At first glance it may seem like there is not much to do for a tourist in Moalboal itself, but it serves as an excellent basecamp for diving and exploring the surrounding area. The many diveshops in Panagsama beach are mixed with a lot of bars and restaurants, and you can find both luxury and budget friendly accommodation to return to after your excursions. Moalboal is mostly known for the diving its coastline's multiple reefs provide, but if you look a bit further there are many more natural wonders to explore. The mountains inland offer spectacular vistas and the area is covered by dense tropical rain forests divided by rivers and canyons.
The easiest way to reach Moalboal is from Cebu City. The road is in good condition, even in the second part in the mountains and is about 80 km.
Most of the resorts/dive shops in Moalboal propose to hire a van from Cebu airport to Moalboal. Be ready to pay around ₱3000 for this 3 hr trip.
Van can be also hired in front of the Cebu Airport. You will be "attacked" by guys offering this option when you step out of the airport. The first offer was around 4500 pesos. We didn't take it, because we went by bus so no idea if the price can be negotiated...
Taxis can be hired at Cebu Airport for ₱3,000 (fixed rate as of January 2012). Many of the hotels and guest houses in Panagsama Beach will send a car or van for pickup for about ₱3,000.
Another option is to arrange your taxi ride in advance. There are several private operators driving legitimate taxi's. Both Noel (+639286634991) and Danny (+639061534659) are reliable drivers with whom you can negotiate a price between 1700 and 2200 pesos. (Oct 2014).
When we took the white metered taxi from the airport to the south bus terminal in Cebu city, the driver asked us wher we will go afterward. We said that we will take the bus to Moalboal and he said that he can take us there for 2500 pesos.(Mar 2016)
Then take the bus here (the main company is the yellow color buses of Ceres Liner). Be sure to use an already almost full bus to avoid waiting. The no-aircon (most are like this) travel will cost you ₱107 (Jan 2013) + ₱10 of terminal fee if you don't pay directly in the bus. Air-con with free WiFi (yellow Ceres) buses are ₱130 (Mar 2017). The bus will drop you off in Moalboal town which is 4km from Pangsama and 9km from White beach. The tricycle ride to Pangsama should cost less than ₱30 per person (locals pay ₱7), but expect that driver will ask 100+ pesos at first...
Coming from Dumaguete, it is possible to take the ferry boat between Sibulan (ca ₱100 by tricycle from the city center, or P10 in a jeepney) and cross to Lilo-An on Cebu island. There, take another tricycle (around ₱50) to the nearby bus station in Bato (San Sebastian). Another option from Dumaguete is taking a jeepney to Tampi (take a jeepney going to Amlan, P20), and there a RORO ferry directly to Bato for P70. Ceres buses headed for Cebu City stop there regularly, and some of them go via Moalboal (ask the driver). The bus fare is ₱70 (non aircon, Nov 2015).
Note: There is one ATM in Panagsama, inside Eve's Kiosk (go to where the car park is just inside of Panagsama, it is the resort at the back of the car park on the left), but it does not always work. There is an ATM in the 360 pharmacy in MoalBoal town (about 4km from the beach, reachable by tricycle) aswell as one at Gaisano Mall. Please be aware that all of the ATM's are temperamental; have cash with you before you arrive and make sure you have small denominations as some tricycle drivers and restaurants will flat out refuse or not give you change for a 500PHP or 1000PHP note. (Oct 2016)
The easiest way to get around the town is to use tricycles, though if you are comfortable driving on rough roads, then you should strongly consider renting a motorbike. From Moalboal to Panagsama Beach, the usual fare is ₱150 (September 2017), drivers will start at ₱150 but will go down to ₱100 if you auction the ride with all the drivers around. Don't pay more than ₱200. At night the rate is about ₱200 as it is off peak hours already. To White beach most people were paying between ₱150-₱300 in Sept 2017, depending on nday vs nighttime. If you don't have much luggage, another cheap way to get around is by "habal habal", basically riding on the back of a motorbike. Moalboal to Panagsama by habal habal is around ₱30-50. You can also take the shared tricycles that go back and forth between Moalboal and Panagsama for about ₱30.
