SCUBA DIVING PHILIPPINES
Everything you need to know.
About Philippines Diving
Anyone that has dove it 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 the scuba diving in Philippines. 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!
Where to scuba dive in Philippines
philippines dive locations
You are probably wondering where exactly you should plan your scuba diving trip to Philippines, as there are so many to choose from.
In any one of the locations listed below, you will see more marine species and healthy reef, that you would anywhere in the Caribbean or Europe, so you really can’t go wrong!
more philippines dive locations
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 about scuba diving Boracay.
Related: Fun Things to do in Boracay.
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.
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?
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.
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 about scuba diving Siquijor.
Related: 16 Things to do in Siquijor
best time of year for scuba diving Philippines
when to visit the philippines
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.
what you need to know before you go
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.
For more information, you can check out our full Philippines Travel Guide.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What you can expect to pay for diving
The cost 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.
Below I have gathered exact prices at a nice dive resort located in Dauin. (just remember that $1 equals 50 pesos)
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
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
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
Don’t just dive one location,
Great Philippines scuba itineraries
If you are flying all the way to the Philippines for diving, you might want to consider discovering more than just one of the amazing locations.
Depending on what you are looking for, what kind of diving you want to do, and what species you like to see underwater, there are scuba diving locations in Philippines for everything.
Below are some great recommendations for multiple scuba diving location itineraries.
Famous in Visayas
The various destinations around the Visayas, or Central Philippines, just might be the best on offer. You will want to fly into Mactan Cebu, and then head out to the locations from there.
Here are the top locations in the Visayas, that can easily be connected into one trip.
- Malapascua. Located in the norther tip of Cebu, about 4 hours taxi ride from Mactan. Thresher sharks and Gato Island are a must.
- Moalboal. Located in the southern end of Cebu, a 3 to 4 hour drive from Mactan. Don’t miss Pescador Island.
- Dauin/Dumaguete. Easiest way to get there is by a 15 minute flight from Mactan, or an hour from Manila. Or take a ferry from Southern Cebu.
- Siquijor. No fast way to get there, you must take a ferry from Cebu City or Dumaguete, but worth the trip.
Wreck Diving addicts
There are a couple great wreck diving locations in Philippines, and each one on it’s own would keep you busy a very long time.
But if you want the ultimate ship wreck exploration trip, here are some locations to combine in one itinerary.
Off The Beaten Path
If you want to get away from the crowds, and explore some of Philippines’ less crowded dive spots, the locations below will be perfect.
- Tubbataha National Park. If we are talking about world class, very remote dive locations in the Philippines, you got to mention this one. Only accessible via liveaboard from Puerto Princesa.
- Romblon. Romblon isn’t extremely remote, but it is much better diving than the ultra touristy neighbor of Boracay. Definitely worth a visit.
- Leyte. Leyte is in the Eastern Visayas, and pretty far off the beaten path. Maybe that is why the diving is so good, and you’ll probably run into whale sharks.
Macro Critter Photographers
If you are an underwater photographer looking for rare species, you are in luck with Philippines. The locations below are some of the best on Earth.
- Anilao. The many dive sites around Anilao, located just south of Manila in the Batangas, has some of the rarest and most unique species in the country.
- Puerto Galera. These sites are located just west of Anilao, and would be easy to combine.
- Dauin. Particularly in Cepholopod season and frogfish season, Dauin is a major favorite for photographers.
Get the most out of your trip
Land Attractions of philippines
Philippines is interesting and beautiful above water as well, so we would highly recommend fitting some great landmarks into your trip.
Here are some of the highlights of the country you shouldn’t miss.
For the complete list, check out our travel guide to The Philippines.
Chocolate Hills in Bohol
Head to Bohol in the Visayas, and get a view of the grand vistas of the Chocolate Hills. You can fly directly into Bohol, or take a ferry from Cebu City.
While you’re in the area, you don’t want to miss seeing the tiny and cute tarsiers at the sanctuary.
The Underground River
Waterfalls of Siquijor
Although Siquijor has good diving, and is up and coming for tourists, it also has some beautiful waterfalls to visit.
These waterfalls aren’t the tall raging type, but the multiple-tier cascading pools. Beautiful to see.
We haven’t covered the Beautiful island of Siargao in the far west Visayas, but it deserves some attention.
Not only the mainland of the island, but also Sugba Bay, which is nearby with plenty of tours on offer. Some of these views will blow you away.
common questions about philippines
Diving and travel questions
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 wrecks?
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.
visit the best beaches in the world
Beaches you shouldn't miss
I have been all over the world, visiting 6 continents and nearly 100 countries, and nearly no place on Earth can compare to Philippines, when it comes to beaches.
Not the Caribbean, not Australia or the Mediterranean. The pristine flour white beaches of the Pinas are king.
There are so many of these amazing beaches scattered around the 7100+ islands, that there are too many to list here. So we put together the ultimate guide of 101 of the best beaches in Philippines.
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