Things to do in Cebu (during a layover)
Cebu Layover? Why Not!
Layovers can be unexpected, sometimes, it adds to your projected expenses. But one thing I love about flight layovers is that it makes you explore more of a place while waiting for your next flight (talk about time cringe!) That’s what I usually do whenever I have trips in Visayas and Mindanao and I intentionally get to have a layover in Cebu. And since there are now direct flights to and from Baguio and Cebu, there is more reason to visit the Queen City of the South! Let’s go!
Revisiting the 5th province on my #Project82 Provinces, I have always wanted to return to Cebu and re-experience everything again. It is like going back and living the past! It completes my nostalgic feels about this province. Read on and know my personal faves on what to do and places to see in the Queen City of the South and Philippines’ Lechon Capital during a layover.
On the other side of the wing
Ever experienced booking a flight hassle-free then all of a sudden your flight schedule changes? Long and cumbersome layovers usually gets you stuck in an airport with nowhere to go. On the flip side, you can also intentionally book a connecting flight from your place of origin, to the place of your layover, until you reach your final destination. It is another kind of adventure you would want to try! It is always a nice thing for me to have a layover in Cebu not just because of their world-class airport hub, but also because there is so much to see and do in Cebu, sans the traffic!
Exploring Cebu (during a layover)
A half day of waiting for that (delayed) flight would be tiresome and more expensive as food and services at the airport are almost at a premium. So much so when you intentionally book a layover, you get to visit places nearby and learn more about the place. We decided to maximize our time and explore Cebu first before heading to our final destination! Here are some of the places we went during our Cebu Layover.
See also: Travel Guide: Reach Boracay in a snap!
What to visit and what to do in Cebu!
Cebu is rich not only in history but also in tourist spots that are surely not to be missed. For this edition of a layover, I have jotted down some of the nearby spots where you can experience the province (almost) in its entirety.
Lapu-Lapu (Mactan) Shrine and Magellan’s Marker (Punta Engaño, Lapu Lapu City)
One of the more popular tourist spots near the Mactan-Cebu International Airport is the Mactan Shrine in Punta Engaño. This is known as the place where Lapu-Lapu defeated the Spanish conquistadores led by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. To get here, you can ride a tricycle, cab, or jeep. Travel time from the airport is around 15-20 minutes. There is no entrance fee! This is also where the staging of the annual Kadaugan sa Mactan Festival happens.
10,000 Roses Café (Cordova)
Maybe you have heard of this 10,000 Rose Café in Cordova, a municipality in southern Mactan Island, and yes, you’re right, 10,000 artificial roses installed right in front of the café giving it its surreal ambiance. The café is open from 1100 H to 2300 H and you just have to pay Ph₱ 20 (US$ 0.39) for the entrance fee before entering the premises.
The café serves mostly European dishes – from pasta to coffee, name it, they probably have it. I tell you that the best time to go to this famous, new-to-the-eye attraction is from 1800 H onwards, it is where the magic really happens. The roses light up the crisp night sky and will definitely bring you to a whole new dimension. 10000 Roses Café can be reached in about 30 minutes from the Lapu-Lapu Shrine.
Lantaw Floating Restaurant (Cordova)
Just near the 10,000 Roses Café is the Lantaw Floating Restaurant. If you opt to have home-grown food, this is the place to be! With a view of the Cebu Strait and the Cebu City skyline, Lantaw Floating Restaurant also offers a cool ambiance that we loved.
I personally enjoyed their Cordova Cooler Drink wherein it tastes like a colada but infused with several citrus fruits like orange, calamansi, lemon, and watermelon as well. They serve mostly Filipino and Chinese cuisine and we have tried their Chopsuey (vegetarian mode on!) and their Crispy Garlic Shrimp.
Temple of Leah (Cebu City)
Basked within a lush vegetation in a higher part of Cebu City, the Temple of Leah is dedicated to Leah Villa Abino-Adarna honoring her and offering the temple to all her beauty. It is like the Taj Mahal of the Philippines wherein the façade and its interiors are that of an ancient Roman temple.
When we went to Temple of Leah, we had a hard time going up the hill (as we were only hitching on a motorbike). With its steep terrain going up, what you will see upon reaching the Temple is a 180-degree view of downtown Cebu and nearby Mactan Island. I personally have set high expectations on this place but to my surprise, the Temple is not yet done and ongoing construction works are still on its way to completion (but at least the main façade and balcony are ‘instagram-worthy.’) You will just have to pay Ph₱ 100 (US$ 2) entrance fee and you can enjoy the ‘temple’ daily from 0800 – 0000 H.
