Mactan is not foreign among Filipinos. At age 6 or so, they were taught in school that this was where Datu Lapu-Lapu mightily fought against Spanish colonizers led by Ferdinand Magellan in the 16th century. Although it is now a highly developed and industrialized island, one can still witness the past meet the present and find refuge in this historic settlement.
Mactan, the country’s most densely populated island, is the main gateway of tourists living outside Cebu, thanks to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, the country’s second busiest airport. Being a coral island, it offers one of the best and accessible water activities in the country. While many head straight to mainland Cebu (connected to Mactan via two bridges) upon landing on the airport, the truly wise will make the most of the attractions in Mactan, which is less crowded and less expensive. After all, why look far when cheaper but just as astounding beauty is already at your fingertips?
Yes, via Mactan International Airport in Lapu-lapu City, the lone city in the island. The lone municipality meanwhile is Cordova. PAL, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia have a minimum of 30 daily trips to Cebu. Price ranges from P1,500 to P2,500. Travel time is around 1hr and 15 minutes.
2GO offers overnight ferry rides from Manila North Harbor Pier to Cebu at P1,000 pesos. But mind you, travel time is 22 hrs minimum—definitely not for the impatient. May be worth a try if you wish to see dolphins and whales roaming the sea, if you’re lucky. End destination is the port in Cebu City. Take a cab or jeep from there to Mactan Island and begin your journey.
You can get around the island via tricycle which can carry up to 3 passengers. This is the most common mode of transportation, but are limited only in places where they are license to operate. Jeepneys and multicabs ply around the city as well. If you wish to go point-to-point, better hail a cab or Grab service.
Of course, your Mactan Island itinerary will not be complete without visiting the statue honoring its hero. The 20-meter tall Lapu-lapu Statue is a sight to behold—which seem to remind us that we should continue to strive for independence and resist modern oppressors.
While we are at it, might as well visit the Magellan Shrine in tribute to the Portuguese conquistadores Magellan. Why? After what they did? You may ask. Filipinos owe to them that Philippines is a Christian nation. Even its name is in honor of then King Philip II of Spain.
Feeling like embracing nature? Go to San Vicente Marine Sanctuary, where you will be walking on 500-meter long hand-woven bamboo bridges.It is a fish and marine conservation area where you can do camping, cycling and fish feeding. Definity IG-worthy.
You can never run out of things to do in Mactan Island. Expectedly, the most common is Island Hopping in nearby islands of Pandanon, Nalusuan, Hilutungan, Caohagan, Olango and Sulpa Islands. Nalusuan island has a picturesque resort that offers snorkeling, diving, and kayaking activities. Meanwhile, Caohagan island, an hour away from from Lapu-lapu City, has an inland jungle where you can totally experience an idyllic island life. Book a trip to Olango Islands via Ocean Dreamers Island Tours and feast on fresh mangoes and BBQ chicken.
With dense coral reefs and marine biodiversity, Mactan Island is perfect for scuba diving where you will be able to see sea creatures like sea horses, sea sponges, and even sea snakes.
For the brave, you can enrol at a free diving school where experts will guide you to free dive with whale sharks, manta rays and other creatures—without any gear and oxygen assistance of course.
Fun & Sun Dive & Travel diving packages in 15 dive sites where you can swim with batfish, chevron barracuda, and even white tip sharks and thresher sharks, if you’re lucky. You can also ride an Underwater Scooter while your head is in a submarine-astronaut inspired helmet, perfect for picture-taking.
NTJ Water Sports in Lapu-lapu City offers parasailing and banana boat rides, among others. You can drop your bags in their seaside office and enjoy the fun right away.
There are many hotels in Mactan where you can have a sumptuous meal. But for those who want to try otherwise, one which probably stands out is the CookPub - Modern Korean Bistro and Bar in Island Central Mall. With almost five-star reviews, their Korean dish especially their pancakes and ramyeon are meals you won’t easily forget.
If the ambiance matters to you, try Lantaw Floating Native Restaurant in Cordova. True to its name, Lantaw Restaurant give its customers the island vibe, with dining tables on a dock floating above the clear waters. Food ranges from P200 to P400 pesos and they are open 11am–11pm
Lumpia ni Senyang, your typical Filipino eatery at the back of Saint Alphonsos Catholic School in Pobalicion, Lapu-lapu has been around for more than 25 years. Make no mistake though, their signature lumpia and hot sauce will surely keep you coming back for more. They are open 7:30am to 7:30pm.
Get restaurant quality food in Bella’s Bites Soups and Salads, a cafe which offers Italian dish made from organic ingredients like chicken and broccoli pasta bake, and salads. Do not be fooled by the DVD and RTW stores around it, their food is testament that a satisfied tummy can eat healthy.
Rated an average of 4.5/5, Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa at Punta Engano Road will definitely exceed your expectation. This five-star hotel offers a magnificent sea view. It’s pricey at P14,000 per night but it’s worth it if you have spare cash to burn and customer experience (and a private beach) is what matters to you.
Waterfront Airport Hotel and Casino is a three-star hotel that offers accommodation at P3,500 per night. With pool and WI-FI, you’ll love the comforting vibe it gives. It’s very convenient since it’s just across the airport.
At P2,600 per night, Eloisa Royal Suites is way cheaper than three to five-star hotels in the area, but no less sophisticated.It has a nice pool and bistro for a royal stay. Perfect value for money for the parsimonious, but eager not to be shortchanged.
Try the Ibiza Beach Club where neon lights shine off white chairs and canopies. They also stage entertainment shows.Wanna see an unobstructed view of the whole island? Scape Skydeck is the place to go. There are only a few other tall buildings in the island, which means this is where you can watch a beautiful sunset and have a stunning view of the Mactan channel and the city lights at night while having cocktails.