Flying into Cebu International Airport will land you in Mactan City. While many tourists book at the airport and head straight to Cebu Beach, those who slow down and look around Mactan Island are the real winners.
Mactan Island has many hidden gems including beaches, water activities, marine reserves and more. Mactan is a coral island, which means some of the best diving and snorkeling can be found off shore. The waters surrounding Mactan are rich in biodiversity, making for an unforgettable experience. It also means the beach is made of soft ground coral that feels so good between your toes!
Even better, these attractions tend to be less crowded and expensive due to the lack of competition on the island. When everyone’s turn ends in Cebu, Mactan can accommodate you in an instant.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Mactan:
1. Explore the community
One of the best things to do on Mactan Island is to take a tricycle to the southern city of Lapu-Lapu (about 20 minutes from the airport) and take a walk around the humble residential area.
As you walk, you’ll have the chance to wind down the trails where you’ll find some of the best food. Many of these food stalls run out in front of the family home, and the chef has been making the same Sisig recipe for 30 years and is a true flavor expert.
In these Lapu-Lapu neighborhoods, you can also contribute to the community economy by shopping at local convenience stores. Ask a local to point you to the shore, where you’ll find great views and some swimming spots.
2. Ocean Dreamers Island Tour
Stay on Mactan Island for cheaper accommodation and use the island as a starting point for your adventure. When looking for a tour, consider Ocean Dreamers Island Tours, which offers every tour in the book!
One of their most popular tours is the “Three Islands Tour”, where you’ll spend a day exploring the Orango Islands off the coast of Mactan.
The boat tour includes a fresh mango lunch and most likely BBQ chicken. You get free beer and rum; island fees are included in the itinerary; they even provide towels!
3. Landscape viewing platform
Who doesn’t love a sky bar? Head over to the Scape Skydeck where you can sit in a comfortable chair overlooking the entire island of Mactan!
Scape Skydeck is located in one of the only tall buildings on the island, so your view is not obstructed. Instead, you can look down on all the blocks and have a clear view of the sunset.
The decor is very chic, making it the perfect place to enjoy an evening cocktail, appetizer or treat yourself.
4. Go scuba diving
With lush coral reefs and a protected marine reserve, you can expect spectacular diving off the coast of Mactan Island. There are more than a dozen prominent dive sites offering a rich variety of marine life and underwater terrain to suit every level.
Spots like Argus give you the chance to get up close and personal with strange underwater creatures such as sponges and tiny seahorses hidden in coral.
For a heart-pounding adventure, there’s a reef resort that offers a massive underwater wall that suddenly drops 20 meters. It is full of amazing creatures like giant groupers and sea snakes.
There is a school specializing in freediving on Mactan Island.
Freedive HQ is the best place to learn how to dive into the sea like a mermaid without any equipment and oxygen assistance. The pros here will teach you how to hold your breath so you can breathe for as long as you think possible.
Expert free diving combined with the stunning marine environment here will give you the chance to free dive with whale sharks, schools of colourful fish and even manta rays – in addition to the adrenaline to fuel your dives.
6. Narukan Island Marine Reserve
There is a small island off the coast of Mactan Island called Naru Suan Island, which is home to an incredible marine reserve and picturesque resort.
Consider staying a night or two in one of their bungalows, on stilts over turquoise water, where you can fall asleep to the sound of the waves.
In the morning, run to the pier and hop off for a refreshing swim. You can then spend the day snorkeling, diving or kayaking around this piece of marble in the ocean, where you’ll find undisturbed marine life in crystal-clear waters with ideal visibility.
7. Lantau Aboriginal Restaurant
This restaurant can only be described as “upscale island”. You have the perfect island setting, the dining table on the pier juts out into the turquoise sea, and the decor and furniture are very elegant and chic.
In the evening, Lantaw Native is packed with romantic couples and stylish locals enjoying local dishes with San Miguel beers in hand, sitting under modern lighting and colorful skies. The atmosphere is simply unbeatable.
