Panglao Diving: Complete Scuba and Travel Guide

Scuba Diving in Panglao Island Bohol

The links below may be affiliate links. If you shop through them, I’ll earn a commission at no additional cost to you. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.

If you are interested in scuba diving in Panglao, Bohol, this guide will help you plan your trip. I have visited and dived in Panglao in three separate trips and it is one of those place I do not mind visiting over and over again.

The first time I went was with my dive buddy Jem and it was on that trip that I first encountered 17 turtles in one dive! It left a lasting good impression and to this day it is still one of my favorite dives.

My first dive trip to Bohol with Jem! This trip made me come back for more!

My second trip was with an ex-boyfriend who was visiting the Philippines for the first time. I thought that it was a good place to bring someone who could experience a bit of our culture and nature. I also wanted to get some dives in so I suggested this was a great place to visit for both of us.

My third visit was with Blair as part of our 1-week Philippines diving trip. After the Sardines Run in Moalboal and diving in Pescador Island, I thought it would be good to see another province other than Cebu. Bohol was relatively easy to visit from there and I knew for sure that Panglao will deliver when it comes to good diving.

Where is Panglao, Bohol?

While many tourists flock Bohol to see the famous Chocolate Hills and the smallest primates called the Tarsiers, scuba divers love visiting Bohol for its underwater wonders.

Chocolate Hills in Bohol
Chocolate Hills in Bohol

Located at the south-western part of Bohol, Panglao Island is one of the famous travel getaways for ocean lovers. If you enjoy beach-bumming, island-hopping, freediving, or scuba diving, you will absolutely love Panglao.

One of the great things about scuba diving in Panglao is its accessibility. It is very easy to get to especially with Bohol International Airport being located on the same island.

There are also a lot of options for you when it comes to accommodation. It doesn’t matter if you’re a backpacker on a budget or a traveler who loves indulging while on vacation.

Restaurants are plentiful and you can choose from a diverse mix of local and international food. If you want some nightlife Alona beach is equally alive and vibrant as it is during the day.

Alona Beach in Panglao Island

And of course, diving Panglao is simply amazing that dive shops have set up walking distance from each other. If you want to experience one of the best diving in the Philippines, then you should put Panglao on your list.

On the downside though, there are more tourists… and more divers underwater!

Panglao Diving Experience

There are a lot of dive shops in Alona beach and you can just walk in and immediately book your dives. However, we wanted to make sure we could dive Balicasag Island during this trip. I had heard that there was a limit to the number of divers allowed per day on Balicasag so we had to reserve our slot in advance.

We decided to do 1 day of diving in Alona and the other day to be our Balicasag Island diving day with Philippine Fun Divers- a PADI 5-Star Scuba Diving Resort.

Recommended Dive Shop in Panglao

One of the things I liked about Philippine Fun Divers was how fast they were to respond. When I inquired on their Facebook page, they didn’t take long to give me answers to my questions. I have encountered many dive shops that take forever to reply to inquiries and to me that is a big turn off.

All my interactions with them were prompt and professional and even on the diving days itself, they were consistent with the level of service they provided.

Unlike our dives in Moalboal which were in small groups of 2-3 divers to 1 Dive Master (DM), diving in Panglao was in bigger groups of 4-5 divers to 1 DM.

Since Blair and I were taking videos and photos this was a bit of a concern, especially when diving with people who did not shoot underwater. I had expressed this concern and we were assured that it will not be an issue. The dives turned out enjoyable because our DM was skilled in both spotting critters and managing bigger groups.

After our dives, we were given our own crates and hangers, labeled with our names, for our wet gear. I appreciated this little detail especially when diving with a shop that has many customers and anyone can easily take your gear by accident.

I had previously dived with Valms Dive Shop and Alona Divers but because it was so long ago, I do not know if the level of service has deteriorated or not. There are many more dive shops in Panglao, but for now, I would recommend Philippine Fun Divers based on my experience.

