Moalboal is a small town on the south-west side of Cebu Island. The town sits at the base of a peninsula which runs north from there and has an assortment of tourist facilities — resorts, dive schools, bars and restaurants — along much of its west coast. Most of those are at Panagsama Beach, some further from town on White Beach.
In the 20th century Moalboal was mainly a backpacker destination, one of the first Philippine places to become part of the Banana Pancake Trail. It still gets many budget travellers, but now is more developed and has a considerably broader range of tourist facilities.
There are two main beach areas:
- Panagsama Beach (Barangay Basdiot), closer to town and busier. The diving is good, with underwater cliffs that have much marine life, but the beach is somewhat rocky. This is a haven for snorkelling and diving, with many dive resorts and dive schools. There is also other accommodation and many dining and night life options.
- White Beach (Barangay Basdaku), further north and quieter (fewer tourists). This area has two white sand beaches and may be preferable if sunbathing and swimming, rather than diving, are your main interests. Establishments are far from each other so you only enjoy the hotel and its amenities. There are entrance fee of ₱5 per person to enter the area and another entrance fee of ₱10 per person and ₱20 per vehicle to the White Beach.
You can travel between the two beaches on a habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) for ₱150.
Most visitors will spend nearly all their time in the beach areas.
The easiest way to reach Moalboal is from Cebu City. The road is in good condition, even the part in the mountains, and is about 80 km.
Many of the hotels and guest houses in Moalboal will send a car or van for pickup at Cebu Airport.
Be ready to pay around ₱2500 for this 2½-hr trip. This is absurdly expensive for a single person or couple, but may make economic sense for a larger group. Consider a group of six: two taxis to the bus station for at least ₱250 each, ₱128 per person for the bus, around ₱150 a couple for tricycle to the beach. You would spend close to ₱2000 for the trip, and paying more to get there quicker and in comfort may be worthwhile.
Taxis can be hired at Cebu Airport for ₱2500 (fixed rate as of Sep 2018).
Watch out for problematic ticket collectors
Before boarding the bus, make sure you know the price you have to pay for the ticket. You can also read it off the ticket you get from the ticket collector (who will be on the bus during the whole journey). Do not pay more, this is the final price. It is also a good idea to pay the exact amount since the ticket collectors walk away with your money and tend to forget about the change. Some are very good at ignoring you. Also do as the locals do and pay your ticket as soon as possible and not shortly before you get off. This avoids discussion under time pressure.
As usual, the cheapest method is a local bus; from Metro Cebu these depart from the South Bus Terminal, takes around 4 hr. The main company is the yellow color buses of Ceres Liner. the bus fare was ₱115 for non-AC bus, ₱156 for an air-conditioned bus (as of June 2019). You will be dropped after the Moalboal market. See the Cebu Airport article for ways of reaching the South Bus Station; the cheapest is getting the airport Mybus to SM City for ₱40 then a taxi to the South Bus Terminal for ₱100. A taxi ride directly from the airport to the South Bus Terminal is ₱250-300, a more convenient way if you have a lot of luggage. It may also be worth spending a few days in Cebu City before heading to Moalboal.
Coming from Dumaguete, it is a four-step process:
- get to a ferry port (not Dumaguete port, but one further north)
- cross to Cebu Island by ferry
- take a trike to the bus station
- catch a bus to Moalboal.
Two ports can be used, one in Sibulan or one in San Jose (Negros Oriental); for most travellers San Jose works better. The port in Sibulan is closer to Dumaguete and has a shorter and cheaper (₱60 vs. ₱70) ferry ride, but is farther to the bus station and the trike costs more (around ₱50 vs ₱20). Also, there is only one ferry an hour there but two or three at the other port. The Sibulan port can be reached for about ₱100 by tricycle from the city center or ₱10 by jeepney. San Jose is over an hour and ₱20 by jeepney, or you can pay about ₱50 to travel in comfort by Ceres bus since all the Dumaguete-Cebu buses use this port. See Dumaguete#By jeepney for locations of the jeepney terminals.
Once you reach the bus station on the Cebu side, look for yellow Ceres buses headed for Cebu City; some of them go via Moalboal (ask the driver). The bus fare is ₱70 (as of early 2018).
