Making the Most of Moalboal
A three-hour bus ride away from Cebu City, this little fishing town is charming enough to be included on the backpacker trail, yet despite its popularity, is not as stifling as other hangouts such as El Nido. Here’s our guide to making the most of Moalboal.
Our Guide to MoalBoal
Flying fish seen from Panagsama beach
Getting to Moalboal from Cebu City
The best way of getting to Moalboal from Cebu City is by Ceres Liner from the South Terminal of Cebu City. Immediately upon entry to the terminal, you are obliged to pay a terminal entrance fee of 10 PHP after which you need to go into a building that looks pretty much like a canteen … and find the back door. Walk along a rundown path at the back of the building until you come to a door marked with the names of multiple destinations, this is the entrance to the bus waiting area. Here you need to look or wait for a bus running to ‘Bato via Barili’ which will stop at Moalboal along the way.
The bus stop for Moalboal is immediately in front of McDonalds. From here take a trike to your destination in Moalboal. A trike to Panagsama beach where a lot of the accommodation options and dive shops are located, should cost less than 100 PHP but many drivers initially expect a lot more, so try to negotiate. It’s always best to approach a trike driver yourself as some agents will be there to “help you out” for a commission.
On the way to Kawasan Falls
What to do in Moalboal
This is perhaps what Moalboal is most famous for. A school of over a million sardines is located just a few meters off Panagsama beach. You don’t even need to dive to be able to swim with them, or even be a very good swimmer actually! Just hire a mask and snorkel (and floating jacket if you are not a good swimmer) and go to the little beach behind Quest Dive Center on the main road in Panagsama.
Swim out for about 10 meters until you reach the ridge and see a large dark mass – you can’t miss them! The beach itself is not particularly beautiful, and we got lightly stung by some little jellyfish whilst we were snorkeling, so full body swimwear is recommended. The huge wall of sardines is pretty impressive though!
The massive wall of sardines
Although not the most beautiful beach in the Philippines, White Beach is a pleasant place from which to view the world whilst sipping on fresh coconut. You can hire a trike for 150 PHP to get here or better still, ride a motorbike. The trike stopped us at a resort entrance where we assumed we would be made to pay an expensive entrance fee. Instead, we followed the locals to another entrance a few meters away, where we paid only 10 PHP each.
The part of the beach we initially came to was packed with locals in tents, cooking on BBQs; it was close to Easter weekend and apparently everyone was on holiday! The east side of the beach however was quite empty and proved to be a good spot from which to sunbathe.
We chose to walk back to Panagsama beach because I felt that we needed some exercise (Filipino food is rather fatty!). We made it back in about an hour with some photo stops along the way.
Chilling at White Beach
Moalboal offers a wide range of organised group tours to Kawasan Falls, some of which included canyoneering and seemed pretty interesting, but which, at 2500 PHP per person, were rather expensive. We chose to go to the falls on a motorbike which we rented for 300 PHP for the day. The falls, located about 20km away from Moalboal are very easy to drive to, but do try to be there early as they are extremely popular and tend to be very crowded especially during Easter week.
The first tier of the falls, where the powerful river gushes down into a turquoise pool is probably the most beautiful of all three but is also the most popular. It is surrounded by tables and plastic chairs from two nearby restaurants. Do not sit or leave your belongings at table as you will be charged 300 PHP just for doing that. It is definitely worth the easy jungle trek to go up to the second and third tier where there are usually less people. Stands selling food are found at every level and there’s a rope swing and a natural slide at the third tier, the use of which, costs 10 PHP for a full day.
Kawasan Falls, first level
Kawasan Falls, first level viewed on the way up to the second level
Meet the Turtle
If you find yourself at the beach behind Quest Dive Center just before sunset, be sure to look out for the turtle that comes here to be fed by a kind local every day. The turtle was hit by a propeller and is partly blind and thus has difficulty looking for its own food. Yet it is incredibly friendly and seems to enjoy the company of whoever is close by during its dinner time!
The friendly turtle
Watch an Awesome Sunset
Although not exclusive to Moalboal, the sunsets here are just as stunning as those seen from other sunset spots in the Philippines. Best place? Anywhere on the beachfront! Best viewed with a chilled San Miguel beer in hand of course!
Sunset from Panagsama beach
Where to Stay in Moalboal
Panagsama beach is home to a wide range of accommodation and many dive resorts . We stayed at The Blue Abyss Dive Resort in a family room with fan which set us back 1400 PHP per night and included a great breakfast (we could choose any of the set breakfast meals on the menu).
Where to Eat in Moalboal
We tried four different budget to mid-range restaurants during our stay in Moalboal and our favourites were Lantaw Restaurant (excellent Thai curry but no wine although this was included on the menu) and Ven’z Kitchen (do not ask for your food to be served very spicy as I did, they mean serious business here!). We would have liked to try the local eatery just a few metres up from Ven’z, but it is probably more of a lunch place as they seemed to run out of food by the evening.
On the way to Kawasan Falls
Other Things to Do in Moalboal
Moalboal is famous for being a great reef-diving site and the diving off nearby Pescador island seems to be pretty popular spot too.
Sardines a few meters off Panagsama beach