Considered one of the best tourist destinations in the Philippines, Mactan Island, located a few kilometers away from Cebu is known for its long stretches of white sand beaches, luxury resorts, scuba diving sites and historical attractions. It’s no surprise that it captures the hearts of both the locals and tourists.
Mactan is a perfect place for those who long for a holiday on a tropical island and contemplate life while staring at the dramatic coast. The locals from the island welcome their guests with big smiles and it’s no surprise that I hear a lot of good things about this beautiful Island.
Known for its white sand and clear waters, the beaches are not to be missed. But there are also some spots to visit if you are not keen on island hopping. Here is a quick guide on what to do, where to go and what to eat when in Mactan.
Don’t miss the most important meal of the day. You’re gonna need a morning booster to battle a whole day of walking under the sun. Mactan Marina Mall opens early. There, you’ll find a nice little cafe. Enjoy Cafe de France’s famous croissants and pancakes. The cafe also serves freshly baked pastries, croquet monsieur’s, pig-in-a-blanket and the assortments of waist-expanding desserts paired up with copious amounts of quality coffee.
After a hearty breakfast and a cup of coffee, head over to Susing’s Guitar Shop. This is a famous landmark in Mactan. Back when everyone’s lifestyle was as joyful and as simple as enjoying good food and fine music, Susana’s shop humbly began. With no smart phones, gadgets and wifi, people fondly gathered to entertain themselves with musical instruments. Some would sing. Some would dance. Today, Susing’s Guitars have evolved into modern shapes, colours and sizes while keeping the shop’s traditions. Visiting this place somewhat puts you in the middle of the past and present.
Photo by Edgar
Let’s see if we can find Nemo here in Cebu. Mactan Island Aquarium visitors can see an amazing variety of marine life from the tropical Pacific Ocean. The aquarium is home to over 1,000 animals including exotic fish, water snakes, sea slugs and even turtles. This place is especially proud of its wide variety of life forms. When you come to the Aquarium, you can get up-close views of reef sharks, living corals, sea horses, graceful sea jellies, myriads of colourful reef fish, and much, much more.
Photo by Mark
Best to take a break and grab some lunch. Now this is going to be sinful, but anyway, no one explores Cebu without trying its special lechon belly (roasted pork belly). Head over to Hawkers Center in Newtown Boulevard. There, you’ll find this popular restaurant called Cebu’s Original Lechon Belly. The pork goes through the process of deboning and it gets spiced up with secret spices and ingredients before slow-roasting it on open fire using charcoal.
After feasting on a local dish, let’s head over to Mactan Shrine. This place largely contributes to the history of the Philippines. The shrine is dedicated in honor of Lapu-Lapu, Ferdinand Magellan and the Battle of Mactan. Lapu-Lapu was the native chief of Mactan Island and he resisted the efforts of Magellan to subdue his people and to be converted to Christianity and to be subjected to the throne of Spain. The Magellan monument consists of a plain obelisk on whose apex rests a sphere. On the monuments are inscribed texts honouring Magellan.
On the side streets, you’ll find native shops with homemade bags made from local materials like wood, leaves and sea shells. It’s quite interesting how resourceful the locals can get.
Photo by Alyssa
After exploring a bit of culture and history, let’s visit a widely known Black Madonna – Nuestra Señora de la Regla in Our Lady of the Rule Parish. The Filipino culture and traditions are heavily influenced by the Spanish, including their religion. The Black Madonnas are generally found in Catholic and Orthodox countries.
Around the church, you can find stalls and vendors of Cebu’s native street foods – rice cakes, banana kebabs or what the locals call bananacue, fish balls and kikiams and to refresh you a little bit during your day’s journey, try to approach a man with a wheeled, heavy ice cream cart which the locals refer to as sorvetes.
Photo by Donna
After munching on some Mactan street foods, take a break. Get some photos and sit by the park benches on the side. Get yourself ready for the last two stops. The trip to Our Lady Of The Rule Parish is over. But anyway, I think it’s best to say, whether or not you follow the Catholic beliefs, come and see this place and enjoy the rich cultural area that unites the people of Mactan.
Wave goodbye to Mister Sorvetes. The sun is setting in about one and a half hours and it’s best to chill after a lot of walking. Oh, wait! It’s 4:00PM? You should run, or take a taxi if you must. It’s time to go to Ibiza Beach for their Happy Hour! Now this is a perfect spot for a nice late afternoon. They are famous for their mojitos, cold shakes and nice ambiance. Enjoy the summer breeze – it’s basically summer in the Philippines all year around.
It’s time to head back to the city. But your Mactan journey will not be complete without visiting Chikaan sa Cebu. Famous for their big menu of all the all-time Filipino favourites. From breakfast to lunch and dinner, the delicacies that they offer will give you a perfect end to your day. Enjoy your delicious and authentic Pinoy dinner with great service.
Born and raised in a multi-cultural environment and a firm believer that the best way to learn is to travel the world. He enjoys hiking and outdoor bootcamp. His passion for arts, writing, food and business administration lead him to be foodpanda’s Senior Marketing Manager in Hong Kong and in the Philippines.