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Scuba Diving Moalboal - Traveller's Guide


March 1, 2023

A small coastal town off the southwest of Cebu, Moalboal is perhaps the best place in all of the Philippines to get scuba certified thanks to the easy diving, cheap prices and simplicity of getting there.

There is some truly world class diving; with vast schools of sardines as well as sea snakes and green sea turtles plus occasional sharks amidst plenty of coral reef. 

Add to this a thriving backpacker scene with a hearty nightlife and several other nearby adventure activities and Moalboal is an awesome place to spend a few days or even weeks! 

Want to know where the best dive sites are, which is the best dive resort and what else you can do? This guide is the answer….

Scuba divers at Sardine Run of Moalboal.

What can you see diving Moalboal

#1 Moalboal Sardine Run

One of the most popular sites for scuba divers, freedivers and snorkelers alike in Moalboal is the huge school of sardines that can be found year-round just off Pasagnama beach. They’re a mesmerising sight to behold; as in perfect unison, they twist and turn into incredible shapes and patterns like some singular living entity. 

#2 Pescador Island

Another Moalboal favourite is Pescador: a tiny islet with two dive sites (south and north) comprised of epic walls covered in some of the best coral in the area. There is also a large cavern that you can swim into! Pescador takes ten minutes to reach and is well worth the $12 boat fee. Lucky divers may also spot thresher sharks or whitetip reef sharks here!

Cavern of Pescador island - favourite dive site of moalboal.

#3 Sea Snakes

The banded sea krait is a pretty common sight around Moalboal; you have a good chance of seeing one, even just whilst snorkelling! Although these aquatic reptiles breathe air, they spend most of their time in the water; swimming around with their paddle like tails in pursuit of eels and small fish. Omnomnom!

Sea Snake on a Moalboal dive

#4 Green Sea Turtles

Another frequent sight around Moalboal are green sea turtles – reaching up to 4ft (1.2 meters) in length, they’re the second largest species of sea turtle in the world and also the only one that is primarily vegetarian. You can often see them resting on the reef or gracefully swimming up to the surface for a hearty gulp of air. 

Green sea turtle at Moalboal

#5 Coral Reefs

There’s plenty of coral reef in Moalboal comprised of a variety of hard and soft coral species. Sadly in 2021 a typhoon hit and damaged much of it; especially around the less sheltered areas; but some areas such as Pescador still harbour decent reef and in other’s it’s already starting to come back. You’ll find all manner of colourful nudibranch, fish and starfish among it. 

Coral reef of moalboal

Check out the movie I made of my experience diving Moalboal in March 2023:

Choosing a Moalboal Diving Resort

Moalboal has no shortage of dive resorts and centres – but not all of them are equal! The vast majority of cheap to mid-price options are situated in the neighbourhood of Basdiot along Panagsama beach; this is the main tourist strip and also where you’ll find most of the restaurants and nightlife (more on that in a bit!). 

Generally speaking, if you do choose one of the options there; you’re committing to surrounding yourself with some serious noise; it may (will probably) be hard to get a decent night’s sleep! Therefore I propose an alternative:

Check out Nirvana Dive Resort; they’re located a ten minute scooter ride away from the main tourist hub amidst plenty of tranquil nature with epic mountain views (it’s super easy to hire a scooter in Moalboal: around 350 pesos / $6.30 a day). 

Nirvana Dive Resort are a true gem – they offer the cheapest diving prices in Moalboal at 1000 pesos ($18) a dive but despite this they are the most organised and serious about actual diving: hence the decision to be away from all the clubs and hoo-ha. 

There’s a selection of bamboo cottages to choose from – you can have one with an ensuite bathroom all to yourself for just 824 pesos ($15) a night, plus there is really laid back bar and restaurant as well as a swimming pool and a nearby beach. A lot of really sound folk come to Nirvana and it’s a great place to make friends!

But, if you are dead-set on one of the dive centres among the noisier tourist strip; you can out the full list here. Finally, the most expensive dive resorts are located on white beach; some distance away from the main tourist hub; diving, food and accommodation here costs a lot more – check out the list here. 

Nirvana Diving Resort

Moalboal Accommodation

Mayhaps you choose up choosing a dive centre that ain’t got no accommodation or it does but not for the dates ya’ll gonna be there – dayum! Well fortunately, there’s plenty of other accommodation options around Moalboal. Plenty, I say!

In fact, a few of the days I spent in Moalboal, I stayed not at Nirvana but at Titanics Nipa Huts. Its run by the lovely Rose whose extremely helpful at arranging everything from breakfast to motorbike rental to laundry to tours. You can stay in a really nice bamboo hut with your own private bathroom and outside balcony with work space for $14- $30 (prices varies by hut size!).

