Best Tubbataha Liveaboards

Last Updated:

October 5, 2023

10 Best Tubbataha Liveaboards

Of all the many dive destinations of the Philippines, Tubbataha Marine Park is perhaps the most sought after by diehard scuba divers.

Comprising 96,828 hectares, this specially protected area is located in the middle of the Sulu Sea along the Cagayan Ridge which is comprised of many extinct underwater volcanos.

It is the best place in all of the Philippines for big pelagic action; divers have an excellent chance of seeing manta rays and whale sharks as well as many other shark species including grey reef, nurse and hammerhead sharks.

Adorning the diverse underwater landscape there is also extensive hard and soft coral reef that is home to many turtles, reef fish and all manner of critters like nudibranch, octopus, crustaceans and eels.

With a dive season from March – June, Tubbataha can only be reached via liveaboard. On the one hand this makes it the most expensive Philippines destination to dive. On the other, it means you’ll see few other divers.

There’s around a dozen Tubbataha Marine Park liveaboards and they all vary a lot in terms of price, amenities and overall vibe. To help you choose the best one for your needs, we’ve created this epic guide!

1) TOP PICK: Philippines Aggressor

  • Price: > $$

  • 7 Night Trips

  • Nightly Entertainment

  • Private Balcony Cabins

  • Jacuzzi

Of all the Philippines liveaboards to explore Tubbataha Marine Park, our number one recommendation is the Philippines Aggressor.

It’s the newest liveaboard in the Philippines, having only been built in 2021 and is an extremely modern and luxurious vessel with fantastic cabins (deluxe and private balcony options are available) and three superb levels featuring a sundeck, hot-tub, air-conditioned salon with Plasma TV, bar and outdoor grill. 

The vibe is fantastic; the dive guides are incredibly experienced and helpful; the chefs serve delicious local and American food and all of the crew are super fun and friendly providing nightly entertainment in the form of games, movies and fish ID’s.

Operating from March – June, Tubbataha cruises are generally 7 nights long and explore the very best dive sites of Tubbataha Marine Park where guests can witness manta rays, whale sharks and many other species of shark as well as superb coral reefs and all manner of fish, turtles and critters.

Where to Check Availability:

QUICK COMPARE:

Liveaboard:Standout Features:Price:Max Guests:Trip Length:
1) TOP PICK: Philippines AggressorTOP PICK, Nightly Entertainment, Private Balcony Cabins, Jacuzzi$$$247 Nights
2) Cheapest: AzaleaCheapest, Small Groups, Cozy Feel$126 Nights
3) Extra Dive: Atlantis AzoresExtra Dives, Luxury Feel, Jacuzzi, Small Groups$$$167 Nights
4) Romantic: Philippine SirenRomantic, Massages, Beautiful, Long Trips$$$167 - 13 Nights
5) Most Guests: Discovery PalawanHuge Guest Capacity, Spacious, Tasty Cuisine$$$326 Nights
6) Value for Money: SeadoorsAwesome Value for Money, Small Groups, Affordable$$166 Nights
7) Best Reviews: InfinitiAwesome Reviews, Great Crew, Special Vibes$$256 Nights
8) Free Nitrox: Stella Maris ExplorerFree Nitrox, Jacuzzi, Memory-Foam Mattress Beds$$$206 Nights
9) Second Cheapest: NarayanaAffordable, Small Groups, Private Balcony Cabins$146 Nights
10) Long Operating: ResoluteExperienced Crew, Affordable, Small Groups$166 Nights

2) Cheapest: Azalae

  • Price: > $

  • 6 Night Trips

  • Cheapest Philippines liveaboard

  • Small Groups (12 Guests)

  • Cozy Feel

     

Look, we’ll level with you: liveaboards aren’t cheap! That said, a liveaboard is the only way to explore Tubbataha Marine Park and with that in mind the cheapest one is the Azalea at just under $2K.

The Azalae also has the added advantage of taking the smallest group size of any liveabaord; catering to a maximum of just 10 guests in 4 twin cabins and 1 master cabin; whilst these cabins are “cosier” (aka smaller) than that of other liveaboards they still all feature aircon and ensuite bathrooms.

So it’s no big deal that the Azalea liveaboard isn’t as big as more expensive options; it still has a dive deck (the most important part of any liveaboard), as well as a partially shaded sun-lounge and indoor dining area where you can enjoy a variety of tasty local and American food.

Most importantly, the Azalea explores the legendary Tubbataha Marine Park with an average of 3 dives a day over 6 nights as well as a beach bbq experience thrown into the itinerary.

