Best Scuba Diving Destinations in Central Visayas, Philippines
The Philippines is a beautiful archipelago. It’s composed of scattered islands, divided into three major ones – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. One of the most popular regions for tourists, Central Visayas, is home to many destinations, particularly for scuba divers. Composed of Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor, it’s the second smallest region in the Philippines. But though it’s the smallest, it’s blessed with natural resources that many locals and foreign tourists enjoy.
In 2021, UK-based Dive Magazine recognized five dive centers in Central Visayas as “Best Dive Centers in the Philippines,” namely Atmosphere Dauin of Negros Oriental, Evolution Diving, and French Kiss Divers in Cebu, Atlantis Dumaguete in Negros Oriental, and Amun Ini in Bohol.
With that said, many scuba divers have been flocking to the Visayas for a day of underwater discoveries. If you’re interested in the world of scuba diving, best to start with the best diving sites we have in the Philippines! Read on to know more about each scuba diving destination in the Philippines.
Malapascua Island in Cebu takes pride in being the only place where you can find thresher sharks daily. The island is known to have several diving sites where you can discover lots of rare species you might have never encountered before, such as sea snakes, starfish, spider crabs, scorpion fish, and blue-spotted rays. These colorful sea creatures are here to welcome you on your journey underwater.
Most diving sites have varied depths perfect for beginners and pros alike. Travel distances range from five up to 40 minutes. Read more below to see recommended dive sites in Malapascua!
How to get here: From the Mactan Cebu Airport, take a taxi going to the Northern Bus Terminal. From there, you can take a bus or van to Maya Port. Travel time usually takes 3 to 5 hours. From Maya Port, ride a boat going to Malapascua Island, for approximately 30 minutes.
It’s where you can see thresher sharks every day. This underwater island is ideal for swimming dives, where you can meet other divers and see other marine species. Travel distance takes 20 minutes, with a depth of 26+ meters.
This dive site with a depth of 18 meters is where you’ll find stunning, immaculate corals. It’s like traversing into a coral garden, meeting other marine animals such as lionfish, frogfish, and porcelain crabs.
With a depth of 16 meters, this island is known to be a haven for many scuba diving photographers. It’s home to many soft corals, as well as crabs, cuttlefish, sea snakes, and flatworms.
Situated on the southwest coast of Cebu, Moalboal is known to have one of the most accessible dive sites in the world. It’s also a former fishing village but has now become a favorite diving destination among scuba divers and snorkelers. Dive sites here range from three to 60 meters. Moalboal is also abundant with sea turtles, whale sharks, and sardines.
How to get here: From Mactan Cebu Airport, take a taxi going to the South Bus Terminal. From there, ride a bus or a van bound for Moalboal. From Moalboal town, you may ride a tricycle or motorbike going to the Moalboal beaches.
Here are some of the most popular diving sites you can try in Moalboal:
Pescador Island is the most famous dive site in Moalboal. Surrounded by the vast ocean, this island is a favorite among snorkelers and divers. The site surprises you with pleasing soft and hard corals, barracudas, and tuna. Down below, you’ll find the Cathedral, which is a cave that offers a perfect spot to view the surface.
Airplane Wreck is one of the most interesting dive sites in Moalboal. The dive here will have you descend 18 meters along the buoy rope towards the sandy slope. You’ll find the wreck 7 meters down, where you can see the airplane body intact since 1993. Around the wreck, you’ll find corals, squid, spotted eagle rays, and angelfish.
Plunge into the deep Moalboal waters that are 25 meters below the surface to see the underwater pinnacle. Marine life you’ll see here include frogfish, Spanish dancer, and small sardines. It’s only recommended for experienced divers, as currents can be strong in this underwater mountain.
Mactan was also an old fishing village before it was discovered by the Americans in the Vietnam War. This island is actually separated from the Cebu mainland. It’s known for its beaches, diving spots, and musical instruments. There are just so many things to do when in Mactan, and diving is one of them. Here are some spots to learn and practice your scuba diving skills in Mactan!
How to get here: From the Mactan Cebu Airport, you can go to Mactan Island via taxi or car rental. Dicing sites are just about 30 minutes away from the shore via boat.
This dive site is located in the Olango channel. You can find a small plane wreck here, about 22 meters deep. It has a sloped wall which makes it comfortable for beginners. Here, you’ll find several marine species such as coral formations, pipefish, butterfly fish, and catfish.
This dive site is for advanced or expert divers, as the entrance stretches to 100 feet deep, and usually with a strong current. But it’s an amazing dive spot because of the cavern, and the creatures you can see here such as giant crabs, lionfish, and fluorescent fishes. The best time to go here is from December to June, but diving is possible any time of the year.
This dive spot is easily accessible for about 5 to 10 minutes by boat. Its plateau has a sandy surface, wherein you can find astonishing coral formations. It’s a favorite among underwater photographers, so make sure to bring your camera to capture this beauty. Both beginners and seasoned divers will surely enjoy exploring Talima for scuba diving.
Panglao is known for its white beach that tourists love. Aside from that, it’s very accessible from the airport. Along its famous Alona Beach, you can already check out dive shops to get your gears and book your dives. Night diving is also recommended, so you can see nocturnal marine creatures with your own eyes. Some of Panglao’s best diving sites include the following:
Alona House Reef
Alona Reef is known for being a relaxing dive site. It’s made up of a sloped wall with sandy seabeds and is shallow enough for first-time divers. Sea creatures you’ll discover here include sea cucumbers, starfish, and giant frogfish.
Want to try night diving for a change? If you’re in Bohol, go to the Garden eels dive site. This dive site offers a spectacular view of coral gardens, nudibranchs, cute sand eels, and spotted garden eels, from day to night.
