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Scuba Diving the Philippines: Backpacker's Guide

Consisting of over 7000 islands, the Philippines is renowned for jungle-strewn mountains and mighty volcanos, ancient tribes and white-sand beaches. 

It is one of the easiest and cheapest places to travel in Southeast Asia and also one of the friendliest with an extremely fun-loving, warm hearted population who are fluent in English. 

For scuba divers; the Philippines is paradise. It is affordable, easy to get around and there is an an awesome variety of different dive experiences spread around the many islands.

Dive amidst stunning coral reefs, through epic WW2 Shipwrecks and experience next-level muck dives whilst also witnessing big animals such as thresher sharks, whale sharks and manta rays. 

In this guide, I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know about scuba diving the Philippines based on my own experiences there spanning multiple trips over several years.

So buckle up your bcd and pull down your scuba mask. With this epic guide you’ll be armed with all you need to know to get the most out of your trip diving and backpacking the Philippines!

Why Dive the Philippines?

The Philippines is one of the cheapest places to dive in Southeast Asia; in many destinations you can have two fun dives for around 4000 pesos which is equivalent to just $70!

Also, there is something for every kind of scuba diver in the Philippines; you can choose from wreck, muck, cave, drift and coral reef dives as well as the chance to see iconic big marine animals. Most dive sites of most destinations are suitable for beginners, making the Philippines an ideal place to get scuba certified. 

On top of all this, most of the top dive destinations in the Philippines have many other nearby adventure activities such as caving, cliff jumping, canyoneering, waterfalls and trekking. Ready to start planning your Philippines diving trip? Read on!

Philippines Diving Itineraries

Feel free to tweak, combine or amend these itineraries as you see fit, but I heartily recommend you check out ferry / bus / flight routes and schedules before you do!!!

Travelling around the Philippines can indeed be easy but is not as straightforward as it may seem. You cannot always easily get from one destination to another just because they appear close together on the map. (I learned this the hard way and subsequently the order in which I did these locations was a lot more long-winded and complicated than need be for you!). 

I have comprised the following routes, not just out of consideration for the best dive destinations combos but also whilst considering the most logical order to travel between them. (Also, remember never to fly within 24 hours of diving!!). 

Dive the Philippines in 10 Days: Itinerary #1

You can squeeze an impressive variety of diving into a short time, without even having to travel too far around the Philippines.

Fly into Manila, the country’s capital and catch a 3 hour bus ride down to Anilao in Batangas Province, which has some of the best muck diving in the country. Muck diving describes dive sites comprised of silt or sandy seabeds that are teaming with macro life: colour-changing cuttlefish, seahorses, frogfish, nudibranch, pipefish and all kinds of other bizare critters. 

After spending a couple of days diving Anilao, catch a 90 minute ferry across to Puerto Galera on Mindoro, the next island down. Puerto Galera offers some of the best diving in the Philippines thanks to it’s sheer diversity; the coral reef here is superb and can be explored in both shallow waters and on exciting drift and deep dives plus there are several medium sized shipwrecks to explore as well as a few more muck dives. 

During your stay in Puerto Galera, be sure to squeeze in a day trip to Verde Island; which has some truly spectacular deep wall dives. 

3 Weeks Diving the Philippines: Itinerary #2

3 weeks in the Philippines gives you time to explore some of the country’s most iconic destinations for both divers and travellers alike whilst also going a little off-the-beaten track. 

Fly into Manilla, then take a 90 minute connecting flight to Busuanga aka Coron airport in Palawan. Coron is hailed as the best destination in Southeast Asia for Shipwreck Diving with 10 Japanese WW2 wrecks. Whilst in Coron it’s also possible to dive with Dugong in North Busuanga!

From Coron take a 4 hour ferry to the visually stunning El Nido; perhaps the most popular Philippines destination for younger backpackers; who flock here to party and beach-hop. El Nido has dozens of dive sites comprised of superb coral reef as well as an underwater tunnel and the chance to see nurse sharks and manta rays. 

Next, catch an hour and forty minutes flight from El Nido (aka Leo) airport to Panglao; a small island connected via bridge to Bohol which is famous for its stunning stunning chocolate hills and tarsier primates. There are several superb dive sites around Panglao; with awesome coral, countless turtles, schools of giant barracuda and sometimes whale sharks.

