Argao, Cebu's Hidden Gem

Hall of Justice

Have you ever been to a rustic place where time slowed down a few notches? If it weren't for the light box signage of a 24 hour convenient store and modern cars that whip past the two-lane national road, you might as well assume you're in a province dated back several decades ago. Vigan and Taal Batangas seem to have that vibe. Yet there are many things about Argao that neither the two has. Can you guess?

Unity Plaza
Don't get me wrong, I love Taal and Vigan to bits but before I start gushing about this charming town, have a sip of Argao's Tablea Hot Chocolate in Guilang first and we'll be right on the same page. Go on, have a bite of Torta de Argao and I'm sure you'll be as smitten as I am.

Argao is a first income class municipality of Cebu, Philippines. 2 and a half hours drive down southeast from Cebu City.  It is halfway between the city and the southernmost tip of Cebu island's Santander.

How to Get There?

Take a flight to Mactan International Airport.  We often enjoy staying overnight in Lapu-lapu's Hotel California before embarking on the long drive first thing in the morning to avoid traffic. 

By Rental Car
Book a rental car in advance which costs about Php9k a week via Cebu Easy Rent A Car. It can also be priced on a daily basis. Just bring 2 valid IDs, a copy of your house bill, security deposit of Php3K, a delivery fee of Php 300 for easy pick up and delivery of the car at your hotel or at the airport. They'd often request for your details via sms prior to booking. We hired their services twice and both experiences were excellent.  We drove their manual Kia Picanto and it was functional enough for us. 

Contact: Cebu Easy Rent A Car

By Bus
Bus is an economical alternative. Take a bus at Cebu City's South Bus Terminal headed towards Dalaguete, Oslob or Santander and ask to be dropped off at the Junction in the Poblacion of Argao.

By Van
There are tour vans available for groups or family.  There are package tours and the price depends on the itinerary and deal coverage.

By Taxi
I just don't want to imagine how much the taxi meter's bill would be at the end of your long journey but yes, it's possible to take a cab to Argao from Mactan International Airport. 

Tourism Information Center in Poblacion
Check out the map I made:
Places to See and Things to Do in Argao:

1. Scenic Heritage Walk
Take a leisurely stroll around Poblacion. Check out the heritage architecture within the Unity Plaza. Argao's Tourism office situated right at the entrance offers flyers for available hotels, restaurants and guided tours should you want to find out more.

Church of San Miguel Arcangel, One of the oldest churches in the Philippines
 Hall of Justice on the right, Casa Real Town Hall on the Left and Rizal's Statue
2. Argao Nature Park

A Php 5 entrance et voila. It's a park shaded by ancient trees. There used to be a small zipline and boat rides in a small lagoon but it was closed during our recent visit. There were school children and preoccupied teenagers practicing their presentation for Linggo ng Wika (Filipino Language Week). 

Afternoon stroll under the canopy of old trees
Get to know Argao more by reading the texts written in each hut
Small Boat Cruise
There were a few animals, caged love birds, rabbits, civets and monkeys. What attracted my attention the most, were significant names pertaining to Argao's culture and heritage written in each gazebo hut. 

If you're tired of walking, there's a massage cottage at the corner towards the end of the paved trail by blind masseurs.

Update:  It's a bit run-down, dark and un-maintained. These photos were taken in 2017 so they may not look as airy as the images.

3. Riverstone Castle

I found a medieval stone castle in the Philippines, in Jomgao, Argao..Wow ! (See how they rhymed? Lol) I heard the owners were renting it for Php 20k a month. During my last visit, it appeared to be abandoned. The gates were closed however when we dropped by but I was able to take sneak peek. It's definitely worth the drive.

Update:  This structure is currently abandoned and un-kept.

4. Trek, Dive and Swim in Bugasok Falls

I have yet to go but we're taking our own sweet time since we will be living here for a while. The Tourism Office can offer assistance for a guide.  There's an environmental fee of Php 20 and a guide's fee of Php 500 for a group of 3. There's a 2 hour trek involved to get there after taking a 30-45 minute motorbike ride or habal-habal for Php 200 round trip.  Dive, swim or enjoy canyoning in this majestic 20 meter height falls. 

