Moalboal, Cebu is a growing tourist destination, and you would be mistaken for thinking it’s an off the beaten track place to visit with not much to do. Famous for the sardine run, Moalboal attracts snorkelers and scuba divers from all over the world who want see this natural phenomenon which can be reached from the beach. Moalboal’s other main attraction is Canyoneering at nearby Kawasan Falls.
If seeing a giant sardine ball isn’t to your liking, there are many awesome day trips from Moalboal. Go chasing waterfalls, mountain trekking or lay on a white sand beach.
Moalboal Eco Lodge share with you 28 things to do in Moalboal.
Where is Moalboal, Cebu?
The municipality of Moalboal is three hours south of Cebu City. The island of Cebu is one of the major destinations in the Philippines and is easily reached from outside of Asia due to its International airport.
Moalboal is most famous for the sardines which can be found in Panagsama, 4km from Moalboal town centre. Divers and snorkelers can see the world famous sardine run every day of the year by walking in from the shore. With a large scuba diving presence, if you have never dived before, Moalboal is a fantastic place to “try dive” or “get your PADI”.
Panagsama has many eateries and is a good hangout for backpackers, solo travellers, digital nomads, and people on a budget. Moalboal Eco Lodge is located half way between Panagsama and Moalboal, and is the perfect place to stay for anyone who wishes to be close to restaurants and the supermarket, but enjoy quiet accommodation surrounded by palm trees.
Now that I have whet your appetite, without further ado, Moalboal Eco Lodge share a plethora of things you can do during your stay.
1. Snorkel or Scuba Dive the Sardine Run
Seeing the sardines is the number one reason people visit Moalboal. Just off the beach at Panagsama, snorkelers can dip their head below the surface and see a giant sardine ball made up of around 8 million sardines. To truly appreciate the magnificent shapes and formations the sardines form as they constantly move through the water, scuba dive the sardines!
If you don’t have your licence you can do a half day Discover Scuba. (NB: Due to a lot of boat traffic overhead, it’s up to the Instructor’s discretion whether they feel it’s safe enough to take you to the sardines.)
2. Learn Freediving
Freediving is quickly becoming the new scuba diving. For people looking to dive the giant sardine ball free from equipment, freediving is the answer.
Novices can take a half-day taster session, but if you wish to further your freediving knowledge, there are courses all the way up to PADI and AIDA instructor level.
In the taster session, you will start by learning breath-hold and from here, your limits are endless. You are in control, and you are taught how to push yourself through imaginary boundaries.
If you enjoy Yoga, you will feel similarities to freediving due to the connection with your breath, and unification of mind and body.
3. Island Hopping Snorkel Trip
This trip takes you to three of the best snorkelling spots in the area; the sardines, turtles at Talisay Point, and Pescador Island, a marine sanctuary with healthy corals and plenty of reef fish.
NB. Be a responsible snorkeller:
Do not feed the fish, even if you are told you can do so. Bread isn’t part of their natural diet, and if fish are eating bread, they aren’t eating the algae growing on the coral which leads to coral dying.
Do not touch or stand on coral. Coral reefs are living animals and are crucial to the ocean’s health. You are an animal, would you like someone standing on you?
Do not touch or chase turtles. You have harmful bacteria on your hands which you will pass on to the turtles. Chasing a turtle will make them stressed. Would you like strangers chasing and touching you?
4. Canyoneering at Kawasan Falls
5. Chasing Waterfalls
6. Hire a scooter and explore
Scooters are super easy to ride, and Filipino drivers are very considerate always giving me a wide berth when I am on my bicycle. Once you have hired a scooter, just go! Drive down a road you don’t know, take a wrong turning, feel the wind on your face and admire the fields of palm trees. You will encounter locals waving and saying “hello”, and it’s a great way of seeing local life.
NB. ALWAYS wear a helmet. A study by the World Health Organisation showed that over 90% of motorcycle deaths didn’t wear helmets. Around 53% of all traffic accidents in the Philippines are motorcyclists and their passengers. Moalboal have started to enforce helmets, and there are random check-points. It’s better to arrive at your destination with helmet hair than not arrive at all.