After this, grab a two hour ferry from Tagbilaran port (right next to Panglao) down to the incredibly laid-back Siquijor; a more off-the-beaten track destination of the Philippines, renowned for witchcraft and hosting incredible reefs, schooling milkfish, turtles and many macro critters like hairy crabs, pygmy frogfish and tiny nudibranch. 

Then take a 50 minute ferry ride to Dumaguete city on the mountainous and volcanic island of Negroes. Dumaguete is a busy city so you may prefer to stay in the quieter Dauin town a thirty minute ride away. Either way, the dive sites off the coast between Dumaguete and Dauin comprise superb off-the-beaten track muck dives with many macro critters like cuttlefish, seahorses, pipefish, nudibranch and octopus. 

From Dumaguete you may have time to make a day-trip to dive the famous reefs of the nearby Apo Island. If not you can grab a 90 minute flight from Dumaguete airport back to Manila for your way out of the Philippines. 

1 Month Diving the Philippine's Visayas: Itinerary #3:

Alright, Diving Squad listen up! This is it; a full blown month to penetrate deep into the heart of the Philippines and scuba dive the f*ck outta it! Are you ready?! Ooh-rah! Then let’s gooooo!! Move, move, move – dive, dive, dive!!!

Arrive in Manila and grab a ninety minute connecting flight to Mactan airport in Cebu city (of Cebu island). Next, take a 4 hour bus ride from Cebu city to Maya port and then a 45 minute ferry ride (last one leaves at 16:30) across to Malapascua. The tiny Malapascua Island is the best place in the world to see the the mighty thresher sharks which have bodies growing up to ten feet (3m) long…and tails that grow the same length again!

After Malapascua, make your way back to Cebu and take a 3 hour bus ride to Moalboal on the southwest of Cebu island; a bustling seaside town popular with partying backpackers and famous for it’s “sardine run” where you can dive amidst a huge school of local sardines at depths of less than 33ft / 10m. 

From Moalboal, some people take a ninety minute taxi ride down south to Oslob. Here you can dive with dozens of whale sharks; however they’re being fed chum which is detrimental to their migratory patterns and breeding so I gave this one a miss. However, if you are in Oslob, from there grab a ninety minute outrigger boat to your next destination Panglao, Bohol. Or, head from Moalboal back to Cebu and grab the two hour ferry from there to Panglao…. 

Either way, your next destination is Panglao in Bohol which has spectacular coral, countless turtles, giant barracuda and sometimes whale sharks!

From Panglao, if you want to get really off-the-beaten track, grab a two hour bus ride to Jagna port at the other end of Bohol, then a four hour ferry to Camiguin, a small, rarely-visited island with seven volcanos that you can climb and some very nice off-the-beaten track diving with schools of jackfish, awesome soft coral gardens and seldom visited drift dives. 

Or, take a two hour ferry from Panglao to the incredibly chill (and also off-the-beaten-track) island of Siquijor which is renowned for witchcraft, caves, waterfalls, stunning coral, schooling milkfish and plenty of macro critters.

From Siquijor grab a one hour ferry ride to Dumaguete city for incredible, off-the-beaten-track muck diving with all kinds of weird and wonderful macro critters. If you have time, take a day trip to the famous reefs of Apo island. 

After all this, it’s probably time to grab a 90 minute flight from Dumaguete airport to Manila…but if you you somehow still have days to spare, take a 2 hour flight to Busuanga in Coron; for next level Japanese shipwrecks from World War 2!

Alternative Itinerary #4: Philippines Liveaboard

If you have a high spending budget, you’re an experienced diver and you want to explore what many consider to be the best diving destination in all of the Philippines, consider embarking on a liveaboard around the legendary Tubbataha reef; where pristine coral reef and endless sharks, rays and big pelagic fish await. 

Tubbataha Reef is only accessible via liveabaord and less than a dozen different liveaboards visit this area so it is a truly off-the-beaten-track dive destination where you will see few other divers. Check out the main page on Tubbataha liveaboards here. 

Best Places to Dive in the Philippines

I’ll now walk you through a more in-depth look at which places offer some of the best diving in the Philippines. I’ve scuba dived all of them and you can find more info on each place by following the links at the end of each description. 

