The Visayas or the Visayan Islands make up one of the 3 major archipelagos of the Philippines, along with Luzon and Mindanao. On the central islands of the country between the Visayas Sea. In my opinion, you could spend months touring these unique islands without getting bored, and I also believe that no trip to the Philippines is complete without visiting some of these spectacular islands. So, here I share with you some of my favorite ones and a complete information on the Visayas what to do and see. I hope it will help you when preparing your trip; on this itinerary you will discover, Cebu City, Dumaguete, Apo Island, Siquijor and Bohol (including the municipality of Anda).
The Visayas: Must-visit islands and What to do
We started the tour on Cebu Island, although for time reasons we only visited Cebu City, a city steeped in history. From there we headed to Dumaguete, the base locality to go to Apo Island to enjoy its extraordinary underwater world. Afterwards, we toured Siquijor, known for its mystical legends, magicians and healers, and finally, we visited Bohol, popular for its monumental hills “Chocolate Hills” and also for being the habitat of the tarsier, the smallest primates in the world. Also at Bohol, we explored Anda, a less touristy destination but with magnificent natural attractions.
Cebú: 1 day
Dumaguete: 1 day
Apo Island: 1day
Siquijor: 1 day
Bohol: 3 days in Tagbilaran and 3 days in Anda.
The capital of the Visayas and the landing place of Magellan in his attempt to colonize these lands; while at first glance Cebu City may not stand out specially as a beautiful destination, however, because of its historical background, the city has some interesting places worth visiting.
How to get Cebu City
Cebu City has one airport, Mactan Cebu International. This airport connects different destinations in the Philippines: Manila, Siquijor (via Dumaguete), Siargao, Camiguin, Puerto Princesa and Coron (Busuanga airport). Operators are Cebu Pacific, Air Asia and Philippine Airlines. One-way ticket is inexpensive, it only costs 30 to 40 euros when booked in advance.
The drive from the airport to the hotel took us about an hour. I was shocked by Cebu’s climate; it is humid and hot, not to mention its chaotic traffic.
Another possibility to get to Cebu City is by the ferry. Several companies operate there, such as OceanJet, SuperCat and Lite Shipping; with them, you will get to the main touristic destinations on the Visayas.
To get there you can also take a bus either from Dumaguete, Oriental Negros, Bacolod or Negros Occidental.
The best option to get around the city is by the jeepney which costs about Php 8.
Another option is by the taxi. In this case, I recommend to download the Grab app. You can also take a taxi on-the-street, although keep in mind that because of the chaotic traffic it can be more expensive, so to avoid unpleasant surprises it is better to agree on the price in advance.
Where to stay
Since we opted to stay downtown, we booked at the RedDoorz Plus@Mabolo hotel (Corner 3T Brezlin &, F. Cabahug St), which I recommend for the friendliness of the staff, suitable location and value for money.
Where to eat
Given that Cebu is the second largest city in the Philippines, inevitably, you will find here plenty of choices to suit all budgets. Below I recommend the restaurants we ate during our stay in Cebu:
- Cafe Marco (GF, Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, Cebu Veterans Dr). We had dinner at this Buffet restaurant; they have a great variety of Filipino, Asian and Western food. Everything was delicious.
- Isla Sugbu (Archbishop Reyes Ave City). Seafood restaurant with fresh and delicious seafood. You choose the seafood, and they prepare it in the way as you prefer. Plus, the staff is super friendly.
What to do in Cebu City
Cebu City features several attractions, both for its history and its architecture. Below are the ones you absolutely should not miss if you visit the city for 1 day.
1 – San Pedro Fort
In the Independence Square, it is a military defensive structure, built by native Cebuano and Spanish workers under the command of the Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and the Spanish government in Cebu.
Today, part of the fortress is a museum. The museum exhibits well-preserved machines of Spanish heritage, along with documents, paintings and sculptures. Outside the fort walls, a remarkable statue of Legazpi and Antonio Pigafetta stands out.
