Guide to Scuba Diving The Philippines

As I travel the globe in search of the best dive locations on earth, people constantly ask me where my favorite countries for diving are. It is really hard to answer, as each has its own characteristics and highlights, as well as out-of-water delights. But if I had a gun to my head and had to choose, I would say scuba diving Philippines is definitely one of my favorite.

Currently I am based in Cebu, on a mission to document, explore and share with you the top dive sites in Philippines. I am slowly making my way island to island, beach to beach, and boat to boat, to film and review all of the greatest dive locations in the country. Many of these dive locations have made our top 100 dive sites in the world list, but as I go I am finding out that they are ALL contenders and amazing.

In this guide not only will you get my honest opinions about each location, but detailed information on how to get there, where to stay, who to dive with, best times of year for diving, and what you can expect to see underwater, as well as local land attractions. – NOTE: The locations on this list are indeed the best in the country, but are not ranked from 1-15. The list is random, in order of when I arrived at each. Number 15 might be just as good as number 1. You decide.

And as usual, as I make my way around this amazing country, I am Instagraming daily underwater videos!

GUIDE TO SCUBA DIVING PHILIPPINES

1. Moalboal

scuba diving Philippines

I had never really heard of Moalboal before arriving, just that it was home to a giant sardine ball I should dive. Turns out it was much more than that, and is now one of my favorite spots to dive. Maybe I’m getting old and lazy, but these days its not only great diving that makes me like a place, but the ease and comfort and accessibility a location also offers. Throw in a few land attractions worth seeing and you seal the deal. Moalboal is located at the southern end of Cebu, a short bus or taxi ride from the airport, is an establish and lively town, has decent wifi (for Philippines), great resorts, restaurants and bars, an amazing beach, and other attractions, really complimenting what turned out to be some amazing dive sites.

Dive sites in Moalboal:

Moalboal has a ton of awesome dive sites, all a short boat ride from most resorts. Some resorts even have great house reefs or wall dives. Here is a list of sites that I know about, and if you have time, try to hit them all. I’m sure locals know of even more, and you can ask if you’re there long enough. I should also mention that Moalboal is the place that got me sick of turtles. Expect to see so many turtles, huge and small, that you don’t want to see ANY more!

  • The famous sardine ball. This is the biggest bait ball I’ve ever seen. It consists of millions of tiny sardines, that are just feet from the local White Beach. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when all of the sudden the sun was blocked out and a giant cloud was dancing in synch with crazy movements. They are never still, as barracuda and trevali and jacks stalk the ball, and one day we even saw a thresher shark with its giant tail at the sardine buffet. I also count believe how close it was to the local popular beach, and even snorkelers could see this huge mass of fish-cloud. You won’t want to miss this.
  • Pescador Island. For me the sardine are worth a dive or two, and make great footage, but Pescador macro critters are where its at. This is, as far as I know, the furthest out dive site, but I think the best. Since its a longer trip (still only 20-30 minute boat ride), you will probably do 2-3 dives around the island. Every side is great, and get ready for awesome hard and soft coral, turtles, frog fish, cuttles, octopus, and loads more awesome small stuff. You will run out of air before you run out of area to explore. Make sure your shop is taking you there at least one day.
  • Sunken Island. This is an underwater pinnacle for advanced divers, where you can see lots of lion fish, as well as turtles, frogfish, nudis and more.
  • Airplane Wreck. This little plane was purposely sunk at around 20 meters, and has started to attract some good coral and fish. For me seeing a plane underwater was just a new and fun experience. Not the most beautiful reef and critter spot, but still unique.
  • Balabagon. A muck diving site.
  • Oscars Cave.
  • Mandarin Fish Point.
  • Bandian Island.
  • Ronda Marine Sanctuary.
  • Kassai.

How to get to Moalboal:

Moalboal is one of the more accessible and easy to get to locations on the list. Most people originate in Manila and take a flight to Cebu City (Mactan Int), which is a 45 minute flight, and very cheap if booked ahead. Check Skyscanner, Cebu Pacific Air and Air Asia for dirt cheap flights. Far enough in advanced, I’ve even gotten from Manila to Mactan for $25. From Cebu City, you can either take a taxi (about 3 hours and 4000 pesos) or a AC bus from South terminal (about 4 hours and 250 pesos).

Did you see my vlog from when I was diving in Moalboal?