The easiest way to get around is to use tricycles also known locally as habal-habal. From Moalboal to Panagsama Beach 3.5 km, the fare is ₱20 for a (shared tricycle per seat) by day. Don't pay more than ₱50 if you're alone on the tricycle. To White Beach most people were paying ₱75 (as of Apr 2018). But if you just get one seat, the tricycle is ₱30. A tricycle ride anywhere in Moalboal town is ₱10.
Most travellers just take a trike to Pangasama then walk everywhere. The main road there has most of the area's restaurants, bars and souvenir shops, plus several resorts and diving schools. There are other resorts and dive places on White Beach, and some on Pangasama south of the main strip. There are also places to stay a bit inland.
- 1 Pescador Island, Tanon Strait Cebu (usually reached via Moalboal), ☏ . An island with abundant marine life (pescador is Spanish for fisherman) about 3 km (1.9 miles) off the coast. This is the most common destination for dive trips from Moalboal. The structure of the reef that follows the entire coastline 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 m (130 ft).
- 2 Sardine Run, Tanon Strait Cebu. The famous school of a million plus sardines that once called Pescador Island home have now moved even closer to shore. In fact the sardines congregate right at the reef drop-off on Panagsama beach. Shore diving is a breeze here and most dive operators have their shops abutting the shoreline. If you swim 20-30 m from shore, the reef drops off dramatically, as deep as 70 m in some places and it is here where you can watch the huge cloud of sardines creating different shapes and forms against the backdrop of the spectacular reef wall. Sometimes you will even get to see predators including jacks and tuna feeding on the sardines.
- 3 Orchid Gallery, 123 Moalboal Bl (In Moalboal, turn off the national highway by the Petron gas station and continue up the road for about 200 m 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 specimens of the local wildlife. You can buy orchids and other plants. There is a small entrance fee.
- 4 Lambug Beach. Take a tricycle about 20 km south towards Badian to find Lambug, a beach that to a greater extent than Basdako reminds you of a deserted island. Especially during the weeks, you can sometimes find yourself completely alone on the beach. Should you like to work on your swing, there is also an 18-hole golf course nearby.
- 5 White Beach (Basdako). About 7 km 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 m 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. 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 high-end Dolphin House Resort (from about ₱5500/night) and a bit further north Blue Orchid Resort (from around ₱3500/night) and Club Serena (from around ₱5500/night). There are also some cheaper options for the budget-minded traveller, Barefoot White Beach Resort (around ₱2500/night) and HK Beach Resort (around ₱2000/night) are both good options.
Kawasan Water Falls
- 6 Kawasan waterfalls. 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 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 ₱5.00 and will get an official receipt. Be careful of the guides' offers. The walk up to the fall is very easy and you do not need a guide.
- Getting to the falls is approximately a 30 min 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, 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 ₱2500 per person.
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, mountain biking and canyoneering, and there are many natural wonders like caves and waterfalls to explore. There are a few companies that arrange adventure tours. In Panagsama you'll find Pescadores Seaview Suites that offers a large choice of tours.
Not far out from the beach shore in Panagsama Beach, there is a drop-off. Near that area, especially towards the south, 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. The southern half of White Beach is also a good spot for snorkelling if you want to combine it with relaxing in the sun. 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.
Most divers come for the more famous diving spots in Pescador Island, which offer terrific diving. However, there are a lot more spots to 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.
Dives usually cost around ₱1500 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!
If you are not a diver yet, a beginners' course will set you back about ₱14500-19000 depending where you go. It's a good idea to look around for a good deal, but make sure to look for the PADI or SSI certifications of the dive shops as they are a guarantee that the equipment and staff meet certain standards. Set aside about 4 days for the course.
See also Diving in the Philippines—Moalboal.
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 m (sometimes more) and the water is usually calm and clear. There are several diveshops that offer courses and training session.
- M’Ocean Freediving. This school has freediving courses for PADI or AIDA certification. It is managed by the current Philippine women's record holder Wei Zosa.
- 1 Osmeña Peak (Pico Osmeña). This is the best-known hiking area in the region, and the highest peak on Cebu island. The trip from Moalboal town takes about 90 minutes, and if you are going by a bike, do note that some of the roads are rough. Entrance fee is ₱60. The usual hike can be done in 15-25 minutes with a couple of routes or peak to take. There are some basic accommodations for rent on the hiking trail.
Banks & ATMs
Most Philippine banks, including all the ones in Moalboal, add a ₱250 surcharge for an ATM withdrawal using an overseas bank card and have limit of ₱10000 per transaction. However, the HSBC ATM in Cebu City accepts most foreign cards, has no fee, and allows ₱40000 per transaction. You may be able to save money by withdrawing funds there before going to Moalboal.
