by Abigail Javellana
Cebu, the country’s oldest city, has so much more to offer than the famed Sinulog Festival, with century-old churches, long white sandy beaches, world-class diving, unspoiled countryside, and a rich culinary history – Cebu City has something for everyone!
Let's rediscover the "Queen City Of The South" as we give you tips on how to make the most of your Cebu adventure.
From trying the best lechon, getting up close with the whale sharks of Oslob, swimming with sardines at Moalboal, jumping into the turquoise waters of the mighty Kawasan Falls, to climbing the highest point of Cebu on Osmena Peak.
Here are the 10 Most Awesome Experiences in Cebu ...
HOW TO GET THERE
We enjoyed PAL's excellent customer service and free snacks on board. And the free baggage allowance was perfect for our dried mangoes, otap, and other pasalubong finds!
Philippine Airlines flies from Manila to Cebu via airbus everyday from 4:00am to 10:45pm. A one way ticket is P2200-P4200.
1. Rico's Lechon
Eating Lechon is central to your Cebu experience! Dubbed as the "Lechon Capital" of the Philippines, Cebu prides itself in having perfected the art of roasting pigs, and in the tastiness and crispiness its lechon is known for.
We asked locals where we could find the best lechon and they all pointed us to Rico's Lechon, pioneer of the famous Spicy Lechon. Owner Enrico Dionson likes to keep things simple--his roasted lechon is only seasoned with traditional herbs and spices and has always been since he opened the business in 1997.
Their slogan, "Da Best Gyud", lives up to our expectations. Indeed, it's a lechon worthy of being called the best in Cebu. The restaurant also likes to stay ahead by adding Pinoy favorites to the menu other than lechon.
What we loved about Rico’s lechon is the golden-brown crunchy skin and the bursting aroma and taste from the garlic and leeks infused in the meat. The lechon is just freaking good! I don't mind ordering extra rice to go with it.
Their lechon is best eaten as is to better savor its flavorful, tender meat. But we prefer to have it with their homemade Suka Cebu (vinegar) and calamansi.
Spicy lovers would rave about the spicy lechon once they taste the perfectly in sync flavors. The spiciness from the chili brings out the garlicky and tangy flavors, making us want to dig in for more!
The spiciness is infused in the meat but not the skin, so for those who aren't fans of spicy food, they could still enjoy its crispy skin instead.
Rico’s Lechon – Mabolo Branch
F. Cabahug St, Cebu City, Cebu
Telephone: (032) 260-2443
• Monday- Sunday 10:00am-10:00pm
2. Oslob Whale Shark Encounter
Getting super close to the whale sharks in Oslob is one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had.
Whale sharks, locally known as "butanding", are the world's largest fish, measuring up to 18m and weighing more than 30 tons. Oslob was relatively unheard of the past years, but now it has been the hottest destination for watching and swimming with these majestic creatures.
The whale sharks gather in one area near the beach where the fishermen feed them krill/zooplankton every morning. It's advised to start at about 6 a.m. to secure a slot and beat the rush of tourist crowds.
(Tip: Cut-off time is at 11am; Feeding time is from 6:00am to 1pm)
When you're in the water, it's easy to get all excited and forget the rules! Remember to stay 4-6 meters away from these gentle giants and strictly avoid the tail and fins.
The Oslob Whale Shark Encounter has been mired in controversy because some environmental conservationists argue that humans shouldn't interfere with wildlife by feeding them, creating a co-dependent relationship with the animal. We certainly need experts to intervene and analyze the sustainability and impact of this Fisherman-Whale Shark friendship.
But we must admit, we had a lot of fun in our close encounter with them.
3. Sardine Run at Moalboal
We left for Oslob around 5:00 in the morning. It took us about an hour to reach Panagsama beach, Moalboal for the sardine run.
This sardine adventure can be enjoyed not only by scuba divers but by snorkelers/freedivers as well. We just went in the water with our masks, snorkels and fins, then we walked and swam about 30 meters to the sharp drop of 40 to 70 meters.
Immediately, after the drop, we were able to spot the cloud of sardines underneath us--millions (maybe even billions) of sardines in a tornado-like formation. This phenomenon of synchronized fish-swimming is called a sardine run.
We dove into the stream of silvery sardines, gazed at them as they surrounded us, disappeared into the distance, and then gather up again into different shapes. It was certainly an incredible experience.
