Mactan Island is the gateway to historic and gorgeous Cebu province, a huge island surrounded by more than 100 islands and islets in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. While most tourists only hear about Cebu City itself, Mactan Island and the entire province of Cebu are filled with different must-see secrets for adventurous tourists looking to take the unbeaten path.
It should come as no surprise that a province in the middle of an island archipelago is home to dozens of secret, public beaches perfect for snorkeling or just taking a dip. Jensen Secret Beach, Ikid-Ikid Beach, and Baliwis Beach are just some of the places that the local tour guides can take you. These little pockets of “private” coast offer a respite from the crowds at Cebu’s more popular beach fronts.
Thresher Cove Resort
This one is in my ‘5 Resorts in the Philippines for the Adventurous Couple’ list here on my blog. It’s located on the island of Malapascua, a big, secluded island north of the Cebuano mainland. Apart from being a picturesque place to stay, this is also the perfect place to learn SCUBA diving and even swim alongside sharks.
Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa
This luxury resort isn’t exactly a secret, but what most people don’t know about it is that it’s also home to a six-acre marine sanctuary. The Shangri-La Marine Sanctuary Stewardship Group is in charge of keeping watch over its 160 species of marine life, many of which are endemic to the Philippines. It’s also the primary place in Central Visayas where rescued marine life are given a new and safe home.
Seafood Stilt Restaurants
Thanks to its location, Mactan is a known hub for some of the freshest, most fantastic seafood dishes in the world. Some of the restaurants there even allow tourists to don a pair of goggles and catch their own lunch straight from the water. The menu includes fish, baby scallops, oysters, and whatever else the sea has to offer come eating time. Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton claims that the beauty of Mactan’s restaurants is “the hospitality and service that make the experience.”
Located at the roof deck of Azon Residences, Scape Skydeck gives you a view of all of Mactan Island while having dinner and throwing back a cold one. The chic decor of this rooftop hotel restaurant is only surpassed by its breathtaking view. Make sure to call before heading there as you might need reservations, depending on the season.
Aloguinsan River Eco-Cultural Tour
Mactan is also about a one and a half to two hours drive away from Aloguinsan. There, you can take the eco-cultural river cruise along Cebu’s beautiful Bojo River. The 45-minute river ride will take you across mangrove forests filled with endemic birds and flora, which the local tour guides are extremely knowledgeable about, according to the Inquirer.
Cordova’s Old Municipal Hall
Cordova is the lesser known local municipality next to Lapu-Lapu in Mactan Island. Apart from being a well-preserved wooden structure that’s worth a look, Cordova’s Old Municipal Hall has also been converted into a mini-museum featuring many historical objects. The Philippine Star suggests that it’s home to antique coins, religious relics, and 50 to 100-year-old jars, each item offering a different peek into Mactan’s colonial and pre-Spanish past.
The Dinagat Festival
Apart from being a diving haven, Mactan is also known for the Dinagat Festival that happens every August at Cordova. It honors the local municipality’s main source of livelihood – fishing. Expect to see lots of street dancing, colorful costumes, and the freshest catch being sold in the streets.
Bakasi and Swaki
Bakasi are 10-inch saltwater eels that make their home at the coastal waters of Mactan. Swaki is the local term for sea urchins, the yellow-orange meat of which is particularly chunky during full moons – best eaten either raw or kinilaw (cooked in vinegar). Both of these delicacies are available at the many resorts and restaurants in Cordova.
Mactan-Cebu International Airport
Although it’s not technically a secret, you don’t actually land at Cebu City when you fly to Cebu from Metro Manila and other airports. You land at Mactan-Cebu International Airport, on Lapu-Lapu City at the island of Mactan, which is part of Cebu province. Regular flights from Metro Manila to Mactan-Cebu International Airport are available on a daily basis via Philippine Airlines.