Travelers have been threatened for more money for a tricycle / motorbike trip. So, please apply common sense when engaging one of such service.
If you are staying for a bit longer, it's a good idea to rent a motorbike. A Semi automatic motorcycle Honda XRM 125cc for ₱400 per day or automatic scooter at ₱500 per day. They do have weekly packages which is relatively cheaper than per day basis . Elsa's in Panagsama has good motorbikes for rent (tel. +63923-1435523 or +639059764705).
Kawasan Water Falls
The Kawasan water falls (a three step waterfall) is located in the rain forest approximately 20 km south of Moalboal (past Badian). If you take the yellow bus from in front of the public market in Moalboal (near 360 Pharmacy), you can ask the bus driver or ticket collector to drop you off at the right place. The bus ticket from Moalboal to the water falls or vice versa costs ₱19.00. You also need to pay an entrance fee of ₱60.00 (from Sept 2017) and will get an official receipt. Be careful of the 'guides' offer. The walk up to the fall is very easy and you do not need a guide. Motorbike riders may be shaken down for a P50 street 'parking fee', which you can either pay or safely avoid by parking further down the road.
A tricycle ride from Moalboal is possible but not recommended. Drivers usually charge ₱800 for the round-trip with a 3 hour time limit at the falls. Taking the bus is cheaper, faster and more comfortable.
If you are driving a rented scooter, the road between Moalboal and Kawasan Falls is excellent, taking around 30 to 40 minutes riding. There is very little traffic and great views of the coast. The entrance to the falls is signaled on the main highway. There is a ₱50 parking fee.
Getting to the falls from the highway is approximately a 30 minute ascent through an impressive landscape. You can take a nice cooling swim in the natural pools, or take a raft out to the falls. There are resting place tables for a charge, some small restaurants and very simple accommodation available.
The falls can sometimes be a bit crowded (especially on weekends) so if you're looking for more of a nature experience, go early (before 10AM) or check out the guided canyoning tours that are offered by some resorts in Panagsama. Tours start in the morning, above the waterfalls, and you make your way down wading along the river, swimming through deeper sections and jumping down waterfalls. Takes about one day, around ₱1,500 (march 2017) per person. Bring a swimsuit and dry bag as you can rent lockers, enabling you to swim under the barge-filled main falls, or better yet in the additional quieter falls above them. You can walk up beyond the falls and follow the people to try a bit of free canyoneering, since the entire path is walkable and essentially consists of jumping off rocks and hanging ropes into cascading waterfall pools, though a tour is still recommended since they offer safety guidance and will point out submerged rocks.
Kawasan Canyoneering Trip
Canyoning tours are offered directly upstream of the Kawasan Falls. The Matutinao river flows through a secluded canyon which is the starting point of all canyoneering tours and you move your way down towards the end which is the the Kawasan falls. The tour is inclusive of the guide, gears, and all other fees when you register with accredited tours. MCM CANYONEERING CEBU is one of the agencies highly recommended. Their package comes with one set of full meal as they know the guests will come back with an empty stomach afterwards.Tour starts either in the morning or afternoon, latest is 2pm. TIt is a 3 hour tour which is rather memorable and recommended for the youngsters and young at heart.
Basdiot meaning 'Little Sand' is a long stretch of marine life. A number of dive spots are just side by side as each area contains marine life which is unique from the others. Recreational diving is the main tourist activity in Moalboal, and is considered very good, even according to international standards. The reefs along the west coast of the Copton peninsula are home to a great variety of marine life. Pescador Island, about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) off the coast, is the most popular dive spot with an underwater cave called the Cathedral. The structure of the reef that follows the entire coast line has made the place ideal for scuba-diving, snorkeling and freediving. Divers can enjoy easy access to the reef since the drop off is shallow and close to shore but drops down to more than 40 metres (130 ft). On typical days, a number of turtles are often seen very close to the shore line especially at Tonggo Point which is in front of Pescadores Seaview Suites. Such as the famous Sardine Run, a number of turtles, and lots of micro organisms pleasing for divers. Other than the rich marine life, the strip is surrounding the shore contains a number of restaurants, bars, live music and night life. If you're bored in the hotel you simple walk outside and within 3 minutes walk depending on your location you can be entertained with the life it has to offer. It is an all in one package.
