Moalboal is a small but stunning peninsula on the south western tip of Cebu Island. As one of the most advanced and developed provinces in the Philippines, the central island of Cebu and its peninsulas offer fantastic tropical beaches, warm waters and lush jungle areas to explore.
Moalboal itself is 89 kilometres away from Cebu City and is situated between the towns of Badjan and Alcantara. It continues to gain popularity as a great tourist destination, with tourists only first discovering the wonders of this destination in the 1970s. Nowadays, Moalboal is hugely popular with scuba divers as the waters boast a number of pristine coral reefs and fantastic underwater life. Due to this recent surge in popularity, Moalboal features many resorts, most of which are located on Panagsama Beach. The nearby White Beach is a beautiful stretch of sandy beach that is also well worth visiting.
Best Diving Destinations in Moalboal
Diving in Moalboal is suitable for all divers, from the absolute beginner to the highly experienced diver. With over 15 dive sites and a varied underwater landscape, Moalboal has something for everyone. The underwater scene presents caves, colourful reefs, steep walls and canyons to explore. There is even a cathedral-type cavern at Pescador Island. The view of streaming sun rays into this cathedral is a great backdrop for underwater photographers and is certainly a must-see.
Many dive sites are easily reached from the shore, whilst others will require a short boat ride not longer than 20 minutes. Most sites feature depths of between 5 – 40 metres, however some of the wall sites drop down to as deep as 65 metres. Only qualified divers will be permitted to dive that deep, however.
A wide variety of marine life can be seen in Moalboal, from the very small pygmy seahorses and nudibranchs to the larger triggerfish, turtles and even whale sharks. The sites also boast magnificent coral gardens featuring everything from stag horn corals to soft corals and table corals too. Waving sea fans are prevalent in the area and make for great hiding spots for macro life which may include rainbow fish, damsel fish and gobies. Divers should also be on the look out for eagle ray fusiliers and large tuna swimming in the distance.
It is also possible to explore the area around Moalboal by dive safari, with many of these operators exploring the popular strait between Cebu and Negros. Some of the best diving can be done early in the morning, at twilight or at night, with different things to see at each time of day. At twilight, frogfish and decorator crabs are the highlight of many dives on Pescador Island whilst night dives can present the magnificent and dazzling display of cuttlefish and phosphorescent plankton.
It is worthwhile to note that an entry fee is required to enter the Marine Park surrounding the island, so divers would need to buy these tickets prior to diving. The fee is roughly £1.45/$2.25 USD and assists the Moalboal Provincial Government in its efforts to conserve and protect the marine environment. The funds raised are also used to deter damaging fishing practices such as blast fishing and the use of cyanide and to educate local people about the dangers of these practices. It is recommended to draw cash before arriving at Moalboal, as the only ATM in the area can be temperamental especially during peak season.
Aside from the variety of dive spots available, snorkelling off the shore is another way to experience much of what Moalboal has to offer. There are even waterfall pools that you can swim in, however you’ll need to take a short walking trip inland to experience these great wonders.
Getting to Moalboal
Located on the south west of Cebu in the central Philippines, Moalboal is best reached by flying into Mactan-Cebu International airport. This busy airport receives flights from Singapore, South Korea, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles to name but a few of the international destinations. Carriers include Air Asia, Philippine Airlines, Korean Air, Emirates and others. Moalboal is located 112 kilometres from the airport and there are a number of options for travellers to reach their final destination.
Some resorts offer free transfers from Mactan-Cebu airport to the resort, whilst others will charge an additional – usually expensive – fee. Taxis are available directly from the airport, however travellers should ensure that they are ready to barter the price down to stay within their budget. Airport taxis may also make unplanned stops along the way, depending on the driver.
Getting a taxi to Cebu Southern Bus Terminal is another option, and from there a public bus would take three hours to reach Moalboal. Some of the public busses are air conditioned, however not all of them are. For a more comfortable ride, take a V-hire (mini bus) to Moalboal. Although it may work out slightly more expensive initially, after a long journey you may be seeking some additional comfort, and V-hires are quicker than general public transportation. Taxis at the airport will be able to get you to the V-hire terminal, and from there you’d need to find a mini bus going to Moalboal.
From Moalboal town, catch a tricycle to the resort areas surrounding Panagsama Beach and White Beach. The tricycles, which are just bicycles or motorbikes with a side addition, are a great and unique way to travel around. Catching a tricycle can be an enjoyable and interesting experience as the drivers expect you to barter and negotiate the price of the journey beforehand and may try to take you to a different resort as they’ll receive a commission from the resort if you decide to stay there. Once your destination and journey price are set, however, it’s time to get ready for a quick and fun ride around Moalboal town in true local style.
Where to Stay in Moalboal
Many visitors choose to stay at either Panagsama Beach (Basdiot) or White Beach (Basdako), where there are plenty of accommodation options to suit a range of budgets. As it has been a popular tourist destination for slightly longer than White Beach, Panagsama Beach tends to have more entertainment options and more dive shops, however if you’re looking for a quieter stay, White Beach is guaranteed to have fewer tourists.
Either way, divers will be in good hands when trying to arrange a dive as the majority of operators go out multiple times a day. Equipment is available to hire and is generally of a good standard, but as always divers should check their own equipment before entering the water. There are also scuba courses available at a number of the dive shops, allowing you to spend the time advancing your qualification to explore even more of our underwater world. Dive instructors have moved here from all over the world, so many languages are spoken and it may just be possible to find a dive instructor that speaks your language which is always a plus.
For non-divers, the nearby Pescador Island is a popular tourist attraction, as is Orchid Farm which is just a short tricycle ride away from Moalboal. This nursery is likely to be just as colourful as the underwater scene in Moalboal, boasting orchids and other stunning tropical flowers as well as a pool which visitors can use. For another relaxing daytime activity, opt to sunbathe on the stunning sandy beaches of Panagsama or White Beach, where you’ll also find an array of restaurants serving every type of food imaginable. It is also possible to go horse riding or sea kayaking in Moalboal, and your resort’s reception staff will be able to recommend local companies to assist with arranging these activities. Kawasan waterfalls is a great day trip for all ages offering jungle walks and the chance to swim in the pleasant waterfall pools.
For adventure-seekers, Moalboal has plenty to offer including canyons, waterfalls and great forest treks. There is even a company offering kid-friendly adventures where the younger visitors will be entertained with exploring caves, trekking through the jungle and rafting near the waterfalls.
At night, why not check out the wide range of pubs and bars in the area, offering colourful cocktails and even karaoke on some nights.
When to Visit Moalboal
Luckily for divers, it is possible to dive at any time of the year in Moalboal, however the months of December to April are generally considered the best diving months due to the warm, dry weather and absence of storms or typhoons. Although visitors in December can experience occasional rain showers, the area’s annual rainy season occurs between June and November. Even during this time, Moalboal’s weather is quite mild and the rain tends to come in short bursts of scattered showers rather than an entire monsoon effect.
Temperatures are always mild to warm and can reach as high as 32°C during the hotter months of December to April. In January, the water temperature is unlikely to be colder than 26°C and visibility is usually in the region of 10-35 metres. September, October, November and December are the months most likely to experience typhoons as Moalboal is situated just below to East to North East typhoon path. Luckily for visitors and the locals of Moalboal, the full force of these typhoons is not felt on the island, however windy and rainy conditions can be expected when nearby areas are hit by a typhoon.