The Ultimate Guide to Scuba Diving in the Philippines

Nestled in the heart of the Coral Triangle, the Philippines boasts some of the most breathtaking underwater landscapes in the world. With its stunning blue waters, vibrant coral reefs, and diverse marine life, it is no wonder that scuba divers flock to this tropical paradise year-round. Whether you are a seasoned diver or a beginner eager to explore, scuba diving in the Philippines offers an array of dive sites that cater to every skill level and interest. We will take you through everything you need to know for planning a dive trip to the Philippines, including how to get there, top tips for diving, and everything in between.

Top 4 Places to Go Scuba Diving in the Philippines

There are many amazing places to go scuba diving in the Philippines. Here are our favorite four to get you started:

1. Tubbataha Reef: 

Located in the Sulu Sea, Tubbataha Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Philippines’ premier dive destinations. With its pristine coral walls, stunning drop-offs, and abundant marine life, Tubbataha offers an unforgettable diving experience. Depths can reach up to 30 meters (100 feet), and a minimum of Advanced Open Water certification is recommended. Keep an eye out for sightings of whale sharks, manta rays, and hammerhead sharks.

2. Apo Reef: 

Another gem of scuba diving in the Philippines, Apo Reef is the second-largest contiguous coral reef system in the world. Situated off the coast of Mindoro Island, this marine sanctuary is rich in marine biodiversity. Divers can explore vibrant coral gardens, swim-throughs, and underwater caves. Depths range from 6-30 meters (20-100 feet), and Open Water Diver certification is sufficient. Look out for sea turtles, reef sharks, and colorful reef fish.

3. Monad Shoal: 

For thrill-seekers and shark enthusiasts, Monad Shoal near Malapascua is an unmissable highlight of scuba diving in the Philippines. This submerged island is famous for its resident thresher sharks, which can often be seen during early morning dives. Depths vary from 18-40 meters (60-130 feet), and Advanced Open Water certification is recommended due to strong currents. In addition to thresher sharks, divers may also spot hammerhead sharks and barracudas.

4. Donsol: 

If you dream of swimming alongside the gentle giants of the ocean, Donsol is the place to be when you go scuba diving in the Philippines. This small town in the province of Sorsogon is renowned for its whale shark encounters. From November to June, these majestic creatures gather in the waters off Donsol to feed on plankton, providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for divers and snorkelers alike. No certification is required for snorkeling with whale sharks, but scuba divers should have at least Open Water certification.

Asia hosts some of the world’s best dive sites. Here are a few of our favorites: 10 Best Dive Spots in Asia

Top Tips for Scuba Diving in the Philippines

Respect the Environment: As with any dive destination, it is essential to practice responsible diving and minimize your impact on the marine environment. Avoid touching or damaging coral reefs, refrain from feeding marine life, and follow the guidelines set by dive operators and marine parks.

Be Prepared for Currents: Many dive sites in the Philippines experience strong currents, especially during certain times of the year. Be sure to listen to your dive guide’s instructions, stay close to your buddy, and use a reef hook or drift line if necessary to maintain your position in the water.

Protect Yourself from the Sun: Even underwater, sun exposure can be intense in the tropics. Wear a rash guard or wetsuit to protect your skin from sunburn, and do not forget to apply reef-safe sunscreen before entering the water.

Stay Hydrated: Diving can be physically demanding, and it is easy to become dehydrated, especially in the tropical heat. Drink plenty of water before and after your dives to stay hydrated and avoid dehydration-related issues such as fatigue and cramping.

Embrace Diversity: One of the most remarkable aspects of scuba diving in the Philippines is its incredible diversity of marine life. Take the time to explore different dive sites and habitats, from coral reefs and walls to wrecks and muck diving sites, and you will be rewarded with unforgettable underwater encounters.

The Philippines is highly rated among freedivers! Check out these awe-inspiring selfies: 10 Scroll-Stopping Freediving Photos from Instagram

What else can you do when you go scuba diving in the Philippines?

While scuba diving may steal the spotlight, the Philippines offers many other activities for travelers seeking adventure, relaxation, and family fun.

Hiking Enthusiasts: Lace up your boots and explore the Philippines’ stunning landscapes on foot. From the breathtaking rice terraces of Banaue to the towering peaks of Mt. Pulag and Mt. Apo, hikers will find trails suited to every skill level. Do not miss the chance to trek through lush rainforests, past cascading waterfalls, and up to panoramic viewpoints that offer unrivaled vistas of the archipelago.

Beach Lovers: With over 7,600 islands to choose from, the Philippines boasts some of the world’s most pristine beaches. Whether you are looking for powdery white sands, secluded coves, or vibrant beach parties, you will find it all here. Relax on the palm-fringed shores of Boracay, go island-hopping in El Nido, or snorkel among colorful coral reefs in Panglao.

Extreme Sports Junkies: Adrenaline junkies will find no shortage of thrills in the Philippines. Take to the skies with a thrilling zipline ride over lush jungles or embark on a canyoning adventure through rugged gorges and waterfalls. Test your mettle with cliff diving in Ariel’s Point, kiteboarding in Boracay, or surfing in Siargao, known as the "Surfing Capital of the Philippines."

Family-Friendly Activities: Families traveling with children will find plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained. Visit the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, where kids can explore whimsical landscapes and meet the adorable tarsiers, one of the world’s smallest primates. Spend a day at the Enchanted Kingdom, the Philippines’ premier amusement park, or take a river cruise down the Loboc River, where the whole family can enjoy cultural performances and delicious local cuisine.

How to Get to the Philippines

Getting to the Philippines is easier than you might think, with international airports located in major cities such as Manila, Cebu, and Davao. Most major airlines provide direct flights to these destinations from major cities around the world. Once you arrive, you can easily hop on a domestic flight or take a ferry to reach popular diving hubs such as Boracay, Palawan, and Bohol.

Want to explore faraway destinations but your wallet is saying no? Check out: 6 Tips for Scuba Diving on a Budget in 2024

Best Time to Go Scuba Diving in the Philippines

The Philippines enjoys a tropical climate, with warm temperatures year-round and two distinct seasons: the dry season (November to April) and the wet season (May to October). For optimal diving conditions, the dry season is generally preferred, offering calm seas and excellent visibility. However, even during the wet season, diving is still possible, and you will often find fewer crowds and lower prices. 

With its stunning natural beauty, rich marine biodiversity, and warm hospitality, scuba diving in the Philippines is hard to beat. Happy diving!

Did you know the Philippines has over 295 dive sites to choose from?! 

Check out more top places to go scuba diving in the Philippines here: