3 Fun Things to Do in Cebu Before Sunset
What and Where is Cebu?
Cebu is a province located in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. It’s made up of the main island that’s surrounded by approximately 170 more islands. It also houses the oldest city in the Philippines, Cebu City, which also happens to be Cebu’s capital. With its tropical climate, distinct historical significance, and plentiful tourist attractions, it’s no wonder that this place tops many lists of the best tourist destinations. So what we’re going to do, is introduce you to some fun things to do in Cebu before the sun goes down.
Dubbed the center of tourism, trade, culture, and history in the Philippines, Cebu lives up to its name. Cebu contains 167 islands and is indeed the “Gateway to a Thousand Journeys.” Since it houses an international airport, it’s likely that your Philippines journey will also begin with Cebu. There are so many fun things to do in Cebu that most tourists just spend a day doing one or two and head off to another island.
We honestly think this place is worth its own dedicated holiday plan. Since there are so many exciting activities to do here that you can easily be occupied for a week or more and not once feel bored! Make the most of your trip by reading onwards so that you can familiarize yourself with three starting plans. It’s up to you to plan further and we definitely recommend it! Since there are literally too many activities to fit in a single article, we decided only to include the ones that can be undertaken in daylight in this list. Rest assured, there’s a lot to do at nighttime, too!
1. Swim with Marine Species
Granted, the most popular thing to do in Cebu before sunset had been swimming with whale sharks. The town of Oslob attracted tourists in enormous numbers because of its promise of plentiful whale sharks. Although strict rules were in place, research revealed that this activity was actually harmful to the giant species. For one, a lot of the sharks often had scratches on their bodies as probable results of collisions with boats and other equipment. There were also stories of poaching. Moreover, since the sharks were fed by tourists, they were missing out on a lot of other beneficial nutrients. The activity was also detrimental to their patterns of migration and mating. Put simply, human contact with whale sharks in any form proved to be harming the species.
These findings have made swimming with sharks quite a controversial activity. It’s also why a lot of tourists have boycotted it completely. That, and the fact that the experience feels more akin to being at a zoo or safari park. Thus, for the sake of our ecosystem, and keeping readers’ sensibilities in mind, we will also not be including it in our list. For those interested despite the repercussions, Oslob Whale Shark Watching provides these facilities.
Don’t be disheartened if you were hoping to spend your Cebu trip underwater along with marine beauties. There’s a lot of other species you can swim with. It would also not pose a moral dilemma to do so. For one, there are the turtles on Apo Island. The government has created a marine sanctuary for the conservation of these species here. You definitely can’t enter it without a guide, and there’s a 5000 peso fine if you so much as touch a turtle! This sanctuary has led to a repopulation of the local turtle population after it had been wiped out about ten years ago. Because these turtles are kept in their natural habitat and not interfered with, it’s totally okay to chill in the water with them. If you don’t like turtles (*gasps*), other species are swimming in the sanctuary of these waters as well.
Another scene where you may encounter turtles if you’re lucky is the Sardine Run at Moalboal. Located on the South-Western coast of the province, the place is a staple for tourists. The main attraction, of course, is the Sardine Run. It’s the experience of a lifetime: being in the water among millions of sardines, watching them float about in schools, gliding through the water as perfect pictures of serenity. The best part is, they’re always around in the shallow water, no matter what season. All you need is a pair of goggles, and you’re good to go! And hey, as we promised, you might run into a sea turtle while snorkeling.
Other good spots for sighting species like manta rays and tuna include the Monad Shoal near Malapascua Island, Pescador Island near Moalboal, and Kansantik in the Olango Channel. These places are internationally known and have dozens of dive centers offering daily excursions near them.
2. Admire Butterflies at Jumalon Museum, Butterfly Sanctuary, and Art Gallery
Calling all Nature Lovers: Here is an experience that you don’t want to miss out on! The Jumalon Museum, Butterfly Sanctuary, and Art Gallery is a hallmark of the Cebu experience. It was built in 1974 and was originally the place of residence of Cebuano lepidopterist Julian Navarro Jumalon.
