EDIT: December 2018 | I included a frequently asked questions section at the bottom of this South Cebu Travel Guide | Things to Do in South Cebu post. If you got a question, fill free to leave a comment below. I check my blog all the time and answer questions. 🙂
I have lived all my life here in Cebu. It is the Point A for all destinations I have been to. It is where I live. It is the place I often leave. But it is also my point of departure, the point I return to. [READ: 12 months of Beaches in the Philippines]
In Cebu, my midweek affair is down south [ READ: Southern Cebu Beaches; but my weekend lover is up north: Malapascua. But even though I constantly travel around Cebu, I cannot claim I know these places well, because they keep on changing, especially to meet the demands of the burgeoning number of travelers and I do not know if I should be happy for that or what. I am happy that more locals can travel around, but I am alarmed as well for its possible ecological impact.
So here is my ultimate southern Cebu guide, encompassing all towns and cities. Yes, beaches, waterfalls, old churches. Yes, you can freely break this. I would love you to not follow these. I would love you to follow your own gut.
RED ALERT: You can experience Cebu City through the eyes of a local. I know you have the urge to leave Cebu City as soon as you arrived in this congested place. But I highly recommend that you spare a night or two in the city. Cebu City is a creative city. I spent fifteen years living in the second largest city of the country. I wrote my Cebu City Travel Guide in case you’re wondering what to do in the city. Of course, this is a perspective of a local who spent fifteen years living there. H | Looking for a place to stay in Cebu City? Chick HERE |
Mactan-Cebu International Airport is 40-minutes away (no-peak hours) from Cebu City. Some friends living in Lapu-lapu City (also called Mactan) find their place a cursed land. The traffic can be crazy especially in Mandaue, the city between Lapu-lapu City and Cebu City. So when you book your flights, it is advisable to have your arrival in Mactan early in the morning or late at night or travel on weekends, or between rush hour, so you do not have to combat against the commuting public. No, our traffic is not as crazy as Manila, but we are on our way to becoming one. So, be cautious, especially on your way back to the airport. If you are bunk for the night in Cebu City, leave your hotel about 2 ½ hours or earlier, especially if your flight falls sometime after rush hours.
But if your main purposes are canyoneering in Kawasan and whaleshark viewing (I do not really recommend the whaleshark practices in Oslob), another and nearer possible point of entry is Dumaguete, which is a lot nearer to southern Cebu.
From Dumaguete airport, ride a tricycle to Sibulan port and ferry your way to Liloan, Santander—the tail of Cebu. From there, bus to Oslob or Badian.
POSSIBLE 4N/5D: Dumaguete-Apo Island-Siquijor-Valencia-Southern Cebu-Dumaguete [Check out my Apo Island Travel Guide, will you?]
POSSIBLE FLIGHT ROUTE: Arrival: Dumaguete-Departure: Cebu or vice versa
South Bus Terminal, located near downtown Cebu, houses the buses bound for down south except for the bus to Tuburan (my hometown) via Toledo, which is more popularly serviced in North Bus Terminal, where buses for up north [Danao, Bantayan Island, and Malapascua] are.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO KNOW: Southern Cebu has two routes: via Oslob and via Barili. via Oslob passes through Dalaguete and Oslob and via Barili passes through Badian. (via Barili information is at the lower half of this so-called guide
In the photo, it is marked with teal color.
An hour away or so from the city, it has beautiful centuries-old trees that canopied the highway. You might want to have a quick stop in Perrelos, Carcar to check the trees out. This is before the rotunda that separates the two routes to southern Cebu. It is known for its heritage houses from the Spanish and American period, even its museum is housed in a restored old hospital for kids. My favorite is the market by the rotunda, because Carcar, for me, has the best lechon! So you might want to have a quick stop here for some serious binge-eating and yes, chicharon.
It is a religious site for most Filipinos. Simala, Sibonga is a spiritual destination, a pilgrimage site for those who ask help from God or thank him for his help. This is a popular destination for those who are going to take licensure exams and the like. But aside from that, I do not really know much about this quiet town.
It has a well-manicured square and a beautiful old church. I have heard about a public beach too though I have not been there except for that unusual occasion when a poet friend and I randomly drove to Carcar to eat lechon and gossip by a random beach in Argao.
It is the vegetable basket in Cebu, is the jump-off point for the popular Osmena Peak. Often, for travelers pressed for time start their adventure here.
It is often my first stop when I round the whole south. Tingko Beach can be a prelude to your Oslob adventure. It is a beautiful white-sand beach. You can stay for hours for free, but it can be really hot. What I do usually is leave at 4:30 in the morning and wait for the sunrise in Tingko Beach.
What I love about Tingko is not its white-sand coast and crystal waters—which can be a cliché when you go beaching all the time in Cebu—rather its communal act of fishing. Locals gather and exchange banter as they drag their net ashore and laugh regardless of their catch.
It is roughly fifteen minutes away from Tingko. What distinguishes Boljoon from other Cebu towns is its boulevard. It is squeezed between a rocky hill and the sea. It is a sexy curve that forces the bus to slow down and provides the passengers an unrestricted view of its plaza and Nuestra Señora de Patrocino Parish—one of the oldest churches in Cebu.
It is alarmingly getting more and more popular. Just you know, I do not support the way sharks are treated. It is ecologically unethical. I have been there, yes, to accompany some guests and friends. There is a briefing on the right interaction with the gentle giants, but some fishermen would encourage the guests to touch or play with them, on top of that, the giants are fed, so they would stay and stay longer. It means money. Some staff are so haughty, saying you could never find sharks so near the beach anywhere the Philippines. So it depends on you if you want to go or not. I am proud to say that although I live in Cebu, and Oslob is just three hours away, I had my first whaleshark interaction in Donsol.
