It was mentioned in Enya’s enduring hit song, “Orinoco Flow”. It has its own international airport with direct flights here from most Asian capitals. It is one of the most popular destinations in the Pacific Rim. Simply dubbed, “An Island in the Pacific”, Cebu is the Philippines’ premier southern island, a crown jewel in the 7,000-island archipelago.
Cebu has everything: dazzling tropical beaches, centuries-old historical landmarks, great cuisine, fabulous nightlife, adventures in the wild-underwater and topside, over all a truly exotic getaway destination.
One lands in Mactan when visiting Cebu. Just minutes from the airport, the Shangri-La Mactan, a five-star world-class resort, lives true to its name. This lush white-sand beach oasis caters to travelers far and wide, from families to business people to the independent traveler. It also has what is arguably the region’s largest and most luxurious spa.
Across the channel spanned by two bridges lies Cebu City, the island’s bustling capital. Nightlife aficionados, foodies and shopaholics will get their fix here, a 24/7 hedonist’s delight! Those who prefer more bucolic scenery and a languid pace should head out of town northward for a scenic drive to the northeastern side.
Alegre Beach Resort in Sogod is secluded but complete with well-appointed individual cabanas. Each spacious abode is warm and elegant with native wood furniture and wooden floors. The cabanas have large and luxurious marble bathrooms as big as my studio apartment! And the cabanas sit atop limestone cliffs overlooking the ocean. The view is mesmerizing from your own private terrace.
Off the northeastern tip of Cebu, 8 kilometers offshore, is the island of Malapascua. This is truly an idyllic island escape for the independent budget traveler; you will not see crowds of tourists nor beachfront hotels here. There are neither roads nor cars. Instead, there are sleepy fishing villages, deserted coves, sandy pathways; a palm fringed white beach and lush tropical fauna.
Malapascua is small – you can walk around it in about three hours. Hike to the lighthouse for spectacular views. Meet friendly locals and sample freshly caught seafood grilled right on the beach. Surrounding Malapascua are coral gardens and superb dive spots with abundant marine life to titillate avid snorkelers and scuba divers.
A bit bigger than Malapascua is Bantayan Island, off the northwestern tip of Cebu. Once considered Cebu’s best kept secret, Bantayan is now a popular summer destination for beach-aholics from all over. Santa Fe town has the best beaches and the most accommodations on the island. History buffs can explore the ruins of an old Spanish fort right on the beach in Kuta or check out the four-century old church in the middle of the island.
And, there is a secluded little cove with a powdery white sand beach and sparkling turquoise waters to die for. No overnight accommodations here and only accessible by boat, this is truly the quintessential tropical paradise spot! Sssshhh…clues are in the sentence before.