A complete, updated guide on how and where to see the Moalboal Sardine Run in Moalboal, Cebu.

The Moalboal sardine run is something that you definitely don’t want to miss when traveling on Cebu. In fact, the sardine run in Moalboal is one of the reasons why tourism kicked off so rapidly.

In my opinion, you just can’t visit Cebu and miss out on this incredible experience! Here’s the quick and detailed guide on where to find them!

What is the Moalboal Sardine Run?

Heard about the famous sardines but don’t know what it’s all about? In short, it’s an opportunity to swim through huge schools of sardines only 20 meters from the shore.

There are over 1 million sardines in each school, so snorkeling and swimming with the sardines in Moalboal is an incredible experience. You can swim through the schools as they surround you and block out the light with their sheer numbers.

moalboal sardine run


How to Find the Moalboal Sardine Run

So you’ve made it to Moalboal and you want to know where to see the Moalboal sardine run? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

Finding the sardines is quite easy. They are usually schooling just off the main Panagsama Beach. The schools like to swim around just near the reef-wall drop off, about 20 meters from the shore.

Head to the location on the map below and enter the water from the beach. Simply swim out to the unmissable drop-off and search there. If you are having trouble finding them, they tend to hang around the long yellow pier at the front of Mana Pizzeria.

Best Time To Visit Panagsama Beach

The best time to visit Cebu will depend on the Typhoon seasons. There are two main seasons in Cebu; Dry and Wet Seasons.

Cebu dry season – December – June
Cebu wet season – June – December

The best time to see the Moalboal Sardine run is in the Dry season, or just before, from November to May. It is possible to dive and snorkel all year round, however these months provide the best visibility and weather conditions.

panagsama beach boats moalboal

Tip: If you plan on heading to the islands, then you can book the most popular, with over 1000 bookings here.

Where is Panagsama Beach?

Panagsama Beach is located on the West Coast of Cebu, about three hours from Cebu City. It is the backpacker and scuba-diver center of Cebu.

The location is ideal for snorkeling and diving, as it is the furthest East-reaching point and has some incredible reef drops right off the shore.

While popularity and tourism are definitely on the rise, there are still only a few cafes, restaurants, dive shops, bars, and night clubs. It definitely doesn’t have an over-run feel.

moalboal sardine run and a diver at the reef

READ: Snorkeling in Moalboal – Where to Swim With Giant Turtles, Cebu

How to Get to Panagsama Beach in Moalbaol

Getting to Moalboal is usually pretty easy and cost-effective. That being said, it can still be a bit of a mission trying to determine the best transport options for a budget traveler.

For this reason, I’ve provided a short guide for travelers on a budget.

Cheap local option

There is a public bus that runs often from Cebu all the way to Panagsama Beach in Moalboal. It will take roughly three hours to get to Moalboal from the South Bus Terminal.

The cost is 90 peso for non-aircon and 110 peso for an aircon bus.

The companies operating are Lebrando and Ceres Buses.

My advice is to simply head to the South Bus terminal and ask somebody working which buses go to Moalboal. Just remember to not pay more than what I suggested above.

Cheap Private Transfer

If you’re in a larger group, or would prefer to use a private transfer from Cebu City to Moalboal, then you can book this driver, who is the highest rated option online.

You can also have the option of booking a transfer back from Moalboal to Cebu City.

Can I Swim With Sardines All-Year Round?

While there are better times to enjoy the Moalboal sardine run due to Monsoon weather, the sardines stay in Moalboal all year.

This means that it is possible to swim with the Moalboal sardine run all year long, if you’re ready to brave the rains.

swimming with the moalboal sardine run in panagsama beach moalboal cebu

Don’t Miss the Turtles

While you are snorkeling in Moalboal, you’ll be hard-pressed to miss a turtle. There are several that feed on the sea-grass closer to shore.

This means that you’ll probably spot one or two within the first few minutes swimming out to the sardines.

snorkeling in moalboal turtle


To Snorkel or to Dive in the Moalboal Sardine Run?

A common misconception is that you need to scuba dive to see the Moalboal sardine run. This is completely untrue.

It is very easy to spot the sardines and they like to school in 1 – 10 meters of water. This means that snorkeling is in fact better, as you will only see them from below if you choose to dive.

swimming with the moalboal sardine run in panagsama beach moalboal cebu

However, diving underneath the Moalboal sardines is also an incredible experience. You can watch as they form shapes and block out the sun with their huge schools.

diver with the sardines at moalboal

Book Your Trip To Cebu

Finding Cheap Flights
Still in the planning stage of your trip? Currently, the best and easiest way to find cheap flights is to use Skyscanner. This works by comparing all of the available fares across every airline to help you compare flights in one place.

Where to Book Your Accommodation
Whether you’re looking for hostels, hotels, guest houses, or resorts between Booking.com and Agoda, you’ll always get the best deals. I always search using the map feature to find accommodation in the best locations. Sometimes, if I want to stay in a place a little longer, I’ll use Airbnb.

Deals on Tours and Transport
You already know that I prefer independent travel. In saying that, sometimes the best and cheapest way to get things done is to just book a tour or package. For the Philippines, I always use Klook, Viator and Get Your Guide.

Don’t Forget Adventure Travel Insurance
If you’re reading this blog then you’re more likely to be seeking adventures over poolside sips. After having my entire bag stolen in Barcelona (including camera gear) I’ve sworn to always have travel insurance. By far, my favorite company for the most comprehensive adventure travel insurance is World Nomads. If you’re on the fence, you can read my article to see if it’s right for you.

Do Locals Fish The Sardines?

Due to the tourism that the sardines bring to Moalboal, net fishing is illegal on Panagsama Beach. However, you will likely see small outrigger fishermen line-fishing at sunset.

The local municipality allows these fishermen to catch small numbers of the sardines to feed their families. A win-win for everybody.

moalboal snorkeling with sardines
underwater photo of sardine run at moalboal

What Else is There to Do in Cebu?

Cebu is the adventure capital of the Philippines, so there’s always something to do.

If you enjoyed the Moalboal sardine run and you’re interested in waterfalls and other epic adventures then don’t miss some of my other guides below.


6 thoughts on “Where to See the Moalboal Sardine Run – THE GUIDE (2021)”

  1. Hi Olly,

    I like your content on this blog, very resourceful and glad you did to visits some tourist spots in Cebu.

  2. Hello mr. Olly, did you just free dive in moalboal to see the sardines? Or do we really need to go to dive centres to be able to swim with the sardines? ?

  3. Hi Sheena,

    You can free dive and snorkel, you don’t need to go to a dive center if you have your own mask and snorkel set.

    The pin on this guide will show you where to swim out to see the sardines :).

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