Metro Cebu is in Cebu Province in the Philippines. It is the country's second largest urban area, after Metro Manila, and the main urban center both of the province and of the larger Visayas region which forms the central third of the country. Metro Cebu has more than 60% of the total population of the province with nearly 3.2 million in the 2020 census.
Metro Cebu is the main transport hub for southern parts of the country, either the Visayas or Mindanao. Mactan-Cebu International Airport is the second busiest in the country (after Manila), with good connections both domestic and international. The ferry port in Cebu City is the country's busiest.
Three main cities make up the core of Metro Cebu; each has its own government and its own Wikivoyage article:
- 1 Cebu City — on Cebu Island; has the port, provincial government, many hotels, extensive shopping, lively nightlife, and much else (population in 2020 census 964,000).
- 2 Mandaue — a residential and industrial town located on Cebu Island between Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu (364,000).
- 3 Lapu-Lapu — on Mactan Island east of Cebu City; has the airport, some nice beaches and dive sites, and many high-end resorts (498,000).
For practical purposes, the three are in effect a single city; taxis, jeepneys and buses are available so travel between them is easy. There are two large bridges between Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu, and many roads between Manadue and Cebu city.
- Cebu-Cordova Link Espressway (CCLEX). A third bridge, running direct from Cebu City to Córdova (the southern part of Mactan), went into service in April 2022. It is 8.5 km (just over 5 miles) long and high enough to allow ocean-going ships to pass beneath. Unlike the two existing bridges the new one has a toll.
Cebu City has most of the region's historical sights and a range of facilities for travellers: accommodation, food and entertainment. It is therefore the main tourist destination in the region. However many travellers will also visit other areas: Lapu-Lapu for the airport, and anywhere except Cebu City for beach resorts.
The administrative region of Metro Cebu extends well beyond the three core cities; the most distant towns in the region — Carcar to the south and Danao to the north — are about 40 km (25 miles) from Cebu City. The region includes various suburbs or towns for which Wikivoyage has separate articles. We list them below, with each list ordered from Cebu City outwards:
East of Cebu City, on other islands:
- Lapu-Lapu, connected to Mandaue by bridges
- 4 Córdova — on Mactan Island, south of Lapu-Lapu
- 5 Olango Island — easternmost part of the metro area, a short ferry ride from Lapu-Lapu, but fairly rural. Has mangrove swamps, a wildlife sanctuary popular with bird watchers, a large reef area with good diving, and some mid-range resorts
North of Cebu City, on Cebu Island:
- Mandaue, bordering Cebu City and with bridges to Lapu-Lapu
- 6 Consolacion — mainly residential suburb north of Mandaue
- 7 Lilo-an — coastal suburb, home of the Rosquillos, a type of cookie
- 8 Compostela — municipality with a few coastal resorts and attractions inland in the hills
- 9 Danao — 40 km from the city. Has ferries to the Camotes Islands
South of Cebu City, on Cebu Island:
- 10 Talisay — a residential and trading center directly bordering Cebu City. Talisay has the fourth largest population of any municipality in the region. It could be considered a fourth core city
- 11 Minglanilla — largely a bedroom suburb just south of Talisay, known for its Sugat festival
- 12 Naga — has the largest factory in the country, making cement, and also a number of seaside resorts
- 13 San Fernando — more of a country area than a city region, though there is a town; has resorts both in a mountain area and along the coast
- 14 Carcar — old colonial town on the coast with a few interesting historic buildings.
All municipalities have some sea coast and all except Cebu City have some beach resorts. Many of the townships also extend up into the island's mountainous interior, but most of the population is along the coast.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The region has many resident foreigners, both employed and retired. Under Philippine law foreigners cannot own land but they can buy condominiums, and there are condo developments in many parts of the country catering to that market and to well-off Filipinos. In this area most foreigners can be found in Cebu City or in Lapu-Lapu, which has many high-end condos near beaches.
