SCUBA DIVING PHILIPPINES

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Philippines diving

School of Sweetlips, Apo Island, Philippines | © / Mike Vietch Shutterstock

Anyone that has tried SCUBA diving Philippines for themselves, knows that in this world, it doesn’t really get too much better when it comes to quality of reef and the number of species, than here in paradise.

It really is THAT great. From world class muck sites with rare and exotic species, to sites with more healthy and vibrant reefs than most countries, Philippines has it all.

I have now spent a few year in Philippines, doing hundreds of dives all over the country, and experiencing things I have not done before. It is my goal to show you why Philippines diving is a dream for anyone.

In this guide, it is my goal to show you all of the best dive locations in the country, how to get there, what to expect, who to dive with, visa information and more.

There are a ton of options when it comes to diving here, so I will tell you what makes each one unique and special, and once you decide where you want to go, I’ll give you all the information you’ll need to make it happen.

Some locations are better for rare macro critters, like flamboyant cuttlefish and blue ring octopus, while others are known for healthy reefs and bigger things like sharks and turtles.

I will tell you which is which, but I highly recommend combining multiple locations, and creating one epic dive trip!

I’ve put in a lot of hour creating this free guide for you, so if you find it useful, I would love if you use the affiliate links below! If you do, I get paid a small commission, at no extra cost to you!

Table of Contents

1. Top 5 Dive locations in Philippines
2. Even More Philippines SCUBA Spots
3. Best Times for Diving in Philippines
4. A Few of our Favorite Critters
5. Philippines Diving Costs
6. Where to stay & Who to Dive With
7. Dive Gear you Might Need
8. Philippines Travel Information
9. Common Travel Questions
10. Suggested Reading Before you Go
11. Our Related Articles

map of philippines dive sites

Top 5 Spots for Philippines Diving

1. Dauin

scuba diving dauin

Dauin offers some of the best muck diving in the world, with chances to see a lot of rare critters, such as flamboyant cuttlefish, frogfish, blue ring octopus and much more.

2. Anilao

scuba diving Anilao

Locally known as the nudibranch capital, Anilao offers some of the best Philippines diving, and a huge variety of species and reef. It offers over 50 awesome dive sites, all with incredible rare critters.

3. Malapascua

scuba diving malapascua

Besides the famous thresher sharks, there is also Gato Island, one of the best dive locations in the country (and world), just off shore, as well as countless other little dive sites where you will be able to see a big number of macro and rare critters.

4. Moalboal

scuba diving moalboal

Moalboal has a ton of awesome dive sites, all a short boat ride from most resorts. The two most known are the famous Sardine Run, which is a giant bait ball, and Pescador Island.

5. El Nido

scuba diving El Nido

A dive trip to Philippines might not be complete without a stop in El Nido, and it’s countless beautiful islands. In this Palawan destination, expect to bump into sharks, turtles, big schools and more.

More Philippines Dive Locations

philippines scuba diving

Hairy Frogfish, Anilao Philippines | © / Bass Supakit Shutterstock

1. Boracay

Boracay is the most touristy on this list, and is known for being the party and romantic getaway. But we wouldn’t be listing Boracay just for its white beaches and bars. There is a secret location off-shore you might like, which reportedly is a migration route for big fish.

Read more: Scuba Diving BoracayFun Things to do in Boracay

2. Subic Bay

Located on the western side of Luzon island, Subic Bay was a former US naval base that is now a seaside town best known for it’s wreck dives, many of which include ship wrecks from WWII.

Read more: Scuba Diving Subic

3. Ticao

Hard core divers should Ticao on their bucket list. There are not many dive sites here, however it is one of the best places in the Philippines to see mantas rays, whale sharks, thresher sharks, and hammerheads. You’ll also be away from the crowds.

4. Coron

Coron is another great spot for wreck diving. During WWII, 24 Japanese boats were sunk in the area around Coron, as well as some US jets. There is an entire bay full of old wrecks, just waiting for divers.

Read more: Scuba Diving Coron

5. Tubbataha

Discovered in the ’70s, Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park is widely considered as not just the best of Philippines diving, but the best in the world. Tubbataha Reef is the highlight of all biodiversity in Philippines, which is saying A LOT. Is this the best when it comes to scuba in Philippines?

6. Romblon

An Archipelago made up of about twenty islands, Romblon is located in the Mimaropa region. This is another one of the lesser known or visited destinations on the list, but is well adored by divers lucky enough to have made the trip.

