Official Guide to All Scuba Diving in Philippines


Guide Index

The best dive sites
Common travel questions
Critter highlights
How to get to Philippines
Visa information
Best times to visit
Where to stay
Our location picks


Anyone that has dove it for themselves, knows that in this world, you can’t really get too much better when it comes to quality of reef, number of species, than the Philippines. Scuba diving Philippines really is THAT great.

But we are also aware that sometimes planning the PERFECT dive holiday can be somewhat stressful, with the lack of useful information online.

But it doesn’t have to be.

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.

Without the stress of not knowing what to expect, and letting you plan every detail.

blue ring octopus

Where should you dive in Philippines?

There are so many options when it comes to scuba diving in this jewel of Southeast Asia, and that is one thing I love about it.

Here are the top 17 recommendations for the best dive sites in the Philippines.

1. 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. More information on Diving Dauin HERE.

2. Malapascua

The highlight of the island is the cleaning station where you can nearly always see a thresher shark. There is also Gato Island, one of the best dive locations in the country (and world). See our guide to Malapascua HERE.

3. 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. For our complete Moalboal Guide CLICK HERE. white seahorse in philippines

4. 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 critters. See our Anilao guide HERE.

5. El Nido

A dive trip 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 info on El Nido HERE.

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.

8. 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. Check out our GUIDE.

9. 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.

10. 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. See our GUIDE.

11. 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. More info on Coron HERE.

12. 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. See our Boracay guide HERE.

13.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. The best when it comes to scuba in Philippines?

14. Leyte

Leyte is one of the most remote, hard to get to locations on this list, and because of this you can imagine how untouched and pristine the reef and critter life is here. Even more so than the already high expectations for Philippines.

15. 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. See more info on Bohol HERE.

16. 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.



Common Questions about Philippines

Still undecided about where to visit? Let me help a little more. Here are some suggestions based on questions I’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.

Best dive sites for wrecks:

coconut octopus

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.

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.

Dive locations that also have amazing beaches:

beach in philippines

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.

Is scuba diving 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.

Final thoughts

From one traveler to another, I know how apprehensive one can get when planning a long trip to a far away country, and I hope I have done my best to alleviate some of those worries.

Every one of the locations I talk about, and every dive resort I recommend, are not only safe, but guarantee you the best possible experience for your epic trip.

All you need to do is get there, and the dive operators I recommend will completely take care of you, whether you travel alone or in a group, and make you forget all about those pretrial jitters. I have tried and tested each one, and they are the best.

Now go! Just click one of the locations above, to get a much more informational location guide!

clown fish

 

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.

In my opinion, as a whole, Philippines boasts much superior diving and beaches than Thailand does, so its a wonder that tourism hasn’t caught up. yet. In fact, I also think the locals are much friendlier as well.

As for food, expect a lot of varieties of chicken, rice and pork, which are the most popular (by far) for the locals. Of course there are always western restaurants and options, but if you’re willing, try out the local cuisine.


Critter highlights:

robust ghost pipe fish

There are over 100 million people living in Philippines, and only a tiny percent of them are aware of how unique and rare and incredible the critters are that they have living just off shore.

Many a diver would give their first born to have these creatures living in their own local dive haunts, instead of having to fly across the globe. But be it as it is, this makes a trip here a MUST.

mimic octopus

Here are just a few critters you’ll see:

– A HUGE plethora of nudibranch species, including the ultra rare skeleton nudi or melibe colemani, pictured above, and many more. Check out the nudi capital of Philippines: Anilao

– Mimick and wonderpus octopus. They are most seen during cephalopod season in Dauin, but many other places as well such as Anilao and Malapascua etc.

– Blue ring octopus

– Flamboyant cuttle fish. The cutest of all cuttles

– Whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays pilot whales and even humpbacks during certain seasons. See Donsol or Tubbataha for best chances.

– Ornate ghost pipefish, as well as robust ghost pipes.

– A huge variety of frogfish species. Cutest critters, or ugliest?

– Thresher sharks, maybe one of the coolest looking of all sharks. Check out Malapascua.

There are many many more incredible species you will run into, as well as huge numbers of common species and schools, and lets not forget the countless species of healthy corals.


How to get 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. You are already winning by choosing this country, the hard part is choosing where!

To get to Philippines, the only option is to fly, as there are no bordering neighbors. There are many airlines flying from California, Hawaii and most US states, directly or with layovers. Common layovers are usually Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul or Taipei.

The same goes for Europe or Africa or Asian origins, with common layovers in Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. From any of the layovers listed here, Manila is only 4-5 hours away. The long haul will be before that from your home.

Your entry into the country will usually be to the capital of Manila. If you are diving near Manila first, in places like Subic, Anilao or Puerto Galera, then you will stay. For the other destinations you will move to the domestic terminal (probably terminal 4) to fly to your next stop. (there are free shuttles between terminals)

Domestic flights can be extremely cheap if booked far enough in advanced. We have even seen tickets from Manila to Cebu for $20, although you’ll get charge a little more for luggage.

Your other port of entry could be Cebu City, depending on where you are coming from. This will be your gateway to the Visayas, but there are also cheap internal flights from there to the rest of the locations south or north from there.


Visa info for Americans:

You will get a 30 entry on arrival, no visa needed ahead of time. if you want to stay longer that 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 the 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!


Best times to be visit:

malapascua thresher shark

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.


Where to stay:

If you are here for diving, you are in luck. There is a huge scuba industry in the country, so you will easily find a great dive resort or operator for any of the locations above.

For each individual location you can click the guides above for information on where to stay at each specific place, but if you need to find a hotel at the best rate in Manila or somewhere not listed above, CLICK HERE.


Our favorite location & recommendation:

Our top recommendation for Philippines, although hard to choose, has a two part answer. The first part is, if we HAVE to choose, we will go with DAUIN for overall awesomeness. You can’t beat the muck dives, and Apo Island combo.

Second, we advise extending your trip, and combining locations. My dream trip would be Dauin, Malapascua and Moalboal. You can thank me later. Check out our complete Dauin guide HERE!


Other Philippines articles

philippines beaches

things to do in cebu city

frogfish

cephalopods of philippines

scuba diving

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