I’ve traveled through Cebu many times and lived there for about 6 months this year, and for me, the Waterfront Hotel is definitely my favorite in the city.
The lobby is nothing short of stunning; two lounge areas with plenty of tables and comfortable couches surround a café and a bar – a great place to sit and do some work, meet with friends, or just people watch. Looking up, you’ll see a stunning fresco painted on two huge sections of the ceiling depicting Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan’s map of the known world. (Magellan was the first European explorer trying to sail around the world, landing in the Philippines in 1521.)
The Story of the Waterfront Hotel
I’m not too into gambling, (that’s better done in Sin City) but one of the obvious highlights of the hotel is the second-story casino, which runs 24 hours a day and features all of the gaming you’d ever want. It’s one of the only casinos in the city, and probably the only one that is legit and safe!
With all of your winnings, you can go shopping at their high-end brand stores in the lobby, which include a Victoria’s Secret with a classy, seductive display. There is also a duty-free shop and a kiosk that sells Cebu t-shirts, hats, bags, and other souvenirs, helping you keep up with the traditional of bringing little gifts back home from your travels, called ‘pasalubong’ in the local Visaya language.
However, one of the big downsides of the Waterfront that I found was that there was no convenient place in the hotel to get toiletries, sundries, and things like water or a snack, etc. It would be fantastic if they had a little 7-11 type store (but classier!) within the hotel. When I wanted to buy water bottles and a toothbrush or even a beer I had to either take a long walk onto the some-times chaotic and crazy streets outside, take a taxi for a short ride (ridiculous), or just overspend in the hotel mini bar.
Once it was time to eat, I absolutely loved their “restaurant Boulevard,” as I call it. Right inside the hotel, they have an area set up like a nice city street, with murals, street lamps, trees adorned with little white lights, a faux-brick floor, and park benches.
On either side of this walk are their featured restaurants; a high-end Filipino resto (which also is where they serve their hotel buffet breakfast, which I highly recommend despite the price), a good Italian place that makes their own pizzas, a Japanese and sushi restaurant (the sushi was good, the sashimi was ok – although they were out of a lot of stuff), and a really great Chinese restaurant with huge servings. There’s also a little pub-style restaurant on the bottom floor when you enter, but I thought it was set up a little weird and not too inviting.
The rooms are big, clean and comfortable – and definitely quiet.
Another highlight of the Waterfront for me is the gym, which is the best I’ve found in Cebu. It’s modern, clean, and they offer all of the weights, machines, treadmills, etc. you could ask for, as well as a boxing ring with boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, etc. lessons, a spin cycle room, yoga, a functional fitness area, and a steam room.
Right outside the gym, in back of the hotel, you’ll find an amazing pool. Actually, it looks like two pools connected by a bridge, with a water slide and a little man-made grotto area. The gazebo “island” is a great place to chill and beat the heat, get a mango-banana smoothie (my favorite) or drink a beer in the evening as they play mellow music.
The hotel is also home to a huge facility for weddings, graduations, conferences, and other events (it even has a church inside!) so there is always activity and people dressed to impress and having fun, without ever getting crowded.
You can also take a short stroll around their park-like gardens and grove of trees, which is something definitely in short supply in Cebu. Across the street, you’ll find IT Park (check out the resto-bar, Shaka) and a 15-minute taxi ride will bring you to Ayala Mall.
There are plenty of nice hotels around Ayala for a little bit less than the Waterfront, but I found it’s well worth spending just a little more and really enjoying my stay here.
But when booking, be careful that you get the Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Lahug (an area of Cebu City) because there is another Waterfront Hotel right next door to the airport in Mactan. While that original Waterfront hotel is super convenient for early morning flights, it’s outdated, the facilities aren’t nice, and definitely not worth the price.