7. Donsol

If you prefer to see your favorite pelagic in the wild, here is a deep channel where you can see the big guys, such as mantas, pilot whales, whale sharks and even humpbacks. Many call this the alternative to Oslob, where whale sharks are fed for tourists.

Read more: Donsol diving

8. Bohol

Everyone has heard of the famous Chocolate Hills and the tiny tarsiers, but what many don’t know is that the diving around Bohol is world class. Places like Panglao and more. It’s pretty close to Moalboal & Dauin, so expect greatness.

Read more: Scuba Diving Bohol

9. Puerto Princesa

Being the gateway to the rest of the popular Palawan, you are sure to spend some time in Puerto Princesa, so you might as well explore some of it’s dive sites! Not to mention, the underground river system.

Read more: Puerto Princesa diving |  Things to do in Puerto Princesa

10. Puerto Galera

Think of Puerto Galera as the little brother of Anilao. Its nearby, has great diving, and about the same distance from Manila as Anilao is. This is a popular spot for local divers, and you can either spend your whole trip here or combine with Anilao.

Read more: Scuba Diving Puerto Galera

11. Siquijor

Siquijor is an island located in the Central Visayas region, and is known among the Filipinos for ‘witchcraft’ and voodoo, but most people come for the sandy beaches and underwater delights. You’ll love exploring the walls and macro critter sites of Siquior.

Read more: Scuba Diving Siquijor16 Things to do in Siquijor

Best times for Philippines Diving

philippines seasnakes

Banded Sea Krait, Dauin, Philippines | © / Paul Cowell Shutterstock

It is either dry or wet season in Philippines. Wet or monsoon season is from May to October and a dry season from November to April.

Although you can travel and dive Philippines year round, choose between November to April for the perfect weather. Even though the dives are always great, you might get a little seasick from wave action on the boat in monsoon season.

A Few of our Favorite Critters

Philippines species

Nudibranch in Philippines | © / Istvan Kovacs Shutterstock

One thing we love about the Philippines, is that not only are there countless dive location with countless more dive sites, but each location offers something different. In other words, there is a little something for everyone.

There are both common, popular species in Philippines, but rare and exotic ones as well. Here are a few of our favorites.

Macro critters:

  • Porcelain shrimp and crabs
  • A huge variety of nudibranch species
  • Donald Duck shrimp
  • Bobtail squid
  • Decorator crabs
  • Orangutang crabs
  • Harlequin Shrimp
  • MUCH MUCH MORE…

Cephalopods & frogfish

  • Hairy frogfish
  • Huge variety and concentration of frogfish species
  • Bluering octopus
  • Wunderpus
  • Mimik octopus
  • Flamboyant cuttlefish
  • Huge variety of octopus & cuttlefish species

Common favorites

  • Turtles… way too many
  • Whale sharks
  • Manta rays
  • Countless reef fish

Costs of SCUBA Diving Philippines

There are of course legit PADI instructors and resorts all over Philippines, that will give high quality instruction or guided dive trips, and at cheaper costs than many countries.

If I had to compare scuba diving prices to other countries, I think they could compare to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt and Honduras, to name a few.

Below I have gathered exact prices at a nice dive resort located in Dauin. (just remember that $1 equals 50 pesos)

Fun Dives

Fun dives normally come in day packages, and you can get them even cheaper if you book a whole week of dives.

Most dives aren’t shore dives, but boat diving doesn’t cost more, unless its a huge liveaboard special trip.

  • 3 fun dives: 4500php

Courses

Not all resorts charge the same, but they are all in the same ballpark. You can get a discount for multiples.

  • PADI Open Water: 22,000php
  • PADI Advanced: 17,000php
  • PADI Rescue: 22,000php
  • PADI Divemanster: 40,000php

Typical Gear Rental Pricing

The prices for the fun dives and courses don’t always include the gear rental, especially if you need a computer. So here are typical rental prices.

  • Full gear: 3000php
  • Computer: 5000php

Extra costs

Here are a few extra scuba diving costs that could pop up:

  • National park fees (Like Apo Island)
  • Nitrox uses
  • Lunch for day trips
  • Extra drinks or food
  • Photos

Where to Stay in Philippines

atmosphere dauin

Need a place to stay on your trip? Here are some of my favorite places to stay and dive with in Philippines:

SCUBA Diving Gear you Might Need

Although there are plenty of reputable dive operators in Philippines, it is always a good idea to bring your own dive gear. One leaky mask or bad computer can ruin your dive trip. 

