1. TUBBATAHA REEFS, PALAWAN
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Palawan, in the heart of the Sulu Sea. Many would agree that Tubbataha is the best diving spot in the Philippines, and one of the most biodiverse diving spots on earth.
Pristine coral reefs, the richest marine biodiversity in the country, and pelagic action. Big or small, Tubbataha has them all.
Tubbataha is home to no less than 600 species of fish, 360 species of corals (about 50% of the coral species in the world), 11 species of sharks (including tiger sharks, whale sharks, and whitetips), 13 species of dolphins, and whales, nesting hawksbill and green sea turtles. You can also see manta rays, schools of barracuda and tuna, and smaller marine life like nudibranchs, ornate ghost pipefish, seahorses, and frogfish.
Amos Rock is often cited as the best dive site in Tubbataha, boasting colorful soft corals, massive schools of fish, large reef sharks and a gorgonian-covered wall. Washing Machine in the North Atoll is known for some of the best visibility within the marine park and is home to grey reef sharks and plenty of tropical reef fish. You might even see a whale shark or two if you're lucky! Black Rock in the South Atoll is a popular dive spot for whitetip sharks, rays and schools of grouper and giant trevally.
Visibility: 32 to 114 feet (10-35m depending on the tides)
Non-Diving Activities: Tubbataha is suitable for snorkelers.
Required Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced recommended. Strong currents might be present at some of the sites.
2. ANILAO, BATANGAS
BEST MUCK DIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES
Only a 2-hour drive away from Manila lies Anilao, one of the world's best macro photography destinations. Boasting a wide array of rare critters, it's literally a heaven-on-earth for muck diving, blackwater diving, and macro photography.
The long list of small-scale sea life and critters that you can find in Anilao include nudibranchs, frogfish, seahorses, cuttlefish, pipefish, and...so much more. But don't leave your wide-angle lens at home. Beautiful coral reefs, turtles, huge schools of jacks, jellyfish, and the occasional reef sharks await in Anilao.
Hairy frogfish is one of the many species of frogfish that you'll find while diving in Anilao, especially at Secret Bay!
Secret Bay, also known as Manit Muck, is probably the best muck dive site in Anilao. Here, you can find mimic octopus, wonderpus, pipefish, frogfish, and the list goes on. Don't forget to dive Manit at night to see this wonderful site come to life.
Bobbit worm and stargazer, photographed by Bluewater owner Scott Gietler.
The Pier, along with Secret Bay, is among the highly requested dive sites during our annual macro photography workshops in Anilao. You can find the much-sought-after bobbit worms and stargazers! Twin Rocks is great for macro and wide-angle alike, with pristine soft corals, schooling jacks, and plenty of small fish. Beatrice is a great wide-angle site with colorful corals teeming with anthias and other reef fish.
The diving season in Anilao is year-round.
Wetsuit: 3mm full wetsuit with booties
Visibility: Avg. 40 to 50ft (10-15m)
Non-diving activities: Snorkeling and kayaking
Required Diving Skill Level: Anilao is beginner-friendly since most of the sites are not deep and strong currents are rarely present.
3. DAUIN, DUMAGUETE
Situated on Negros Island lies another world-class diving destination for macro photography, Dauin. Most of the best dive sites are located along the coastline of Dauin, which is 20 minutes away from the City of Dumaguete itself.
The Dumaguete area is best known for its excellent muck diving, great coral reefs nearby, and its assortment of luxurious beachfront dive resorts which are relatively affordable compared to other diving destinations in the world. Most Dumaguete dive resorts also offer a day trip to Oslob where you can swim and snorkel up-close with whale sharks.
Apo Island is a small marine preserve located 30-40 minute boat ride away from most dive resorts, known for its healthy coral gardens, massive schools of fish, sea snakes, and sea turtles. Coconut Point at Apo offers a thrilling drift dive experience over a sloping wall where bumphead parrotfish and marbled groupers can be seen while green sea turtles cruise effortlessly in the currents.
The variety of marine life that you can find along the Dauin Coast includes various types of frogfish, dragonets, pipefish, nudibranchs, blue-ring octopuses, bobtail squids, mandarin fish, seahorses, cardinalfish (with eggs), various shrimps and crabs.