Oh by the way, I’m not presenting these destinations in the order they appeared in the itineraries above! Instead I’m presenting them in order of my favourites: 

#1 Panglao, Bohol (MY FAVOURITE)

Why you should go: I’m a huge fan of Bohol. During 2023, I spent almost half a year living on Panglao, a small island at the southwest tip of Bohol and connected to it via a land-bridge. 

The main tourist strip of Panglao is Alona beach: this is the launchpad to several kickass dive sites around the nearby islets of Balicasag and Pamilacan where you can discover superb coral reef, countless turtles and critters like stonefish, scorpionfish and nudibranch. There’s also a resident school of giant barracuda and occasional whale shark sightings.

Alona beach offers a stellar balance of chilled vibes with happening scene. It’s not as hectic as places like El Nido, Coron or Moalboal but there’s still a fun and happening buzz in the evenings, unlike Siquijor, Camiguin and Dumaguete. 

About a ninety minute drive away, on mainland Bohol, lie the chocolate hills, a stunning geographical formation as well as waterfalls, danao adventure park with ziplines and bungee swing and also tarsiers – those tiny primates with huge eyes!

How to Get There:  You can travel to Bohol from many other nearby islands in the Philippines Visayas via ferry; or you can fly into Panglao airport.

When to go: Bohol experiences less of an intense rainy season than other parts of the Philippines, meaning it’s more suitable to dive all year round. Dry season technically runs between December – May; which is when dive conditions are best… but even from June – November; there’s less rainfall compared to other parts of the Philippines. 

  • Check out my Main Guide to Bohol Diving HERE.


  • Or skip straight to this list of Best Bohol Accommodation for Divers HERE. 

#2 Coron, Palawan (BEST WRECK DIVING)

Why you should go: Located in Palawan; one of the most beautiful and iconic parts of the Philippines; Coron is hailed as the greatest shipwreck dive destination in all of Southeast Asia. 

There are 10 Japanese World War 2 shipwrecks; most are over 333ft (100m) long and are coated in colourful hard coral on the outside; with components such as anti-aircraft guns and seaplane cranes still visible. 

However, it is within that the real adventure lies; these wrecks can all be penetrated and the larger ones have have many decks, compartments and rooms to explore where you’ll see engine rooms, boiler rooms and even air pockets.

Coron is famous for it’s limestone cliffs and freshwater lakes; one of which can be dived, there are some awesome day tours around to be had. You can also make a day trip to North Busuanga to dive with Dugong!

How to Get There: To reach Coron from most parts of the Philippines, you need to fly to Busuanga (aka Coron) airport and then catch a 50 minute van ride to Coron town. Or take a 4 hour ferry from El Nido. 

When to Go: December – March is when you have the best chance of high visibility; it is usually only during such periods that visibility can be high enough to see the wrecks form the outside. October – June is the next best period whereas July – September is rainy season when visibility can be it’s lowest and currents are strongest. 

  • Check out my Main Guide to Coron Diving HERE.


  • Or skip straight to this list of Best Coron Accommodation for Divers HERE. 

#3 Malapascua, Cebu (THRESHER SHARKS!!)

Why you should go: Malapascua may take a few more hours to reach than other Philippines but it is oh so worth it. It’s the best place in the world – nay, the only place where you’re practically guaranteed to see thresher sharks; those curious looking sharks with bodies of up to 10ft / 3m and long, pointy tails the same length again! 

There’s also a fairly decent wreck dive as well as a few nice coral reefs that scuba divers can explore. 

Malapascua itself is a truly tiny island with a land area of just 148 hectares; but it has some beautiful beaches to explore, a touch of cliff jumping as well as a thriving nightlife. That said, because you need to wake up at 4:30am to see the thresher sharks, you won’t want to go too overboard on those red horse beers!

How to Get There: Generally you’ll start from Cebu city; you can fly into Mactan airport there or catch a ferry to Cebu from nearby islands such as Bohol. From Cebu it’s a four hour bus ride to Jaya port and then a 45 minute ferry to Malapascua. 

