We made it to the Philippines! After a super long flight and one night in Manilla, we chose Moalboal as our first stop in the country of 7,000 islands not only because it’s super easy to get to from Cebu or Dumaguete (more info at the bottom of this post) but also because it has some real wonders to explore making it the perfect base to get settled in the Philippines!
To reach Moalboal, we landed in Dumaguete, caught a scooter from the airport to the port (100P) then the hourly ferry to Lilo-An (30 mn) for 70 P each, then another tryicle to Bato bus station (150P, don’ t take the bus that’s waiting at Lilo-An port, it’s not the right one!) and then finally the Ceres bus that goes along the coast and leaves every half hour (102 P per person, 1,30h to Moalboal).
May seem like quite the journey but overall it took us 3 hours from Dumaguete to Moalboal.
We had booked a room at Herbs Guest House (not sponsored) and were so happy with our choice! Not only is it super cheap (20 euros a night), the staff and the owner are the friendliest and it’s a bit off the beater path of the noise of Panagsama beach where most hotels and restaurants are. Best part? Less than a 3 mn walk there’s an access to a bay where you can snorkel and see turtles! Best kept secret of the coast.
Now off to what should not be missed if you decide to stop in Moalboal.
Definitely the main attraction of this sleepy little beach town. Moalboal is one of the 3 places in the world where sardines form large circles of thousands of individuals and unlike the other 2 locations (South Africa and…), here, you don’t have to compete with predators including whale and dolphins to see them! Just go to Panagsama beach, preferably before 4 as it gets dark after, rent a snorkel and a mask from the many shops along the beach and get right in! They’re usually right after the cliff where the water gets a bit darker. Totally doable even for an average swimmer and if you can’t find them, ask any of the local fishermen or kids swimming, they’ll happily point out their location.
2. Snorkel with Turtles
Another big hit among travellers is turtle watching! We were so lucky to be staying at Herbs which is less than 5 mn away from a sea access where turtles are visible almost everyday. We didn’t try other location but heard at other places around the coast, they were visible too. Just swim about 50 meters from shore and you’ll see these peaceful creatures munching on some sea grass. Remember to be super respectful! Stay at an acceptable distance, never touch or ride them and don’t chase them around, let them come near you! Remember, take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footsteps ;)
3. White Beach
If you’re looking for the tropical white sand beach to chill, you will have to go a bit further than Moalboal per se. White Beach, 7 kms north of Panagsama on a lovely road is worth it though! You won’t see much life under water, but you’ll have plenty of space to chill as when we went (from 8 to 11), there were some families but not enough to feel crowded. Be prepared to pay 10 P per person as entrance fee and 50 for your scooter if you have one.
Though lovely, White Beach was our first encounter with the plastic crisis in the Philippines. In less than 5 mn we had already picked up enough to fill a large trash bag and most of it came directly from the sea… There was a very nice lady who owns bungalows on the right side when you arrive from the parking who offered us to throw our findings in her trash so that’s what we did. Don’t hesitate to do a mini clean up yourself, we can all have an impact 🙂 !
4. Kawasan Falls
The main falls in the area, Kawasan falls are a good 30 mn scooter drive south of Moalboal on the coast road but watch out for the sign! We actually passed it twice before eventually finding it with the help of the locals…
So what can you do at the Falls? Either visit them on their own or do some canyoneering. Canyo-nee-what? I got you.
Let’s start with the falls themselves. After a 15 mn walk from the parking, there they are! So so beautiful, the water is insanely blue and so refreshing, there’s three levels between which you have to walk a bit and climb stairs (about 5 mn between each) and a swing at the last lagoon. If you’re planning on enjoying them quietly, I strongly advise you to go early. And when I say early, I mean be there at 7 at the latest and you’ll probably have them to yourself! After 8, it becomes super crowded and looses a bit of its magic.
Now to the canyoneering part. It’s an activity that basically means jumping off cliffs, swimming in lagoons, going through some tunnels etc, all while wearing a helmets, a lifejacket and sneakers to stay safe. While not convinced at first (I’m afraid of heights) I eventually agreed to do it and…. I’m so happy I did because honestly, it was one of the coolest thing ever! It’s not that physical and you can choose the height of your jumps according to your confidence meaning no one will force you to do the 10 or 12m! The guides are super nice and make you feel comfortable from the start whether it’s going down a slide head first or jumping from 4 m. Now to the practicalities. We decided to book through our hotel for 1500P per person including lunch and water as we had been told we would just be a group of 4. However, once we got there, we discovered we were a group of nearly 20… and we started the tour at 10am which inevitably meant sharing the path with dozens of other people.
If you can, go early on your own! You’ll find plenty of local tours on the road to the Kawasan falls, some as cheap as 1,100P per person which can take only the people in your group and start whenever you want! Meaning a much more personalised experience and probably more quiet too.
The whole tour takes between 2 and 4 hours.
Where to eat?
Moalboal being our first stop, we weren’t sure what to expect in terms of plant based food in the Philippines. And let me tell you: it’s hard. Meat, fish and cheese is a BIG part of the culture here and many filipinos aren’t that familiar with the concept of veganism. However there were a few places in town which had vegetarian options that could be made vegan so we definitely didn’t starve 🙂
Definitely my favorite place in Moalboal to grab a bite. Staff is super lovely and they have dedicated vegan options on top of vegetarian options! Had the yellow veggie curry which was absolutely delicious and not to miss if you’re around! Very reasonable prices too.
The Pleasure Principle
While staff is clearly bored of being here, they have a few (pricy) vegan options. The lentils dhal was very welcomed as we hadn’t had proteins in a few days and was also very good. Not sure about the rest.
A bit more towards Moalboal city on the Panagsama road, this restaurant is famous for its burgers. We skipped the heavy meat based part of the menu and chose a vegetarian pizza (for him) and veggie noodle (for me). Nothing extraordinary but did the trick for our starving selves.
Back on the Pangsama Road is a little café which is probably more suited for lunch than dinner and had a vegan falafel wrap when we were there as their main dish. Really good and cheap, definitely a good place to stop for a juice and a quick bite.
How to get around?
Like most places in the Philippines, scooters are the best way to explore on your own though tricycles are not that expensive. Most hotels/guesthouse will rent bikes for between 400/500 P a day and the roads are easy to navigate.
Where to stay?
While most hotels/guesthouses and resorts are located around Panagsama beach, we decided to stay at Herbs Guest House, off the main road. A beautiful patio, chilled atmosphere and a family like policy of letting the guests write down what they take (drinks, activities) made us feel right at home. However, beware, it’s super hot in the rooms as there’s no AC and the little huts are fairly small.
Any sustainability initiatives?
We’re trying to find and highlight the sustainability initiatives we come across during these 3 weeks in philippines. However, in Moalboal, we didn’t find any expect some locals putting up signs on White Beach to educate visitors about littering and a strict no litter policy around Kawasan Falls. Better than nothing!
How to get there?
Moalboal is easily reached from either Manilla, Cebu or Dumaguete.
From Manilla: Catch a flight to either Cebu or Dumaguete.
From Cebu: Catch a Ceres bus (about 2 hours)
From Dumaguete: Catch a tricycle to the port (100P)
Take the boat to Lilo An that leaves every hour and takes about 20mn (70P)
Catch a tricycle to Bato bus station and do not take the bus that is waiting at Lilo An port (goes to Cebu not Moalboal) (150P)
Take the Ceres bus that leaves every half house to Moalboal and takes about 1:30h (102p)