2. Malapascua

scuba diving philippines

Its a small island with not a lot to do, unless you’re a diver. If you ARE a diver, you will never run out of fun. I did a dozen or more dives here, and every one was incredible. The highlight of the island is the cleaning station where you can nearly always see a thresher shark or three, roaming around getting a cleaning, many times joined by some sting or manta rays. If you have never seen a thresher, they are the most unique shark I’ve ever seen (pictured above). They are shaped like a submarine, but with a HUGE tail reaching high above its body. Definitely unique.

Scuba diving in the Philippines is world renowned for its exotic macro critters, but Malapascua diving is renowned for these awesome Thresher sharks. Even though I did love seeing those, I also did a ton of other dives and seen great stuff like nurse and white tip sharks, seahorses, sting rays, spanish dancers, caves, electric clams and about all the macro stuff you can think of, including my favorites: nudibranchs.

Dive sites in Malapascua:

  • Monad Shoal. This is the dive site that put Malapascua on the map, and keeps divers coming. This is where you will find the cleaning station frequented by the strange thresher sharks, and sometime whale sharks. Its a 5am dive, so be prepared.
  • Gato Island: Whitetip Alley, The Guardhouse, Nudibranch City, The Cave, Cathedral. For my seeing the weird thresher sharks is an amazing experience, but the diving around Gato Island is even better. So many great things to see and experience, and the dive you’ll remember.
  • Lighthouse. Another great dive, with mandarin fish siting being common. If you are lucky you can even see the mating mandarins.
  • Lapus Lapus Island. This is one of the favorites for the local guides, with incredible reef.
  • North Point. A macro photographer’s dream
  • North Wall.
  • Dona Marylin Wreck.
  • Lighthouse Wreck.
  • Maripipi Wreck. A wreck with amazing growth, and rarely visited because of its 3 hour boat ride to the site.
  • Pioneer Wreck.
  • Twins. A very close and easy shallow site.
  • Sand Point.
  • Dakit Dakit.
  • Sambowan. 3 hour boat ride and rarely visited, but awesome place for macro including pygme seahorses.
  • Calanggaman Island. A deep dive next to a beautiful white sand island for surface intervals.
  • Nunez Shoal. Great wall drop off where anything can show up.
  • Ka Osting. Shallow easy dive not far out, great for macro. Similar to Banting, but know to have hairy frogfish.
  • Bantigi.
  • Bugtong Bato.
  • Chocolate Island. Real close to Cebu mainland.

How to get to Malapascua:

Getting to Malapascua is basically the same as getting to Moalboal (above), except you take a bus in Cebu City from the north terminal instead of the south. Its a little closer at about 3 hours and 200 pesos, or around 3000 pesos in a taxi. Once you get to the ferry terminal, you will pay a boat to take you to the island for maybe 75 pesos, that takes 30 minutes or more depending on waves. My advice is to get to the boat before 4pm, because after that only more expensive private boats are running.

3. Southern Leyte

scuba diving philippines

Southern Leyte is one of the lesser known and visited scuba diving locations in Philippines, and maybe thats what makes it such an awesome place to go. Its best attribute its that it is a macro photographer’s dream spot, where you can see just about anything thats on every divers wishlist.

Dive sites in Leyte:

  • San Isidro MPA.
  • San Antonio. Wall Dive to 30 mts, hard & soft corals, large areas of stag & elkhorn corals
  • Little Lembeh. Great macro site, nudibranch, ghost pipefish, seahorses etc
  • Malitbog Pier.
  • Bunga bend.
  • Peters Bend.
  • Bulauarte.
  • Taancan.
  • Voltaire.
  • Concepcion.
  • Bruno Secret Garden.
  • Max Climax. Spectacular wall dive with resident large snappers, banded sweetlip and hard & soft coral
  • Bulauarte.
  • Padre Burgos.
  • Limasawa Island. A wall dive where during some seasons you’ll see whale sharks.
  • Napantao. Another great pelagic site, better to dive at slack site.
  • Ghost town. Want to see some mimic octopus?

How to get to Leyte:

You will need to fly to Tacloban City from either Manila or Cebu City, and then take a taxi, bus or rent a scooter to your resort. There are also long haul ferries from lots of locations, if you are really adventurous.

4. Anilao

scuba diving philippines

Anilao offers some of the best Philippines diving, and most variety. It offers over 50 awesome dive sites, giving you the chance to discover amazing macro critters such as a huge variety of nudibranchs. Muck dives offer so many macro marine life that you never get bored, but there are also wrecks and caves and big critters to see too. Basically its everything available in the Visayas all rolled into one!