When to Go: Malapascua experiences fairly evenly dispersed rain throughout the year which means dive conditions remain fairly consistent. The very best time to go is typically between January to April, however anytime between January to October and water visibility is still pretty decent. Try to avoid November – December when visibility reduces drastically. 

  • Check out my Main Guide to Malapascua Diving HERE.


  • Or skip straight to this list of Best Malapascua Accommodation for Divers HERE. 

#4 Anilao, Batangas (EASIEST TO REACH & MUCK DIVES)

Why you should go: Located in Batangas province of South Luzon, Anilao is one of the easiest to reach dive destinations in all of the Philippines, it takes just a 3 hour bus ride from Manila to get there. 

It is also a rather unique dive destination as whereas most Philippines dive locations are defined by magnificent coral, turtles and reef fish, Anilao is famous for having some of the best and most abundant muck dive sites in the country. 

Muck diving is a term coined by scuba divers, to describe dive sites defined by sandy or silty bottoms, devoid of much coral but home to an impressive myriad of macro critters. On just one good muck dive you can see colour-changing cuttlefish, seahorses, pipefish, pgymy frogfish and all kinds of nudibranch! 

It is an underwater photographers dream and a very unique and interesting type of scuba diving experience. 

How to Get There: So easily! Just fly into Manila, the capital of the Philippines and grab a three hour bus journey to Anilao. 

When to Go: Like practically all of the Philippines, you can dive Anilao year round, however the best months are typically regarded as November / December and April / May. 

  • Check out my Main Guide to Anilao Diving HERE.


  • Or skip straight to this list of Best Anilao Accommodation for Divers HERE. 

#5 Tubbataha, Palawan (Liveaboard Experience)

Why you should go: If you have a high spending budget and want to experience the very best diving of the Philippines, consider embarking on a liveaboard to Tubbataha Marine Park.

Accessible only to liveaboards, the remote Tubbataha Marine Park encompasses an area of 96.828 hectares of protected coral reefs that are home to a myriad of different shark and ray species as well as huge schools of pelagic fish and countless turtles, critters and reef fish. 

Situated on the Cagayan Ridge, comprised of extinct underwater volcanos, Tubbataha Reef is some of the Philippines most off-the-beaten-track diving at it’s finest. In 1993, UNESCO declared it a world heritage site; a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species. 

How to Get There: Generally Philippines liveaboards bound for Tubbataha depart from Puerto Princesa in Palawan, which you catch a 90 minute flight to from Manila. 

When to Go: Unlike other parts of the Philipines, there is a specific dive season: March – June, when water conditions are at their calmest and visibility at its highest. Generally, Tubbataha liveaboards don’t operate outside of this period. 

Check out the main page on Tubbataha liveaboards here. 

#6 Puerto Galera, Mindoro (BEST VARIETY)

Why you should go: Ah Puerto Galera – I got stuck here for 6 months during the 2020 lockdowns and completed my divemaster at Scandi Divers. But that’s another story.

Puerto Galera is a stellar place to go scuba diving in the Philippines; it is easy to reach but more importantly it offers a kickass diversity of diving. The coral reef here is both pristine and abundant; you can explore it across a range of shallow and deep dives in both calm waters an on fast paced drift dives. 

There are also four medium sized shipwrecks that make superb entry level wrecks for divers as well as a couple of very nice muck dives, teaming with all kinds of macro critters. It’s also a great place to go night diving. Plus, you can make day trips to the nearby Verde Island for incredible deep wall dives. 

How to Get There: Fly into Manila and grab a 3 hour bus ride down to Anilao in Batangas province. From here it’s a 90 minute across to Puerto Galera. 

When to Go: June to October has the best visibility, however you can dive Puerto Galera year round as due to it’s location it’s fairly sheltered from typhoons. 

Check out the main guide to Puerto Galera diving here!

Or go here for Best Puerto Galera Accomdation for Divers


Why you should go: Siquijor is a very laid-back, more-off-the-beaten-track destination in the Philippines. It has some of the best coral reef in the country; having been largely unaffected by the 2021 typhoons that took out much coral elsewhere. 

Around the drift dive site sunken island, you have a great chance of seeing schooling milkfish, the national fish of the Philippines. There are also many turtles, reef fish and various critters such as frogfish, scorpionfish fish and nudibranch. Several dive sites also offer good muck diving. Lucky divers may sometimes see whitetip sharks around “the cave” dive site. 