The region has a tropical monsoon climate with a long wet season and a shorter dry season. Average temperatures show little variance during the year; average daily highs range from 30 °C (86 °F) to 33 °C (91 °F) in various months and lows from 22.6 °C (72.7 °F) to 24.5 °C (76.1 °F). Cebu City averages roughly 1,700 mm (67 in) of precipitation annually.
As anywhere in the country, there is some risk of typhoons. Cebu is south of the most dangerous areas but does get hit by some storms. Nearby areas with somewhat less rain and lower typhoon risk are Bohol or Dumaguete further south.
The main language of the province and of several nearby regions is Cebuano, also known as Bisaya to its speakers and Visayan in English. However many locals speak one or more other languages as well.
As anywhere in the country, English is widely spoken at skill levels ranging from awful to excellent. This is a highly developed urban area with many tourists, so good English is more common here than in many other regions.
Tagalog is also commonly spoken since the central government promotes it as a national language and it is used in schools, but it is not indigenous to this region. Several of the country's many minority languages — including Waray, Illongo and Hokkien Chinese — are also fairly common in the area, but most speakers of those will also speak at least one of Cebuano, Tagalog or English.
It is possible to arrive at the airport, go directly to one of Lapu-Lapu's resorts, not visit Cebu City (or only go there on a guided tour), and be almost entirely insulated from the Philippines. Some package holidays, mainly for Japanese and Koreans, do exactly this.
For air travel, Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB IATA) is in Lapu-Lapu; it has many international flights, mostly within Asia, plus domestic flights to and from most major cities in the southern Philippines, direct flights to some cities in the north and connections via Manila to most of the others.
Many travellers land at the airport then take the My Bus or a taxi into Cebu City.
Mandaue and Talisay have container ports, and more-or-less every town in the region has a port area or at least a few docks. Most of these are of zero interest to visitors; the exception is a dock in Lapu-Lapu which has boats to Olango Island and Bohol.
There are two major bus terminals, the north terminal in Mandaue and south terminal in Cebu City. Ceres Liner buses have routes from most cities on Cebu Island. There are also buses from major cities not on Cebu Island, including Quezon City in Metro Manila, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Malapascua and Bacolod; they ride ferries for parts of their routes.
Anywhere in Metro Cebu, except Olango Island, is easily reached by road from anywhere on Cebu Island via the highway that runs north-south following the coast. This is part of a coastal road that runs around all of Cebu Island. Although called a highway, it is not a divided fast road and goes through the centre of most towns in the region.
The Natalio Bacalso Avenue (N8 - South National Highway) runs from Santander (ferry connection from Dumaguete, Negros Oriental and from Siquijor) in the south to Carcar then continues as the Cebu South Road to Cebu city. The Central National Highway from San Remigio and Hagnaya port in the north run through Danao and on to Cebu City.
There is a coastal highway that runs north-south through all parts of Metro Cebu that are on Cebu Island; roads branch off it to Lapu-Lapu and Córdova. Very little of this road is divided highway or limited access, and parts of it form the main streets of several towns; traffic is often slow and driving difficult.
Traffic in the main cities is sometimes awful, especially in Mandaue since it is between two larger cities (Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu), there are only a few ways through and there is sometimes construction work on those. Traffic in Cebu City can also be unpleasantly heavy at times. Throughout the area travel during rush hours should be avoided if possible.
The Metro Cebu Expressway — 75 km of modern divided highway from Naga to Danao — is expected to be completed by 2022. As of early 2019 not much of it is in service yet, only a section from near SM Seaside mall in Cebu City into Talisay.
There are taxi, jeepney and bus services anywhere in the region.
Taxis can be expensive since the urban area is quite spread out; for example a taxi from the airport in Lapu-Lapu to downtown Cebu City costs from ₱250-400. However, while that is expensive by local standards — in a country where many jobs pay about that much a day — it is still a bargain by international standards.
For trips to the more distant suburbs taxis are somewhat expensive even by international standards; most locals and many visitors use buses or jeepneys instead.