Where to Check Availability:

3) Extra Dives: Atlantis Azores

  • Price: > $$$

  • 7 Night Trips

  • 4 – 5 Dives a Day

  • Jacuzzi

  • Small Groups (16 Guests)

If you want to get in as many dives as possible during your trip to Tubbataha Marine Park, look no further than the Atlantis Azores which offers an impressive 4 – 5 dives a day, contrary to other liveaboards which only do 3 – 4 dives a day. 

Carrying only 16 guests, this is a luxurious liveaboard with spacious cabins including a special suite with desk and window. There is a partially-shaded sundeck with jacuzzi as well as a wet bar and roomy air-conditioned saloon and dining area with large flatscreen TV. 

The local and Western Cuisine is truly excellent and there is also wine and beer available in the evenings. Guest reviews frequently cite how professional, friendly and entertaining staff are – from the boat crew to the dive instructors.

Atlantis Azores offers 7 night trips around the finest dive sites of Tubbataha Reef where scuba divers can witness awesome pelagic action with iconic species like manta rays and whale sharks as well as dive over pristine coral reef home to all manner of fish, turtles and critters.

Where to Check Availability:

4) Most Romantic: Philippine Siren

  • Price: > $$$

  • Standard Trip Length: 7 Nights

  • Longer Trips sometimes available

  • Daily Massage Services

  • Beautiful Wooden Interior

Philippine Siren is a simply stunning liveaboard with a gorgeous wooden interior reminiscent of traditional sailing vessels. This luxury vessel offers daily massage services (extra cost) and is incredibly spacious at 40 meters long. It features a cocktail bar, a 42 inch TV with movie network, a huge sunlounge and an outdoor dining area with panoramic views.

The boat staff are reliable, professional and constantly on-hand to ensure your every need is met whilst the dive instructors are incredibly experienced and have a huge wealth of knowledge about the varied marine life that you will see.

Over 7 nights, scuba divers will discover the very best that Tubbataha Marine Park has to offer from breathtaking behemoths like whale sharks and manta rays to the diverse and dramatic underwater landscape of extinct volcanos, ridges and pinnacles coated in pristine hard and soft coral reefs and home to all manner of fish, turtles and creatures. 

Around June, Philippine Siren also offers special 13 night “Tubbataha & More” trips that combine Tubbataha diving with several other prime Philippines dive destinations.

Where to Check Availability:

5) Biggest Guest Capacity: Discovery Palawan

  • Price: > $$$

  • 6 Night Trips

  • 32 Guest Capacity (more than any other liveaboard)

  • Extra Spacious (49 meters long + 2 sundecks)

By being able to take 32 guests, the enormous Discovery Palawan takes the prize for largest guest capacity which can be a big advantage if you’re coming in a big group. There are 20 cabins: 16 lower deck and 4 upper deck; with twin and double options and all featuring aircon. 

Despite the larger guest capacity size, Discovery Palawan doesn’t feel cramped – at almost 50 meters long, Discovery Palawan is noticeably bigger than even the other large Philippines Liveaboards. Plus, there are not one but two shaded sundecks as well as an outdoor dining area and bar from which to marvel at the incredible views. 

This is mid-price liveaboard with an extremely experienced and hard-working crew who go above and beyond to make your trip a memorable one. Guest reviews frequently cite the food as (and cocktails!) as delicious, the dive instructors as incredibly knowledge and the dive sites as superb. 

Over 6 nights, guests will discover the very best that Tubbataha Marine Park has to offer from the pristine coral reef coating it’s varied and dramatic underwater landscape of extinct volcanos, ridges and pinnacles to the awe inspiring marine creatures including whale sharks, manta rays and hammerhead sharks.

Where to Check Availability:

6) Awesome Value for Money: Seadoors

  • Price: > $$

  • 6 Night Trips

  • Second Cheapest Liveaboard after Azalea

  • But Nicer Interior & Bigger Cabins than Azalea

Seadoors offers superb value for money and is a great mid-price liveaboard with nice furnishings, decent sized cabins and a large flatscreen TV in it’s indoor lounge. 

Catering to just 16 guests, it has 8 cabins all of which feature aircon and ensuite bathrooms with more spacious deluxe cabins also being available. There is an air-conditioned indoor saloon with furniture, beanbags and TV entertainment as well as a spacious outdoor sundeck, a partially shaded sundeck and an outdoor dining area with bar. 

Over 6 nights, divers will discover the majesty of Tubbataha Marine Park: a near-mythical dive destination of the Philippines with more shark and manta ray sightings than anywhere else in the country as well as superb coral reef coating spectacular underwater volcanos, ridges and canyons. 

