Guide to Moalboal (Cebu): Sardine Run, Island Hopping, and Diving

Sardine run in Moalboal, Cebu (Philippines)
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Just as Badian is famous for its canyoneering adventure, Moalboal (pronounced as mwal-bwal) is known primarily for its sardine run activity. Right off the shore of Panagsama Beach, you can snorkel to see groups of sardine, one of the most amazing sights underwater. So without further ado, here’s a complete travel guide to Moalboal in Cebu province!

About Moalboal

Moalboal is a coastal town about 2-3 hours away from Cebu City.

The best activities here are snorkeling and diving. As said above, you can snorkel near the shore of Panagsama Beach to see the sardine run or dive in numerous dive spots around Moalboal to see not only coral communities but also wildlife such as turtles, sharks and more.

Moalboal also offers decent beaches for the beach bummers, but to be honest you will find better beaches elsewhere in Cebu.

How to get to Moalboal

Cebu City is the most common jump-off point to Moalboal. Here are the commute directions:

  • From Mactan Airport, take a taxi or Grab to South Bus Terminal. From the terminal, ride a bus with signage Bato via Barili and get off at Moalboal (3 hours, ordinary P115/aircon P125 per person).
  • Alternatively, you may head instead to Cebu South V-Hire Terminal in Junquera Street. From there, ride a van to Moalboal (2 hours, P100 per person).

From the bus stop in Moalboal, there will be tricycles and habal-habals waiting for passengers. You may also walk directly to the Tourism Office of Moalboal if you want to proceed to island hopping.

How to get around

There are tricycles and habal-habals (scooters) that can take you to nearby destinations such as Panagsama Beach or White Beach.

You may also rent a scooter so you can also reach further destinations such as Kawasan Falls in Badian (about 40 minutes away). Rental is P400-500 per day.

Things to do in Moalboal

1. Sardine run

You don’t have to rent a boat to see the sardine run. The sardines used to gather near Pescador Island but has since moved to the coast of Panagsama Beach. As it’s good for tourism, the locals let the sardines stay and do not catch them.

Sardine run in Moalboal, Cebu (Philippines)
Sardine run in Moalboal, Cebu
Sardine run. (Photo by Barbie Leones)

The best way to see them is to snorkel right off Chili Bar. From there, swim for about 30-50 meters to see the sardines. The sardines form a wall-like protection against larger prey — this is also called a bait ball. You can swim in and out of the bait ball and they will simply disperse and then get back together again. Make sure to bring an underwater camera as this is one of the highlights of Moalboal.

If you don’t have your own snorkeling gear, you can rent a snorkel set for about P100 or snorkel set and fins for P200 in most dive shops.

2. Island hopping tour

An island hopping tour is ideal for casual tourists or those who’d like to see the underwater beauty of Moalboal in a day. Stops include Pescador Island, Panagsama Beach and Turtle Spot.

Port for island hopping in Moalboal
Jump-off point for island hopping.

Pescador Island is a small rocky island located at the southern side of Tanon Strait, which is one of the richest marine habitats in the country. It features reefs at 10-15 feet deep, which makes it a great spot for snorkeling. Panagsama Beach is of course the home of the sardines. Lastly, Turtle Spot is a place where you can see green sea turtles.

Pescador Island in Moalboal, Cebu
Pescador Island.
Turtle sighting in Moalboal, Cebu
Green sea turtle.

You need to reserve for an island hopping tour in advance. The tourism office can be found near the port in Panagsama Beach. Boat rental starts at P3000 (good up to 8-10 people). Joiner rate starts at P1000-1500.

If you’re coming from Cebu City, you may also book a day tour which includes private transfer, snorkeling tour and optional activities such as visit to Kawasan Falls. Rate depends on how many you are in a group.

You can read about Our Day Trip to Moalboal here.

3. Diving

There are numerous dive sites in Moalboal. Some of the best ones include Pescador Island, Panagsama Reef, Umbrella, Dolphin House and Tongo Point.

Turtle sighting in Moalboal, Cebu
Turtle sighting. (Photo by Barbie Leones)
Underwater in Moalboal, Cebu
Underwater shot during a dive in Moalboal.