Siquijor has a reputation for witchcraft; however the vibes here are only good. The “witches” are actually healers who you can visit for a mystical ceremony. 

Although it’s a fairly small island, there are many other cool activites to do, including waterfalls, caving, sky-diving and riding your bike up to mount bandilaan for a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the island.

How to Get There: You can fly into Siquijor airport or catch a two hour ferry there from Bohol – or a one hour ferry from Dumaguete. 

When to Go: December – April is dry season and sees the best water visibility and calmest conditions. That said you can dive all year round!

Check out the main guide to Siquijor diving here!

Or skip to this list of Best Siquijor Accomodation for Divers. 

#8 Moalboal, Cebu (SARDINE RUN!!)

Why you should go: Moalboal is a livley seaside town that’s popular with partying backpackers. There are some very nice dives sites here, but without a doubt the best one is “sardine run:; where scuba divers, free-divers and snorkelers alike can swim amidst a huge local school of sardines. It’s the only place in the Philippines where this is guaranteed!

The other dive sites feature some nice coral reef, although quite a bit was taken out during the 2021 typhoons. All the same this is a great place for spotting plenty of sea snakes, turtles and reef fish. 

Dive sites are easy; relatively shallow and in weak to non-existent currents Moalboal a great place to get scuba certified. 

Around Moalboal there’s also a couple of cool activites like partying, caving and viewpoint treks – but without a doubt the coolest is the canyoneering in which you spend half a day jumping off the tops of waterfalls!

How to Get There: You’ll need to get to Cebu city; either flying into Mactan (Cebu) airport or catching a ferry to Cebu city port from nearby islands. From Cebu city, it’s a 3 hour bus ride to Moalboal. 

When to Go: January to May is dry season during which time water visibility is at it’s greatest, however you can dive Moalboal year round!

Check out the main guide to Moalboal diving here!

Or take a look at this List of Best Accomodation in Moalboal for Divers


Why you should go: El Nido has some seriously underrated diving! The coral reef here is simply excellent, having been sheltered from the 2021 typhoons that took out large amounts elsewhere in the Philippines. There are many fish, turtles, nudibranch, ribbon eels and schooling giant barracuda. 

A favourite dive site is dimulacad underwater tunnel; a long tunnel through helicopter island which opens out into a spacious cavern where ceiling holes let in light that glimmers off schooling fish and small transparent crustaceans.  Around El Nido, lucky divers also have the chance to see nurse and whitetip reef sharks as well as eagle rays!

If you drive fifty minutes to the extremely quiet, off-the-beaten track village of Sibaltan, you can dive with manta rays. 

El Nido is one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines for the stunning, jungle-coated limestone cliffs that rise out of the sea to form many small islands which you can go beach-hopping around.  It’s very busy: backpacker-party central!

How to Get There: You can catch a four hour ferry there from Coron or fly into Leo (aka El Nido) airport. 

When to Go: The best months to dive El Nido are June and July; which are later in the year compared to optimal time for other parts of the Philippines. However you can also dive El Nido all year round. 

Check out the full guide to diving El Nido here.

Or check out this list of Best El Nido Accomodation for Divers. 

#10 Dumaguete, Negros (MUCK DIVES / OFF-BEATEN-TRACK

Why you should go: There are many dive sites between Dumaguete city and the quieter Dauin town with incredible muck diving that is far less frequented than Anilao (the Philippines most famous muck dive destination). 

On just one dive I saw two cuttlefish, two seahorses, five pipefish, 7 nudibranch, 3 pygmy frogfish, 3 mantis shrimp and a school over over one hundred squid± A few dive sites also have some very nice coral reef and schools of giant barracuda. 

I will say that Dumaguete is a very busy city without much charm, whereas the quieter but sprawling Dauin is also lacking in any kind of vibe or variety of places to eat. However, Negros island itself has some of the best volcano and mountain trekking in all of the Philippines, many of which start from nearby Valencia. There’s also some nice waterfalls to check out. 

How to Get There: Fly into Dumaguete airport or catch a two hour ferry from Bohol or a one hour ferry from Siquijor. 