We have lots of gear guides with our top recommendations, so check those out below:

The Best BCD For Travel

Wondering what the best BCDs are for travel? I like the Oceanic Jetpack Travel System.
– 42 liter semi-dry, Water-resistant zippers, Hide-away backpack straps
– 30lbs lift, one size fits all
– 14lbs dump-able weight / 10 lbs non dump-able
– Adjustable harness, cummerbund & lumbar support, Adjustable position weight pockets

Philippines Travel Information

Located in SouthEast Asia, Philippines is comprised of 7107 islands (7106 at high tide). Each and every one of those remote islands being situated within the coral triangle, you can see why Philippines is so sought after by dive-travelers, marine biologists and underwater explorers.

Tourism-wise, Philippines doesn’t quite get the number of tourists that nearby Thailand does, nor Bali in Indonesia, which makes now a great time to experience the dive sites and beaches, before the secret is out.

Getting to Philippines

If you click on the dive location/city that you are interested above, you will find more specific information on how to get to those specific spots within Philippines. There are many international flights to the country, most of the time with a layover or two in major cities in-between.

Many times coming from the US, you will have layovers in places like Taipei, Hong Kong or Tokyo. From Europe you might have layovers in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore or Thailand.

I’ve been to Philippines many times, always flying directly into Manila, but there are a few direct flights to Cebu City from select places like Bali, Kota Kinabalu etc.

Getting around Philippines

Before you land in Philippines, make sure to download the Grab app. It is basically the Asian version of Uber, and the cheapest and easiest ways to get around.

If you are in certain tiny islands where there are no Grab option (some still have Grab bikes), lots of locals ride in local jeepnies and shared tricycles.

Renting a car is popular as well, so book yours online before you arrive, so that they can deliver it to the airport. The roads and laws are similar to the US, and people drive on the right side of the road, so it’ll be easy for you.

Visa Information

THIS INFO IS MAINLY GOOD FOR USA CITIZENS, AND MOST 1ST WORLD COUNTRIES:

You will get a 30 entry on arrival, no visa needed ahead of time. if you want to stay longer thaN the 30 days, Philippines has the easiest (by FAR) extension in all of Southeast Asia.

You can extend by one month at a time for a few months, without leaving the country, and after a few months theY give you a Philippines Id, and offer 6-12 month visas. The one month extensions usually cost around $60 or less.

To get the extension find a immigration office in either Manila or Cebu City, and other cities around the country. They will hold your passport for a few business days, and thats it. It’s a very easy process.

As far as we have seen, this visa situation is the same for Europeans and Asians as well. If you have more information for your country, let us know!

Philippines Travel Costs

Philippines is a developing country, so you can obviously expect cheaper prices than any 1st world country, but a lot of the times you wont get much for the money, or high quality.

Prices are probably a little more expensive than Thailand, and cheaper than Singapore, for comparison. Here are some examples below:

  • Taxis and Grab Cars

I find the Grab cars are generally cheaper than a taxi that you wave down, and that’s probably why taxi hate Grab! Expect to pay around 100 pesos for a 20 minute ride.

  • Beer and Alcohol

A regular size San Miguel or a Red Horse, should cost between 50 to 100 pesos. Locals usually get the cheaper liter bottles, along with some little plastic cups to share with everyone.

Import beer is more expensive obviously, but Philippines being very Americanized, has a lot of options.

  • Eating

Street food is the cheapest option by far, and there are plenty of options lining most streets in the country. You will easily be able to get a meal for one for under 100 pesos.

  • Accommodation

If you are after super budget options, most popular destinations in the country have hostels, and you can get a dorm bed for around $10-$15.

If you want nicer accommodation while scuba diving Philippines, there are so many options that you will be able to find something for any budget.

Check the resources below for AirBNB and resort links for different Philippines locations.

  • Tipping

Besides fancy restaurants and maybe a handful of other situations I havn’t thought of, I believe the only time you should tip in a country like Philippines is when someone helps you carry your luggage, and things like that.

Talking to a local once, they told me that Westerners ruin their country with tipping, because taxis and tricycles and many other services now refuse to serve a local, because they don’t tip, and run to the foreigner instead. Its a problem.

