Mactan Island Cebu | Your Complete Travel Guide

Date Updated: January 27, 2023
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With their sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, mouth-watering food, interesting marine life, and beautiful sights, islands are the stuff of dreams. And while there are thousands of islands across the globe, some stand out for their natural beauty and unique history of welcoming locals. Whether you’re looking for cultural spots, pristine nature, an adventure-filled getaway, or a relaxing time on the beach, Mactan Island Cebu has you covered! 

Whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, partier, a coffee lover, surfer, yogi, or just coming to relax, the Island of Mactan has something you’ll fall in love with. 

Never been? Whether you’re planning your very first trip to Mactan Cebu or if you’re looking for new tourist spots, cafes to chill in, or other scenic places to visit on the island, this guide is for you! Here, we discuss everything you need to know – from the history of Mactan, Mactan tourist spots, Mactan resorts, activities to do in Mactan, and more! 

PS. We suggest you grab a cup of your favorite kape – this will be a long, informative read! 

Mactan Island Cebu: An Introduction

Mactan is a small island right off the coast of Cebu City. Mactan Island is also where the Cebu International Airport is, so almost all travelers going to Cebu City will have to go through Mactan. The island itself is worth a visit, as it is less hectic than Cebu City, and has numerous beach resorts and beautiful diving sites.

Mactan History 

The island was a Muslim settlement before it was colonized by Spain in the 16th century. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived on the island in 1521 and became involved in tribal warfare among the tribal groups, only to be killed in battle by the warriors of Datu Lapu-Lapu, one of the chieftains in the island.

By 1730, Augustinian friars established the town of Opon, which was later renamed as the city of Lapu-Lapu by means of the Republic Act 3134, signed by Pres. Carlos P. Garcia on June 17, 1961.

Battle of Mactan. 

The Battle of Mactan was a fierce battle fought in the archipelago of the Philippines on April 27, 1521. The warriors of Lapu-Lapu, one of the Datus of Mactan, overpowered and defeated a Spanish force fighting for Rajah Humabon of Cebu under the command of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who was killed in the battle. The outcome of the battle resulted in the departure of the Spanish crew from the archipelago of the Philippines.

Why Is It Called Mactan?

 According to “Aginid,” an ancient Cebuano epic, the original name of the Island of Mactan was Opong. However, as the islanders turned to piracy, it was referred to as Mangatang (“to wait in ambush”), which evolved into Matan, and eventually, Mactan.

What is Mactan Island Known For? 

The Island of Mactan is well-known for its pristine beaches, incredible diving sites, interesting marine life, world-class resorts, unique Filipino dishes, and friendly locals.  

Must-Visit Mactan Tourist Spots

There’s nothing like an island getaway to achieve some much-needed R&R, quality time with your loved ones, and fall in love with another part of the world – or return to a beloved locale. While far-off destinations like the Maldives and Bora Bora offer an exotic and unique escape, you don’t have to go that far to enjoy an island getaway. 

Whether you’re planning your first visit to Mactan Island Cebu or if you’re looking for new spots to visit, here are some popular Mactan tourist spots you shouldn’t miss:

Mactan Shrine

Also known as Liberty Shrine, the Mactan Shrine is a memorial park on the island of Mactan in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, Philippines. It hosts two monuments – the Magellan Monument, which is dedicated to Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and the Lapu-Lapu Monument, a bronze statue that commemorates Lapu-Lapu, a native leader who defeated Spanish soldiers led by Magellan in the 1521 Battle of Mactan.

Mactan Shrine is a popular heritage site in Mactan Cebu. Its rich history is not just well-known in the Philippines—but throughout the world as well. So, make sure to add it to your itinerary! 

Mactan Newtown

The 30-hectare Mactan Newtown is Megaworld’s first township development outside of Metro Manila with its own beachfront. This mega-community boasts all the makings of an ideal live-work-play-learn community. It currently serves as home to a hotel, residential condominium developments, high-end office towers, retail shops, coffee shops, and a soon-to-rise two-level mall lifestyle mall along a beachside cliff.

Conveniently situated in Mactan Island Cebu, properties in Mactan Newtown puts you close to attractions and interesting dining options, so make sure to check them out! 

Scape Skydeck

Want to enjoy delicious dishes as you take in the beautiful sights that the Island of Mactan has to offer? Head to the Scape Skydeck! Scape Skydeck is perched atop one of the only tall buildings on the island so you have no obstructed views. Instead, you’ll be able to look down at all the neighborhoods as far as the eye can see and you get a clear view of the sunset.

Situated on top of Azon Residences 12 storeys above ground, Scape Sky Deck is a premiere dining and leisure experience located in the heart of the Mactan. Whether you’d prefer to enjoy your meals and drinks in an indoor dining room or dine al fresco under the stars, you are sure to be delighted by the phenomenal overlooking view of the Marcelo Fernan Bridge and Mactan channel. Scape Skydeck is more than just a restaurant, it’s an experience!