5. Spelunking in Balay sa Agta 

Balay sa Agta means Bahay ng Kapre. It is a cave in Mt. Lantoy. One must go through a treacherous trail before reaching and entering the cave. Additionally, there are spooky folklores that would make the experience slightly more mysterious. 

6. Mahayahay Beach

Picnic at the beach and indulge in Sutukil (Sugba- Tuwa- Kilawin) while you're at it. There are grill shacks along the beach strip. Car park would be around Php 50. It's a public beach so feel free to swim and have fun in the taupe sand and skim board on clear waters.

7. Explore Off the Beaten Paths in Argao

We spent considerable time driving, exploring roads and off the beaten paths looking for a house to rent. We came across jaw dropping beautiful landscape during our scenic road trips that most would miss when traveling on a short term basis. 

Where to Stay in Argao?

BJs Seaside  is my top choice.

BJ stands for Billy and Joy (It's not what you had in mind, admit it :)) . It is our newly discovered tranquil haven in Argao. This lovely B&B is personally run by the owners. We had such a wonderful 2-night stay here during our first stop that we decided to come back days after our Dalaguete-Oslob-Badian-Moalboal loop road trip for another 2-night stay. We later came back again for a 6- day stay during our road trip continuation. They were able to accommodate our small car into their gated carport. It costs Php 1600 a night including breakfast if booked directly. 

The beach front property offers a good view and breeze from the sea. It's walking distance to the Cabecera de Argao, the fortified town center and commercial area. We enjoyed a lot of afternoon walks here during our stay.

They have a lounge for the guests at the ground floor with a piano that opens up to a shaded lanai surrounded by the garden where we enjoy both food and conversations. 

Interesting to note that they run the lights on solar power. The room is clean where we can fit my daughter's traveling crib. There is hot and cold shower and air conditioning. They also offer hot and cold drinking water via dispenser at the ground floor lounge. They have a roof top deck with a gorgeous view. Yet, we were happy enough hanging out at the lanai chatting with the couple and fellow travelers. 

I was touched when Joy accompanied me to the local dentist when my dental abscess erupted. I was also happy that my toddler had playmates, the couple's grandchildren. The family offered to look after my 2 year old from time to time, which allowed my husband and I to relax a bit and enjoy Billy and Joy's company as well as other travelers. Their generosity, kindness, and warm hospitality in extending help in any way they can definitely made me and my husband have a great time in Argao. We will definitely return and we highly recommend it.

Billy and Joy along with their family and staff made us feel like we're family vacationing in their home. We enjoyed scintillating conversations over drinks and great food. Oh, speaking of food.. I had french toast with bacon (as shown in the photo) which was really good and brewed coffee! Having traveled to rural places, when you are served brewed coffee and not the 3 in1, that's a real treat right there. 

Joy is such an excellent chef and we all agree that it's one of Argao's secret culinary gems. Each meal was something my husband and I excitedly looked forward to. You should try Joy's amazing mixed garden salad, ooh and her spinach quiche! Her Thai green curry was flavorful and all the other dishes she prepared.  She uses fresh aromatic herbs from her garden along with fresh produce.

French Toast Breakfast with Bacon and Freshly Brewed Coffee
Contact:  Billy and Joy Fallon
Address:  M. Abear Street, Poblacion, Argao, 6021, Cebu
Telephone: +632 4858181
Mobile no: +6391538816333

Acasia Pension House

Perfect for introverts like ourselves. Standard room starts at Php 900 / night. It doesn't come with breakfast but is well priced for what it offers. It has a large nicely designed AC room with a  queen size bed, small porch and patio, parking space, a spacious well illuminated and well ventilated private toilet and bath.  Guess what? There is a built-in heater! So enjoy a relaxing hot/cold water shower after a tiring day of spelunking and canyoning. 

Acasia is ideal for long term rental. There are 2 bedroom units on the upper floor with a kitchen. Monthly Rental fee is Php 15k under a one-year lease. 

Extra bed, fridge and extra towels can be requested at the reception for an additional cost. 

The staff is friendly and accommodating. They allowed me to store my child's meds and yogurt in their fridge. They were also kind to offer mugs of hot water for our morning coffee and chocolate (I always travel with my instant coffee jar and chocolate powder). 