My Scuba Diving Gear
Regulator: Scubapro MK25 Evo, C300 and C200 2nd Stage
BCD: Aqualung Axiom
Mask: TUSA M-212 Freedom Ceos
Snorkel: TUSA SP-170 Platina Hyperdry II
Booties: Poseidon Pink Dive Boots
Wetsuit: Seavenger
Scuba Leggings: Ocean Spirit by Aurora Wetsuits (For a 10% discount, use Coupon Code: DIVERBLISS)
Vest Hoodie: Scubapro Hybrid Hooded Vest
Dive Watch: Suunto D4i Novo
Dive Knife: Aqualung Blunt Tip Knife

My Underwater Camera Gear
Underwater Camera: Canon G7X Mark II
Underwater Camera Housing: Fantasea FG7XII
Video Lights: Big Blue AL1200XP

Click here for my Canon G7X Mark II full review
Click here for scuba diving camera recommendations for beginners.

Creatures to See When Diving in Panglao

As mention I had visited Panglao thrice and have gone diving in several dive spots near Alona Beach. These dive spots were mostly at the Bohol Diver’s Wreck, Kalipayan and the Alona House Reef.

Although there are several other dive sites around Panglao, these were the most accessible ones and they did not disappoint. Despite its close proximity to the community and island life, the sites we visited were still rich in marine life.

We took a 5 minute boat ride to Kalipayan and the House Reef. And jumped into crystal clear blue waters.

The dive sites in Panglao that we explored start off as a sandy slope that drops-off to around 20 meters. The walls are covered in many colorful soft and hard corals where reef fishes and invertebrates live.

Here are some of the marine life you can expect to find in the dive sites near Alona.

Large sea fans spotted during wall dives in Panglao
Large sea fans spotted during wall dives in Panglao
Panglao Diving Nemo
Always a diver’s favorite: Nemo!
Yellow Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) in Panglao, Bohol
Not just one, but two frogfishes!
An oragutan crab (Achaeus japonicus) hiding in a bubble coral (Plerogyra sinuosa) in Panglao, Bohol
An oragutan crab (Achaeus japonicus) hiding in a bubble coral (Plerogyra sinuosa)
White and Yellow Nudibranch: Ardeadoris egretta in Panglao, Bohol
White with yellow “skirt” Nudibranch: Ardeadoris egretta
electric disco clams (Ctenoides ales) in Panglao, Bohol
It’s a party underwater with these electric disco clams (Ctenoides ales)
A pair of white eyed moray eels (Gymnothorax thyrsoideus) in Panglao, Bohol
A pair of white eyed moray eels (Gymnothorax thyrsoideus)
Peacock Tail Anemone Shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis) in Panglao, Bohol
Peacock Tail Anemone Shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis)
Snake Sea cucumber (Synapta maculata) in Panglao, Bohol
Snake Sea cucumber (Synapta maculata)
Tomato Anemone Fish (Amphiprion frenatus) in Panglao, Bohol
Tomato Anemone Fish (Amphiprion frenatus)
Ocellated Flounder ( Pseudorhombus dupliciocellatus ) camouflaged in the sand in Panglao, Bohol

Ocellated Flounder ( Pseudorhombus dupliciocellatus ) camouflaged in the sand.
Chromodoris Nudibranch
Chromodoris Nudibranch
More Sea Slugs in Panglao Island, Bohol
More Sea Slugs

Night Diving in Panglao

Night diving is one of the fun things you can do while in Panglao. You can expect to find lots of interesting creatures during the night. The reef is alive with creatures that go hunting for food in the dark.

We found flatworms, sea slugs, crabs, shrimps, cuttlefishes and even a sleeping turtle while diving at night in Alona’s house reef.

Here are some of the nocturnal creatures we saw.

