Moalboal Cebu: The Sardine Run Experience


The small town of Moalboal is a favorite spot for divers because of its famous sardine run. Non-divers are welcome as well since the sardine run can also be experienced by snorkeling. The town can be your base as you explore the south-western to southern tip of Cebu. You may also book canyoneering tours here so there’s no need to transfer to Badian.

  1. Book a flight to Mactan-Cebu International Airport. Major airlines like AirAsia, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have direct flights to Cebu. You may also use your GetGo points if you have some to spare. Flight time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  2. From Mactan-Cebu International Airport, ride a taxi to Cebu’s South Bus Terminal. Travel time: 20 – 30 minutes.
  3. At South Bus Terminal ride a “Bato via Barili” bus. This will pass by Moalboal. Alight at Gaisano Grand Mall or the Moalboal Municipal Hall. Bus Ride time: 3 hours.
  4. From either Gaisano Grand Mall or Moalboal Municipal Hall ride a tricycle to your accommodation. Travel time: 10 – 15 minutes.

There are two main beaches in Moalboal. You may either stay at Panagsama Beach or White Beach. Most budget hotels are located at Panagsama Beach, while most mid-range to high-end resorts are located at White Beach. Stay at White Beach if you want a laid-back escape away from the crowd.

We decided to stay at Panagsama Beach because of its proximity to cheap restaurants and tour agencies. There are also a couple of bars both locals and foreigners frequent. The cheapest accommodation option would probably be Moalboal Backpacker Lodge (Hostelworld). We recommend reserving beforehand since it’s usually fully-booked . Midrange hotels are also available in Panagsama Beach.

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Small town of Panagsama

The main activity to do in Moalboal is to experience the popular sardine run. There are tour/dive shops around town that offer island hopping tours which includes a snorkel with the sardines. A standard “island hopping” tour would consist of Turtle Point, Sardine Run at Panagsama and Pescador Island. We joined a “Joiner tour”, so we only paid P500/head. A private tour would cost around P1,500 – P2,000/boat which can accommodate four to six people.

The meet up time for the tour would be around 8 in the morning and will start with a visit to Pescador Island. The island, located just 30 minutes of the coast of Moalboal, is a great place to snorkel since it is surrounded by a coral reef. We spotted a dozen of jellyfish in the snorkeling area so it’s advisable to wear a rash guard while snorkeling.

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Pescador Island from afar

After Pescador Island, the boat will head back near the mainland to Turtle Point. You may also snorkel here and hopefully get a glimpse of turtles visiting the area. Luckily at our time, there were three adult pawikans foraging the area.

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Snorkeling at Pescador Island

Lastly, you will head back near the town of Moalboal just in front of Panagsama beach for the sardine run. To our surprise, we found out that the sardines were just 50 meters away from Panagsama!

If you’re on a budget, just rent a snorkel and a mask and swim to where the reef drops to get a glimpse of the sardine run. Wearing a life vest is recommended since the waves can get pretty busy near the shore.

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There are beach front restaurants and bars where you could hang out, grab a few drinks, eat and enjoy the sunset. There are a lot of international tourists that visit Moalboal so booking your accommodation beforehand is recommended.

Sunset by the beach at Moalboal, Cebu

If you have spare time, you may drop by White Beach. You may also try canyoneering in Badian, Cebu. Booking canyoneering tours in Badian is now available in Moalboal. To avoid the hassle of transfers, you may book the tour in Moalboal instead.

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Booking a canyoneering tour at Badian is available here
  • Transportation: Cebu – Moalboal Bus P130, Moalboal – Cebu Bus P130, Taxi to/from Cebu Airport- South Bus terminal P100-P150, Habal habal to/from Pinagsama-Bus-stop P40/ride
  • Activities: Cayoneering P1,500, Island Hopping for Sardine Run P500
  • Accommodation: P750/head, Cheaper if Moalboal Backpacker Lodge
  • Food: P100-P250+/meal, there are ihaw-ihaw areas around town for budget meals
  1. If you’re traveling alone or a couple and are planning to go island hopping, book your trips a day in advance for a chance to join a group.
  2. Canyoneering tours are fixed at P1,500 whether you book from Moalboal or Badian. The rate is inclusive of equipment, life vests, helmet, guide, etc. Some tours would include lunch.
  3. Book at Moalboal Backpackers Lodge, probably the cheapest accommodation at Pinagsama. It get full though. Better book at least a month in advance.
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Side trip option – canyoneering in Badian


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