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Cebu Diving: Ultimate Guide for Backpackers

Listen up: Cebu is a name with multiple meanings!

“Cebu” can mean Cebu city but it also refers to the 291.k km squared island of Cebu (on which Cebu city is located); which is the largest of the 150+ islands comprising Cebu province!

On this page, when I talk about Cebu, I’ll mainly be referring to Cebu province; specifically the 2 islands of Cebu and Malapascua throughout which there are several amazing dive destinations. 

Ok! Now that’s outta the way….located in the Philippines central Visayas region, Cebu (province) is one of the most popular dive destinations within the country. And with good reason!

There’s few other places where you can dive with thresher sharks, whale sharks and amidst giant schools of sardines all in the span of less than ten days. 

There’s also several awesome other activites that you can do between diving such as cliff jumping, canyoneering (jumping off waterfalls!), trekking and partying on down!

In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about scuba diving Cebu based on my own experience diving there in 2023.

We’ll cover the best places to dive in Cebu, the best Cebu diving resorts, what to know about Cebu diving with whale sharks, when to go, how to get around and more! Let’s dive in. 

Cebu Diving Itinerary:

You can dive all of the major dive destinations within Cebu in less than two weeks. Start by reaching Cebu city; either by flying into Cebu (Mactan) airport or getting a ferry to Cebu port from nearby Philippines islands.

Cebu is a sprawling and rather charmless city; so (as I was,) you may be keen to get out as fast as possible, as the best dive destination of Cebu province aren’t actually located around the city. 

That said, if you do feel like spending a couple of days at Cebu city, you can dive Marigondon cave; this is supposed to be a pretty decent deep dive and there’s also a thrilling drift dive called Olango. Both are located around Mactan island which is connected to Cebu city via a bridge. 

Regardless, when you leave Cebu, start the real adventure by heading to a legendary dive destination. We’re talking about the fabled Malapascua, a tiny island where you’re practically guaranteed to see thresher sharks (those awesome looking sharks with tails the same length of their own bodies!). 

To get to Malapascua from Cebu city, take a four hour bus to Jaya port. These busses depart every hour and you can buy your ticket at the terminal. When you reach Jaya port, you grab a forty five minute ferry ride over to Malapascua. The last one leaves at 16:30! 

With a land area of just 148 hectares, Malapascua is tiny; but hosts some awesome beaches with cliff jumping, a myriad of hostels, bars and restaurants and most importantly dive sites where you’re seeing thresher sharks is practically a guarantee! 

Most folks do Malapausca in just two or three days but you may want to spend longer there. When you do leave, you’ll grab the ferry back to Jaya port and make the four hour bus ride back to Cebu. 

Next, take a three hour bus from Cebu to Moalboal; located around the southwest of Cebu island, Moalboal is a seaside party town with some decent coral reefs that are home to many turtles and banded sea snakes. Most importantly though, it’s the location of an epic dive site known as “sardine run” run where you can dive amidst a giant school of local sardines!

After Moalboal, some people take a 90 minute taxi down to Oslob at the south tip of Cebu island. At Oslob you can go on a guaranteed dive with dozens of whale sharks. This is actually because the whale sharks are fed chum – the reality is this isn’t’ too great for their health or migratory patterns, causing them to breed less, so I gave this one a miss!

After this, you’ve finished your time diving in Cebu! This can all be done in less than two weeks; if you just do the main highlights of Malapascua and Moaboal, it can be completed in a week. If you have more time to spare in the Philippines; you could either get a short ferry ride from either Oslob or Cebu to Bohol or fly from Cebu to Coron

Best Places to Dive in Cebu

#1 Malapascua (Thresher Sharks!)

Malapascua is perhaps the only scuba diving destination in the world where you are practically guaranteed to see a thresher shark after just one or two days diving. 

If you don’t know what a thresher shark is, they’re those shy looking sharks with the jet blue bodies, small mouths, big eyes…and most distinctly with those long pointy tails almost the same length of their own bodies. They can reach body lengths of up to 10ft / 3m and have tails that grow the same length again!

To see thresher sharks at Malapascua, you get up super early and in order to be entering the water between 5 and 6am at a dive site called Monad Shoal as the thresher sharks are most active in the early hours of the morning. If you dive here just one or two times, you’re highly likely to see not one but several thresher sharks! 

There is also a nice shipwreck and several kickass reefs that can be dived around Malapascua. 

Malapascua is a tiny 148 hectare island located off the north tip of Cebu island with a myriad of hostels, resorts, dive centres and restaurants as well as some awesome white sand beaches and several epic cliff jumps. 

Read my main Malapascua Guide here. 

Or check out this List of Best Malapascua Acommodation for Divers. 

#2 Moalboal (Sardine Run).

Moalboal is a seaside town on the southwest side of Cebu island. It is highly popular with backpackers and has a lively nightlife. 

Most importantly though, it has some great diving. The 2021 Philippines typhoons did take out quite a lot of the coral reef here but it’s slowly recovering and still home to many sea turtles and banded sea kraits (those sea sneaks with the white and black stripes!). 

The best part of Moalboal diving however, is the sardine run; scuba divers, free-divers and snorkelers alike can swim amidst a vast school of local sardines at a depth of less than 33ft / 10 meters. Seeing the sardines is (for now at least) virtually a guarantee and it’s an extremely. unique and rewarding diving experience. 