Panglao Night Diving Sea snail (Tonna perdix)
One of the biggest sea snail I’ve seen- Tonna perdix! It was the size of a baby’s head!
Panglao Night Diving Lionfish
Lionfish from behind
Panglao Night Diving Moray Eel
More eels!
Panglao Night Diving Crab
Crab camouflaged on a red coral
Panglao Night Diving Coral Banded Coral shrimp (Stenopus hispidus)
Banded coral shrimp (Stenopus hispidus)
Panglao Night Diving Crab
More crabs!!!
Crinoids also known as Feather Star
Crinoids also known as Feather Star

Balicasag Island Diving

A trip to Balicasag Island is a must if you are visiting the island of Panglao. Just a short 30-minute boat ride away is this marine sanctuary where you can also expect spectacular dives.

In recent years, to protect the island, the local government has put a limit on the number of people allowed to snorkel and dive. Only 150 diver permits are issued daily on a first come first serve basis. So if you plan to snorkel or dive in Balicasag, make sure to schedule in advance so you’re assured of a slot.

Best time to go Diving in Panglao

You can dive all year round in Panglao Island. Monsoon season is from June to October in the Philippines so you can expect more tropical rainstorms during this time of year.

The best time to go scuba diving in Panglao is during the dry month from November to May. However, you can expect more tourists in the area as this is a popular destination even for non-divers.

Diving Conditions

Water temperature around Panglao Island varies at 25-30 degrees Celcius. On our dives, we were logging 29°C and we were wearing 3mm wetsuits while scuba diving in Panglao.

Visibility was very good and could reach more than 20 meters. There was minimal current making the dives easy.

Learning how to Scuba Dive in Panglao

Because of these good conditions that you can expect while diving in Panglao, and of course the amazing reef, it has become a popular training ground for many divers. If you’re thinking about getting your open water scuba diving certification, this is one of the best places to learn how to do it.

Whether you’re a new diver or getting your professional license, there are plenty of dive centers in Panglao that can cater to your needs. A lot of scuba divers of different levels have received their certifications in Panglao.

Panglao Liveaboard Diving

If you’re interested in getting a taste of diving Panglao, here are some options for liveaboards that include Bohol in their itinerary. If you have limited time and want to get as much dives in, doing these liveaboards can be worth it as it brings you to the best sites in the Visayas which includes Bohol.

Phlippines LiveAboards
Bohol Liveaboard Diving

Atlantis Azores– Bohol Safari OR Cebu Malapascua

Infiniti Liveaboard– Visayas and Bohol

Philippine Siren– Malapascua and the Visayas

Seadoors– Visayas Shark Special or Malapascua Cagayan

2021 Philippines Liveaboard Deals

Liveaboard.com now offers flexible booking terms!

Check out the Philippine Liveaboard Trips that will allow you to reschedule within 24 months if you are unable to travel due to Covid-19 related restrictions.

Scuba Diving in Panglao, Bohol
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How to get to Panglao, Bohol?

As a major tourist hub, there are many ways to get to Bohol. Make sure to double check schedules since transportation situation is always changing in the Philippines.

Here are some recommendations on how you can get to Panglao Island.

Manila to Bohol

If you’re coming from Manila, the fastest way to get to Bohol is by taking a flight to Bohol International Airport. There are 1 hour and 15 minute flights daily via Air Asia, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines.

From the airport you can hire a private car to bring you to your hotel in Panglao.

Cebu to Bohol

If you’re coming from Cebu, there are also flights between Bohol and Cebu. However, the recommended route is to take a ferry from Cebu to Bohol. There are several ferries that cross between Cebu and Bohol. And the trip takes about 2 hours.

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You will arrive at the pier in Tagbilaran and from there you can get a private vehicle to take you to your hotel in Panglao Island.

