Looking for a 4 day Cebu itinerary? A tropical paradise of beaches, coconut palms, crystal clear seawater, a fantastic underwater world, lush rainforests, waterfalls. And all this combined with rich history and culture. This is Cebu, a long and narrow island in the middle of the Philippines Archipelago, a place with a lot of gems to reveal. Let’s visit it for 4 days, and arrange our Cebu itinerary for this short time. Yes, it would be short, and you would like to stay more there, so let’s build this itinerary wisely.
Basic Facts About Cebu Island
Cebu Island is one of the larger pieces of land, located in the middle part of the Philippines, in a cluster of islands, called Visayas. It is not directly exposed to the ocean, so the waters around it are calm, and as in most of the country- crystal and clear. There are a lot of nice beaches and marine sanctuaries- perfect spots for diving. The interior of the island is also beautiful- it is mountainous, with some lush rainforests, and a lot of coconut palms. You can find there some beautiful waterfalls and caves too. All this makes Cebu Island a classical tropical paradise. There are so many great tourist spots in Cebu.
But that’s not all- the island is full of history and culture. In fact, Cebu is the historical core of the Philippines. You must have heard about Fernando Magellan, the most famous explorer of all times. Cebu is the place of his death, the end of his first circumnavigational journey around the Earth! So, when you go to Cebu Island, you will hear and read the name Magellan many times.
Finally, now there is the third largest city in the Philippines, with the same name- Cebu. The city is full of history too. You can find there the oldest street and the oldest church in the Philippines, both in this city. And since it is the main transportation hub in the middle of the country, it is your perfect starting and ending point of your 4-days Cebu itinerary. So, let’s plan it!
Day 1 Cebu Itinerary – Cebu City- history, culture and colors
Although Cebu City is your starting point, don’t be quick to leave it! It has a lot to reveal- history, culture, colorful daily and modern life, and mysteries. And believe me, this would enrich your trip on the whole of Cebu Island.
I would recommend accommodation in the center of the city, from where you can easily begin your historical journey. Most of the properties that you can find in the center are cheap. So, if you are a budget traveler, good options are Happy Nest Hostel, Cebuview Tourist Inn, 8th Street Hostel, GV Tower Hotel, One Central Hotel, and Hotel de Mercedes. There are some luxury hotels too, but they are a bit far from the center. Among them, I would mention Summit Galleria Cebu and Crown Regency Hotel & Tower.
Then, in the morning would be a good time to explore the center of Cebu. It is not too big and you can do it on foot for several hours. Yes, you can help yourself by taxi, but due to the traffic jam, it would not necessarily be faster than walking. So, this is what you should visit in the morning:
Santo Nino Church and the Magellan’s Cross
Santo Nino Church (Basilica Minore del Santo Nino) is the oldest church in the Philippines, and one of the oldest ones in East Asia. Its traces back to the time of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the Spanish conquistador, who started to colonize the archipelago for the Spanish crown. The first version of the church is built in 1565, and its raising is related to a miraculous story about a statue of „Jesus Child” („Santo Nino”), given to the local king from Magellan, and found more than 40 years late. Now it is one of the main landmarks of Cebu City. There is also a museum, dedicated to this church and its history.
Just outside of the church you can see a small round shrine with a wooden cross and paintings inside. This is the Magellan’s Cross- a cross, which is believed to be given as a gift to the local king, that’s why it is another iconic place to visit.
Fort San Pedro
Only 10 mins walk from Santo Nino Church is another famous landmark of Cebu City- Fort San Pedro. It is the oldest fortress in the Philippines, again built in 1565 by Legazpi. The fortress is in a triangle shape with thick walls and a garden inside. There is a small museum-gallery, related to its history. Entrance fee: 30 PHP.
Before you proceed with your historic journey around Cebu City, I would recommend visiting the Cebu Provincial Museum. It is around 20 mins walk from Fort San Pedro or around 10 mins by taxi (depending on the traffic jam).
Cebu Provincial Museum
It used to be a former prison, and its building’s architectural style still reminds of that. Now it is turned into a museum, presenting precious artifacts and information about the history and culture of Cebu City and the whole Cebu Province. Entrance fee: 75 PHP.
Casa Gorordo Museum
From there, you can walk 10 mins to Casa Gorordo Museum- a beautiful house, presenting the life and culture of a rich Creole family. There are various cultures in the country, including those of mixed origin. Now, this is a culture of mixed Filipino and American origin. Entrance fee: 150 PHP.
Only 100 m away from Casa Gorordo is Yap-Sandiego Museum. It is another gem, an old traditional house, built some 200 years ago. Its theme is a bit like Casa Gorordo Museum, presenting the life of a rich family of mixed origin. But this is in a different style because it is a mix of Chinese and Filipino culture. Entrance fee: 50 PHP.
Cebu Heritage Monument
Walk another 50 m further, and you will see a magnificent monument presenting a story. This is a story about old vessels with crosses, brave sailors, and beautiful churches- the Cebu Heritage Monument. It is an iconic place, great for photos.
