It’s almost the end of 2021 and a scheduled trip to Cebu in December was in the books. The last time I went here was in 2016 when we visited our family friends in Barili and stayed in Mactan. Cebu is one of the provinces my family frequented for decades to visit friends or for work. We’ve been to Bantayan, Sumilon, Camotes, and all the other islands except Malapascua and know the province like the palm of the hand.
In 2012, we did a road trip of the south of Cebu from Sumilon Island, Alcoy, Boljoon, Dalaguete, Santander, Moalboal, Badian and Barili. I had the chance to revisit Moalboal and Badian 10 years after. A lot has changed, aside from the Covid-19 travel requirements, the sleepy little town is known for diving back in the day and is now quite commercial similar to the towns of El Nido and Coron.
I remember the beachfront hotel we stayed at in 2012 and there weren’t many restaurants, bars, or other establishments. Today, there are plenty of hostels, cafes, restaurants, spas, and bars constructed along the streets of the small town.
If you vividly remember in December 2021, Cebu was devastated by Typhoon Odette, it was a week after we went when that happened. It felt so surreal that we were there before the typhoon damaged not only Cebu City but also the provinces including Moalboal and Badian – it was heartbreaking! Despite all these, let me take you back to the time when it was still okay, and currently, I’m glad to see that these establishments and tourist spots we went to are now slowly getting back to their feet.
We flew via Cebu Pacific and landed at Mactan-Cebu International Airport. Flights were luckily still not too high despite being a high season in December. Upon landing, we rented a car with a driver for Php 2,000 to go straight to the town of Moalboal. That’s relatively cheaper compared to renting a car with a driver for Php 3,000 above roundtrip during our former travels to Oslob and Bantayan Island. I recommend taking a morning flight so you can do a road trip for three to four hours to Moalboal so you aren’t too tired when you arrive.
Where to stay in Moalboal?
We stayed at Chief Mau and MoHo-Moalboal Hostels but there are plenty of other accommodations you can also check out. Both are located on the main road near the rows of restaurants, bars, and spas while the beach is within walking distance. You can go on foot or ride the tricycle to go around the small town. There’s also a mall, a supermarket and a department store where you can buy essentials. Tricycles charge Php 100 at the terminal or if you hail them from the street.
Canyoneering in Badian, Cebu
Near Moalboal is the town of Badian where the famous Canyoneering is done at the Kawasan Falls. In the 90s this place was more popular for swimming and for the balsa (Filipino term for bamboo raft) that goes underneath the falls. We often visit Kawasan Falls as a kid when we go to our family friends in Barili. Today it’s known for the water adventure, Canyoneering, where a lot of tourists visit to get the thrill of their lives. Luckily, we had the tourist spot almost all to ourselves when we went since it was early morning.
Badian Cebu canyoneering tour package includes the water adventure, lunch, and tour guides. If you’re a big group you can haggle but it’s worth it, given the tour guides ensure your safety. Here’s a more updated price of canyoneering in 2022. Best to bring a waterproof backpack and a phone case for your cell phones and money; wear water shoes; a quick dry microfiber travel towel, bottled water, and a GoPro action camera. You can leave these in the vehicle or have your guide carry them. I suggest not carrying a lot of things with you so you can enjoy the activity more while communing in nature.
After our briefing on safety measures, how to jump the cliffs, and how to wear our vests, we rode the jeepney to go to the first jump-off point. Back in the day, there wasn’t a way to go up the mountains but to my surprise, there was now a new route. We trek for 30-45 minutes roughly to reach the first jump-off point. You can also ride the zipline which costs more but we opted to walk.
As they say in life, the scariest part is before doing a risky decision, and jumping off the cliff is the same thing! It was scary yet exhilarating, making you feel alive again. In my 20s, I used to do watersports and adventures such as paragliding and swimming with the whale sharks but as I grew older in my 30s I become more laid back. This activity brought me back to those days when I felt that I was living my life to the fullest, especially after the lockdown when the world halted.
After several plunges, jumps, and swimming in the cold water, you get used to it and the adrenaline rush is addictive. The endless rocks, the body of water, and the trees are utterly beautiful – different from other destinations I’ve been to. There are different feet of cliffs you will jump from and the guides will always be there to guide you.
If you are afraid of heights, you have the option to do a lower jump or even a slide (yes a man-made slide). This is one of the best ways to beat your fear of jumping into the unknown, after all, you only have one life to live. The tour guides will teach you how to jump, making sure you don’t hit your head or jump too near the rocks.
Midway, it’s quite quirky there are a couple of food stalls selling Filipino street foods such as pork barbecue, isaw, chorizos – you name it. We took a break there to take a breather and eat some snacks before continuing our way to the last highest jumps and a swing rope in the lagoon.
We then took off and continued our way as other tourists came behind us so we can do the activity ahead of them to avoid overcrowding. The 40-feet jump was the most nerve-wracking out of all but if I don’t do it I know I will regret it. My mistake was I took a peek at the edge of the cliff, don’t! Just run and jump because it’s scarier to see the preview of how high it was. After all, we’re all about taking risks right? Both figuratively and literally in life.
At the end of the canyoneering activity, there’s a lagoon where you can try the jump rope like Tarzan and swim before going to the area to have lunch. Body pain and all smiles, I’m glad to try it and didn’t regret it, reminding me of the more carefree days of my youth. We headed to the lunch area where our tour guides prepared a sumptuous feast of sinigang to warm ourselves and other delicious Filipino foods.
What to do in Moalboal?
Moalboal is known for sardine runs, snorkeling, and diving. Although the corals aren’t as beautiful as back in the days, given plenty of tourists have gone here but last I know the government and the community are planning to rehabilitate the area so I hope this will come into fruition so the town can have a breather and revert somehow to its original beauty.
Go on food trips and bar hopping
Indulge in food trips or go bar hopping. Have breakfast at Shaka Cafe, which I tried in Bohol and Manila, for a good cup of coffee, my favorite latte or a flat white, and their Bom Dia smoothie bowl. Visit My Greek Taverna for some hummus, gyros, or kebabs, while pretending you’re on the Greek island of Mykonos. Bar hop at The Nomad Music and Art Bar and Blue Mango Bar – Restaurant.
Get a tattoo from a local artist
If you’re up for it, get a tattoo from local artists like I did since I wanted one for decades already and finally had them inked. Do it after swimming since you can’t swim in saltwater once it’s done or else it will get infected.
Sobreviente is close to my heart as it means survivor in Spanish, depicting my miraculous healing from Lupus decades ago, while Yes. means saying yes to adventures and taking risks in life. Gladly the tattoo artist did a great job!
Relax at the spa
If getting a tattoo is too much for you, have a relaxing massage at your hostel or one of the spas along the main road, or sunbathe and swim at the beach. There are restaurants and bars also in front of the shore or you can book a hostel there. The white sand isn’t very fine given that the area is for diving but having a dip in the ocean or enjoying an ice-cold San Miguel beer is a good idea to unwind from the stressful city life.
Moalboal and Badian have changed throughout the years as well as recovered slowly from the typhoons. What makes these towns worthy of a visit is their unique charm in a friendly community. If you happen to be in Cebu, visit these Southern towns for a fun-filled vacation in the Philippines.