The Philippines is an island country with endless possibilities for fantastic adventures. You could easily spend months on end there and still not have enough time to see everything it has to offer. Sadly, most of us can only afford to take short vacations so there’s no choice but to prioritize. If you are the type who likes to see and do as much as possible, then the Visayas might be the right choice for you.
The Visayas region is one of the most important and largest regions in the Philippines. It encompasses thousands of islands, with the most notable and central one being Cebu. Cebu is not only a major transport hub and tourist attractions but is also close to many other spectacular islands, and the best one of these is Bohol. Another great thing with building your own itinerary around Cebu is you can fly directly there and skip Manila altogether.
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We arbitrarily chose 10 days as it is a sufficient amount of time to explore the area, as well as not too long so that most tourists can afford it. That said, you can definitely spend close to a month in the Visayas and have a wonderful time. Our focus in this post would be on Cebu and Bohol, as they are the two most prominent and easy to reach locations. But that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate other stunning, nearby islands such as Siquijor, Camiguin, Negros, and Camotes. If you do choose to do so, without extending your vacation, you might want to use the help of a local travel specialist who will help you plan your vacation in the Philippines.
If you try doing this yourself, you might end up wasting half on your time on transfers between islands, so having an expert take care of logistics is highly recommended. Cebu and Bohol are both perfect for families or couples who seek comfort and luxury in a well-developed tropical island setting. The major benefit to choosing these places over Palawan, for example, is the fact everything becomes so much easier. You don’t have to worry about bad infrastructure or a limited selection of services as both islands are fully developed and well equipped to accommodate the large number of tourists who arrive all year round.
Seven Days Itinerary for Cebu
Spending time in Cebu can be done in two different ways. You could either set your base in the city itself, or you can book a hotel at one of the smaller towns and focus on attractions there. Cebu city is a smaller version of Manila – it’s quite busy but also full of fantastic things to do and places to eat at. Most tourists choose to stay in Mactan island just next to Cebu City since over there you can find beach resort instead of urban-styled hotels.
That said, the beaches in Mactan are underwhelming, to say the least. There are much nicer beaches scattered around Cebu island, so if that’s your priority you will do well to actually sleep in one of the places mentioned below. The big advantage to staying in Mactan though is the general level of accommodation you can find. If you do end up going to one of the smaller locations, you’d be lucky to find anything above 3 stars, while in Mactan there are plenty of 4 and even 5 stars resorts.
The first day is best spent getting familiar with Cebu city itself and you will most likely want to recover from a long international flight anyway. A nice way to still make use of this day is by taking the Cebu city walking tour. There are plenty of tour agencies offering it, and with a little bit of research, you can easily do it yourself. Cebu is full of fascinating historic monuments and this tour can really enrich your entire trip by learning a bit more about local history and culture. The tour usually takes half a day.
The second day is when the real adventure begins, and what better way to kick things off than going to Kawasan Falls – Cebu’s most exciting adventure? The falls are located 2 hours drive from the city, not far from Badian. The Kawasan Falls is not only spectacular but also a ton of fun and you can easily spend a couple of hours there. If you feel up to it, you could also reach the falls by doing the canyoneering trek instead. The tour can be booked in either Moalboal or Badian and most operators will even take care of transportation from Mactan for you.
When you are done at the falls, head to Moalboal since it makes much better sense to spend the night there. It is a very nice and laid back backpacker beach town, with excellent nightlife and a decent selection of resorts. On the following day, you will go island hopping here – where the main attraction is swimming and snorkeling with the sardine shoal.On the morning of day 4, you should head north to Malapascua, a small and beautiful island off the coast of Cebu. It is 4 hours’ drive by bus to Maya Pier, from which you’ll need to take a boat to the island itself. It is well worth the trouble though – Malapascua is truly a piece of paradise, completely unspoilt by modern times.
If you are into diving, you can easily spend all your time in Malapascua doing just that. It is considered one of the best diving spots in the Philippines, primarily due to the fact you are almost 100% guaranteed to meet Thresher sharks. With luxury boutique resorts and excellent yoga retreats, Malapascua also offers the perfect opportunity for relaxation and is therefore ideal for couples who seek privacy and romance.
If you are not too much into relaxing at the spa or chilling at the beach and don’t want to dive every day, there are plenty of other ways to fill your days. There are two fantastic nearby islands which are both really worth a visit – Bantayan and Kalanggaman island. Each of these requires a whole day to fully explore, so it can keep you busy during your whole stay.
Bantayan is a fairly large island with several smaller islets surrounding it. The island is slowly getting recognition as one of the best places for beach hopping and is an excellent destination for those who are into eco traveling. The main attraction at Bantayan is the sky diving tours offered there. Kalanggaman island, on the other hand, is already well known as one of the most pristine locations in the Philippines. There aren’t any activities to do there besides swimming and snorkeling – but the beach is considered one of the best in the world, and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have it all to yourself!
3 Days in Bohol
Once you are done in Cebu, you are ready to continue to Bohol by taking the ferry from Cebu City to Tagbilaran. The ferry takes between 2-3 hours and leaves every hour during the whole day, so catching one should not be any problem. Once in Bohol, make your way to Panglao island as this is where the best hotels are located, as well as most bars, restaurant, and attractions.
Your second day in Bohol should be dedicated to exploring the mainland. There are several ways to so: you can join a group tour, rent a private van with a driver, or just rent a bike and roam the island on your own. While the group tour has a set itinerary, the private van option lets you control the whole itinerary throughout, without needing to do the hard work of driving yourself. All of these options can be easily booked on Alona beach or directly through your hotel.
There are plenty of attractions scattered throughout Bohol island, but a few of them really stand out and are usually included in every countryside tour. The Chocolate Hills are a unique formation of 1776 cone-shaped hills, which you can either view from a panoramic view deck or explore with an ATV tour. Then, most people continue to the Tarsier sanctuary – home to the world’s smallest primate. This is one of the only places on earth where this strange creature still has a chance to thrive in its natural habitat.
The last stop of the day is usually at the Loboc River Eco Adventure park, where you can enjoy a host of different activities from a zip line to a lovely river cruise with lunch included. Your third and last day in Bohol should be focused on the main attraction the island has to offer. As is the case with most places in the Philippines, it’s the island-hopping tour, but Bohol’s version is actually one of the most exciting and worthwhile ones. Unlike Palawan or Siargao, here the focus is less on the stunning landscape but rather on the rich marine life that makes the Visayas so unique.
The tour starts at around 6 AM with a sail deeper into the ocean for a chance to see dolphins swim in the wild. You are not allowed to swim with them, but just seeing these magnificent creatures is an amazing experience. Then, the real highlight of the day begins as you make your way to the Balicasag marine sanctuary – one of the best preserved and most diverse displays of the Philippines marine ecosystem.
Balicasag island offers two main attractions. At one side of the island, you can swim and snorkel with sea turtles of varying shapes and size. At the other side, one of the best coral reef and selection of fish awaits you. Combined with the nice beach area where various snacks and drinks are offered, it is quite easy to spend 3-4 hours in Balicasag and you might even feel sad when it’s finally time to leave.
This is the ultimate way to finish your vacation in Visayas – one of the most special areas in the whole country. Not only is it full of exciting attractions and beautiful nature, but it is also very suitable for every different type of travelers. It doesn’t matter if you prefer luxury or backpacking, if you are a solo traveler or a large family with children or if you want to be active every day or just spend your time relaxing. No matter what, you will have the best time of your life exploring these two fantastic islands.