A company called MyBus has four routes around the region with full-size air-conditioned low-floor buses. Fares start from ₱25:
- Route 1 SM Seaside, Cebu Port, SM City, North Bus Terminal, Park Mall.
- Route 2 SM Seaside, Talisay.
- Route 3 SM City, Park Mall, Mactan Airport.
- Route 4 Park Mall, North Bus Terminal, SM City, Talisay.
Sugbo Transit operates a bus service within Cebu City, between South Road Properties and Cebu IT Park, passing by SM Seaside, the South Bus Terminal and Fuente. Like with MyBus, they also use accessible, air-conditioned, low-floor buses. This will be replaced by a bus rapid transit (BRT) line in the near future, utilizing the same route.
V-Hire minibuses – vans that seat about a dozen passengers – run between stations next to major malls in the various cities; these are often the best way of getting between those towns, more comfortable than jeepneys and cheaper than taxis. A van ride from Ayala Mall in Cebu City to Gaisano Mall in Lapu-Lapu is ₱35.
Jeepneys are a cheap and convenient, though often not very comfortable, way to get around within each city. Look for signs painted on the side saying where they go, or ask a local where to find the one you need, then wave your arm to flag one down. For intercity travel, the buses are much more comfortable but jeepneys may be cheaper.
However, if you do travel on a jeepney, beware of pickpockets, especially when the jeepneys are crowded.
There are also motorcycle-plus-sidecar tricycles for hire in some areas. In the cities, they are cheaper than taxis but much less comfortable. They are less crowded than the jeepneys, therefore better if you have luggage, and there is less risk of pickpockets. On Olango Island, the tricycles are the only available option.
There are also ferries within the region. One runs from the port in Cebu City to a pier in downtown Lapu-Lapu for ₱20.
See the articles for individual cities for descriptions of most of the area's attractions. Here we mention only a few of the most important, and even for those the details are in the city articles.
Magellan's expedition in the 1520s was the first to circumnavigate the Earth, but Magellan himself did not make it all the way; he was killed in a battle on Mactan Island with the forces of a local chief named Lapu-Lapu. Today the island's main city is called Lapu-Lapu; it has a statue commemorating the warrior, with a monument to Magellan nearby.
Magellan was fighting Lapu-Lapu at the request of Rajah Humabon of Cebu, who was friendly with the Spaniards and had been baptised a Christian. Two of Magellan's gifts to the Rajah are now among Cebu City's most important tourist sites. One is Magellan's Cross, the other a statue of Santo Niño (the Holy Child). Cebu's greatest church is the Basilica of Santo Niño; the statue is inside and the cross is in a small chapel nearby. These draw Catholic pilgrims from all over the Philippines, and some from further away.
The Sinulog festival, dedicated to Santo Niño, is on the third Sunday in January; it attracts large numbers of both tourists and pilgrims. It is centered on the Basilica in Cebu City but is celebrated throughout Metro Cebu, in the rest of the province, and to some extent even in nearby provinces. If you visit around that time, be prepared for sold-out hotels, large crowds and severe traffic problems.
There are many religious sites to visit, notable churches being the Archdiocesan Immaculate Heart of Mary in Minglanilla and Sto Tomas de Villanueva in Danao, as well as many shrines and crosses such as at Q Park in the hills of Compostela.
Diving, both snorkel and scuba, is a major draw for travellers throughout the Philippines, and various other activities, from just relaxing on beaches to going out in boats to admire dolphins, are popular as well.
Within the Metro region, except for the very urban Cebu City, every town listed at #Cities above has some beaches, beach resorts and dive sites. Many of the higher-end places are in Lapu-Lapu and Córdova. More moderate prices can be found on Olango Island or the coastal towns away from the city to either north or south.
A number of other popular diving sites are located near Cebu and often reached via the Metro region. Moalboal is reasonably nearby on Cebu Island; see Cebu_Province#Understand for other possibilities within the province. Popular destinations in nearby provinces include Panglao Island in Bohol Province and Dumaguete in Negros Oriental. There are flights or ferries to both, and Dumaguete can also be reached by bus.
