Cebu Island offers all sorts of attractions and activities, but they are quite dispersed around the island. Map out what you want to do on the island and then find accommodation that gives you easy access.
Much of the diving and canyoning is on the west coast (about 3-6 hours from the airport), whereas the whale sharks are on the southeast coast, and the airport on the northeast coast. To circle the whole island will take about 8-12 hours depending on traffic. Most travellers head to the west coast of Cebu where fishing villages such as Moalboal have a nice mix of activities, local feel and tourism-friendliness. From the west coast fishing villages, you can affordably hire a car and driver and do periodic day trips.
We mapped out the places we wanted to go and took into consideration distance from the airport (Christmas has much higher traffic, and we didn’t want to wake at 3AM again to get to the airport in time for our 11:00 flight), and settled on renting a car and staying in the village of Argao in the middle of the east coast, just 2 hours from the airport. Although the cost of a car plus driver is comparable to renting a car, we wanted to freely explore the island on our own. And as there is not a whole lot to do in Argao itself we figured we would be driving almost daily.
We stayed at the delightful BJs by the Sea — a budget Bed & Breakfast hosted by an American-Filipina retired couple. She cooks and runs the business while he entertains guests and shares traveling advice and all sorts of insights into Filipino, American and other cultures. Argao itself is a busy little town with some restaurants, supplies, and a nice city hall, but its main attraction is affordable accommodation and proximity to other attractions. And you never have to worry about sleeping through your alarm and leaving on time — the roosters start at about 3:30AM and ensure you are up and at ‘em by 5AM.
Driving around Cebu Island became part of our adventure. We should have suspected something when the car rental company had us sign a specific document stating we would not drive on any dirt roads. Over-confident in the accuracy of our google maps and open city maps, we turned into the mountains and headed for the west coast. The road was 75% paved, quite empty of cars and gave us beautiful views. From the tops of the mountains you could see rolling hills with endless volumes of palm trees — I never imagined there were so many palm trees in the world. Behind every dip, rise and curve of the road was a stunning view, a small village, or a mango plantation, but the road itself was a bit rough and slow.
On the return journey we decided to take a road that appeared larger and more traveled on the maps. Due to road works though, this road was more like 50% paved and even more harrowing than the first. We calculated our average speed and realised we would likely be driving at least one hour in darkness on the road, adding to our worry. At one point some locals in a village started yelling at us and I worried that they were warning us. We stopped and asked some of the road workers if it was okay to continue and they seemed unconcerned. We were not convinced. But we decided to continue a bit farther (we were well past halfway and didn’t want to retrace our steps uphill and in darkness) and luckily just when we were about to accept defeat, the road became paved again and we made it home before full darkness set in.Next Cebu Island article > Canyoning in Kawasan Falls