Moalboal is the perfect relaxing seaside escape from busy Cebu City as it is just a 3-hour bus ride away. While it may not have the most beautiful beaches of the Philippines, it more than makes up for this with its unbelievable underwater marine life. Whether you are looking for the perfect place to scuba dive, free dive or just snorkel - Moalboal will keep you entertained!
While there are several ATMs in Moalboal, be sure to have some smaller notes and change with you as most tricycle/bus/van drivers might not be able to give you change for a PHP500 or PHP1000 note. ATM locations are at the Gaisano Mall, in the 360 Pharmacy and at Eve’s Kiosk, located near the car park at Panagsama Beach.
HOW TO GET TO MOALBOAL
HOW TO GET TO MOALBOAL FROM CEBU CITY
From the Cebu City South Bus Terminal, there are numerous buses going to Moalboal. The cheaper option is the local buses with open windows which are fine, however, we chose the added comfort of the air-conditioned bus and it cost us PHP156 per person. Both types of busses will stop many times along the way and getting to Moalboal from Cebu will take 3-4 hours, depending on the traffic.
You could also opt for a private transfer in a sedan or van depending on the size of your group.
HOW TO GET TO MOALBOAL FROM BOHOL
The simplest way is to take a fast ferry from Tagbilaran to Cebu City Pier 1, then make your way to Cebu City South Bus Terminal and take a bus heading for Batu via Moalboal. Although this will take at least 6 hours you have the advantage of choosing from frequent ferries to Cebu City and can set off any time of the day. An air-conditioned bus from the South Bus Terminal should cost around PHP160 per person to Moalboal Proper from where you need to get a tricycle to Panagsama Beach.
If you want to attempt a more direct route from Bohol to Moalboal:
From the Tagbilaran Ferry terminal, there is a Lite Shipping Ferry (RORO) twice a day to Argao on Cebu. Ferries depart Tagbilaran at 8:00 and 16:00 takes 3 hours and costs around PHP200 per person. Once in Argao you will have to put your negotiation skills to work and get a tricycle driver to take you all the way to Moalboal - however, we've heard of some aggressive behaviour, mafia-like price-fixing and a going rate of around PHP1500. You're probably better off avoiding any of the pushy behaviour and make your way towards the bus station. If you have time and want to save quite a bit you can from there:
Take a bus to Batu in the south of Cebu and from there take another bus to Moalboal This should cost less than PHP200 per person to Moalboal proper but will take around 4 hours excluding waiting time for the bus.
Potentially slightly faster is to take a bus heading north to Cebu City and get off at the Carcar rotunda. From the rotunda, follow the signs pointing to Barili and catch a bus on that road heading for Badian, Bato or Liloan. All the these will pass by Moalboal. This should take around 3 hours.
If you're travelling very light, the alternative option from Argoa is to make your way over the north-south highway to Ylaya Road which traverses Cebu to Moalboal on the west coast. There are habal-habal drivers (motorcycle) waiting for passengers and you should get a good deal if you are skill-full at negotiation. This will be the quickest and shortest way to Moalboal from Bohol.
Once you get to Moalboal Proper tricycles will charge around PHP120-150 for exclusive use to Panagsama Beach area. If you hop on a shared ride it will be around PHP20 per person but this might be a problem if you have bulky luggage.
HOW TO GET TO MOALBOAL FROM SIQUIJOR
As of the time of writing, there is no direct connection from Siquijor to Moalboal.
You can take a fast boat from Siquijor port to Dumaguete (1 hour, PHP225), then make your way by tricycle (PHP150) or easy-share van (PHP 20) to the Sibulan ferry terminal from where an hourly fast boat departs for Liloan (25 minutes, PHP85). At Liloan you have to negotiate a ride with a tricycle to Bato bus terminal (10 minutes, PHP130) and then hop on a Ceres Liner bus headed to Cebu City via Moalboal (2 hours, PHP85 non-air conditioned). From Moalboal Proper you need to take a tricycle to Panagsama Beach (10 minutes, PHP120-150. Just remember that all tricycle prices will depend on your negotiation skills, the number of people and amount of luggage!
HOW TO GET AROUND MOALBOAL
The best way to get around Moalboal is to rent a scooter. If you are not comfortable riding a scooter, then make use of the many tricycles. The typical fare for a tricycle ride from Moalboal Bus Terminal to Panagsama Beach should be about PHP120 (although they will start by asking you more). Shared tricycle rides to Panagsama should cost no more than PHP10-20 per person. A trip from Panagsama Beach to White Beach is PHP150-300 depending on the time of day. Scooter rental in Moalboal costs around PHP300 per day for semi-automatic and up to PHP500 for automatic, If you plan on moving around a bit, getting a scooter is by far the cheaper alternative. Just take note that it is almost impossible to find rental scooters with insurance included - take care and understand your risks.