- There is an PNB Visa card ATM at Panagsama beach in the entrance of Eve's Kiosk.
- In Moalboal town (about 3.5 km from the beach, reachable by tricycle) there is a Metro Bank ATM in the 360 Pharmacy which takes Mastercards.
- There is a PNB Bank with an ATM at the Gaisano shopping mall to the left of the main entrance which takes only Visa cards. There is also a Metro Bank ATM at the Gaisano Grand which takes Visa and Mastercard.
- There is an ATM at Chief Mau at Panagsama Beach which accepts cards including Visa, Mastercard and Bank of China.
ATMs are less likely to work on Sundays as they run out of money.
- The Generics Pharmacy, National Hwy Moalboal town. 8AM-8PM.
Malls & supermarkets
There are two Gaisano malls in Moalboal and soon a new Citi mall which will have a Jollibee and a supermarket.
- 1 Gaisano Grand Mall, National Highway (north of the center of town). 9AM-8PM. Has a supermarket and large department store, McDonald's, PNB Bank with a 24-hour Visa card Metro Bank ATM.
- 2 Gaisano Town Center Mall (Barili-Toledo Road). 9AM-8PM. A large department store and supermarket with places to eat and a Landbank ATM.
Panagsama Beach has been overrun by tourists, so expect higher food prices compared to Cebu City. Almost all eateries serve the standard menu of sandwich-pizza-burgers for uncultured tourists, and the local dishes are either limited or considerably high price considering the general price level of the country. On average, a burger costs about ₱200 upwards and a local dish is about ₱160 upwards. There are some local eateries along Panagsama Rd without name banner where you can get a meal for ₱80-100 (as of Feb 2019).
Another culinary delight is to pick up a freshly grilled chicken in Moalboal town. You'll find a good place on the left just down the road from the public market, across from the fruit stands. One chicken is ₱160.
As in any town in the country, there are some candeleria (serving cheap, plain Filipino food) in the market and along the main street, and the malls have outlets for fast food chains. Other places in the town include:
- 1 B-Side Cafe, Main road, Moalboal (opposide the big group of fruit stands). A deli and restaurant designed to cater to the needs of the locals and foreign visitors. Offers international and local food and the deli has a wide array of imported groceries, cold cuts, sausages and wines. Cheaper than most places in Panagsama.
- Julies Bake Shop, National Road. 7AM-9PM. Nice bread, coffee and drinks. Part of a national chain with two locations in Moaboal, one in the public market and the other north of town along the highway. lower prices cakes from ₱5.
- 2 7-Eleven, National Highway (moalboal town). 24 hours. Full A/C. It sells beers, rice meals, hotdogs, coffee, ice cream, ice. Has cellphone load. Ice cream only ₱15.
Most of the other eateries are on or near Pangasama Beach.
- Island Wok (Pescadores Suites). Serves a fusion of Asian dishes such as Korean spicy noodles, Japanese bento meals, Chinese dumplings, cheese sticks and vegetarian to name a few choices. Local and imported beers are also part of the choices as well. The food here is not salty not oily that taste excellent. They also have free wifi which is amazingly fast. Love the service and the nice garden terrain.
- Venz Kitchen. A tourist favourite with friendly staff serving up a range of traditional dishes, local favourites and more. It's incredibly popular, so get there early or be prepared to queue.
- Maya's Mexican. In the main part of Panagsama Beach and does excellent Mexican food - a nice change. They do superb fresh shakes (mango) and have a great BBQ.
- Chili bar. One of the most popular bars in town. Generally good food, and their chili is excellent. Has the best pizza in Moalboal according to a sign outside (many are inclined to agree). Has pool tables. Sells souvenir T-shirts with their emblem, a grinning chili pepper clutching a beer; these are quite nice, if pricey by local standards at around P300.
- Arista Restaurant (along the beach, south of Chili Bar). Sits right on the waterfront. They have a decently priced Filipino/German menu, and great service to go with the good food.
- Food Stop. Can be a bit hard to find, but well worth the effort, just next to the road between Moalboal and Panagsama. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but they serve generous portions delicious Filipino and Asian dishes for ₱150 each.
- Mayas Native Garden Restaurant, Panagsama Beach (Basidot), ☏ . 24-hr.