Watch the video here:
4. The Pig & Palm
The Pig & Palm is a Modern Spanish Tapas restaurant in Cebu by renowned British chef, Jason Atherton, and his Cebuana wife, Irha.
Chef Jason earned his first Michelin Star in 2011 and has worked with some of the greats, like Nico Ladenis and Ferran Adria at elBulli, and oversaw the opening of 5 'Maze' Restaurants with Gordon Ramsay.
He has since branched out and started his own chain of successful restaurants under The Social Company Group with different restaurants in London, New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai, Sydney, and now in Cebu.
The Pig & Palm is the 16th and his first in the Philippines in partnership with Cebu-based property developers Chris and Carla McKowen. He chose Cebu to honor the hometown of his wife Irha.
Overall, we love The Pig & Palm's vibe and their desire to promote local ingredients. We also secretly wish they opened this in Manila instead. :)
There is a misconception that it's a fine dining Michelin star restaurant. Surprisingly, the place is informal, approachable, and provides good value for money for the quality of food they serve. With an emphasis on sharing, it's a perfect venue for family and friends to enjoy high quality food with a chic European vibe in the heart Cebu.
Make sure to start with the Kinilaw of Shrimp paired with the Dill or No Dill cocktail. Order the Local Red Mullet and/or the Black Angus Rib-Eye and end with the Basil Sorbet. Budget about P1,000/head.
They've only been open for a few months so their menu is still in the process of fine tuning. I wish they could have more Big Plates to share in the future, plus more pork dishes (please?).
The Pig & Palm
MSY Tower, Pescadores Rd. Cebu Business Park, Cebu City
Telephone: +63 32 255-8249
• Tuesday - Friday 7:30am-12am
• Saturday - Sunday 8am-12am
• Tuesday - Thursday 12pm-12am
• Friday - Saturday 12pm - 2am
Facebook: The Pig and Palm
5. Canyoneering at Badian
Do you want to truly explore the great outdoors? Are you seeking for some thrill and adventure along the way as well? Then canyoneering at Badian might just be the best way to do so!
Your journey will involve walking and climbing slippery and rocky routes, admiring the beauty of Mother Nature, swimming and floating along the rushing and soothing river currents, and most importantly, conquering your fears by experiencing the exhilaration of cliff diving or jumping off waterfalls.
For beginners, it's best to choose downstream canyoneering. Here we started off from the river in Alegria to Kawasan Falls. The whole activity is estimated to take 4-5 hours, which depends on the size of the group and whether the group wants to take a leisurely pace to take photos of their quest. For the Happy Juanderer’s package, they assign one guide for every four guests (4:1 ratio) and then 1 sweeper, since they highly value everyone's safety.
Safety first! We were provided with life vests and helmets with our package. Knowing how to swim isn't really needed, as the life jackets act as a floater.
Make sure to wear sandals with straps, aqua shoes, or rubber shoes that are ok for submerging in water and taking on slippery rocks. Slippers are no good as they can be washed away by the river.
After three hours of canyoneering at Badian, we jumped of an estimated 35-ft. waterfall to Kawasan 2. Our exhausting yet fulfilling hike was rewarded with a delicious Pinoy lunch at a small cottage with a magnificent view of the falls.
Watch the video here:
6. Kawasan Falls 1, 2, and 3
Kawasan Falls stands out against the lush green jungle. The cascading falls draw crowds of tourists worldwide who want a chance to dip in the clear turquoise waters.
Kawasan has three major waterfalls. The largest one is Kawasan 1, also the most popular and crowded one.
The turquoise waters are very cool and clear!
(Tip: Make sure you take the 15-minute hike down to Kawasan 1 into consideration so that you can plan and spend more time there)
You can rent a raft that can take you around the pool or have a natural shower massage under the falling waters.
The shower massage was our favorite! The intense hard fall of the water was especially refreshing for our tired bodies.
7. Bluewater Sumilon
Bluewater Sumilon Beach Resort is one of Cebu's high-end resorts situated on the 24-hectare Sumilon island off the tip of Southern Cebu.
The word Sumilon comes from the word "sumilong", which means to take refuge, as the island's caves serve as shelters for fishermen from incoming storms.
The island itself is filled with history and natural attractions. Whether its being surrounded by crystal clear waters with beautiful varying aquamarine hues, snorkeling in the first ever marine sanctuary, and lying on its white sand shifting sandbar, or kayaking at the natural lagoon, swimming with the whale sharks, and even the occasional sighting of black tip sharks, Sumilon has something for everyone!