MOALBOAL - WHAT TO SEE AND DO
SCUBA DIVE IN MOALBOAL
Moalboal has got to be one of the best places to dive in the Philippines. This is for two reasons: firstly the reef that surrounds Moalboal allows for nice, easy and cheaper shore diving options with the opportunity to see massive sardine schools, turtles, electric clams and loads of really cool smaller sea life; secondly is the incredible little island of Pescador, which is just a few minutes away from Panagsama Beach by boat and which has a wall reef surrounding the entire island. We couldn’t get enough of the scuba diving at Pescador Island and even after 12 years of diving, we saw many new creatures during these dives. If you want to experience the Sardine Run from another perspective other than snorkelling, then do the Sardine Run shore dive (although we preferred the snorkelling experience). The shore diving conditions also often allow for night dives, just check with the dive shops.
MOALBOAL SARDINE RUN
This is one of those things you just have to do yourself to really appreciate just how amazing it is! Moalboal is known for its Sardines Shoal, or rather the enormous schools of sardines that are pretty much always there. They hang out around Panagsama Beach area, close to where the yellow pier juts out into the water. Although you can see the sardines at any time of the day, try to go early morning, just after sunrise if you want to beat most people to the water. All you need is snorkelling gear (snorkel, mask and preferably fins) which you can rent from the nearby shops which open at 6 am. It doesn’t matter what we say, nothing will prepare you for the sheer number of sardines that you will see! Lisa was even lucky enough to see a huge turtle swim by. This was by far one of the most fun shallow-water activities that we have done!
PESCADOR ISLAND AND SNORKELLING TOUR
This boat tour will take you to the nearby island of Pescador. It is best to go really early in the morning to avoid the crowds. You will have a number of opportunities throughout the tour for snorkelling, which will usually include being taken to the best spots for swimming with the sardines and also to see turtles. Although it is definitely not necessary to go on a tour to see the sardines, this is a fun day outing and the snorkelling around Pescador island is incredible!
RENT A KAYAK
The reef all around Moalboal is very shallow, so kayaking around this area is beautiful. If you want to splurge, go for a transparent kayak so you can feel like you are floating over the water! Be aware of the deep drop off beyond the shallow reef as the current can be much stronger in this channel.
KAWASAN FALLS AND CANYONEERING
Kawasan Falls claims to be one of the most recognisable waterfalls in the world. That being said, it has become a tourist hot spot and more and more commercialised. To be honest, this distracts somewhat from the waterfall’s natural beauty and if you really want to get the full experience of the extent and scale of the waterfalls, you should sign up for the canyoneering. Be sure to only do this with a reputable guide and read some reviews before making your booking. If you enjoy adrenaline activities and cliff jumping, this will be a crazy, fun and unforgettable experience!
If you’re looking for a more relaxed spot to appreciate a waterfall, then head to Aguinid Falls. There are five levels which you will have to climb, jump and fully immerse yourself into, so don’t go here expecting to stay dry!
HIKE OSMEÑA PEAK
One of the highest peaks on the island of Cebu, Osmeña Peak stands at over 1 000 meters above sea level. It’s a fairly easy half-hour hike which rewards you with stunning views of jagged cliffs and the sea in the distance. Locals often like to call it Cebu’s version of Bohol’s Chocolate Hills, but these are not rolling curved mounds, they are sharp protruding peaks which really do resemble a field of gigantic green Hershey’s Kisses! Getting to the entrance in Mantalongon, Dalaguete, is likely more challenging than the hike itself. The road is really only suitable for 4 x 4 vehicles although many motorcycle taxis will also take you there. Although the ride is rather bumpy, it passes through some wonderful twisty mountain roads, before reaching Mantolongon, with stunning scenery and fantastic views of hills and fields.
BEST BEACHES IN MOALBOAL
WHITE BEACH is the most popular tourist beach and the closest to the main tourist area. You won’t be able to walk 10m along the street of Panagsama without a tricycle driver offering to take you to White Beach! There was a road usage fee (PHP5 pp) as well as an 'entrance fee' (PHP10 pp) when we visited, which give you nothing more than access to the beach. The beach is fairly long and although the main area can be busy if you walk just a few hundred meters in either direction you can easily find a quiet spot to relax. While we weren’t blown away with the beauty of the beach, we did enjoy a stunning sunset here and it is one of the few beaches in the area where you can relax, swim and still have the convenience of food and drink stalls nearby.
PANAGSAMA BEACH is the best area to find accommodation to be near to all activities. Here you can walk to a few small beach areas (you can even stay right on the water’s edge) and walk straight into the water for snorkelling at almost any spot along the coast. In particular, this is where the enormous schools of Sardines hang out, so you absolutely have to spend some time snorkelling with them from here. This area has plenty of eateries, restaurants and bars and is also home to most of the dive shops. There are plenty of opportunities for shore dives - which are generally a little cheaper than boat dives.
LAMBUG BEACH is just less than 20km south from Panagsama Beach and you’ll need to either have your own scooter or take a tricycle to get here. It is a public beach, but access to the beach has been restricted and they now ask an entrance fee. If you’re looking for a place to hang out for the day, relax on the beach, swim and even enjoy karaoke on the beach, then it’s probably worth it.
BEST PIZZA IN MOALBOAL AT THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE
If you’re looking for a good value meal, in particularly pizza, look no further than The Pleasure Principle. We tried a fair number of pizza’s during our 2-month stay in the Philippines and while we did not visit any high-end establishments (which may indeed have great pizza?), we found that the pizza here was the most authentic within a reasonable price range. They also have excellent customer service and the free appetiser and drinks were a bonus!