2 – Basílica Minore del Sto. Niño
It is the oldest church in the Philippines, dating from the 16th century. They built this basilica in the exact place where an image of the Holy Child or Child Jesus was found. It first belonged to Fernando Magallanes’ expedition of 1521. Afterwards, it was recovered by Miguel Lopez of Legazpi after remaining under native custody for 40 years. The reason for building the church was to celebrate the return of the image of the Holy Child Jesus.
3 – Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
Of great architectural beauty, it shows the cultural influence of Spain in the country. If you get a chance, definitely it’s worth a visit.
4 – Cebu Capitol
Considered being as one of the most beautiful buildings in the Philippines, it is the seat of Cebu’s Parliament. Since it’s a historical legacy of the American colonial era, it is highly regarded by most Cebuano.
5 – Magellan’s Cross
It is a Christian cross placed by the Spanish and Portuguese explorers upon their arrival in Cebu on April 21, 1521.
This cross is placed in a chapel next to the Basilica del Santo Niño on Magallanes Street, in front of the Cebu City Hall.
6 – Cebu Taoist Temple
A symbol of the multicultural aspect in Cebu is this Taoist temple, built in 1972 and currently considered the most important Chinese temple in the city.
The temple opens daily from 9 am to 5 pm and the entrance is free.
7 – Ayala Cebu Center
When you have time to spare and want to spend some time entertaining yourself, you can go to the Ayala Shopping Center (Ayala Cebu Center). Here you will find a western-style mall with plenty of stores and restaurants. Ideal to do some last shopping or take a break in a pleasant environment and forget about the suffocating heat for a moment.
Known as “the city of friendly people”, it is a university town and the capital of the province of Negros Oriental. Also, Dumaguete is the town from which you can book a 1-day tour to Apo Island for snorkeling with green turtles and diving.
Dumaguete is one of the most important cities in the Visayas, so there is no lack means of transportation: it owns an airport, a port and bus stations.
How to get to Dumaguete
Daily flights are operated by the Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. From Cebu City the direct flight takes 1 hour.
Another more economical option is to take a bus. Buses leave from South Bus Terminal. The company Ceres Liner (operating in Cebu and Negros) has direct routes to Dumaguete, although in Santander the bus makes the transfer by a ferry. The total duration of the trip is 8 hours.
The easiest way to get around the city is by a tricycle and the ride only costs 20 Php from the city’s end to end.
Another good option is to rent a scooter to get around and to go to any place in your own time.
Where to stay
We booked the hotel on Booking.com on the go, and we liked it pretty much. The Manhattan Suites Inn (South Road Calindagan) is close to the Ceres bus station, with spotless rooms and breakfast included.
Where to eat
Fortunately, you will have plenty of options for lunch and dinner in Filipino, Western and Asian cuisine, for every taste and any budget. Below are the restaurants we tried:
- Oosaka Kitchen (Rizal Boulevard corner Dr V. Locsin Street, Dumaguete City). Excellent Japanese restaurant, we tried sushi, teriyaki tuna and ramen. Absolutely delicious. Highly recommended.
- Lantaw (.EJ Blanco Drive corner Flores Avenue). Filipino food with fresh ingredients, especially the seafood, is prepared really tasty.
What to do Dumaguete
The city is small and easily walkable. If you only have 1 day in the city, below is a list of the must-see landmarks:
1 – Public Market
I enjoyed visiting the market for its colorful and the variety of stalls. You will find stalls with colorful fish, exotic fruits, vegetables, … a visual feast for the eyes!.
2 – Boulevard Rizal
One of the most popular places in Dumaguete is the Rizal Boulevard promenade, over 1 kilometer long. It owes its name to the famous hero of Philippine independence, Jose Rizal. Don’t miss out in the afternoon, when you find it packed with a lively atmosphere, locals strolling and food stalls.
3 – St Catherine’s Cathedral
Another must-see visit is the St Catherine’s Cathedral, highly appreciated by the inhabitants. Although in the first place it was built in 1776, then was expanded again in 1936.
4 – Dumaguete Belfry
Next to St. Catherine’s Cathedral is one of the city’s landmarks, the Dumaguete Bell Tower, built in 1811 in order to alert against pirate attacks. It is the oldest building in the city.