Make sure to bring your underwater camera when diving at Doljo Point! It’s the best diving site to see fantastic coral formations and other marine creatures such as tuna, barracudas, hammerhead sharks, and manta rays.
Anda is an underrated paradise in Bohol. It is home to 29 dive sites with rich marine biodiversity. At their dive site, you’ll find close to 500 coral species and 1000 fish species. It’s the ideal destination for all kinds of divers– from beginners to advanced, night, and even drift divers! If you want to explore the unexplored, visit Anda in Bohol and take a look at these awesome diving spots:
This cave is where you can find pygmy seahorses and lobsters. The recommended time to spend inside the cave is 8 to 10 minutes and is more recommended for experienced divers. Its maximum depth is 31 meters.
Though best known for being a snorkeling site, Paradise Garden is still worth exploring for underwater diving. Here, you’ll get a chance to see green turtles, which are abundant in the area. It’s also known to have the most beautiful coral reef in Anda, thus the name Paradise.
Underwater photographers will surely love going to Lumayak dive site, where various marine species and plants abound. It’s a steep wall, where beginners can observe the depth limits of the site. Towards the end, you’ll see another dive site called Paradise Garden.
Balicasag is a tiny island located at the southwestern end of Panglao Island. It’s most known for its marvelous marine life, perfect for snorkeling and diving. Balicasag Island is very accessible from Alona Beach–you just need to ride a boat for 30 to 45 minutes to reach it. And while you’re on the island, why not go to the best diving spots here? We’ve listed them below.
Diver’s Heaven is known for its steep slope that’s about 8 to 35 meters deep. Here, you’ll be able to encounter sea creatures such as Midnight Snapper, turtles, anemonefish, parrotfish, and barracudas, even!
See a spectacular show of jackfish when you dive right into Marine Sanctuary. You can find these beautiful jackfish forming a tornado that’s a sight to behold underwater. This protected area is great for snorkeling and diving alike, as you’ll be able to see many species such as needlefish, surgeonfish, and bluefin trevally.
The Black Forest can be considered the star of all of Balicasag’s dive sites. It’s a steep and sandy slope and when you go deeper, you’ll find black corals, batfish, and snappers. On your way up, you’ll find more colorful creatures such as crinoids, sea stars, and turtles.
Wanna go deep-sea diving? Go to Negros Oriental, where you can enjoy beaches while having an underwater adventure through snorkeling and diving, too. When in Western Visayas, you’ll definitely enjoy the different activities as you explore Negros Oriental through the lens of your underwater camera! Try diving at these popular dive sites:
The highlight of the dive on Apo Island would be its vibrant coral garden. If you’re a budding diver photographer, you’ll be delighted to know that it’s a spot to see many picture-perfect marine creatures. Here are some of the best dive spots to see around Apo Island.
This site is best for drift diving. It’s located at the northern end of Apo Island, where you can see pipefish, barrel sponges, hawksbill turtles, and a beautiful coral garden. Tip: where there is a prevailing current, expect to see the best of its marine life!
This dive point in front of Apo Island is named after a nearby church. At this dive site, you’ll see walls with overhangs and caverns best for photography. Expect to see spiny lobsters, sailfin gobies, and finger sponges on your dive here.
This dive site is perfect for beginner divers. This marine protected area welcomes you to a world of corals and sea turtles. Whether you want to try the shallow or its deepest parts, you’ll surely see beautiful sights underwater.
Dauin Dive sites
The best thing about exploring the wonders of Dauin dive sites is that they’re all marine protected areas, meaning that fishing and boat traffic is not allowed here. Therefore the marine life isn’t disturbed, and you’ll be able to witness the unspoiled beauty of the underwater.
San Miguel North
This shallow dive site lets you see frogfish, pipefish, and pygmy squid if you’re lucky. It has seagrass beds and sandy slopes where you can spend more time diving.
Curious as to why it was named “Cars?” It’s because you’ll be able to see car wrecks underwater that fishes call home. Its maximum depth is 30 meters, and here you’ll find shrimp, scorpion fish, and sweetlips. It’s great for muck diving!
El Dorado Reef
It’s the best diving site if you want to try both reef and muck diving. This sloping reef gives you a breathtaking view of sea turtles, moray eel, and Xeno crabs. It’s also great for open water dives.
How to get here: By plane, take the flight from NAIA or Mactan Cebu Airport bound for Dumaguete. To get to Dauin, take public transportation or rent a car from the airport. From Dumaguete pier, take a tricycle going to the bus terminal and ride a Southbound bus. Ask the driver to drop you off at Dauin.
This small island, also the third smallest province in the Philippines, offers big adventures for those who want to try diving. It has 23 dive sites surrounding the island and is ideal for day and night diving. The best part is that it’s always a good time to dive all year round, as it’s unaffected by extreme monsoons.
How to get here: Take a flight bound for Dumaguete from NAIA or Mactan Cebu Airport. From Dumaguete, take the ferry going to Siquijor. From the island, jeepneys and tricycles are available to hire.
See its must-visit dive sites here:
You can explore Coral Garden easily because it’s accessible from the shore. Here, you’ll see majestic coral formations, both hard and soft, as well as puffer fish, mantis shrimp, and sea turtles.
Witness breathtaking coral formations when diving in Sawang. It has underwater tunnels perfect for further explorations of advanced divers. You can see sea snakes, turtles, and reef fish here as well. If you’re into underwater photography, it’s also a good place to capture these beauties in photos.
Experienced divers will definitely enjoy going deep into Sunken Island, where you can discover nudibranchs and flatworms, and even devil rays on the site. It’s suitable only for experienced divers because of the strong currents in the area. Going here requires you to ride a boat.
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ve got hundreds of dive sites to explore in Western Visayas alone. Visit the Philippines and pack your dive gears for a diving adventure you’ll definitely enjoy.