The first few days of my solo trip to the Philippines has not been like any other backpacking adventure yet! I spent the last few days in Cebu Island, mostly adventuring on my motorbike around different nature/locals spots across the island. It’s been beautiful, freeing, and just what my soul was looking for, mostly because of my newfound confidence on the motorbike.
Day 1: Bumpy travel day to Cebu + relaxing evening in Moalboal
My trip started off pretty rocky en route to the Philippines. Immigration lines were an absolute nightmare and I ended up missing my connecting flight from Manila to Cebu. Oddly enough, I’m really proud of how composed I was and for feeling so zen about the whole situation. The old me would have bursted into tears if I missed a flight, but this time I had a mindset of “I’ll get there when I get there.” I also find that with solo travel, I complain a lot less since there’s no one else to lean on.
When I finally got to Cebu, I still had 4 hours on a non-air conditioned bus to get to Moalboal, my first destination. I actually turned down a really good deal from my taxi driver to go straight to Moalboal so that I could have this “locals” experience on the bus – it’s part of the adventure!
30 hours of traveling later, I got to Moalboal, a coastal backpackers down in the south of Cebu known for its diving. I checked into my hostel and spent the evening walking around, getting a lay of the land, and watching the sunset over dinner.
After dinner, I walked around town looking for tours for the next day, but none of them sounded appealing to me. I had a looong list of remote waterfalls/hikes I wanted to hit up in Cebu, and the tours had a bunch of extra frills that I didn’t care for. Later on, I met my dorm-mates who we hit it off instantly, and they gave me a bunch of tips on where to go the next day, the main one being to rent a motorbike and see all these sites on my own. Not gonna lie…I was very hesitant, as one of my rules for backpacking is that I’ll never drive a motorbike myself. But after weighing the options, I decided to face my fears as I wanted to have the total freedom on my own schedule…this decision would completely shape my next few days. 🙂
Day 2: Freedom on the motorbike + 3 waterfalls
The next morning, I had some breakfast and went to rent a motorbike. After a few minutes on the bike, I realized it’s actually not that hard to ride! What’s more difficult are learning the driving “rules” of the Philippines, aka no rules at all. You basically honk and pass people as you feel. But after a few kilometers I felt totally comfortable and was on my way!
First stop, Kawasan Falls. This waterfall is the most popular waterfall among tourists, and you could tell from the hundreds of people swimming + dozens of tours being offered there. There was a nice little hike up to the waterfall that I enjoyed, but I didn’t stay very long as it was just too crowded. Took a few pics and then I hit the road.
Next stop, the Dao Waterfall way down south in Cebu. It was quite a trek to get there, including some beautiful, remote backcountry roads of Cebu covered in tall, lush palm trees which I loved. So unique to be on the bike and explore this section.
The good thing about Dao Waterfall being remote was that there was hardly anyone there. The hike to the waterfall was a bit challenging and required a guide, who also became my photographer :). The hike was absolutely gorgeous through a beautiful canyon, with the clearest water I’ve ever seen.
The waterfall itself was absolutely breathtaking. I had the entire place to myself which NEVER happens! I was in heaven while taking in the tall, majestic waterfall and swimming around on my own. This was my favorite waterfall of the day.
One super unique part of riding a motorbike was passing through all the villages along the way. The Philippines is actually quite under-developed, and it was eye-opening to see how the rest of the country lives in quite run-down conditions. Even so, the people I passed by were SO warm and friendly. Every local I interacted with was so helpful and not out to scam you, unlike other SE Asia countries. One lady gave me water when I ran out. Another man stopped to help me when my bike broke down on the road. Almost every single local who saw me would smile big/wave/shout hello, and I tried to do the same back as much as I could. 🙂
I had time for one last waterfall for the day, and chose Aguind Falls nearby as I heard it required a really intense, active hike. I had two awesome guides to show me the way. There were several “levels” that increased in difficulty, from navigating rocks on all 4’s to literally climbing up vines. I think the guides saw how much fun I was having and opened up 2 hidden levels just for me :P.
It was a nice change of pace from relaxing in the previous waterfalls to being so active in this one. We rock climbed, jumped off cliffs, explored hidden caves, got waterfall “massages”, even relaxed in a hot spring at the end.
The guides were so friendly and conversational; I was just happy to have some human interaction after being on my bike for most of the day, ha.
After the 3 waterfalls, I was pooped! Time to head back to town at golden hour. I didn’t want the day to end as it was absolute perfection and I was honestly just having so much fun cruising on the bike.
For dinner, the hostel friends from yesterday and I went out to a local restaurant. It was sadly their last night in Cebu, so we wanted to make the most of it. We spent 4 hours at the restaurant eating, drinking, and sharing stories from our travels and lives back home. What a perfect first day. 🙂
Day 3: Locals beach + another waterfall + Osmena Peak + survival mode
I eased into the next morning with a classic Filipino breakfast and a side of planing my day 🙂
I was super eager to get back on the motorbike since I had SUCH a blast yesterday!
