By Darren Griffiths

Our Recommended 3 Day Cebu Itinerary

15th February 2024

We’ve created a 3 Day Cebu Itinerary with all of our favourite spots and we include not just what to see and do, but how to get around, what and where to eat, and where to stay. This is a mix-and-match itinerary – we had a lazy weekend break from our travels here, but if you want an island-hopping adventure, we include plenty of high-octane activities!

Philippines Snapshot

The Philippines is a majestic country in the Pacific – famous for its history, tourism, food, and Filipino hospitality.

It boasts a glorious past – with many influential heroes who fought for the country’s independence.

You can find many of the artifacts they left behind preserved in several museums all over the country, as well as art and digitally restored photographs.

It is also home to century-old churches and historical sites which existed ever since the Spanish rule.

But most tourists visit Cebu because of its diverse and beautiful landscapes – from breathtaking mountain ranges to pristine white beaches where you can swim and surf to your heart’s desire.

The Philippines has a thriving food culture. Filipino food is unique – aside from the well-known lutong-bahay, you’ll find Spanish, American, Japanese, Indian, Malay, Korean, and Chinese influences in the dishes.

Day 1: Cebu City Highlights

We treated ourselves to lunch at our hotel, at the Pig and Palm Restaurant before we started on our sightseeing day around Cebu City. We wanted to focus on the city’s historical and religious attractions on our first day.

cebu city

The usual Cebuano modes of transportation are jeepneys and taxi cabs. We negotiated a rate for two days. We started with one of the most prominent Sugbuanon tourist spots, Magellan’s Cross.

Magellan’s Cross Stone Pavillion

Just ten minutes away from our hotel, our first stop, Magellan’s Cross, is a central part of Cebuano history.

Magellan's Cross Stone Pavillion

Legend has it that the cross was constructed here on the arrival of Portuguese and Spanish explorers in Cebu, led by Ferdinand Magellan.

It’s considered the day (March 15, 1521), when Christianity began to spread in the Philippines.

A lot of folklore surrounds Magellen’s Cross. One story states that the cross was once believed to possess magical healing powers, so the olden people back in the time began to disassemble it gradually.

Another claim says that the original cross miraculously disappeared or was destroyed right after Magellan’s death. Whatever the truth is, the cross is well-preserved up to this day in Mactan, housed in an octagonal pavilion.

Since then, Magellan’s Cross has been a symbol of the spread and integration of Christianity into Filipino culture.

Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño

Next, we jumped to the next stop on our Cebu tour – the Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño, just a short walk away from the cross.

Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño

These two tourist spots have existed since the Spanish era and have overlapping histories.

Rajah Humabon and his wife were the first Christians baptized in the country, and this image was gifted to them by Ferdinand Magellan.

Jesus is depicted as a black Holy Child in the church’s images and statues, and tourists and pilgrims flock to the Basilica Complex.

Fort San Pedro

For our last stop on Day 1, we went to Fort San Pedro, a two-minute walk away. Cebu is home to several of the Philippines’ oldest forts, and Fort San Pedros is the country’s smallest and oldest.

Fort San Pedro

Situated in Plaza Independencia, Fuerza de San Pedro is a historical park controlled by the Cebu City government.

A bastion fort resembling a triangular structure, its two sides face the sea, with cannons installed on each side, while the other edge faces the land, bordered by a sturdy wooden fence.

Fort San Pedro Museum

While we were at it, we visited the museum housed by the fort and learned in-depth about the Spanish era in the Philippines.

Fort San Pedro Museum

Here you’ll find a large number of preserved Spanish artifacts – collections of old photographs, documents, sculptures, and paintings.

Colon Street, Cebu City

For dinner we headed out to Colon Street and chose a small local restaurant.

Colon Street is the oldest national road in the country, built in 1565, with its name inspired by Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus)

Colon Street was once the logistics hub of Ciudad de Cebu. It’s where the first fashion shops, movie houses, and officers were built.

Near the street, a belt of universities was also built, including the University of Cebu and the University of San Carlos, to name a few.

Day 2: Simala Shrine, Panorama de Argao Resort, and More

We started the day early by visiting the Simala Shrine, or the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist – a two-hour and thirty-minute drive away from Mactan.

Simala Shrine

On the way to Simala, we passed by several South Cebu towns. The town right before Sibonga, where the Simala Shrine is located, is called Carcar and it’s worth a stop.

Carcar Lechon

One of the oldest municipalities in Cebu, and full of Spanish and American influences, Carcar is dubbed as Cebu’s Heritage Town.

There are several preserved heritage sites and old homes from the Spanish era that you can visit, including:

  • Silva House,
  • Ang Dakong Balay,
  • Mercado Mansion, and
  • Balay na Tisa.

On the way to Simala, you’ll catch glimpses of these heritage houses as most of them are scattered along the National Highway.

If you’re keen to experience a typical Filipino market, stop at the Carcar City Public Market – a crowd favorite to tourists, visitors, and locals alike.

Situated just in front of the Carcar Rotunda, Carcar’s public market is just like your typical Filipino market – booming with life and can sometimes get rowdy. Still, the smiles from the vendors charmed us into buying some fruit juices.

Carcar Lechon

Your Carcar visit wouldn’t be complete though unless you try the famous Carcar Lechon! Carcar lechon is best eaten with rice, but we’ve also eaten it with Puso.

Puso is rice wrapped in a triangular-shaped case made of coconut leaves. Commonly, puso is sold beside the stalls that sell lechon.