Anilao is a nudibranch lovers paradise. Have fun counting the different species that you’ve never seen before! Its not just a nudi paradise here, and underwater photography courses and competitions run year round. Maybe if you have to choose one location to dive in Philippines, with the most opportunities to see cool stuff, and easy to get to, this could be the one to choose. Just a short hop or bus from Manila, Anilao is not a long journey at all.

Dive sites in Anilao:

  • Twin Rocks: Probably the most popular dive site in Anilao. Great marine life from 10m and down. Expect to see schooling jacks, jawfish, along withplenty of smaller fish and colourful corals.
  • Secret Bay: A great spot for muck divers. Keep your eye out for mimic octopus, wonderpus, frogfish, seahorse, and more.
  • Kirby’s Rock: A large wall teeming with wildlife. Great visibility and lots of macro opportunities.
  • Beatrice Rock: Stronger currents at this site, but great visibility. Snappers, surgeonfish, jacks, and turtles can all be found at this dive site.
  • Sombrero Island: From the surface, this dive site resembles a hat (hence the name). Gorgonians, black coral, turtles, snappers, and mantas are just a few species of marine life you will see here.
  • Cathedral Rock: A gradual slope leading to a healthy reef with mantis shrimp, pygmy seahorse, ribbon eels,
  • Dead Palm: A healthy reef with both hard and soft corals, pygmy seahorse, cleaner crabs, mantis shrimp, porcelain crabs, anemone fish, nudibranchs, and more.
  • Tres Cuevas: Steep to gradual slope going down to 35m. Weedy scorpion fish, anenomie fish, porcelain crabs, nudibranch, gobies, and cleaner shrimp are all common here.
  • Caban Cobe: A colorful coral reef filled with a variety of different shrimp, crab, and lobster as well as rainbow hawk fish, nudibranchs, and flamboyant cuttlefish.

How to get to Anilao:

Getting to Anilao is straight forward, you just drive about two hours south of Manila. Most Anilao resort have their own shuttles that can pick you up at the airport or Manila hotels, but there are also buses heading that way. Its not a far distance at all.

5. Dumaguete/Dauin

scuba diving philippines

The dive sites around Dauin or Dumaguete, aside from Apo Island, are world renowned for the muck diving and rare species. For me Dauin had a lot of firsts, such as flamboyant cuttlefish, wonderpus, hairy frogfish, ornate ghost pipefish and much more. For the regular diver looking for pretty coral scenes, you can always visit Apo Island, a 30 minute boat ride from most resorts, but Dauin is a macro underwater photographers dream.

Dive sites in Dumaguete/Dauin:

  • Apo Island. This island is surrounded by probably one of the best reefs in Philippines, and you’ll be sure to see dozens of turtles.
  • Mainit: The warm waters here, thanks to thermal activity, attract plenty of marine life including fusiliers, snappers, surgeonfish, dogfish tuna, white tip sharks, stingrays, porcupine fish, nudibranchs, and more.
  • El Dorado Reef: A combination of a reed and muck dive there are plenty of turtles to be seen eating the sea grass, along with a sandy area where you can find xenon crabs, whip coral shrimp, and nudibranchs.
  • El Dorado Deep: Old ship wreck and car parts make up this muck diving site. Keep an eye out for ghost pipefish, flamboyant cuttlefish, pygmy seahorse, porcelain crabs, and peacock razorfish.
  • Pyramids: An artificial reef made up of pyramid shape metal, the Pyramids is another great muck dive site. Sponges, soft and black corals, and a variety of marine life including Donald Duck Shrimp, nudibranchs, and thorny seahorse make it a popular place for underwater photographers.
  • Masaplod Sur:Sea grass, sandy patches, and care tires create this dive site which is fantastic for macro photography. Look for goatfish, nudibranchs, pegasus sea moths, ghost pipefish, and frogfish.
  • Masaplod Norte: A shallow reef dive with a light current. Watch for snappers, trumpetfish, green sea turtles, batfish, nudibranchs, and flasher wrasse.
  • Dauin Norte: Starting on a sandy slope and ending on a coral reed, Dauin Norte just might be the most popular dive site in the area. Hawksbill and green turtles, gobies, frogfish, ghost pipefish, crabs, shrimp, lobster, and the occasional blue ring octopus can all be found here.
  • Daiun Sur: Very similar to Dauin Norte, except there is no current here making for an incredibly relaxing dive.
  • Ginama-an: Another artificial reef best known for the ability to spot mimic octopus. Also look for frog fish, anemone fish, and harlequin shrimp.