From this point is the beginning of Colon Street- the oldest street in the whole of the Philippines. It is marked by an obelisk- a four side shaped pillar with historical writings. Now, you can dive into the colorful life of Colon Street.
Although the oldest, now this street looks quite modern. You can’t expect anything „old and traditional”. But it doesn’t make it less attractive. Here is the place where you can dive into the contemporary life of Cebu. It is full of markets, restaurants, shops, and any other city things. Street vendors selling fruits and street food, colorful jeepneys, and tricycles passing slowly into the traffic mess. All of this creates a unique atmosphere, full of life, which is really worth to dive into. Walking on the street, you can reach the most attractive market in the area- Carbon Market.
This is one of the oldest markets in the Philippines, in the same „style” as Colon Street. Its name comes from the coal trade which has been held here for many years before. Now it is another colorful place, full of fruits, vegetables, animals, souvenirs, daily using products, and many other things, coming from Cebu City and the neighboring towns, villages, and islands. Here is the best place to buy what you like, and practice your bargaining skills.
Cebu City’s nightlife
Cebu City offers various opportunities to spend your evening and night. For those, who like parties, there are many bars, nightclubs, and KTV. But nightlife doesn’t necessarily mean parties. So, if you are not into such kind of activities, you can enjoy a nice and cozy atmosphere in places like Trivia Night. Another interesting place is 22nd Street- a local comedy bar, providing a lot of fun and laughter. Larsian Barbecue and Burger Joint are delicious places for late-night snacks. And IT Park is a quiet place with a lot of cafes in an open-air area.
You can find all of these in Google Maps. However, stay safe! Don’t walk alone in some areas in the center, but better get a taxi. And if you choose to go to a party anyway, be aware. Not everybody is pure-hearted, and not everybody has good intentions there.
Day 2 Cebu Itinerary – Mactan and Olango
On your day 2, you can focus on Mactan and Olango, a cluster of islands, located not far from Cebu City, but rich in places to visit and things to do. Mactan is a place with a historical significance, as well as a luxury resorts area. And Olango is more exotic- it is a small archipelago with some wildlife and diving spots. Let’s take a look at Mactan first.
How to go to Mactan from Cebu City
Your first destination in Mactan Island should be Mactan Shrine, with Lapu Lapu Monument and Magellan’s Marker. To reach this spot, you can take a taxi from the center, but it would be more expensive. A cheaper (but slower) way would be by a jeepney. If you choose the second option, you have to go to Park Mall, in the northeastern suburbs of Cebu City. It is one of the city’s malls, which is one of the main jeepney terminals. So, you can get to Park Mall by jeepney or taxi, then by another jeepney- to Mactan Shrine, by 15-20 PHP total (depending on the jeepney).
Mactan Shrine is the spot, where Fernando Magellan was killed in 1521. He died in a battle with the local Filipinos, lead by Lapu Lapu, one of the local warlords. Now those two men are commemorated in this place. You will see the Magellan’s Marker- a small obelisk with historical data, related to these events. And Lapu Lapu is raised in a statue, as a national hero.
From Mactan Shrine, you can move to some of the nearby beaches. However, they are not the best beaches in Cebu Island and the surrounding islets, so I would recommend you to skip them and to proceed to Olango.
It is a small archipelago, located only 5-6 km away from Mactan. The area is full of natural landscapes- mangrove forests, wetlands, and a bird sanctuary. On the sea coast, you can find beaches and coral reefs, great for diving and snorkeling. This is enough to spend the whole day on the islands and enjoy all these places, and the activities that you can do there.
To reach Olango, you have to go to Hilton or Angasil ports. From there, you have to travel around 20 mins by speed boat, for only 15 PHP per person, to Santa Rosa Port in Olango. Then you can proceed to Ramsar or Asian Eco Parks. For diving and snorkeling, you can go to San Vicente Marine Sanctuary and watch the wildlife from the Olango Wildlife Observation Deck. Another place to visit is Talima Marine Sanctuary, in the northern part of Olango, and nearby you can find one of the small sand beaches at Baring Village.
You can spend several hours in Olango, then back to Mactan in the late afternoon. But have in mind that the last boat leaves Olango not later than 6:00 pm. Once you back to Mactan, you can follow the same route back to Cebu City.
The next two days of your itinerary is time to leave Cebu City and explore a certain beautiful place on Cebu Island. Since you would not have time to explore the whole island, it is better to choose only one place. And I would recommend Moalboal. It is an incredibly beautiful area, full of a variety of spots to explore and enjoy. So, let’s see how to arrange the second half of your Cebu itinerary.
Day 3 Cebu Itinerary – Moalboal Beaches
I would recommend going to Moalboal earlier in the morning. The earlier you go there, the longer time would you have to enjoy the beaches, forests, waterfalls and the diving spots in the area.
There are two main ways to travel to Moalboal. The first way is by bus. You have to go to the Cebu South Bus Terminal and get the bus to Moalboal. There are many buses leaving in this direction, and the whole trip is around 3 hours, but depending on the traffic, it could be longer. And the price is around 150-200 PHP, depending on the bus.
