Moalboal is a coastal town in the southwest side of Cebu. It has rich marine life that’s why it is popular among divers especially with the Sardines Run experience. This is the only place in the Philippines (and maybe the whole world) where you can witness a massive sardines run all year round! It’s also a great spot to witness sea turtles freely roaming around the Panagsama shores!
If you’re a traveler who loves good food, you will find great eats in Moalboal particularly near Panagsama Beach (along the Panagsama Road). It is lined with lots of restaurants, bars, and eateries, which we think is in similar ambiance with El Nido, Palawan. It is so alive at night (but total silence takes place at 10 pm). We had our dinner at Lola’s Bar the night before our Moalboal day tour.
The town is also packed with budget hotels and lodges specifically near the Panagsama Beach and White Beach. You will not have a hard time securing a comfortable and affordable accommodation that you can just walk-in and book your stay right on the spot (like we did). But of course if you’re visiting during summer season I advise you to book a reservation. We stayed at Moalboal Backpacker Lodge in Panagsama.
Day Tour in Moalboal
A quick roundup: We started with Sardines Run, then to Pawikan site, both along the Panagsama Beach. After the tour we checked-out from our lodging and headed to White Beach Basdako. We stayed on there for a couple of hours then traveled to Oslob to visit Sumilon Island.
You can visit Pescador Island instead if you have a full day for Moalboal in your itinerary. In our case, we needed to spend the night in Oslob because of some changes in our itinerary (due to delayed flight). It is doable to visit them all in one day by starting with Panagsama (Sardines run + Pawikan) early in the morning, then Basdako White Beach until early afternoon, and finally Pescador Island. Or you can interchange them as you like.
If you want to see our full itinerary you can find it here: South Cebu 3D2N Itinerary & Breakdown of Expenses
Sardines Run in Panagsama Beach, Moalboal
As I’ve mentioned earlier, Panagsama Beach in Moalboal might be the only place where you can witness a sardines run anytime of the year! That’s why it’s popular among foreign tourists as well, to the point that there were more foreigners than local tourists during our visit.
We started the tour around 6am. Kuya Ed (our habal driver in Badian) recommended Kian Adventure for the Panagsama tour. It’s 500 php per person including snorkelling gears rental and an experienced guide who will take us to the sardines run and pawikan site. Kuya Kian himself guided us in this tour!
You don’t need a boat to take you to the site. Kuya Kian dragged us through the water using a life buoy/ring while we just happily float and hold onto the ring.
When they say “all year round”, they mean it! These sardines neither goes away, nor goes extinct (but you certainly don’t want to visit on a bad weather). They might roam around and change locations but you will surely find them within the waters of Panagsama. That’s why you need a local guide because they are the ones who know where the sardines run usually stays in specific times of the day.
When I first saw the sardines, I didn’t realize they’re there. I only thought we went back to the shallow part of the water because at first glance it looked like a grassy seabed. I only realized they’re quietly swimming right underneath us when I looked again. It’s sooo massive!
We did not try to dive (because we can’t), we just stayed on the surface of the water while watching them swim happily below us. We enjoyed it because they tend to come near the surface so we were still able to see them up close! It’s sooo cool!
Kuya Kian took our GoPro and tried to dive deep and get closer to them to take photos and videos. He’s so experienced and really took care of us (and our photos!)
The secret to having this massive sardines run all year round is the local government prohibiting net fishing in the area. They only allow bait and spear fishing. This is to maintain the number of the fish for tourism purposes, and at the same time provide food for the locals. Of course they are allowed to fish to provide food for their families.
Our sardines tour took about an hour (including the swimming to the site and looking for them). Once they change location it means your session is done. But if you want to chase them to their new location you can do so, especially if the time is too short. In our case, we headed to the Pawikan site by the time the sardines went away.
Chasing Pawikan in Panagsama Beach, Moalboal
We swum for about 10 minutes to the Pawikan site. Kuya Kian dragged us to the site using the life ring. He took us to the shore where there are lots of grass.
Since it was high tide, the water covers this grassy shore, attracting the sea turtles as grass is their favorite meal. Once the tide gets low, the turtles will be in the deep waters so it will be more difficult to spot them. And this is why you need to make sure it’s high tide in Panagsama!
We spotted a huge sea turtle in no time! We found this adorable creature munching on some grass as if there’s no tomorrow! Looks like he’s already used to the rising and falling of the tides and he knows that in a few moment the grassy shore will be exposed to the air.
It wasn’t difficult to chase him because he’s so busy eating. It seemed that he’s so used to humans already, because he wasn’t minding us as we watch him from a 6-ft distance (the water was about 6-ft and we’re just floating on the surface).