How to get to Dauin/Dumaguete:

You will for sure be diving out of a resort in Dauin, but first you’ll have to get to the bigger neighbor of Dumaguete, where the airport and ferry terminal is. The fastest and easiest way to get to Dumaguete will be by flying from Manila (45 minutes) or Cebu City (20 minutes), and flights are dirt cheap from either. One other way I did arrive though, is by ferry from Santander in the south of Cebu (20 minutes), which is the best choice if you are already in Moalboal or Oslob. Just take a trike from either and ask for the fast or slow ferry in Santander going to Dumaguete. Once in Duma, just ask any tricycle driver to take you to your resort in Dauin (about 40-60 minutes), they will surely know it.

Did you see my vlog from muck diving in Dauin?

6. Coron

scuba diving philippines

Coron is known as now of the best places in the world for wreck diving. During WWII, 24 Japanese boats were sunk in the area around Coron. Some have been discovered and are in fantastic condition to dive today. Some of which divers can easily penetrate. Keep in mind many of these wrecks are deep, so divers should have (at least) their advanced open water certification. If shipwrecks are you thing, Coron is a must when scuba diving the Philippines.

Dive sites in Coron:

  • Barracuda Lake. One of the most beautiful water entries in the world, nestled in the center of surrounding cliffs. What else makes this dive unique, is that it had thermal vents heating it, and at the bottom the water gets almost unbearable hot. Very strange, but a must.
  • Atkisushima: A true ‘warship’, the Atkisushima is 118m long and lies between 22m and 36m deep. Divers will notice some interesting artifacts, including 25mm AA guns, but are warned to be wary around the live ammunition. Wreck penetration is possible for those with training.
  • Irako Maru: A provision ship measuring 147m in length. She lies nearly upright between a depth of 34 and 45m. Possibly the best site for this interested in deep wreck penetrations.
  • Kogyo Maru: An Imperial Japanese auxiliary supply ship, she lies on her starboard side at a depth of 22-36m. Penetration possible through the engine room and cargo holds.
  • Okikawa Maru: An oil tanker measuring 170m long, she now lies at a depth of 10-26m. The bow has broken off but is still nearby. Access the engine room (via the propeller shaft), crew berthing docks, or oil storage room.
  • Morazan Maru: An English built ship that was later seized by the Japanese, this 93m ship lies in relatively shallow waters at 12-25m. Divers can penetrate the boilers and the engine room.
  • Tangat: Another freighter captures by the Japanese, the Tangat Wreck is 127m long and lies at a depth of 23-30m. Penetration is available in the cargo hold and some decks.
  • Kyokuzan: An auxiliary freighter, the Kyokuzan was the last of the ships to be sunk. She’s 135m long and lies mostly upright at a depth of 22-39m. It’s a fair distance from the rest of the wrecks, and takes awhile to get to. As such, this is usually a 2-3 dive wreck.
  • Bugor Reef: A favourite for underwater photographers; plenty of hard and soft corals and an abundance of marine life. Look for giant clams, eels, turtles, and the occasional leopard or guitar shark.
  • 7 islands Reef: Another beautiful reef with plenty of sea life. It also makes a great night dive.

How to get to Coron:

Theres really only one smart way to get to Coron: fly. Flights are very short from Manila, and there might even be some flights from Cebu. Flights are really cheap, especially in advanced. The Coron airport is called Busuanga. Boats from El Nido are possible, but the trip is long, gruelling, and occasionally cancelled due to weather.

7. El Nido

scuba diving philippines

Scuba Diving Philippines might not be complete without a stop in El Nido, and it’s countless islands. To get there I took the very long and grueling boat from Coron, which wasn’t a whole lot of fun. But the seasickness was worth it once I arrived in paradise. Tiny El Nido, situated along the nice El Nido beach, is definitely a flip-flops-year-round beach town, and one I love. Its a sweet stop for non divers as well! Diving in Palawan is pretty limited, as its still pretty wild and without many roads. That means diving El Nido is really the only option (besides the far off shore Tubbataha). Luckily you can see just about anything under the waves at the various sites around El Nido.

The biodiversity in Philippines is really showcased underwater here. Non divers go on the popular El Nido island tour, which takes you to some insanely beautiful desert islands and beaches. Thankfully for El Nido divers, going to the sweet dive sites lets you basically see the same islands you would be seeing on the tour. Inbetween dives we would hang out at eat on some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen. They were definitely the greatest places I’ve ever done a surface interval! The diving itself? Incredible. I ran into black tip sharks, reef sharks, countless colorful macro critters, dark caves with electric clams, and everything else you would hope for while diving in Philippines.