I had absolutely no idea about what a lepidopterist is, so I had to Google it. Google says the following: So in case you ever wanted to know, a lepidopterist is a person who studies or collects butterflies and moths.
Anyway, Julian Navarro Jumalon housed a vast collection of butterflies, and to make it even bigger, he planted all kinds of butterfly food plants in his home. His collection is the largest and oldest in all of the Philippines. After his death, it was passed over to his younger generations and is now run by the Jumalon Foundation.
As the name suggests, the place is now a museum and art gallery, along with serving as a butterfly sanctuary. It houses about a hundred different species of butterfly food, wherein rest some 55 species of these special flutterers. Upon paying the fee and entering the sanctuary, you should expect to receive a tour of the place as well as lectures about its history and the life cycle of butterflies in general. Keep your camera (or cellphone) ready as the site is heaven for your Instagram feed.
Furthermore, the Sanctuary even has a great collection of art on display. Every piece here is made from broken butterfly wings. The masterpieces even include a presidential portrait. The fact that Jumalon was an artist himself is quite apparent in his mosaics, which feature several places in Cebu as well as some national heroes. Now that’s novel! There are also preserved species of butterflies on display as well as coins, stamps, shells, dolls, fossils, matchboxes, eggs, and indigenous artifacts. Trust us on this one, this is a trip that no true nature, culture, or artsy photo op lover would want to miss out on! It’s open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM. The best time to visit is between February and June since that’s when the butterflies breed. It gets even better; proceeds collected from the entrance fee go towards a good cause.
3. Rest and Relaxation at the Cebu Westown Lagoon
A little something more exciting for the kids (or kids at heart) is the Aztec-themed Cebu Westown Lagoon. This here is a manmade lagoon featuring all kinds of attractions like waterslides, jacuzzi pools, karaoke, food, gazebos, drinks (if you happen to be of age), and everything else one could ask for. It’s honestly more like a water-based amusement park, and we’re all here for it!
After a long hard day of touristing, it’d be a great idea to just relax at this resort. Since we started this entry with the kids, that’s where we’ll head first. The kiddie pool is our younger selves’ dream: it reaches a safe depth of 2 feet and features all kinds of colorful slides, showers, and tunnels. It could also be where you leave your little ones for a quiet little break all to yourself.
And what should you do during this break, you may ask? Well, if you’re fun-loving and young at heart, there’s always the adults’ waterpark. Here the water is deeper, and the slides often go up to 32 feet. With twists and turns at every corner, you’ll be sure to be thrilled right out of your swimming trunks! (Keep your swimming trunks on at all times, please.) Once you’re done having fun, you can just lounge on the poolside chairs and order anything off the menu, hot or cold alike.
An even more exciting area to get your play on is the Dragon Cove. Here you can whizz past giant dragons while sliding down great heights, thus fulfilling all your childhood dreams. It’s the good kind of wet and wild adventure.
If you happen to crave a little more peace and quiet, the jacuzzi pools are perfect for you. Cebu Westown Lagoon offers access to two heated outdoor jacuzzi pools. Warm jets continuously pump water, giving a massage-like effect to the body. It’s the perfect place to relax and sip on cold beverages. Hey, it’s so soothing, you might even forget about the kids!
When you’re done with all that, head on over to Happy Jacqs Café & Bistro, which is great for enjoying a lovely meal with your family, and to make up to the kids that you forgot about. The menu has an excellent selection for meals and drinks. Another great option is the KTV, where you can enjoy a selection of English and Tagalong. Get your karaoke on!
Bonus: Visit the Hot Springs, Botanical Gardens, Historical Sites, and More
Of course, whoever thought that all the fun things to do in Cebu could be summed up in only three entries was a fool. There’s just so much to do in the haven that we took the liberty of including this special, bonus entry to fill you up on the rest.
If the outdoor jacuzzi pools make you feel like a dream, just wait until you head to the Mainit Hot Springs in Malabuyoc. After only a short walk through the jungles, you’ll find yourself among some fantastic hot springs, with lush greenery all around you, and even a waterfall. The steaming water here is so hot, it can get to about 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). That’s like heat therapy for your sore and worn out muscles.