It’s a three minute scooter ride from Basdiot and yet far away enough to be in a totally quiet area where you can get a good night’s sleep. I seriously enjoyed my stay there- it was awesome value for money, in a very peaceful setting, surrounded by nature and an awesome place to work, rest and have a kickass custom-tailored breakfast.  Check out Titanics Nipa Huts.

Or for other accommodation options around Moalboal check out this link. 

Titanics. Nipa Hut

Moalboal Diving Season

You can dive Moalboal year round! That said, the best months for diving are between January to May, which is dry season meaning water visibility will be at its best. This is also tourist high season so you’ll see the most other travellers. 

June – November marks rainy season; you can still dive but water visibility is somewhat reduced and the water’s may be a little more choppy (although they’re still relatively calm!). This is tourist low season so at least prices may be lower. And sometimes you’ll still get clear sunny days!

Year round, water temperatures range from 26 – 30 degrees Celcius; meaning you can always get by with just a 3mm or even a shorty wetsuit – some divers even go without any wetsuit at all! Currents are practically non-existent. 

Other Things to Do in Moalboal

#1 Canyoneering

By far one of the coolest things you can do in Moalboal besides dive is go canyoneering! This is part of a tour package and usually costs around 1650 pesos ($30). 

You’ll spend half an adrenaline-soaked day jumping off rocks into plunge pools and springs – ranging from heights of 9 – 40 ft (3 – 12 meters)! It’s a truly exhilarating experience and also a great way of seeings heaps of natural beauty; with waterfalls, jungle and some epic mountain views as well. 

With guides every step of the way, it’s totally safe – you get shown exactly where to jump and told when – you also get a safety helmet and life jacket. 

For an extra fee you can also go on an epic zipline. Do make sure to take plenty of suncream as even though the jumping is done beneath the forest canopy shade, you do have to make two twenty minute walks in the sun at the start and finish. This was by far one of the best half day activites I’ve ever done – check out the video of me doing the final jump: 

#2 Osmena Peak

For a truly incredible viewpoint consider heading to Osmena Peak – from the main tourist hub of Basdiot, it takes about 70 – 90 minutes to reach via scooter. Then you pay an entrance fee of 50 Pesos ($0.90) as well as 100-150 pesos ($1.82 – $2.74) for a guide who shows you the fairly easy, 25 minute walk to the top. 

When you get to the top you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of both Negroes and Bohol – two other highly popular diving destinations that can easily be reached from Moalboal. 

This is a fairly light and easy trek and there’s also a refreshment stall at the top.  It can get foggy in the morning, so many people find the best time to go is the afternoon- aim to be there around 3pm or even in time for the sunset!

Shutterstock / Kyle Anthony Photography

#3 Busay Cave

A mere 25 minute scooter ride from Basidot, you’ll find Busay Cave and underground spring – not many backpackers come here and it’s regarded as something of a secret of Moalboal. 

Look out for bats when you enter the cave and be sure to bring a flashlight. It’s possible to do this as part of a tour. And yes – you can totally jump in the spring for a refreshing dip!

#4 White Beach

About a ten to fifteen minute scooter ride from Basidot lies white beach – it’s another great place to catch the sunset – you have incredible views of Negroes island 68 km across the water with it’s many mountains and volcanos looking like something from a distant Jurrassic Park. 

At the weekend, tons of filipionos come here from Cebu city to party and things get pretty lively! There’s a lot of bars but not many restaurants  – just some barbecued snacks on offer.

White beach of Moalboal at sunsdt

#5 Freedive and Snorkel

A lot of people also learn to freedive in moalboal – one of the most popular companies to do this with are Freediving Planet.  There’s loads of snorkellers as well – try going for a snorkel off Panagsama beach around sunset time!

How to get to Moalboal

Getting to Moalboal is pretty damn easy! The nearest international airport is Cebu Mactan which lies 100 km away. The cheapest way to get from there to Moalboal is via bus which takes about 3 hours and is less than $5. Buses leave from Cebu airport to Moalboal every hour until quite late. 

The quickest way is via taxi; which (if traffic is not too hectic) should only take 90 minutes. Not all taxi prices are the same! If you try booking online you’ll see that most taxis cite around $100 for this journey- however you can book with Cebu Hunters Tourist Transport who will only charge around $65 – shoot them a whatsapp message on +639260735769!

Of course, if you’re coming from some other, nearby part of the Philippines such as Dauin, Bohol or Siquijor then you’ll arrive via ferry at Moalboal Port. 

Moalboal Nightlife

Moalboal nightlife is rather pumping! Despite the smallness of this town, it can certainly be described as a party place.

In Basdiot, the main tourist strip, there’s a heap of establishments that can best be described as half bar – half club. These are usually rammed most nights (but especially so on the weekends). If dangerously cheap beer, deafening music and crowds of randy backpackers are your thing, you’ll love it. 

