Best of Moalboal: Swim with Turtles, Run with Sardines

Photo credit: Lakshmi Sawitri

At a glance:

  • How to get to Moalboal
  • Where to stay (and eat)
  • What to do (and how much to spend)

Following from our Cebu and Siquijor itinerary, we’ll be heading from Cebu City to beach destination number one: Moalboal.

(say: mo-AL bo-AL)

How To Get From Cebu City to Moalboal

Hop on a bus at South Bus Terminal. Depending on traffic, the ride can take up to 3-and-a-half hours. Use Grab Taxi to get from the airport to the terminal.

In our case, we left at 11:00 am and didn’t really get out of city traffic for almost an hour. 

We were in an open-air bus, which costs 127 pesos per adult and 102 for kids, and once we were out of Cebu City, it was great. By noon we were approaching the City of Naga and we could see the sea and enjoy its breeze. 

Around 12:40 there was a little rest stop in Carcar City, where the bus stayed for some five to ten minutes to refuel. Don’t count on (clean/private) bathrooms, though. We arrived in Moalboal around 2:30 pm.

White Beach, Moalboal

Where To Stay In Moalboal

At this desirable destination, accommodations are aplenty and, if you plan on renting a scooter, you can comfortably book a room anywhere in the area. 

If you want to be within walking distance of the top attractions, however, you should stay nice and close to Panagsama Beach. For example, at the Moalboal Backpacker Lodge (roughly 600 pesos per night), you’re meters away from the beach where all the lovely creatures roam.

Another option is Hotel Sisters (about 900 pesos per night), which is a 5 to 10-minute walk from the beach.

We actually ended up staying at Nirvana Bamboo Resort because they had a tent option and we thought that would be a cool experience. What we hadn’t considered was the lack of ventilation in a tent that seemed designed for colder weather. Without a scooter, we also had to walk a good 30 minutes to Panagsama Beach (and some 40 minutes to White Beach).

Where To Eat: Local Hotspots

For some simple and tasty local food just a stone’s throw from the beach, try Makan. Another eatery where you can get yourself a Filipino feast for a steal is Mila’s Store. And you’ll find even cheaper food stops out on the National Highway.

Snorkelling at Panagsama

Two amazing things you can see up close in Moalboal for nothing but the price of some snorkeling gear are sea turtles and the sardine run. Rent a snokerling mask anywhere along the beach for something like 200 pesos per day.

At the beach there will also be lots of folks offering guided tours for something like 500 pesos per person. However, this may be entirely unnecessary.

Here’s our experience taking a guided tour.

Traveling with my 6-year-old daughter—who is an OK swimmer but would be trying snorkeling for the first time—we were convinced by one of the friendly fellows offering tours that their guidance would be worth it. 

So we spent 1500 pesos for the three of us, snorkel gear included (but not the locker rental), and two guys took us out to the water—an additional guide to help the child. 

Their place is called Friends Adventure in Panagsama, by the way. It’s just across the road from Makan.

For us, I would say their guidance was ultimately worth it as my daughter did need a bit of help and without the guides there our enjoyment of the experience may have been limited. When one mask wasn’t working well, for example, the second guide went back to get a new one.

Another benefit was, of course, that the guides would go and find turtles and point them out for us. 

For the sardines, well, you’d have to be pretty oblivious to miss the swarm; there are thousands.

That being said, you could surely head out on your own. If you don’t find turtles yourself, chances are another swimmer will point one out to you.

Do look out for the many boats in the water.

What is the best time to snorkel at Panagsama Beach?

Though the best time to snorkel is often early in the morning, the water is likely to be good all day if you visit during the right time of year. For clear water and high visibility, the dry season from November to May is best.

Other things to do in Moalboal include scuba diving and boat tours.

Next destination: Oslob!

One thought on “Best of Moalboal: Swim with Turtles, Run with Sardines

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