Ocean Jet

Ocean Jet RouteDaily Departure Schedule
Cebu to Tagbilaran, Bohol5:10 AM, 6 AM, 7 AM, 7:30 AM, 8 AM, 8:20 AM, 9:20 AM, 10:40 AM, 1 PM, 2 PM, 3:20 PM, 4:20 PM, 5 PM, 5:40 PM, 6:40 PM
Tagbilaran, Bohol to Cebu5:10 AM, 6 AM, 7:05 AM, 8:20 AM, 9:20 AM, 10:40 AM, 11:40 AM, 1 PM, 2 PM, 2:40 PM, 3:20 PM, 4 PM, 4:20 PM, 5 PM, 5:40 PM, 6:30 PM

Weesam Express

Weesam Express RouteDaily Departure Schedule
Cebu to Tagbilaran, Bohol 9:00 AM, 2:00 PM, 6:30 PM

Tagbilaran, Bohol to Cebu7:00 AM, 11:20 AM, 4:30 PM

Supercat

SuperCat Ferry RouteDaily Departure Schedule
Cebu to Tagbilaran, Bohol5:50 AM, 8:15 AM, 11 AM, 1:15 PM, 3:35 PM, 6 PM
Tagbilaran, Bohol to Cebu5:50 AM, 8:15 AM, 11 AM, 1:15 PM, 3:35 PM, 5:45 PM

Dumaguete to Bohol

From Dumaguete Port, you can take an Ocean Jet ferry to Tagbilaran Port in Bohol. Travel time is approximately 2 hours only.

Once you arrive in Tagbilaran, you can arrange for transportation to your accommodations in Panglao Island.

Ocean Jet

Ocean Jet RouteDaily Departure Schedule
Tagbilaran, Bohol to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental7:30 AM and 12:10 PM
Dumaguete, Negros Oriental to Tagbilaran, Bohol9:50 AM and 2:30 PM

There is a 15-kg baggage allowance allotted for each per passenger. If you’re bringing dive gear and need extra luggage allowance, you will be charged a fee of Php15.00 per additional kilo.

Book your Bohol – Dumaguete Ocean Jet Ferry Ticket here.

Siquijor to Bohol

From Siquijor, you can take a ferry to Tagbilaran Port in Bohol. You can take an Ocean Jet ferry between the two islands. Travel time is approximately 2 hours via Ocean Jet and 3 hours via Lite Ferries.

Once you arrive in Tagbilaran, you can book a car to take you to your accommodations in Panglao Island.

Ocean Jet

Ocean Jet RouteDaily Departure ScheduleBook Here
Siquijor to Tagbilaran, Bohol12:30 PMSIG- TAG
Ocean Jet
Tagbilaran, Bohol to Siquijor10:20 AMTAG-SIG Ocean Jet

There is a 15-kg baggage allowance allotted for each per passenger. If you’re bringing dive gear and need extra luggage allowance, you will be charged a fee of Php15.00 per additional kilo.


Lite Ferries

Lite Ferries RouteDeparture Schedule
Larena, Siquijor to Tagbilaran, Bohol7 PM Every Sun/ Tues/ Thurs
Tagbilaran, Bohol to Larena, Siquijor8 PM Every Mon/ Wed/ Sat

Where to Stay in Panglao?

There are many options when it comes to accommodations, restaurants, activities in Panglao. Because it is a popular tourist destination, you can expect different types of accommodations that will fit your budget.

Booking.com

For your convenience, I would recommend staying near Alona because the beach is very beautiful and everything is walking distance from each other. Most of the dive resorts are also here. If you prefer less tourists, there are also resorts on the quieter side of Panglao that offer diving as well.

We stayed in Christelle Inn which was away from the beach but still walking distance to almost everything. The place was clean, modern and quiet and would not mind staying here again.

Philippines Packing List by Diver Bliss

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Scuba diving guide: Panglao Bohol Philippines
A guide to diving Panglao Bohol Philippines

I hope you found this guide useful and add diving Panglao Island to your bucket list!

Do you want to scuba dive in Panglao? Leave a comment below!

The links above may be affiliate links. If you shop through them, I’ll earn a commission at no additional cost to you. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.

Ara Juan

Ara is the founder of DiverBliss.com and PhilippineDives.com. She is a PADI Rescue Diver with a goal to dive in all the best places around the Philippines.

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