All the resorts and most hotels have restaurants and bars, some with international menus. All the malls also have food vendors, though the smaller ones may have only fast food chains. In addition to those, the areas around Mango Avenue and the IT Park (both in Cebu City) also have many restaurants; both areas include places with international menus.
As anywhere in the country, there are many fast food outlets and plenty of street food; see the Philippines article for discussion.
For restaurant listings, see the city and town articles listed at cities above.
- SuTuKil - An abbreviation for sugba (grilled), tula (soup-based/with broth), and kilaw (raw, soaked/pickled in vinegar). This is a popular term for ordering a selection of fresh seafood and meat from the market and cooked any way you like it in an eatery.
- Lechon - Roasted suckling pig. The whole province of Cebu is known for its lechon which some consider the best in the Philippines. Chain restaurants to try include CnT Lechon and Zubuchon.
The region's largest entertainment area is along Mango Avenue in Cebu City.
Nearly all the resorts and many of the hotels also have bars, some with live music. For other bar and night club listings, see the city and town articles listed at cities above.
All the suburbs along the coast have some dive sites and beach resorts, and Lapu-Lapu has many, mostly upmarket. Cebu City itself has none and Mandaue only a few. There are also many other possibilities in other parts of Cebu Province.
The high-class hotels are mainly in Cebu City or near the airport in Lapu-Lapu. High-end beach resorts are mostly in Lapu-Lapu or Cordova. Mid-range hotels can be found in all the larger towns, mid-range resorts on Olango or in the coastal towns north and south of Cebu City. Backpacker places are mostly in Cebu City, especially the older Colon district down by the port.
For hotel listings, see the city and town articles listed at cities above.
The area is poor; there are beggars and it is wise to take precautions against pickpockets and common scams. In general the region is reasonably safe and violent crime is rare, but parts of Cebu City are considered risky at night.
In general, this can be solved by taking as little money and valuable items around with you as possible; if possible, avoid taking any money, because what may seem to you like not very much money would seem to a poor, hungry person like quite a lot. For example, if you took US$20 with you, you wouldn't think it was much, but someone who desperately needed a meal would.
All the major cities have social hygiene clinics which offer free testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases:
- Cebu City Social Hygiene Clinic, Room 103, City Health Office, General Maxilom Aveune, ☏ .
- Mandaue Social Hygiene Clinic, Mandaue City Health Office, S B Cabahug Street centro, ☏ .
- Lapu-Lapu Social Hygiene Clinic, Lapu-Lapu City Health Office, Lapu-lapu City Hall Road, ☏ .
- Talisay City Social Hygiene Clinic, Talisay City Rural Health Unit 1, Multi-purpose Bldg., Poblacion, ☏ .
For other health services see the Cebu City article.
If you need to renew your visa, the immigration department has two offices in Metro Cebu:
- Bureau of Immigration Cebu office, Robinsons Galleria mall. M-F 8AM-5PM.
- Bureau of Immigration Mactan office, Galsano Mactan Island Mall, M. L. Quezon National Hwy, Lapu-Lapu. M-F 8AM-5PM.
The Mactan office generally has faster service than the Robinsons Galleria mall one.
Most consulates are in Cebu City, but there are also several in Mandaue.
There are also some bus-and-ferry combination journeys to nearby islands, in particular to Dumaguete or to San Carlos (Negros Occidental) and on to Bacolod. There are two main bus stations, the North station in Mandaue and South station in Cebu City; to discover which one has buses for where you want to go, see the article on your destination.
Popular tourist destinations reachable with a few hours' ferry ride are Bohol and Dumaguete.
Boracay is one of the country's most popular and most developed beach resort areas. It is somewhat further away and is most easily reached by plane to Kalibo, then ferry. It is also possible to get there using buses and ferries via Bacolod and Iloilo City.