Cebu and its neighboring islands are a tropical paradise and make for a great summer getaway—or any much-needed escape, really. Whether you’ve got two weeks or two days, it only takes a short drive from the capital city to reach pristine beaches and explore underwater wonders.
Don’t let confusing commute routes dampen your wanderlust. Here’s the easiest way to go island hopping in Cebu.
Best Time of Year to Go:
Summer Season (Dry Season)
Summer or the dry season in the Philippines starts around March and lasts until May. The weather is warm and bright, and the seas are relatively calm, making them perfect for sailing. Many domestic travelers also head to Cebu in summer, especially during the Holy Week holidays.
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, a great time to go is during early March, right before the school year school ends.
The top things to do in Cebu for Tourists in early January is to catch the City’s famous Sinulog Festival. It commemorates the city’s patron, the Sto. Niño (The Child Jesus) and culminates in a colorful street party paint-fest. You can spend the day island hopping in Cebu before and after the festivities end, making it the perfect weekend getaway.
How to Get There:
With the new Mactan-Cebu International Airport, you can fly in straight to the Cebu Islands. If you can’t find a direct flight, you’ll have to stop over at Manila, before heading to Cebu. Check out flight search engines like Skyscanner and KAYAK for the best deals.
From the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, it’s fairly easy to get to your hotel (keep reading on tips about Where to Stay). You can use Grab, a ride-hailing app similar to Uber. Or, take advantage of airport transfer services, which are especially useful for big groups.
Island Hopping: Boat Rental Experiences
Booking Your Island Hopping Services:
The easiest and most transparent way to book your island hopping experience is to take advantage of online tour platforms such as KKday. You get control of your itinerary and avoid tourist prices and hidden charges.
Many of the services also come with convenient transportation to and from your hotel.
Pandanon Island is famous for its long stretch of white sands, which is great for lazing around and sunbathing. Not far from the island edge is a long, narrow sandbar. The island is also home to a small, white chapel—perfect for anyone dreaming of a beach wedding!
If you’re more interested in exploring ocean wonders, then head here. Nalusuan Island is full of colorful coral reefs and schools of tropical fish, which is why it emerged as a popular snorkeling site among watersports enthusiasts. Most boat tours will provide you with a life jacket and snorkeling gear.
The island doesn’t have a shore and you’ll only see the sands during the low tide. A long, wooden boardwalk—which makes for great Instagram shots—will lead you to the island proper; Nalusuan Island has its own resort and seaside restaurant, where you can stop by for lunch.
San Vicente Island
Decades ago, the San Vicente Island seas were dying from pollution and dynamite fishing. But if you go there now, you’ll find the area is swimming with life, thanks to joint efforts from the residents and local government. The entire island is an oasis, full of mangrove forests and a bird sanctuary.
Oslob Island: Whale Shark Experience
Fancy a swim with some of the ocean’s gentle giants? Whale sharks, locally known as butanding, are migratory fish and head to Oslob, Cebu in the summer when the climate is warm. Despite their menacing name and 300 rows of teeth, they are extremely gentle and only feed on plankton and small fish.
Oslob Island: Tumalog Falls
After swimming with the whale sharks, take a short drive through the island’s jungle and uncover the stunning Tumalog Falls. Falling from a height of 2 kilometers into a turquoise pool, it’s something just out of fairy tale.
Where to Stay: Cebu City vs Mactan Island
When choosing where to stay for your island-hopping adventures, it’s either Cebu City or Mactan Island. Both have their share of choices of resorts, hostels, and Airbnb rooms.
As the capital city of the Cebu Islands, Cebu City is a thriving metropolis full of its own sights, attractions, and nightlife. It’s an hour away from the island hopping departures by car. Stay here if you want to explore other attractions in the region.
- Resorts and Hotels: You’ll have more hotel options in Cebu City. Travelers often check-in at the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel and Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino.
- Hostels: Popular chains include GoHotels and ZEN Rooms.
- Airbnb: Very popular and will give you a lot of options, across price ranges.
For a richer island adventure, stay on Mactan Island where you’ll be much closer to the beaches and oceans. It’s also much closer to the airport.
If you’re looking for other things to do apart from island hopping, you can head on over to nearby Lapu-Lapu City—only a 20-minute drive away. Head over here for some delicious and cheap local cuisine; we recommend sisig, a staple pork dish.
- High-end Resorts and Hotels: As a tourist destination, you’ll find some of the most luxurious hotels here. The poshest ones are Shangri-La’s Mactan Spa & Resort and the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa.
- Hostels: Popular chains include GoHotels and ZEN Rooms. On Mactan Island, this is the most affordable option.
- Airbnb: Check out Airbnb for unique rooms, such as Beach Villas and Ocean View Apartments.
- Pack lots of snacks and water!
- Wear appropriate diving attire! Most boat tours will provide you with a lifejacket and basic snorkeling gear, but you may want to bring your own goggles and beach shoes – especially if you’re going whale shark watching
- Have lots of loose change to pay for things. The nearest ATM is in Lapu-lapu City, an hour away by car.
- For connectivity, you’ll have a better signal if you use a local SIM card instead of a Wi-Fi device.