The other sea turtles haven’t arrived for their meal yet, maybe we’re too early (it was past 7am). But we’re glad that we spotted one huge pawikan! It’s true that your day tour in moalboal isn’t complete without seeing these lovely creatures!
Kuya Kian was convincing us to dive a little closer to the pawikan (but not too close) for picture taking. But we had body pains and still tired due to yesterday’s canyoneering adventure (nabigla po yung katawan naming puro work from home). We’re happy and contented watching the turtle comfortably from the water’s surface.
After half an hour watching, chasing, and taking pictures, the pawikan was done eating and went away. It was still high tide and we could wait for other sea turtles to arrive. But we decided to end the tour so we could visit Basdako White Beach and have our breakfast there.
Kuya Kian called a tricycle for us. We chartered it and agreed to pay 500 php to take us to White Beach, then to the Bus Terminal after the tour. We checked-out from our lodging in Panagsama and left the place around 8am, without taking a shower since we will be swimming again later in White Beach.
White Beach Basdako, Moalboal
The tricycle ride from Panagsama to White Beach took about 25 minutes. We paid 10 php each for the entrance fee, aside from the 25 php tourist pass. By the way, our tourist pass was arranged by Kuya Kian before we left Panagsama.
There’s a lot eateries by the beach so we easily found our comfort food for breakfast in no time. Surprisingly, White Beach felt less touristy than Panagsama. The ambiance here is more sitio-feels since there’s only a few establishments compared to Panagsama, which we did not expect.
White Beach has fine white sands and turquoise water. It’s amazing because eventhough the sky was cloudy, the water is still vibrant! There’s a lot of seaweeds which is okay as long as there’s no garbage. The waves were quite strong during our visit.
We just explored, took photos, and rested here for more than an hour.
Since we still have one destination left for the day, we just partially washed up the saltwater on our skin and changed clothes before we left White Beach. We paid 10 php for each bucket of water that we used for washing up.
Ideally, we could stay longer in Moalboal and visit Pescador Island but we had limited time. Because we still need to head to Oslob for our Sumilon Island tour and spend the night in Oslob. I’ll write about our experience in Oslob soon!
For those of you who are planning to visit Moalboal soon, here’s a guide to help you organize your trip!
How to get to Moalboal?
From Cebu City:
Go to South Bus Terminal and take a bus going to Bato via Barili. Travel time is approximately 4 hours. Take note that you must take a bus going to “Bato via Barili” and not “Bato via Oslob”.
Tell the bus attendant that you’re going to Moalboal. Surely, they know where to drop you off as they’re already used to visitors going there.
If you’re already in Badian, it’s a 45-min to 1-hour journey to Moalboal. You can take a bus from the main road, or rent a habal-habal (motorcycle) for around 200 php.
Take a bus from Oslob to Bato (fare is around 40-50 php), then from Bato, ride another bus bound for Cebu City (these buses will pass by Moalboal). Travel time will be more than 2 hours and fare is around 100 php.
Note: Once you’re in Moalboal, It’s just a short tricycle or habal-habal ride to your destination.
Where to Book Sardines Run + Pawikan Site Tour?
Once you get to Panagsama there’s a lot of tour guides awaiting you. In our case, Kuya Ed (our habal driver from Kawasan) took us directly to Kian Adventure. Kuya Kian is so experienced and really took care of us during our tour so we highly recommend him for your Moalboal day tour!
Another option is to book a combined tour for Panagsama Sardines Run and Pawikan + Kawasan Canyoneering via Klook!
Book it here:
Sardines Run, Pawikan Site, and Kawasan Canyoneering Tour
This is cool since you’ll have to do only one booking for the tours!
You can also book your Pescador Island tour via Klook:
Pescador Island Tour
Where to Book a Stay in Moalboal?
Of course, we recommend Moalboal Backpacker Lodge in Panagsama. It is budget-friendly, comfortable, and near restaurants and tours.
But if you want hassle-free advanced booking, you can book your stay via Agoda. It’s easy and you can score discounts!
Here are some recommendations:
West Coast Beach House
Rates: Start at ₱421
Book it here: West Coast Beach House
Nirvana Bamboo & Dive Resort
Rates: Starts at ₱667
Book it here: Nirvana Bamboo & Dive Resort
Coconut Inn Moalboal
Rates: Starts at ₱607
Book it here: Coconut Inn Moalboal
Moalboal Day Tour
And that’s it for now! Share this to your friends and plan your South Cebu expedition!
Watch our Moalboal Day Tour!
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