Discover the treasures hidden in the open waters of Cebu, Philippines. Where are the best diving spots there and what underwater creatures can you find there? We break them down for you in this diving guide.
The island province of Cebu is undoubtedly one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines. Its central location in the country, international airport, host of city comforts, variety of activities, convenient tours, historical sights, colorful Sinulog Festival, and top-class accommodation facilities draw business and leisure travelers alike. It also doesn't hurt that you can easily visit other top Philippine destinations from Cebu.
The beaches, historical sights, island-hopping destinations, and other top tourist spots in Cebu are easily accessible from the city. This is why Cebu is a good choice for first-time travelers exploring the Philippines. Aside from those looking to do some sightseeing, Cebu is also for those looking for amazing dive spots in the Philippines.
Video by the Philippine Department of Tourism
One of the best adventures you can't miss in Cebu is scuba diving in its surrounding islands. Cebu has a host of beautiful dive spots that are included in the best diving destinations in the Philippines.
Dive sites in the Philippines are usually accessed via traditional boats called a bangka, double outrigger canoes. Even larger boats powered by engines feature the outriggers, making island-hopping trips in Cebu a pleasant and stable boat ride.
Read this guide on the best diving spots in Cebu to help you choose your underwater destination.
Capitancillo Island is a small islet located at the northern part of Cebu, particularly in Bogo City. The island can be reached by 2-3 hours of land travel from Cebu City and around a 20-minute boat ride from the Marangog Cove in Bogo.
The diving site in Capitancillo has a maximum depth of around 50 feet and normal visibility of 20 to 30 meters. It features colorful corals, small and large shoals of pelagic species, various kinds of reef fish, and white tip and grey reef sharks.
The wall of the Capitancillo dive site is covered in huge gorgonians, sea fans, soft and hard corals. This dive safari is also well known for the big fish. Yellowfin tuna are often sighted as well as snappers, big groupers, school of jacks, mackerels and much more.
The most unique spot here is the Rendez-Vous, a deep gorgeous wall down to 55+ meters (180 feet) to the different sloped walls at the south a unique underwater fauna and flora is living in the area.
Scuba divers of all levels can enjoy the safari as the dives can start shallow on the slope to the top of the wall which is at around 15 meters (50 feet).
The Hilutungan Island marine sanctuary is another diving spot in Cebu that offers a vibrant marine life and a very good day trip in Cebu for both novice and advanced Scuba divers.
For non-divers, Hilutungan Island is also a well known island-hopping and tour destination where tourists snorkel around in the shallow tropical waters.
Divers can expect to see turtles, schools of parrotfishes, a lot of batfishes, drummers, ribbon sweetlips shoaling all around, different schools of jackfish, some black and midnight snappers, and many more in this site.
Vibrant corals, incredible fish biomass, turtles, schooling giant trevally, snapper, jacks and sweetlips are also highlights of this marine sanctuary dive site. The colorful topography, clear waters and calm sea conditions make this site suitable for all divers. It’s an absolute must for wide-angle photographers.
Nalusuan is another top island-hopping destination and snorkeling site in Cebu, and is perfect for divers of all skill levels. This marine protected area offers world-class corals, a colorful shallow reef top and a steep slope.
Located about 20 to 40 minutes by boat from Mactan, trying out a Nalusuan Island tour is also good for snorkelers, as it starts very shallow. It goes down along a sloped wall with sandy parts towards a seabed filled with soft and hard corals, sponges and many coralline algae inhabited by strange and beautiful critters.
Nalusuan Island is a marine sanctuary, which means marine life is protected from the fishermen. The biodiversity here is impressive with schooling snappers, trevally, grouper and barracuda.
Visitors can swim among schools of sweetlips, angelfish, triggerfish, groupers and all the natural reef fishes shoaling around the different species of corals. Look out for stingrays, passing sea turtles and even a mermaid statue. Nalusuan offers a stunning dive site every time.
Stingray, a colony of barracudas and sea turtles inhabit the area. The colorful coral formations and rich marine life are very rewarding for underwater photographers.
Popular with birdwatchers, the Olango group of Islands and neighboring islets are blessed with palm-fringed beaches, rugged cliffs, coral reefs, crystal clear waters and intertidal mudflats which are known habitats of a large variety of marine and avian species.
Though best left for advanced divers because of the stronger currents, scuba diving is also possible here all year round, especially when you join a marine sanctuary hopping tour in Mactan.