Dive sites in El Nido:

  • Tagbao Island: A shallow dive, especially good for beginner or open water divers. Lots of colourful corals and a variety of marine life.
  • Twin Rocks: A slope down to 21m leading to a sandy bottom. Sea whips , table corals, and sponges line the area. Plenty of angel fish and stingray to be found as well.
  • The Wall: One of the most popular dive sites in El Nido, the wall drops down to about 30m and is covered in colourful corals and numerous nudibranchs.
  • Biet Point: A sheltered dive site with lots of lettuce coral and sponges. Expect to see jacks, angelfish, cuttlefish, and barracuda.
  • The Labyrinth: Swim through the narrow corridors of this unique boulder formation. There are a couple of swim throughs and some good macro life.
  • Dilumacad: A cave dive big enough for two people divers to enter together. The tunnel runs about 20m to a cavern in the centre. Look for small fish and crabs on the sandy bottom. The exit is narrow, only 1 diver at a time, and about 10m long.
  • Bicanayos Rock: Good spot for pelagics. Check around the big boulders for white tip sharks.
  • Banayan Point: Another great spot for pelagics, including tuna, mackerel, and jacks.
  • Inbogal Point: Plenty of gorgonians and corals. Watch for jacks, tuna, mackerel and a unique species of angelfish, the Pomacanthus annularis.

How to get to El Nido:

Getting to El Nino is still kinda a pain, but it gets easier each year. You have to fly from Manila or Cebu City to Puerto Princessa (40ish minutes), then find a taxi or shared mini bus/van heading to El Nido. The cheap mini busses are easy to find as most people are making the same journey. Then you have a 4-6 hour drive through the hills to El Nido, depending on weather and road conditions. They did make a small airport lately, but I think its only small private planes still. There is also a boat that goes between Coron and El Nido that I did, but it was such a tough and miserable experience, cramped in the dirty hold of a smoking boat for 12 hours, that I won’t even recommend it. But if you are on super budget and in Coron, ask around.

8. Bohol

scuba diving philippines

Bohol is a beautiful and large island in the Philippines. Everyone had head 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.

Dive sites in Bohol:

  • Arco Point: Best known for the colonies of sea snakes, but you will also find frogfish, clownfish, anemone fish, and more.
  • Balicasag: Considered to be one of the best dive sites in Asia. Coral walls and gardens, tons of turtles, schooling jacks, moray eels, frogfish, barracudas, and the occasional whale shark.
  • BBC: Two Jeepney wrecks covered in coral. A couple of slopes with corals and sea fans (keep an eye out for pygmy seahorses), and frogfish, spiny devil fish, anemone fish, and more.
  • Black Forest: Lots of black corals, look for groupers, trevally, and barracuda.
  • Cathedral: A reef turns into a vertical wall extending to about 45m.
  • Danao Beach: Set on a vertical wall that drops down to 25m with plenty of crevasses and overhangs. keep an eye out for giant frogfish here.
  • Diver’s Heaven: A shallow reef with a deep slope. Big mouth mackerels, tuna, triggerfish, and turtles are all common here.
  • Kalipayan Wall: A vertical wall dropping to 18m. Sandy bottom with mantis shrimp, clown frogfish, comet fish, and red tooth trigger fish.
  • Momo: A vertical wall dropping 40m with plenty of hard and soft coral. Watch for nudibranchs, gobies, and pyjama cardinal fish.
  • Pamilacan: Great drift dive with the possibility of seeing whale sharks or mantas.
  • Ray Point: Sandy slope going down to 15m. Sported stingrays, stargazers, frogfish, and lots of macro life live here.
  • Tawala Reserve: A relatively new reserve, expect lots of schooling fish including yellowtail barracuda, mackerel, and surgeon fish. Plenty of smaller fish as well.

How to get to Bohol:

By far, the easiest way to Bohol is by plane. The local airport is Tagbilaran. It is also possible to get to Bohol by boat; a relatively easy option is you are coming from Cebu. It is 1.5 hours for the fast boat, or about 4 hours for the regular boat.

Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Scuba Diving Malaysia

9. Boracay

scuba diving philippines

Boracay is known as both a party island and a romantic islands in the Philippines. Beach bars and clubs attract numerous backpackers, while luxury resorts are perfect for honeymooners or couples looking for a romantic break. As such, it is one of the more expensive islands in the country. But, while the famous white sandy beaches may be perfect for romantic walks or party-goers, the coral reefs and shipwrecks under the waves make Boracay a must when scuba diving in the Philippines.

