Jacks and turtle at Balicasag

Scuba Diving in Bohol: Its 3 Best Dive Destinations & Top Dive Sites of Each!

Bohol, right in the the heart of Central Visayas in the Philippines, is an ideal alternative (or add-on!) destination from Cebu for many reasons.

But we would like to emphasize that the beautiful island of Bohol itself is a standalone destination, both on land and underwater.

On land, the well-planned tourist highway allows you to visit several attractions in just a single day, like the iconic Chocolate Hills where its viewpoint allows you to see thousands of little hills.

Green hills in a landscape of Bohol nicknamed the chocolate hills for the small hill-like mountains that rise over the horizon
The famous Chocolate Hills of Bohol

But for us divers, our travels brings us to Bohol’s underwater playground!

The island has a stunning 261 kilometer (162 miles) long coastline with over 75 islands — all surrounded by crystal-clear waters and filled with amazing marine life.  

It can be a bit overwhelming to start researching where to dive in Bohol, so we’re here to help you narrow it down.

First, we’ll cover getting to Bohol and diving conditions there and then we’ll tell you what we think are the best places to dive in Bohol!

Getting to Bohol

The crystal clear waters of seen from a low angle view, looking back towards the shore where you can see Dumaluan Beach on the beautiful nearby Panglao Island off the coast of Bohol. Palm trees and white sand in the background.
Dumaluan Beach in Panglao Island

Tourists usually reach Bohol one of two ways: either from a 5-hour direct international flight from Seoul in South Korea or a 1-hour domestic flight from Palawan, Davao, or the country’s capital city of Manila (the jumping off point for dives in Anilao and Puerto Galera).

If you’re coming in from Cebu, there’s no need to take a plane since Bohol can be reached via a 2-hour high speed boat ride.

Although the city of Tagbilaran is where you set foot first in Bohol, most divers end up visiting the neighboring island of Panglao.

This is where most big dive shops are located and is the jumping off point for dive safaris and inter-island adventures!

Like Cebu, Bohol has a well-established diving industry with several dive shops servicing each of the major dive centers.

The beauty of Bohol is that it’s also a great jumping off point for a longer island-hopping trip.

If you want to explore other dive destinations in the Philippines, Bohol has many domestic flights to other destinations where diving is equally great — or even better!

Diving Conditions in Bohol

Green, orange, black feather stars on a colorful orange and pink reef with blue ocean
Reef in Bohol with tons of feather stars

At each of the major Bohol dive spots, you will quickly realize that the conditions are downright excellent for diving!

Aside from varied underwater topography and the diversity of marine wildlife, the waters are also so pleasant!

The water temperature in Bohol is tropically warm, typically ranging from 27°-29°C (80°- 84°F) and rarely dropping below 25°C (77°F).

Moreover, Bohol has some of the clearest waters in the Philippines!

Its underwater visibility averages around a clear 30 meters (100 feet) year-round, except during the typhoon season that happens usually around the end of the year.

The Best Dive Sites in Bohol

Diver with fins and tank interacting with a school of trevally fish while diving in Panglao area
Diving with trevallies in Bohol

There are over 30 dive sites that can be explored in Bohol, making it a perfect dive destination for all levels of divers: there’s something for everyone here.

The best dive sites are primarily concentrated in 3 major islands off of Bohol, namely:

  • Panglao,
  • Cabilao, and
  • Balicasag.  

Dive Sites in Panglao Island

Aerial view of Alona Beach in Panglao with all sorts of dive boats, the philippine traditional barca, hovering over crystal-clear waters where you can see reef below
Aerial view on Alona Beach

Let’s start at Panglao Island, since this is usually the first stop for scuba divers in Bohol!

Most resort hotels and dive shops are found in the narrow strip of Alona Beach; from there, you can explore 18 dive sites in the vicinity!