The main diving season in Dumaguete is October to early June, but the prolific marine life of Dauin can be found all year round, so there’s no worry of missing out.
Visibility: 30–40 ft in Dauin, 60-90 ft in Apo Island
Non-Diving Activities: Snorkel with whale sharks at Oslob, soak up the sun, eat and drink very well at the luxury resort of your choice, and try out all the different spa treatments available at your resort
Required Diving Skill Level: Dauin’s dive sites are relatively easy to dive for all divers, experienced or not.
4. MOALBOAL, CEBU
THE PLACE TO GO FOR SARDINE RUN IN THE PHILIPPINES
Moalboal in Cebu is best known for its Sardine Run, the world-renowned humongous sardine bait ball which can be witnessed at Panagsama Beach. Up to 7 million sardines are estimated to reside here. Imagine that!
You can scuba dive, snorkel, or freedive to witness this mind mind-blowing (and vertigo-inducing) event. That's right! No scuba diving equipment necessary!
Scuba diving in Moalboal is diverse and very vibrant. Think big schools of fish, beautiful walls, canyons and caves, and fascinating macro life. Pescador Island offers some of the best dives in the Philippines, featuring a dramatic wall with colorful soft corals teeming with anthias. Then there is a large cathedral on the west side of Pescador which makes a nice background for dramatic underwater shots. You can also see schools of barracuda, beautiful caves, reef sharks, and also smaller marine life like nudibranchs and frogfish.
Magic Point, the house reef of Magic Island Dive Resort, is a great dive site to see mating mandarin fish, frogfish, turtles, schools of jack, and pristine reefs with hard and soft corals. Other great sites include Talisay Wall, a beautiful slope and wall with plenty of caves to explore, lots of black coral, batfish and barracuda, and Tuble Reef which is known for its caves and forest of sea fan corals.
Visibility: 30 to 100+ ft (10-30m+)
Non-diving activities: Swim with whale sharks at Oslob, or snorkel and freedive around Moalboal
Required skill level: Beginner to Advanced.
5. PUERTO GALERA, MINDORO
DIVERSE DIVING HOTSPOT WITH BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
Puerto Galera is one of the most popular diving destinations in the Philippines–and all for good reasons! One of the most enticing aspects of Puerto Galera is the extensive range of dive spots, combined with its beautiful beaches. Whether you're into macro or wide-angle photography, a beginner or advanced diver...or even if you don't dive at all, there’s something for everyone in Puerto Galera!
"Topside, Puerto Galera is a social place, with easily walkable restaurants, picturesque happy hours on piers overlooking the water, and small shops. Underwater, it offers diverse diving including great macro within a 10-minute boat ride and incredible wide-angle including nice corals and huge sea fans at nearby Verde Island. Also easy to combine with Anilao."
For the thrill-seekers, Canyons provide plenty of action with its strong currents. For those interested in underwater wrecks, the three sunken boats of the Sabang Wrecks offer a fascinating dive trip. Don't forget to include a day trip to dive at Verde Island during your stay in Puerto Galera. Its passage is known to offer some of the highest biodiversity in the Philippines and it's an amazing place for wide-angle photography!
Nudibranchs, reef octopuses, frogfish, and seahorses can be seen in abundance in Puerto Galera. There are also many stunning soft and hard corals to be found while exploring the reefs of this dream destination.
Like most of the Philippines, Puerto Galera can be dived all year round.
Visibility: Typically between 50 – 80 feet (15-25m), may reach 100+ feet (30m+) in certain diving areas
Non-Diving Activities: Snorkeling, Beach & Island Hopping, Golf, Walking, Trekking and Running, and Waterfall Trip
Required Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced. Most of the dive sites in Puerto Galera are no deeper than 20m and are suitable for beginners.
6. ANDA, BOHOL
OFF-THE-BEATEN-PATH DIVE VACATION SPOT
The ivory-white beaches, laid-back atmosphere, lush green environment, and abundance of marine life, away from the hustle and bustle of the more touristy spots of Bohol, make Anda a great choice for scuba divers searching for an off-the-beaten-path dive vacation spot in the Philippines.