Hands up who wants to swim with sea turtles! On the volcanic Apo Island, it is possible! From Dumaguete, we can go on a day-tour to this small island in order to enjoy its spectacular underwater world. In this unique paradise you will have the chance to swim with turtles, snorkel, and dive along the different beaches. You can also admire corals of varied shapes and multicolored fishes.
Since the island is small, it has only the basic services, however; it is very cozy.
How to get to Apo Island
Apo Island is located only 7 km away from Malatapay seaport, to the south of Dumaguete City. From this port it takes 30 minutes by bankga to reach Apo Island.
On a side note: The island has not a seaport, once on the island the boats will drop you on the shore, so you will get your feet wet.
To get to Malatapay, you can take a local bus from Ceres Terminal Station which costs Php 50.
What to do in Apo Island
On this small island just 7 km long and 12 hectares you will love swimming among green marine turtles. In fact, the core attractions are those sea-related: diving, snorkeling and the beach.
The Marine Reserve is located on the main beach where the boats arriving from Malatapay drop you off. There is a buoyed area with shallow waters. To see the turtles is very easy, you just have to put on your mask and the tube… and a turtle will appear when you least expect it… sublime!
Visit the Lighthouse
Besides the marine activities, there is a lighthouse on the island from which you can enjoy spectacular views of the island of Negros. It is in the northern part of the island and to admire the panoramic view it offers, you must climb 230 steps, it is worth it!
This is a small island with a single road where there is hardly any traffic. Thanks to its small size, the slow pace of the island makes it ideal for chilling out. Still, on a 1-day trip to Siquijor you can snorkel, swim in gorgeous white sandy beaches, cool off in its waterfalls and visit some historical sites.
This island is also well known for its many legends about wizards, healers and magic potions deep-rooted in the local traditions.
How to get to Siquijor
There is a fast ferry service from Dumaguete that takes about 1 hour. It’s with the OceanJet line and you can book the ticket online.
There are other ferry lines which sail there: Aleson Shipping Jay Lan and Montenegro Shipping, but they don’t have online booking, so that you need to buy your tickets at the port. These boats are slower and take 1 hour 30 minutes.
The easiest way to get around the island is by the tricycle, drivers usually charge around Php 1,000 per day to take you to the landmarks.
For us, we hired a very colorful jeepney with a driver for Php 2,000 per day, and he drove us all around the island.
Another option is to rent a scooter which costs 300 to 400 Php, depending on the number of days you rent it.
Where to stay
We made a last-minute booking at the hotel that was available: Aloha Seaside Resort, in the San Juan area, which is the main area of Siquijor. The hotel is very well-located next to the beach and close to restaurants and bars. The room was spotless and the hotel staff friendly, I highly recommend it.
Where to eat
A restaurant to eat out delicious food: Marco Polo (Siquijor Circumferential Road, San Juan 6227). We loved the pizzas and pasta dishes that the owner kindly recommended.
What to do in Siquijor
On our tour around the island we had the chance to explore the most interesting and varied places: caves, beaches, waterfalls, marine sanctuaries, snorkeling and ancient buildings. And to top it off, in a mystical environment with legends included.
If you spend only 1 day on the island, here are the must-see attractions of Siquijor:
1 – Snorkel
San Juan Beach is a great place to enjoy snorkeling. With just a tube and a mask, you will see the seabed in all its beauty: stunning coral reefs and colorful fish.
2 – Waterfalls
Heading north, we find the town of Lazy or Lazi which treasures these beauties:
These easy-to-access waterfalls are set up for locals to spend a quiet family day bathing and eating.
They are located a little farther up than the previous ones. Here you can enjoy yourself by jumping into the water from its lianas. Nearby, you can also find some natural water pools.
3 – Historical sites
San Isidro Labrador Church
Among the historic buildings, Lazy is also home to the century-old San Isidro Labrador Church, built up in stone and wood over 200 years ago, but in a precarious state of preservation.
Opposite it, the Lazy Convent built in 1887 and considered the oldest one in the entire Asia. This convent, restored in 2019, will take you back in time with the mystical atmosphere that surrounds it.