When to Go: December to April is dry season during which time water visibility at its best but you can dive all year round. 

Check out the main guide to Dumaguete / Dauin diving here!

Or skip tot his List of Best Dumaguete / Dauin Accomdoaiton for Divers

#11 Apo Island (EXCELLENT CORAL)

Why you should go: The tiny Apo Island is famous within the scuba diving community for having some of the best coral inthe Philippines with masses of reef fish and endless turtles. You can easily visit it on a day trip from Dumaguete / Dauin or Siquijor or you can choose to stay on Apo Island itself (although its pretty basic yet expensive!). 

This is a peaceful and fairly off-the-grid dive destiantion of the Philippines. There’s a few lighthouses to visit around the island and some nice beaches but not much else to do. With frequent powercuts and limited wifi it’s a great place to go for a digital detox!

How to Get There: You can arrive via ferry from Siquijor or, more commonly, Dumaguete. 

When to Go: October – May is the main dive season, with the months of December to April being considered the best. However, you can dive all year round. 

Check out the main guide to Moalboal diving here!

Or skip to this List of Best Apo Island Accomdoaiton. 


Why you should go: If you truly want to go somewhere in the Philippines where few others have ventured, consider Camiguin; a small island 10km off the north coast of Cagayan de Oro of Mindoro. 

Nicknamed the “Island Born of Fire” it is a visually stunning island with the highest volcano to land density of any island in the world, with seven volcanos, several of which can be trekked for epic panoramic views, crater lakes and camping. 

There are some very nice dive sites with schools of jackfish as well as turtles, sea snakes and nudibranch, some epic underwater volcanic rock formations and some some extremely nice soft coral gardens with macro critters. 

How to Get There: Fly in to Camiguin airport (most commonly reached from Cebu/ Mactan airport) or catch a 90 minute ferry across from Cagayan de Oro – or a 4 hour ferry from Jagna port in Bohol which takes two hours to reach via bus from Panglao. 

When to Go: April – November is dry season and offers the best visibility and calmest seas. December – March is monsoon season; diving conditions are at their worst during these months. However, you can technically dive Camiguin year round. 

Check out the main guide to Camiguin diving here!

Or skip to this List of Best Camiguin Island Accomdoaiton. 

Philippines Diving Resorts


Philippines Diving Season


Cost of Diving


Getting In

When flying into the Philippines, you will almost definitely start your trip in the country’s capital: Manila which is located on Luzon; the country’s most northern island. 

There are many different flights into the Philippines to choose from. If you’re flying there from within Asia, Philippines Airlines and Air Asia offer the cheapest deals by far. 

From Manila, you can catch a connecting flight to the likes of Coron or El Nido (both in Palawan) or Cebu or Dumaguete in Visayas; all of which are excellent launch pads for exploring the rest of the Philippines. Or you can grab a 3 hour bus ride down to Anilao, one of the easiest dive destinations to reach and then take a 90 minute ferry to Puerto Galea. 

(See the itineraries section for more info on this!).

Entry Requirements: Upon arrival, most nationalities, can get a VISA for one month. If you want to stay longer, you can plan your visa extension in advance. Or you can visit an immigration office in Manila, Cebu, Bohol or Davao and do it there. Extending your visa this way is relatively easy, it costs around 10,000 pesos (about $180) to extend for 2 months and so on. It’s a simple process but you need about 24 hours as you fill out the form and come back the next day. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: To enter the Philippines you have to have proof of a flight of onward travel! I suggest you book the cheapest outward flight possible, which is normally to somewhere like Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok and pay extra for cancellation option – then cancel it after getting there!

Getting Around

It’s so easy to get around the Philippines. There’s a vast network of bus routes around the larger islands; travelling via bus is very cheap and most buses tend to run every hour or so. In some cases it’s vans instead of buses which are slightly more expensive but same gimmick – regular routes at affordable prices with the option to buy tickets up until departure. 

Generally speaking, if you’re going there on a dive trip, you’ll probably find you do most of your travelling via ferry – once again, there are many ferries operating between the various islands of the Philippines with prices varying between about 700 – 1500 pesos and journeys lasting usually anywhere from 2 – 4 hours. 