Dive sites in Boracay:

  • Yapack: Made up of four unique spots, Yapak is probably the best known dive site in Boracay. Yapack 2 is the usual favourite: made up of two walls covered in corals and fans, you’ll see plenty of pelagics here. If you are lucky, maybe even a hammerhead. Note: Yapack is only for experienced divers as the walls go from 30m-60m deep.
  • Angol Point: a shallow reef dive with great visibility and lots of macro opportunities. Also a fun spot for night dives
  • Crocodile Island: Another popular dive site, Crocodile island has a healthy coral reef, plenty of macro, and of course the normal reef fish found in the area.
  • Laurel Island: Steep reef slopes and walls with both hard and soft corals. A good swim through called the tunnel, and lots of macro photo opportunities at about 10m.
  • Bat Cave: A challenging site best left for experienced divers, the Bat Cave is only 6m deep so should only be attempted when conditions are right (no waves). Lobsters, lion fish, sea snakes, and gorgeous corals can be found here.
  • Friday’s Rock: An easy dive site with a maximum depth of 18m. You’ll see all the typical Philippine marine life here; sweetlips, parrotfish, triggerfish, etc. Good spot for photography.

How to get to Boracay:

The easest way to get into Boracay is by plane. There are two airports Caticlan, which offers flights from Manila or Cebu only. It’s smaller, but closest to the jetty (about a 10 minute walk or short tricycle ride). The second airport, Kalibo, is much larger and offers more flights from the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. However, it is nearly 1.5 hours away from the jetty. You can take a minivan to the jetty, however they only leave when full so you may have to wait an hour.

From the jetty you will take a boat to Borocay. There you will find numerous tricycles that you can hire to take you to your accommodation.

10. Tubbataha

scuba diving philippines

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. No list of the top diving in the world can be complete without Tubbataha Reef being in the top 10 at least! Because of it’s remote location between the islands of Palawan and Mindanao, Tubbataha can only be reach by livaboard, and only when sea conditions allow. Tubbataha Reef is the highlight of all biodiversity in Philippines, and for divers its one of the most beautiful places in Philippines.

You will be sure to run into many types of sharks and ray, turtles, all kinds of nudibranch and other macro critters, moray eels and anything else you can think of. The national park is extremely protected, and even the entry fees for it go to helping protect and conserve it for the future. Its a must see in the Philippines for any dive enthusiast.

Dive sites in Tubbataha :

  • Jessie Beazley: Actually four different dive sites (North end, South End, Reef Shark Pint, and White Sand Cay). Expect slopes with plenty of coral, possible strong currents, and almost guaranteed shark sightings.
  • Turtle Reef: Coral gardens with lots of turtles
  • North Rocks: A slope leading to a seemingly endless wall. Snappers, grunts, and sharks are all common sightings here.
  • Bastera Reef: a sandy cay with a ship wreck on the east side of the dive site.
  • Arena Island: small coral islets with sandy cays and coral reefs on the fringes.
  • South Islet: Great drift diving opportunities. Pelagic can be seen in the drop off.
  • North Atoll – There are several dive sites around the North Atoll including:
  • South Rock: A steep wall some overhangs. Lots of large tuna, longface emperors, and sea cucumbers.
  • Bird Island: A steep wall with switm-throughs, crevasses, and overhangs. Lots of hard corals and sharks can often be seen lying in the sandy areas.
  • Wall Street: A popular coral dive with a sheer wall.
  • Washing machine: Constantly changing currents, home to many grey reef sharks
  • Malayan Wreck: An old ship wreck home to plenty of fish including eagle rays, dogtooth tuna, angelfish, and moray eels.
  • Amos Rock: Large gorgonians and whips. One of the best spots for sharks, mostly white tip and grey reef sharks.
  • Marine Park
  • Ranger Station
  • Seafan Alley
  • Shark Airport
  • Terraces
  • South Atoll: Like with the North Atoll, there are several dive sites here including:
  • Black Rock: Sandy channels with patrolling sharks and sometimes mantas
  • Delsan Wreck: the remains of a small ship wreck, regular hunting grounds for grey reef sharks.
  • Lighthouse: hard and soft corals, tons of anemone and anemone fish.
  • South West Wall
  • Garden Wall
  • Eiger Wall

How to get to Tubbataha:

As mentioned above, Tubbataha is only accessibly by liveaboards. Divers will fly into Puerto Princesca airport on Palawan where the operators will usually meet them and take them to the jetty.