4 – Old Enchanted Balete Tree
Between Lazy and San Juan is the century-old sacred tree (Old Enchanted Balete Tree), a must-see when in Siquijor. This tree is over 400 years old and it is said that witchcraft rituals are performed here today, so locals claim that the tree is enchanted.
Next to it, there is a pond with fish, and if you get your feet in there, they nibble on them and you get a pedicure. On top of that, it is also said that the pond waters have healing properties.
5 – Beaches
On the northern coast of Siquijor Island is where you will find this white sandy beach, with crystal clear waters and beautiful coves. Among its attractions, a swing and mangroves. On weekends this place is packed with Filipino families, so it’s best to go first thing in the morning. Entrance fee is 30 Php.
Another very nice beach is Palinton Beach. This white sandy and palm tree-lined beach is a great place to enjoy an amazing sunset.
Tubod Marine Sanctuary
Tubod Marine Sanctuary is undoubtedly the most beautiful and best preserved coral reef in Siquijor. The seabed is teeming with marine life, with such a diversity of fish and corals as making it the ideal spot for snorkeling.
The Sanctuary, located on the south-western coast of the island of Siquijor, in San Juan, protects the reef which stretches in front of Tubod beach and the Coco Grover Beach Resort hotel. Access to the beach is easy, via a small path from the main road marked with a signpost.
It is free to access the beach, but to get into the sanctuary there is a fee of 50 Php to snorkel or 20 Php just to swim.
6 – Mangrove Trees
Giwanon Spring Park Resort
During the tour around the island, the Giwanon Spring Park Resort resort impressed me. Located at Luyang, it’s a giant mangrove swamp with a multitude of quaint cottages raised over the water and held by several stilts which are made of wood and bamboo, all along wooden walkways. I loved walking on these bamboo bridges for the special vibe it conveyed, a touch of “magic”. It is also a lovely spot to take amazing pictures and watch the sunset.
During the high season, the resort offers visitors overnight accommodations at the cottages and also a restaurant. Since we visited it during the rainy season, both were closed.
This island, in the same way as Siquijor, offers many attractions from idyllic beaches, mountains, waterfalls, rice paddies…. It is also home to the famous “Chocolate Hills” and the original tarsiers, the world’s smallest primates.
Later, in Anda, a locality off the beaten track, you will discover spectacular rice fields and breathtaking scenery. Here you will find all the information you need to enjoy this island.
How to get to Bohol
The island of Bohol has its airport in Tagbilaran (Bohol’s capital). There are direct flights from Manila, Cebu, Luzon, Davao and Cagayan de Oro. The flight takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
You can get flights for Php 500 from low-cost airlines like: Cebu Pacific, Air Asia and PAL Express
Another way to travel to Bohol is by a ferry. There are ferries that sail daily from Manila, Cebu, and Dumaguete.
We came from Siquijor, and since it was the rainy season, the fast boat had been canceled. We sailed by the ferry, with the Lite company and it took us 3 hours because of the sea conditions.
Take note: OceanJet is a fast ferry operator well-reviewed and allows you to book online.
In my opinion, the tricycle is a stress-free means of transport to move around the island.
Although to explore the island on your own, the best is to rent a scooter which usually costs 600 Php per day.
We hired a driver to take us to see the must-see places on the island. The same hotel where we were staying arranged it for us. The price was Php 2,500 for a day from 8 am to 5 pm.
Where to stay
Bohol has a wide variety of accommodations for all budgets. Most of them are located in the capital, on the beaches and coastal area of the island of Panglao. We booked on the go (following the pleasant weather) through Booking.com. We found availability at 7 Meadows Inn (J.A. Clarin St, Tagbilaran City).
The hotel staff was very helpful and contacted us with the driver to tour the island. The rooms were spotless and of good value for money.
Where to eat
You will have many options to eat in Tagbilaran both in terms of food and prices. We tried these restaurants, which I recommend:
- Abi’s Seafoods & Grill (Carlos P. Garcia East Avenue). This is where we stopped for lunch. It has a varied buffet of Filipino food for 250 Php which we thought was delicious.
