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Snorkeling in Moalboal – Where to Swim With Giant Turtles on Cebu

Snorkeling in Moalboal – Where to Swim With Giant Turtles on Cebu

Find out the best snorkeling spots in Moalboal, Cebu. Swim with the sardines and find out where the giant Moalboal turtles like to hang out.

Have you ever found a place that you just knew you’d come back to? After snorkeling in Moalboal for the first time back in 2017, I knew I’d found a gem! Since then, this epic little tourist hub has grown quite significantly.

If you’re in the area and looking to do some snorkeling, I’ve got you covered with this quick guide. I’ll outline the best spots and give you some updated Moalboal travel information to plan your trip!

Featured in: Cebu Island Travel Guide – 15 Epic Things to Do

Olly gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler & adventure photographer for 6 years with 700+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.

Moalboal Snorkeling and Free Diving

No doubt by now you’ve probably heard about the epic snorkeling in Moabloal and you’re itching to get your fins on. Below are the best spots to snorkel and free dive.

Sardine rune in moalboal

Pescador Island

By far, the best marine life can be found on Pescador Island, just off the coast of Moalboal.

This is my favorite place to go diving in the Philippines. This is the place that I completed my Advanced PADI certification all those years back. I’ve since gone on to do my Dive Master and work in the industry in a few different locations in the world. After all this time, I still consider Pescador Island on Cebu Island as one of the best places for diving!

Luckily, Pescador is also the best place for snorkeling in Moalboal as well! However, you’ll need to book a boat trip out there. Below I’ve linked to the best-rated trip which also includes snorkeling at the Sardine Run and a Kawasan Falls canyoneering trip.

Book: Sardine Run, Pescador Island, Canyoneering

The House Reef

The best place for snorkeling in Moalbaol is at what the locals call the “house reef”. This is a term dive shops coin their local dive spots.

To get access to the reef, try to find one of the seemingly ever-closing gaps along the main stretch of Moalboal known as Panagsama Beach. Here, you’ll find an epic, steep wall and a bunch of Moalboal turtles hanging around.

If you’re struggling, I’ve pinned a good spot on the map below, which even includes a small stretch of coral beach to leave your towel while you’re in the water.

Turtle Grazing Area on Panagsama Beach

If you’re reading this to try to find where the best place to see turtles in Moalbaol is, then you haven’t been in the water yet.

Moalboal is famous for its large turtles that frequent the waters. In fact, there are so many that you will struggle to NOT find a turtle while snorkeling in Moalboal.

If for some reason you haven’t, try to stick to the shallower waters closer to shore, just before the drop-off wall of reef. After a short while you will no doubt spot one of the chill dudes chowing down on some fresh sea grass.

Just remember to respect them, don’t touch and keep your distance.

Snorkeling in moalboal giant turtles
Turtles in moalboal
Snorkeling with turtles in Moalboal

The Moalboal Sardine Run

A trip snorkeling in Moalboal isn’t complete without seeing the famous sardine run. When I first heard about it, I immediately assumed it required a boat trip to one of the outer islands or reefs.

However, there are huge schools of sardines just outside the main beach on Moalboal. If you follow the instructions above to reach the water access point, simply swim out to the deep reef wall, and you will quickly spot the huge patterns of schooling sardines.

If for some reason you can’t find them, either look to see if there are any other snorkelers in the water who may have found the schools. Otherwise, a safe bet is to swim near the Cabana Beach Club Resort.

This resort has a long yellow jetty that you won’t miss. The sardines usually like to hang out here.

Moalboal sardine run on panagsama beach

Looking to rent snorkeling gear?

You can rent snorkeling gear pretty much anywhere on the main drag in Moalboal for around 150-200 pesos, depending on your haggling ability.

For those in a small group, it might be worthwhile to just book a snorkeling tour from Moalboal. This particular tour includes all gear and will take you to see the sardine run, turtles and the incredible Pescador Island (a must visit).

