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Imagine a snorkeling spot where you can enjoy, just a few yards from the beach, a coral reef teeming with life, turtles grazing on seagrass meadows that are covered with starfish, and the ability swim in the middle of schools of millions of sardines. In Moalboal on the island of Cebu, all these fantastic underwater experiences are within your reach! Ready?!

Orange-skunk anemonefish in a sea anemone in Panagsama Beach.
The orange-skunk anemonefish is one of the several species of anemonefish that can be observed in Panagsama Beach.

How to get to the Moalboal/Panagsama Beach snorkeling spot

Moalboal is a village located on the west coast of Cebu Island. It is about a 3 hour bus ride from Cebu, the main city of the island with the same name. Once in Moalboal, take a moto taxi to reach the village. This spot is also visited by boat tours.

Panagsama Beach Moalboal snorkeling map
Panagsama Beach/Moalboal snorkeling map.

Water entrance for snorkeling Moalboal/Panagsama Beach

There are several water entry options for snorkeling in this area:

  1. From Panagsama main beach (water entrance 1 on the map above). The beach is public and has free access. The distance to swim to reach the sardine area is approximately 100 yards.
  2. From the tiny beach next to the Chili Bar (water entrance 2). On the main road, it is just a few steps to the small beach. The distance to swim to reach the sardine area is approximately 50 yards. This access is free.
  3. From rocks/sand at the foot of the Marina Village Dive Resort‘s jetty (water entrance 3). Access here is for the resort’s guests only. The distance to swim to reach the sardine area is approximately 50 yards.

Moalboal/Panagsama Beach snorkeling tips

From the shore, you will first swim above a shallow reef flat (↕0.5-2m) that features sandy beds and seagrass meadows. Many starfish of different species live on the seabed, including blue starfish and horned sea stars.

Green sea turtle in Panagsama Beach/Moalboal
Sea turtles sightings (here, a green sea turtle) are common along Moalboal’s reef drop off.

On the seabed, there may also be some nudibranchs and pipefish. The seagrass areas are where you will encounter the many green sea turtles who come to feed and rest at this sheltered location.

At about 50 yards from the shore, the reef flat quickly drops to 18+ feet/6+ meters. The reef edge is covered with corals, sea anemones and sponges. A wide variety of reef fish live around the corals,. This includes a multitude of green chromis, several species of clownfish, butterflyfish and batfish, among hundreds of other species. You may also be lucky enough to spot a yellow-lipped sea krait meandering over the seabed in search of its next prey.

pair of bluestreak goby in Moalboal
A pair of bluestreak goby in Moalboal.

Panagsama Beach has numerous visitors that come for its “sardine run”, the unique sighting of shoals of thousands of sardines present year-round along the coast. They are usually found at the drop-off, most of time sheltering in the shade of the boats (see map).

The underwater ballet created by these moving shoals is mesmerizing to see will  leave you with unforgettable underwater memories. As there are many boats present in the Panagsama Beach area, stay alert when you are in the water.

School of sardines in Panagsama Beach, Moalboal
Swimming among thousands of sardines is a fantastic experience.

Restaurants and accommodations nearby

A wide range of accommodations, restaurants and bars for all budgets are available all along Panagsama Beach.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth6ft/2m on the reef flat, 18ft/6m on the drop off
  • Water entranceFrom sandy beaches or concrete steps
  • Potential DangersCrown-of-thorns starfish, scorpionfish. Dense boat traffic.
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyYes, all along the beach

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.