A Beginner's Travel Guide to Cebu and Bohol Islands in the Philippines

Here's everything you need to know: where to stay, which places to visit, what to do and eat, and so much more!

Updated on October 16, 2017 12:10 pm

Jerni Camposano-Gomez

Travel Guide: Cebu and Bohol Islands in the Philippines

Every now and then, we need to take a vacation to escape the rat race. We need this time for ourselves so we can relax, rejuvenate, and hopefully come back to work (and regular life) with a renewed zeal. After all, travelling feeds our soul, fills our mind, and opens our heart.

Need a quick break? Book a flight to Mactan Cebu International Airport, and fall in love with the bewitching beauty of two of the most amazing islands in the Philippines—Cebu and Bohol.

Cebu

Cebu is not called the "Philippines' Queen City of the South" for nothing. It has something to offer to every kind of traveller. So, what to do in Cebu? The tourist menu is filled to the brim. For beginners, however, here are some of them:

Lounge by the beach at Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort's private island

1. Bask in the sun or get a tan.

Cebu has a lot of beautiful beach resorts lining its shore so it's the perfect place to get your much-needed pause from the daily grind. There's nothing more relaxing than to simply lounge by the beach and listen to the sound of crashing waves. If you're even holding a piña colada in your hand while soaking in the beauty of the ocean, that's truly one for the books!

An amazing dive in Moalboal. Video courtesy of JamCam TV

2. Dive in some of the world's most spectacular dive spots.

Dive into the beauty of the underwater world in Cebu, where there is a vibrant marine life. I'm sure you've heard a friend or a colleague who has gone diving in this island in the Philippines. Its year round clear waters and amazing underwater finds—diverse sea life, walls of corals, caves, and many more that diving enthusiasts will surely find satisfying—are a few reasons diving enthusiasts keep coming back to Cebu.

Famous dive spots in Cebu include Moalboal (2.5 hours away from Cebu City) and Malapascua (about four hours from Cebu City). They're a little far from the city, but the trip is worth it. Visit Cebu Dive Centre for more details.

A close encounter with the gentle giants of the deep at Oslob, Cebu. Source

3. Swim with the whale sharks.

Oslob town in Cebu, which is three hours by land from the city, has gained popularity in recent years because of whale shark sightings all year round. You can either watch these gentle giants of the deep from your boat or snorkel and swim with them. Whatever you choose, it'll surely be a one-of-a-kind experience. (Please follow guidelines so as not to harm these gentle giants.)

A room with an ocean view at Bluewater Sumilon Resort

4. Visit Sumilon Island.

Since you're already in Oslob, don't miss the chance to visit Sumilon Island, one of Cebu's best-kept secrets. A 15-minute boat ride from Oslob, Sumilon boasts of powdery white sand beach and turquoise water. You can even spend a night or two on this picture-perfect island.

Bluewater Sumilon Resort invites you to embrace the charm of island living, what with its tranquil atmosphere, well-appointed rooms, dining options, and its Instagram-famous infinity pool with an amazing view of the ocean. Call +6332 318 9098 or email sumilon@bluewater.com.ph for reservations.

The San Isidro Labrador Parish in San Fernando, Cebu features neo-Gothic style.

5. Visit centuries-old churches.

This type of tour is akin to a study of different architectural styles. Learn more about Cebu's history and culture by visiting centuries-old churches featuring various architectural influences. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic nation, so don't be surprised when you see hoards of people flock to these churches.

This writer opted to experience Skywalk Extreme at night.

6. Experience "walking in the sky."

Conquer your fear of heights and see Cebu from the top (126.55 metres high above the street, to be exact) through the Skywalk Extreme. Walk around the translucent glass flooring on the edge of the Crown Regency Hotel and Towers' 37th floor, and receive a "Certificate of Courage" after completing this nerve-wracking adventure. See rates and details here.

Will you be able to resist that crunchy skin? Photo courtesy of Rico's Lechon

7. Eat lechon, dried mangoes, and danggit.

This island is also a foodie's haven. Lechon (roasted suckling pig) is a must-try when in Cebu—even renowned chef and No Reservations host Anthony Bourdain declared it the best pig in the world! Check out Rico's Lechon (you can bring home a box of this sinful but satisfying treat).

Dried mangoes from Cebu have found their way into Singapore supermarkets. But isn't it cool to also get a taste of this sweet treat from where it originated? Danggit (dried rabbitfish), on the other hand, is a favourite breakfast staple together with fried rice.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort: Your home in Cebu

Travellers in Cebu are spoilt for choices, what with the number of hotels and resorts all promising to give you that unique experience. In Mactan island alone, there are several accommodations to choose from. One that truly stands out is Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort, thanks to its "very Filipino" concept.

While other resorts in the area built high-rise accommodations, Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort stayed true to its promise of providing not just a room, but a home and an over-all Filipino experience to its many guests. The lush seven-hectare tropical paradise reflects the island's culture and vibe. And although there are a number of activities you can do in Cebu, staying at Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort might make you decide to not leave the resort at all. And we couldn't blame you for doing so.

