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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. Still away from the pressures of mass tourism, Cabilao hosts undisturbed and easily accessible reefs where hundreds of marines species, such as anemonefish, moray eels and sea turtles are easy to see.

Snorkeling with ocellaris clownfish in Cabilao Island
The ocellaris clownfish is a common sight around Cabilao.

How to get to Cabilao for snorkeling?

Cabilao is a small island near Bohol, in the heart of the Philippine archipelago. From Bohol, reach first Sandigan Island Pier (a 50km bus and taxi ride from Alona Beach). At Sandigan Island Pier, catch a bangka, a traditional Philippine boat, to cross to Cabilao (20 minutes).

Once landed in Cabilao, ask a taxi to take you to Bamboo Reef Resort, in the northwestern tip of the island, which is facing the spot. If you are staying at any of the resorts in the area (at Cabilao Sanctuary Beach and Dive Resort, La Estrella Beach Resort, Polaris Beach and Dive Resort or Cabilao Sunset Dive & Beach Resort), direct transfers to the resorts from Bohol can be arranged. These four resorts are also located by the sea, with direct access to the reef.

Cabilao Island snorkeling map

Entering the water in Cabilao

You can enter the water from the small white sand beach facing the Bamboo Reef Resort, but also from the resorts, or from the beach extending between Cabilao Lighthouse and La Estrella Beach Resort.

Cabilao snorkeling tips

Starting from the beach, you will first snorkel above a shallow reef flat (↕0.5-2m), 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.

After a hundred meters, the flat leads to a beautiful reef drop-off (↕2-6m), teeming with marine life. Chocolate dip damselfish, golden damselfish and green chomis abound around 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.

Sea lilies in Cabilao Island
A sea lily, or crinoid, noted on the reef.

Several species of clownfish are also recorded in Cabilao, including the ocellaris clownfish, aka “Nemo”. Sea turtles and yellow-lipped sea krait are also common at this spot.

Cabilao Island is still relatively away from mass tourism, 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.

Sea snake in Cabilao Island
Encounters with yellow-lipped sea kraits are frequent in Cabilao’s coastal waters.

Restaurants and accommodation in Cabilao

Four small resorts (Cabilao Sanctuary Beach and Dive Resort, La Estrella Beach Resort, Cabilao Sunset Dive & Beach Resort and Polaris Beach and Dive Resort) are set on the beach, as well as the Bamboo Reef bungalows, and some guesthouses.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaCabilao Island Marine Park
  • Maximum depth30ft/10m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • 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.