Nalusuan Island Resort and Marine Sanctuary

Nalusuan Island Resort and Marine Sanctuary is a pearl of Mactan Cebu and is a must-visit destination for intrepid travelers. Located on a tiny island off of the coast of Mactan, Nalusuan Island is home to an incredible marine sanctuary and picturesque resort. 

Consider staying a night or two on one of their bungalows on stilts above the turquoise water where you can fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves. In the morning, run to the pier and jump off for a refreshing swim or just relax and have a cup of your favorite kape while watching the sunrise. You can then spend the day diving, kayaking, or snorkeling in the ocean where you’ll find undisturbed marine life in crystal-clear waters with ideal visibility.

Virgen dela Regla National Shrine

Aside from the famed Santo Niño de Cebu, Cebuanos are also devoted to another image – the miraculous image of Nuestra Señora De la Regla (Our Lady of the Rule). The image, carved from the trunk of dark Philippine hardwood, is patterned after the original located in Chipiona, Spain. A large church was constructed by the devotees of Mary on the spot where her image was then permanently enshrined. The image is currently venerated at her own altar at the National Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Regla. 

Gorgeous Beaches in Mactan Cebu

The Island of Mactan is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. If you’re looking to enjoy pristine white sands, turquoise waters, and incredible diving spots, here are some gorgeous beaches in Mactan to check out! 

Mactan Newtown Beach

Create memories of a lifetime in one of the most relaxing cities in the world – Mactan Island Cebu. Relax on gorgeous white sand beaches, explore a cultural hub of art and entertainment, or check out the many famous landmarks around the city! 

If you want to go for a swim, you should definitely check out Mactan Newtown Beach. This charming and spacious beach is located in the quiet and beautiful neighborhood of Mactan Newtown in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, Philippines. Stay in a beautiful and quiet cabana near the bay of Mactan. Enjoy the complimentary breakfast and gorgeous view.

BE Resort Mactan

BE Resort Mactan is a beach resort with a hip and youthful vibe. This stylish resort allows you to explore the stunning seaside beauty of Mactan Island. The guest rooms of this design-forward hotel are like a sun-bleached tropical paradise, with a casual ambiance and chiropractic beds. Wine and dine in Salt, the resort’s restaurant, or enjoy an abundant boodle feast. There is the beach, poolside, and game room for those looking for more action and adventure.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort

Established in 1989, Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort boasts more than three decades of signature Filipino warmth and hospitality. Sleep in comfort in one of four room types, from the Deluxe Room to the Royal Bungalow. Allegro, the resort’s main restaurant, serves breakfast from international favorites to Filipino classics, and even pizza and cocktails. Spa facilities, leisure activities, aqua sports, and a kids club keep everyone in the family entertained. 

Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan

Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan is a posh hideaway with a private beach, an infinity pool, and a spa facility. 40 villas offer utmost comfort, outfitted with private pools and furniture by Cebu’s awarded designers. The Crimson Mactan also offers guest rooms that blend neo-Asian décor and contemporary native accents. Dine and drink in one of the resort’s six restaurants and bars, including Azure Beach Club – a destination unto itself.

Popular Mactan Resorts

Cebu, particularly the Island of Mactan, is home to some of the best beaches and waterfalls, which attract travelers from all over the world. It’s one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines and has some absolutely stunning accommodations. If you’re looking for the best hotel and resort where you can stay during your vacation, here are some of the most popular resorts in Mactan Cebu.  

Shangri la Mactan

Tucked into a lush tropical landscape and with a crystalline coastline, Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa is a premier, award-winning deluxe resort property in the Philippines.

Shangrila Mactan is well-known for its spacious and well-appointed 530 guestrooms and suites, as well as its variety of dining, entertainment, sports, and recreational activities offered in its paradise-like setting. It is also home to CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La, one of the largest spa villages in Asia. Nestled amidst 13 hectares of lush greenery, and landscaped gardens and with a 350-meter white-sand beach, Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu is the quintessential modern-day paradise! 

Solea Mactan Resort

Set in Mactan, 6.2 mi from Cebu City, Solea Mactan Resort features a large salt-water outdoor infinity pool with water slides. There are a variety of facilities on offer for those staying at the resort, such as an express check-in and check-out feature, a kids club, a large salt-water outdoor infinity pool with water slides, a fitness center, a games room, a restaurant, and meeting facilities. 

Modernly furnished, air-conditioned rooms come with a mini-bar, a flat-screen TV, a safety deposit box, and complimentary bottled drinking water. Some units offer views of the pool or garden. The private bathroom includes a bathtub, bathrobes, slippers and free toiletries.

Staff are available 24/7 and can assist with booking tours and tickets.