So just because things seem cheap, don’t just throw around your money. Same goes with giving money to beggars.

  • Philippine Cuisine

As for just restaurants, you are going to find all the familiar chains from US here, some with slightly altered menus to please the locals.

Actual recipes and cuisines that Philippines is known for would be things like chicken or pork adobo, chicken manuk, and pork lechon. Lechon is a whole pig slow roasted over a fire until its skin is crispy, and can be seen at every party or get-together in the country.

Common Travel & Diving Questions

philippines scuba

Still undecided about where to visit? Let us help a little more. Here are some suggestions based on questions we’ve gotten from readers:

  • What sites are easiest to get to, closest to Manila, for a short visit?

This is a tough one, because geographically Anilao, Puerto Galera and Subic are the closest dive locations to Manila, and ones you don’t need an internal flight for.

That said, although you can drive to these locations, traffic can be horrible, and the drive take up to 3 hours. Flights to the other locations, on the other hand, take no more than one hour. So its a toss up.

Of course some of those locations also require some drive time, on top of the flights. But if you just want quality diving, no flying, and a decent road trip, combine those three locations, or just one.

  • What are the best dive sites for wreck diving in Philippines?

This is an easy one. Coron and Subic Bay, Coron having the most/best. Again, if you are coming to Philippines for tons of wrecks, these two locations could be easily combined.

However, for the truly intrepid, you can also find some lesser visited wrecks around Leyte and Coron that I recommend checking out.

  • What are the best sites to combine around Cebu?

An awesome 2+ week dive trip would be to start in Malapascua, then south to Moalboal. There are a few incredible beaches you could visit in-between, such as Bantayan Island

From Moalboal you could easily get to Dauin/Dumaguete by ferry, to do some of the best macro dives in the world, as well as Apologetics’s Island. A Malapascua, Moalboal and Dauin combo trip is one of the best trips you could ever make. EVER.

  • Where are dive locations that also have amazing beaches?

Of the locations listed above, Malapascua, El Nido, Boracay and parts of Bohol have the best beaches, as well as certain areas of Leyte. Actually, you’ll probably see good beaches near most of these.

But Malapascua or El Nido is probably my favorite. If you really want an answer to this, check out our huge list of the 101 best beaches in Philippines.

  • Is traveling/diving in Philippines safe?

This always depends on your definition of “safe”, but I have never felt anything but welcome in this country. Yes, there are some poor areas, but even in the dirtiest slums I felt safer than I do in Detroit or New York City or London.

There are a couple conflict areas, but they are very far from any location listed above, and you won’t ever notice a thing. In fact, even though I live here, anytime something bad happens, I hear it first from my mom, who heard it on the news. I’m never affected.

As for the diving itself, I find that there are mostly very legit and high quality dive operations here. I have been to much worse in Mexico, Belize and the Caribbean. They all seem to be Westerner owned, and up to PADI regulations and safety. They will take care of you.

Suggested Reading Before You Go

In the Country by Mia Alvar

These nine globe-trotting, unforgettable stories from Mia Alvar, a remarkable new literary talent, vividly give voice to the women and men of the Filipino diaspora. Here are exiles, emigrants, and wanderers uprooting their families from the Philippines to begin new lives in the Middle East, the United States, and elsewhere—and, sometimes, turning back again.

The Trial of Maximo Bonga by John Harris

On one of South East Asia’s most remote beaches, a young woman’s body is found. The corrupt local police think they have found the perfect fall guy in Maximo Bonga. But unbeknownst to them, an unlikely friendship has been forged between Maximo and John, one of the boarders of Maximo’s guest-house. Along with an eccentric bunch of modern-world rejects, John sets out to defend the old soldier in a kangaroo court set up at the local cockpit, in a paradise like no other.

Bakwit: The Power of the Displaced by Jose Jowel Canuday

A book that renders long overdue respect for the dignity and struggle of the bakwit―the people displaced by conflict and, at times, disenfranchised by aid. Canuday reminds us that the first and lasting fact in any rigorous and reverent social analysis is the resilience of the human spirit.

Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society by William Henry Scott

This book presents a sixteenth-century Philippine ethnography based on contemporaneous sources. It does not attempt to reconstruct that society by consideration of present Philippine societies, or of features believed to be common to all Austronesian peoples.  Rather it seeks to answer the question: What did the Spaniards actually say about the Filipino people when they first met them?

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