Mactan Island, separated from the main island of Cebu by the Mactan Channel, is a popular destination in the province of Cebu. It is connected to the mainland by two bridges – the Marcelo Fernan Bridge and Mactan-Mandaue Bridge and is approximately 30 minutes away from the city center.
With Mactan Island, you never need to go far to enjoy the natural attractions as it is blessed with white sandy beaches and luxury hotels and resorts. It also has a rich history, interesting marine life, and thriving craft industry that will surely make your trip memorable. Mactan-Cebu International Airport, the busiest airport in the country outside Manila, is also located on the island.
This brief guide to Mactan Island will help you plan your trip. It contains information on what to do, eat, and drink as well as the must-see spots and the best hotels.
Best Time to Visit
It’s best to visit the Philippines during the dry season. Dry season in the Philippines spans from November through April. These are the summer months in this country.
Be aware that temperatures and humidity levels are particularly high in April and May.
The best time to be a beach bum and explore the islands is from March to May.
TIP: This guide recommends that booking for Mactan Island summer trips should be done as early as possible, at least a month before your travel dates, since resorts get fully booked early.
The period from June to October is the rainy (wet) season and is best avoided due to the high possibility of typhoons. The typhoons can not only be destructive, but most tours and activities are cancelled under such circumstances. Transportation via plane and boat is also seriously impacted as well. This happens frequently so beware!
This guide recommends traveling to Mactan Island in April-May or in November-December, just before and just after the rainy season. This will likely bring fewer crowds, yet pleasant weather, and is also a great time to score a travel deal.
Plug commonly used is Type A but Types B and C are used as well. Bring A to B adapter(s).
There are many ways to get here depending on your starting point. This guide recommends using the following online tools to identify all the available options and cost for each while on Mactan Island: Rome2Rio and PHBUS. The following are the major ports of entry for this destination.
The following are the modes of transportation available on Mactan island …
SEE & DO
The following is your guide to places to see and activities to enjoy while on Mactan Island.
1 | Stay at a resort on the island
The coast of the island is lined with resorts from budget-friendly to luxury ones such as Shangri-la Mactan, Plantation Bay, and Jpark Island Resort and Waterpark. Several of these resorts have access to white sand beaches and provide a variety of water activities like banana boat ride, parasailing, and diving.
2 | Enjoy the public beaches
Aside from beaches accessible through resorts, Mactan Island also has public beaches for everyone to enjoy. Marigondon Public Beach with its fine white sand and pristine waters is a favorite among scuba divers due to its proximity to a spot where there’s a thriving aquatic flora and fauna. Tonggo Beach has low-hanging cliffs that provide shelter from the sun while enjoying the water. Ikid ikid Beach and Baliwis Beach are both rocky but still worth a visit if you are into unspoilt and charming beaches.
3 | Go on island-hopping tour
A trip to the island isn’t complete without going on an island-hopping tour. The tour includes visits to several islands, particularly the Olango Island Group which is composed of six islets and a marine sanctuary which is considered the most extensive in the region.
4 | Visit the Olango Bird Sanctuary
While it’s not on Mactan, Olango Island, where Olango Bird Sanctuary is located, is just a few kilometers from the coast of Mactan. The sanctuary is considered one of the seven best-known flyways in the world for migratory birds. Among the 97 species of birds in Olango, 48 of which are migratory birds from Siberia, Northern China, and Japan heading to Australian and New Zealand. Migratory birds found in Olango include Asiatic dowitchers, Chinese egrets, eastern curlews, plovers, and sandpipers.
5 | Try snorkeling or scuba diving
Meet and greet interesting marine life through snorkeling or scuba diving. Marigondon Cave, with its entrance located 30 meters below and bottom at 37 meters, is recommended for advanced or deep divers. Kontiki House Reef, Hilutungan Island Marine Sanctuary, and Nalusuan Island Marine Sanctuary, on the other hand, are great for all levels of divers.
6 | Shop for a guitar
Guitars, ukulele, and some other music instruments made in Mactan are known all over the country for their quality. If you’re on the hunt for such musical instruments either for yourself or someone back home, make sure to visit the shops, particularly the Alegre Guitar Factory where you can also see they are made.
7 | Go on a heritage tour
The Mactan Shrine found on the island commemorates the Battle of Mactan in 1521 when Lapu-Lapu, the country’s first hero, killed Ferdinand Magellan, Portuguese explorer and leader of the Spanish invaders. The shrine displays paintings and plaques about the battle, the towering statue of Lapu-Lapu, and Magellan Monument.
8 | Experience Cebu nightlife
The nightlife on the island may not be as alive as that of Cebu City but you can find bars, karaokes, discos, and other activities for an exciting night. Several resorts, particularly the luxury ones, have their own bars complete with an extensive selection of drinks and performers to entertain the guests. Spots to check out are Azure Beach Club, Ibiza Beach Club, and Shangri-La’s Breeze.