There are 17 kilometers of coastline to explore in Anda, with a good mix of wall, slope, and sandy muck dive sites as well as coral gardens. The diverse underwater topography and critter population in Anda are really worth exploring.
You can see pygmy seahorses, skeleton shrimps, anemone shrimps, dragon sea moths, mantis shrimps, Napoleon snake eels, nudibranchs, mating mandarin fish...you name it! Turtles and loads of beautiful reef fish can also be seen in the area. Anda can also be dived all year round.
Visibility: 50-65 feet
Non-Diving Activities: Snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, or sunbathing on the white sand beaches. A trip the Chocolate Hills is also recommended.
Required Skill Level: All levels are welcome.
7. MALAPASCUA ISLAND, CEBU
THE WORLD'S BEST PLACE TO SEE THRESHER SHARKS
Though she is little, she is fierce. Malapascua is known to be the best place in the world to see thresher sharks. This tiny oasis is the only place in the world where thresher sharks are consistently seen daily. Combine that with its pristine waters and milky-white beaches, and you’ve got yourself a perfect destination for a tropical dive vacation.
Monad Shoal is the best place to dive with thresher sharks. Other species of sharks and rays are also commonly spotted around this site. The shy thresher sharks at Monad Shoal are usually seen first thing in the morning at sunrise. Divers rest at approximately 25m (90ft) on the sandy bottom to watch the sharks approach and be cleaned.
The numerous shallow reef sites around Malapascua offer excellent macro photography opportunities. Gato Island boasts some of the most amazing macro life in the area and is also home to a unique marine reserve with a sea snake sanctuary. Some of the many macro photography subjects that you can see here include cuttlefish (often while mating), seahorses, nudibranchs, scorpionfish, mantis shrimp in action, and more.
The diving season in Malapascua is year-round. However, please note that during the typhoon season in the Philippines, from July to October, the weather in Malapascua could get rough and the visibility could be drastically reduced.Visayas trips are carefully planned to hit some of the best dive spots in the Visayas, including thresher sharks at Malapascua Island, critter heaven at Dauin, big schools of fish at Moalboal, and beautiful coral reefs at Apo Island.
Visibility: 60-80 feet (18-24m) or less depending on the tides.
Non-Diving Activities: Apart from island/beach hopping there isn't much to do for non-divers in Malapascua.
Required Skill Level: Advanced Open Water and nitrox certifications recommended. Most of the dive sites are quite deep and nitrox allows an extended bottom time.
8. CORON BAY, PALAWAN
BEST WRECK DIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES
Home to THE BEST wreck dives in the Philippines, Coron Bay is also known for its jaw-droppingly beautiful limestone cliffs and crystalline lagoons. The combination of great wrecks and picturesque landscapes is what puts Coron on this list. Read more about the world's best wreck dives.
The historical World War II shipwrecks of Coron, Palawan are really unique. Coron Bay used to be the harbor for World War II Japanese warships. 11 of these ships were sunk during an air attack in September 1944. Today the wrecks of Coron serve as reef systems, supporting a number of marine life. Some of the residents of these wrecks include scorpionfish, nudibranchs, cuttlefish, and octopuses. You’ll even see the occasional reef shark or stingray, hovering near the wrecks.
The Okikawa Maru is the largest shipwreck in Coron. This 525-foot wreck is very beginner-friendly, with the top sitting at just 32 feet (10 meters) below the surface. Tangat Gunboat is another popular wreck site. This submarine hunter is very shallow and can be enjoyed by beginner and advanced divers alike.
El Nido is another popular dive location on Palawan. Although the diving isn't considered as good as Coron, it has lots of turtles. El Nido also has spectacular beaches and amazing island hopping that makes it worth a visit if you are diving Palawan.
Visibility: can reach up to 80 ft. (24m) in certain areas
Non-diving Activities: Island-hopping, beach hunting, snorkeling, and kayaking. A lively nightlife scene is present if you opt for a land-based accommodation/resort.
Required Diving Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced. Most of the wrecks of Coron are not too deep and can be enjoyed by divers of all levels.