Completed in the 1990s, the Cebu Transcentral Highway has long provided quick and easy access to the central highlands of the province. The 33-kilometer road bisects the slender-shaped island, across the Central Cebu Protected Landscape, linking Cebu City to Balamban along the western coast. With lush mountain views, cool weather, and foggy atmosphere, relaxing attractions can be reached on a day trip from Metro Cebu.
Many locals informally (but misleadingly) refer to the entire highland area as “Busay”, derived from the name of a popular mountain barangay, but the highway actually traverses several villages. Among the most popular places to visit along this mountain road, best toured by private car, are Tops Lookout (Barangay Malubog), Temple of Leah (Barangay Busay), and Sirao Flower Gardens (Barangay Sirao).
As COVID-19 travel restrictions have eased in the province, new establishments have opened along this route, offering safe venues to eat and drink. Al fresco seating, uncrowded open-air layouts, and upgraded hygiene protocols ensure safe and enjoyable dining experiences with friends and family while enjoying the green surroundings and fresh mountain air.
Check out five of the newest spots on your next Transcentral road trip:
Lakeview Le Jardin
A fog-capped valley with Malubog Lake peeking through in the horizon provides rejuvenating views while dining at this intimate two-level restaurant set in a stone-terraced botanical garden (entrance fee: PHP 50), located in Barangay Tabunan, near the Balamban border. The gardens are a work in progress, and is continually expanding downhill.
Lakeview Le Jardin has a good selection of elevated comfort food and drinks on their menu, which includes soups and starters, all-day breakfast plates, burgers, sandwiches, pizza and pasta. We enjoyed everything we ordered, which were served in good-sized portions on ceramic plates that matched the rustic feel of the stone-walled venue.
Our heavy breakfast for our party of four included Homemade Angus Corned Beef (PHP 335); Catch of the Day (PHP 425) – grilled yellowfin tuna was the day’s fresh-from-the-market special; Croque Madam (PHP 385) — an open sandwich of smoked ham, cheddar, and mozzarella with béchamel sauce, topped with two sunny-side-up eggs; and Caesar Salad (PHP 245).
For drinks, we had hot tea (PHP 70), Tsokolatte (PHP 100), and Matcha Latte (PHP 100). They also serve hot and iced coffee drinks, frappes, shakes, and locally brewed Bauhinia draft beer.
Address: KM 30 Transcentral Highway, Sitio Inaad, Barangay Tabunan, Cebu City
Mobile Number: +63 9177708094
Open Daily, 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
Located right next to Lakeview is this pet-friendly roadside cafe with open-air patios and lookout decks that lend a playful, treehouse-inspired environment. Named after the owner’s corgi, Charlie’s Cup specializes in coffee and tea beverages, cakes, and sweet native snacks like suman with sikwate (rice cake with hot chocolate), morón (chocolate rice cake), and champorado (chocolate rice porridge).
Gaas Hole in the Wall Burgers
The newest foodie destination is this weekends-only burger joint run by a family at their roadside vacation house in Barangay Gaas, Balamban. The young chef is a banker on weekdays, while the rest of the crew pitches in to help, preparing and serving their menu of quarter-pounder beef and chicken burgers cooked upon order.
The wholesome burger patties of Gaas Hole in the Wall Burgers are proudly made from scratch with no preservatives or extenders, and the greens are sourced locally from nearby farms. Their value meal (PHP 199) comes with a burger and cold drink of choice with a side of French fries. There’s lighter finger food as well: Chik Bites (chicken pops, PHP 119) and Wapops (bacon and cheese waffle pops drizzled with syrup, PHP 99). Soon, they’ll be serving pizza, too.
There may be limited seating on their patio, balcony and living room overlooking the countryside, but their food make excellent takeouts to enjoy on the road as well. Big groups who wish to dine-in are advised to make reservations.
Address: 31 KM Transcentral Highway, Barangay Gaas, Balamban (1.2 km after the Welcome to Balamban Arch)
Mobile Number: +639399016885
Open on Weekends Only, 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
Warm up with a hot bowl of ramen or plate of gyoza at this casual cafe at Serenity Farm and Resort in Barangay Malubog serving modern Japanese food on an open-air deck overlooking the mountains. Liel’s Kitchen features overhanging hammock nets with pillows and a 360-degree lookout connected by a short elevated walkway offer scenic spots to hang out and have your souvenir photos taken.
The Grove by Serenity
Also located within Serenity Farm and Resort, next to the entrance of the compound, is The Grove by Serenity, a restobar tucked inside a wild bamboo grove illuminated by multicolored lights in the evening. The covered dining areas are connected by LED-lit elevated walkways.
They serve Filipino rice plates with beef, pork, fish, and chicken viands, as well as a la carte Filipino dishes like Bicol Express (PHP 240), sisig (PHP 199), and chicken pork adobo (PHP 270). Finish off the evening with a bottle of San Miguel Beer (PHP 100) or glass of house wine (PHP 250).
Enjoy your food and drinks while listening to a live acoustic band on weekend nights, or watching the scheduled light shows accompanied by music videos projected on a large screen.
Address: Serenity Farm & Resort, Barangay Malubog, Cebu City
Mobile Number: +639173043089 or +639177260028
Open Daily: Monday to Thursday, 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm & Friday to Sunday, 11:00 am to 11:00 pm