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If you’re staying at Alona Beach, one of the best-known beaches in central Philippines, you’ll soon hear about Balicasag. The boat tours that lead to this small circular-shaped island, fringed by a coral reef, are one of the most popular tours in the area. The reef is famous for green sea turtles watching (easy to spot along Balicasag shore), but also for its abundance of hard and soft corals.

Snorkeling with sea turtle in Balicasag Island
Green sea turtles are easily sighted around the island.

How to get to Balicasag for snorkeling?

The small Balicasag Island is located about ten kilometers southwest of Alona Beach. You will find in Alona Beach many guides offering Balicasag snorkeling trips. It is also possible to rent a boat to cross to the island, and then to book a snorkeling tour on the beach or to visit the island by yourself.

If you stay in Balicasag Island Dive Resort (the only hotel on the island), transfer to the island can be arranged by the resort.

Balicasag island snorkeling map

Entering the water in Balicasag

Most of the snorkeling tours sold on the island (on the landing beach) will take you to the reef close to the beach, often crowded. We advise you to cross the island instead to snorkel the western reef, less crowded and in better condition.

The west coast of the island, however, can be more wavy, and snorkeling is only possible there when the sea conditions are good.

Balicasag snorkeling tips and recommendations

The recommended snorkeling area encompasses the coral reef stretching along the west coast of Balicasag. On this side of the island, the reef is 50 to 150m wide.

Ocellaris clownfish in Balicasag Island
Ocellaris clownfish spotted at Balicasag reef.

Starting from the beach, you will first snorkel a shallow reef flat (↕0.5-2m), made of sand, seagrass and small coral. The seagrass meadows are visited by green sea turtles, which come daily to feed on the seagrass. Balicasag is a good spot for sea turtles watching.

At the end of the reef flat, you will then discover a steep reef drop off, which dives abruptly towards the depths (↕6-10m). The drop off is superb, covered with many types of hard (leafy, tabular, branching…) and soft coral (sarcophyton, sea lilies, sea fans…).

Large colonies of purple queen anthias (Pseudanthias pascalus) and red-cheeked anthias (Pseudanthias huchtii) surround the reef. Look for sea anemones: you will see inside many species of clownfish, including pink skunk anemonefish, tomato clownfish and ocellaris clownfish.

Moorish idol, sixbar wrasse, whitecheek surgeonfish and pearlscale angelfish are also easy to spot on the reef. If you like macro-life, many species of nudibranchs and shrimp are also living in Balicasag shallow waters.

Coral reef in Balicasag island
Balicasag reef drop-off is healthy, with a great diversity of soft and hard corals.

Restaurants and accommodation in Balicasag

Balicasag Island Dive Resort is the only resort on the island. Several restaurants are also located in Balicasag, especially along its south and east coasts.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaBalicasag Marine Sanctuary
  • Maximum depth6ft/1.5m on the reef flat, +30ft/10m on the drop off
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach (or a boat)
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium to high
  • Access costsTour or boat trip price
  • Restaurants nearbyYes

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.