip whale shark watching in Oslob.
Are you traveling to Cebu for the first time or haven’t discovered the surrounding islands yet? This guide includes all information you will need to plan your trip to paradise!
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To be honest, we experienced Cebu City as a dirty and stinky town with too much traffic. Therefore we moved on to Moalboal as fast as possible. In general, Cebu City lives from its location in the archipelago. Almost all islands in the Visayas can be reached directly from Cebu City – whether it is the famous Boracay, the epic diving spot of Malapascua or the upcoming tourist spot Siargao.
5 Things to know about Cebu City
1. The is really heavy traffic in the city! The ride from the airport to the center can last over 1 hour for only 12-15km.
2. We have never seen so many begging children before! Don’t give them any money. We bought some food for them instead.
3. You will find two types of taxis – white and yellow – at the airport. We chose the white one (as most people do) because it is the cheaper option.
4. There is more than one central bus terminal! Make sure to check out to which one you have to go. You can get your bus tickets on the bus, so you don’t have to buy them in advance.
5. We found a good vegetarian All-You-Can-Eat Restaurant: Persian Palate in the Mango Square Shopping Mall (you can also sit outside). The buffet is only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but they also have international food for reasonable prices throughout the week.
Where to stay in Cebu City?
Our 3 favorite accommodations in Cebu City:
- Apartment with excellent review score: “One-Bedroom Apartment with Hi-speed wifi“
- Modern Guesthouse with dormitory and private rooms: The Partridge Guesthouse
- Hostel with top price-performance ratio: Murals Sleepbox
How to get to Moalboal?
Moalboal is located on the island of Cebu and therefore easy to reach. From Cebu city, there are public buses leaving from the South Bus Terminal every 30 minutes. The duration of the ride depends on the traffic. We had to wait for 1 hour in line at the terminal and arrived 3 hours later at the terminal near the Stone Altar of Moalboal.
Where to stay in Moalboal?
Our 3 favorite accommodations in Moalboal:
- Low-Budget: Laguno Bed And Breakfast Hostel
- For diving: Cebu Seaview Dive Resort
- Top price-performance ratio: Roos Guesthouse
We stayed at three different accommodations in Moalboal:
The Chief Mau Hostel, the Moalboal Backpacker Hostel (across the Pizzeria Marina, with a yellow VW-Bus as reception, unfortunately not online) and the Pescadores Sea View. We can recommend the Chief Mau Hostel.
How long to stay in Moalboal?
We definitely fell in love with the place, as there is so much to do and see! Especially for water activities, this is one of the best places in the Philippines. That was the reason why we extended our stay in Moalboal several times! We can recommend staying there for at least 4 nights because it is a good base for many attractions.
What to do in Moalboal?
One of the coolest things to do is the canyoning tour at the Kawasan Falls! We booked the day trip directly at the Chief Mau Hostel and we definitely recommend it (it’s 1500 PHP/ person). On one day you HAVE to go snorkeling with the sardines right at the house reef. We went there for two mornings. On the one day we saw 7 turtles, but not a single sardine and on the other day we were surrounded by the sardine run for over an hour! So don’t be confused when you don’t see the sardines right away! Pescador Island is one of the best dive spots in the Philippines – if you are a diver then this is a must-do!
5 Things to know about Moalboal
1. The place to be is at Panagsama Beach, which is 3km from the bus station (a tricycle is 100-150 PHP).
2. You can go snorkeling with the sardine runs directly at the house reef (no boat trip needed!). For us, this was one of our absolute highlights in the Philippines. Pescador Island is supposed to be the best spot for diving at Moalboal. Go there early in the morning for the best experience!
3. At Panagsama Beach are no bakeries, no market and only one ATM, which is often out of money. Several ATM’s and stores are at the bus station at the Stone Altar of Moalboal (scooter or tricycle is helpful).
4. The Chief Mau Hostel offers a really good canyoneering tour (we were only 5 people + 2 tour guides, we met other groups with >20 people).
5. There are many waterfalls to explore by scooter (start early in the morning to escape the crowds!). The most popular waterfall is Kawasan Falls, which is really overcrowded during the day.
How to get to Siquijor?
There are a few transport options from Cebu Island to Siquijor Island. The easiest way is from Cebu City with a direct ferry. The other option is to go to Liloan Port on Cebu Island (e.g. by public bus). From there is a direct ferry going at 10 AM or you take a ferry to Dumaguete and from there another ferry to Siquijor Island (the last one leaves at 5 PM). We chose the third option, but it takes very long.