- Lantaw Native Restaurant Bohol (V.P. Inting Avenue, corner Mansasa-Dampas Road, Tagbilaran City). Filipino food with great seafood and stunning ocean views, on the island of Dauis. The halo halo is truly delicious. Perfect place to watch the sunset.
What to to in Bohol
Bohol is home to unique natural attractions. If you are only staying 3 days in and around Tagbilaran, below are the must-see landmarks:
1 – Tarsier Filipino in Corella
To get to know the smallest primates in the world, you’d better head over to Corella’s Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary, a center which practices responsible tourism for these animals.
Actually, you can find the tarsiers in 2 places: one is the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area in Bohol, which is not a certified Tarsier sanctuary and the second one, is the above mentioned (we visited this one): Corella’s Tarsier Sanctuary, located on the 15 km trail where these animals live and which runs along the towns of Corella, Sikatuna, and Loboc.
About the tarsiers
First of all, the tarsier is an endangered animal who is very delicate and can easily get stressed.
The Tarsier is an endemic primate that measure between 10 and 12 centimeters. The eyes are larger than the brain and they have a 360° vision.
In Corella, a guide explains the tarsier is a nocturnal animal very sensitive to noise and light. They get easily scared, and that is why they sleep hidden in the branches of trees. They also inform us that this small primate can suffer great anxiety and even commit suicide. Other information about them is that they are territorial, each one lives in 1 hectare, and feed on insects.
The female and the male live apart, the female looks for the male to mate and then leaves. Pregnancy is six months and at birth the baby measures less than a thumb.
2 – “Chocolate Hills”
The “Chocolate Hills” is one of the most popular attractions among tourists. They are located in Carmen City, 55 km from Tagbilaran.
This unique geological formation comprises 1268 symmetrical cone shaped-hills spread over an area of 50 square kilometers with sizes which ranges from 30 up to 120 meters in high. If you visit them in dry season, they are brown, hence the name chocolate. These hills are made of of layers of corals covered with grass.
3 – Twin Hanging Bridge
In the municipality of Sevilla you will find two bamboo hanging bridges which might be a challenge to cross, especially if it is windy… on the other side there are souvenir and beverage stores.
4 – Loboc River
The Loboc River is a popular tourist attraction. There are two activities you can do there:
The first one comprises a river cruise with music and buffet, Loboc Floating Restaurant, and the other one is zip-lining, a 2-minute pure adrenaline adventure with Loboc Eco-Tourism Adventure Park.
As for the price, the cruise costs Php 450 and the zip line Php 350.
5 – Busay Waterfalls
This beautiful waterfalls are located 26 km from Tagbilaran, in Loboc, amid lush nature. It also features some floating restaurants, great for swimming and cooling off!
6 – Mag-Aso Falls
Another waterfall that we really liked was Mag-Aso Falls, located in the town of Antequera. Off the tourist circuit, the natural environment is gorgeous and well-kept, the waters are crystal clear and freezing cold. During the rainy season the currents are very strong, so please be careful.
7- Spanish Blood Covenant
According to history, in this place Miguel Lopez de Legazpi (representing the King of Spain) and Datu Sikatuna (a native Boholano chief), established the first treaty of friendship between Spaniards and Filipinos in 1565. The ritual comprised pricking each other in the arm, spilling a few drops of blood which they poured into two cups and each drank the blood from the other’s cup.
8 – Kain-git Beach
This white sandy beach is located near the center of Tagbilaran, protected by natural barriers, is a cove with a soft and calm waves. Frequented by local bathers, it offers drinks and Filipino food stalls.
9 – Panglao Island
Panglao Island is the most popular tourist destination for travelers visiting this part of the country. Located south of the island of Bohol, is easily accessed by a bridge that connects it to the main island (Bohol). It is here that most tourists prefer to stay, specifically at the famous Alona Beach; a 1,5 kilometers long, gorgeous stretch lined with plenty of resorts.
Other wonderful beaches that you should visit are Danao Beach, Dumaluan Beach or Doljo Beach.
You can also explore the Hinagdanan Cave in the municipality of Dauis. In its interior you will find a lagoon where you can swim and also impressive formations of stalactites and stalagmites.
