The Philippines is situated within the Coral Triangle, renowned as the epicenter of marine biodiversity worldwide. Hence, scuba diving in the Philippines is a delightful experience due to the country’s abundant marine biodiversity and breathtaking underwater scenery, which includes Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Apo Reef, Anilao, Puerto Galera, and the Ticao Pass. This article highlights 12 of the finest scuba diving spots in the Philippines, featuring dive resorts certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).
Palawan is an archipelagic province that stretches between the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea. It is known for its stunning landscapes, vibrant coral reefs, and UNESCO-listed sites. The province boasts 26 listed dive sites, categorized into 11 Reef dives, 11 Wreck dives, and 4 Beach dives.
Here are some of the best dive sites in Palawan:
- Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park: Located in the Sulu Sea, Tubbataha Reefs is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best dive spots in the world. It’s known for its diverse marine life, including sharks, turtles, and vibrant coral reefs. The park is only accessible by liveaboard trips, typically from March to June.
- Coron Bay: Coron, a town on Busuanga Island, is famous for its World War II wrecks. These sunken Japanese warships and planes have become artificial reefs, attracting a variety of marine life. Popular wrecks include the Irako, Okikawa Maru, and the famous Japanese warship, Kyokuzan Maru.
- El Nido: This area is renowned for its limestone karst formations, crystal-clear waters, and diverse marine life. Divers can explore coral reefs, walls, and tunnels. Sites like Dilumacad Island and South Miniloc offer opportunities to see turtles, rays, and a variety of fish.
- Dimalanta Island: Located off the coast of Palawan, Dimalanta Island is known for its strong currents and diverse marine life. The dive sites here offer the chance to see sharks, rays, and schools of fish. The “Washing Machine” is a popular drift dive with exciting underwater landscapes.
- Honda Bay: Situated near Puerto Princesa, Honda Bay offers a mix of coral reefs and marine life. Dive sites like Cowrie Island and Pandan Island provide opportunities to see colorful corals, sea fans, and various fish species.
The most famous scuba diving spot in Batangas is Anilao— a barangay located in the municipality of Mabini, renowned for its rich marine life. It is often considered the birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines as it is one of the first dive areas that became popular in the country.
Some popular diving areas in Anilao include:
- Cathedral Rock: This site features large boulders and rock formations. It earned its name when former Philippine President Fidel Ramos placed a concrete stone cross between two giant rocks, creating a cathedral-like view. Divers can explore underwater tunnels and crevices, encountering various marine species such as sea fans, angelfish, butterfly fish, wrasse, and triggerfish, among others.
- Sombrero Island: This island is known for its distinctive shape resembling a hat. The dive site includes small caverns, boulders, and a drop-off. It’s great for underwater photographers due to the variety of coral formations.
- Secret Bay: This site is popular for muck diving, where divers can find various macro critters like seahorses, nudibranchs, and other unique species hiding in the sandy bottom.
Negros is an island located in the central part of the Philippines, divided into 2 provinces: Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental. There are currently 42 dive sites listed around Negros, of which 35 are Reef dives, 19 are Ocean dives, and 12 are Beach dives.
Some notable diving areas in Negros include:
- Apo Island: Apo Island is a protected marine reserve, located in the southern part of Negros, near Dumaguete City. Home to 650 fish species and 400 coral species, it is famous for its vibrant coral gardens, large schools of barracudas and jacks, and diverse sea life. It’s worth noting that Apo Island is distinct from Apo Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Philippines’ largest coral reef system.
- Danjugan Island: Danjugan Island is a protected marine and wildlife sanctuary, located on the western side of Negros Island. The island is dedicated to conservation and sustainable ecotourism efforts, offering visitors a chance to experience its natural beauty while promoting environmental awareness.
4. Boracay (Aklan)
Boracay Island is the most popular beach spot in the country, known for its fine white sand and clear turquoise waters. Besides its lively nightlife and island hopping, you can also go scuba diving in Boracay. There are currently 13 dive sites listed around Boracay, including 13 Reef dives, 12 Ocean dives, and 7 Wall dives.
Here are some popular scuba diving sites in Boracay:
- Yapak (also known as the Bat Caves): Located on the northern tip of Boracay, Yapak is known for its strong currents and deep waters. It suits experienced divers and offers encounters with sharks and other aquatic species.
- Crocodile Island: This site is named after a rock formation that looks like a crocodile. It features a variety of marine life, including colorful coral reefs and schools of fish. The currents can vary, making it suitable for different experience levels.
- Camia Wreck: This is an artificial reef created by sinking a ship. It has become a haven for marine life, including various species of fish and coral. The wreck is at a manageable depth, making it suitable for divers of various skill levels.
Bohol is a picturesque island province best known for the Chocolate Hills, the tarsiers, and historic sites like the centuries-old Baclayon Church and the iconic Blood Compact Shrine. The island is also surrounded by rich marine life and vibrant coral reefs, making it a popular destination for scuba divers. In particular, Alona Beach in Panglao Island, which is connected to Bohol by a bridge, is a particularly well-known area for diving.
Some of the best scuba diving sites in Bohol include:
- Balicasag Island: This is one of the most popular dive sites in Bohol. It features a marine sanctuary with vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life. The visibility is often excellent, and you can encounter various species of fish, turtles, and even barracudas.
