A Beginner’s Guide to Backpacking in Cebu Philippines

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Discover how you can make backpacking in Cebu at a beach in Cebu province.

When traveling, do you limit yourself to the typical tourist spots? Or are you the adventurous type who likes to explore hidden gems to make your trip more worthwhile?

Though many say that Cebu is a small island, you’ll find that there is a lot to discover in terms of man-made and natural attractions. There’s a reason why backpacking in Cebu continues to be a growing trend among foreigners who want to visit the Philippines.

Whether you want to experience the relaxing countryside atmosphere filled with breathtaking mountains and waterfalls or the bustling city life with numerous historical landmarks and modern infrastructure, Cebu can indeed give you the best of both worlds.

You can tag along for a Cebu tour or go alone for a more spontaneous adventure. But to make sure you have a fun and safe experience, do your research beforehand and make the necessary preparations. 

Luckily, this guide has everything you need to know about backpacking in Cebu, from safety tips and recommended places to accommodation and how to get around the island. With that, you can create a well planned out Cebu itinerary.


  • Bring light and comfortable clothing.

Cebu can be very hot and humid. If you’re not used to that kind of climate, then you’ll need to wear the right clothing.

Wear tops made of breathable material so air can flow freely, and put on stretch shorts to make walking around a lot easier.

For footwear, make sure they’re comfortable enough to walk long trails. Sandals are lighter, so they are perfect for a leisurely stroll around the city. You may opt for hiking shoes as well, especially if you are going on trekking adventures.

Bring accessories to help combat the intense heat like sunglasses and a baseball cap. An umbrella and a cover for your backpack will also come in handy for when it rains.

  • Familiarize yourself with public transportation.

Walking for long hours can get exhausting, and some places may be too far to walk to. You will eventually have to commute, so you should definitely be familiar with local public transportation. 

The most popular PUV is the jeepney, all of which have codes to distinguish the routes they will be taking. This is an ideal option for getting around the city.

Unfortunately, jeepneys are pretty sparse in the countryside or in mountain barangays, but you can ride motorcycle taxis called habal-habal, which can take you up to places like Cebu Transcentral Highway. 

If you expect long-distance backpacking trips, familiarize yourself with the terminals, such as the Cebu South and North Bus Terminal. You can then hop on a bus or van-for-hire going north or south of Cebu. 

  • Learn a bit of the language.

When backpacking in Cebu, you will surely interact with the locals, so it helps if you can effectively communicate with them. Consider brushing up on your Bisaya, and remember important phrases and terms to avoid any misunderstanding. 

You can start by practicing common greetings like “Maayong Buntag,” (Good morning) “Maayong Hapon,” (Good afternoon) and “Maayong Gabii” (Good evening). 

Take note that part of Cebu culture is showing respect for elders. If you’re speaking to a woman who looks slightly older than you, you can refer to her as “ate” (a-teh), and “kuya” (koo-yah) if it’s a guy. 

Fortunately, many locals understand English pretty well. 

  • Bring enough essentials.

Since you will be constantly moving from one place to another, you may reach unfamiliar territory that is quite secluded, so make sure you have all the necessary travel essentials for your convenience and safety. 

See to it that they all fit inside your backpack since you never know when you will need them.  

Carry a medical kit with you as well, with emergency supplies like gauze, band aids, and other medications you may need (for instance, bring antacid if you’re prone to experiencing hyperacidity). 

A multi-tool can be useful for unexpected issues as well, especially if you need to fix something. 

You can put all of them in compact organizers so that you don’t scramble around your bag trying to find them.  


  • Downtown Cebu Heritage Sites 

Backpacking in Cebu wouldn’t be complete without a fun history lesson about the city or island. With that, one of the best places to visit is the downtown area. 

It is considered a “Heritage District” because of its centuries-old locations and structures.

You can start at Parian district, where you will find several ancestral houses that have been converted into museums, the most prominent being the Yap Sandiego, Casa Gorordo, and Jesuit House. 

These places highlight the early Cebuano lifestyle during the Spanish occupation. Other downtown historical sites give you a glimpse of the people’s religious beliefs. 