Most ferries between island ports leave every one to two hours and you can usually buy tickets right up until the point of departure, although there is sometimes a long que.  There’s usually ac on board and a small snack bar. Try to get a window seat as you get a scenic view of the various islands on many routes. 

The most popular Philippines ferry company is OceanJet although there are several other options.  

After showing or buying your pre-booked ticket, next you have a somewhat tedious process of checking in the ticket, followed by paying a 25 peso entrance fee… followed by checking in your luggage which usually costs another 150 – 200 pesos before you can actually go inside the port terminal to await your boarding time. 

Once you’re at any given destination, you have two options for getting around. You can opt for a tricycle or you can rent a scooter which is far more fun and usually saves you money if you’re exploring a lot. 

In cheaper places such as Bohol daily cost for a scooter is 300 pesos a day; in more more expensive areas like Palawan it can be 500 pesos a day. I think it’s totally worth it, blasting around on a scooter is one of my favourite ways to explore!

Partying / Culture and Fun in the Philippines

Unlike the rest of southeast asia, the Philippines is a heavily westernised culture. As a result the locals are always down for a party, incredibly friendly, usually fluent (but always at least conversant) in english and they love beer!

When you go drinking watch out for red horse beer, this stuff is insanely strong and will easily knock you off your feet if you’re not careful. (Red Horse comes in two forms – both are strong, but the “extra strong” one is truly lethal. Make sure you know which you’re on!).  

The san miguel pale pilsen and light are normal strength beer whereas the san miguel flavoured is very weak indeed, more like an alco-pop. 

It’s pretty standard to get invited out for beers by most dive centres, especially if you’re there a couple of days! Go for it – filipinos are a lot of fun, a really decent bunch and you’ll make some awesome friends. 

Karaoke is a favourite past time. Just remember, that in the Philippines karaoke means hiring a private booth and proceeding to belt out songs non-stop for two-three hours amidst towers of beer. 

The Philippines is a mostly-christian country (with the exception of Mindanao in the south which has a large Muslim population) and there are many churches around the place including some very old ones from the Spanish colonial era, dating back hundreds of years. 

Filipinos generally want to help whenever they can, the amount of times I’ve pulled up on the side of the road and asked some dude for directions only for him to walk up and down the street cheerfully bellowing to his neighbours asking them which way it is, if he himself doesn’t know, – all without expecting anything in return…is quite touching. 

There are a lot of clubs and bars in many Philippines destinations although do beware of drugs out there – it’s insanely illegal and stints where someone sells you weed only for it to be a police bust are common. Best case scenario you will have to pay a ridiculously high bribe, worst you could end up in prison for years all for having a tiny amount of weed on you – and foreigners are not exempt. 

However, if you do end up scoring; do not and I repeat DO NOT take any drugs on the ferry with you!! For every ferry I was ever took, at the port everyone had to place their bags and luggage on the floor which was lined up and then a sniffer dog was bought up and down, passing each bag multiple times and encouraged to sniff it. This may also happen on long bus journeys. You also sometimes get sniffer dogs at the entrances of big malls. 

You’ll probably see a lot of young girls hanging off the arms of skeletal old men whilst in the Philippines, this is very normal out there. Filipino girls – or Filipinas love meet western guys so there’s some great fun to be had but if you’re not looking for a relationship, be honest with your intentions as it’s all to easy to break hearts out there. 

In the Philippines, everyone loves meat, seafood and rice. It’s pretty damn hard scoring vegetables and fruit around the place -they are out there there but less common, so you usually need a bit of time in any location before you can scout out the healthier places to eat. Don’t loose heart, those healthy dining options are there…somewhere!

Street food is frigging delicious and worth eating. There’s all kinds of whacky things going off from chicken intestines, feet and livers, pig fat and more standard sticks of meat. This is really tasty eating and also very cheap. Balut is a right of passage; its’ a fertilised egg. Try not to look when you eat it and dip it in plenty of vinegar!

Sizzling pork sisig is a favourite and very delicious meal at restaurants – often you don’t get a huge amount on the plate, but is is so very tasty and consists of thin slices of (unrecognisable) pig face and liver along with (tiny) strips of vegetables served still sizzling away on an extremely hot (do not touch!) metal plate with a partially raw egg on top. 