NOTE: The Sinulog Festival occurs annually in the nearby Cebu City every 3rd Sunday of January.
EAT & DRINK
The following is your guide to the flavorful food to enjoy and restaurants to try while on Mactan Island.
1 | Abaca Restaurant
Abaca Restaurant is part of Abaca Boutique Resort, an exclusive resort with deluxe suites and villas. The restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine using local fresh seafood, organic herbs and vegetables from their own garden, and other imported ingredients. With its romantic ambience and great service in addition to delicious and quality food, Abaca Restaurant is definitely worth trying when on the island.
2 | Cowrie Cove at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa
Dreaming of dining under the starry night sky while being serenaded by the waves crashing on the shore? Shangri-La’s Cowrie Cove is just the perfect destination. They serve good seafood curry, breads, and ribs.
3 | Entoy’s Bakasihan
The restaurant specializes in bakasi, a salt water or reef eel abundant on the island, particularly in Cordova where this restaurant is located. This carinderia-style eatery serves nilarang bakasi (a Cebuano likened to sinigang), fried eels, as well as other seafood dishes such as crabs and prawns.
4 | Giuseppe Pizzeria & Sicilian Roast Mactan
Satisfy your Italian food cravings at Giuseppe Pizzeria & Sicilian Roast. Founded by an Italian chef, the restaurant boasts of using high quality ingredients and traditional recipes to achieve authentic Italian flavor. Try their Spaghetti Marinara and Parma Ham Pizza along with popular Italian beers such as Birra Moretti and Peroni.
5 | Ibiza Beach Club
The top restaurant on the island based on reviews, Movenpick Hotel’s Ibiza Beach Club is a great venue to dine and enjoy the night away. It is a fine dining restaurant that serves Asian and Mediterranean cuisine including tapas and churrasco. Aside from food, it also offers a wide range of drinks and provides entertainment including dance performances, show bands, and others.
6 | Lantaw Native Restaurant
Lantaw Native Restaurant offers a unique dining experience as it floats over the waters of Mactan not too far away from Mactan Reef Flat. It specializes in seafood but also serves other Pinoy favorites like crispy pata, grilled pork belly, and lechon kawali. Recommended dishes include Cordova express and chicken in coconut juice.
7 | Rico’s Lechon
A trip to Cebu, be it the mainland or the islands, is not complete without feasting on the famous lechon, a pork dish popular all over the country. Cebu is known to have the best version of lechon so don’t miss out the opportunity of enjoying the dish while in the province.
KNOWN FOR: Lechon
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WHERE TO STAY
There are many different types of accommodations available in this destination ranging from hostels to luxurious resorts. The following is your guide to our top choices for each range on Mactan Island.
1 | Islands Stay Hotels (Budget)
2 | Appleton Boutique Hotel (Mid-Range)
3 | Crimson Resort and Spa (Luxury | Resort)
This guide recommends using the following sites to conduct research online of where to stay on Mactan Island or for a specific destination:
Book your room with these trusted online booking sites. Booking online in the Philippines almost always guarantees the best price and a room when you arrive. We use these sites frequently to get the best prices and enjoy convenient bookings. Click each of the buttons below to find the best place for you at the lowest rates:
TIP: Appleton Boutique Hotel is the best property to experience this destination.
Use the chart below to get an idea of how much to budget daily. Actual amounts will depend on YOUR travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages … some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less. Prices are in USD.
A bed in a hostel dorm costs from 350 PHP ($7 USD), but smaller dorms can cost from 500 PHP ($10 USD). For a private double, prices start around 700 PHP ($14 USD).
Most budget hotels begin at 700 PHP ($14 USD) per night for a double room and usually include free wifi and breakfast. For a three-star hotel, prices begin around 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night. AirBnB is also widespread throughout the country, with private rooms starting from as little as 500 PHP ($10 USD) per night. For entire apartments, expect to pay at least 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night.
Resorts and luxury accommodations vary greatly from 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) to 5,000+ PHP ($100+ USD). However, there are some really nice resorts and luxury accommodations which are surprisingly affordable.
Local food is extremely cheap, with street food costing under 50 PHP ($1USD). For an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant, prices start around 100 PHP ($2 USD). For a meal at a mid-range restaurant with drinks and table service, expect to pay from 200 PHP ($4 USD). Knowing that their target customers are primarily tourists, Western food venues can be pricey compared to Filipino food. Also, some of the ingredients need to be imported, which contributes to the higher cost. Western food (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) is much more expensive but is still relatively affordable at around 200 PHP ($4 USD) for a meal and drink.
Fast food like McDonalds will cost around 200 PHP ($4 USD). A beer at the bar will cost around 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD).