Alona House Reef

Clownfish (aka the Nemo fish) in an anemone, with corals around it, and two divers closer to the surface oft he water, with the silhouette of the traditional Philippines-style boat above them on the surface.
Clownfish and anemone in Panglao

Location: Right in front of Alona Beach 

Level: Open Water & Up

Type of Diving: Reef and wall diving 

Max Depth: 25 meters (82 feet)

If you have not dived for quite some time, then the house reef of Alona Beach is the perfect place for a refresher dive!

After reviewing all the skills, you can start diving in the shallow sands at 5 meters (16 feet), eventually leading to a reef crest filled with corals at 8 meters (26 feet) deep.

For more experienced divers, there’s still plenty to see too: this isn’t just a site for beginners.

red and white striped fish with spines that is very venomous
The common lionfish, a venomous but beautiful sight on the reef

You can make a direct descent to the limestone ledge and go wall diving alongside corals, sea fans and reef fish.

Keep an eye out for the likes of moray eels, lionfish, batfish and an assortment of anemonefish, including Nemo himself (or should we say clownfish).

Garden of the Eels

Garden eels coming up from their burrows in the sand at the Garden of the Eels dive site in Philippines
Shy garden eels — fun to see, tricky to photograph!

Location: Beside Alona House Reef

Level: Open Water & Up

Type of Diving: Reef and slope diving 

Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)

Although this dive site is located right near the Alona House Reef, it offers a totally different topography.

Instead of a vertical wall, you can dive following a steep coral slope that ends in a sandy seafloor at 30 meters (100 feet) deep — and this where the highlight of this dive can be found, the garden eels!

However, as you reach the seafloor, you have to move in slowly as the main characters of this dive are relatively shy!

A diver hovering above the sea floor, trying to photograph garden eels
Diver trying to photograph garden eels

When you have the correct slow approach, you can see them partially protruding out from their burrows in the thousands.

But as you come in closer, expect that they will retreat beneath the sand; they’re quite tricky to photograph, so this is a sight to enjoy more than capture on camera.

Note that to dive to 30 meters where the garden eels are, you’ll have to be certified as an AOW diver to be able to safely reach that depth.

If you are into macro photography, then prepare your camera rigs!

Flatworm in Panglao on coral with magenta, red, orange, purple markings
A gorgeous Fuschia flatworm (Pseudoceros ferrugineus) on the reef

The site also boasts a handful of little critters like frogfish, spider crabs, and shrimps, plus a diversified population of nudibranchs and flatworms.

This is the kind of dive you could repeat over and over again and see something different each time!

Doljo Point

Coral, sea fan, reef fish, and other diver off in the distance off the wall
View on the wall while drift diving

Location: Western coast of Panglao

Level: Advanced

Type of Diving : Drift and deep diving 

Max Depth: 35 meters (115 feet)

Located on the west coast of Panglao Island is a haven for advanced, experienced divers: Doljo Point.

This site is perfect for drift diving, as you’ll glide along a mild to moderate current.

Eventually, the current will lead you to two vertical ledges sitting on top of each other, the highlight of the dive.

The first ledge drops off to 20 meters (66 feet) deep; it is slightly bordered by a small coral slope that leads to the second ledge, which drops off further to 35 meters (115 feet) deep.

A school of fusilier in the open ocean next to the reef in Panglao
Schooling fusiliers in Panglao

While drifting along the wall, keep an eye to the blue: you can often see all sorts of schools of fish!

Species you might see include snappers, fusiliers, barracudas, and even occasionally large schools of Spanish mackerels.

More Dive Sites in Panglao

Three divers looking at the remains of a shipwreck down deep in Panglao
The Habagat Wreck sits at 35 meters, only accessible to certified deep divers

Other notable dive sites in Panglao are:

  • the underwater tunnels of Arco Point,
  • the Habagat Wreck,
  • the vertical limestone wall of Danao, and
  • the shallow coral enriched shelf of Momo.

Dive Sites in Cabilao Island

Beautiful red, orange, purple corals of Cabilao
Coral of Cabilao

Seldom does an island have a shape like a shark tooth — and also have sharks to boot!

