Situated on the south-west coast of the island of Cebu, Moalboal is around 90KM from Cebu City. It’s a popular seaside town due to its beautiful beaches, and outstanding underwater sea life. The name Moalboal has a particular pronunciation I believe many foreign visitors struggle with, time and again the friendly Filipinos I encountered helped me to get the pronunciation spot on. So it should be pronounced effectively with 4 syllables in mind instead of 2 as you may think, Mo-al-bo-al, but in a kind of smooth transition, it’s tricky! The main activities here include visiting one of the handful of beautiful beaches, snorkelling, island hopping, scuba diving, canyoneering and hiking. So there is a lot to do! I spent 4 days in Moalboal, but you can easily experience all that it has to offer in 3, here’s a look at how to spend 3 days in Moalboal.
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- Visa – British Nationals can enter the Philippines without a visa for an initial period of 30 days. However, as I stayed for 5 weeks I got a tourist visa from the Philippine Embassy which allowed me to stay for up to 59 days. For the most up to date information, consult the Philippine Immigration website here.
- Immunisations – some are required, check out my go-to website for up to date information: https://nathnac.net
- Safety – I felt relatively safe whilst I was in Manila, exercise usual caution around looking after valuables and being safe alone or at night.
- Currency – Philippine peso (PHP)
- Language – Filipino is the national language which is the standardized variety of the Tagalog language, as well as English. I also spoke with several Filipinos especially in Cebu who spoke Cebuano. There are 4 indigenous languages (including Tagalog and Cebuano) with around 10 million or more native speakers and a further 8 languages with around 1 to 3 million native speakers. As a general rule though as a tourist – most people can speak English.
I took a Grab from my accommodation in Cebu City, to the South Bust Terminal Cebu, upon entering the but station I had to pay 10 pesos for the grab driver to enter (so try to have some small change with you). I managed to board a bus straight away from Cebu to Moalboal, and we left around 5:30 am and arrived around 9:00 am. It’s recommended to get a bus as early as you can to avoid any traffic as it builds up throughout the morning. The bus was pleasant, although without zircon the windows were open so there was a breeze coming through to the passengers. I shared a lovely ride up with a group of Filipinos who were all work friends on a trip together. This was my first encounter with the true friendliness and hospitality of Filipinos. I think they are the amongst the kindest of fellow travellers I have met to date. We talked about our respective countries, similarities and differences and they even taught me some Filipino words! After around 3 and half hours, I reached the bus stop for Moalboal, and then hopped on a tricycle to my accommodation close to Panagsama beach for 150PHP, although if you do the same journey on the back of a motorbike it’s only 50PHP.
After searching through booking.com and looking at the various hotels and hotels available, I settled upon Smooth Cafe Hostel. Mainly because I saw that it had a cafe attached that offered vegan falafel wraps! Also though because they are located strategically in the small town near to Panagsama Beach, and was reasonably priced. It’s only a small hostel that seems as though it’s relatively new, with just 6 beds in a building behind the cafe the facilities are good, and the hostel staff were extremely helpful in helping me organise my tours and activities.
I used various ways of getting around whilst in Moalboal, including tricycles and motorbikes to reach Panagsama Beach from the main highway, as well as a motorbike tour to reach Osmena Peak. Other than that it’s quite easy to wander around Moalboal on foot as it’s a very small town. You will mainly be taking part in organised activities in the sea or by the beach here as there aren’t really any sights to see in Moalboal town.
I was a little tired from being up so early in the morning, and so decided to have a relaxing day. I checked in to my hostel after having a delicious brunch at the Free Diving Planet of fruit granola and vegan pancakes with Mango!
I then explored the immediate Panagsama Beach area, I took a short wander but couldn’t seem to find the beach – apart from a few very small stretches of sand I just couldn’t seem to find it! I asked some of the locals and they said that this was it. So I asked about another beach I read about online – white beach (and seen photos of which looked beautiful!) I found a tricycle driver and he agreed to take me and pick me up for 300PHP. I also had to pay 5PHP environmental fee for entering White Beach.
I had a general idea of what I wanted to see and do in Moalboal, but whenever I looked online the tours and day trips always seemed to be geared toward people taking day trips from Cebu City and I couldn’t quite find the right tour itinerary for what I wanted so I decided to wait until I arrived. I mentioned what I wanted to do to my hotel, and they put me in touch with a guide who was able to organise everything for me, which made my life so much easier!
He managed to arrange all of my activities so I didn’t have to worry about approaching companies or people individually. During my stay, I decided I wanted to do four activities, scuba diving, Osmena Peak, Island Hopping and Canyoneering and he was able to arrange all of these for what I felt was a reasonable cost. We could negotiate times, and pick-up points. Being a single traveller it has been a little hard sometimes, for example not being in a group and able to charter a boat or hire a van, although it has been helpful as I can easily just hop on the back of a motorbike!
The first round of activities, scuba diving, which I have never done before! I was both excited and nervous but the instructor who looked after me, Julie was amazing! I am a wimp when it comes to seawater, it makes me feel sick accidentally drinking or ingesting some, or even getting it in my eyes, yes I’m a bit of a princess. So the first 40 minutes of our lesson was lots of that and “I can’t do it” from me, and a lot of ‘yes you can, relax don’t panic’ from dear patient scuba instructor Julie. The last 20 minutes of the experience when I could finally get to grips with it, were just amazing though. A completely different experience to snorkelling, where you can stay under for much longer and search for all the amazing sea-life.