7. Check out Mainit Natural Hot Springs in Malabuyoc
This is one of Cebu’s secrets. It’s officially been closed to the public since July 2017 so you will only find locals here, no tourists.
There are three Hot Springs, the hottest is 46.2! We went for a dip in the wonderful bathwater temperature of 36.1. You will walk through a little stream to reach the springs, and if you continue for a couple of minutes, you will reach a cold plunge pool at the bottom of a waterfall.
8. Hike Osmena Peak
At 1,013 meters (3,325 feet) high, Osmena Peak is the highest mountain in Cebu, and has multiple lush-green jagged hills. It is said to be named after the Osmeña clan in Cebu, and the late former president Sergio Osmena used to ride horses in the Patung Badian mountain range.
Located near the Municipality of Dalaguete, an hour inland from Alegria, early bird risers can visit for sunrise which is also the most popular time. Alternatively, it makes a lovely sunset view point and there is a campsite here if you have your own tent, cost is P60 for the night.
You can visit any time of the day but the conditions vary depending on the time of year. During the hottest months of March to May, sunrise or early morning is recommended. In the cooler months of November to January, the mornings can be foggy for sunrise so afternoon is recommended.
The walk to the summit takes around 20-30 minutes up a loose rocky trail, passing fields of aubergines, cabbage, and onions. The walk is relatively easy but is slippery when it’s rained so wear walking sandals or trainers.
If you want a cool dip in a waterfall after your hike, Cancalanog Falls are nearby.
9. Go Strawberry picking
If you are visiting Osmena Peak between December – June, take a detour and go strawberry picking!
Sergio's Strawberry Farm charge P50 per person, and are proud to be an organic farm using no pesticides.
Grab a few friends, take a container with you, fill up on delicious strawberries, or enjoy a delicious picnic.
10. Cave Busay and Springs
Another of Cebu’s secrets, when we visited there were only locals splashing around here. Get off the beaten track and if you are feeling adventurous, you can twin this perfectly with horse riding (which you pass on the way to the cave), Alternatively, visit Lambug Beach and Busay Cave.
There is a small natural spring pool inside the entrance of Busay Cave, which has a slight smell of sulphur. Wade for a few minutes through chest height water to a small rocky pathway, then you reach a small cave opening out onto palm trees.
11. Horse Riding
On the way to Busay Cave, you will pass the entrance to Giddyap Horseback Riding. Experience a scenic horse ride around Buay-ay Balabagon, cost is P50 for a taster session, or you can opt for a lesson. For people comfortable with riding you can take an easy or medium trail.
12. Get a tattoo of a mermaid
Cost: From P2,000 (US$40) per hour
Only joking, you don’t have to get a mermaid tattoo (although he has done one), you can have whatever you would like to remember your time in the Philippines! There are two places in Panagsama but Araw Tattoo Studio is recommended. Located on the main Panagsama Road, and he can do cover ups, portraits, tribal and yes he can do turtles, whale sharks and mermaids!
Edit: Araw Tattoo Studio have just opened up another shop on the main Panagsama Road.
13. Look for Jeepney Art … and take a ride in a Jeepney!
For Street Art lovers, alas there isn’t really any to write home about. BUT there is a tonne of Art around Moalboal, Cebu and the Philippines to be found. Jeepneys and motorcycle side cars are brightly painted and decorated and I love it! I became obsessed with photographing them, Superman and Avengers are my favourites. For a bit of fun, I would go to Moalboal town to take photos of parked Jeepneys waiting to take people to Badian or Rhonda.
If you have time – take a ride in a Jeepney with the locals. Jump on any Jeepney heading south and get out at Badian which is only 30 minutes away. Here you will find more Jeepneys parked up for you to photograph, then ride back to Moalboal. Easy peasy.
14. Moalboal Beaches - relax on White Beach
After all that adventure and hiking, it’s time to relax on the best beach in Moalboal. White Beach is a long stretch of soft white sand with clear aquamarine ocean – the perfect place to chill, and snorkelling here is pretty good. Note that on weekends it’s a popular hangout for locals so some areas can be busy.