Well, that’s the case of Cabilao Island: sharks (and not just their teeth!) do live in this part of Bohol.

Cabilao’s sharks are the main reason why so many divers are willing to travel 54 kilometers (33 miles) north of Panglao Island — they want to see these big boys of the deep!


Person with red, pink, and yellow soft corals on the reef
Healthy soft corals while diving in Cabilao

Location: North coast of Cabilao island

Level: Advanced 

Type of Diving: Deep, drift, wall and potentially shark diving 

Max Depth: 35 meters (115 feet)

On the west coast of Cabilao Island is its beautiful lighthouse: it doesn’t just guide seafarers, but has also become a reference point for scuba divers!

This dive starts a hundred meters right in front of the lighthouse, hence the name of the dive site.

While descending, you’ll be taken along a moderate to strong current until you reach the reef slope.

Take note that while there is a common entry point, the bearing of your dive will depend on the direction of the current: this will be determined by the divemaster and boat captain to ensure you have the safest dive possible.

Although there are variations in exploring the Lighthouse dive site based on the currents and what that means for your dive path, there is one common dive objective on everyone’s wishlist: to see hammerhead sharks!

Reef and hammerhead shark silhouettes
Hammerheads are a rare but beautiful visitor to the reef

In the old days, seeing hammerheads passing by the reef ledge was common. But today, it is far from a guaranteed experience.

What is guaranteed is that you will see a coral-filled ledge interspersed with red sea fans and all sorts of incredible life nestled in its nooks and crannies!

Balay Reef (House Reef)

Detail on a reef walll in Cabilao with orange coral, yellow coral, soft coral, feather star

Location: South of the Lighthouse

Level: Open Water & Up

Type of Diving: Cave, wall and reef diving 

Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)

If you’re frustrated because you weren’t able to see any sharks at Lighthouse, don’t fret.

There’s another site in Cabilao where shark sightings are almost guaranteed: the Balay Reef (which translates to House Reef).

Located south of the lighthouse, the mild current of Balay Reef will take you to see 5 small caves and a wall.

White tip reef shark and divers behind it while scuba diving in Cabilao
Whitetip reef shark resting

Although this site is teeming with corals, what will get your attention are the whitetip reef sharks!

To spot them, take a peek inside the small caves, as they are often found swimming and cruising inside it.

3 Coco

purple soft coral on the reef in cabilao
Beautiful purple soft coral

Location: West coast of Cabilao Island

Level: Open Water

Type of Diving: Reef diving 

Max Depth: 25 meters (82 feet)

Going further south from Balay Reef, you’ll find another dive site that’s worth visiting on Cabilao Island.

Like Lighthouse, this dive site gets its name from navigational reference back in the day, due to its three coconut trees standing on the shore.

As soon as you begin your dive at 3 Coco, you will start by hovering over a vast coral expanse from 5 meters (16 feet) all the way down to 25 meters (82 feet), going deeper by following the gentle reef slope.

Turtle in the reefs of Cabilao island philippines
Turtle and remoras in Cabilao

Here you can see table top corals, massive brain corals, and cabbage corals; all that coral is interspersed with a lively assortment of reef fish like damselfish, anthias, and triggerfish.

You may also see some turtles here!

More Dive Sites in Cabilao

A nudibranch in focus and the diver in the background out of focus, with a beam of light
Nudibranch and diver

Other noted dive sites in Cabilao Island are:

  • the gorgonian beds of the Fallen Tree,
  • the current-driven walls of Looc, and
  • the large overhang of Cambaquiz.

Dive Sites in Balicasag Island

Corals on Balicasag including green black sun goral and other types of hard coral and feather star and lionfish
Lionfish, feather stars, and hard corals: a thriving reef

There are over 100 marine sanctuaries in Bohol, but the epitome of its efforts towards environmental protection is Balicasag Island.

Located 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) southwest of Panglao island, the marine life in Balicasag island has flourished to its fullest!

A strict regulation on the number of divers and dive boats is implemented daily to ensure that the marine ecosystem here stays healthy.