- Pamilacan Island: Known for its clear waters and healthy coral reefs, Pamilacan Island offers diverse marine life, including reef sharks, rays, and colorful coral formations. The island is also a great spot for dolphin watching.
- Alona Beach: Alona Beach is a central hub for diving activities in Bohol. The nearby dive sites offer a mix of wall dives, coral gardens, and sandy slopes. The marine biodiversity around Alona Beach is impressive, with sightings of frogfish, seahorses, and more.
- Doljo Point: Located on the northwest coast of Panglao Island, Doljo Point is famous for its steep wall and the chance to see large pelagic species such as barracudas, jacks, and tuna. The wall is covered with colorful soft corals and sea fans.
- Cabilao Island: Accessible from Bohol, Cabilao Island offers a variety of dive sites, including walls, slopes, and coral gardens. The island is known for its diverse marine life, including turtles, schooling fish, and macro critters.
Cebu is the richest province in the Visayas region, known for its vibrant culture, beautiful beaches, and historical sites. Its diving sites are scattered across its various islands and municipalities as follows:
- Moalboal: Famous for the sardine run, Moalboal’s Pescador Island is a marine sanctuary with vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life.
- Malapascua Island: Known for thresher shark sightings at Monad Shoal, Malapascua is a favorite destination for divers seeking unique underwater encounters.
- Oslob: While controversial for its whale-shark interactions, Oslob provides an opportunity to dive alongside these gentle giants in a controlled environment.
- Sumilon Island: A marine sanctuary with crystal-clear waters, Sumilon offers diverse marine life and stunning coral formations for an immersive diving experience.
- Mactan Island: Just off the coast of Cebu City, Mactan has various dive spots featuring coral gardens, walls, and wrecks, making it convenient for divers to stay in the urban area.
Mindoro is an island situated southwest of Luzon. It is divided into two provinces: Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro, known for their diverse landscapes and pristine beaches, including the famous Puerto Galera. Some of the best scuba diving spots in Mindoro include:
- Apo Reef Natural Park: Located off the coast of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro, Apo Reef is the largest contiguous coral reef system in the Philippines. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular destination for divers. The park features diverse marine life, including sharks, rays, turtles, and a variety of reef fish.
- Verde Island: Known for having some of the best coral reefs in the Philippines, Verde Island is located between Batangas and Mindoro. The currents around Verde Island bring nutrient-rich waters, supporting a wide variety of marine life.
- Muelle Bay: Located in Puerto Galera, Muelle Bay offers diverse dive sites suitable for both beginners and experienced divers. The area is known for its macro photography opportunities, with various critters like seahorses, frogfish, and pipefish.
8. Ticao Island (Masbate)
Ticao Island is one of the three major islands of the province of Masbate. Known for its stunning beaches and rich marine biodiversity, the island is a popular destination for scuba divers. One of its most renowned dive sites is the Manta Bowl, a recognized manta ray cleaning station that attracts divers eager to witness these majestic creatures.
Top Dive Resort in Ticao Island: Ticao Island Dive Camp & Resort
Siquijor is a small island province in the Visayas region. With 23 dive sites surrounding the island, it is a popular diving destination with healthy corals and lots of macro life. Its two most popular diving spots are Paliton Wall and Tonga Point.
Paliton Wall goes from 7m to 40m and has soft corals, fans, an overhang, and a cave. It’s home to frogfish, ghost pipefish, and Spanish dancers. Tonga Point, on the other hand, is a more challenging dive, starting with a gentle slope and then dropping to 65m. It has leather coral, soft coral, fans, sponges, and fire hydroids.
Top Dive Resort in Siquijor: Bahura Dive Siquijor
10. La Union
La Union is known for surfing, nightlife, and hip food scene, but it is also ideal for diving due to the well-protected waters of the Lingayen Gulf.
Its most dive sites include the Fagg Reef, a coral-laden shelf along the gulf; the Red & Black Buoy featuring walls, caves, and canyons teeming with fish; and VOA/Lighthouse/Domes Reef, named after the Voice of America relay station, boasting a white coral sand bottom. Additionally, explore Research Reef, Tamayo Reef, Robert’s Reef, 14 Mile Reef, and the historic Hashi Maru, a WWII Japanese freighter wreck embedded with explosive remnants.
Top Dive Resorts in La Union: Dive Union
Batanes is the Philippines’ northernmost and smallest province, both in terms of population and area. It is an archipelago known for its scenic waters, terrain, and clean environment. Scuba diving is primarily done around Sabtang Island, home to dive sites such as Amphitheater, The Blue Light, and The Arc.
Top Dive Resorts in Batanes: Dive Batanes
12. Siargao (Surigao Del Norte)
Similar to La Union, Siargao is best known for surfing and nightlife. However, the island does offer some diving opportunities, too. Some potential dive sites include:
- Pansukian Reef: Known for its colorful coral formations and diverse marine life.
- Daku Reef: Features a mix of hard and soft corals, as well as various fish species.
- Guiwanon Spring Dive Site: A shallow dive site with clear waters, suitable for beginners.
Top Dive Resorts in Siargao: Palaka Siargao Dive Center
Ron Lao is an engineering graduate with a passion for writing informative content and exploring new places, cultures, and food. He loves science, cats, badminton, and anything wellness-related.