Moalboal Beaches - Check out Panagsama Beach – or hire a mask/snorkel to see the sardines
Panagsama Beach isn’t one of the quintessentially paradise beaches the Philippines is famous for. It’s two sections of beach that has some rocky areas, but it’s good enough if you want to top up your tan without paying to go anywhere. People watching is also good for grins, and sometimes you will be joined by one of the islands’ street dogs looking for someone to play with.
It’s from this beach people snorkel and scuba dive with the sardines. Snorkelling sets can be hired along the road, so when you fancy a dip to cool off, swim over to the sardines from the shore.
Note: Please wear reef safe sunscreen which is one that doesn’t contain the ingredient Oxybenzone. Moalboal Eco Lodge sells reef safe, palm oil free sunscreen.
15. Visit one of Cebu’s secrets – Lambug Beach
If you want to visit one of Cebu’s secret beaches, head to Lambug Beach in Badian. A 30 minute ride away from Moalboal, hardly any tourists visit, however if you are here on a weekend, you will encounter some locals singing karaoke and enjoying a BBQ.
16. Get your swing on with a round of golf
Golf lovers visiting Lambug Beach in Badian can visit the 18 round golf course at Cebu International Golf Course and Resort. Set in eight hectares of lush green landscape, it’s suitable for experienced golfers as well as novices. Golf carts are available for rent if you didn’t want to walk between holes. Do note they have a strict “no photography” rule, so you can rule out any Instagram selfies.
17. Catch a famous Philippines sunsets
Surprisingly, nowhere markets itself as a sunset spot, despite Moalboal being on the sunset coast! As a sunset lover, I made it my mission to seek out the best sunset spots.
In Panagsama you can just sit on the beach, or sit in one of the few beachfront places for a cold beer, cocktail or soft drink. Café Cebuana and Coconuts are popular.
If you are looking for someone to sit back and relax, head to white beach. Choose between Club Serena or Blue Orchid Dive Resort which have lovely sunset spots. Sit in a comfortable baruga, order a happy-hour beer or cocktail, you can even have a massage. Stay for dinner if you are feeling too chilled to move.
Moalboal Eco Lodge are in the process of building their own sunset deck – watch this space!
18. Pamper yourself with a massage or mani/pedi
Aching after all that hiking and canyoneering? Go for a massage! There are a few places to try and prices vary, but I will quote for a Swedish massage. For a good but cheap massage, head to Sauna Sparadise. There is an option to tip your masseuse directly, and they will definitely appreciate it.
P250 – Heavenly Sauna Sparadise – Next to old Gaisano Grand (up the steps)
P350 – Heavenly Sauna Sparadise – Panagsama Beach near the French Cafe
P650 - Moalboal Spa & Massage – Panagsama Beach opposite Shaka
P1,050 - Dolphin House Dive Resort
19. Get a decent cheap haircut – men or women
Sometimes it’s difficult to find a decent place for a haircut when you are travelling, but not in Moalboal. For men, the barber at Seth & Stan does an excellent job charging P40 for a haircut and P40 for a shave. There are a few other barbers around, but this is where all the ex-pats go for their haircut.
For women, I recommend Jo Maturi’s Hair Design Salon. The hairdresser cut layers into my hair, gave me a wash and blow dry and I felt like a Queen for only P100.
I have also visited BVL Beauty Salon next to new Gasaino Town Center. Although they do an excellent wash, trim and blow dry for P70, they didn’t understand my request for layers.
Consider giving your hairdresser/barber a tip even if tipping isn’t part of your country’s culture because they will definitely appreciate it.
20. Try local food
The Philippines aren’t known for their range of cuisine, but there are a few dishes worthy of trying. Pork or Chicken Sissig is a sizzling plate of meat (or veg) served with rice and egg. Other dishes are Adodo, Lechon (a whole spit-roasted pig that is eaten on special occasions), and the delicious dessert mango float (spoiler alert: it isn't ice cream!)
When it comes to fruit, the Philippines Carabao Mango is world-class. Considered to be the sweetest fruit in the world, it is said they are the only mangos served in the White House and Buckingham Palace. If they are good enough for Queen’s and Presidents, they are good enough for me!