About 7 kilometres north of Panagsama you'll find White Beach or Basdako, meaning 'Big Sand', a nice white sandy beach lined with a beautiful coral reef about 30 meters out. Pack your mask and snorkel. White Beach is a popular spot to visit, especially during the weekend, so if you're looking for more quiet beach life go during the week or make your way a bit further north up the beach. If entering from the main road, there is an entrance fee of 10pesos per person. the downside here is the establishments are only a few so there is not much to do aside from the hotel itself. It would depend which kind of traveler you are.
There are a couple of restaurants along the beach and also a few resorts if you would like to stay for the night. To the south you have the newly opened Pescadores Seaview Suites and a bit further north Blue Orchid Resort and Club Serena.
In Moalboal, turn off the national highway by the Petron gas station and continue up the road for about 200 meters to find the Orchid Gallery. It's not so much a gallery, but an orchid plant school that has a pool and nice shaded areas and some specimen of the local wildlife. You can buy orchids and other plants. There is a small entrance fee.
Take a tricycle or motorbike about 20km south towards Badian to find Lambug Beach, one of the best in Cebu. If coming by bus, simply tell the bus driver or attendant that you want to get off at Lambug. It's still good to know where to get off the bus, which is here. There will probably be tricycles or motorcycles waiting there to take you to the beach. They can also arrange tours of Kawasan Falls.
While there is occasional loud karaoke at the pier end of Lambug beach, you can walk around the bend and sometimes find yourself completely alone, especially during the week. There is plenty of decent accommodation right on the beach for about 1500 pesos a night. You can even get a room where the door opens directly onto the beach and is only 20 meters from the water. You can also sleep in a tent on the beach for free. You can bring your own tent or rent one there.
Swimming and snorkeling are excellent there. There are few to no people trying to sell you stuff. That's a huge improvement over many beaches in the Philippines, where people will approach you and hard sell random stuff until you say "no" 1 to 12 times. There is an 18-hole golf course nearby and a beautiful coastal wetland area a 5 minute drive to the north filled with unusual rock formations.
Not far out from the beach shore in Panagsama Beach, there is a drop-off. Near that area there are countless reefs, with soft and hard corals, many different species of fish. Sometimes you can spot lion fish, water snakes, and with some luck turtles. White Beach is also a good spot for snorkelling if you want to combine it with relaxing in the sun. Just a 10-minute walk from white beach are several of the most popular dive spots in the area. Easy Walking on a paved road brings you to Belgian Resort Divers and just beyond that, Sea Turtle House. In these spots live coral and tropical fish can be spotted less than 20 meters from shore...Very shallow water and large sand patches make it possible to easily walk most of the 100 meters to drop off that begins in less than 2 meters of water. Ideal for snorkelling or Scuba diving from shore, both of these small hotels offer reasonable room rates for overnight or weeklong stays. Sea turtles are very commonly seen while snorkelling from Sea Turtle house.
The popular "sardine run" area can be reached from the shore. Simply walk on the road leading to the water directly in front of Savedra Dive Center in Moalboal. Once in the water, wade or swim out towards the drop-off (20-30 meters from shore, depending on the tides). The visibility seems better during rising tide. Between shore and the drop-off, turtles can be seen eating sea weed. I saw at least 6 when I was snorkeling in front of chili bar (20m before "sardine run" spot). Best time is around noon, because most divers are at lunch, so there is less boat trafic...
Most divers come for the more famous diving spots in Pescador Island, which offer terrific diving and an amazing "sardine run" with a school of several hundred thousand fish. However, there are also a lot more spots do discover around the Moalboal peninsula. In some areas there are fish sanctuaries, and there is a marine preservation program in effect to encourage fishermen not to fish with nets. Moalboal is thankfully spared from dynamite fishing, and the corals are some of the best in the world. Though they are nowadays a bit more uncommon, you can still see both White and Black Tip sharks in the area and at times even Whale Sharks and dolphins pay the reef a visit.