We love the resort because of the Filipino lifestyle experience with their modern Filipino rooms and the warmest greetings from their fully employed all-Filipino staff.
Overall, we loved our stay at Bluewater Sumilon because of:
- Private island beach resort feel
- White sand shifting sandbar
- Special themed private dinners
- Natural attractions
- Child-friendly activities
- Friendly Filipino Staff
- Filipino architecture and interior design
- Awesome snorkeling and diving sites
- Near attractions like the whale shark encounter and Tumalog falls
- Plus for an island, we were surprised by the stable internet access
BLUEWATER SUMILON BEACH RESORT
Sumilon Island, Bancogon, Oslob, Cebu
Phone: (63 32) 318 3129, 318 9098
Mobile: +63917 631 7512, +63999 885 8337
8. Tymad Bistro
Tymad Bistro is our go-to place for authentic French pastries and dishes in Cebu!
Owned by a French Chef, Philippe Estienne, who settled in Cebu with his Filipina wife, the bistro is popular for their perfectly buttery, light, and flaky croissants, chocolats, and kouign amann--all baked fresh daily.
Tymad means "good house" or "good restaurant" and comes from a Celtic language in the south of France.
Overall, one of the best French meals we've ever had in Cebu.
Their heavenly pastries--the croissants, chocolats, and kouign amann--really made our experience memorable, so make sure to try them all! Everything on their breakfast menu is also good, like the English Breakfast, Eggs Benedict, and Omelettes.
The dishes are quite pricey by Cebu standards, but still reasonable for the quality of food they serve. Budget is about P400/head.
Maria Luisa Road Banilad, Cebu
Telephone: (032) 239 7385
• Monday - Closed
• Tuesday to Thursday - 7:00am-10:00pm
• Friday to Saturday - 10:00am-11:00pm
• Sunday - 10:00am-10:00pm
9. Osmeña Peak Adventure
Osmeña Peak, the highest point in the province of Cebu, is a popular tourist attraction, famous for its jagged rock formations. It's approximately 1,000 meters above sea level, meaning it has a pleasant climate all year round.
It is said to be named in honor of the famous Osmeña clan in Cebu. Fortunately, it's one of the easiest climbs. The hike is wonderful for beginners and it suits kids as well.
It’s a very easy hike and follows a simple path. The summit offered an amazing view of the jagged rock formations stretching across the Badian shoreline. The cold breeze on top of the hills was fantastic as well.
Tip: The view atop Osmeña peak is best experienced at sunrise or sunset.
10. CIRCA 1900
Circa 1900 is a casual dining restaurant that focuses on incorporating local technics and ingredients into international cuisine. Circa 1900 offers an eclectic menu with plenty of choices that range from the familiar to the exotic.
Cebu City has always drawn skilled chefs to the local culinary scene, many of whom are continually carving out their reputations in the "Queen City of The South," making Cebu one of the Philippines' gastronomic hotspots.
One such chef who has made a name for himself here is Steve Shrimski, an Australian-born chef who's career stretches nearly 30 years. He resides in Cebu with his Cebuana wife and Business Partner, Eya.
The pair has enjoyed success with the opening of Canvas Bistro Bar and Gallery in October of 2009. Circa 1900, their second and equally successful venture, was opened in 2014.
We enjoyed our time at Circa 1900 and the food we tried from Casa Uno. Chef Shrimskie does a fantastic job of combining international dishes with local ingredients. We love how fresh the food was and how well the dishes were executed. The interiors are homely and the staff is kind and helpful.
Start with the Crispy Ravioli, Seafood Chowder, or the Citrus Glazed Beef Teppanyaki. Then order the Seabass Fillet with Grilled Prawns and Truffled Squid & Prawn Risotto. For dessert be sure to try the excellent Caramelized White Chocolate & Crème Brulee Bread Pudding.
Circa 1900 Casa Uno is perfect for dinner dates. Expect to pay around 800/head.
Sanjercas Ville Ext Rd
Cebu City, Cebu
(032) 239 6265
Daily From 11am - 12 am
Live an Awesome Life,
Abi, Boom, Sean and Nico of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our flights were sponsored by Philippine Airlines. We wrote this article with our biases, opinions, and insights.