As a result, you’ll probably want to plan your dives on Balicasag a little more ahead of time than other places in Bohol, due to the fact that it can reach capacity.

Black Forest

Beautiful black sun coral with fish like anthia and damselfish clustered around it
Beautiful black sun coral hosting a ton of reef fish!

Location: Northeast coast of Balicasag Island

Level: Open Water & Up

Type of Diving: Reef and deep diving 

Max Depth: 40 meters (131 feet)

In the tropics, you seldom see black corals dominating a shallow reef — this type of Cnidaria tends to prefer deep water.

But in Balicasag island, there is a spot where the lovely coral called Tubastraea is abundant, which makes for a stunning sight.

👩‍🔬 Nerdy marine biology note: although Tubastraea is named sun coral, ironically these corals do not need sunlight to thrive, as these corals aren’t the symbiotic kind that hosts zooxanthellae (the algae that feeds the coral).

Green coral that looks like trees on a reef wall with orange anthia fish
Black sun corals and anthias on the reef

With its tree-like structure and gorgeous dark forest green color, the abundance of Tubastraea at this Balicasag dive site gives it its name: the Black Forest.

Starting from the shallow portion of the reef slope all the way down to its deepest section at 40 meters (131 feet), the sun corals are flourishing.

Diving in Black Forest will never be monotonous, as the reef is absolutely teeming with a healthy population of batfish, surgeonfish, Moorish idols, several species of angelfish, and a lot more!

Diver’s Haven and the Royal Garden

Reef ledge with divers below it because you can see their bubbles coming up from below
Divers below on the ledge, as seen by bubbles!

Location: North coast (Royal Garden) and South coast (Diver’s Haven)

Level: Open Water

Type of Diving: Reef diving 

Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)

The Black Forest is considered the prime spot for diving in Balicasag, but don’t worry; after you explore it, there’s still way more to see in Balicasag!

Whether you proceed northwards or southwards, two nearby dive sites are absolutely worth your bubbles!

North of the Black Forest is the Royal Garden. Here, large barrel sponges are widely distributed amongst an assortment of hard and soft corals.

barrel sponge and fish schooling near the surface of the water and smaller fish and feather star close to barrel sponge
Barrel sponge and schooling fish

On the other end, if you go south of the Black Forest, you can explore the equally beautiful Diver’s Haven.

Diver’s Haven is shallower than Royal Garden (the former is about 18 meters deep, while the latter is as deep as 30 meters deep), but there’s still a ton to see.

The fusion of both hard and soft corals is absolutely mesmerizing, and the fact that it’s not a particularly deep site makes it a great choice for Open Water divers or for a shallower repetitive dive later in the day.

Turtle Point

The green sea turtles of Balicasag with divers behind them
Turtles in Balicasag

Location: West of Diver’s Heaven

Level: Open Water

Type of Diving: Reef diving

Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)

The sea turtle population in Balicasag island is thriving — you’ll surely see them on many of your dives here.

But if you want to see their diversity and in numbers, then nothing beats diving at Turtle Point!

Jacks and turtle at Balicasag
Turtle meets a school of jacks

The beauty of Turtle Point is that while you can see different species of sea turtles (mostly green sea turtles, but also others), the underwater topography is beautiful too!

You can encounter turtles on the coral-rich plateaus as well as near the impressive vertical limestone drop off, locally known as Rico’s Wall.

Other Dive Sites in Balicasag

Big school of jacks swarming the entire field of view
The famed ‘university of jacks’ — a huge school!

While there are other dive sites in Balicasag Island, the reason why we featured and grouped together these dive sites for you is that this is where the signature “university of jacks” often passes by.

Yes, note that we are using the word “university” and not school, which gives you an idea how thick and massive this gathering of trevallies are!

Some other dive sites in Balicasag worth looking into are:

  • the beautifully-lit gaps in the coral wall at Cathedral
  • hard and soft corals and small caverns at Rudy Rocks

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