Person diving on a shallow coral reef area in Cebu in the Philippines

Scuba Diving in Cebu: The 7 Best Dive Regions on Cebu [2024 Guide]

Centrally located in the nutrient-rich waters of the Visayan region of the Philippine Archipelago, Cebu is a diving mecca.

Here on this beautiful island, countless dive sites are flourishing along its 196 kilometer (122 mile) long coastline, as well as its neighboring islands (also included in this guide).

Each of these dive areas is home to a unique assortment of marine life, big and small, alongside a healthy and beautiful underwater topography with lots of excellent coral.

Already excited? Just wait until you start to land.

As you arrive at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, you can already sneak a peek of the nearby reefs and have a glimpse of what to expect!

Best of all, for scuba divers itching to get in the water, get excited: the moment you set foot at the tarmac, the nearest dive site is just 10 minutes away!

Scuba Diving Conditions in Cebu

It’s actually rather rare in the Philippines to have a dive destination that is optimal year round: Cebu is the exception!

In addition to typhoons (which usually occur from July-October), the monsoon season greatly affects the diving conditions.

In the Philippines, there are 2 monsoons: the southwest monsoon (or habagat) that affects the western seaboard and the northwest monsoon (or amihan) affecting the eastern seaboard.

However, since Cebu is centrally located, the effects of both the southwest or northeast monsoon are seldom felt, making diving in Cebu a true year-round activity!

The water conditions in Cebu’s best dive sites are highly conducive for diving!

Expect clear waters where visibility could exceed 30 meters or 100 feet on good days.

Plus, the temperature is lovely and warm (averaging at 30°C/86°F), rendering wetsuits optional for most divers — many divers just don a rash guard and board shorts for shallow dives!

Moreover, Cebu has a well-established diving industry.

In every dive spot, you’ll have several dive shops to choose from, all of which cater to all your diving needs from certification, rental, dives, and more!

The dive culture here is a lot of fun, too, with dive guides who are English-speaking dive professionals that always have a joke to crack during surface intervals.

And wait ’til you get onboard — Cebu doesn’t use your typical, boring dive boat.

Boat diving in Cebu is typically done by “banca”, a traditional wooden boat with bamboo outriggers, which offers ample space for you and your equipment.

The Best Dive Sites in Cebu

Cebu has a long list of amazing dive sites.

To keep your Cebu itinerary organized, we grouped together dive sites that belong to a common destination and in such a way that you can visit and explore them in just a single trip.

Dive Sites In an Around Mactan

The island of Mactan is strategically located for scuba diving since most of its dive sites are within just a few minutes from the airport!

This is a great place to get your feet (and everything else!) wet when you first arrive in Cebu, before making your way to some of the island’s more far-flung locations.

Hadsan and Kon Tiki Reef

Person diving above a sea fan and lots of shoaling fish together and a view of the sun above

Location: 5 minutes away from the airport

Level: Open Water

Type of Diving: Reef, wall and deep diving 

Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)

The moment you get out of the airport, take a taxi and tell the driver to take you to Hadsan or Kon Tiki!

There, you can choose several dive shops for a quick dive; it doesn’t matter where you start since Kon Tiki and Hadsan are adjoining reefs.

Either going on a shore entry or on a boat dive, you start diving following a shallow slope that ends in a steep vertical drop off.

Cruising along the ledge, enjoy the coral-filled limestone wall filled with an array of tropical reef fish.

Halfway through your dive, the highlight of this underwater adventure appears: thousands upon thousands of small fish form a school in a phenomenon called the sardine run!

Expect to see other divers passing by since Hadsan and Kon Tiki is a popular spot for check dives (where divemasters assess your diving level).

Marigondon Cave

a diver in a cavern with a torch looking at some squirrelfish in the niches of the cave walls

Location: 15 minutes away from the airport

Level: Advanced / Cave speciality

Type of Diving: Reef, wall, deep, drift and cave diving 

Max Depth: 40 meters (131 feet)

If you’re looking for a challenging dive site, then consider exploring the Marigondon Cave, so long as you’re properly trained to do so.

Located in front of a popular 5-star beach resort and hotel, you start diving by descending to a 10-meter deep reef that leads to a ledge.

After which, you make a direct descent along a limestone wall filled with soft and hard corals while being taken along mild to moderate current on a lovely drift dive.

Reaching 27 meters (90 feet) deep, you will see the massive Marigondon Cave entrance.

Note that the deepest part of the cave is recorded at 40 meters (131 feet) deep, so reaching this point is only suitable for those with a Deep specialty.

Do not enter the cave if you don’t have a Cave Diving specialty!

If you’re qualified, you can explore and enter the horizontal tunnel that runs for 20 meters (66 feet) within.

Turning on your torch, you can see stalagmites and stalactites, as well as tombstones of divers who perished while exploring the cave – a morbid yet important reminder for us of the risks involved in diving.

Do not penetrate too deep in the cave system, being sure to turn around once the tunnel starts to constrict.

As always with diving, monitor your air constantly, as well as your deco stops, and make sure you do all the deco stops your dive computer prompts you to, as well as a mandatory safety stop at 15 feet for 3-5 minutes before surfacing.

Hilutungan Island

Beautiful blue waters and small boats in the marine sanctuary area

Location: 1 hour boat ride from Mactan

Level: Open Water

Type of Diving: Reef, wall and deep diving 

Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)

Once to be ground zero for blast-fishing in the past, luckily reef conservation efforts have put an end to this destructive practice.

Now, Hilutungan is a gorgeous marine sanctuary teeming with underwater life.

What was once a barren reef is now littered (in a good way) with corals, sea fans and tropical fish like parrotfish, batfish, sweetlips, barracudas and massive schooling jacks.

