By Alex Hatton

Last Updated:

October 12, 2023

MOALBOAL by Diving Squad - Traveller's Guide

A busy seaside town located along the lower west side of Cebu, Moalboal is one of the best dive destinations in the Philippines to get scuba certified, meet other backpackers and par-tay!

There are many beginner-friendly dive sites where you can see turtles, sea snakes, nudibranch and reef fish. The highlight is “sardine run” where divers can swim amidst thousands of sardines!

For very lucky divers there is also the possibility of seeing thresher sharks and whitetip reef sharks!

Add to this low prices, easy reachability and several other kickass adventure activities and it’s easy to see why Moalboal is one of the most popular places in the Philippines for backpacker – divers!

But in order to get the most out of a dive trip to Moalboal, you should know several things first – such as the diving season, how to get there, the best dive sites and different areas you can stay.

Never fear! I’ve created this epic guide of awesomeness to help you scuba dive Moalboal like a boss; with tips from everything I learned during my time there in March 2023. Let’s do this!

(Pssst! This page is an info article explaining what it’s like to dive Moalboal. For a more detailed look at accommodation check out my other piece: Best Places to Stay in Moalboal for Divers!).

Scuba divers at Sardine Run dive site of Moalboal.
Scuba preparing to enter water from a dive boat in Moalboal.

Best Moalboal Dive Sites & Things to See

#1 Moalboal Sardine Run

The most famous and popular dive site of Moalboal is without a doubt “Sardine Run” which lies just a short way off Pasagnama beach.  All year-round, scuba divers, freedivers and snorkelers alike are practically guaranteed to be able to swim amidst a huge school of sardines at depths of just 33ft / 10 meters. 

The Sardines are a truly mesmerising sight to behold; as in perfect unison, they twist and turn into incredible shapes and patterns like some singular living entity.  This is the only place in the Philippines and much of the world where you have a virtually 100% chance of being able to have this experience. It is the most unique thing about scuba diving around Moalboal.

Cavern of Pescador island - favourite dive site of moalboal.

Another favourite, Pescador island is 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 just 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

Banded Sea Krait AKA Sea Snake at a Moalboal scuba diving site.

The banded sea krait is a pretty common sight around Moalboal; you have a good chance of seeing one on most dives. 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 which they paralyze with venom and slurp down whole. Yum!

Despite just one individual having enough venom to kill ten adult humans, these snakes are extremely docile and highly unlikely to bite; unless incredibly stressed which means you can get safely get fairly close to them. Just don’t try to grab one!

Banded Sea Krait AKA Sea Snake at a Moalboal scuba diving site.

#4 Green Sea Turtles

Green sea turtle at Moalboal diving site.

Another common 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 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 diving site.

#5 Coral Reefs

Coral reef at moalboal scuba site

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 at moalboal scuba site

Check out the movie I made of Diving Moalboal in March 2023:

Where to Stay in Moalboal:

There are many dive resorts and hostels to choose from in Moalboal. Generally, the cheaper options are located within the busy neighbourhood of Basdiot: this is the tourist-hub and where you’ll find most bars and restaurants. It is also close to Pasagnama beach; the launch-pad for most dive sites. 

More luxurious options tend to be away from the hustle and bustle; some are located along White Beach; which is about a fifteen minute scooter ride away. 

I’ve written a separate article reviewing the 10 Best Places to Stay in Moalboal for Divers which you can Read Here. 

However, if you don’t got time for that; here’s what I consider to be 3 of the Top Places to Stay in Moalboal for Divers: 

  1. Most Luxurious Moalboal Dive Resort: Dolphin House
  2. Affordable Backpacker Dive Resort in Moalboal: Nirvana Bamboo
  3. Partay Palace: Hangover Hostel 

Moalboal Diving Season

View of white sand beach of Moalboal from dive boat.

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. 

View of white sand beach of Moalboal from dive boat.

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 costs under $5 / 270 PHP. Buses leave from Cebu airport to Moalboal every hour until quite late.

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

You can Check Out Bus & Ferry Schedules to Moalboal by Clicking Here

Main highstreet of Moalboal with traffic and mountains in distance.

Other Things to Do in Moalboal

#1 Canyoneering

Group of backpackers on the canyoneering trip near Moalboal

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 mountain views along the way. 

With guides present the entire time, 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 activities I’ve ever done!

Group of backpackers on the canyoneering trip near Moalboal

#2 Osmena Peak

Osmena Peak viewpoint.
Shutterstock / Kyle Anthony Photography

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 on a 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!

Osmena Peak viewpoint.
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 into the spring to cool off!

#4 White Beach

White beach of Moalboal at sunsdt

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

At the weekend, tons of Filipinos 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 snorkelers as well – try going for a snorkel off Panagsama beach around sunset time!

Moalboal Nightlife

Moalboal nightlife is somewhat pumping! Despite the smallness of this town, it gets pretty damn lively.

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 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 and the rounded bar and pool table are a nice touch.
  • Chilli bar
  • Blue Mango – Arguably the most party, party of all Moalboal’s bars.
  • Mayim Beach Bar
  • Pactica’s Disco Bar

These places are 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

JP's gymnasium at Moalboal.

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 less people go here, 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 prices of diving. After Koh Tao, Moalboal 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! There’s also sh*t tons of reef fish and nudibranch!

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 that only takes 20 minutes to reach. If you’re up for a 90 minute drive, there is an amazing viewpoint at Osmena Peak. There’s also 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 islands with great diving include Panglao in Bohol for awesome reef and possible whale sharks, Dumaguete/Dauin in Negroes for epic muck diving and Camiguin for an off-the-beaten track experience. 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 guaranteed to see thresher sharks. 

Oh boy! I’m glad you asked. Just for you, I already went ahead and made an entire separate article on the Best Places to Stay in Moalboal for Divers

Moalboal Diving Squad DEBRIEFING:

Huge school of sardines at the Moalboal dive site "Sardine Run".

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 the Best Dive Sites of Moalboal (with original photos and videos from my time there in March 2023!). Next, we covered Where to Stay which was followed by When to Go and How to Get There.

After that we discussed Other Things to Do before briefly going over Nightlife then Gyms and Where to Eat. Finally we rounded it all off with a handy FAQ – classic!

After that came the debriefing…that’s the bit you’re on now, summarising everything that’s been covered. Now all that remains is for you to go ahead and book your dream diving trip to Moalboal!

By the way, when you book accommodation or a bus/ferry journey through one of the affiliate links on this site, we’ll make a small yet wholesome commission at no extra cost to yourself. Thanks! It’s support like that which helps keep Diving Squad fresh, sexy and as the best damn scuba diving blog in the multi-verse.

Plus, it’s always cheaper to book accommodation in advance than it is to pay when you get there. So just like at American Kindergarten everyone’s a winner – horay!

Check out Related Content:

Huge school of sardines at the Moalboal dive site "Sardine Run".

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Written by:

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Alex

Scuba fanatic, travel ecstatic and loveable rogue. A rootless divemaster and perpetual adrenaline-junky, Alex holds the esteemed rank of Grand Admiral of the Diving Squad; a title he most nobly awarded to himself. A scuba-junky since 2014, he's dived much of the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives, Red Sea, Ireland, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. It's hard to say where he'll pop up next for he never settles; forever a leaf on the wind... or perhaps a lone bubble blasted along on the current.