One of my favorite spots in all of the Philippines is Shaka, a Hawaiian themed bar located in the heart of Cebu City. In fact, Shaka occupies a huge space in IT Park – the all-day/all-night urban oasis that’s thriving with foreign call centers. Shaka is so notable because I find it to be an organic, warm, and natural place in the heart of all that concrete, jeepney smoke, and hermetically sealed malls.

The Shaka Bar in Cebu City

Walking up to Shaka, the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s built around a humungous tree. KIND? I mean literally, they wrapped the whole circular restaurant around this huge umbrella-shaped tree that looks hundreds of years old. They even have an upstairs deck area where you can dine in the open air within the tree’s canopy, little white lights making the branches glow. It’s really cool!

Walking up to Shaka, you’ll notice a wooden plank walkway made to replicate a seaside dock, with candles in paper bags adorning each side. There are also colorful tiki statues, a 10-foot tall, welcoming Shaka sign that’s photo worthy, and one of my favorite parts – their outdoor umbrellas dining area. Right adjacent to the restaurant they have a series of simple picnic-style tables and chairs, but covered with a “ceiling” of suspended colorful umbrellas!

Inside the restaurant, which has a covered first floor but no walls, you’ll find an array of tables, big and small, including more some that are more comfortable for lounging. The bigger tables are crafted like surfboards! The chairs are colorful wooden Adirondack-style beach chairs! They definitely went all out with the Hawaiian-inspired decorations.

The huge menu (both in size and variety!) is heavy on Hawaiian and Polynesian dishes, too, but many of them with a Filipino twist. You’ll find fish tacos and grilled fish, a ton of dishes with Spam, like their grilled Spam burger with pineapple, coconut shrimp, and many others. Some of my favorites are the barbecue skewers. You can get chicken, pork, or asparagus wrapped in bacon (amazing!) for like 30 or 40 Pesos – less than $1 USD. They also have salads, great rice bowls, and more standard Filipino dishes.

It’s really hard to find fresh fruit and especially vegetables in Cebu City (their diet has to be the unhealthiest on the planet!), so I appreciate the giant fruit platter, with so many sliced pineapples, mangos, bananas, passion fruit, etc. that I couldn’t finish it.

To drink, they have fruit smoothies, but you can also try their pitchers of water that come infused with cucumber, ginger, and other great stuff – really refreshing on a hot day. Speaking of drinking, Shaka is pretty mellow during the day but comes alive at night. It’s not a crazy party place, but a place where people go on dates, friends go to drink and hang out, and others gather to listen to the bands. They have some stellar bands at Shaka, including a female lead singer who is super talented, and an island/reggae band that sounds amazing.

Shaka is really affordable, too, and you can eat like a king for far less than $10 USD, or drink cold San Miguel beers all night for about the same. The waitstaff is very friendly but they are also disorganized and inattentive – something indicative of all service in the Philippines, and you sometimes have to stand up and start waving to get their attention. The bugs can come out some nights, too, so spray on your bug repellent, and when it rains, everyone from the upstairs deck will rush down and crowd the place.

But it’s a perfect place to chill in Cebu City, making you feel like you’re on a charming island near a white sand beach someplace!

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Norm Schriever is a blogger, Amazon best-sellling author, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. His work appears in the Huffington Post,, Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show on CNN, NBC, MSN, Yahoo,, and media all around the world.
Norm grew up in Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut, where he was never accused of overstudying. After expatriating to Costa Rica in 2011, he started traveling the world and documenting what he saw. He now lives in Southeast Asia, writing his heart out and working with local charities.

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