21. Take a Filipino Cooking Class
The ladies at Island Girl B&B run a traditional Filipino Cooking Classes. Learn how to cook Chicken/Pork Adodo and enjoy the feast of tasty treats. The girls are very friendly, and you will have a fantastic time preparing your local Filipino dish, and of course eating your culinary masterpiece!
22. Learn Filipino Martial Arts
If you watched Vin Diesel and Jason Statham’s fight scene in Fast and Furious 7 and thought “I want to learn that”, then do it!
Eskrima/Arnis/Kali, the official martial arts of the Philippines are taught by a Master or Grandmaster. It’s weapon-based fighting with knives, sticks, bladed weapons. You will be taught knife defence and disarms, as well as close quarter stick fighting. Alternatively, you can learn hand to hand combat Kung Fu. Sounds painful right? Located just down from Taco Bar, “Adventure and Explore” specifically train foreigners visiting the Philippines so you are in safe hands! If James Bond can learn it, so can you.
23. Mountain Biking
Moalboal is a great place for mountain biking, there are more dirt roads than you can shake a stick at! I know because I don’t drive a scooter (Sy is our driver) and I have a bike so cycle everywhere.
Hire a bike and explore on your own at a leisurely pace. Feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face as you cycle along palm tree lined roads, with locals waving at you along the way.
If you want to get off the beaten track and see more of the beautiful natural surroundings, take a half or full day tour, trails range from easy to hardcore.
24. Keep fit with the locals – Football, Basketball, Tennis, Zumba or hit the gym
Basketball is practically the national sport and you will see areas of grass with a net everywhere. Just in front of Municipal Hall/Moalboal Sports Complex (near where the bus drops you off), there are floodlit courts for tennis, basketball and an area for football.
Zumba – Every Sunday for one hour at 5.30pm in front of Moalboal Sports Complex. Trust me, you will not be the only person there, locals love to boogie.
The small “new gym” is located opposite Mad Cow Resto Bar in Moalboal. It has some free weights and equipment, plus a a small fan but it will do the job if you want to keep up the gun show and hit the beach! Cost is P30 for a session.
Crossfit gym on Panagasama Road is the newest gym. They run a few classes each day, or you can visit any time of day and do your own thing.
25. Hustle the locals at pool (billiards)
If you like to play pool (billiards), there are a few places to have a game. Behind the market in Moalboal there is a room with a few pool tables which is very popular with locals.
Blue Abyss restaurant have the best table, and it’s relatively quiet. You should definitely come here on Thursday or Saturday when they have an excellent BBQ. Play some pool, have a few drinks and tuck into some tasty food.
Once you have warmed up your cueing arm, head to Chili Bar where there are a few tables, winner stays on. Wednesday night is a Billiards tournament, and Chilli Bar is the place to be for late night drinks and partying.
26. Archery in the tropics
For some fun in the jungle, check out Archery Asia. Book an archery course, or just use their target range for a bit of fun to see how many you can hit dead-centre. Moalboal Eco Lodge is located just around the corner from here so it’s a great place to have fun within walking distance.
27. Murder a tune at a karaoke evening
If you are crazy about Karaoke like Filipinos, hop on the mike and sing for your Country! Recommended is JG’s Grill in Tongo which is good for grins, especially on a Saturday night. They also serve local food, try their sweet and sour.
Wherever you are in the Philippines, you cannot escape karaoke! Locals love to sing Westlife songs at the top of their voice, and if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
28. Check out the Nightlife in Panagsama
Although there isn’t a huge nightlife scene, there are enough places to share stories of drunken evenings and hangovers for any discerning traveller.
The main beer is the Filipino brand San Miguel (or San Miguel Light), and the strong Red Horse gives you a hangover like you have been kicked in the head by a mule. Beer starts from P50 but you can also find spirits and cocktails in most places.
Chili Bar is infamous in Panagsama. Speak to anyone who has been drunk in Moalboal and they all say they went to Chili bar. DJ and dancing, plenty of friendly locals, male, female and ladyboys, plus there is a pool table.
