When visiting the Philippines, be sure to have the island of Cebu on your itinerary! I spent four days in Cebu and had plenty of time for adventure. I'll share a bit of information of what I explored, details & tips on how to get around, reviews on where I stayed, and how much money I spent overall!
After a quick search on Expedia, I found Air Asia to be the cheapest airfare from Manila to Cebu and back ($116.64 round trip). When booking, it'll ask if you want to pay less for checked baggage, DO IT. I was trying to find out how much weight I could have with a carry-on but I couldn't find the weight limit anywhere online so I decided to chance it (bc I'd hate to pay to check my backpack if it was within the carry-on limit). The weight limit for Air Asia is 7kg/16lbs (My backpack was 16kg/35lbs). Sooo as I said, it's best to pay for checked baggage at time of booking because when I got to the airport only to find my backpack was over the carry-on limit, the price was almost triple than what I would have paid at time of booking. You can imagine my disbelief as I calculated how many chicken nuggets I could have had with that extra cash! i.e. Would have been $6.39, instead it cost me $16.32.
DAY ONE: 12 HOURS OF TRAVEL
After a quick one hour flight, I was in Cebu! Pretty small airport. Three carousels for baggage claim, all in the same room. Exit the doors and go all the way to the right where the taxi line is. Take a taxi to the SOUTH BUS TERMINAL. Unless you are a traveling before 7am or after 10pm, there will be traffic (and lots of it). It took us a little over an hour to travel nine miles. As usual, always insist the taxi driver on a meter fare before he starts driving off. This one-hour taxi ride costs us $5.47. Once you get to the south bus terminal, wait right outside door #10 (these buses were going through our destination on Moalboal) with nearly 30-50 other people trying to catch the same bus. There are a few bus stalls for the buses to pull in, take your pick at which one you'll wait at. TIP: stand and wait at one stall instead of jumping over if a bus pulls into the one next door. This is bc everyone is pretty aggressive and if you're not in the very front, there may not be room for you and lookie there you lost your spot at the other stall where you would have been first in line for the next bus. The buses come rather quickly (perhaps every 10 mins or so). We confirmed with the driver that the bus we boarded would be going through Moalboal so we hopped on!
There are two types of buses; bigger bus with curtains & AC and smaller bus with open windows & non-AC. We rode whatever bus we could get on first; of course it was non-AC ($2.20). I liked it though bc I freeze on AC buses!
TIP: since there is not much wifi/cell service in rural parts of Cebu, download an offline google map of the area ahead of time so you can track where the bus is and where you need to get off. After three long hours through heavy traffic, we made it to Moalboal. The town is pretty lively. There will be plenty of tricyclists and Habel-habels (motorcycles) to take you into the barangay where you will stay. We paid $1 each for a quick six minute tricycle ride through the rain to our hostel, Le Village Hostel (click for accommodation review). Owner JJ checked us in with a huge smile and lots of laughs, she is the sweetest! After 12 long hours of travel to get to Moalboal, we ate drank chilled and slept.
DAY TWO: SARDINE SWIM IN MOALBOAL
After a good night sleep, we went out to explore the town. I heard about the sardines that swim right offshore so we rented a snorkel & mask at the second dive shop from the corner for $3 and hopped in the ocean (from the beach just to the right of the pier). After only 20-30 seconds of swimming, we were surrounded by hundreds of thousands of little fishy friends. AMAZING!!! They move so quickly and synchronized; forming beautiful shapes as you swim through the large schools. We easily spent nearly three hours there. Since everything nowadays is a business, can you believe this phenomenon was for the FREES?!! Yeah you!
DAY THREE: CANYONEERING IN ALEGRÍA
JJ told us about canyoneering in Cebu (click for canyoneering review). It included transportation to/from, lunch, and a wicked adventure through the jungle, canyons, and ends at the gorgeous Kawasan Falls ($30). Now, I usually don't do guides bc I like to explore on my own. But, I had read Jackson Groves blog post about this same canyoneering adventure and he said it was the best $30 he spent on his whole Philippines trip. I couldn't agree more. It was an intense adventure of a lifetime. Although I would have liked to spend a bit more time at Kawasan Falls, it would easily have to be another whole day at the falls alone (bc there are several waterfalls with tons of amazing photo ops).
After a quick bite to eat and a cold shower back at the hostel, we took a three hour bus ride to Olsob. Catch any bus going south and at the very end of that bus route ($1.70) get out and wait at the convenience store where you will transfer to the other bus (just confirm with the driver that it'll be going to Oslob, a short 30-minute ride for $1.20. We arrived at Sharky Hostel (click for accommodation review) where we were greeted by friendly staff member Grace for a seamless check-in. Shortly thereafter, we knocked out after a long and exhausting day.
DAY 4: WHALE SHARKS IN OSLOB
5am wake up call for something I was eagerly anxious and excited about, free diving with the whale sharks! After a short 10-minute orientation briefing (basically keep 5m away from the sharks and no sunscreen), $20 got us a five-minute boat ride to a 30-minute swim with the gentle giants. Absolutely incredible. HUGE! GORGEOUS! FRIENDLY! The people on the other hand. What they don't show you in the pictures you see on Instagram is how many people are in the water with you. I mean, god damn! Like, over 100 people at a time! I'm pretty sure I got kicked a dozen times and kicked others about the same amount lol! It was like a war zone down there. Who can get the best shot with not another human in sight. Good luck. May the force be with you and the odds ever in your favor.
Overall, four days in Cebu was a good amount of time for me. Of course there is more to explore but I had other islands to visit. From Cebu, you can take a quick one hour ferry ride over to neighbor island Bohol, where many hostel friends decided to travel to next. I, on the other hand, was traveling to another neighbor island, Leyte. A five-hour overnight ship ride to meet a friend I met on Instagram!
Quick recap on how much money I spent in Cebu:
Day 1: $18
0 (free breakfast at hostel)
$5 (taxi, bus, & tricycle)
DAY 2: $22
Day 3: $43
0 (breakfast= dinner leftovers)
$30 (canyoneering; included lunch and transportation)
$3 (tricycle & bus x2)
Day 4: $34
$20 (whale shark)
That's $117 without airfare. Round trip airfare was $140 with checked bag fees both ways, so a complete total of $257 for four days in Cebu! Sooo, which would you rather have: that over-priced Michael Kors watch that will go out of season in five months.... or four days of food, transportation, accommodations, and the adventure of a lifetime on the tropical island of Cebu Philippines???? Take your pick. Chose wisely.