Although Seadoors is one of the more affordable ways to discover Tubbataha Marine Park, it still visits all of the regions very best dive sites just like more expensive liveaboard options.

Where to Check Availability:

7) Best Reviews: Infiniti

  • Price: > $$

  • 6 Night Trips

  • Best Guest Reviews

  • Awesome Crew & Vibes

In terms of overall guest ratings on, no other Philippines liveaboard scores as highly as Infiniti with an average score of 9.4 / 10 across over 100 reviews. Let’s take a look at a few of these reviews:

  • “Infiniti has been the best liveaboard experience I had so far! The whole trip was effortless: communication was super easy and all the trip was very well organized. A big thumb up to all the crew from the cooks to the DMs who are all very caring and want to make sure you have the best experience” – Marion C from France

  • “We really enjoyed our trip supported by a great crew on the boat and underwater” – Daniel M from Switzerland.

  • “Obviously the diving was good but the atmosphere between all on board, guests and staff was brilliant, being a seasoned liveaboarder I can tell you that’s not always the case. Infiniti is for sure a liveaboard I will use again in the future” – Kevin G from the United Kingdom. 

All these reviews come from liveaboard.com which is also where you can read other reviews for and make a booking with the Infiniti liveaboard.

As made apparent from said reviews what makes Infiniti really special is the outstanding vibe and crew who are incredibly passionate, knowledgable and friendly – they truly go above and beyond to make your trip a memorable one. 

In between dives, guests can look forward to Yoga, kayaking, evening barbecues and nightly entertainment. There are 11 cabins catering to a maximum of 25 guests with twin, double and deluxe options. There is an indoor lounge, outdoor lounge and also a truly massive sundeck area.

Where to Check Availability:

8) Free Nitrox: Stella Maris

  • Price: > $$

  • 6 Night Trips

  • Free Nitrox

  • Jacuzzi 

Whereas Nitrox is available on many Philippines liveaboards, Stella Maris is one of the very few options to offer it for free which is a nice little bonus when you consider the fact that Nitrox usually costs around $150 per trip on other liveaboards. 

It’s actually very wise to dive with Nitrox whilst on a liveaboard as not only does it allow you to stay deep for longer it also massively reduces the risk of decompression sickness which is handy when you’re diving so intensely for a week. 

(Just remember that you need to have your Nitrox certification first – which only takes a day and can actually be completed during the liveaboard trip!).  

Besides this, Stella Maris is a nice liveaboard featuring a large sundeck and bar area with jacuzzi, spacious cabins with memory-foam mattresses and spacious saloon and dining area with large flatscreen TV entertainment. 

Where to Check Availability:

9) Second Cheapest: Narayana

  • Price: > $

  • Second cheapest liveabaord after Azalea

  • 6 Night Trips

  • Small Groups (14 Guests Max)

After Azalea, Narayan is is the second cheapest liveaboard to explore Tubbataha (costing only around a couple hundred bucks moer than Azalee) and is a great budget-friendly way to have an affordable liveaboard trip in the Philippines. 

Narayana takes just 14 guests which means that it also has one of the smallest group sizes of any Tubbataha liveaboard. In total there are 8 cabins with twin or double options, ensuite bathrooms and aircon. What’s surprising but very cool about these cabins is that the 6 on the middle deck actually have their own small private balconies with ocean views. 

Measuring 26 meters long, Narayana has a small outdoor dining area and BBQ area as well as a partially shaded sundeck and an open-air, roofed saloon with small TV. 

This is a cosy but efficient liveaboard offering awesome value for money and with a very experienced and friendly crew who strive to make sure every guest has a kickass time exploring Tubbataha Reef; the crown jewel of Philippines diving.

Where to Check Availability:

10) Long Operating: Resolute

  • Price: > $

     

  • 6 Night Trips

     

  • Operating since 1996

     

  • Very well crafted itineraries

Operating since 1996, the Resolute was one of the very first liveaboards to ever provide tours around Tubbataha Reef and subsequently provides itineraries that have been honed and fine tuned over nearly to perfection over nearly three decades around the very best dive sites of Tubbataha Reef. 

Scuba divers have a great chance of seeing iconic species such as whale sharks and manta rays as well as hammerhead, grey reef and nurse sharks in addition to superb coral reef that is home to all manner of fish, turtles and critters like nudibranch, octopus and crustaceans. 

