With some of the best beaches and scuba diving in Southeast Asia, it can be hard to tear yourself away from the coast in Cebu—particularly if you only have a single day to explore. But there’s plenty of natural appeal on the island’s interior as well. Here’s how to maximize 24 hours in Cebu.
Mactan Island (Lapu Lapu)
Mactan Island is also known as Lapu Lapu for the early freedom fighter and Philippine hero Lapulapu, who killed the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan here in 1521. The island’s main city bears his name; his 66-foot (20-meter) statue is a Mactan landmark; and the Victory in Mactan festival each April celebrates his triumph. Many travelers opt to spend a couple of days here enjoying all-inclusive resorts or beach clubs, exploring the coral reef by scuba, snorkel, or free diving, trying out water sports from parasailing through to helmet-supplied “seawalking”, or simply island hopping.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Mactan Island is a great choice for beach lovers and divers alike.
- Mactan Island is a popular destination for upscale Asian travelers and is home to Cebu’s best hotels. Budget travelers seeking beach bungalows would do better on Moalboal or Malapascua.
- Upscale resorts are generally accessible to travelers who use wheelchairs, but the rest of the island can be challenging.
How to Get There
Most travelers arrive on Mactan Island by air. Mactan-Cebu International Airport has connections across the Philippines and to regional travel hubs including Hong Kong and Singapore. Bridges link the island to mainland Cebu City, where ferries arrive from Bohol and beyond.
When to Get There
Mactan Island’s peak season runs between March and May, with Easter a particularly popular period. Many travelers aim to visit for Cebu City’s colorful Sinulog festival (held the third weekend in January) or the Victory in Mactan festival each April: Book well ahead.
The Best Islands Around Cebu For convenience and upscale living, Mactan Island is a great choice when on Cebu. Other travelers love Malapascua, known for golden beaches and the chance to dive with long-tailed thresher sharks. Sumilon Island, off Cebu’s southern tip, houses a private island resort, while a wealth of smaller islands between Bohol and Cebu are perfect for island-hopping.
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