Mactan is often discussed in Philippine History as the location of the Battle of Mactan where Ferdinand Magellan was killed by Filipino warriors led by Lapu-Lapu, the chieftain of the island. Today, Mactan is one of the most visited places in Cebu, where tourists enjoy swimming and diving in its pristine waters, and explore its busy streets. Mactan is also the main entry point of visitors to the whole province since it is where the international airport is located.
Lapu-Lapu is the first Filipino native who fought against the Spaniards, thus he is considered to be the first hero of Philippines. He is honored in the Lapu-Lapu Shrine, which features a towering 66-foot-tall bronze statue of the chieftain. Not too far away from the statue is the Magellan Shrine, a monument built on what was believed to be the spot where the Portuguese explorer was killed.
Cebu is known for its world-class guitars, and some of the finest are made by Alegre Guitars. Their factory in Mactan features a showroom of their creations like acoustic guitars, ukuleles, and the bandurria, a Spanish instrument similar to a mandolin. The guitars are made from imported wood and other high-quality materials. Visitors can also observe in the factory how the guitars are made by hand.
The waters in Mactan are ideal for windsurfing, jet-skiing, and parasailing. It is also a good place to go diving with a variety of marine life in the area. Among the great dive sites you can visit here are the Kontiki Reef and the Tambuli Reef.
Traveling by plane is the more convenient and faster way to get to Mactan Island. Currently, local airlines like Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, and Philippine Airlines fly to Cebu on a daily basis from the different cities and provinces in the Philippines. If you’re coming from Manila, air travel is about 45 minutes. Other countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea also have direct flights to Cebu. All flights, both local and international, land at the Mactan – Cebu International Airport, located in the heart of Mactan Island.
Companies like 2GO Travel and Philippine Span Asia offer boat services to those who wish to travel by sea to Mactan Island. This option is only recommended for those who have the luxury of time. From Manila, a ferry ride to Mactan takes about 23 hours.
How to Get Around
Once you have landed at the airport or the seaport (located in the North Reclamation Area in Cebu City), taxis and jeeps are some of your options to go around the island. Tricycles are also widely available in some areas around Mactan. You can also try ride sharing services like Grab and Uber.
What to See
Mactan Island is one of the most historic destinations in the province of Cebu, and at the center of it all is its most prominent landmark: the Mactan Shrine or the Lapu-Lapu Shrine in Punta Engaño. This massive bronze statue of the county’s first hero, Lapu-Lapu, stands at 66 feet and was built to honor his bravery when he defended the Philippines against the Spaniards led by Ferdinand Magellan. Not too far from the shrine is the Magellan Marker, which was placed on the spot where Magellan is believed to have been slain by Lapu-Lapu and his men. The landmark was also constructed to recognize the Portuguese as a great explorer.
Despite the destructive fishing methods that took place in the beaches of Mactan throughout the years, the island is fortunately still blessed with magnificent coral reefs that serve as habitat for different kinds of fish, crustaceans, and other sea creatures. Every year, Mactan draws in divers and underwater enthusiasts from all over the world.
For starters, a visit to Nalusuan Island is a must. The island forms part of the Olango Group of Islands, about five kilometers east of Mactan Island. Nalusuan Island is home to the Nalusuan Island Resort and Marine Sanctuary where guests will be amazed with the island’s house reef where colorful coral gardens and schools of fishes await.
Hilutangan Island is another attraction within Olango and is situated northwest of Nalusan Island. The island is also famous for diving and snorkeling because of its rich marine life. But for those who just want to relax with the tranquility of the beach, Caohagan Island is highly recommended. This small stretch of land has an impressive shore and crystal clear waters where you can swim and sunbathe. There are also vendors on the island who sell the freshest catch of the day for lunch.
For an experience away from the beach, Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary is an attraction worth checking out. This wildlife sanctuary is home to hectares of sand flats and mangroves, but their main draw are the migratory birds that come all the way from Siberia, Northern China, and Japan. The birds, however, are not available all year-round. It’s best to schedule your visit to the sanctuary from October to November and February to March to have a good chance of seeing these impressive animals.
In most museums, touching the objects on display is strictly prohibited, which is the exact opposite in Cebu Happy World Museum in Cordova City. The full experience of enjoying this museum is all about interacting with the galleries. It features full of “trompe-l’oeil” paintings that create 3D optical illusions. Visitors are encouraged to take photos of themselves as they become part of the artworks in the most creative way possible.