A week’s worth of groceries will cost between 300-600 PHP ($6-12 USD) per person. However, food in this country is so inexpensive, and kitchens & refrigerators are hard to come by, I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss!
There are many modes of transportation available in the Philippines and each varies greatly.
Public Transportation is cheap. Bus services on the islands are inexpensive. Local buses (called jeepneys) are the most common type of transportation in towns and cities. The fare is usually between 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD).
On islands without a bus system, a taxi or tricycle is the only form of transport with fares starting at 50-500 PHP ($1-$10) USD for short trips.
Taxis are everywhere, and they’re very cheap. Most fares shouldn’t cost you more than 500 PHP ($10 USD) around town.
To get between islands, you’ll need to take a boat or to fly. There are ferries that connect the island together since they aren’t too far apart but, generally speaking, flights are the most realistic option.
Flights between islands usually cost about 2,000-3500 PHP ($40-70 USD). However, this isn’t the cheapest way to travel. It’s only recommended if you have limited time.
Attractions & Activities
Most attractions and activities in the Philippines are pretty cheap. Most attractions throughout the area are FREE to enter, though some of the more well known and popular ones cost 5-100 PHP ($.10-$2 USD) to enter.
Depending on the activity, most day tours only cost around 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD), oftentimes less. You have more bargaining power if you go with a group. If you are expecting to do some climbing, remember to pack some warm layers. It gets cold at the top!
Other activities such as Island Hopping, scuba diving, helmet diving, swimming with whale sharks, jungle trekking, canyoning, ATVs, jet skis, wakeboarding, cruises, parasailing, horseback riding, cultural experiences, and tours can cost as much as 1,250-5,000+ PHP ($25-100+ USD).
The Philippines is one of the least expensive places to learn how to scuba dive. Learning to scuba dive usually costs about 15,000-20,000 PHP ($300-400 USD), but often includes FREE accommodation for the duration of the course, which lasts three or four days.
Always book your tours and activities when you arrive. Stick to travel agents who are selling on the ground. If a travel agent won’t negotiate with you, move on to the next until you find one that will. Booking tours online is almost always more expensive.
Typical Costs on Mactan Island in 2021:
- Hostel Dorm Bed: 250-350 PHP ($5–7 USD) night
- Budget Hotel: 700 PHP ($14 USD) night
- Mid-Range Hotel: 1500 PHP ($31 USD) night
- Street Food: 50-150 PHP ($1–3 USD) meal
- Restaurant Meals: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) meal
- Local Beer: 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD) bottle
- 1.5L Bottle of Water: 38 PHP ($.75 USD) bottle
- Jeepney Ride: 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD) ride
- Tricycle Ride: 20-100 PHP ($.5-2 USD) ride
- Taxi: 75-500 PHP ($1.50-10 USD) ride – use GrabTaxi app
- Long-Distance Bus Ride: 400-500 PHP ($8–10 USD) ride
- Public Ferry Ride: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) ride
- Domestic Flight: 2,000-3,500 PHP ($40–70 USD) flight
- Island-Hopping: 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD) trip
BEST NO-FEE INTERNATIONAL DEBIT & CREDIT CARDS
The following is some of our best advice on traveling to Mactan Island. Learn what you need to know BEFORE you go!
Tips & Hacks
he following are our Top 10 Tips when visiting this destination in the Philippines:
- Be aware that a tourist VISA is only 30 days. You can extend it upon arrival, or within the first 30 days, for an additional 30 days for a fee of approximately 3,000 pesos.
- Don’t buy into the fear factor. The Philippines has an unjustified reputation of being a dangerous place. It’s true there are security guards everywhere, but that is to deter theft.
- Manila is NOT the Philippines. Get outside of the cities to see the real Philippines.
- Don’t over plan. Boats, buses, and even airplane schedules are notoriously unreliable. Be flexible.
- Check the weather. The weather varies greatly throughout the Philippines daily.
- Typhoons can have a huge impact on your plans. Account for this when planning your trip.
- It’s not cool to raise your voice or show outward frustration in public.
- Be polite at all times. Realize that your country’s sense of humor may be different from Filipino humor and take this into account when interacting with Filipinos and while in public places.
- Things move at a slower pace. Accept it … don’t get frustrated … but do account for it.
- Don’t drink the tap water… but stay hydrated! Save money by buying large bottles (6-10 liters) of water and using it to fill your water bottle or hydration bladder in your backpack.
For a complete list of our travel tips & hacks, check out the following guide and be sure to download a FREE copy for yourself.
The Philippines has its own currency called the Philippine Peso. Banks, ATMs, and money-changers can be found on the island. If you are exploring the neighboring islands or provinces, make sure to bring enough cash that will last until the next time you get to an ATM or bank since most tours, transportation, and budget accommodations only accept cash.
Health & Safety
While overall the Philippines is a safe country to visit, as is Mactan Island, you need to use common sense just as you would in any country, especially when traveling, and in a city, town, or area you are unfamiliar with.