8. Play on the water
If you want to start your vacation right away, book an NTJ Water Sports Tour. They’ll help you arrange transportation directly from the airport to their seaside office, where you can drop your bags and let the fun begin right away.
NTJ Water Sports offers paragliders, banana boats, water skis, jet skis, flying fish rides and more.
They also do diving trips and snorkeling island tours. Don’t waste a second of your vacation!
9. Rent a local boat for snorkeling
Filipinos tend to be amazing innovators. Tell a guy with a boat that you want to go fishing, beer and BBQ on the water for a day and he’ll help you. Tell a guy you want to go snorkeling in a secret place and he’ll know where to go. Tell someone you want to experience eating raw sea urchin straight from the bottom of the sea and he will. Want to learn how to spear fish underwater like a local? There are such people.
The benefit of going with a local is that you’ll gain a personal experience, make new friends, and open up job opportunities to others outside of the big online companies.
10. Lapu Lapu Statue
The Lapu-Lapu statue is located near the Bay of Magellan, not far from Mactan Airport.
This impressive 20-meter bronze statue depicts a native hero who fought and defeated Spanish soldiers in 1521. The statue will forever be remembered for the naval battle of Mactan, an important symbol of the tenacity of the people of Mactan and the patriotism of the island.
Locals and tourists like to pose in front of the Lapu-Lapu statue in an attempt to imitate the heroic gesture. Afterwards, take a walk by the sea and breathe in the fresh sea air.
11. Go shark diving with fun and sun diving and travel
Fun & Sun Dive & Travel will give you the chance to swim with real life sharks! There are no great white sharks around, so don’t panic. They will take you to places where you can swim with whitetip and thresher sharks like you can see at Shark Week.
Also, Fun & Sun Dive & Travel has something called an “underwater scooter” which is exactly what it sounds like. When you wear a submarine astronaut-style helmet, you can ride it like a scooter underwater. It’s worth a shot just for fun photos.
12. Ibiza Beach Club
Romantic, luxurious and totally Instagram-worthy, Ibiza Beach Club at Mactan is the island beach club of your luxury lifestyle dreams.
This Mediterranean-inspired spot features a trendy restaurant and bar that plunges straight into the sea and is surrounded by sparkling waters. At night, elegant neon lights illuminate the white chairs and canopies, making you feel like you are in Ibiza.
There’s nightly entertainment and a Mediterranean-inspired menu with tapas and wine to put you in full holiday mode.
13. The Temple of Magellan
Near Port Magellan is of course the Temple of Magellan. This shrine pays homage to the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan who was killed in the Battle of Magellan in 1521.
Magellan tortured and even razed villages on Mactan Island in an attempt to intimidate the locals and induce them to relinquish control. You can see depictions of Magellan’s battle at the shrine, showing fierce battles taking place in the water.
If you’re wondering why Mactan would want to remember such a man, it’s because he brought Christianity to what is now a super-religious island, and for that, they salute him.
14. San Vicente Marine Reserve
Long hand-woven bamboo bridges spew out of 1/3 mile of jungle and jut out into the ocean overhead in acres of protected marine reserves – here’s what you can expect, and much more in the San Vicente Marine Reserve multiple content.
This marine reserve in Lapu-Lapu is definitely worth a visit for the beautiful island views alone. You can also snorkel, swim, feed the fish, and even camp overnight!
This place is a photographer’s dream with many opportunities to capture nature in its most pristine form.
15. Cao Hakan Island
From Lapu-Lapu City, it takes about 1 hour by boat to reach Cao Hakan Island. This little blob in the ocean is made up of dozens of houses, beautiful beaches and inland jungle. Locals are happy to share their island with tourists as the place has only recently started attracting foreign tourists.
Cao Hakan is still a developing island, which means there is only electricity from morning to evening. It is such factors that contribute to its charm. Experience idyllic island life by going fishing, snorkeling or strolling through the village.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Mactan, Philippines
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