Moalboal is also close to several other points of interest such as Osmena peak for awesome panoramic views, caves and…best of all canyoneering in which you pay to spend half a day jumping off the tops of waterfalls (in a totally safe and controlled manner) at heights of up to 40ft / 12 meters! 

Read my main Moalboal Guide here. 

Or check out this List of Best Moalboal Accomodation for Divers

#3 Cebu City Local Dives (Cave & Drift Dive)

If you stay in Cebu city, there’s quite a few decent dives that can be done from Mactcan island, which is connected to the main city via a landbridge. There’s a few shore dives but the best dive sites are for more experienced divers and are Marigondon cave; a deep dive at 100ft / 30m and Olango, a fast paced drift dive. 

If you really want to get exploring more dives close (ish) to Cebu city, you can also consider day trips to Capitancillo island (3 hour boat ride away), and the Hiluntundo gan islands. However, personally, I think the time it takes to do these, would be better spent diving other parts of the Philippines!

#4 Oslob (Whale Sharks - but artificially fed)

At the south tip of Cebu island lies Oslob a small seaside town where you can pay to dive with the guarantee of dozens of whale sharks. 

However, these whale sharks are attracted by being fed chum. This is actually not at all great for their diet or migratory patterns and research suggests that such a sedentary lifestyle causes the whale sharks to mate less, so it’s not ideal for the future outlook of the species as a whole. 

Also, they won’t be behaving as a whale shark you’d observe naturally in the wild would. They are just at the surface gulping endlessly at the food; you don’t get to see the grace and precision with which these animals swim as they do without human interference. 

I would personally give this is a miss but it’s up to you! Alternatively, you could go somewhere known for naturally occurring whale sharks such as Panglao in Bohol – it’s far less frequent but oh so much more rewarding when it does happen!!

Best Cebu Diving Resorts

First you’ve got to decide if youw ant ot go with a Cebu dviing resort or a Cebu diving centre (KEYWORD).

Cebu diving package (keyword


Cebu Diving Season

Cebu can be dived year round, however the best time for scuba diving Moalboal and Malapascua is from February and May; this is dry season and subsequently there is minimal rainfall and maximum water visibility. 

June – November marks rainy season, during which time waters may be more choppy at the surface and visibility somewhat reduced. 

That said, due to it’s sheltered location, Malapascua experience less of an intense rainy period throughout the year compared to other parts of the Philippines and so visibility remains fairly consistent for most of the year there at around 15 – 30m – except for the months of November – January where it drastically reduces to 5 – 10 meters. 

Getting there

If you’re coming from another country, first you’ll fly into Manila, the capital of the Philippines. From here it’s just a 90 minute connecting flight to Cebu (aka Mactan) airport, the launchpad for all other Cebu dive destinations. 

You reach Malapascua from Cebu city via a four hour van and 45 minute bus ride, whereas you reach Moalboal from Cebu city via a 3 hour van ride. Oslob can be reached from Moalboal with a 90 minute taxi. 

Cebu Diving FAQ

Like much of the Philippines, Cebu is a fairly cheap place to dive. The average price of a fun dive with rental equipment is around 2000PHP which is roughly equivilant to $35. Not bad, not bad at all! 

Absolutely! Most dive sites around Malapascua and Moalboal are beginner friendly; in fact many people get their scuba certification there.  The best of the local dive sites around Cebu city however are more for experienced divers as they are both deep and in strong currents. 

Totally! In fact, around Moalboal you can go canyoneering and spend half a day jumping from the tops of waterfalls as well as caving, zip lining and viewpoints, whereas around Malapascua there’s a few epic cliff jumps you can do straight into the ocean. Besides that, there’s plenty of beach exploration and partying to be had. 

Without a doubt going to Malapascua and diving with thresher sharks is a highlight not only of Cebu but any Philippines trip whilsst diving amidst thousands of sardines at the sardine run of Moalboal is another highly memorable experience. 

Think carefully about whether diving with whale sharks that are artificially fed at Oslob is really worth it. Presumably you want to see these magnificent creatures because you’re blown away by their beauty. Do you really want to do so in a way that negatively contributes towards their population growth? 

Cebu: Diving Squad DEBRIEFING:

Looks like you’ve dived all the way down to the Diving Squad dive page on scuba diving Cebu – bloody great diving job! On this page we first explained what Cebu means: how the word can refer to a city, island and province all at the same time.

Then I provided you a the ultimate diver’s itinerary for Cebu – followed by a list of the best places to dive in Cebu with links to more all-comprehensive guides for each one. 

This was followed by a compilation of my favourite Cebu dive resorts and then came a summary of the Cebu diving season, then how to get there and finally a helpful list of Diver’s FAQ about Cebu. 

Now you’re on the Diving Squad debriefing, where we’ve just summarised everything that’s been covered!

Without a doubt Cebu has some of the best diving in the Philippines: it’s also very quick and easy to get around all of the best places there in a fairly short period of time . You can have an absolute whale (shark) of a time in just a week scuba diving Cebu. 

In fact, you should have time to scuba dive other parts of the Philippines afterwards. For this reason, consider checking out these others guides I’ve written about diving the Philippines.  

Philippines Diving. 

Palawan Diving. 

Written by:



Scuba-fanatic, travel-ecstatic and Grand Admiral of the Diving Squad