Tops Lookout (Lahug, Cebu City)
Just another must-see tourist attraction in Cebu, Tops Lookout is just a few meters farther than the Temple of Leah. One of the best kept secrets in Lahug. Located in Busay Hills, just like in Temple of Leah, Tops Lookout offers a much wider panoramic view of Cebu City and Mactan and Olango Islands. Tops can be reached approximately in 10-15 minutes from Temple of Leah via a habal-habal which usually costs Ph₱ 100 one way (US$ 2), or 20-30 minutes away from JY Square (in downtown Cebu City, approx. 10 km) via a jeepney but it would sure take time when riding such. There is an entrance fee of Ph₱ 100 (US$ 2) upon entering the premises. I also advise that you bring extra money for refreshments/souvenirs. Tops is open from 1000 – 2300 H. I am an avid fan of panoramic views and I can say that Tops Lookout is one of the best places in Cebu where you can see the metro below. The place is also filled with several food stalls in the area while you enjoy the view from above. Tops Lookout is temporarily closed as of this writing (but will reopen sometime in December 2022)
Cebu Taoist Temple (Cebu City)
Built by the prominent Chinese community in Cebu, the Cebu Taoist Temple is always on every traveler’s travel bucket list. Sitting atop the famed Beverly Hills of Cebu, this attraction will bring you at peace to a whole new level. The temple remains free of charge as of this writing and it is open from 0900- 1700 H. To get to there, alight a jeep going to Lahug, as the driver to drop you off the Taoist temple. From the drop off, you can hire a habal-habal for Ph₱ 10 (US$ 0.20, depends) and they will drop you off the gate going to the temple. They aren’t allowed to go inside the exclusive village as it is noisy. You can also reach the place via a private car or a taxi at approximately Ph₱ 300-400 (US$ 6-8) and the driver will wait for you until you finish the tour inside.
Magellan’s Cross / Basilica Minore del Santo Niño / Cebu City Hall (Cebu City)
Probably the most visited site in Cebu, the Magellan’s Cross symbolizes the establishment of the Catholic faith in the Philippines. Claimed to be planted in the very site where it is now, the original cross is enclosed in Tindalo wood for it to be preserved. Rumor has it that the original cross (before it was enclosed in wood) has supernatural powers that heals the sick on the olden times – that is why the site is so much venerated by Catholics. The site is just near the Basilica Minore del San Niño and the Cebu City Hall. It is easily accessible via various public transportation (or your private car) and is open daily from 0800 – 1800 H.
Founded in 1565, the Basilica Menor del Santo Niño de Cebu, aka Sto. Niño Church, is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines and is believed to be the spot where the image of the Santo Niño (Child Jesus) was first found during the expedition of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. This church is also assigned by the Holy See as the “Mother and Head of all Churches in the Philippines.” Adjacent to the Church is the renowned Magellan’s Cross.
Fort San Pedro (Cebu City)
Fort San Pedro is considered to be the smallest and oldest fort in the Philippines. Now situated within Cebu’s Plaza Independencia, Fort San Pedro, a.k.a. Fuerza de San Pedro, also served as the first seat of the Spanish settlement in the country spearheaded by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. This triangular-shaped fortress is one of Cebu’s many symbols depicting the province’s rich history. The fort today has 14 cannons all around with three bastions and turrets that serves as its watchtower. It also has several plants that ornament and complement the fort itself. There is a minimal entrance fee of Ph₱ 30 (US$ 0.60, regular rate); Students and Senior Citizens get discounts upon presentation of a valid ID. It is open daily from 0800 – 2000 H.
Taboan Public Market (Cebu City)
Cebu, known for its diverse dried fish and other souvenir food items, is also known for its danggit or dried fish. Taboan Public Market is one of the more popular sites where you can buy such. Here, you will find a wide array of dried fish, small and big! Interestingly enough, too, are its pyramidal presentations when they sell their products. Price ranges vary based on the kind of fish. The market usually opens from 0400 – 2000 H daily. The Taboan Public Market is one of the more popular sites in Cebu. I have been here several times and every time I visit the place, there is always something new about it. The market also showcases several local delicacies that are way cheaper than other souvenir shops found in Cebu. It can get crowded at times but I say it is part of the experience!
Sirao Pictorial Garden 1
Cebu is one of the major tourist hubs in the Visayas. With this, there are a lot of tourist spots in and around Metro Cebu that you can visit. One of them is Sirao Pictorial Garden. This flower garden showcases the natural landscape of Cebu and it is best viewed from their “Giant Hands.” These hands offer a panoramic view of the mountainside and also give a 180-degree sight of Sirao Garden. They are open daily from 0700 – 1900 H and the entrance fee is only Ph₱ 70.
Sirao Garden 2 – Little Amsterdam
If you have been to Amsterdam, Sirao Garden’s Little Amsterdam is reminiscent of good ol’ Netherlands. The sights here are also similar to Sirao Pictorial Garden (Garden 1) and also gives a glimpse of the Cebu countryside. Lucky you if their flowers are in full bloom so you can experience the place at its fullest. The Little Amsterdam is open daily from 0700 – 1900 H and the entrance fee is only Ph₱ 100.
Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House
The Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House is one of the oldest houses in Cebu, built sometime in the 17th century. This historical structure was once the home of Don Juan Yap and Doña Maria Florido. Taken care of over the past 10 generations, this house will give you a glimpse of the earliest Chinese settlements in Cebu and is made from delicate wood and coral stone – typical materials from way back then. It has been converted into a museum so guests and visitors will have a first-hand experience on how it was to live during the colonial period. The Yap-San Diego Ancestral House is open daily from 0800 H to 1900 H and the entrance fee is only Ph₱ 100. I suggest that you allocate at least 1 hour to tour around the property.
Heritage of Cebu Monument
Just a few meters away from the Yap-San Diego Ancestral House, the Heritage of Cebu Monument is a montage of the different important events that shaped Cebu as it is today. This mixed-media structure depicts events from the Spanish Colonization up to the recent canonization of San Pedro Calungsod, a Cebuano martyr. The place where the monument stands is also historial because Parian was once home to prominent families in Cebu and is also an important place to trade. (Parian, from the word pari-pari meaning “to barter or trade.”)
Cebu Provincial Capitol
This is the seat of the provincial government of the province of Cebu. The Cebu Provincial Capitol is strategically located at the heart of Cebu City, at the tip of Osmeña Boulevard, designed by Juan M. Arellano, a renowned architect who also designed the Manila Metropolitan Theater, The Legislative Building (now the National Museum of Fine Arts), and the Manila Central Post Office.
Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEx)
The Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEx) connects mainland Cebu to the island of Mactan, entering the municipality of Cordova. It was inaugurated last 27 April 2022, coinciding with the 501st anniversary of the Battle of Mactan. It is now the longest sea-crossing bridge in the Philippines crossing the Mactan Channel and is notable for its design that can be seen a few kilometers away. The toll fee in the CCLEX is pegged at Ph₱ 60 – Class I (cars, jeepneys, pick-ups, vans, and motorcycles); Ph₱ 180 – Class I beyond 7 feet in height; Ph₱ 180 – Class II (trucks, tourist / school / public utility buses); and Ph₱ 270 – Class III (heavy and multi-axle trucks and trailers).
Sample Cebu Layover Itinerary and Expenses
|0700 – 0730 H||Lapu-Lapu Shrine / Magellan’s Marker||Free|
|0800 – 0900 H||Breakfast at Lantaw Floating Restaurant||₱ 200.00 – 300.00|
|0900 – 0930 H||10,000 Roses Cafe (best visited during nighttime)||₱ 20.00|
|0930 – 0945 H||Pass through CCLEx||₱ 60.00|
|0945 – 1030 H||Taboan Public Market||Depends|
|1045 – 1130 H||Magellan’s Cross / Sto. Niño Church / Cebu City Hall||Free|
|1145 – 1215 H||Fort San Pedro||₱ 30.00|
|1230 – 1300 H||Yap-San Diego Ancestral House / Cebu Heritage Park||₱ 100.00 / Free|
|1330 – 1415 H||Lunch at House of Lechon||₱ 500.00 – 600.00|
|1415 – 1430 H||Cebu Provincial Capitol||Free|
|1445 – 1515 H||Cebu Taoist Temple||Free|
|1545 – 1615 H||Sirao Pictorial Garden 1||₱ 70.00|
|1630 – 1700 H||Sirao Garden Little Amsterdam (Garden 2)||₱ 100.00|
|1715 – 1800 H||Tops Lookout||₱ 100.00|
|1815 – 1845 H||Temple of Leah||₱ 100.00|
|1915 – 2015 H||Dinner at Mactan-Cebu Airport||₱ 200.00 – 300.00|
Layovers aren’t bad after all!
As it is my second time in Cebu and is my first layover experience, it just feels fulfilling realizing that there is so much to be done whenever you are laid over to a different place before reaching your main destination. Note, too, that the time and schedule depends on how many hours your layover is. It is just a matter of time management (and budget management, too!) and how eager you are in discovering different sights.
We’re born to travel!