And the good thing with diving in Hilutungan is that you’ll get to enjoy a really varied coral landscape.

A typical dive here will have you will start your dive following a shallow slope, ending up at a sheer drop off along the deep Hilutungan Channel, which is where you’ll tend to see larger schools of fish.    

Dive Sites in Southern Cebu

The southern portion of Cebu is traditionally the alternative destination to Mactan.

Since it has a more rural setting, diving in the southern area of Cebu will give you a more laid-back experience.

Since the hustle and bustle of busy city life is non-existent, this part of Cebu is the perfect place to just chill and dive. 

Pescador Island

view from below the surface, looking up to a dive boat above, with reef below

Location: Moalboal, Southwest of Cebu

Level: Open Water

Type of Diving: Reef diving 

Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)

After taking a 3-hour journey by bus, heading southwest from Cebu City, you will arrive at one of the oldest dive destinations in the Philippines – Moalboal!

Here, you’ll find most of the dive shops are located on the beach strip of Panagsama and Saavedra.

After a 10-minute boat ride, you will arrive at Moalboal’s top dive site: Pescador Island.

After your banca has moored to one of the buoys, you descend to a shallow reef crest at 4.5 meters (15 feet) deep.

Initially, you will not see much, but that quickly changes as you reach the reef ledge!

Here, your view will transform from barren sand to a healthy reef studded with corals, huge barrel sponges, and wavering sea fans.

The highlight of this dive is when you reach the Cathedral: a series of crevices filled with damselfish, Moorish idols, snappers and parrotfish.

It’s a borderline religious experience, hence the name!

Woman freediving with sardine bait ball, forming a semi-circle around her

After doing two or three dives in Pescador island, you will go back to the mainland.

However, it doesn’t mean that your adventure is over!

Located just off the beach is another famous attraction – the Moalboal sardine run!

Here, you can go snorkeling and be surrounded with thousands of little sardine fish, protected by this marine park!


A scuba diver wearing scuba gear and diving near a whale shark who is being followed by a bunch of cleaner fish and remoras

Location: Oslob, Southeast of Cebu

Level: Open Water

Type of Diving: Reef diving 

Max Depth: 10 meters (33 feet)

Oslob is one of the few places in the Philippines that allows you to go scuba diving with the biggest fish in the world – the whalesharks.

Unlike the open water setting in Donsol (which is perhaps the top spot for whale sharks in the Philippines), Oslob is fairly confined and diving with whale sharks is relatively shallow with a maximum depth of only 10 meters (33 feet).

Compared to the adult whale sharks in Donsol, the ones you will interact with in Oslob are smaller in size.

But the good thing with Oslob is that the whale sharks are active and swim faster than those in Donsol.

So get ready to flex those leg muscles for a faster fin kick — while observing the required interaction guidelines. 

Dive Sites in Northern Cebu

In addition to the southern dive sites, the northern destinations of Cebu present the same laid back experience, but in a different setting, topography and marine life.

Monad Shoal (Malapascua)

Thresher sharks with a long tail and startled-looking face hanging out in Malapascua island off the coast of Cebu in the deep waters

Location: Malapascua Island, Northern Cebu 

Level: Advanced

Type of Diving: Deep, reef and shark diving

Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)

Looking for the big boys of the deep?

Then head out to Malapascua Island, which is your jumping off point to Monad Shoal, where you can go diving with thresher sharks!

Diving in Monad Shoal is not your ordinary dive holiday adventure… it’s a trek!

You need to wake up early in the morning, board your banca, travel for an hour towards Monad Shoal… all to be in the water before the sun rises!

Upon reaching the mound at 30 meters deep, your eyes will adjust as the sun slowly illuminates the reef: at this point, you will usually see thresher sharks coming up from the deep for a quick clean by small reef fish!

Some threshers will come in close, but mostly stay at a distance, as they are a cautious and shy shark species (and they wear a face of being perpetually startled!)

Nevertheless, you will appreciate (and be low-key hypnotized by) by the gentle swaying of their extended upper caudal fin, which is what makes them so recognizable among sharks species.

Gato Island

A nurse shark nestled in a niche of a ledge, sleeping, with lots of colorful coral around it

Location: Bantayan, Northern Cebu 

Level: Open Water

Type of Diving: Reef and shark diving

Max Depth: 18 meters (60 feet)

If you’re not trained to go deep diving (like in Monad Shoal) yet still want to see sharks, then head out 16.5 kilometers (10 miles) northwest of Malapascua Island.

Here, you’ll find an uninhabited rocky island called Isla de Gato (or Gato Island).

As you descend, you will immediately see nurse sharks.

But do not worry about missing them — they are not moving. Instead, these sharks are resting on the sand!

These beautiful nurse sharks spend time taking refuge under the limestone ledges of the towering landscape of the island.

Silver and Black Sea snake on colorful corals in the phillipines

Another attraction of Gato Island is quite venomous – the banded sea krait (sea snake).

Yes, their bite is extremely venomous, but it’s unheard of for them to attack divers. There are only two recorded attacks, and both were fishing-related.

As long as you keep your distance and do not provoke them, you can have a safe interaction with these marine reptiles.

Other Dive Destinations Near Cebu

Red, white, and yellow nudibranch eating blue sponges in Balicasag island in Philippines

Honestly, just staying on Cebu alone will give you an amazing dive adventure!

But in case you want more, it has plenty of tourism infrastructure in place that allows you to easily travel and visit neighboring dive destinations.

One option is diving in Bohol, where you can see the hammerheads of Cabilao and the black corals of Balicasag and its macro life that it also houses.

Another great option is Dumaguete, where you can go drift diving in Apo Island along the humongous school of jacks or looking for macro life in Dauin.

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