A few meters from Parian is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, the Basilica del Sto. Niño. It is one of the busiest churches in Cebu, especially in January. This is when Cebuanos prepare for the much anticipated cultural event, the Sinulog Festival. 

Many Catholics in Cebu add the Basilica to their itinerary for them to witness and touch the Sto. Niño (Child Jesus), which is the patron saint of the island, with a history of miraculous feats. 

  • Cebu Business Park and IT Park

Cebu Business Park is filled with commercial spaces. This is where you will find Ayala Center Cebu – one of the biggest and most popular malls in the city. 

You can shop at world-renowned retail brands or take part in special events at their very own nature park known as The Terraces. Their cinema is also top-notch, with great quality sound and seats. They also have promos every now and then when you purchase a movie ticket.

Other than that, there are a lot of restaurants and cafes to choose from if you want to enjoy a light snack, a filling meal, or a cup of Joe.

IT Park is a great option as well, which is a commercialized business district with tons of stores, stalls, and business spaces. This is where you will find a lot of BPO offices, but it also has several establishments like Ayala Center. 

The most popular spot in IT Park is the Sugbo Mercado, which is the forefather of every food park in the city. Many foreigners visit this food strip as an introduction to the island’s exciting food scene. 

From grilled dishes to street foods and unique desserts, there are definitely a lot of mouthwatering treats for you to try.

  • TOPS

Cebu is famous not just for its stunning beaches, but also for numerous tourist spots that offer an overlooking view of the city. That being said, no place is more iconic than TOPS. 

The viewing deck at TOPS gives you a 360-degree view of Cebu and its neighboring islands. 

It has been a go-to spot for both locals and tourists ever since its inception in the 1980s. Aside from the view, you can also enjoy a cool and relaxing ambiance, especially at night. 

In 2024, more restaurants, accommodation, and recreational activities were added to make every visit to TOPS even more exciting and memorable.

This popular attraction is accessible through Cebu Transcentral Highway, so you can either bring or rent a private vehicle or take a habal-habal to get there. 

Buses are also available, which you can find at IT Park. These buses will take you directly to and from TOPS at scheduled intervals.


  • The Flying Fish Hostel

Located in El Dorado Subdivision in Barangay Banilad, this hostel is famous for its minimalist architecture and interior design. Their rooms are also reminiscent of ancestral houses in Cebu island.

They have a swimming pool by the lobby and a restaurant called Funky Monkey. They also have a bar and cafe inside where you can enjoy their selection of coffee, cocktails, and meals. 

The hostel is located near two strip malls in Banilad, namely Banilad Town Center and Streetscape. Both have a variety of restaurants, food stalls, cafes, and shops.

  • Mad Monkey Hostel

Dubbed a socially responsible hostel in Cebu City, this accommodation is unique for offering nightlife activities, with a bar and swimming pool where backpackers can mingle and socialize.

Located along Echavez Street, this low-key hostel is a few minutes away from the main highway. It’s perfect for backpackers looking for a more discreet but fun place to hang out. 

You can also book tours at Mad Monkey, which include visits to famous tourist spots like Kawasan Falls and Panglao Island in Bohol. 

  • Peach Haven 

This rest house is perfect for groups who are backpacking in Cebu, as guests can book the entire place, which consists of three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a kitchen. 

Each room is air-conditioned and equipped with wi-fi. The overall design is also reminiscent of a typical Filipino household. 

Although tucked within a quiet area in the city, there are other notable landmarks close by, such as the Fuente Osmeña Circle and Ayala Center Cebu. 

The appeal of backpacking in Cebu comes from spontaneity, as you venture out to explore the island’s many tourist spots and hidden gems. What’s great is that you can adjust your itinerary as you go. 

Locals are very friendly and accommodating, so if you want to go off the beaten track, they will be more than happy to assist you with tips and directions. However, always remember to practice good judgment and take safety precautions wherever you go.

With enough research and preparation, you can successfully backpack your way around the island. Getting to see something new every day is one of the best things about traveling, as it creates a unique experience where you get to learn, love, and appreciate life even more.

As the Asian proverb goes:

“It is better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.”

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