Dives currently cost around ₱1200 with gear. There are a few "local owned" dive shops that are ₱1100-1200 per dive. Most of the dive shops operate 3 dives per day and you can even do your own diving schedule on low season. There are several dive shops along Panagsama Beach, and an equal number along the area of (or white sand beach) All hold some internaionally recognized certifications
If you are not a diver yet, the Moalboal waters are a great place to start exploring the underwater world. A beginners' course will set you back about ₱14,500-19,000 depending where you go. If you are staying for at least five nights in the area, almost all the area shops can teach at widely varying prices.
Although in Moalboal the most popular tourist activity is Scuba diving, there are a lot more outdoor activities to explore. The area is great for hiking, moutainbiking and canyoneering, and there are many natural wonders like caves and waterfalls to explore. There are a few companies that arrange adventure tours.
Freediving is becoming more and more popular in Moalboal, because the area offers great conditions for the sport. Close to the shore, the reef drops off to about 40 meters (sometimes more) and the water is usually calm and clear. There are several diveshops that offer courses and training session.
You can buy any kind of souvenirs on the beaches and locals will remind you if you forget ;) Please don't buy from the local children, especially at night; the children should be in bed or doing homework and buying from them encourages their parents to send them out late into the night into bars which can be dangerous for them. If you want a souvenir, buy directly from a store - it's where their souvenirs come from anyhow.
Maya's Mexican is in the main Part on Panagsama Beach and does excellent Mexican food - a nice change. They do fresh shakes and have a great BBQ. Chili Bar also does good food, and has the best pizza in Moalboal according to a sign outside (many are inclined to agree). If you venture a bit further south along the beach you'll find Arista Restaurant, which sits right on the waterfront. They have a decently priced Filipino/German menu, and great service to go with the good food.
A place that can be a bit hard to find, but that's well worth the effort is Food Stop, just next to the road between Moalboal and Panagsama. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but they serve generous portions of delicious Filipino and Asian dishes for ₱150 each. If you go for dinner, go early as they usually close around 7pm.
There are a lot of restaurants along the beach where you can have a drink with a sea view. Chili Bar in Panagsama Beach is the most popular one and usually full of people all year around. You will find two billiards table there (as in almost all the other bars around) and there's a tournament on wednesdays. Across from Chili Bar is 7 Sins Bar, also with a pool table and lots of seating.
As you come down to Panagsama from Moalboal and the road turns left, continue straight on down to the beach and take a left to find Ester's Bar. The nice sea view is accompanied by friendly service.
On Saturday nights, there is a disco in Pacitas, just a short walk south along the beach from Panagsama's center. There are also very often discos organised by locals in different locations. Ask around where it is, everybody knows. On your way to Pacitas you can also stop off at One Eye Jacks as they have live band every other day of the week. They do have billiards, TV, and a unique swing chair at the second floor. Andi's Talisay is another option too for some late night singing at their open-mic night.
Visitors should consider staying on the coast such as Panagsama or White beach, rather than inland in Moalboal town, so that have walking access to snorkelling and beaches. Panagsama beach consists of a single, narrow backpacker laneway focused around Chili bar, with the turtle/anchovy run snorkeling area just 30 meters offshore, surrounded by a huge network of cheaper and often better accommodations in tiny, unmarked laneways.
Oslob: To reach Oslob (more specifically Tan Awan) for the whale shark interaction, take any Ceres bus heading south on the highway towards Bato (70php). You will be dropped off at the Ceres Liner bus station from where you can board another bus towards Oslob. Inform the conductor you want to be dropped off at Tan Awan (19php). The Ceres buses are very frequent (every 30 minutes or less) and the trip takes less than 2 hours, including the bus change. Please be aware that the whale sharks are attracted by the constant feeding from small local boats. There will be plenty of people splashing in the water with their life jackets and fins. If you are still interested, go early on a weekday to avoid the crowds and be mindful about the animals.
Cebu City: frequent Ceres buses go directly from Moalboal to the southern bus terminal. 117PHP, 3 hours.