Bound for Cebu to see its breathtaking waterfalls, beaches, and islands? It’s best you head south. If it’s your first visit, you really need at least four days to cover the top tourist spots.
Assuming you’re not going to churches and are only interested in nature-inspired vacations, this quick guide is for you.
Your Map to the South
Board a bus labeled ‘Bato via Barili’ at South Bus Terminal. Stop by Badian (at Badian Sports Complex if you’re staying at Ging-Ging Tourist Inn). From Badian, you can continue to explore Dalaguete, Ginatilan, Samboan, and Tan-awan, Oslob. Keep reading to find out how.
The top tourist attractions that entice visitors to this part of Cebu are Kawasan Falls (Canyoneering Cebu), Lambug Beach, Osmeña Peak, Inambakan Falls, Aguinid Falls, Sumilon Island, and the gentle whale sharks. Below is a screenshot of the map.
Of course, there are other places in these areas that are worth a visit but they are less popular among first-time visitors for a reason – they’re not as majestic, fun, or surprising.
It takes about 3 to 4 hours of bus trip to get to Badian from South Cebu Terminal. The municipality of Badian is 106 km away from Cebu City. Meanwhile, if you wish to explore the south via Oslob, it’s about 116 km from Cebu City.
Now that you have a pretty good idea of the distance and travel time involved in exploring the best of the south, you’re ready to plan your ultimate Cebu nature adventure.
Top 7 Things to Do in South Cebu
The tour companies in South Cebu enjoy a fierce competition. This is why you will find different quotes and prices when you search for Cebu tour packages for your south-bound adventure. Try as you might, you can’t be sure you’re getting the best deal because each tour company offers a different rate. Except for standard entrance and environmental payments, other fees such as guide fees, tips, as well as transportation charges can vary greatly.
So try to establish a baseline. Know the price range for specific tours and activities. Get quotations from at least three vendors to get the average price. Most of them will likely offer the same tours and activities.
Here are my top picks for where to go in this part of Cebu, along with the rates, inclusions, and tips on how to get there and where to stay:
Canyoneering rate: P1,500 (local tour company) | Guide tip: Appreciated, but not required. | Underwater camera (SJ cam) rental fee: P500.
Inclusions: life vest, helmet, dry bag, round-trip transport (i.e. if your hotel is in Badian), lunch, trekking/running shoes (but I recommend that you bring yours)
Directions: Drive or take a bus at Cebu South Terminal bound for Bato via Barili. Get off at Sto. Tomas De Villanueva Parish (Matutinao Church).
Tip: If you’re planning to rent an underwater camera, be sure to bring your own memory card.
Entrance fee: Free | For a fee: floating device (P70), beer (P50)
Directions: If you are not staying in any of the beachfront properties and taking a bus, get off at LRR Filipino And Korean Food. From here, you can take a six-seater trike. If you’re coming from Ging-Ging Tourist Inn, the fare is P100, and return fare is P120-P150 by trike and P100 by motorbike (max of 2 passengers).
Where to stay: Want to stay as close as possible to the beach? You can book a room at Lambug Beach Homestay, Terra Manna, Magic Beach Resort or Grandeur Beach Resort. It can be pretty noisy in the evening with videoke singers belting out their favorite songs.
Chase the sunrise at Osmeña Peak
Entrance fee: P20 | Other fees: P10 (hiking stick rental fee); Guide Fee: P150 (I paid our hiking guide P120 but he chased us down to our drivers’ parking area, asking for P150. He insisted that it was the standard rate. Please agree on a fee with the staff at the registration area as your witnesses before taking a hike with their recommended guide. I’ve been to Osmeña Peak before with Doi, Gretchen and her daughter, Lia – we didn’t pay more than P100 for two guides. To be honest, you can tackle the trail without help but hiring a guide is a way to help the locals.)
Directions: Staying in Badian? You can take a habal-habal from here for P500 for a round-trip fare, according to Kara’s Hike to Osmena Peak post. In our case, we booked our Osmena Peak trip with STE Badian Canyoneering Services for P700/each person per motorbike inclusive of registration fees. We hired two motorcycle drivers as I thought the ride would be long and tiring for butt and leg muscles (I was right). You can also go to the peak via Oslob. According to a driver I met in Tan-awan (BCD’s Place), you can get a habal-habal ride for only P500 (round-trip). If you’re traveling as a group of three or more, you can rent a multi-cab, which I’m sure would be a lot safer and comfortable than habal-habal.
Cool off in Inambakan Falls
Entrance fee: P50 | Guide fee: The trek would last for about an hour and a half if you want to go to all waterfalls in the area (there are a total of 7 falls). I decided to give our guide P120. He smiled while receiving the money so it must be a decent rate.
