You might have heard of the world-famous Boracay tourist island in the Philippines, which, at the time of writing, has been closed by the government for rehabilitation. Fret not if that was your target for your next beach adventure this summer, because the country has a bunch of other destinations. Island hopping has never been so fun as when you do it in the Philippines!
As recently as 2017, there are over 7,600 islands (during low tide) in the archipelago but only about 2,000 are inhabited and 5,000 others have not been named yet! And many of the islands are still in pristine condition.
Last week in our (Island) Hop Till You Drop series, we visited Bohol Island. Let’s continue our island hopping and travel to our next destination, Cebu.
Overall fun rating: ★★★★☆
There’s so much culture and nature on the island of Cebu, just north of Bohol. Cebu, where Spanish colonizers brought Christianity to the Philippines, is now a trade center and a major pit stop on our Philippine island hopping tour.
Newcomers to the island capital of Cebu City can visit the usual first-day stop of Magellan’s Cross and the Santo Nino Basilica, just within walking distance of each other. If your family is into Mardi Gras-style festivities, go there in January during the Sinulog Festival.
Oslob town is accessible via a two-hour boat ride from Tagbilaran City. When you arrive at the town port, you’ll need to ride a tuk-tuk to reach the coastal village of Tan-awan where the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, can be found. This endangered shark species is about 26 feet long on average, but don’t be frightened as they are docile.
Swimming with whale sharks is a controversial tourism activity since local fishermen feed the fish. There are conservationists who remarked these tours are unsustainable and affect the local marine ecosystem. I talked to several guides and they explained that the fees to the park (PHP 1,000 for 30-minutes of swimming with the whale shark) are used by the local government to develop the marine area, as well as to pay for the salary of the fishermen who became fish feeders and guides after the species appeared in late 2011.
Fall into Waterfalls
Already got a perfect selfie with the whale shark and posted it on Instagram? Your Cebu family adventure doesn’t end there because going northwest will bring you to natural swimming pools. Continue your day trip in Oslob and go to the picturesque Tumalog Falls before lunch via a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride. If falling into Tumalog isn’t enough, head further northwest to the Kawasan Falls, situated between a small canyon. Getting there takes about an hour of light trekking (1.5km from the main road), but everything’s worth it when you see the two sets of falls, a higher one at 131 feet, and another wider but lower one at 66 feet. Fresh spring water in the lagoon of Kawasan is comparable to the clear turquoise found on Alona Beach or Boracay, albeit cooler.
From Kawasan, it will take you roughly 5 hours (130km) to go to Cebu City, your gateway to more destinations in the province. Roughly a mile from the city is the island of Mactan where the province’s airport is situated. From there, we can continue our island hopping to our next destination: Palawan.
Suggested itinerary: I arrived at Port of Cebu from Tagbilaran City, but that’s only one way of going to the island. I recommend entering Cebu from the southern town of Oslob (two hours by boat from Panglao), then make your way up to Cebu City.
Where to stay
Movenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu
From PHP 8,000 (atrium view room for two) to PHP 13,600 (family suite). www.movenpick.com (+6332 492 7777, email@example.com)
Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino
From PHP 4,125 per night (deluxe room for two) to PHP 15,600 (family suite). www.waterfronthotels.com.ph (+6332 232 6888, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sascha’s Resort Oslob
From PHP 1,300 per night (twin sharing room for two) to PHP 2,200 per night (family room for five people) www.sascharesort.com (email@example.com)
*PHP 8.16 = RMB 1.00 (as of May 2018)