Jpark Island Resort & Waterpark

If it’s water fun you’re after on holidays, Jpark Island Resort & Waterpark is the perfect place for you! Within its 16.5-hectare expanse, Jpark Island Resort & Waterpark consists of beautifully-appointed 568 rooms, suites and villas, 10 dining outlets, a casino, 6 themed pools, an activity zone, a spa, a fitness center, indoor themed park, and private beach. The highlights of the sprawling water complex include a lazy river pool, 3 towering waterslides, and a pool with a beach-like shoreline.

Located in Mactan Island Cebu, Jpark Island Resort and Waterpark is a great starting point from which to explore Cebu featuring a complete list of amenities and offering standard service to guests that will find their stay at the property a comfortable one. 

Dusit Thani Mactan Cebu Resort

Sitting elegantly at the northern tip of the Punta Engaño Peninsula, Dusit Thani Mactan Cebu Resort is a vibrant and inviting retreat. Blending Thai and Filipino warmth and hospitality, guests will enjoy thoughtful service, innovative cuisine, and stunning views. 

Refreshing tradewinds waft throughout the resort, from the open-air lobby and lounge to stylish dining venues offering indoor and al fresco seating, all overlooking our signature pools and the blue waters of Magellan Bay.

Savoy Hotel Mactan

Savoy Hotel is conveniently located in The Mactan Newtown, a township mega-community on Mactan Island home to high-end office towers, retail shops, and leisure facilities. Guests will be happy to find Newtown Beach within easy walking distance from the hotel. After splashing around at the outdoor pool or beach, you can grab a bite to eat at the coffee shop/cafe or unwind with a drink at the bar/lounge. Other highlights include a poolside bar, a fitness center, and a beach shuttle.

Popular Restaurants and Coffee Shops in Mactan

Want to go on a food and coffee trip? Here are some must-visit restaurants and cafes in Mactan!

Abaca

Abaca is a Mediterranean restaurant and a part of a boutique resort with the same name. It serves interesting dishes made from local fresh seafood and imported meats and cheeses from around the world. Vegetables and herbs used in their cuisine are from their own organic garden. Abaca has a rich interior with high-end touches which make dining even more enjoyable.

Tom N Toms Coffee

Tom N Toms Coffee (탐앤탐스) is a coffeehouse chain based in South Korea and now has several branches in the Philippines, including several Mactan. Tom N Toms Coffee serves high-quality coffee at reasonable prices. TOMNTOMS’ Specialty blended coffee is used in all espresso-based drinks.

Ibiza Beach Club

Celebrate any occasion at Ibiza Beach Club, the latest dining, and entertainment venue in the area. The area features live music along with their signature Balearic-inspired 15-course grill which includes various meat and seafood cuts such as Angus rib-eye steak, filet mignon, lamb rock lobsters, baby back ribs, and Tiger prawns. There’s also à la carte and tapas menu where one can find cheese cuts, salad platters, bruschetta, premium steak, and desserts. The restaurant has an outdoor lounge and pool as well as a glass-enclosed indoor space called the Conservatory. 

Coffee Way

If you’re looking for a place to hang out and grab coffee before your flight, Coffee Way is perfect for you. Serving a wide array of coffee options, it’s perfect for coffee lovers! Plus, it’s right next to a Japanese restaurant, an ideal area to stop by after a meal. On the 2F you can find the Nuathay Spa (Thai massage) where you get a chance to relax.

Tides at Shangri-La Mactan

Tides allow dining guests to enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an open kitchen where the delicious aroma of the food enhances their dining experience. There are seafood and meat roasted over coal, noodles and soup station as well as fresh salad ingredients. The restaurant is ideal for the family as it has a small buffet setup that includes kid-friendly meals. A la carte dining starts at 6 a.m. and ends an hour before noon.

The Civet Coffee Roasters

Located in Mactan Newtown, The Civet Coffee Roasters offers an Extensive list of beverages, a variety of coffee drinks, as well as delicious pastries and desserts that go well with your chosen drinks. 

Top Activities to Do in Mactan

Aside from its stunning beaches and resorts, there are plenty of fun activities that you can do in Mactan Island Cebu. 

Island Hopping

Mactan island hopping is one of the best ways to explore the surrounding islands in Mactan, Cebu. Go snorkel, dive, eat seafood, and swim to your heart’s content! There are many businesses offering island hopping tours in Mactan, so make sure to find out what best meets your needs. 

Some common destinations during island hopping tours include Caohagan Island, Olanggo Island, Hilutungan Island, Sulpa Island, Nalusuan Island, and Pandanon Island among others. 

Scuba Diving

From diving at 3 meters to 100 meters on a wreck or for a trimix hypoxic course, there is a lot of dive sites around Mactan and the most beautiful part is that all levels of scuba divers will enjoy diving in Mactan Cebu as there is so much for every type of dive. From freshwater cave diving, underwater caverns, and shallow shipwrecks to deep penetration technical wreck diving, diving spots in Mactan are definitely a must-try.

As with island hopping, there are many businesses offering scuba diving tours (and even scuba diving lessons for those who want to learn!), so make sure to find the best one that fits your needs. 

Spa Massage

Want to get rid of all your bodily aches and pains? The Island of Mactan is home to some of the best spa massage resorts in Cebu! Some of the most popular spa and wellness centers in Mactan are Amuma Spa at Blue Water Maribago, Nouveau Spa at Solea Hotel and Resorts, Nature Wellness Massage & Spa, CARA SPA at Jpark Island Resort and Waterpark, and Chi, The Spa at Shangri-La Mactan. 

Helmet Diving

Want to experience your diving adventure to the fullest? Try helmet diving! Wearing a special helmet that lets you breathe underwater means you can spot marine life without having to snorkel or scuba dive. Enjoy 360-degree views as you walk along the ocean floor, passing schools of tropical fish and magnificent corals. Experience the underwater wonders around the Island of Mactan on this fun helmet-diving excursion!

Mactan Malls

Aside from going on a swim on Mactan’s pristine beaches, or going on a food trip and enjoying delicious Filipino cuisine, another must-do when you’re on the island is Shopping! Not sure where to start? Check out these Mactan malls:

Gaisano Island Mall (Pusok)

Gaisano Island Mall is a lively department store featuring a supermarket, fast-food options, and a play area for kids. The selection of stores is mostly around the mid-range part of the spectrum, with plenty of dining options and a large department store.

Island Central Mall

Island Central Mactan is a premium lifestyle destination on the island of Mactan. Island Central Mactan is a six-level mixed-use development anchored by Robinson’s Supermarket and is home to a variety of retail shops, restaurants, an events area, a travel lounge, and a BPO. It’s also just a 3-minute drive from the Mactan Airport.

Gaisano Grand Mall (Basak)

Gaisano Grand Mall Mactan belongs to a national chain that hosts department stores all around the Philippines. Featuring a good choice of convenience stores, boutiques, and restaurants, Gaisano Grand Mall has a great location right in the center of Mactan Island, allowing residents and visitors alike to avoid a long trip to the larger shopping malls in Cebu City when they need something. 

Mactan Marina Mall

Mactan Marina Mall is a strip mall by the airport with over 100 specialty shops selling discounted goods and products from Mactan Economic Zone. Stores include big names like Adidas and Timex. It also has a SaveMore Supermarket. The selections of restaurants and food inside Marina Mall include seafood, Korean, Chinese, European and a patisserie.

Hotels Near Mactan Airport

Whether you’re going to Mactan Island Cebu for a business trip or a vacation, staying at a hotel near Mactan airport has many advantages. Not only will you cut your travel time between the airport and your hotel short, but you also don’t need to rush unnecessarily to the airport for your flight! 

Below are some hotels close to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport:

Aerotel Cebu

Located right within Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Aerotel Cebu is all about comfort and convenience. It offers flexible hourly bookings, attentive services, carefully-tailored designs, and all sorts of cool facilities and services, with a goal to provide all the comforts of home right at the airport for travelers. Get ready to feel right at home even while you’re on the go! Aerotel Cebu is located on Level L1 (outside the airport restricted area) at Mactan Cebu International Airport.

Waterfront Airport Hotel and Casino

Located just 0.7 km from Mactan Airport, the Waterfront Airport Hotel and Casino boasts of 164 well-appointed rooms and suites, replete with modern facilities and amenities.

Goldberry Suites & Hotel – Mactan

Located just 1.8km from Mactan Airport, Goldberry Suites & Hotel – Mactan is a business boutique hotel. The hotel offers different room accommodations, all with Cable TV, internet access, a mini bar, and a safety deposit box. Some of their rooms even have a private living room, balcony, and mini kitchen. 

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re headed to Mactan Island Cebu for a business trip or a vacation, there’s plenty for you to do! The Island of Mactan is well-known for its pristine beaches, incredible diving sites, interesting marine life, world-class resorts, unique Filipino dishes, and friendly locals. It is definitely a must-visit for both locals and foreigners alike. 

Written by:
Delicacies Editorial team
Delicacies Editorial team

Introducing the Delicacies Editorial Team, a group of dedicated food writers and editors from the Philippines. The team is passionate about sharing the delicious and diverse culinary heritage of their homeland. They cover a wide range of Philippine delicacies from traditional dishes passed down through generations to modern takes on classic flavors. With a focus on locally sourced ingredients and time-honored cooking techniques, their writing will transport readers on a culinary journey through the Philippines and leave them eager to try their hand at recreating these delicious dishes at home.

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