Another option is to rent a car for two days. Of course, this is much more convenient, but is more expensive- it is difficult to find a car for less than 2000 PHP per day. But if you are a group of 4-5 people, it is much more acceptable.
Once you arrive in Moalboal, you can choose your hotel for one night. Although there are good transportation options between the town and the nice places to visit and enjoy, I would still suggest finding accommodation in the town itself. First, because these places to visit are on the both northern and southern sides of the town. And second- the price is a bit lower.
Good cheap options are Darius Residences, MJ’s Residences, Casa Oeste, RN Guesthouse, and Moalboal Guesthouse (between 800 and 1300 PHP). From the mid-ranged properties, I would mention Southpoint Hostel, Laguno Red & Breakfast Hotel, Garden Village, and Ralph’s Pensione House (between 1300 and 3000 PHP).
When you arrive in Moalboal, it would be noon (or almost noon), so you can put your luggage in the hotel, have some lunch, and arrange your transportation to the places you are going to enjoy (unless you have already come on your own rental car from Cebu). On the first day in Moalboal, I would go to the places north of the town, because they are closer and easier to reach (and you would have only half of the day).
In general, there are three ways to go to the north. The first way is by the local tricycle. The normal prices that you have to expect are 150 PHP to Panagsama Beach and around 200-250 PHP to White Beach. A cheaper way is to use habal habal- a normal motorcycle with added seats- for only 30 to 50 PHP. I know that the Philippines are famous for the various kinds of transportation, some of them really strange. Habal habal can be rarely seen, and I personally find it dangerous, but for the attraction- why not!
And the third way is to rent your own motorbike (usually the hotels can offer it to the tourists). If you do it, it is better to rent it for two days. You can expect a price like 400 PHP per day, in total- 800 PHP. So, when you arrange your transportation, you can go to the north. And this day would be a day for a beach and diving.
It is the nearer beach from Moalboal. But it is not just an ordinary beach. It is a paradise for diving and snorkeling. There are excellent coral reefs along the coast with rich marine wildlife. You can see schools of colorful fish, sea turtles, and many other creatures of the underwater world.
This beach is further north. Compared to Panagsama Beach, this one is more sandy and shallow. Its crystal clear water makes it a classic tropical paradise with coconut palms. However, you can find diving and snorkeling opportunities there too. There is a nice coral reef, not far from the beach.
Then, when the evening comes, you can spend it on one of the beaches, in a restaurant, or a bar in some of the resorts nearby. Or you can just back to the town of Moalboal- you can find nightlife entertainment options there too.
Day 4 Cebu Itinerary – Moalboal- Forests, caves and waterfalls
On your last day in Moalboal, I would turn southward. In this direction, you can find some different places to visit. Among them- a waterfall, a canyon, and a lush tropical forest.
Kawasan Canyoneering and Waterfalls
So, get up earlier, have your breakfast, and hit the road to the south. You will reach the entrance to Kawasan Fall after around 30 mins. If you use your own transport- motorbike or a car, park it at the entrance of the Kawasan Falls area and take another taxi (or tricycle) to Alegria Village. Or get a bus (for 19 PHP) and tell the driver to drop you at Kawasan Falls.
Once you arrive there, join a Kawasan Canyoneering tour. It is a fantastic adventure on a canyon through the jungle, with cliff jumping, rocks hiking, and swimming. You can find their tours for 1500 to 2000 PHP, but it is really worth to try it. However, it may be a bit dangerous for your photo camera. You will get wet, and your camera must be well protected in a dry bag, as well as something for impacts.
Your route will reach Kawasan Falls after about 3 hours of hiking. There you can relax and enjoy the jungle paradise of the waterfall and its blue pool. Finally, you can descend back to the main road and the parking. During the rest of your afternoon, if you still have time, you can also visit Lambug Beach and enjoy another beach, snorkeling, or diving time during your Cebu 4 days itinerary.
An alternative option for Days 3 and 4 Cebu Itinerary
This option is more proper for divers. On Day 3, when you arrive in Moalboal, first go to Kawasan and make the Canyoneering tour with the waterfall. Just be quick, and you still can find a tour and a guide for the trekking from Alegria.
Then, on Day 4, you can join an island hopping tour to Pescador Island near Panagsama Beach. It is a small islet with a unique coral reef structure. The islet is famous for its underwater cave, called Cathedral. Joining such a tour is a bit expensive- from 1200 to almost 7000 PHP per person, depending on how many people are joining the group. The tour normally starts early in the morning- not later than 8:00 am, and finishes around 3:00 pm.
Finally, in the late afternoon, it would be time to leave Moalboal and back to Cebu City. There are buses until evening, so it is not a problem. Or you can proceed in other directions- to Dumaguete, or just to other places on Cebu Island, like Oslob or Bantayan Island. But this 4 days itinerary is enough to enjoy the most essential from this beautiful piece of land in the Philippines.
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