(First and second photos) Bluewater Maribago's Royal Bungalow affords a view of the beach; (last photo) Signature floating beds and an oversized bathroom in the Premier Deluxe rooms

For one, the rooms embody Filipino homes—bungalow style but with modern amenities including a spacious bath space with an inviting free-standing tub. The Royal Bungalows at the beach wing offer panoramic views of the 110-metre white sand beachfront, open sea, and the resort's private island. Yes, Bluewater Maribago has its own private island where you can request for a romantic setup (read: marriage proposals) or a private event (dinner by the sea, anyone?)!

Dining options are varied, too: catch the nightly themed dinners at main restaurant Allegro Restaurant; indulge in fresh seafood at The Cove; enjoy a tall glass of your favourite drink while you marvel at the coloured spectacle that is the sunset at the beachfront open-air bar The Oyster Bar; order Italian fare at Delfino's; or have some light meals and juice at Amuma Juice Bar.

(Top photo) Get a well-deserved massage at the Amuma Spa; (Bottom photo) Take a few lapses or just unwind by the poolside.

Last night in Cebu? Ahh, don't forget to book a massage at the Amuma Spa, which celebrates Filipino warmth and gracious pampering at its finest. The spa lives up to its name Amuma, which is a Visayan word that means indulge with every attention, comfort, and care.

Other amenities that are not to be missed include three lagoon-shaped swimming pools with waterfalls, a children's playground, and a recreation and water sports centre.

To book a "very Filipino" experience, call +6332 402 4100 or email maribago@bluewater.com.ph.

Bohol

From Cebu, you can take a two-hour ferry ride to Bohol. It's easy to fall in love with this island—just look at the smiles of the locals and you'll know you're in one of the friendliest destinations in the world. Everyone is ready to lend a hand and welcome you to their stunner of an island. Bohol's many attractive destinations will appease even the most restless disposition and tired soul.

How to best experience Bohol? Read on:

A delicious spread awaits you when you board a special boat for a Loboc River cruise.

1. Have lunch at the Loboc River.

A visit to Bohol won't be complete if you don't get to enjoy a sumptuous lunch while cruising along the Loboc River. This is usually a part of the countryside tour, or you can book with Village Floating Resto & Cruises, one of the most trusted Loboc River Cruise operators in Bohol.

Smile back at the Philippine tarsier, but be careful not to disturb it in its natural habitat.

2. Take a wefie with the tarsier.

Take your selfie game to the next level by including the giant-eyed Philippine tarsier, one of the smallest primates on the planet, in your social media posts. You get to see them in their natural habitat, but make sure to follow safety reminders including not touching them and not using flash photography.

You should not leave Bohol without seeing the Chocolate Hills! Source

3. Jump for joy at the Chocolate Hills.

Mention Bohol, and people immediately associate it with Chocolate Hills. This group of Kisses-shaped hills is probably the island's most famous tourist attraction. Do not ever leave Bohol without seeing them!

Bohol boasts of immaculate white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Source

4. Frolick in the white sand beaches.

Bohol is undoubtedly a tropical paradise, blessed with many jaw-dropping white sand beaches. Talk about endless summers!


The underwater scene in Balicasag Island is breathtaking. Video courtesy of oceanic16

5. Go island hopping to Balicasag and Virgin Islands.

Want to see more islands? Hop on a boat and explore Balicasag (you can snorkel, dive, and watch turtles here) and Virgin (C-shaped naked sandbar) islands, just two of the many breathtaking islands in the Philippines. If you're lucky, you might even spot dolphins along your way to these islands!

Bluewater Panglao Resort: Your luxurious haven in Bohol

Bluewater Panglao Resort is an ode to Bohol's natural beauty. Its Filipino architecture and design complement the island's vibrant culture, warm hospitality, and eco-focused initiatives. The resort blends adventure with luxury, modern with traditional.

(First photo) Bluewater Panglao is your luxurious escape in Bohol; (Second photo) Family loft; (Third photo) Honeymoon Villa.

Guests—who are treated like family in this resort—get to choose from different room types: Family Villa, a two-bedroom accommodation complete with its own private dipping pool; One Bedroom Pool Villa, a romantic getaway for couples who are on a honeymoon or who simply want to spend time together; Family Loft, a two-storey room that can accommodate a family of four or a group of friends; and Premier Deluxe, featuring Bluewater Resorts' signature floating bed and skylit bathroom.

(Top photo) Aplaya Restaurant; (Bottom photo) The stunning pool and poolside rooms at Bluewater Panglao Resort

Enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner with an amazing view of the ocean at the al fresco-style Aplaya (which means seaside) Restaurant, which offers international cuisine as well as local fare with a modern twist. Book your water sports activities—scuba diving, snorkeling, glass bottom boat, stand-up paddle surfing, and even island hopping—at Aquamania. Bluewater Panglao Resort also has its own Amuma Spa, where you can book a soothing massage by the stunning pool.

Find your home in Bohol by calling +6338 416 0702 or sending an email to panglao@bluewater.com.ph.

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Whether you choose to stay in Cebu, Bohol, or both, you'll surely be rewarded with a memorable experience that will last you a lifetime. Be kind to yourself, take a break—you oh-so deserve it!


Have you been to Cebu or Bohol in the Philippines? Share your experience with us at hello@cromly.com.

Photos by the writer, unless otherwise stated
Resort photos by Bluewater Resorts

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