Although this Moalboal itinerary is only three days, it is jam-packed with things to do and bucket list experiences to make the most of your time. After our three days in Moalboal, we were completely in love and regretted not having extra time to explore more of the addictive snorkelling spots and absorb the incredibly relaxing atmosphere.
There were two reasons Moalboal was high on our Philippines bucket list – turtles & waterfalls. To be honest, those same reasons are likely why many tourists visit this seaside dwelling on the South West coast of Cebu. Not to mention divers from all over the world who travel there to experience Moalboal’s incredible marine life.
Regardless if you have a week or weekend, these are the top things to do in Moalboal and a sample itinerary so you will leave with the most incredible memories and a definite longing to return.
HOW TO GET TO MOALBOAL
Moalboal is very easy to reach from popular destinations such as Oslob, Malapascua Island, Bohol and Dumaguete. Afterwards, we also travelled on to Siquijor Island where we went glamping on the beach.
It is both cheap and easy to get from Cebu to Moalboal. Before Moalboal, we had spent an incredible four days on Bantayan Island, which was very different (and a lot cheaper) but equally breathtaking.
As mentioned, we travelled from Bantayan back to Cebu City, to Moalboal and the journey was far smoother and easier than we expected. This may have been because we chose to visit in May, which is considered one of the best times to visit The Philippines as it’s after the super hot dry season, but before the typhoon season which starts in June.
Bus from Cebu to Moalboal
If you are arriving from Cebu airport, take a Grab taxi to South Terminal Bus station. If you are on a bus from elsewhere in Cebu, ensure your bus is to South Terminal as many only stop at North Terminal.
You will then take a Ceres bus from Cebu to Moalboal. We specifically asked for the air-con bus and were told “it only runs at special times” – we are unsure if this is because the drivers work on commission, so he wanted us to get on his bus or if it was genuine. The giveaway that the bus does not have air-con is that all the windows will be open.
Regardless, we took the non-air-con bus from Cebu to Moalboal and in all honesty, it was not that bad, considering we’re Scottish (aka. air-con worshippers.) All windows and even the door were open allowing a refreshing breeze and we found the journey so fascinating as the bus passed through several towns with many locals waving or saying hello. The journey from Cebu to Moalboal took 4 hours, but this depends on how many stops the driver decides to make, traffic etc.
The bus from Cebu to Moalboal costs only 127 pesos, with air-con is 160 pesos so although there isn’t much of a price difference, we were happy to go without air-con as it meant we wouldn’t have to wait in the heat for hours until the next air-con bus. You pay the conductor on the bus, be warned it’s an odd system – they supply your ticket first then return some while later to collect the money.
Vendors also come on the bus regularly selling water, fruit and snacks. We even had some come on selling burgers and chips. Also beware, once or twice we heard the bus conductor trying to charge tourists an extra fee for their bags on the bus. He pockets this money, and it has nothing to do with the bus company so dispute it if he asks. You usually have to pay a porter fee for luggage on the ferries but should not have to pay for it on the buses.
The bus will drop you in Moalboal bus station, from here it is around a 10-minute trike journey to Panagsama beach which is the main hub for accommodation, diving and things to do in Moalboal. The trike journey was 150 pesos, which seemed to be the minimum charge during our entire Moalboal itinerary – whether the journey was 5 minutes or 15 minutes, we were charged 150 pesos.
WHERE TO STAY IN MOALBOAL
If you are wondering where to stay in Moalboal, there are so many affordable options. With the popularity of dive schools, many offer accommodation as part of the package so this may dictate where to stay in Moalboal for you if you plan on taking a PADI course etc.
We opted for homestay style accommodation just outside Panagsama beach, which understandably proved a little cheaper than accommodation in the hub of the action. It was less than a 10-minute walk to the beach, cafes and diving schools, yet it was far enough away that we had peace away from the backpacking hostels and karaoke bars.
The owners were incredibly friendly, offering tips and advice on things to do in Moalboal and accurate prices of how much we should pay to avoid being ripped off. They also offered a laundry service, which we were incredibly grateful for as it was cheap and super quick.
Our room was spacious with a comfortable bed and air-con as well as plenty of storage to unpack. The wifi was excellent, which we were pleasantly surprised by, and we were delighted we could back up all our photos during our stay from our jam-packed Moalboal itinerary.
