Except for the superluxury resorts of Alegre and Pulchra, located about 90 minutes to the north and south of Cebu City, respectively, Cebu's beach resorts are located on the island of Mactan, along the coastal road. Alegre occupies 27 hectares in an isolated setting and boasts a house reef. Pulchra, perhaps the most opulent resort in Cebu, is partially owned by Japanese divers, and is a superb destination for a honeymoon. There is one other luxury resort on the island of Badian, near Moalboal, but the Badian Island Beach resort has been embroiled in a nasty legal fight and, at this time, remains out of the running.
The resorts in Mactan are featured here in order of distance from the airport. If you plan to stay at a resort, you definitely need to make a reservation in advance. Note that the published rates given here do not include discounts and promos, so it might save you a few bucks if you inquire about discounts.
The most famous is arguably the Cebu branch of the multinational Shangri-La, one of two five-star hotels in Cebu. You could spend your entire stay here, pampered in luxury and comfort, but the place has the uncomfortable feel of a big business, which it is, and the hospitality lacks warmth. Perhaps that's why the nightclub, Coco Loco, is devoid of guests most of the time - great, I suppose, if you're having an affair. One nice thing about the Shangri-La is that they run a regular shuttle bus to the malls in the city.
Just down the road is be Vista Mar. You probably haven't heard of this place, even if you're a frequent visitor to Cebu, because this is actually a swanky members club. Most people aren't aware that non-members can stay. The facilities are somewhat lacking, since it's not designed for tourists, but you can't beat the ambience. Unfortunately, a condo is being built right in front of it at present, so there may be some noise from the construction during the day. Vistamar has one of the most beautiful pools in Cebu.
Down the road from Vista Mar is a cluster of resorts, all located near Buyong, the oldest dive location in Cebu. There's the cheesily classy Bluewater, a locally owned resort with some nice touches, like a shallow pool of live mini-sharks near the reception, and a daycare center. Bluewater enjoys one of the highest occupancy rates in Mactan, which explains perhaps why the staff can afford to be somewhat arrogant. Next to Bluewater is the downmarket but pleasant White Sands. Unfortunately the resort is designed mainly for day use; it has only 15 rooms. A modest entrance fee (PhP150 on weekdays, PhP350 on weekends) will allow you use of the facilities from 8:00 - 21:00, and on weekends that even includes a lunch buffet. White Sands has its own in-house water sports center, called Aquasports, and - uniquely - a putting green. It would seem as if smart tourists on a tight budget could stay at a low-cost pension house and, if the weather is favorable, spend the day at White Sands.
On the other side of Bluewater is a trio of budget resorts Tambuli East, Tambuli West, and Cebu Beach Club, adjacent to each other and owned by the same company. Tambuli East is the most reasonably priced, and Tambuli West supposedly the classiest, but the difference in ambience is slight. Guests at any resort may use the facilities of all three resorts. The Tambulis and CBC are well-known locally for the events held there. Jamaican Nights, held at CBC every summer, is Cebu's biggest beach party and attracts people from as far as Manila. The classiest resort in Buyong is by far Costabella. The architecture and ambience are superbly Spanish; not surprising since the resort is owned by an elderly Spanish matron. The only problem here is that the room rates are a bit too low to keep away wilder tourists who would probably prefer to stay at the Tambulis.
A fairly unique beach resort is Hotel Jippan. Owned by an elderly old-school Japanese businessman who ambles about the lobby with his fly undone, the place is nonetheless efficiently run by a friendly and well-trained staff, and wonderfully free of fuss. For some reason Hotel Jippan houses a brand-new, fully equipped Korean owned and operated diveshop which could well turn out to be one of the best in Mactan. Stay at the Jippan and you can take in Filipino, Japanese and Korean culture in one.
The Quantum Resort, also just by Buyong, is the other resort that comes in the form of a building. If you're unreasonably paranoid about snakes sneaking into your thatched hut by the beach, the Quantum is a good, sterile place to bed down. I suppose that, being higher up, rooms at Quantum and the Jippan also have the advantage of offering a better view of the ocean.
Further along the Mactan coastal road is the giant Plantation Bay. Frankly, I don't understand this place. The accommodation units are situated along a ring road, and a huge concrete basin - an artificial saltwater lake - occupies the middle. Electric carts and diesel vans transport guests around the ring road, always running clockwise. It sounds like a horrible place, but the Plantation Bay is immensely popular with tourists - perhaps because of the strictly enforced no-tipping rule.
Next are two pleasant resorts which cater largely to Japanese guests, Pacific Cebu Resort and the Cebu Marine Resort. The latter is a charming resort with tasteful "native" decor. Now, the Japanese are notoriously sensitive customers; it follows that you'll probably be satisfied with the service standards at these establishments, too.
At the very far end of Mactan island is Cordova Reef Resort. This secluded high-end facility probably has the nicest pool of all beach resorts in Cebu. All accommodation is in the form of casitas, or huts; sadly and unfairly, the Cordova Reef doesn't get much business nowadays.