The maximum guest size is 16, which is less than most other liveaboards; however at 27 meters long, Resolute is actually longer than most other liveaboards to have such a small group size making this vessel spacious and roomy. The boat is modernly furbished with colourful furniture, a plasma TV and an open dining area with epic views. 

There’s a total of 8 cabins; each one with ac and an ensuite bathroom – guests can choose between small and regular sized cabins. There is also a partially shaded sundeck and indoor saloon with TV entertainment. Resolute has a friendly and experienced crew and offers good value for money, being the third cheapest liveaboard to tour Tubbataha Reef. 

Where to Check Availability:

Tubbataha Reef Liveaboard - ESSENTIAL INFO:

Dive Season of Tubbataha Reef:

Whereas most parts of the Philippines can be dived year round, Tubbataha Reef is only accessible for a few months of the year:

  • March – June: Diving Season for Tubbataha Reef – although some liveaboards don’t start operating until April. For the rest of the year, rough seas and choppy waters make Tubbataha Reef un-accessible.
  • July – February: You can’t dive Tubbataha Reef during these months! Most liveaboard still operate during this period but they go to other regions of the Philippines which offer a different experience entirely. Generally, these alternative routes are around other parts of Palawan or the Visayas region such as Bohol and Malapascua.

How to Get There

Tubbataha Reef Trips always start from Puerto Princesa: the capital of Palawan province. If you’re flying in from another country; you’ll almost certainly enter the Philippines via Manilla; the country’s capital. From Manilla to Puerto Princesa you have to catch a domestic flight which only takes 90 minutes. 

Luckily, getting to Puerto Princesa airport is all you’ve gotta do! Your chosen liveaboard company will arrange to pick you up from the airport and transfer you to Puerto Princesa dock. You’ll depart for Tubbataha Reef the next day!

Handy Tips:

  • You need to have diving insurance to go on a liveaboard. Luckily this is both relatively cheap and easy to arrange online. Check out my main page on Diving Insurance to get more info and find out who is my favourite provider!
  • Many of the scuba divers you get on liveaboards are pretty hardcore and often bring some if not all of their own scuba diving gear. However, you are totally able to rent all of your gear from the liveaboard for a small fee.
  • It’s a really good idea to have your advanced open water certification before coming on the liveaboard. Whereas some liveaboards say you only need your open water cert; this could well mean having to skip dives for deep and drift dives. That said, with some liveaboards you can pay to complete your advanced open water course during the trip.
  • I’d also recommend getting your Nitrox certification which only takes a day. On some liveaboards I’ve been on, every diver uses Nitrox so you don’t want to be the odd one out as you’ll have to follow a different dive profile. Using Nitrox also greatly reduces the risk of decompression sickness which is handy when you’re diving intensely for a week.
  • Speaking of intense diving for a week (3 to 4 or even 5 dives a day), it’s pretty common for some guests to get painful ears. Ear-drops can help with this although in my experience the best way to avoid painful ears is thoroughly rinse your ears out with freshwater after ever single dive.
  • Factor into your budget a decent tip to give the staff at the end of your trip. These guys work their arses off, get hardly any off-time and often don’t actually get paid that well so customer tips are a pretty big part of their earnings.
    There’s usually around 15 staff on the boat and it’s kind of expected that guests will tip about $150 in order for each staff member to get ten bucks. Come on, if you can afford to go on a multi-thousand dollar liveaboard, you can stretch a tiny bit further to thank the people keeping you safe, fed and entertained!
  • Take ear plugs. If you’re travelling alone you can end up sharing a cabin with a stranger. Beware of snorers! That said, if your ears get sore from so much diving, you might have to skip using the ear plugs.
  • Try to be familiar with how to use a surface marker buoy as you’ll be expected to have one on you in case you get separated and need to deploy it.
  • Bring a reef hook! It’s super handy for diving in strong currents.
  • Having a dry-bag is also a great way to keep your essentials safe and dry in turbulent weather!
  • And of course, an underwater camera is the best way to immortalise your adventure!

Tubbataha Liveaboards Diving Squad DEBRIEFING:

And that concludes our summary of the best Tubbataha Marine Park liveaboards! Tubbataha Reef is the easiest place in the Philippines to see big pelagic action; we’re talking whale sharks, manta rays and also grey reef, hammerhead, nurse and whitetip reef sharks as well as superb coral reef home to an immense variety of fish, nudibranch, octopus and turtles.

That said, if you can’t afford to go on a Tubbataha Reef liveaboard, fear not! There’s many other incredible places in the Philippines that don’t require a liveaboard, making them much easier to reach and cheaper to dive!

Check out some of these articles for more info: