Spice up your Vacation With Some Under the Radar Family Adventures in Cebu City
The province of Cebu is home to nearly 170 islands in addition to Cebu Island itself. It stands to reason, therefore, that many visitors coming to Cebu with kids head straight for the cool waters and sandy beaches. In their rush to get their snorkel on, many families overlook Cebu City more fool them, as this well-developed city has a lot going for it from both a kiddy and a parental perspective. In addition to the usual high adrenaline water parks, modern malls with soft play centers, ornate temples and plenty of green spaces, this friendly city has some more satisfyingly off-the-beaten track sights and activities, where you’re unlikely to be battling for space with an army of backpackers and cruise ship tourists. Cebu City also lacks the rush and crush of Manila and some other big cities, making it an ideal point of entry for families looking to get gradually accustomed to South East Asian cities.
Take a Tour of the San Pedro Fort
This centrally-located fort in the city’s port area attracts little by the way of crowds, but kids tend to love rampaging around the ramparts, while the tropical gardens provide respite from the city swelter. Entrance is less than a dollar (and kids go free!) and it’s even possible to arrange personal guided tours (again, these are free – making this a very cheap and cheerful day out). Built in the mid-1500s to defend the city from attack by seafaring Portuguese, and the fort’s more recent incarnations have included stints as a prison and as a zoo. Today it’s a low-key attraction, but all the more appealing for that – families in Cebu City can take a slow-paced tour and soak up the silence in the scenic gardens. The nearby Plaza de Independencia is a good place to let the kids race around as you watch local life unfurl.
Check out Weird and Wonderful Stalls at the Carbon Market
Cebu city has its fair share of smart, modern malls, with family-friendly food courts, and dedicated kids’ play areas. Which is all very nice and handy, but few families come to the Philippines to sit in a shopping center. Head instead to the waterfront Carbon Market instead, for an altogether more colorful shopping experience. The oldest and largest market in the city, this waterfront trading center has been doing business for well over a century (the name comes from the massive quantities of locally-mined coal that used to be bought and sold here back) is where locals come to pick up clothes, culinary staples and everything in between, all at bargain bucket prices. It’s something of a sensory overload – from the yelling traders to the smells and the somewhat ‘out there’ nature of some of the culinary wares – but it’s well worth setting aside a few hours to really get the most out of the market. Come early in the morning for the freshest produce at the best possible prices (you can even turn it into a game and challenge the kids to find their favorite fruit or other edible treat at the lowest price, or to seek out ultra-rare culinary goodies such as kesong puti (white cheese). It’s also a good place to pick up local handicrafts and other souvenirs (just don’t try to haggle too hard, prices are already low and most products are a result of a lot of hard work!). Like many busy downtown spots, take the usual safety precautions, but don’t let safety fears putting you off a trip to the Carbon Market when visiting Cebu with your kids.
Ride the Jeepneys
It’s impossible not to notice Cebu City’s jeepneys – those brightly-painted, jam-packed little buses that race their way through the city streets. But while they sure as heck look like fun to ride, they’re not about putting on a show for tourists – these are in fact by far the cheapest way to get around the city, and the public transport option of choice for most locals. Just one problem – working out how to use these blinged up vehicles m can be a bit of a mind-boggler. There are pretty much no ‘official’ jeepney stops other than the beginning and end of a line, so it’s fine to flag one down pretty much anywhere. Note down your intended destination, and show this to a friendly-looking face among the crowds that gather along major roads. Maybe best to aim for somewhere at the end of a route if it’s your first jeepney journey, and have emergency taxi fare in case it goes awry – the ride itself is a fun experience for families in Cebu. Show the driver where you want to get off (if you’re able to get close enough, otherwise show a fellow passenger), carry small change for your fare, and be prepared to shout or loudly clink coins on the handrail when you want to jump off 🙂 Get the hang of it, and you’ll be seeing the sights for an awful lot less than the price of a cab, and having fun into the bargain.
? Eat here: Ga-as Adventure Cafe
This is definitely one aimed squarely at tourists, but it would be rude not to take your little adventurers to Ga-as Adventure Cafe, a kid-friendly paradise where diners can zip-line, rappel and trek their way to hearty appetite. Part of the Ga-As Eco Adventure Park, the Adventure Cafe is a destination in its own right, and there’s even a ‘stress wall’, where visitors are encouraged to throw plates at a wall and get those travel stresses right out of their system. It’s billed as the Philippines’ first Adventure-Themed restaurant, and while it’s a 35-45 minute ride out of town in Balamban, it’s worth a trip out, and the menu has plenty of fairly-priced dishes that range from local favorites such as tinolang manok (a gingery chicken broth) to guaranteed kid-pleasers such as pasta, burgers and steaks.