Diving lovers will find their paradise in Balicasag thanks to the variety of its stunning marine life. Also, you can snorkel around the island to see the colorful corals and fishes.
Today, the municipality of Anda is off the tourist circuit, for this reason you will find less crowded beaches than in Panglao. In addition, Anda offers varied highlights, from impressive waterfalls such as Can-umated, caves, cenotes and spectacular rice terraces, among other wonders of nature. Not to mention their crystal turquoise waters and white sandy beaches.
Curious about what to see in Anda? Learn how to get there and what to see to enjoy the island to the fullest:
How to get to Anda
You can reach Anda from Taglibaran by the bus or minivan. The bus leaves from Dao Terminal bus station. The price of the minivan is Php 140 while for the bus it costs Php 100, the difference is that the bus makes more stops. It takes from 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours to get to the destination.
Where to stay
We booked at the Zenith Inn & Resto Bar hotel (Anda Provincial Rd, Poblacion, Deloso Commercial building) the only one that had availability. The good thing about the hotel is that it is in the center of town and everything is close at hand. The rooms were also clean, and the staff was friendly.
At the hotel, we booked a 1-day tour to drive us to visit the landmarks. It cost us Php 2,500.
Where to eat
- Hangover Resto Bar (Visaya Street Poblacion Anda). A well-decorated place, the staff was really friendly, where I especially liked the seafood with green curry.
- Coco Loco Cafe (Anda Coastal Road). Another place with beautiful decoration and delicious vegetarian food plus a friendly staff.
What to do in Anda
1 – Lamanok Island
Lamanok island is only accessible with a guided tour. We booked with Lamanok Mystic Island Tour, a 3-hour tour in which a guide explains the rituals that were performed on the island and tells you about “Diwata” the protective spirit of the island.
Our guide’s name was Fortunato, and to tell the truth he explained everything with great enthusiasm and gave us a lot of information.
During the tour around the island, he showed us a cave with rock paintings and another one with stalactites and stalagmites. The cave paintings were made with reddish mineral pigment, they weren’t very well-preserved, but the guide pointed them out to you. Since these caves give you an idea of what life might have been like on this island and what their rituals were like, I found the visit quite interesting.
In fact, there are remains of some coffins and bones at some points along the route.
The visit, in my opinion, is definitely worth it, both for the wild landscape of mangroves and the Philippine culture you get to know.
Cadapdapan Rice Terraces (Candijay)
These gorgeous rice terraces of Cadapdapan remind me of the ones in Banaue, they are located in the municipality of Candijay, about 30 km from Anda beach.
You will find these rice fields amazing, with a lush green color and well-cared for. The landscape shaped by exotic palm trees, its cliff overlooking the sea and even a buffalo stuck in the mud resting, is so evocative…
Can-Umantad Falls (Candijay)
Without leaving the municipality of Candijay, we found these impressive waterfalls, the Can-umantad falls, which can be reached by descending 500 steps. The waterfalls are just breathtaking, with a 60-meter waterfall and a powerful flow. We spent a great time swimming there.
The entrance fee is Php 20.
In Anda there are also cenotes, and we visited two of them:
Cabagnow Cave Pool, near Quinale Beach, is a small natural pool in the middle of the forest. It is quite beautiful, but much neglected. To enter the pool you have to pay Php 50.
Tibaw Cave Pool, this cenote is very nice and you can cool off in it, plus it is not as deep as the first one. It costs Php 30.
We visited this beach after seeing the Cabagnow Cave Pool cenote and loved it. A wide-white-sandy beach well care of clean. Perfect for swimming there, and for us to top off the amazing tour in Anda.
Visayas Guide Final Thoughts
The Visayas is the perfect destination for an off the beaten path adventure. Its gorgeous beaches, breathtaking landscapes and delicious food are just some reasons to visit these islands.
I hope this selection of the Visayas islands along with all the information on what to see and do in each of them will inspire and help you when planning your trip. You have known in depth Cebu City, Dumaguete, Apo Island, Siquijor, and Bohol (including the municipality of Anda), which ones are your favorites?
This post is part of a series of Philippine travel articles you might like to read: