To be frank, when I embarked on this solo trip all I wanted to do was swimming with the whale sharks (as what Cebu is frequently marketed for apart from their amazing beaches) which is why I believe that a weekend trip to Cebu was sufficient.
I took a return budget flight (Tiger airways) to Cebu from Singapore at only $159 (super cheap because my return flight was free, there was a promotion going on)
Budget 4d3n Cebu Itinerary with Whale Sharks
Day 1: Arrive in Cebu in the morning.
The cheapest way to get from the airport to Cebu city is to take MY bus from the domestic arrival terminal (trust me, the locals are all gonna tell you to take a taxi, but that will be pretty expensive).
MY bus only costs 25php one way (I bought two-way tix), and it gives you credit in the bus card to purchase things in supermarkets.
I was dropped off at the city centre and had to walk a little (followed google maps) and checked into Tropical Hostel Cebu (650 php/night which is equivalent to about SGD $11/night), location of the hostel was GREAT though it wasn’t easy to find in the middle of a busy road. The hostel upgraded me to a room with air-con (you’ll really need air-con in Cebu because the weather is terrible), rooms were very basic but what do you expect from $11? Every night that I was there, the hostel was fully booked so I’m guessing they’re really quite a decent hostel, not the best but decent.
Sights for the day before heading to Oslob for the Whale Sharks:
You only need minimally half a day for this. Tops Lookout, Temple of Leah, Celosis Flower Farm. I had to hire a motorbike taxi to bring me to all 3 places (they’re all relatively near each other). So, the best way around this is to head to JY Square (I took a jeepney [jeepneys are like their public mini buses] with the help of google maps) to reach JY Square. You’ll see a number of motorbike taxis at the entrance of JY Square (basically if you see motorbikes with TWO helmets, it is likely that they are motorbike taxis). I randomly chatted up one of those dudes and negotiated to bring me to the 3 places. It should cost you 300-400php both ways (please do not get scammed because I got scammed with the pricing without much research online, you can negotiate the price with them). After that, I read online that to Tops Lookout it should be 100php, to temple of Leah from there (+50php) and to Celosis Flower farm (+20php), so both ways you need to multiply by two. It took about 3-4 hours in total for the 3 destinations for the riding journey + time taken to take alot of pictures at those places. (Would highly recommend to visit those places if you’ve time, see below for pictures!)
Day 2: Making your way towards Oslob where the whale sharks are.
Headed down to Boljoon (where my hostel was at) before reaching Oslob, take an early bus to get there early (7am) so you’ll still be on time to catch the Whale Watching for the day, or you’ll need to wait for the next day.
The most economical way is certainly by taking a bus from the South Bus Terminal. At the bus terminal, I headed to Ceres Bay 10 to Dumaguete (if the bays change, just ask any of the staff there on which bus that will take you to Boljoon). I was gonna be staying at Noordzee Hostel so I told the bus driver to drop me off right outside the hostel (it seems that that all drivers know about the existence of this hostel and they literally really dropped me outside of the hostel). It was a 3 hours bus ride from Cebu’s South Bus Terminal, the price of the ticket was really cheap (less than S$10 if I remembered correctly?).
Noordzee Hostel was amazing, it had its own private beach and was reasonably priced. Note that you do not need to stay at Oslob to swim with the whale sharks, Noordzee hostel was a good location too frankly. After checking in, you can simply head out to board back another bus (or the same bus at a later timing) to Oslob, the buses run quite frequently (just simply flag the bus and ask if the bus goes to Oslob for the whale sharks, or get the hostel’s security guard to flag a bus for you, he’s really nice). The bus ride from Noordzee hostel to Oslob Whale Sharks area was only 30 mins.
At Oslob, you’ll spend only 30 minutes for swimming with the whale sharks (fixed standard rate of 500php for foreigners), and the rest of time either waiting or getting showered after the swim. You could spend more time at the area, I heard they’ve pretty nice beaches to head to! But me, being a lone traveller felt really worn out from all the travelling on buses so I headed back to my hostel for a good rest and dip in its private pool.
Other options: If you had another day to spare, I would recommend you heading to the Oslob whale sharks place early in the morning at 7am, then head to Kawasan Falls right after. There’ll be locals at the whale sharks area touting you to head to kawasan falls so all you need is to negotiate the price with them.
Head back to Cebu City, board the same bus back on the opposite side from Noordzee hostel back to Cebu City. Check out places of interest like Magellan’s Cross, Fort San Pedro in Cebu city itself if you’ve time. Also, I went for this night market IT Park which was pretty nice (there’re 3 branches of this market, you’ll need to find them by googling for Cebu night market).
Day 4: Home sweet home.
Other places of interest in Cebu which I would’ve gone if I had more time:
Chocolate Hills, Osmena Peak, Sibonga Simala Shrine and lastly Sumilon Island which I really wanted to go (needed to take a boat from Oslob).
The real streets of Cebu filled with dust and smoke and very budget hostel (Tropical Hostel Cebu)
Temple of Leah
Tops Lookout (apparently the local’s best kept secret)
You get a top view of the city
Noordzee Hostel’s Private Beach
Super up close view of the whale sharks while swimming with them
Tip for travelling in Cebu:
Always commute by a bus / jeepney. Jeepneys are SO CHEAP and safe compared to taxis. If you wanna alight from the jeepney and can’t speak Tagalog, you simply need to use your coin to tap on the top of the jeeynep three times and the driver will know you would like to stop and alight. You can either pay the driver when you first board, or just before your alight. You can also pass them to money when it’s a safe time to do so, most of the times they’ll be swerving the vehicle left right everywhere to avoid jams, trust me they are such skilled drivers that you’ll be amazed haha.
Would I travel to Cebu again? Probably not, but I would love to check out other parts of Philippines though.