If you are wondering where to stay in Moalboal, we cannot recommend Beyond Island enough as it was approximately £72.00 for three nights. It was an excellent location, and we simply had to walk 2 minutes out the front door to flag down a trike to anywhere in Moalboal.
THINGS TO DO IN MOALBOAL
Snorkelling in Moalboal
Firstly, you will be delighted to hear that if your Moalboal itinerary is on a budget (like ours was), you will not need an expensive tour for Snorkelling in Moalboal. Nearly every shop offers snorkel hire, with some offering a mask + flippers others just offering the full face mask but both are around 100 pesos (approx. £1.60/$1.9 USD).
After snorkelling in Bantayan, Australia and Fiji, we much preferred snorkelling with a full face mask as it literally feels like viewing the marine life on a TV screen, David Attenborough style. We find them easier to breathe in which massively increased Dazzie’s confidence in the water.
Many shops also offer Go Pro hire or sell waterproof phone cases & backpacks but predictably these are overpriced, so we recommend buying before you go. They also offer life jackets for the famous Moalboal Sardine run at a reasonable price if you are not a confident swimmer.
If you fancy spotting some dolphins during your Moalboal itinerary, this would be the only instance we’d recommend a tour as the boats leave around sunrise and promise sightings of dolphins. Please be a responsible traveller and do your research before booking any tour; however, to ensure it is ethical and that the company do not feed any sea life to attract them for tourists.
Admire The Moalboal Sardine Run
Now you have the snorkel gear and hopefully, haven’t been scammed into hopping on a boat, you should head to Panagsama beach (there is a small passageway nearby SeaQuest Dive Center) and within 20 minutes you will swimming amongst the Moalboal Sardine run.
Although its one of the most popular things to do in Moalboal, we were apprehensive, surely millions of sardines are not that close to the shore all day every day, but they are! It is surreal to witness, and our photos do not do this incredible experience justice.
We were also both quite nervous, thinking the sardine run in Moalboal would be quite overwhelming if you’re not a confident swimmer however the water is quite shallow (around 2 metres) then exactly where the drop off was, you’ll spot the sardine run to your left, so it’s easy to swim back and fore to the shallow.
Another thing we were nervous about the Moalboal sardine run was if the fish swarm you. This may sound ridiculous, but we had visions of being stuck amongst a sardine snow globe and not being able to see how to escape or be strong enough swimmers to make it back to the shallow water. However, it could not have been a more calming experience.
We just bopped above the sardine cloud and were amazed as it changed direction and shape, mere minutes from the shore. Undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Moalboal for all swimming abilities.
Snorkeling With Turtles
The Moalboal sardine run is not the only mindblowing snorkelling experience to be had, you can also expect turtles in abundance. We had heard it is one of the most amazing things to do in Moalboal because the turtles are so near the shore so you could see them without a tour or diving experience.
Right enough, after just 20 minutes, we were joined by not one but FOUR sea turtles. Two of which danced together alongside us which was incredibly cute to witness.
As with any snorkelling experience, please be a responsible traveller and do not get within 2 metres of the turtles. To be honest, the turtles in Moalboal were incredibly chilled and unphased by the number of snorkelers, but this does not mean you should ever attempt to touch one or chase it for a selfie.
Although snorkelling with the turtles was the highlight of our Moalboal itinerary, it was tainted by the amount of plastic we scooped out of the sea during our swim. I found two plastic bags bobbing on the surface that even I mistook for jellyfish so you can imagine how it must look to a turtle who feeds on jellyfish to survive.
I scooped up straws and crisp packets and had to tuck them into my swimming costume before returning to shore to bin them. Of all the places we have snorkelled this was the first time we have witnessed plastic like this in the sea and worse still, so close to these majestic creatures.
Moalboal Diving Courses
Many people plan their Moalboal itinerary around a PADI diving course; however, do not worry if you haven’t booked a Moalboal diving course before your arrival. Nearly every second shop in Panagsama beach offers diving of some sort.
Moalboal diving schools are some of the best in the world, with courses available for all abilities and budgets. For beginners, Moalboal diving courses begin in a local swimming pool with a DSD (Discover Scuba Dive) to get you familiar with the equipment and breathing technique before you’re set free in the big blue sea.
Moalboal diving courses also vary in length – with some as short as an afternoon and others such as a PADI open water course, taking a few days as they include 4 or 5 dives of varying depths as well as theory. Naturally, this also means the cost varies, with a beginners diving course in Moalboal costing around 3400 pesos & a PADI open water course costing around 22000 pesos.