11. Puerto Galera

I 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.

Dive sites in Puerto Galera:

  • Canyons: made up of three canyons, this dive site is a good drift dive with plenty of fish. Currents are strong so this site is not recommended for novice divers. Nitrox is also strongly recommended here.
  • Shark Cave: A small cave where resting sharks are often found during the daytime. Nitrous is recommended here as well.
  • Hole in the wall: Best when there is a sick dive. Lots of fish and a cool hole about 12m down to swim through.
  • Sabang Wrecks: Three small boats create artificial reefs with plenty of fish. Maximum depth of 30m making it possible to explore all three in one dive.
  • Sinandigan Wall: The best spot to see nudibranchs; the wall is covered with at least 10 species of them.
  • West Escarceo: Great for drift dives. Lots of moray eels, schools of red-tooth trigger fish, and blue spotted rays on the sandy bottom.
  • Monkey Beach: A gentle slope with lots of coral and a small sailboat wreck.
  • Kilima Steps: Different levels of ‘steps’ with plenty of marine life including nudibranchs, octopus, lionfish, table corals and sponges.
  • St. Christopher: An old wreck with lots of marine life; great place for underwater photography.
  • Dungon Wall: Another great photography site with two small wrecks, lots of fish, and healthy coral.
  • Fish Bowl: For deep divers only (40m) great spot to see resting reef sharks.
  • La Laguna Point: Awesome night dive for sleeping turtles, and maybe the Spanish dancer.
  • Sabang Point: Lots of gorgonian fans so look for pygmy seahorse, and ghost pipefish.
  • Pink wall: a large wall covered in, you guessed it, pink coral. Great spot for night dives.
  • Maricaban: Strong currents surrounding a couple of small islands. Beautiful corals and a good place to watch for passing reef sharks, tuna, and jacks.
  • The Atoll: A large rock covered with pink and red coral. Lots of nudis here, including some rare species. Also watch for white tip sharks resting on the reef shore.

How to get to Puerto Galera:

Getting to Puerto Galera from Manila is easy. Unless you have a vehicle and are planning to drive yourself, the easiest way to travel is by JAM transit. They leave every hour from Cubao (Manila) to the Puerto Galera pier. The total journey time is about 2 hours.

12. Subic Bay

scuba diving philippines

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 dive sites, some of which include ship wrecks from WWII.

Dive sites in Subic Bay:

  • Oryoku: A WWII wreck that lies at about 20m at the deepest part. Now home to plenty of reef fish.
  • Seiun Maru: Another WWII wreck, lying at about 27m.
  • USS New York: A shallow wreck, and one of the most dived wrecks in Asia, the USS New York is known for it’s easy access that is suitable for almost all divers.
  • AN LST: At 28-35m, this is one of the deepest wrecks in Subic Bay, but usually with great visibility up to 30m.
  • El Capitan: Resting between 5 and 20m, El Capitan can be penetrated at about 18m with a swim though to the accommodation area of the ship.
  • Patrol Boat: This wreck sits at 20-25m. Lots of marine life around the wreck and you can follow the cable to nearby reef which is a good place to end the dive.
  • LCU Landing Vessel: Lies between 5m-20m deep. Great spot for underwater photography.
  • The Canyon: Good drift dive with lots of marine life and coral.

How to get to Subic Bay:

Getting to Subic Bay from Manila is easy by bus. Go to the Victory Liner bus station and catch the bus that goes to Olongap (a direct service, the bus leaves every 30 minutes). The ride is about 4 hours long, with a rest stop halfway though. Once in Olongap, you can take a taxi or a tricycle to your accommodation.

13: Siquijor

Siquijor is an island located in the Central Visayas region, close to both Cebu and Bohol. It’s known among the Filipinos for ‘witchcraft’, or the local healers that live in the mountains, but most people come for the sandy beaches and scuba diving. So if you can survive the angry girls putting pins in your voodoo doll, you’ll love scuba diving Siquior.

Dive sites in Siquijor:

  • Daquit Shoal: A gentle slope with tonnes of marine life: frogfish, nudibranchs, clownfish, and beautiful coral gardens.
  • Sunken Island: Walls covered in coral; home to lots of nudibranchs. keep your eye out for manta and devil rays.
  • Maite: An easy dive site with fantastic muck diving.
  • Tubod Sanctuary: Hard and soft corals with plenty of reef fish. Some macro opportunities here as well.
  • Paliton Wall: Great visibility here. A large wall dropping as low as 50m at some points. At around 35m there is an overhang where plenty of glass fish and lionfish.
  • Sawang: A cool tunnel to swim though, and plenty of coral. Good photo for underwater photography.
  • Tulapus Sanctuary: A soft core green with lots of barracuda, snappers, angelfish, turtles, and the occasional reef shark.
  • Solangon: A sloping coral garden leading to a steep wall. Schools of jacks, pufferfish, turtles, and reef fish are common here.