Cebu is known for its durable and world-class handmade guitars, and you can see how they are made when you visit Alegre Guitar Factory in Abuno. Alegre is one of the country’s well-known guitars brands. Their creations are not only popular locally but have been exported all around the world. While in their workshop, you can watch the skilled artisans as they carefully craft several classical and acoustic guitars that have been sought after by musicians and music lovers. You can browse for different kinds of guitars and even ukuleles. You can also have a guitar custom-made according to your preferences.
Where to Shop
If you’re in the mood to shop, you can check out the different stores at the Gaisano Grand Mall Mactan and the Marina Mall, both located in Lapu Lapu City. If you want to score great deals on popular brands, the Outlets at Pueblo Verde feature several boutiques and outlets where you can browse for quality goods at discounted prices. There is also a variety of restaurants and other establishments available in these malls that offer numerous options for dining and entertainment.
Events and Festivals
Every April, Mactan Island comes alive with the annual celebration of the Kadaugan sa Mactan Festival. The feast is held to remember the Battle of Mactan and to give locals and tourists the chance to celebrate the island’s history, arts, culture, and traditions. It has numerous activities lined up every year like street dancing, food festivals, and a lights and sounds show.
Where to Eat
When it comes to dining, you will never run out of options when you visit Mactan. For starters, Abaca is one of the island’s top restaurants. It serves a number of sumptuous Filipino and international dishes. Make sure to try some of their highly recommended fares like the Four Cheese Wood Fired Flatbread Pizza and the Truffle Linguine.
Lantaw Native Restaurant is also another favorite dining place when in Mactan. This floating Filipino restaurant in Cordova offers a good selection of seafood, vegetable, pork, beef, and chicken dishes that will certainly satisfy any craving and appetite.
There is also Orange Karenderia located at The Mactan Newtown, which offers truly satisfying dishes at pocket-friendly prices. Their crispy tuna buntot is their specialty as well as their Betsy's garlic chicken and pancit canton.
But there is no better way to experience the local flavor than by enjoying a feast at Inday Pina's SuTuKil restaurant. SuTuKil is a Cebuano way of food preparation, which involves grilling (sugba), stewing (tuwa), and ceviche style (kilaw). And of course, no dining experience in Mactan would be complete without trying the famous Cebu lechon. You can find this beloved roasted pig in Mactan at Zubuchon, located in M.L. Quezon National Highway near the Mactan Marina Mall.
Bars and Clubs
For those who love to party and have a good time, you will definitely enjoy mingling with the hospitable and fun-loving locals in Mactan when you head out and experience the nightlife. Coco Loco's is a nightclub and bar located in Shangri-La Mactan where you can enjoy live performances from local bands and their set list of dance music. The Jungle Restaurant and Entertainment Center is also another well-known establishment when looking for a place in Mactan to have a good time. It is popular for its selection of drinks and food and its nightly cultural show.
Fare: PHP 2,000.00 to PHP 11,500.00
Airfares can go for as low as PHP 2,000.00 to as much as PHP 11,500.00. Make sure to be updated with the latest promos and seat sale offerings of the local airline of your choice to score the cheapest deal. Traveling by sea is also affordable. A one-way ticket from Manila costs PHP 1,200.00.
The flag down rate for taxis in Mactan is PHP 30.00. An additional PHP 3.50 is charged for every succeeding 500 meters or 90 seconds of waiting time. A jeep ride costs PHP 6.50 for a four-kilometer journey. For tricycle rides, a short trip within the city is around PHP 50.00.
Food: PHP 200.00 to PHP 500.00
On average, a budget of PHP 200.00 per meal is ideal in most establishments. For upscale restaurants, a budget of at least PHP 500.00 per person is recommended.
Shopping: PHP 50.00 to PHP 3,000.00
Key chains and ref magnets go for as low as PHP 50.00 per piece. A souvenir shirt should be somewhere between PHP 200.00 and PHP 300.00. For an authentic Cebuano guitar, the price starts at PHP 500.00, depending on the size and type.
Accommodations: PHP 800.00 to PHP 7,000.00
Basic rooms at hostels go for as low as PHP 800.00, while the average price for a hotel room is about PHP 2,000.00 to PHP 3,000.00 per night.
Things to Do: PHP 250.00 to PHP 2,500.00
Diving, snorkeling, and island hopping are the main activities to do in Mactan, but they can be quite pricey: usually around PHP 2,500.00 per person. Entrances to museums cost PHP 400.00 for adults, while a guided city tour is about PHP 650.00 per head.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
With a service charge already added to your bill every time you dine in, tipping is actually no longer necessary. But if you insist, you can leave around PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00. Feel free to be more generous when tipping your tour guides and drivers.