Adventures,  Diving Trips,  Philippines

The Best 3 Philippines Liveaboard Destinations and Cruises

From the WWII shipwrecks in Coron, macro paradise in Dauin and Puerto Galera, thresher sharks in Malapascua to human-sized turtles in Apo Island, your diving cruise on any Philippines liveaboard is guaranteed to make you wanting more.  

I have scuba dived throughout the Philippines in Coron, Dauin, Anilao, Malapascua and Apo Island – and even worked as a PADI instructor – and I can tell you that the diving in Philippines is nothing short of phenomenal. 

I am also a huge fan of a liveaboard diving experience.  If you are a diver, being surrounded by colors of the underwater world and discovering marine creatures, there is no better vacation than “dive, eat, sleep…and repeat!” 

This post will summarize the highlights of Philippine scuba diving sites, with recommendations on top Philippine liveaboards for that region.

Before we get started, if you have never been on a liveaboard, you may first want to read about what it’s like to go diving on a liveaboard.  Since you are “stuck” on the boat once you embark, make sure you are fully informed about a life on the boat and have clear expectations before your trip 😉

Philippines Liveaboard Destination #1:  Apo Reef/Puerto Galera/Anilao

philippines liveaboard: turtle

Apo Reef is a protected National Park which covers an area of 34 km², which is the second biggest reef system in the world (second to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef).  With about 500 types of corals and another 500 species of fish in this region, Apo is like an underwater amusement park providing you with nonstop action!

Puerto Galera has a nice mix of reef and muck diving, where you can enjoy epic wall dives by day and night dives after sunset.

Anilao is considered the top macro diving destinations in the Philippines, where you can expect to see various and unique species of octopus, nudibranch, frogfish, seahorse, pipefish and so much more.  If you are a macro fan, Anilao will not disappoint!

Water Temperature: 26-29C (79-84F)

Season: Oct-May

Diving Conditions:  Drop-offs, walls, and pinnacle diving around Apo, as well as muck diving in Puerto Galera,  make this trip ideal for Advanced divers.

Liveaboard Vessel:  All Star Stella Maris

philippines liveaboard: All Star Stella Maris
philippines liveaboard: stella Maris sun deck
philippines liveaboard: Stella Maris bunk cabin

all photos of All Star Stella Maris courtesy of liveaboard.com

This liveaboard cruise takes you through the Mindoro province, first presenting you with the largest coral gardens in the Philippines at Apo Reef, then concluding the trip at Anilao, also known as the “Lembeh of Philippines.”

This vessel features ten spacious, “retro-design” cabins (unique for a liveaboard, for sure!) with en-suite bathrooms spread across three levels.

The 36-meter boat provides ample space for a maximum of 21 guests to enjoy the downtime between the dives.   The top deck is designed for relaxation, with lounge chairs facing the water for an incredible view and ocean breeze!

√  FREE nitrox is provided to those certified.

Route: Apo Reef, Puerto Galera, Isla Verde

Duration: 8D/7N (total ~20 dives including night dives)

Stella Maris also runs a trip to Tubbataha during March – June (see below for a description on Tubbataha and check availability on Liveaboard.com)

Philippines Liveaboard Destination #2:  Visayas

whale shark

The Visayas cruise introduces you to various islands including Balicasag, Cabilao, Apo and Cebu islands.   While no marine life sightings are ever guaranteed, with such diverse coverage of a region teeming with life, you are bound to see some big animals such as blacktip and whitetip sharks to smaller creatures such as pygmy seahorses and colorful nudibranchs.    

Once embarking in Cebu, you will make a stop in Oslob where you will have an opportunity to swim/snorkel with the whale sharks before continuing with your dive trip.

Throughout your liveaboard journey in the Visayas, you will be introduced to some of the most healthy and vibrant soft and hard corals, as well as schooling jacks, fusiliers and trevallies.

The great advantage of the Visayas tour is that the route is not only enjoyable for scuba divers but also for snorkelers.   The liveaboard I reviewed below for this region welcomes non-diving guests as well, providing snorkeling and land-based itineraries as alternatives.  

Water Temperature: 27-30C (80-86F) most of the year, except from December to February, the water temperature can drop to 25C (77F)

Season: Nov-June

Diving Conditions:  The diving in the Visayas can range from gentle slopes to steep drop-offs.   All levels of divers can enjoy the diving in this region.

Liveaboard Vessel: Discovery Palawan

Philippines Liveaboard: discover palawan boat
philippines liveaboard: discovery palawan diving
philippines liveaboard: discovery palawan twin cabin
discovery palawan dining room

all photos of Discovery Palawan courtesy of liveaboard.com

Discovery Palawan liveaboard is a 50m boat that recently underwent a full renovation, offering an indoor salon and dining areas, camera room, sun deck, shaded decks and additional outdoor dining space with a bar to enjoy a cocktail (or two!) after a full day of diving! 

