When I visited The Philippines last December, it didn’t take too long before I found the gems of Cebu. Before arriving at the beautiful island group of The Philippines we already decided we had to go to Cebu – hearing the stories of the beaches, the whale sharks and the beautiful, countless number of waterfalls you can find in on the island.
So right after we visited the lush island of Palawan and spent many days in El Nido, we flew from El Nido Airport to the main airport of Cebu on the tiniest airplane, and all of the sudden found ourselves in the busy and chaotic center of Cebu. It was clear right away: Cebu was a completely different side of The Philippines we hadn’t seen yet, and I couldn’t wait to explore.
In total we’ve spent 5 days in Cebu and traveled around the island quite a bit. And just to highlight: here are five things I did while I was in Cebu – the fun things and the not so fun ones!
Enjoying the sunset
The Noordzee Hostel in Boljoon, Cebu has to be one of the prettiest hostels I’ve ever stayed at. There aren’t many hostels on the island, but then again: you only need one good one to sleep at. Noordzee is all I was searching for. The beds are comfy, the restaurant is good and the ambiance is fun. But by far the best thing about the Noordzee Hostel is the little private beach in front of the hostel and our view over the ocean. During the nights we stay at this hostel we enjoy the beautiful sunsets from the hostels’ roof.
I am a sucker for sunsets and try to always watch them, where ever I go in the world, for as long as I can. Cebu definitely doesn’t disappoint and our sunset view literally is perfect. Mixing it with the tropical vibe and the nice weather of the Philippines.. I really can’t complain.
Visiting Kawasan Falls
The Kawasan Falls are beautiful. Like, literally beautiful. It takes us three hours to get to the falls, but I am glad I can see them. We initially wanted to do the canyoneering tour through the Kawasan Falls. After snorkeling, kayaking and swimming with whale sharks, cliff-diving, canyoning and hiking around Kawasan seemed like a logical thing to do. Unfortunately we arrive a bit late on the day and get bombarded with sales pitches from the local tour guides who all try to convince us to book the tour. We get overwhelmed and decide to visit the Kawasan Falls on our own.
The water of the Kawasan Falls is rich blue, and even though it’s 30 degrees and the sun is burning on your shoulders, the water of the falls feels ice cold. Around the Kawasan Falls you’ll find a lot of stands and little shops that rent out lockers, life vests, tables and a ride on the famous wooden rafts that can bring you a bit closer to the falls. Trust me: there is a lot of commercialized action going on behind what you can see on camera.
While other tourists around us enjoy the little bits and bobs they are selling around the waterfalls, and while they are hopping on the rafts as if their lives depend on it, I try to enjoy the Kawasan Falls, and only the Kawasan Falls as they are: a perfect, beautiful, little hidden gem that decorates the island of Cebu.
Shopping at SM Seaside City Cebu
After arriving in Cebu we decide to stay our first night in Cebu City, to rest a bit after our journey and to ‘take it nice and slow’. We check in at Bayfront Hotel Cebu: a beautiful hotel with the perfect location in Cebu. It doesn’t take us too long to find out that the hotel is situated in front of one of the largest shopping centers of the world: SM Seaside City Cebu.
SM Mall is intens. We just got back from tropical Palawan and quiet, little El Nido SM Mall feels overwhelming. It is crowded. But it’s fun. It feels like we step back into reality and got back to the modern age. We are surrounded by new, big cars, Iphones and the newest H&M collections. It’s the biggest contrast I can imagine and my opinion of The Philippines changes – I see more and more of the country and the people that live in it – from the busy city folks to the fishermen.
I enjoy walking through the mall and exploring the little shops and food courts. It is the perfect way to spend a night after a busy day of traveling.
Relaxing at the Tumalog Falls
‘You want to go to Tumalog Falls?’ Even before getting the chance to reply with a propper ‘yes’ we are pushed on the back of a random guys’ bike and race over to the Falls we desperately wanted to visit.
Hopping on a motorcycle like that (I mean with three people on one bike) is a completely new experience for me – a little ‘only in Asia’ moment I find very funny – especially because it came out of nowhere. Normally I prepare for these things, you know. No, actually – normally I don’t do these things.
The Tumalog Falls has to be the most unique waterfalls I’ve ever seen. It isn’t exactly a waterfall as you would think it is. In the middle of the dense forrest of Cebu you’ll find a big green wall, covered with plants, moss and here and there a couple of colorful flowers. The water that drizzles over the edge of the big green wall finds her way down through the plants and the moss and perfectly shapes the most calming and relaxing waterfall.
It’s hypnotic, magical and mesmerizing.
Swimming with whale sharks
One of the main tourist attractions, and one of the main reasons many backpackers make their way over to Cebu is because of the gentle giants that are to be found in the waters of Cebu. Shocked by the size of the whale sharks and the beautiful photos I found of girls swimming along side them, made me want to do the same.
And so we make our way down to Oslob, a little village in the south of the island of Cebu that basically is all about swimming with the ‘friendly giants’.
Little did I know it felt so wrong to do.
With a tourguide, that already turned himself into our tourguide even before we stepped out of the bus, we arrive at the whale shark center. It doesn’t take me long to spot a massive crowd in the water just about 20 meters away from the beach. Could it be that the whale sharks are so closeby? No way.
I step into the little boat with mixed feeling. It doesn’t seem very ‘natural’ to me. I listen to the ‘rules’ of our dive while we make our way over to the massive crowd I saw earlier. ‘Don’t touch them’, ‘Don’t wear sun block’, ‘Keep at least a four meter distance’.
Our boat practically parks on top of one of the creatures – so far the four meters distance. In between the boats that are filled with tourists, I see a couple of Philippinos trying to feed the whale sharks non-stop, keeping the sharks entertained and making sure they don’t swim away. It almost seems ‘desperate’. The tourists surrounding me happily jump in and out of their boats, trying to touch the sharks when no one is looking.
This can’t be good.
I return home from the tour and start Googeling and searching for more information about the tour. I find this article that tells me exactly what I already thought after seeing the whale sharks myself. So please read this article before considering booking the tour too!