Where to stay in Siquijor?
Our 3 favorite accommodations on Siquijor Island:
- Low-Budget but very good reviews: Chillout Hostel & Bar
- Top price-performance ratio: MIKI’s Guest House
- Private room with excellent reviews: Chekesh Casa
We couldn’t decide on a place online, so we decided to show up in person. Luckily we found a nice place not far from the Port with a beautiful sea view. It is called “Diamond de Siquijor” and offers basic and low budget Bungalows. It´s perfect for two travelers. If you want to book something in advance, you should search on the west coast. This is the main tourist area on the island.
How long to stay in Siquijor?
Siquijor isn’t quite big and there is not a lot to do. For exploring the main attractions 2 nights (or 1 whole day) is enough. Going around the island with the scooter once and stop at your favorite spots, fits easily into a day trip.
What to do in Siquijor?
On our island tour, we stopped at the Mangrove Forest, the Cliff-jumping Spot, the Cambugahay Falls, the Century-old Manete Tree, and the Little Boracay Beach. In summary, we recommend going to Cambugahay Falls early in the morning and chill at the beach in the evening. For the more activity-oriented travelers, the cliff-jumping is worth a visit. We paid an entrance fee of 20PHP per person and 10PHP for the scooter, but the jumping spots are for free! The mangrove forest and the tree are worth a stop for a few minutes but in our minds, it’s nothing special. We visited neither the marine sanctuary nor the churches.
5 Things to know about Siquijor
1. The island of Siquijor is best to explore with a scooter! Easily available and it only costs about 350PHP. Always make sure the brakes work properly and ask for helmets! We were stopped by a friendly police control, the German driving license was enough. A trip around the island takes about 2 hours with a scooter (driving time without stops).
2. The cliff jumping spot has a restaurant, a beach and even a resort with many activities to offer (but with additional fees). The water slide was closed during our visit.
3. Cambugahay Falls is very crowded. The first time we went there in the afternoon, which was a bit disappointing after the awesome Instagram posts we’ve seen. So we decided to go there a second time the next morning. We arrived at 7 AM and were one of the first people. In the end, it was the best decision to go there early in the morning!
4. On the west coast are the best beaches (enjoy the sunset there!). There is more than just one good beach, we visited the “Little Boracay”. They charged us a small entrance fee and there where several shops for snacks and drinks but no sanitary infrastructure. The beach itself was clean, white and not too crowded. The water was clear and good for swimming, no currents or jellyfish.
5. The Century-old Manete Tree is pretty touristy and the Mangrove Forest is nice, but also not essential. It’s cool to walk on the bamboo walkway and there are even small huts to stay overnight, but not a lot to see. For a real mangrove experience, we recommend doing the Sogod Lagoon at Siargao.
How to get to Bohol?
Bohol is one of the bigger tourist islands and located in the center of many other attractive islands. There are ferries coming from and leaving to Siquijor, Cebu, Camiguin and also maybe Leyte (we couldn’t find out for sure). We came from Siquijor (ferry starting at 12:30) and arrived 2 hours later in Tagbilaran. The ferry continued to Cebu City.
Where to stay in Bohol?
Our 3 favorite places to stay on Bohol (or rather Panglao Island):
- Low-Budget but very good reviews: Peaceland Backpackers Hostel
- Top price-performance ratio: Casa Manni
- Bali Villa (incredibly cheap for groups): Bali Villas Panglao Bohol
The best region to stay in Bohol is on the little island in front of the main city Tagbilaran, called Panglao Island. We found a really nice and cozy place named “Natura Vista”. It is close to Tagbilaran and has a nice small beach just 2 min walking distance away. We made a short trip to the famous Alona Beach and were really disappointed. Nevertheless, there are the most accommodations.
How long to stay in Bohol?
Attention! The distances are bigger than on most islands, calculate your trips with enough time. We recommend staying in Bohol for at least 3 days.
What to do in Bohol?
Bohol has much more to offer than just the famous “Chocolate Hills”.
By the way, if you are a good climber and want to escape the crowds at Chocolate Hills: we climbed the hill right in front of the Chocolate Hill Complex. We can´t recommend doing this, because it is actually prohibited, but we asked some locals who told us, that it is okay to go up. There is no path and it is very steep and slippery. The grass is also really sharp, so don’t tell us we didn’t warn you! 😉
There are boat trips going to Virgin Island and Balicasag. We didn’t do any boat trips but we met people who did them. Check out our 10 Days in Palawan article for some insanely beautiful boat trips – we can recommend Port Barton especially.