For the morning, I took the bike out to a small, remote beach 40 minutes south of Moalboal recommended by a local. It was absolutely beautiful with crystal-clear blue water. It was clearly a locals secret and I was literally the only tourist on the entire beach.
After beach time, I hit the road for a long drive to the mountains. But first, pit stop at a small village for a little break. I loved stopping by these villages as there were no other tourists in site – I felt like such a local just sitting on a bench with my coke bought from a family-run stand.
As I headed up the windy, bumpy mountains for a hike, I first stopped by Montpeller Waterfall. There was a 20 minutes hike to get to the falls which I did with a nice French couple I met. The waterfall itself was tall and gorgeous, and filled with only a few locals. These waterfalls were my absolute favorite part of Cebu, especially because it breaks up the day with a refreshing shower!
I didn’t stay too long as I was running behind schedule for this hike to Osmena Peak -> a popular hike among tourists due to the amazing views of the hilly mountains. It’s quite far from Moalboal so there are lots of tours for it, but this was an example of something I didn’t want to be on someone else’s schedule, and so I went DIY.
Getting to Osmena Peak required driving through the rural mountains, which was a huge treat…I wish these pictures really captured the views because they were absolutely to die for. The villages were even MORE remote than the ones passed through yesterday, so kids + locals would run out in excitement to say hi. I wish I could have stopped and talk to all of them! Needless to say, it took quite a while to make it to the peak.
Finally I made it. There was a 20 minutes hike to get to the very top…and oh my god, did it take my breath away. I’ve never seen anything like it!
I wish I could have stayed longer, but the sun was setting and I knew I needed to get down the mountain before it got dark. The next few hours were a bit stressful as I tried to race down as fast as I could while navigating the windy, bumpy mountain in the rain. My heart was racing and my adrenaline kept me laser-focused. It really felt like I was in survival mode. I was quite relieved when I made it back home and treated myself to a huge meal + beer + time on my phone.
After dinner, I was planning to call it an early night, but I ran into a friend I met on the first day, Van from Germany, and we hung out over a few beers right at our hostel. Van and I clicked instantly as we stayed up and chatted until midnight! During this time, I mentioned how I wish I had an extra day in Cebu, as I was planning to leave to Bohol tomorrow. My motorbiking road trip the past 2 days wore me out, and it was hard to imagine leaving for another long travel day tomorrow…Van ended up helping me re-construct my itinerary so that I could have this extra day in Cebu, and so I extended my stay at our hostel.
Day 4: Beaching + relaxing last day in Moalboal
I woke up and felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulder – I was SO happy in my decision to extend my stay. I wanted nothing more than to just relax hang out in Moalboal. I spent so much time exploring Cebu island, I hardly spent any time in the town I was staying!
Van and I linked up first thing to go snorkeling. Our hostel-mates raved about the marine life you could see just steps away from our hostel. We geared up and dove right in!
This was one of the best snorkeling spots I’ve been to. I saw starfish, tons of diverse fish, and a HUGE turtle!! Best of all, there was a huge school of sardines, and if you dove down towards them, you could be in a vortex of sardines…so freakin’ cool.
After snorkeling, Van and I grabbed some breakfast, rented a motorbike, and headed to White Sand Beach nearby. A beach day sounded just like what we both needed. Overall, I thought this beach was pretty crowded and not as nice as the secret beach spot I found yesterday, but I always appreciate seeing every inch of someplace before saying goodbye.
After a few hours, we headed back into town and ran a bunch of errands (ATM, pharmacy, etc). Walking around town actually turned out to be pretty fun. Van showed me some cheap local street food spots he found, and it felt so special getting away from the road of restaurants for backpackers/tourists.
We got back to our hostel around 5pm. I took a shower, worked on this blog post, and enjoyed this down time. After a few hours, Van showed me his favorite locals spot and we shared a family style dinner. This was the most authentic food I’ve had all trip – it reminded me of my mom’s cooking! I usually don’t care about food when I travel as I’m more focused on finding things to do, so this was a real treat to have someone show me some good local food 🙂
The evening ended with chilling in the hostel common area and making some new friends. Some were even heading to the same place I was tomorrow so I hope to see them again! I ended the day feeling so content with this extra day in Cebu, and at the same time ready to move onto the next adventure.
Every single trip so far I’ve spontaneously changed my plans for some reason. Keeping things flexible by booking day-by-day has been the biggest game changer in going at my own pace and truly doing what feels right in the moment. I felt like that’s what backpacking is all about. ❤
I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the trip. It was filled with so much adventure and freedoms on the motorbike, natural beauty, and appreciation for the culture & locals. I really feel like this newfound confidence on the bike will really change the way I travel moving forward. 🙂