Directions: From Badian, you can take an ordinary bus (P45/way) or an air-con bus (P55/way) bound for Bato and get off at the town of Ginatilan. Get off at Julie’s (trust me, the signage is pretty obvious if you sit at the left side of the bus). From here, you can take a habal-habal ride (depending on your haggling skills, the rate is around P50-P150 per way for two people) to Inambakan Falls.
Tip: On the “Inambakan Falls” blog post of Jun Villegas (of the Smart Backpacker), he recommended a motorcycle driver/guide named Alex (0933 134 6985). Take his suggestion with a grain of salt if you’re a woman. You will find other drivers within the area who would be willing to take you to Inambakan Falls. Hopefully, they won’t try to hit on you.
Entrance fee: P100 | Boat Ride Fee: P350/person (round-trip) | Snorkel mask rental fee: P100 | Underwater cameras, dry bags, swimwear and more are also available for rent at the jump off point.
Directions: From the Whalewatching site (BCD’s Place, Tan-awan, Oslob), you can find men in blue shirts. They’ll offer you a Sumilon Island hopping trip for P700 (round-trip boat fare for two).
Tip: Don’t pay the entrance fee at the jump-off point on the mainland. Payment is made upon your entry to Sumilon Island. I was sadly a victim as I generally trust old people. If they insist, ask them to show you the official receipt. Surely, they won’t be able to provide one. (Read “Losing My Cool in Sumilon Island” to avoid double charges.)
RELATED: Losing My Cool in Sumilon Island
Swimming with the Whale shark fee: P500 | Whale shark watching from the boat fee: P300 Inclusions: snorkel mask, 30-minute encounter, life vest, underwater pictures (but you have to provide the camera)
Directions: Stop by or stay for a night at BCD’s Place. The resort is along the road so it’s quite hard to miss. From Santander’s bus station, you can take an ordinary bus for P20 to BCD’s. From South Cebu Terminal, you can take a bus bound for Bato via Oslob.
Tip: Rent an underwater camera if you don’t have one. Then before you reach the swimming site, talk to the boatmen and ask who would be willing to take your pictures under water. Look at the sky and don’t swim too early. The visibility is better under water if it’s a sunny day.
Entrance fee: P40/person | Guide Fee: No standard fees but P100 per guide is a good starting rate. If you’re happy with the service add more. | Shoes/sandals for trekking rental fee: P50. | Cellphone plastic cover rental fee: P20.
Directions: From Badian, just take a bus to Bato and get off at Brgy. Tangbo. Bus conductors know where to drop off passengers headed for Aguinid Falls. If you’re coming from Oslob (like we did), you will need to take two bus rides (Tan-awan to Santander bus station then Santander to Samboan). Of course, you can take a habal-habal for P500 (round-trip) if you’re in a rush (like us).
Places in South Cebu that You Can Just Skip
If you’re really pressed for time, skip Tumalog Falls (the hike’s long and tiring plus the water from the falls is just a trickle during summer season), Mainit Hot Spring, and Sumilon Island (it was under rehabilitation for a reason, the sandbar is also slowly shifting, and the seawater has a weird smell).
I’d also go as far as recommend skipping swimming with whale sharks as it’s an overpriced activity that disrupts the creatures’ migration, interrupting their reproduction. Check out the secrets of whaleshark migration post by National Geographic. But I know that their appeal would be really hard to resist. So perhaps you can swim with the whale sharks once and never again (literally once in a lifetime 😉).
More Trip Notes
If you’re wondering why I didn’t write about where to eat in the south, the reason is simple. Most resorts have in-house restaurants or eateries nearby. We survived on packed food in Badian because Ging-Ging Tourist Inn is in the same building as 7-11. In Oslob, we mostly ate at Jugador Sutukil (budget is around P250 for two for a meal of three different dishes).
This trip can be exhausting and if you’re not in tip top shape, consider staying longer to allow for rest days in between your tours. I was with my cousin, Jaira, who is young and athletic so we managed to pull off a jam-packed itinerary. Your safety, comfort, and satisfaction matter more than checking all the places off your bucket list. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have further questions and concerns that I forgot to address through this ‘free’ blog post.
Please understand that I am not a travel agent so my knowledge might be limited. However, I’ve lived and traveled around Cebu for almost 5 years so I might still be of help.
Allow some flexibility. Always check in with your companions to help you decide or revise your itinerary.
I wish you enjoy your South Cebu adventure and make it a trip to remember!
Note: Some photos here were taken by Jaira Bongalosa Palomo. Thanks, cousin! I miss you already!