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Bohol is one of the most popular dive and holiday destinations in the Philippines for good reason. It’s an ecotourism haven that welcomes one million guests each year who’ve come to admire Chocolate Hills and take a tour of a sanctuary that houses a quirky and cute endemic primate, the Philippine Tarsier.
And while there’s plenty to do during your surface intervals, scuba divers won’t be bored thanks to the tens of islands sprawled throughout the region–each with their own worthy dive sites.
In this guide, we’ll reveal the best dive sites in Bohol plus where to stay, who to dive with, and other travel practicalities.
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Planning your scuba dive trip to Bohol
Where is Bohol: Bohol is an island province in the Central Visayas region. You can explore over 30 dive sites concentrated around four major islands: Panglao Island, Pamilacan Island, Balicasag Island and Cabilao Island. While Tagbilaran is the Capital city of Bohol, your basecamp and jump-off point to Bohol’s major dive sites is Panglao Island. Located 22 km (13 mi) southwest of Tagbilaran City, Panglao Island is the diving hub of Bohol where most major hotels and dive shops are located.
How to get to Bohol: There are multiple ways to get to Bohol.
One-hour flight from from Manila to Tagbilaran City
Two-hour boat ride from Cebu. Flights from Cebu are also available.
Cost of scuba diving in Bohol: Expect to pay around $25-40 USD per scuba dive, with rates becoming cheaper as you book package deals.
The best time to visit Bohol: Diving in Bohol is a year-round activity, though you will see some unpredictable weather during monsoon season (from August to October). If you want to experience the best diving conditions with clear skies, calm water, water temperatures averaging around 28°C (82°F) and visibility at 30 meters (100 meters), it’s best to go scuba diving in Bohol from November to July.
Why visit Bohol?
Bohol is an adventure traveler’s paradise! When you’re not scuba diving, you can go kayaking, parasailing, snorkeling, and head inland to see iconic sights. Visit Chocolate Hills, the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella, and have lunch onboard a modified catamaran while cruising along the mangrove swamp of Loboc River. There’s also the butterfly garden of Bilar and the Sandugo Shrine in Tagbilaran, a scenic monument that commemorates the 15th century blood compact ritual between a Boholano Chieftain and a Spanish Explorer.
Bohol is an underwater wonderland with reefs made of hard and soft corals that house marine life like tropical reef fish, sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, and it’s not uncommon to spot a dolphin swimming by!
Location: 22 kilometers (13 miles) southwest of Tagbilaran City Level: All levels of certification Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)
Panglao Island is the jump-off point for nearby diving destinations in Bohol, and is home to 15 dive sites itself. On the western coast of Panglao, you can dive at Doljo Point. Popular for wall diving, Doljo point has 2 vertical ledges sitting on top of each other. The first wall is ideal for newbies with entry point at a coral garden that leads to a limestone ledge spanning 20 meters (60 feet) deep. The second wall is ideal for advanced divers who want to follow a vertical wall that drops off beyond 30 meters (100 feet) deep. You might get lucky and see schools of snappers, fusiliers and damselfish.
If you wish to go night diving and explore a site that is dominated by a single fish species, then go to the southern shores of Panglao in a place called the Garden of the Eels. You will start diving by following a steep slope that ends in a sandy seafloor filled with hundreds of partially protruding garden eels. Alona House Reef is another popular site in Panglao where you can go reef diving following a sloped limestone wall that starts at 5 meters (15 feet) deep and goes all the way down to 25 meters (80 feet).
Location: 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) southwest of Panglao Island Level: All levels of certification Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)
Balicasag Island has been declared a marine sanctuary, where marine life has flourished and boats are regulated.
One of the most popular site in Balicasag island is Black Forest. Located on the eastern coast, diving in Black Forest allows you to see a healthy population of black corals spread throughout its reef slope and spans all the way down to 40 meters (130 feet). The north coast of Balicasag Island houses 2 popular sites: Diver’s Haven and Royal Garden. These sites are known for coral gardens and massive school of jacks and barracudas. For marine reptile interaction, venture to aptly named Turtle Point where you can go diving with sea turtles in close proximity.
Location: 54 kilometers (33 miles) north of Panglao Island Level: All levels of certification Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)
An hour boat ride away from Panglao Island is Cabilao Island. This is an incredible spot where you can go wall diving along a pristine reef loaded with big fish like barracudas, tunas and trevallies. This shark-tooth shaped island is dotted with over 10 dive sites all featuring a vertical ledge filled with corals, sponges, sea fans and giant clams. Some of the popular dive sites in Cabilao Island are the reef plateau of View Point, the gorgonian beds of the Fallen Tree, the current-driven walls of Looc, the large overhang of Cambaquiz and the massive table top corals of 3 Coco.
Note: the best time to go diving in Cabilao island is from December to June where massive school of hammerhead sharks are known to pass by the island either just after sunrise or before sunset!