After our short stopover, we went to our main attraction.

Monastery of the Holy Eucharist (Simala Shrine)

The Simala Shrine is a magnet for tourists and locals. Its walls, roofs, paintings, statues, and dramatic structure, are reminiscent of European ones, but also, there are supernatural stories that surround the building

Monastery of the Holy Eucharist

The shrine was built after a series of magical occurrences are believed to have occurred here. It houses an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The eyes of the Virgin Mary, according to devotees and eyewitnesses, sheds tears of blood on several occasions.

The shrine is visited year round and by thousands of people every day. You need to cover up and you’re free to take photos.

Panorama de Argao Resort

After having our religious tour of the Holy Eucharist Monastery, we decided that what we really needed was a day out at the beach!

Panorama de Argao Resort

Thirty minutes from the shrine, the Panorama de Argao Resort is an idyllic beach resort tucked away in the rural part of Cebu. We were drawn to it because of the white sand beach and the snorkelling.

Day 3: SM Seaside City Cebu and Souvenir Shops

The third day in our itinerary was even more laidback. We went to Cebu’s biggest mall – SM Seaside City Cebu. This was the first and only mall in Cebu we had ever been to.

SM Seaside City Cebu

It was also our last stop before we went home, concluding our three-day, two-night Cebu adventure.

After our driver dropped us off at the mall, he gave us a list of ideal pasalubongs, or Cebuano delicacies, souvenirs, or fashion pieces.

We went to Kultura – a one-stop shop with branches all over the Philippines, to buy souvenirs and T-shirts. Next, we went to the mall’s grocery store to buy Cebu’s iconic dried mangoes.

But for many more food pasalubong options, you can visit the Shamrock Pasalubong Center, which is four minutes from the Goldberry Hotel. Try these Sugbuanon delicacies:

  • Carcar Chicharon (fried pork rinds), Masareal, a tasty treat made from boiled peanuts and coconut syrup, 
  • Caycay, a layered cookie coated with ground sesame seeds or toasted peanuts, and the 
  • Ampao – a staple snack most popular in Liloan, that is made up of puffed rice and gives you a distinct crunch in every bite.

The Best Time to Visit Cebu

December to February – perfect weather

The best time to travel to the city is from December to February. The climate is perfect during this time of the year – bright, sunny mornings with the tinge of the Christmas breeze, and cool, sometimes chilly evenings, the ideal tourist-friendly weather pair.

You’ll need to pack sunblock so you can sunblock swim in the azure blue-green waters of Cebu’s Camotes and Bantayan beaches or go scuba diving at the famed Malapascua and Mactan Islands.

If you are visiting Cebu in January, try and pop in to Cebu’s Sinulog Festival. It’s held on the third Sunday of January in honor of Señor Santo Niño (the Child Jesus). You’ll be surprised at the beautifully tailored costumes of the dancers.

March to May – very sticky

From March to May, the weather is uncomfortable hot and humid like it is in the rest of Southeast Asia.

June to August – typhoon season

From June to August Cebu City gets the occasional typhoon and you need to be prepared for spells of heavy rain

September – November – clearing skies

Less rain, less humidity, and low prices make shoulder season a good choice for budget travellers.

If you have More Days to Spend in Cebu City

If you have a little more time to visit Cebu, you could extend your 3 day Cebu itinerary or mix and match to make your own Cebu itinerary out of these additional and very popular things to do:

  • Have at least one Island hopping experience. We recommend Bohol Island only a short ferry ride away.
  • swimming with thresher sharks,
  • taking a Cebu City tour (the least adventurous item on our list!),
  • Kawasan Falls Canyoneering,
  • Snorkeling among sardines, and swimming with sea turtles on Pescador Island,
  • Having an Oslob Whale Shark encounter
  • Visiting Tumalog Falls or Kawasan Falls
  • Hiking to Osmeña Peak,
  • Deep sea diving at Moalboal
  • Visiting the Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary

Cebu Flights and Accommodation

If you intend to travel locally, you can fly with the budget airline, Cebu Pacific, which has good everyday rates but Philippine Airlines also have regular promos and seat sales.

Flights take about one to two hours. Because it’s a reasonably sized airport, Cebu is often where people fly in for island hopping to neighboring islands like Bantayan, Sumilon and Gilutungan.

Ferries between islands are at least twice a day. They’re easy to get and you can book in advance.

Where to Stay in Cebu

We stayed at Goldberry Suites and Hotel, Mactan. We don’t usually stay in fancy 4-star hotels, but the early bird discount rate, its closeness to the airport and free airport shuttle, and the big included buffet breakfast made us choose the hotel for a short stay.

Goldberry Suites and Hotel

The hotel is a five to eight-minute ride away from Mactan-Cebu International Airport and has a free airport shuttle. It’s also close to the top Cebuano tourist attractions and malls.

It was pretty luxurious having a couple of nights of air-conditioning, strong Wi-Fi, and minibar!

We would have loved to have one of the rooms with a balcony and sea view, but that was a bridge too far for our small budget.

If you want to have lunch or dinner on-site, Goldberry has The Rabbit Hole Restaurant serves an amalgamation of Filipino, Asian, European, and American cuisines.

Goldberry Hotel’s room rates range from ₱3,000 to ₱8,000, depending on the time of year, as hotel prices shoot up during peak season. We knew we were heading to Cebu so we booked early and we got a terrific ‘early bird’ rate.