The Moalboal diving courses are some of the most affordable in The Philippines, and as mentioned earlier, many are combined with accommodation to save you even more money. Alternatively, you could also organise a liveaboard in The Philippines.
Visit Kawasan Falls
After experiencing the incredible Moalboal Sardine run and swimming with turtles, one of the other most popular things to do in Moalboal is visit Kawasan Falls. It’s likely you have seen those mind-blowingly-blue waterfalls on Instagram, and no Moalboal itinerary would be complete without a visit.
However, we will warn Instagram has a lot to answer for as we realised the reviews, blogs and photos we’d seen before our visit didn’t quite paint a picture of reality. Lucky for you, we have.
After our visit to Kawasan waterfalls, we felt compelled to create a realistic guide which was informative, yet without the filtered photos that showed behind the scenes, not just the best “insta worthy” parts.
A bus journey from Moalboal to Kawasan falls takes around 40 minutes, with bus tickets costing 23 pesos per person. The Kawasan Falls entrance fee is 45 pesos per person plus life jacket hire (mandatory for swimming in the falls) which is 50 pesos per person.
It’s not only one of the best things to do in Moalboal but one of the most affordable for those visiting on a budget, just ensure you have read our honest guide beforehand, so you know what to expect!
Relax on The White Beach, Moalboal
Panagsama beach is not the most aesthetically pleasing; however, no one cares as you’re there for the sardine run or turtle spotting not to bask in the sun. If you fancy a more picturesque beach then head to White Beach in Moalboal – known also as Basdaku Beach.
It will cost 150 pesos for a trike from Moalboal town to White Beach; we did haggle for this price so you may be quoted more. As the name describes the sand is incredibly beautiful and the sea here is just as you’d expect from the Philippines – stunning.
We enjoyed swimming here and also loved watching the locals fishing (they did it by hand using a spear and a net – you’d have to see it to believe it.) We also found it quiet considering it is one of the most popular things to do in Moalboal – we didn’t feel it was crowded at all.
As a warning, expect incredibly inflated prices at White Beach such as 60 pesos for water, which was the most expensive we found during our entire Moalboal itinerary. Beer was 80 pesos and is delivered ice-cold straight to our sunbathing spot by a vendor which us being us; we enjoyed a little too much.
There is also a charge for the use of shelters/benches in the shade. We had heard there was also an entry fee to Moalboal’s White Beach however we couldn’t find any ticket booths nor anyone asking for a ticket so this may no longer be the case. Despite these costs, it is one of the best things to do in Moalboal for a relaxing afternoon.
Another thing we heard is that it’s one of the most popular Moalboal tourist spots because starfish frequent here. However, during our visit, we didn’t see a single one. If you are lucky enough to see these beautiful creatures, please DO NOT pick them out of the water, which sadly we witness tourist do in Bantayan. They are fish; they need to stay in the water not held up by a human hand for a selfie.
Experience a Moalboal Island Hopping Tour
If you have an extra day in your Moalboal itinerary, we recommend an Island hopping tour. We regret not squeezing this in however it is even further reason for us to return.
Most Moalboal island hopping tours visit Pescador island which literally translates to fisherman so expect marine life in abundance here as well as Tongo Point and Turtle Point. It takes around a 30 minute boat ride from Moalboal to Pescador Island.
It’s incredibly easy to book, every vendor and café in Panagsama beach was selling some sort of Moalboal Island Hopping package, with the prices varying on group size and number of snorkelling stops.
This tour includes hotel pick up, all diving gear, as well as an island hopping tour including stops at the Moalboal Sardine Run and diving at Pescador Island. Book Here.
Watch the Sunset at Panagsama Beach
Although we spent nearly a full day of our Moalboal itinerary at Panagsama beach, you will want to stick around a little longer as the sunset here is incredible. To us, the sunset here was the best we witnessed during our entire Philippines trip.
There are numerous bars at Panagsama beach which sit on stilts over the sea and provide the perfect spot for post-snorkel cocktails. It’s likely you’d even spot a turtle from sitting at one of these many bars as their wee heads pop up often for air.