The southern part of Bohol is a great place to explore hidden waterfalls. We only had one entire day and went to Ingkumhan Falls and Pahangog Falls, both of them are worth a visit. Also worth to see is the man-made forest on the way to the Chocolate Hills (we skipped the tarsier sanctuary).
5 Things to know about Bohol
1. Panglao Island is the place to stay for tourists. Most of the hotels/hostels are located on the small island, which is connected to Bohol with two bridges and has some good beaches.
2. Panglao Island offers island hopping tours. We didn’t do them because of a lack of time. People from our hotel told us they liked other boat trips elsewhere better.
3. Bohol has great waterfalls, which are not touristy yet. We were lucky to visit two waterfalls (Ingkumhan Falls and Pahangog Falls) completely alone in the morning. The Google Maps location isn’t correct, the first waterfall is about 200 meters further north than Google Maps shows.
4. The famous Alona Beach was really disappointing for us because it was fully covered with tourist shops. But we can recommend a small beach in the north of Panglao Island, which is called San Pedro Beach.
5. The Chocolate Hills Complex is very crowded! Expect to share the view with hundreds of other tourists.
How to get to Camiguin?
The following three options are the main routes to Camiguin Island:
The first one is a ferry coming from and leaving to Jaffna, Bohol. The second option is a ferry coming from and leaving to Mindanao. The two connected ports are Balingoan and Benoni. If you don’t want to take the ferry, Camiguin Island also has a small airport, but due to your environmental impact, you should consider taking the boat instead of the plane.
Where to stay on Camiguin?
Our 3 favorite places to stay on Camiguin Island:
- Budget-Option at the beach: Beach house resort and dive center
- Top price-performance ratio: Bahandi Beach Lodge
- Special private rooms on the hills: Camiguin Volcano Houses-Panoramic House
Most of the hotels are in the northern part of the island, close to the White Island. This is the best area to stay because most tourist attractions are in the same region. We stayed at Myrna´s Paradise Cottages, which we liked very much. Small bamboo cottages at the shore, but no beach nearby.
How long to stay & what to do at Camiguin?
We can recommend staying for 2 days at Camiguin. There is one MUST DO: White Island! Why? On the east side of the small sandbar, we experienced the most beautiful water we have EVER seen in our lives! Without exaggeration, this was unreal! The boat to get there costs around 450 PHP, which can be split by four passengers. Just chill on the island, take a dip in the turquoise water and enjoy life!
There are three waterfalls, which are worth a visit and can be reached with a scooter. Moreover, there are the church ruins, the Sunken Cemetery (a good place to snorkel) and the Old Volcano. If you are really adventurous you can climb Mt. Hibok-Hibok.
5 Things to know about Camiguin
1. Camiguin has 7 volcanos. The only one recorded erupting was the Hibok-Hibok over 60 years ago. To climb the Hibok-Hibok Volcano, you need to apply for permission. You ask for permission directly on Camiguin at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), at least one day before you plan to go. Good to know: you need a guide (total costs of about 30$).
2. The island is best to explore by scooter. The size of Camiguin is comparable to Siqiuior, it takes roughly 2 hours for a round trip. There is also a road crossing Camiguin straight in the middle. Good to know: it is not on Google Maps yet (March 2019).
3. There’s a cool waterfall at Camiguin called “Katibawasan Falls”.
4. There are jeepneys/ “multicabs” going around Camiguin. It makes traveling on the island cheap and easy.
5. The White Island is definitely the absolute highlight! The pristine beach and the most epic watercolor we have EVER seen.
Why not go swimming with whale sharks in Oslob
We consciously decided not to go swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob. There are many reasons, like the environmental problems affecting these gentle giants. Critics claim, that the whale sharks don’t follow their natural routes anymore, because the tour guides feed them. All in all, we don’t believe, that it is a great experience to jump in the water in a line of hundreds of people. We recommend going to Southern Leyte for swimming with whale sharks,! There are not many tourists yet and the animals can follow their natural instincts.
More travel guides
We have some more great travel guides and backpacking tips ready for you! Check them out:
- 10 Days in Palawan – Coron, El, Nido & Port Barton
- The 10 Best Backpacking Tips For Beginners
- 10 Things To Do In Southeast Asia