How to get to Siquijor:

To get to Siquijor, the easiest way would be to fly to Dumaguete, and then take the ferry to the island (2 hours, 300 pesos). You can also get down south to Santander, if you are already in Cebu, and take a ferry from there, but if you are coming from Manila, just flying straight to Dumaguete would be fastest.

14. Ticao

scuba diving philippines

Hard core divers should not be scuba diving Philippines without trying Ticao. Ticao Island is one of those virtually untouched islands in the Philippines that very people know about and fewer people actually travel to. 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.

Dive sites in Ticao :

  • Manta Bowl: Best in the months between March and June, this is where all the manta rays converge. You may also see hammerheads, thresher sharks, and whale sharks. Depth: approximately 20m.
  • Donsol: Donsol is near enough to Ticao to be included as a dive location. It’s also one of the top spot in the world to see whale sharks. However it important to note that you can only snorkel here, not dive. But, during high season, you may see as many as 12 whale sharks in the area.
  • Corolla: Plenty of soft red and pink corals, lots of reef fish.
  • Lighthouse: A coral covered slope leading to a sandy bottom. Plenty of marine life and some great macro.
  • Bobby’s Wall: Sloping sand with coral and a wall, a must for those who love macro dives.

How to get to Ticao :

The easiest way to get to Ticao island is by air. There are two airports which you can fly into, either Legazpi City or Masbate City. It is recommended to go via Legazpi because the infrastructure is better.

It is also possible to go by land from Manila to Legazpi City. Although it will take you about 12 hours one way. If this is the route you choose to go, Cagsawa, Penafrancia, or DLTB bus lines are the most comfortable and reliable.

From Legazpi, take a shuttle or van to Pilar (1.5 hours) where you will need to take a ferry to Monreal (1.5 hours). From Monreal you can hire a motorcycle or a driver to take you to your accommodation on Ticao island.

15. Romblon

An Archipelago made up of about twenty islands located in the Mimaropa region of the Philippines. Romblon is one of the largest island, and home to a variety of dive sites with some great muck diving opportunities.

Dive sites in Romblon:

  • Agnay Fish Sanctuary: Dome shaped corals give this reef a distinctive character. It’s best first thing in the morning; lots of small fish and a chance to see eagle rays and maybe even sharks
  • Lonos Marine Sanctuary: Created specifically to protect the giant clams, great macro site.
  • The Rope: Another good macro spot with lots of nudibranchs, mimic octopus, and skelton shrimp.
  • Banug Island: A steep slope with plenty of colourful corals. Keep your eye out for pygmy seahorse and hairy shrimp.
  • BonBon Beach: Lots of typical Filipino marine life, great spot for a night dive.
  • Lunas: Great muck dive, watch for wonderpus, blue ring octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish, and more.
  • Staghorn Corazon: Named for all the staghorn corals. Lots of nudibranchs and reef fish.
  • Magnificat: Giant gorgonians and stone corals make good homes for nudibranchs, pygmy seahorse, and scorpionfish.
  • Mapula: Great for turtles, frogfish, and a variety of nudibranchs.
  • Turtle Sanctuary: Lots of turtles along with eagle rays and sea snakes.
  • Palje: Another awesome muck dive.

How to get to Romblon:

The closest airport is Tugdan Airport in Alcantara, Romblon. From there, it is a four hour jeepney ride to Romblon. It is also possible to travel overnight from Manila. Your best option depends on the day you plan to arrive, so it’s advised to discuss the best route with a local dive shop ahead of time.

When to Scuba Dive in the Philippines

Scuba diving Philippines can be done year round in most places. That being said, some sites can be inaccessible during certain times of the year to be sure to check with a local dive center ahead of time. Rainy season takes place during the months of June to October, which means quieter in terms of tourists. If you are planning on scuba diving Philippines to see something specific; such as whale sharks or the schools of many rays, make sure to come during the appropriate months as these are not year-round occurrences.

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Justin Carmack
Justin is a dive master and world traveler on a mission to dive and document the top 100 dive sites in the world. In doing this he hopes to bring love for the marine environment to the world!
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