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The small Cabilao island, laying a few kilometers west of Bohol, is renowned for its coral reefs, among the best in the Philippines for shore snorkeling.

Cabilao Bamboo Reef is a popular dive site located near the island. The reef fringes the northwestern coast of the island and is absolutely vibrant. 

Because of the island’s remote location, the Cabilao Bamboo Reef does not have an overcrowded tourist population. 

Cabilao hosts undisturbed and easily accessible reefs where hundreds of marine species, such as anemonefish, moray eels and sea turtles are easy to see.

Ocellaris anemonefish in Cabilao
The ocellaris clownfish is a common sight around Cabilao.

How to get to the Cabilao/Bamboo Reef snorkeling location

Cabilao is a small island near Bohol, in the heart of the Philippine archipelago. From Bohol, head to Sandigan Island Pier, which is a 30 mile bus and taxi ride from Alona Beach. At Sandigan Island Pier, catch a bangka, which is a traditional Philippine boat, to cross to Cabilao. This takes about a 20 minute drive.

Once you arrive in Cabilao, ask a taxi to take you to Bamboo Reef, located on the northwestern coast of the island.

You can access the beach from the Bamboo Reef Resort or from the sandy beach south of the Lighthouse. Both  of these areas are facing the spot.

If you are staying at any of the resorts in the area, direct transfers to the resorts from Bohol can be arranged.  The various resorts are the Bamboo Reef Resort, the Cabilao Sanctuary Beach and Dive Resort, the Polaris Beach and Dive Resort, or the Cabilao Sunset Dive & Beach Resort. All resorts are seafront, with direct reef access.

Cabilao Island - Bamboo Reef snorkeling map
Cabilao Island – Bamboo Reef snorkeling map.

Water entrance for snorkeling Cabilao/Bamboo Reef

You can enter the water from the small white sand beach facing the Bamboo Reef Resort (snorkel entry 1 on the map above), or from the beach extending between Cabilao Sunset and the Lighthouse (snorkel entry 2). Cabilao Sanctuary resort also has reef access from concrete steps that lead directly to the reef (snorkel entry 3).

Cabilao/Bamboo Reef snorkeling tips

Starting from the beach, you will first snorkel above a shallow reef flat ↕2-6ft. This reef flat is mainly made of sandy and grassy beds, interspersed with some coral bommies. On the reef flat are living sea stars from different species, sea urchins, blennies, small moray eels and sharpnose puffer.

Reef drop of with healthy corals in Cabilao
Some parts of Cabilao’s reef feature healthy, spectacular corals.

After a hundred meters, the flat leads to a beautiful reef drop-off ↕6-18ft, teeming with marine life. Chocolate dip damselfish, golden damselfish and green chomis abound around the hard and soft corals.

Butterflyfish and angelfish come and go on the reef, where lionfish, pufferfish, and, for macro lovers, a beautiful diversity of nudibranchs and shrimps can be seen.

Green sea turtle in Cabilao
Green sea turtle encounter at Cabilao’s reef.

Several species of clownfish have also been spotted in Cabilao, including the ocellaris clownfish. Sea turtles and yellow-lipped sea krait are common at this spot. Be sure to check out the seagrass meadows. Although they are less colorful than the coral areas, they allow you to observe specific species.

Cabilao Island is still a bit removed from tourists and the reef is one of the healthiest in the Philippines. Underwater visibility is usually great, although it can deteriorate slightly, especially in the rainy season.

A pair of narrow-lined puffers in Cabilao
A pair of narrow-lined puffers in Cabilao. This species mostly occur in seagrass meadows.

Restaurants and accommodation in Cabilao/Bamboo Reef

Several resorts including the Cabilao Sanctuary Beach and Dive Resort, the Cabilao Sunset Dive & Beach Resort and the Polaris Beach and Dive Resort are set on the beach, as is the Bamboo Reef Resort.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaCabilao Island Marine Park
  • Maximum depth30ft/10m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach or from concrete steps
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersLow
  • Access costsFree
  • 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.