Freediving with sardines in moalboal

About Moalboal

In my opinion, Moalboal is one of the best places to visit in the Philippines. It is located on the west coast of Cebu and has the furthest west-poking bit of coast.

For this reason, it has some amazing reef and marine life. Most people visit to have a chance to snorkel with turtles and to see the famous sardine run.

Tip: Looking for cheap private transport to Moalboal or back to Cebu City? Book this this driver.

Panagsama beach boats moalboal

Is Moalboal the Best Place to Base Yourself in Cebu?

Dive towns– they always start as a well-kept secret dive destination, and often turn into a booming hotspot complete with cafes and night clubs. Moalboal is no different.

If you’re looking for a place to base yourself in Cebu for snorkeling, diving or adventure trips around the island, then Moalboal is one of the best options.

The location makes it an excellent spot for visiting one of Cebus hundreds of famous jungle waterfalls. The fringing reef is also one of the best and most diverse in all of Cebu. If you’re into scuba diving, then I would highly recommend trying to get out to Pescador island, a truly magical reef that will not dissapoint.

Snorkeling in moalboal 2

There are also several hostels, cafes, nightclubs, bars and restaurants to keep you entertained after a day of adventuring around Cebu or diving on the reef.

It takes approximately 30 minutes to ride to famous Kawasan falls, or an early two hour bus ride for a day trip to Oslob and the South.

In my opinion, as long as you rent a motorbike, Moalboal is an excellent choice as a base for your Cebu adventures.

Snorkeling in moalboal 3

How to Get to Moalboal

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 traveller.

This is because landing at Cebu airport can be a little chaotic, with little to no local information available for tourists looking to reach the southern ends of the island without paying through the roof.

Cheap local option – public bus

There is a public bus that runs often from Cebu all the way to Moalboal and even down South to Oslob. 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.

Where to Stay on Cebu

The best place to stay is in Moalboal as it’s close to all of the best things to do and all the epic attractions you’ll want to add to your Cebu itinerary. However, if you’re planning to travel around the island, then I’d also recommend staying at:

  • Cebu City/Mactan
  • Oslob
  • Malapascua
  • Sumilon Island

Here are my 4 top picks for hostels, resorts, and hotels in Cebu for each budget.

Ancelle cristo re, cebu island resort accommodation

1. Ancelle Cristo Re Moalboal

Top-rated luxury resort situated on a private beach near Moalboal where you can snorkel with sea turtles. This hotel is run by three amazing sisters who use their proceeds to support a local orphanage.

Bai hotel cebu

2. Bai Hotel Mid-Range

Mid-budget resort in Cebu City with large rooms, daily buffet breakfast, and rooftop swimming pool. Located close to the Cebu International Airport.

Chief mau moalboal

3. Chief Mau Hostel

A great hostel with a relaxed backpacker vibe in the heart of Moalboal. Large rooms, an onsite bar, and tours can be booked straight from the front desk.

Sumilon island in cebu

4. Sumilon Bluewater Island

Stay on a pristine private island with a beautiful white sandbar and crystal-clear water for swimming and snorkeling.

More Things to do in Cebu

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick guide to snorkeling in Moalboal, Cebu. If it’s helped you find the sardines or the famous Moalboal turtles, then I’ve done my part! While you’re here on this blog, make sure to check out some of my other inspiring travel guides to the island below.

Snorkeling in moalboal pinterest turtle
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure travel journalist & photographer. Traveling non-stop since 2018, I've published over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. These draw on my personal experience to share unique itineraries, accommodation tips, & fun adventure guides covering hikes, viewpoints, beaches, waterfalls, & tours. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

Your feedback & updates are crucial to keep my guides factual & current. Got new info or updates? Drop a comment below or contact me directly.

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I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you.


Sunday 13th of November 2022

Thank you for your valuable article. I will buy/book through your site.


Thursday 5th of March 2020

The Philippines should be labeled the summer capital of the world! There's just soo many beautiful placed to go and visit during the summer.