In these dive sites, you can see various types of corals and wildlife, including fishes, turtles, sea turtles and even white-tip sharks, thresher sharks and whale sharks.

Dive shops can be found along Panagsama Beach. Rate depends on the package you’re availing.

4. Beach bum in Basdaku White Beach

Basdaku White Beach is a kilometer-long public beach with fine white-ish sand. Here you can beach bum, eat local food and enjoy fresh juices or sing at karaokes.

You can also snorkel a little further in the ocean, where you can find a reef and a drop-off at a coral wall.

Basdaku White Beach is a decent place to spend a lazy afternoon, but don’t expect too much. It can get dirty and noisy when there are a lot of tourists. If you want a quieter beach, you may head to Lambug Beach or Zaragossa Beach in Green Island instead.

5. Side trip to Kawasan Falls

Kawasan Falls is one of the most popular destinations. It’s a multi-layered waterfall with a deep light blue or light green basin. Kawasan Falls and the stream leading to it are picturesque, which makes it a popular Instagram spot.

Kat in Kawasan Falls, Cebu
Kawasan Falls.

If you have a whole day to spare, you may also avail of canyoneering where you’ll have to swim and jump in a series of waterfalls which eventually lead to Kawasan Falls.

Kawasan Falls is about 40 minutes from Moalboal. You can get there via bus or by renting a private scooter. Entrance fee is P40-50 per person, and the rate for canyoneering is P1500 per person.

Where to stay

There are two main beaches in Moalboal: Panagsama Beach and White Beach.

Panagsama Beach is not exactly a beach, but a strip where most resorts, restaurants and agencies are located. Here you can easily find budget and mid-range accommodations. Most tourists especially backpackers stay at Panagsama Beach.

Meanwhile, White Beach is more of a beach-beach and it’s home to mid-range and high-end resorts. This is the ideal choice if you’re looking for a laid-back stay in Moalboal.

Here are some of the recommended accommodations in Moalboal:

  • Pig Dive Hostel. A clean and cozy hostel. It’s about 10-minute walk from downtown, but free shuttle is also available every hour. Book discounted rooms here.
  • Tongo Hill Cottages. Native cottages set in a verdant field. It’s about a 5-minute drive to Panagsama Beach. Book discounted rooms here.
  • Pescadores Seaview Suites Moalboal. A mid-range hotel with pool and easy access to snorkeling spots. Snorkel sets are provided for free. Book discounted rooms here.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Search for other resorts in Moalboal here.

Where to eat

There are various restaurants and bars along Panagsama Beach where you can order local dishes and enjoy drinks at night.

Notable ones include: Chili Bar, which is located at the center of Moalboal beach strip, and Shaka, which offers smoothie bowls.

Reminders and Tips

Here are some tips for your trip to Moalboal in Cebu:

  • Start your island hopping tour as early as 6AM so you can spot dolphins and other wildlife along the way. It’s also less crowded during this time.
  • If you’re traveling alone or as a couple, it’s best to reserve an island hopping tour a day before so you get a chance to join a group.
  • It’s best to do the island hopping tour on a weekday, as Moalboal can get crowded especially during the summer.
  • It’s best to wear a lifevest when snorkeling for the sardine run, as the waves can get choppy depending on the weather. (I went there sometime in November, and I had a difficult time not because of the waves per se but the strong current underneath, which could’ve easily swept me away had I not held on the outriggers of our boat. Still, it was difficult to get back to the boat so I asked assistance from our boat guides which thankfully were strong and prolific swimmers.)
  • Aside from snorkeling and diving, there isn’t much else to do in Moalboal. You can head to Badian for the canyoneering adventure in Kawasan Falls, explore other waterfalls in Samboan or trek to Osmena Peak for the sunset. You may also head to the northern part of Cebu where you can see the beautiful beaches in Bantayan Island or experience more diving activities in Malapascua Island.

Has this travel guide to Moalboal in Cebu City been helpful to you? Let me know in the comments below!

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Kat, child friendly ba ang moalboal? We have our 3 1/2 year old daughter coming from Boracay then going to Moalboal. Is it okay? Thanks for your advice.

    1. Pwede naman but more on snorkeling/diving kasi talaga siya. If you’re gonna stay here, better book sa resort na may pool and beachfront the kid.

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