Location: 17 kilometers (10 miles) southeast of Panglao island Level: All levels of certification Max Depth: 20 meters (60 feet)
Being a marine sanctuary, the tiny island of Pamilacan is a refuge to all sorts of marine life, from the smallest nudibranchs to the biggest whales and dolphins. Aside from diving with small pelagics like tunas, barracudas and jacks, Pamilacan is known for interacting with the largest of the ray species: the giant manta rays.
Known for its mild to moderate water current, you will usually go drift diving in Pamilacan Island where you can spot manta rays swimming against the current with their mouths wide open. Don’t worry–these gentle giants passively feeding by allowing water to freely flow inside their mouth, filtering microorganisms as food.
Awarded with the ASEAN Green Hotel Standard, the Bellevue Resort in Panglao is a 5-star resort that uses eco-friendly principles and energy conservation measures. They have a long list of room selections where your choices include the Superior Twin Room, Deluxe Room, Deluxe Ocean View, Junior Suite, Premier Suite, Bellevue Suite and the Presidential Suite.
Aside from having an in-house dive shop, the Bellevue Resort offers several recreational activities where you can play frisbee, go on a catamaran ride, stargaze at night, take a zumba class, enjoy sunset yoga, go island hopping and embark on a countryside tour to Bohol’s famous tourist attractions.
Built on a spacious 6.5 hectare (16 acres) beachfront property along Alona Beach, Henann Resort is the biggest hotel resort in Panglao island offering over 400 rooms where your choices include Deluxe Room, Premier Room, Family Room, Junior Suite, Presidential Suite and the 127 square meter (1,367 square feet) Pool Villas that has its own private swimming pool. For beach bums, you can indulge in their 120 meter (390 foot) private beachfront that has a powdery white sand perfect for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling in a nearby reef.
If you want to stay in a resort with the longest private white sand beach in Panglao Island, then head out to South Palms Resort in Barangay Bolod. You can literally have the beach for yourself and walk over white powdery sand. The resort has 90 rooms where your choices include the 30 square meter (323 square foot) twin bed Deluxe Garden View, 33 square meter (355 square foot) twin or king bed Deluxe Pool View, 34 square meter (366 square foot) twin or king bed Deluxe Beachfront, 78 square meter (840 square foot) Premium Beachfront, 60 square meter (645 square foot) Beach Villa, 112 square meter (1,205 square foot) South Palms Villa and the 152 square meter (1,636 square foot) 2 bedroom Panglao Villa.
Certifying Agency: PADI Address: Alona Beach, Panglao Island, Bohol
Locally called as Bohol Fun Divers, Philippine Fun Divers is a PADI 5-star Dive Facility in Alona Beach that offers certification courses from Open Water up to Divemaster where they are one of the few dive shops in Panglao island that has a German and Japanese speaking instructors. They have large motorized bancas that specializes in dive tours to Bohol’s popular dive sites. They even offer dive safari where you can do multiple dives in the neighboring island of Apo.
Bohol Divers Club Dive Center
Certifying Agency: PADI Address: Alona Beach, Panglao Island, Bohol
Considered as one of the oldest dive centers in Panglao, Bohol Divers Club Dive Center is a PADI 5-star Resort facility that is manned by diving professionals with extensive training and knowledge about the diving environment in Bohol. They offer PADI certification course from Open Water, Specialty Course up to Divemaster. They have 2 boats: the 8 meter (26 foot) fiberglass boat used for dive tours in nearby dive sites of Panglao island and their large motorized banca designed to accommodate large group of divers going to Cabilao, Balicasag and Pamilacan Islands.
Pata Negra Divers
Certifying Agency: PADi Address: Alona Beach, Panglao Island, Bohol
Pata Negra Divers is a multilingual dive shop in Panglao that offers Discover Scuba Diving Programs and PADI certification courses from Open Water, Advanced, Specialty Diver, Rescue Diver, Master Scuba Diver and Divemaster. Thy offer dive tours to Balicasag, Cabilao and Pamilacan Islands onboard their large motorized banca equipped with a full line of diving equipments and accessories.
Freediving in Bohol
There are two freediving centers on Panglao Island that offer freediving courses. Freediving Panglao, FREEDIVE+, and Freediving Academy Panglao offers recreational freediving courses, professional freedive development and training for master freedivers under the auspices SSI and AIDA.
FAQs about scuba diving in Bohol
Where can I go scuba diving in Bohol?
Bohol is home to over 30 different scuba diving sites. As a start, head to Panglao Island which is one of the main scuba diving hubs of Bohol and has at least 15 dive sites as its house reef!
How much does it cost to go scuba diving in Bohol?
Expect to pay around $20-40 USD per scuba dive in Bohol, with a few extra dollars to tip your dive guide. Most dive centers in Bohol offer package deals, meaning you’ll pay less per dive the more dives you purchase.
At the end of your scuba dive trip to Bohol, you might want to bring home some goodies for family and friends. We recommend Kalamay, a sweet and sticky delicacy made from coconut milk, brown sugar and grounded glutinous rice packed in an empty coconut shell. Or, bring home Peanut Kisses which are made from grounded highland legumes mixed with sugar and molded like a small chocolate hill. Pack extra–they’re too tempting not to dine on yourself!