Some of the most popular places to go to get smashed are:

  • Isla Bar – I don’t normally go out in Moalboal but when I do it’s here. The house and trance music is really decent (which is more than can be said for the music at most other places) and I love the rounded bar and pool table. 
  • Chilli bar
  • Blue Mango – Arguably the most party, party of all Moalboal’s bars. 
  • Mayim Beach Bar
  • Pactica’s Disco Bar

They’re all very easy to find – simply walk through the main strip of Basdiot towards Panagsama beach. This is also where a great many deal of the budget dive resorts and centres are located. 

Staying Fit - GYMS

Staying fit on the road is important. You never know when the cordyceps fungus might mutate to infect and zombify humans  – and then it’ll be survival of the fittest! Don’t get caught out by having spent the last several months gorging on beer and never breaking a sweat – you’ll be the first to go! Be prepared at all times…

Luckily there’s a couple of workout options in Moalboal. The main two gyms I’d recommend are: 

  • JP’S Gym: Located on the main tourist strip, a couple hundred meters up from Panagsama beach, JP’s gym costs 200 pesos ($3.64) per time that you use it. This makes it a fair bit more pricey than the next option, but the huge advantage of this is that far less people go there, meaning you can often have it all to yourself, especially if you go within the first 1 or 2 hours of it opening. Mondays to Fridays opening hour is 6am, Saturday’s it’s 8 am and on Sundays its closed.

  • LGC fitness Gym: A ten minute scooter ride from Basdiot in Gaisano town centre you have LGC fitness gym – it’s only 30 pesos ($0.55) a session but far more people go there because of this. Usually open from 7am onwards on weekdays. 
JP's gymnasium at Moalboal.

Where to eat in Moalboal

There’s a butt-tonn of places to eat in Moalboal and like the clubs and majority of dive centres they’re generally located around Basdiot. Here’s a few (of many!) favourites:

  • Three Bears: They do a mean cheesy chicken double burger!

  • Vinz Kitchen: excellent for well cooked local Filipino dishes – try the sizzling chicken sisig!

  • Trattoria Altrove: for tasty pizza and Italian dishes.

  • Smooth Cafe: Awesome place for all-day breakfast and smoothies.

  • Le Bistro: great for super cheap local dishes. Eat like a filipino!

Moalboal FAQ

Yes! In fact, many would say that Moalboal is the best place in all of the Philippines to get scuba certified thanks to the non-existent currents, shallow shore dives and low cost. After Koh Tao, it has the most people getting their open water cert in all of Southeast Asia. 

Also yes! Like most of the Philippines, Moalboal is a super-affordable place to dive (two dives generally costs around $40!). It’s easy to get a private room for as low as $12 or a dorm room for just $5. At the same time, there are also some very nice luxury resort options for you big spenders. 

Moalboal diving is famous for the huge school of sardines at sardine run as well as many banded sea kraits, green sea turtles and some decent reef – plus some awesome wall dives and caverns to explore around Pescador. Lucky divers may even see thresher sharks and whitetip reef sharks!

Canyoneering is an awesome, adrenaline-soaked way to spend the day jumping off rocks into water, Basu cave is a nice, off-the-beaten-track attraction and if you’re up for a 90 minute drive, there is an amazing viewpoint at Osmena Peak. There’s a thriving nightlife around Panagsama beach as well as white beach at the weekends and a lot of people also go freediving and snorkeling. 

Totally! You can fly into Cebu international airport and catch a bus or taxi to Moalboal – or if you’re coming from another south Philippines island, arrive directly at Moalboal port via ferry. 

Other nearby, southern islands with great diving include Panglao in Bohol, Dauin in Negroes and Camiguin off Mindanao. All can be reached fairly easily and quickly (within 5 hours or less) from Moalboal. Or head up north for 6 hours to reach Malapascua; a tiny island at the north tip of Cebu where you are guarenteed to see thresher sharks. 

Moalboal - Diving Squad DEBRIEFING:

Looks like you’ve dived all the way down to the Diving Squad dive page on diving Moalboal. Great diving job! 

We’ve covered a lot. First we talked about what you can see whilst diving in Moalbaol (with original photos and videos from my time there in March 2023!). Next, we discussed the best dive resorts as well as other accommodation options.

After that we went though when is the best time to dive Moalboal and then we looked at some of the other things to do there – followed by how to get there!

Next, it was time to mention nightlife – then gyms… and then food (!), before finally rounding off the article with an FAQ section.  After that came the debriefing…that’s the bit you’re on now. Then you finished the article – booked your trip to Moalboal and had a bloody whale of a time – awesome! 

Written by:



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

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