If those at Malabuyoc aren’t to your liking, you’d be delighted to hear that there are the Esoy Hot Springs located in the jungle of Catmon as well. The waters in these hot springs in the rocks aren’t as steaming as those in Malabuyoc, so if your skin happens to be sensitive, this is the place to go. There’s even one side of the spring where water comes directly onto you from the walls. It’s a truly relaxing experience. Also, hint: these are great spots for aesthetic photoshoots as well!
If you’d like to surround yourself with some more flora and fauna, the Terrazas De Flores Botanical Garden brings to you nature in its purest form. The lush gardens are home to over 127 different species of plants, along with visiting flutterers like butterflies and breeze. The pop of color is a delight to all ailing city eyes. Here you may behold beautiful terraced flower gardens, walk hand in hand to floral gazebos, or just marvel at all the floral canopies and trellises.
The trip may also be an educational experience for some, as there are markers identifying all the different species of plants that you may delight in. If you’re too overwhelmed by all the color, you can always chill back at the quaint little cafe the place has to offer. The menu is lovely, and a cup of coffee along with a walk through the park might just be all you needed to unwind.
Finally, how could you even get us started on the historical significance of the monumental sites? Visiting these is definitely a fun thing to do in Cebu for all history and culture buffs. Visit the Cebu Heritage Monument for an overview of all the revolutions, invasions, and battles that took place in Cebu. If you’d like a more personal experience, the 1730 Jesuit House feels like a step back into a century ago. It contains furniture that has survived typhoons, earthquakes, and all manner of invasions.
A site that not many are familiar with is the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. Unlike other churches in the area, this particular cathedral is more focused on presenting a history of religion in the city. It basically tells the story of how Christianity took root in a place dominated by Buddhism and Hinduism.
A more traditional church is the Basilica del Santo Nino. It’s the oldest church in the Philippines and holds regular mass along with tours of ancient paintings, stained glass windows, gorgeous architecture, and prized relics.
Moving on, there’s the Taoist Temple with its 81 steps, which represent the 81 chapters of ancient Taoist scripture. Be sure to pay your respects to the chapel and wishing well. You’d also enjoy a visit to the library and souvenir shop to prove you were actually there. Fun facts: this place was also the center of worship for the followers of Lao Zi. Moreover, it’s architecture has been inspired by the Great Wall of China!
And it doesn’t stop there. Please trust us when we say that Cebu is the hub of history and culture. It’s the best place to go to when you just want to immerse yourself in the rich heritage of the region. Other places to visit include Fort San Pedro, Yap San Diego Ancestral House, Temple of Leah, Magellan’s Cross, Simala Shrine, and Museo Sugbo. We warned you: it keeps going on.
And it doesn’t even stop there! There are dozens of picturesque waterfalls you can enjoy in Cebu, along with the tantalizing cuisine on offer. Once you start exploring, you may never want to return.
Wherever you decide to go, we’re nearly begging you to not miss out on the snorkeling and diving experience. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. There’s no other place where you’d find waters as warm as these, and marine creatures as plentiful. Along with well-managed diving excursions, the experience is life-changing.
And if you take our word for anything, be it this: we already see less and less of butterflies now during our day. Make up for this lost time by paying a visit to the Jumalon Museum, Butterfly Sanctuary, and Art Gallery. It’s definitely going to be invigorating. You won’t see so many butterflies in one place ever again. Your soul and Instagram feed will both be thankful, and it will also be an educational experience.
If you’ve taken us seriously until now, don’t stop short at our final advice for you. Take a break and do chill at Cebu Westown Lagoon. The Lagoon is artificial, but the joy and relaxation it will bring you are definitely authentic. Trust us when we tell you that you’ll need that rest so you can bask in the historical significance of the ground you walk on later in your trip. And if you’re looking for the complete Cebu experience, don’t forget about the lovely attractions in the bonus section. No trip to the province could ever be whole without excursions to the various historical sites. Top it all off with a walk through the botanical gardens and a final relaxation session at one of the hot springs.