THE BEST MOALBOAL RESTAURANTS FOR BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER
If the Moalboal sardine run, Kawasan Falls or pristine White Beach isn’t enough to persuade you to book flights asap, then the Moalboal restaurants will. You are spoiled for choice with all tastes and budgets catered for, so here are the best restaurants in Moalboal for breakfast, lunch & dinner.
The French Coffee Shop Moalboal
When looking for the best Moalboal restaurants for breakfast over and over again, we were recommended The French Coffee Shop, and it certainly lived up to the hype. The breakfasts each have nationalities – Darren went for the French and I went for the American which came with the most delicious mango we have ever had.
Both breakfasts were served with coffee and a delicious fresh smoothie. Service was a tad lacklustre however with a portion size so huge we were still full mid-afternoon, chilled atmosphere and delicious fresh fruit smoothies we completely understand why they’re recommended as one of the best Moalboal restaurants for breakfast.
Moalboal Backpackers Lodge – VW “Hippie” Bus
Thanks to our SE Asia travels we hadn’t enjoyed bread for breakfast in SO long. It sounds silly, but we craved toast, so we were delighted when we discovered Moalboal Backpackers Lodge that offered a basic breakfast (toast + coffee) for crazy cheap prices – exactly what we wanted. Coffee + toast with homemade pineapple jam was 160 pesos for two people (approx. £2.60).
Despite the simple menu, the décor is anything but, and you can enjoy your breakfast from a VW campervan shaped café. Above the campervan café is backpacker accommodation which was actually one of the first hostels in Moalboal.
From the photos advertising outside, the accommodation looked very inviting with hammocks, free coffee and super cheap prices. If we return to Moalboal, we’d definitely consider staying here.
If you’re looking for the best Moalboal restaurants for a sweet treat after a morning of snorkelling or for a tasty lunch, look no further. Coffee and cake lovers, need to stop by as we had the best carrot cake I think I’ve ever, ever had here.
We regretted still being full from breakfast as we would have loved to try their Vegan Falafel Flatbread or Quinoa salad, but only managed to squeeze in a brownie, carrot cake and two large black coffees – one hot, one cold and paid 410 pesos (Around £6.70).
We were delighted to learn they use coffee grown and harvested in The Philippines, which was evident in the smooth flavour. I guess the clue is in the title, huh? The owners have also made it their mission to support locals by ensuring working conditions are of the highest standard and salaries to match, as well as showcasing the artwork and craft of local artisans.
We loved little details such as the coffees being served with a baby brownie and the use of bamboo straws. No Moalboal itinerary would be complete without an hour or two spent at Smooth Cafe soaking up the relaxed vibe, epic playlist and delicious food and coffee.
Whether you ask a local, a tourist, a dive instructor or a trike driver chances are they will all point you in the direction of Venz Kitchen if you’re looking for the best Moalboal restaurants. It was that good we went twice. We NEVER go places twice but after the service and food we received here, we’d visit for breakfast, lunch and dinner if we could.
Our first visit to Venz Kitchen Daz had a veggie peanut curry, and I had the tastiest, if not spiciest Alaman curry I have ever had. Despite us sampling, some of the hottest curries during our time in Thailand, the curry at Venz was the hottest dish ever to grace my lips, so it’s not recommended for the faint-hearted.
Both our curries + 2 beers were 480 pesos, meaning Venz Kitchen is one of the best Moalboal restaurants for flavourful & affordable dining.
As I sweated my way through the curry, I had serious food envy of the couple next to me eating Pork Sisig. Pork Sisig is a traditional dish where crispy minced pork is served on a sizzling pan with an egg cracked on top. On delivery, to the table, you mix it all together, and I wish I could describe how good it tastes and smells, but my words could not do it justice. It is the dish Venz café is known for and the reason we returned the following evening to give it a try.
After devouring the pork Sisig, the waiter recommended a traditional dessert called Mango Float, which Darren promoted to “top 5 desserts in the world” according to him, but I have to agree. If you get the chance, order the Mango Float at Venz kitchen as it will blow your mind.
Using the same heavenly mango as we inhaled at breakfast, layers are created with condensed milk and crushed biscuit. We have had it three times since in various places in The Philippines, but this was without question the freshest and most delicious of them all. Funnily enough, it was also the cheapest, so do not miss Venz kitchen from your Moalboal itinerary for a meal to remember!