There is Wi-Fi at the reception which can be accessed outside, at the porch. It is quite difficult to get a signal once we are inside the room.  There's a huge TV screen with cable channels. Thank goodness, they have Disney Junior which kept my daughter entertained. 

Check in time is at  2:00 PM and Check out time at 12:00 Noon. 

Contact:  Irish  (Mobile +639496048677)
Address: Arellano Street, Argao, Cebu, Philippines

Baluarte de Argao

It is right by the sea  and is a popular wedding venue.

Maayo Stay Hotel  Argao 

This property is situated along the coast of Argao's Poblacion which used to be a private subdivision by Primary Homes converted to a hotel community. They have a clubhouse pool that is worth mentioning here.

Coal Mountain Resort

Argawanons have highly recommended Coal Mountain Resort in Bgy. Linut-od as a must place to stay and visit. I have only seen it from the gate but,  it's worth mentioning it here. It is a nature site up on the hills which is isolated.  It has an underground tunnel exploration tour 70 feet below the ground. It serves as a demo tunnel for miners' safety training. 

There's  a hanging bridge canopy walk, conference hall, multi-purpose covered court, awesome fresh spring water  pools with slides, a diving pool, restobar with videoke.

Contact: +63 32 5148577 / +639189656081

Getting Around Argao and South Cebu

What if I want to explore Argao riding a motorbike? Where can I rent one?

Places to Eat:

1. BJs Seaside (M. Abear St., Argao)
Specialties:  International Cuisine. Open terrace dining. Their Thai Green Curry and Tom Yum are highly recommended. Fresh ingredients from their herb garden.  Big portions.  Their breakfasts are the best in town and one of the best on the main land of Cebu. Note: They require reservations in advance. They cater mostly to their guests Open daily for Breakfast & Dinner except Sundays.  If you do manage to get the chance to try, Hands down the best food by far in the whole island of Cebu! They have a gifted chef. Hence their top ratings online. 

2.  Bake My Way Cakes + Pastries (Dr. T.S. Kintanar St.  Poblacion Argao)
Affordable Budget Meals. They serve lunch and dinner. Breaded pork chop with rice + dessert. Open Tues-Sunday except Mondays.  They have opened another branch closer to the sea.

3.   624 Carlock Street Restaurant (Carlock St., Lamacan, Argao)
If you want to try the region's cuisine with a contemporary twist, this is a relaxing place to enjoy your dish. Open daily for Lunch from 11-2pm and Dinner. It's located near Cebu Technological University.

4.   Carinderia ni Eton (National Highway, Barangay Langtad, right across GD Gas Station)
Argao's best local barbeque! Bbq is served after 5pm. They are open for lunch serving homemade traditional cuisine in a canteen style vibe.  It's a roadside eatery and a popular lunch stop for long drives down south.

5. Kafe Marco (Suico St. Talaytay, Argao)
A  quaint house converted into a restaurant with international cuisine for the Filipino palate.  Open from 10 AM to 10PM

Off-beaten paths
Argao is uniquely special and I daresay Cebu's hidden gem, because it doesn't only offer heritage sites,  it offers both the best of the mountain and the sea with many unexplored terrains. It has minimal number of tourists (for now) blocking your camera view. Here you'll be able to relax, reflect and appreciate nature in silence.

Have a lovely week!
Love & light,

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  1. such lovely buildings! Are there some historical sites from some ancient cultures at the Philippines?

    1. Hi Dezzy, yes there are plenty of heritage sites throughout the Philippines from different regions that are preserved, some restored and some sadly not as maintained. The most interesting ones are indigenous houses, Historical churches and Spanish Colonial Architecture such as the town buildings above. Unfortunately many were destroyed if not by World War 2, by typhoon or earthquakes.

  2. That definitely looks like a great place just to chill and relax! Love the bridge in the picture!

    1. I love the slow vibe in this town. There is a fiesta happening here this week and it starts today. There will be marching bands, parade, feast in every house where everyone, yes everyone is invited.

  3. Hello miss Arni thank you for appreciating our argao <3

    1. Thank you for your comment. Happy to write about it.