This was particularly special as where we dived in Moalboal we were right next to the Sardine Run, which was just mesmerising watching them swim in formation, and swirl around the ocean. I was very confused to begin with when it came to diving in Moalboal, I thought I could just hop on a diving trip and that was that, not realising that there were different levels and rules and regulations to contend with. I was a little unsure as to whether to part with my 2500 PHP to pay for the scuba diving but in the end, decided that if I was going to do it Moalboal would be the place to do it in, and I was not disappointed! For the 2500 PHP, the ‘discovery’ session lasted one hour with a dedicated divemaster. My divemaster Julie was just amazing. I was a flapping nervous wreck, to begin with, and I don’t know how but somehow he helped me to actually scuba dive by the end of the session!
We left around 3:30 pm, travelling on the back of a motorbike, we arrived at the base around 5:00 pm. I didn’t quite realise the journey from Moalboal to Osmena peak would be quite this long but was thankful I wasn’t the one in charge of the motorbike. There were beautiful views as we rode along the winding roads up to the mountain.
Once I arrived my guide told me he would meet at the bottom of the peak once I was finished so I made my way to the tourist office to pay the 30PHP environmental fee and also use the ladies there before the short ascent to the very top. The climb up to Osmena Peak only takes around 15-20 minutes but it is quite steep in places and full of gravelly stones so definitely wear some good trainers, to avoid any injuries.
The views at the top though are just amazing. I went for sunset but sunrise is also meant to be equally spectacular. When I researched online other travellers recommended renting a motorbike and completing the journey independently, however, once I rejoined my guide and we started to head back to Moalboal I was very thankful to not be the one driving as it was absolutely pitch black in places, and some of the roads were winding around a cliff edge. I don’t think I would have faired well completing a journey like that on my own, that’s for sure! We left around 6 pm and arrived back in Moalboal for about 7:30 pm in time for dinner.
The boat trip cost 2000PHP, and I thought I would be sharing the boat with a bunch of other tourists, however when I sat down on the boat and got comfy and waved farewell to my guide at Moalboal, I realised it would just be my boat tour guide, and the boat captain! I couldn’t believe it a boat all to myself!
Our first stop on the boat trip was to Pescador Island, a small island off the coast of Moalboal and home to beautiful coral and marine life.
Next up a location known to be popular for turtle sightings, this was just amazing. The guide and I hopped off the boat and straight away he started swimming and searching, beckoning me over every now and then (I was nowhere near as fast at swimming than he was!). We were swimming for quite a while and I thought we wouldn’t get a chance to see these beautiful creatures until suddenly he signals that there are not one but two sea turtles in the water!
They were so peacefully just grazing along the sea bed and didn’t take any notice of us at all. we stayed a few minutes to watch them with our snorkelling gear and long enough to take a few snaps however after a few minutes I was happy to move on, not wanting to disturb the turtles any longer and leave them at peace.
The experience was just breathtaking though and I highly recommend trying to see the turtles in their natural habitat such as this. There was only my guide and I, and then a handful of other tourists in the water at the time, and everyone was very respectful in not swimming too close or touching the animals and leaving them to just do their thing whilst respectfully watching, a great example of responsible eco-tourism.
I’d already tried my hand at scuba diving previously and saw the sardines up close, but it was a different experience snorkelling and viewing them from the top down. Seeing them like this though and unable to dive closer and see more made me realise how much I really enjoyed the freedom of scuba diving that I plan on scuba diving some more whilst in The Philippines as there are plenty of fantastic dive sites.
So this trip is not for the faint-hearted. I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for! I’d been to other sorts of cave exploration cliff jumping type of tours in other parts of South-East Asia, but they were a lot shorter in duration. The entire canyoneering hiking tour lasted around 5 hours! It involved lots of walking, swimming, sliding and jumping, oh and the odd blood-curdling scream here and there!
I was lucky enough to join a lovely group of Filipino tourists. As soon as I got in the van we were all chatting and getting to know each other, another example of fantastic Filipino hospitality. We had two guides join us who would help us navigate the route, climbing, jumping and sliding off the rocks. They were both so adept and you could tell they were so experienced as they meandered around the rocks with ease. They also made fantastic photographers and we took lots of group photos and action shots.
There were a lot of jumps on this canyoneering trip and I must admit, I wimped out on all of the very tall ones, even the short ones I let out a small yelp as I jumped into the cool clear waters. My fellow canyoneering, new -ound friends mostly jumped in fearlessly with smiles on their faces! I did, however, do lots of the smaller jumps and the slides into the water, once even going backwards after being pushed by one of the guides (thanks!).
My favourite part of the tour was towards the end there was a big slide, going right into the water, I almost didn’t go, being quite afraid of heights, but as it was a slide you can just let the current take you. It was really fun! There’s also a rope swing too, but I just watched on as multiple queued for their turn to swing into the cool waters.
The falls were the very last part of the canyoneering tour, and it was a beautiful scene to end the day. There is a shop, some showers, and lots of tables and chairs so lots of people were gathered here, and also just relaxing in the cool clear waters. I must admit though I was so utterly exhausted from the tour, I probably didn’t appreciate the falls as much as I should have! Afterwards though, a short walk back to the transportation and onto a local restaurant to refuel and take a rest from all the day’s activities. They were so accommodating too and provided me with a. delicious vegan vegetable choosey dish.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about how I spent 3 days in Moalboal, and that I’ve given you lots of inspiration for your own adventures. If you’re visiting the island of Cebu, definitely include a stop off to Moalboal on your itinerary. If you have any questions or queries about the itinerary, please do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
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