As mentioned, one of the best things to do in Moalboal is admire the sunset with a cocktail in hand and Café Cebuano is the perfect place to do just that. There are numerous restaurants in Moalboal that feature terraces out into Pangsama beach. They all offer the same stunning views and sun kissed dining, so we literally closed our eyes and pointed – Café Cebuano was the winner.
To be honest, the prices are expensive for the level of service (you’re paying for the view) but we had zero complaints with regards to the food. Daz had a Thai style Massaman curry and I had a traditional Adobo which can be made with chicken and/or seafood by marinating the meat in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and black peppercorns. It was similar flavours to teriyaki and although delicious be warned it can be very salty thanks to the abundance of soy.
Whether you opt for Café Cebuano or one it’s neighbours, keep your eyes peeled for our turtle pals, as friends of ours said they spotted a turtle as they sat having a beer here. It’s also an excellent spot to sit watching the hardcore swimmers still snorkelling in Moalboal after sunset.
A SAMPLE MOALBOAL ITINERARY - 3 DAYS OF SNORKELLING & SIGHTSEEING
To recap: if you hate planning or your directions are as bad as mine, then here is a sample Moalboal itinerary to make the most of your time. It is jam packed with the best things to do in Moalboal as mentioned above as well as where to eat and chill in between.
Day 1 – Check in & Chill
- Travel from Cebu to Moalboal via bus. From the bus station take a Trike to Panagsama beach.
- Check into Accommodation
- Dinner at Venz kitchen (we beg you to eat the Mango float on our behalf) followed by sunset and cocktails at one of the many Panagsama beach bars*.
Day 2 – The Best of Moalboal Snorkelling
Start day 2 of your Moalboal itinerary with breakfast at The French Coffee Shop, order the pancakes with mango – you will have zero regrets. Although the portions are so huge, we do recommend waiting an hour or two before snorkelling or you may have many regrets.
Hire a snorkel set from any shop (trust us, you’ll struggle to find a shop that doesn’t offer snorkel hire in Moalboal) do not pay more than 150 pesos. Don’t forget your Go Pro!
Head to the left of Panagsama Beach and within less than an hour you’ll be surrounded by over a million sardines or dancing with turtles.
Drag yourself away from the turtles for lunch or coffee & cake at Smooth Café. If you’ve had enough snorkelling in Moalboal (note, that will never happen) you could spend the afternoon chilling in one of the many spas. They are super affordable with a 60 minute massage costing around 650 pesos (less than a tenner) – Moalboal Spa and Massage has the best reviews.
All that snorkelling and pampering is hungry work so be prepared for a tasty feast at Café Cebuano. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for more turtles. and enjoy that epic sunset once more.
Tip: Alternatively, spend day two diving in Moalboal or on an island hopping tour to Pescador Island. Check out the PADI courses available here or simply stroll around town until you find the best option for you from one of the many dive shops.
Day 3 – Moalboal to Kawasan Falls Day Trip
We recommend skipping the cocktails & karaoke the previous night as today you’ll be up early (around 7am) to head to Kawasan Falls.
If like us, adrenaline ain’t your thing we recommend exploring all three waterfalls at your own pace. If adrenaline is your thing there are endless Kawasan canyoneering tours available. Note, these END at the famous falls so make sure to leave enough battery on your Go Pro and expect them to be much busier later in the day.
We do not recommend breakfast before Kawasan Falls (lesson learned from snorkelling on day 2) so enjoy a traditional breakfast at the falls when you’re finished to dry off, before heading back on the bus to Moalboal.
The bus will drop you in Moalboal main town (not near Panagsama beach) so once here, ask a trike driver to take you to White Beach, it’ll cost around 150 pesos. Spend your afternoon sipping overpriced ice cold beers and dipping in and out the crystal shore.
A trike will return you to Panagsama again, for around 150 pesos. Time for a quick shower to wash off the sand and sea before returning for the best meal in SE Asia, Pork Sisig (big claims, but its true) at Venz Kitchen.
We hope you now have an idea or two of why Moalboal is such an epic place to visit and that our Moalboal itinerary has taken the pain out of planning and helped you make the most of your time. We are still dreaming about the Moalboal restaurants so please let us know if you get a chance to sample the heavenly mango float or if you devour the French Coffee Shop pancakes, they will be the cherry on top of an incredible 3 days. With so many things to do in Moalboal, we imagine there is still so much we have yet to do – we’d love to hear what you get up to or if you can recommend any hidden gems and highlights for our next visit!