Coincidence brought me to this beach. It was one of those moments when I—together with a friend—randomly hopped on a bus without a specific destination in mind. Such longing brought us to Cebu’s tail: Liloan, Santander.
[READ: Cebu’s Tail: Santander]
It is one of the beaches where I snorkeled and swam for hours without entertaining thoughts of SPF, sunburn, and whirlpools with locals who thought a heartbreak brought us in Liloan. No, it was love: the love to wander. And since then, I keep coming back here. No fellow wanderers. Just locals who have the waves as their afternoon lullabies.
NOTE: via BARILI is a longer route than via Oslob. It is the route you must take if you want to go directly to Moalboal or Kawasan Falls for your canyoneering activity.
When I started traveling with a friend, this was our first destination. Some years ago, I called this project townhopping, which is quite popular nowadays—skewering two or three towns in one go.
DUMANJUG is largely unexplored, and I myself have not really been around except for that sole moment when I ferried from Guihulngan, Negros Orienental. But once I had a prenuptial shoot—yes, I take romantic photos to fund my travel—outside Dumanjug’s church. It is one of the many beautiful old churches in Cebu.
These I have not been to.
Via Barili, often this is my first stop. This is also one of my midweek destinations. There are two popular beaches here in Moalboal. Panagsama Beach (also called Bas Diot) is a popular snorkeling destination where you can find the famed sardine run. Nearby is Pescador Island, a famous diving spot. Bas Daku [30 pesos habal-habal ride away] is another beach known for its stretch of white-sand splendor.
You can stay here in Moalboal and just have a quick trip to Kawasan Falls, which is in the neighboring Badian.
1. Pescadores Seaview Suites
2. Quo Vadis Dive Resort
3. Sampaguita Resort
4. Dolphin House Resort Moalboal
5. Blue Orchid Resort
6. Dacozy Beach Resort
7. Parrot Resort Moalboal
8. Turtle Bay Dive Resort
9. Bonita Oasis Beach Resort
Kawasan Falls—the river I found the most adorable in Cebu—makes Badian popular. This has become popular for downstreaming/canyoneering. The jump-off actually is in Alegria, the town next to it. If you are in a budget, you can still enjoy this place and trek to Kawasan’s watersource, where Kanlaob River (the actual place where canyoneering happens) starts. The first falls is the most crowded, so if you like some quietude, head to the small waterfalls tucked between the first and secondhand waterfalls or trek to the source. It is just 10-minutes away from the second falls. There is a huge lagoon there, and a natural Jacuzzi that you can enjoy.
[READ: Kanlaob: Beyond Kawasan ]
My affairs with Cebu start with mountains. So I learned about Alegria through its challengingly amazing Mt. Lanaya: perhaps the most adventurous trek I ever had in Cebu. But nowadays, it is becoming more and more popular as the starting point of the famed canyoneering activity. But Alegria has more to offer.
Interestingly, Malabuyoc is not as popular as Kanlaob when in fact its Montañeza Falls has challenging boulders fit for downstreaming and upstreaming. And at the starting point is a hot spring right in the middle of the river. Quite unusual but it is real.
It has been awhile since I went there. I have heard they put ladders on the challenging parts. That kills the fun, if you ask me.
When I look for beach stories, I travel on weekends. But when I long for momentary solitude, I wander on weekdays. Palanas falls on the latter. It greeted us with similar Santander waters There were no locals in sight except for a passing frozen fruit salad vendor who shared the beach’s name.
While my companion shed her clothes and confidently took a dip in her bikini, I read Pico Iyer’s Falling off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World.
With the waves’ endless voyage to the shore and the sun setting, Palanas sounds and looks solitary, not lonely. But it was a narrow beach meant for a weekday.
It was the falls—not the sea—that brought me to Samboan. This southern town has three of the most refreshing yet unknown falls to many in the province: Dao Falls, Aguinid Falls, and Binalayan Falls
We trailed a fall down, and it unsurprisingly led us to a sea blanketed with white pebbles. Not far from the shore, a fellow wanderer who had been there shared that Samboan has a rich marine paradise for the curious. Too bad, I forgot to bring my goggles. During our short visit, it was rather quite. Nobody was around except my fellow climbers and an angling local boy. That’s one of the rewards of dipping in an untouristed sea: it becomes momentarily yours.
I know we see traveling an escapist, enjoy-the-now moment. And there is nothing wrong with that. But, fellow nomads, let us travel responsibly. Snorkel without touching the corals. Wander beaches with trash tucked in the bag’s side pockets. Drink alcohol if you must, but leave the place with your trash. Go home without any guilt. Leave no trace. Trace memories instead.
Enjoy. But be responsible.
The Province of Cebu’s tourism department launches its Big 5 Destinations in Southern Cebu. These destinations, to quote Boboi Costas—the head of the province’s tourism team, are chosen based on the preparedness of the organizations in the respective community. These are eco-friendly travel destinations.
It comprises of
If you want to know about these big 5 destinations in southern Cebu, contact Sugbo Turismo for more details:
Now, this is a tricky question. Without the flights, it is safe to say you’re going to shell out at least Php2500 if you have Kawasan canyoneering activities and whalewatching in Oslob. But except for these two, most places in southern Cebu are affordable.
If you ask me, no, two days is too short. You will end stressed instead of enjoying your trip. To cover the so-called must-dos, you need at least three days. The usual destinations down south are Osmena Peak in Dalaguete, whalewatching in Dalaguete, canyoneering in Alegria and Badian, and snorkeling and beaching in Moalboal.
And if you feel extra grateful and generous for this 3000-word guide [if you read it this far!], why not buy me a cup of coffee, or beer, or a good meal.
Writing you a poem soon,
P.S. CLICK THE PHOTO FOR MY COFFEE 😉