7 Sins and One Eyed Jacks often have live/acoustic music.
Pacita’s hosts a disco every Saturday night. It’s a small outdoor bar frequented by locals, ex-pats and travellers who enjoy a party.
Where to stay in Moalboal
Moalboal Eco Lodge is the perfect place to stay if you love nature, wish to be close to amenities, but value a good night's sleep.
Nestled in amongst palm trees, bamboo and coconut trees, Moalboal Eco Lodge have Bamboo Nipa Huts suitable for solo travellers, couples and friends. There are private rooms and a spacious 4-bed dormitory. Bicycles are for hire if you wish to slow travel in the most environmentally friendly way, or you can rent a scooter. To make enquiries and to book, email Moalboal Eco Lodge.
How to travel around Moalboal
If you want to travel around Moalboal and Panagsama at a slower pace in the most environmentally friendly way, hire a bicycle, it’s how I travel.
For exploring further afield, or if you want to travel at a faster pace, hire a scooter. At P400 per day it’s the cheapest most convenient mode of transport. ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET. Don’t be an accident statistic, it’s better to arrive at your destination with helmet hair, than not arrive at all.
If you don’t drive, there are plenty of local transport options; jump on the back of a motorbike (habal-habal), a trike (motorbike with side car), jeepney (US style jeep crammed knee-to-knee with locals) and the Ceres Line bus which runs regularly along the main highway. Alternatively, you will find plenty of places offering day trips to the popular tourist spots.
The main roads are excellent, however around Panagsama they can be rocky and bumpy. If you haven’t driven in Asia before, at first glance the system may appear chaotic, but the system works exceptionally well. Everyone is respectful and traffic will naturally give way to each other.
Note: The horn is used as a way of polite communication – to let someone know you are near, behind or overtaking them – so honk that horn and scooter like a local.
How to get to Moalboal and Panagsama Beach
By Air to Cebu:
Mactan-Cubu International Airport has daily domestic and international flights, so you can easily twin a visit to another Asian City such as Singapore or Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). Please note, you need to produce a flight out of the Country before you can board a flight to the Philippines.
Cebu is long and narrow and there are no main highways, it can therefore take a while to travel around depending on the time of day and traffic, so please bear this in mind.
Moalboal is situated 3-4 hours south of Cebu City. If you are coming over from Negros, Moalboal is 1.5 hours north of Bato Port.
By Car from the Airport or Cebu City. Grab a private car to take you door to door. This is the easiest option but the most expensive. Cost: Approx P2,500 – P3,500
By Bus – If you are on a budget, wish to travel slow or like a local, catch a bus which run frequently.
From Mactan-Cebu Airport to Cebu City South Bus Terminal
By Bus from Mactan-Cebu Airport – Buses run every 20-30 minutes between 7am-9.30pm. Take myBus to the South Bus Terminal. Cost: P25
By Taxi from Mactan-Cebu Airport - If you don’t want to take a bus to the bus station, or if you land outside of the above hours, take a WHITE TAXI (the yellow charge more) to Cebu South Bus Terminal (20-30 mins). Cost: Approx P200-300.
From Cebu City South Bus Terminal: Look for the yellow Ceres Bus Line for BATO via BARILI (Air Con/Ordinary). Buses depart every 30 minutes and it will take between 3-4 hours depending on traffic. Sometimes they make a toilet stop. Cost: One way ticket on air con bus = P156
Arriving in Moalboal: Get off the bus near 7/11 (a few minutes past McDonalds). Grab a trike which will take about 10 minutes. It can be noisy and bumpy, but this is the local way so soak it up and experience Philippine culture. Cost: Approx P100
At the port of Sibulan in Negros, catch the Maayo Shipping Ferry to Bato, Cebu. They run roughly on the hour whenever they are fully loaded with buses/cards/bikes/livestock but they are regular. Journey time is roughly 45 minutes depending on sea conditions. Cost: P246 for a scooter with 2 people return journey
Catch the bus to Moalboal: Take a Ceres Line bus for Cebu City, takes around 1.5 - 2hours. Cost: P77 in non-aircon, P93 in air con bus.
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