- The Three Bears, 2575 Panagsama Rd (between the beach area and Basidot Chapel). Offering nice burger at a decent taste and price compared to the other eateries in the area. Desserts are outstanding. The place is decorated in an amusing bear-themed style.
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 Andi's Talisay for some late night singing at their open-mic night.
- 1 Moalboal Backpacker Lodge, Panagsama Beach, Basdiot, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. A very popular place among backpackers. The dorm is a loft, with plenty of light and space to meet people. Free Wi-Fi. You can use the kitchen. Friendly staff. Cheapest option is dorm, next rooms with two single beds and shared washroom; for ₱850 double bed and private washroom. ₱250-850.
- Babu Backpackers Inn, Panaagsama Road, ☏ . Check-in: 10AM, check-out: 11AM. A bed in an 8-bunk fan dorm. Free Wi-Fi. ₱250 per person.
- MoHo Moalboal Hostel, Panagsama Road Brgy Basdiot (500m from the beach), ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Super clean fan or A/C 12-bed mixed dorms. Free coffee. Free Wi-Fi. Has lockers. fan ₱250, A/C ₱300 per person..
- Le Village Hostel Moalboal, Panagsama Road Brgy Basdiot (3 km walk from Moalboal town.), ☏ . A bed in a six-bed fan dorm. Free Wi-Fi. ₱350 per person.
- Villavante Backpackers Lodge, Poblacion East Cooperative Building (town center), ☏ . Check-in: 2pm, check-out: noon. 6-bed dorm, single/double rooms, free Wi-Fi. Onsite coffee shop, sun terrace, lockers. Dorm ₱399 per person.
- Emoks Guest House, Paramayon Poblacion East (down town moalboal), ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. 5 bed dorm, single/double rooms, free Wi-Fi, use of kitchen, garden. Dorm bed ₱350 per person.
- MJ's Residences, 1300 Babiera Street Poblacion East Moalboal (downtown moalboal), ☏ . Check-in: 1:30PM, check-out: 11:30AM. Fan double room, shared bathroom, free Wi-Fi, outdoor dining area,. from ₱700.
- 2 Barefoot White Beach Resort, White Beach, Basdako. Clean, relaxed and close to the beach. There is no pool or restaurant, but the manager there will buy groceries in town and cook for you if you ask. Around ₱2500 for a standard room.
- 3 Cabana (Sol E' Mare) (Yellow buildings, middle of the Panagsama strip), ☏ , email@example.com. One company with several businesses — lodging, two restaurants and a dive shop — clustered together in a central location. Check in is at an office just north of their Italian restaurant on the seaward side of the main road. The hotel itself is across the road.
They offer some good mid-range options, e.g ₱2000 for a/c double room with a fridge and its own balcony. This includes breakfast for two, small (one egg & not much bacon) but OK. ₱300 for dorm bed, up to ₱3000 for largest room.
- 4 Pescadores Seaview Suites, South Panagsama Beach (By car, turn off the main road at the Pescadores sign near Basdiot Barangay Hall.), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Pescadores Seaside Suites Is a destination hotel includes free use of snorkeling gears, underwater camera, transparent kayak, classic arcade, billiards, massage and swimming pool. Their beach front are rather nice to view the sun set and if you are snorkeling or kayaking you might spot 3-5 turtles just in front as their house are not far from the shore. Rooms have airconditioning, flat screen TV with the latest movies, hot water shower, probably the fastest WIFI internet in whole Panagsama and breakfast for 2 persons per room. Their front desk is open 24 hours which is unusual in the area. Tours can also be booked at the front desk. ₱1950 and up with breakfast for 2.
- 5 Mayas Native Garden, Panagsama beach, ☏ . Mayas is in the heart of Panagsama Beach. It has five beautiful native cottages built with western luxury & comfort. The big surrounding garden is rough and trimmed with a myriad of plants and flowers where hummingbirds live and kids can play. from ₱800, most cottages ₱1500-2000.
- Nidos Garden, Panagsama Beach, ☏ . Simple and clean rooms without aircon. Has the same management as Quo Vadis, so you can use their pool and Wi-Fi. ₱980 per night.
- 6 Quo Vadis Dive Resort, Panagsama Beach, ☏ . Nice, clean and close to the beachfront. The resort has a pool, two bars and a really good restaurant. Free Wi-Fi. There is also a dive centre that offers boat dives and certifications. Rooms are ₱1275-3600.