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After leaving Bohol, we actually struggled to come up with a plan for the rest of our time in the Philippines. We always planned to spend a week on the islands of Bohol/Panglao and then a week on the island of Cebu. The problem was that there are plenty of places to visit on Cebu Island and surrounds, but all they all kind of sounded the same. They boasted some type of combination of good beaches and/or diving.
We made a short list and ended up making a choice based on where we could get the best accommodation deal. The popular islands just off the coast of Cebu seemed to all be over priced and generally lacking facilities like pools. So we ended up deciding on Moalboal and we are happy we did!
Moalboal is described in our guide book as the place to go for the three D’s – diving, drinking and dining. Only the third of those interested us so we weren’t sure how it would work out for us.
However, there is much to like about the Moalboal area. Panagsama Beach, where we and just about everyone else ends up, has a great, laid back vibe with just enough hotels, restaurants, bars etc to give the place some energy without being at all overrun. We very much enjoyed hanging out here. There are also some nice places to visit in the surrounds and enough to do to keep you busy at least for a few days.
Below you will find our guide to things to do in Moalboal Cebu, where to stay in Panagsama Beach, how to get to Moalboal from Cebu City, visiting Moalboal with kids and other information we learned from our visit.
Moalboal is a small town in the north west of the island of Cebu, Philippines. Although everyone talks about Moalboal, they usually mean Panagsama Beach which is where the tourists are all located and where most the accommodation is situated. This is just a few kilometers from Moalboal town and there is plenty of transport between the two.
Panagsama Beach is not really a beach. The water does look very inviting and people swim from the shore. However, if you want a beautiful beach, you definitely need to head slightly north to White Beach.
White Beach is 20 minutes away from Panagsama Beach by motor-tricycle. We paid 350 pesos for a return trip (including having our tricycle wait for us). Just before we reached White Beach we needed to pay a barangay (village or district) entry fee of 5 pesos per person (S and Z were free).
White Beach isn’t as good as its competitor for the title on Boracay, but its still one of the nicest beaches we’ve seen in the Philippines. The kids thought it should be called Yellow Beach as the sand wasn’t white but it’s still nice to sit on.
The beach is quite long, but along most of it’s length are buildings, mainly accommodation, and as a result there’s not a lot of trees or shade. The plus side, though, is that its easy to find a shop for water or a beer.
The water was nice and warm on our visit and almost clear. Together with the sand its a picturesque beach. Although there’s sand there’s also a lot of rocks one or two metres from the water’s edge which made playing in the water and swimming a bit difficult, but we enjoyed sitting in the shallow water before the rocks.
We visited on a Friday afternoon and the beach was quiet. There was a handful of other tourists (most staying on the beach) sun-bathing or having a drink so it wasn’t hard for us to find our own space to play. White Beach was well worth the trip and is easily the nicest beach we’ve seen in the area.
S and J set off to visit the Kawasan falls by motor tricycle, a journey that takes about 40 minutes from Panagsama Beach (or just over 30 minutes from Moalboal).
After arriving at the falls, we walked for around 20 minutes to get to the falls themselves, and the waterhole at the base. The path is rough but the scenery is pretty. You walk along the side of a creek which is either beautifully clear or wonderfully turquoise (like the picture above).
At the waterhole is a small guesthouse which will happily rent you a table (for 300 pesos) or a life jacket or a raft (another 300 pesos) that you can use to go right up to the falls. They have food and drink too.
The water is quite cold and its hard to get in and out of the pool. It is quite deep and there’s slippery rocks around the edges or underneath the surface near the edges you need to be careful of. That said they both enjoyed the swim – how often do you get to swim up close to a beautiful waterfall?
Entry for adults was 40 pesos. S was free. The tricycle was 600 pesos to the falls and back. It also costs 50 pesos for the tricycle to park.
The most popular Moalboal attractions are all under water – Panagsama Beach is full of dive centres with a variety of options. Freediving is also a popular option here.
The big draw card is the “Sardine Run” which is a dense mass of fish which form amazing geometric shapes 5-10 metres under the surface of the water.
Unfortunately diving is out for me and J is not certified and could not find somewhere that would take him out for an intro dive so we gave this a miss. It sounds amazing though!
There mightn’t be much of a beach at Panagsama Beach, but it is still easy to spend a lot of time in this lovely spot. There’s a central walkway past all the restaurants, bars, hotels and stalls – sometimes by the water, sometimes slightly inland. There are many places to get a cheap massage as well as many tour desks and diving centres. Our guide book also says you can snorkel straight off the shore but we did not try.
We very much enjoyed the food in Panagsama Beach. There are many restaurants and we enjoyed our meals at all of them – although like just about everywhere we have been in the Philippines, expect long wait times especially when there are more of you as usually dishes are made one at a time!
It is worth the wait though and we enjoyed some great local food, great Mexican and many western options. All delicious!
Part of the reason why we had such a great stay in this area was definitely our accommodation. We stayed at Marcosas Cottage Resort and it was an excellent find. I have never been so glad that I spent an extra few dollars a night upgrading to their top cottages.
The resort is an excellent location, a quick walk from everything in Panagsama Beach. There is a lovely pool with a water slide and it is especially good for kids (although ours were the only ones there). There is a good restaurant and we had some nice meals at the resort as well.
The best part, however, was our cottage. We stayed in a seaside superior cottage. It was spacious, had a kitchen, dining area, air conditioning, fan, a king and single beds. The best parts, though, was its huge balcony with lounge chairs as well as table and chairs that were right in front of the water and the fact that we had basically a private cottage with our own front yard leading on to the sea.
The one downside was that there wasn’t wifi in our cottage – only back at the restaurant and pool areas. The data on my Philippine sim worked fine though and since we had unlimited data, this wasn’t a problem.
We were slightly separated from the rest of the resort – across a small narrow road, but this was fantastic. It was only a minute’s walk to the resort but we had more privacy and less stress than usual about keeping the kids’ noise level down. It was heavenly and I highly recommend it.
It is easy to get from Cebu City to Moalboal. There are two main options – vans and buses. Buses are supposed to take an hour longer, but are generally more comfortable and cheaper. They both run regularly.
The other option is to take a taxi. Since I am pregnant and not well and we are travelling with two young kids, this was the option we took! It is very easy to find a taxi. J just talked to two that we happened to be riding in and they were both quite keen. We paid 2000 pesos plus a tip (a very generous one after S power chucked towards the end!). It took just over 2 hours.
Read more about Cebu City here.
Moalboal is an excellent places to visit with kids. It’s easy going, the attractions are outdoors and the locals (like everywhere in the Philippines) are very embracing of kids. We had no problems and our kids (3 and 5 plus I was pregnant) enjoyed our lazy days of pool visits, lazing in our excellent cottage and visiting the local Moalboal attractions.
We had an excellent stay in the Moalboal/Panagsama Beach area. It suited us perfectly since we wanted somewhere lovely to chill. We extended our stay while we were there and were sorry when it was time to go.
What’s your favourite place to chill?
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