Fringed by white beaches, palms and clear turquoise water, the Filipino island of Cebu has plenty of charm. It's home to world-class diving and supports a diverse marine ecosystem: whale sharks swim over coral reefs and shoals of fish shimmer beneath the waves. The island's interior is mountainous, with green hills and tumbling waterfalls. In Cebu City you can find colonial buildings and honking jeepneys – brightly decorated local buses – as well as lively nightlife and a budding contemporary art scene.
Most backpackers hostels in Cebu are clustered in buzzing Cebu City, or scattered around the island at laid-back beach destinations such as Oslob or Moalboal. Lounge in hammocks at a private beach, stay at a Cebu hostel and co-working space near the city's thriving technology hub, or get away from it all in a traditional Nipa hut surrounded by tropical palms. Free Wi-Fi is standard, making it easy for you to stay connected. Cebu hostels usually have air con in regular dorms and private rooms, or you can try out capsule pods and bamboo tents. Perfect for all backpackers.
Cebu has a wealth of places to discover, all with their own characteristics. Cebu City merges fast-paced modern life with Spanish colonial landmarks and a vibrant dining environment. Closer to the airport, Mactan Island is known for beach resorts and dive centres. At the southern tip of Cebu, easygoing Oslob has whale sharks, waterfalls and white sand beaches. Some of the island's best diving sites are in Oslob and Moalboal.
Cebu's main attractions are historic sites and natural features. Nature lovers can go to the swimming pools under cascading Kawasan Falls, hike up Osmeña Peak for sweeping views over the island's undulating landscape, or see migratory birds at Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary. History buffs can explore tiny Fort San Pedro, the oldest Spanish fortress in the country, before heading round the corner to see 16th-century Basilica del Santo Niño. At the end of January, Cebu City bursts into colour for the riotous Sinulog Festival.
Cebu City is an important transport hub for the Philippines. Most visitors fly into Mactan-Cebu International Airport, a 30-minute taxi ride to the city centre, but there's also a ferry from Manila. As Cebu is an island, there are no road or rail links outward. Once on Cebu, you can get around either by taxi or by jeepney – if you can spare the time to potentially get lost along the way, the latter is a quintessentially Filipino experience.