Consult your hotel or resort front desk as they are more likely to give you reliable information than a random stranger on the street. Be careful when approaching strangers and selective about who you approach. Always pay attention to your gut feeling and follow it.
There are many things to consider when traveling in order to stay safe … things that we may not be accustomed to during our normal everyday lives. The following are articles about tips on how to stay safe while traveling in the Philippines:
- 6 Common Accidents to Avoid
- How to Beat the Heat in the Philippines
- Taxi Safety Tips: Dos and Don’ts
- Motorbike Safety Tips
- Beach & Ocean Safety Tips
- Sun Safety Tips
Staying fit & healthy can be challenging when traveling in the Philippines.
The tropical Philippines climate requires you to prepare for illnesses that you may not normally be accustomed to.
The following are our Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy while Traveling in the Philippines:
- Maintain a Balanced Diet
- Stay Hydrated but Only Drink Bottled Water
- Get Plenty of Rest
- Allow Your Body Time to Adjust
- Keep Active
- Sanitize Often
- Be Aware of Food Safety Concerns
- Take Your Vitamins
- Practice Safe Sex
- Be Prepared Should You Get Sick
You need to have a local-based SIM card in order to stay connected when in the Philippines. Network giants such as Globe and Smart have SIM cards you can use to make calls, send text messages, and also to connect to the Internet. A SIM card costs around 50 PHP ($1 USD) and usually comes with a FREE load worth 50 PHP ($1 USD). You can buy a card containing a code you can enter on your phone to replenish your load or buy an electronic load that is available almost anywhere in the city.
While you may not have problems with signal strength when in the city, it is not always the case when on islands or in remote areas of a province. So when arranging for transportation pick up, say when renting a boat to take you to and pick you up from the island, it would be best that you make it clear what time you need to be picked up before the boatman leaves.
Recommended Travel Apps
Apps for smartphones and tablets can be useful both before you leave and while you’re traveling. Most are available for iPhones and Android phones.
- Grab (taxis/ride shares)
- Angkas (motorbike ride-hailing)
- WhatsApp (phone calls)
- Skyscanner (flights)
- Rome2Rio (transportation)
- Agoda (accomodations)
- Booking.com (accomodations)
- AirBnB (accomodations)
- Traveloka (flights, accomodations, activities)
- Klook (attractions & activities )
Be certain to download and set up apps BEFORE leaving on your trip to make certain each is installed and working properly.
For our complete list of travel apps that we use and recommend while traveling in the Philippines, checkout our checklist below. Download a FREE copy for yourself as a PDF.
Trying to decide what to do when traveling to a destination for the first time can be a bit overwhelming given your lack of familiarity with the place along with all of the available options.
We’ve created the following itinerary to help simplify the process and ensure that you get the most out of your trip. Although we provide a 7 day itinerary for this destination, it can always be adjusted to fit the length of your trip.
The secret to a successful and stress-free trip is to start by using a packing list. This will reduce anxiety from the start and ensure that nothing important is forgotten when packing. To make this process easy for you, we’ve created a detailed packing list. Click the link below to download it for FREE now.
Carrying your checklist with you during your travels can be useful when repacking, by helping to ensure that you do not leave anything behind.
Things to Remember
This guide recommends to take note of the following while traveling on Mactan Island or in the Philippines in general.
There is a nationwide ban which prohibits smoking in public places including indoors, the streets, on sidewalks, in restaurants , and on public transportation, requiring smokers to use designated smoking areas. Selling tobacco to and purchasing from or for minors is also prohibited. Violators are subject to fines (up to 5,000 PHP | $100 USD) and even 4 months in prison.
The minimum legal drinking age is 18. Alcohol such as beer and hard drinks can easily be bought in grocery and convenience stores. The most common alcoholic beverage is beer, generally served cold. Local alcoholic drinks include tuba (coconut wine which is usually very strong) and potent moonshine-like clear liquors made from sugar or fruit. Imported beer, wine, and name brand hard alcohol are available but expensive.
Drugs are illegal in the Philippines. Don’t use, buy, or sell any non-prescription drugs while in the Philippines … not even marijuana. It is considered an especially heinous crime to buy from, for, or sell drugs to children. The penalties are severe … up to and including death.
Public nudity is illegal in the Philippines and is not tolerated. Most locals consider it offensive. There are laws which prohibit provocative and erotic clothing and swimwear, therefore carefully consider your clothings and swimwear choices to make certain they are not too revealing.
Foreigners & Expats
If you are not a Filipino citizen, remember that you are a guest when visiting this country … be certain to act accordingly. Respect the people, their customs, and the environment and wlidlife. You can be deported and banned … so behave … but have fun and enjoy all that this wonderful destination has to offer.
Cover Photo Credit: Mactan-Cebu Airport
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