The island has some of the deepest wall dives in the Visayas and improved management of coral reefs in nearby marine sanctuaries help provide an abundant coral and fish life.
Notable dive sites here include Baring Dive Site, Mabini Point, Talima Sanctuary, Santa Rosa, Gilutongan Sanctuary, Nalusuan Sanctuary, and Kansantik to name a few.
Kansantik, in particular, is well known for its hazards as much as its beauty. Kansantik is an open water dive with fierce currents, strong surge and limited visibility.
As such, this site is only suitable for the most experienced divers. This site is best tackled in small groups carrying only light equipment and not heavy cameras.
A submerged mountain rises from the depths to within 30m of the surface. The site offers striking underwater scenery of good stony corals, soft corals, whip corals, giant sponges, fishes and other pelagic species.
Malapascua is another very popular diving spot in Cebu ideal for beginners. Perched at the far northern tip of Cebu’s main island, getting here involves a four-hour land travel from Cebu City to barangay Maya in Daanbantayan town. From the town proper, it takes another 45 minutes by boat to Malapascua.
Malapascua Island offers a great starting point for newbie divers, with plenty of dive schools offering tours throughout the area.
The highlight of Malapascua is the thresher shark dives in Monad Shoal. Dives here are very easy to do and almost always rewarding.
Visitors can opt for an easy afternoon exploring the deep with thresher shark divers and take their pick from a wide range of excursions, from reefs and wrecks to dives by day and by night.
Close encounters with these incredible predators are not unusual leading to thrilling and memorable dives.
There’s a lot more tourist spots in Malapascua to see aside from thresher sharks. Divers can also swim among beautiful unspoiled coral gardens, reefs and wrecks, sandy muck dives, wall dives, and night dives.
For photographers, this is a great destination as all the dive sites offer excellent macro, so there is always plenty to see and photograph.
The nearby Gato Island also offers an abundant variety of sea creatures like sea snakes, frogfish, nudibranchs, black-tip sharks, bobtail squid, blue ring octopus, harlequin shrimp, ghost shrimp, xenon crabs, sea hares, sea stars, and many more. Be sure to pack a good underwater camera for your dive trip!
Mactan is one of the most popular dive sites in all of Cebu as well as one of the most popular dive spots in the Philippines. Located in Central Visayas, this small island is separated but connected by bridges from the Cebu mainland by the Mactan Channel.
The dive sites lie on the east side of the island, reachable by boat or shore depending on the dive center.
Trying out a Mactan sanctuary tour is a good experience for first-time visitors to begin their underwater adventure in the Philippines because of its convenient location.
After all, it’s the same island where the Mactan-Cebu International Airport is located, so you can head to a dive spot as soon as you touch down from the plane.
Visitors don’t have to travel far to enjoy the rich, underwater life. Mactan and its surrounding islands offer a colorful and diverse marine life that keeps divers coming back.
The shore-based diving is said to be excellent and there’s a rich variety of dive sites to be explored. Mactan Island contains marine sanctuaries, easy-to-access sites teeming with underwater caves and hard tree corals, along with tuna, barracuda, squirrelfish, and surgeonfish.
From sheer drop-offs, deep walls, steep slopes, coral mounts and plateaus, seagrass beds, caves and caverns and even two wrecks, diving here is an amazing experience. Mactan dive sites are suitable for beginners, experienced, and technical divers of all levels.
The town of Moalboal, along Cebu’s south-west coast is roughly two hours away from the city, is the gateway to some of the best diving spots in Cebu and in the entire Philippines.
The top draw here for divers is Pescador Island, an islet located at the Tañon Strait. This protected marine park is home to hammerhead sharks and the world-famous sardine run.
Reaching a depth of more than 600 meters, the marine sanctuary is famous for its abundance of sardines, which surround divers in schools of more than 1000.
The diversity and mass of reef fish are simply surreal and breathtaking, leading to very rewarding dives. A Moalboal tour is a must-add to your Cebu bucket list.
The area offers an underwater playground for divers playground offering a variety of tunnels, caverns, and swim-throughs that bring you up close to diverse marine life and swimming among anemones, corals, lionfish and more.
The marine life is so rich that divers can find themselves swimming along with white tip reef sharks, schooling barracudas, sardines, jacks, and occasional thresher sharks.
Aside from diving, beach lovers can also enjoy the white beach of Basdako.
Get ready to explore the various dive sites and other tourist destinations in Cebu! Start planning your trip by looking into Cebu tours and activities that you can add to your itinerary and checking out this quick guide to Cebu for first-timers.