There’s also loads of amazing sea food. Bangus bangus or milkfish is the national fish of the Philippines and immensly tasty. You get loads of fresh seafood markets with local fresh produce. My favourite seafood was the sizzling squid. Much tasty.   

Other Things to Do

The Philippines is a simply an awesome place to travel for anyone who loves nature or adventure activities – there are so many cool things you can easily and cheaply do such as trekking, caving, cliff jumping, canyoneering, waterfalls, beach hopping, skydiving, kayaking, surfing…the list goes on and on!

What’s especially awesome is that so many of these activites are within easy and close proximity of the diving destinations I’ve listed. I’ve provided more info on them within each of main guides for those destinations. 

And of course, as we just covered, the Philippines is also a great place to party! But it also doesn’t have to be…there are also some extremely tranquil, quiet and laid back locations where one can simply be in nature with tribal communities or laid-back bohemian vibes. 

Philippines Diving FAQ

No! Most Philippines diving destinations are beginner friendly – in fact many people  get scuba certified there! The exception to this rule is Coron, where to explore the best shipwrecks you should have your advanced open water certification and wreck diving training. And Tubbataha reef for which you’ll also want to be an experienced diver.

Also, whilst most places in the Philippines are totally beginner friendly, the majority of  dive destinations, do often have one or two more advanced dive sites such as drift or deep dives if you’re up for a thrill. 

Not really no! At around $35 per fun dive, it’s much cheaper than many other countries! The Philippines in general is also a cheap country to travel around, eat and stay in. 

This comes down to a matter of personal preference! Something I really love about the Philippines is that each dive destination tends to offer a unique scuba experience – from incredible shipwrecks in Coron to amazing coral reef and whale sharks in Bohol to insane muck diving in Dumaguete and Anilao. Read the section above on the best diving destinations in the Philippines to get a better idea on this. 

That’s a great question! Although it’s pretty easy to get around the Philippines, when to comes to dive destinations, you definitely want to do them in a certain order to travel in the most efficient way and according to how long you’ll be spending there. Check out the section on itineraries to find out more. 

The main way to travel between Philippines dive destinations is via ferry, which are fairly cheap and run regularly. Check out the getting around section to find out more about this. Sometiems you may also need to fly – but make sure you don’t dive iwthin 24 hours of flying! 

Technically you can dive most of the Philippines year round but for the best water conditions, when to go actually depends on where you go! Different areas have different dive seasons. Check out the section on Philippines Dive Season for more info. 

Whilst this does of course come down to your budget and personal preferences, the best place to stay for divers in the Philippines are generally dive resorts with fun vibes and combined restaurants and bars – or homestays and hostels near to dive centres / resorts.

For each of the best places to dive in the Philippines, I’ve actually included a separate article listing the best accommodation / resorts for divers there. And you can read about the all-time Best Philippines Dive Resorts here. 

Hot dayum – so much! There’s a huge amount of adventure actives you can enjoy in the Philippines such as caving, waterfalls, trekking, beach hopping, partying, cliff jumping, surfing and more. In each destination guide I’ve included a section on extra activities for that place. 

Scuba Diving the Philippines - Diving Squad DEBRIEFING:

In this whale shark of an article, we’ve covered an absolute f*ck ton in order to ensure you know absolutely everything – and I mean everything (!), that there is to know to get the very best out of your Philippines diving adventure – based on my own trips there in 2016, 2020 and 2023!

First we talked about why you should dive the Philippines in the first place and then I walked you through the best diving itineraries there for various lengths of trip. 

This was then followed by an in-depth look at the 12 best places to dive in the Philippines, with links to more in-depth guides and accommodation listings for each one. 

After that, I talked about my favourite Philippines dive resorts of all time and then I described getting in to the Philippines and then how to get around once your there!

This was followed by a look at partying and culture in the Philippines (which is most awesome indeed!) and then other things to do there and finally followed up up by a handy Diver’s FAQ section on most commonly asked scuba-related questions!

Finally, we find ourselves here at the article conclusion, having summarised everything we’ve gone over. I’ve actually written a helluva lot more about diving the Philippines! So, if you want to know even more, check out some of these other articles about Philippines diving here: 

Written by:



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