With 20 modern, clean, and spacious cabins accommodating a maximum of 32 guests, this boat is an excellent value for the price!

√  Nitrox and gear rental available for an additional fee

Route: Sumilon, Apo Island, Bohol, Balicasag, Cabilao

Duration: 7D/6N (total ~15 dives)

Philippines Liveaboard Destination #3: Malapascua/Leyte/(Visayas)

southeast asia diving: thresher shark
check out Sami's amazing underwater photography on his Insta @ Underwaterwonderland

Malapascua is a unique diving destination – it is the only place in the world where divers are graced with thresher shark sightings every morning at the cleaning stations of Monad Shoal.  

You can, of course, choose to do a land-based diving trip to Malapascua and spend a few days diving with the majestic sharks.   Or, you can experience the best Philippines diving by joining a cruise to a shipwreck dive at Dona Marilyn, reef shark dive at Gato Island, and wall dives exploring some of the richest reef systems around Leyte and Visayas.

Water Temperature: 25-28C (77-82F) most of the year

Season: diving is good year-round, although the rainy season is known to fall between October and December. But like any other “tropical” climate, the rain is usually a sporadic shower here and there.

Diving Conditions:  The cleaning stations of Monad Shoal range in depth from 25m to 40m.  All divers must have a minimum of Deep Adventure Diver.   It would be optimal to have an Advanced Open Water license before booking this Philippines liveaboard trip.

Liveaboard Vessel: Philippine Siren

Philippines liveaboard: philippine siren boat
Philippine siren cabin
Philippine Siren salon
Philippines LIveaboard: Philippine Siren sun deck

all photos of Philippine Siren courtesy of liveaboard.com

Philippine Siren is a fantastic choice for those seeking a luxury diving vacation.  With only eight large cabins spread across 40m of boat space, you are guaranteed a little piece of diving heaven on this modern, elegant and sophisticated liveaboard.   

Philippines Siren also offers massage services on request, which is a real treat after a long day of diving!  And if that wasn’t enticing enough, this is the only liveaboard in the Philippines that offers an entertainment system (a TV) in each cabin!

Plan your trip early, as this Philippines liveaboard option is very popular and books fast!

√  FREE nitrox and gear rental offered onboard

Route: Malapascua (popular dive sites include Monad Shoal, Gato, Dona Marilyn), Moaboal, Pescador Island, Sumilon, Apo Island, Dauin, Balicasag, Cabilao, and Mactan

Duration: 11D/10N (total ~27 dives including night dives)

Liveaboard Vessel: Seadoors

Philippines liveaboard: seadors boat
philippines liveaboard: seadors living room
philippines liveaboard: seadors dining
philippines liveaboard: cabin

all photos of Seado0rs courtesy of liveaboard.com

Another fantastic liveaboard option for the Malapascua route is Seadoors.  With only eight cabins catering a maximum of 16 guests, the liveaboard boat offers an intimate yet comfortable space for all the guests.   

You can soak in the sun on the lounge chairs between dives, or relax in the air-conditioned indoor living room and watch movies or share your videos with your new dive buddies onboard.  

An outdoor dining area is perfect for catching the sunset and enjoying the sea breeze while indulging in fine French cuisine!

√  Nitrox and gear rental available for an additional fee

Route: Malapascua, Leyte

Duration: 7D/6N (total ~18 dives including night dives)

Philippines Liveaboard Destination #4: Tubbataha

schooling barracudas

Tubbataha Reefs National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Marine Protected Area that is located in the middle of the Coral Triangle.  This protected marine mark has been the center of marine biology research for decades and has been ranked in the top 8 dive site of the world.

What makes Tubbataha unique and desirable is not only its marine biodiversity but also its remote location that is only accessible by a liveaboard in a short window from March to June.    

Due to a handful of liveaboards visiting this isolated reserve in any given year, the marine park is protected from overcrowding and massive damages to its reefs.

Big marine animals such as thresher sharks, hammerheads, and manta rays are no strangers to the spectacular wall dives at Tubbataha.  Other usual suspects include Hawksbill and Green turtles, Napoleon Wrasse, schooling barracudas, jacks and trevallies, tiger sharks, whale sharks, and various other reef sharks.   

Water Temperature: 26-30C (80-86F)

Season: mid-March to mid-June

Diving Conditions:  While the atolls are prone to frequent currents, due to the abundance of marine life in both shallow and deep waters, diving in Tubbataha can be enjoyable for all levels of divers.

Due to Tubbataha’s limited diving opportunities, all the Philippines Liveaboards cruise to the national park during the short season between March and June.  

Liveaboard Vessel: Atlantis Azores

In addition to the top-rated liveaboards mentioned in this post, another fantastic option for Tubbataha is Atlantis Azores.
philippines liveaboard: Atlantis Azores boat
Philippines liveaboard: Atlantis Azores top deck
Philippines Liveaboard: Atlantis Azores cabin
Philippines Liveaboard: Atlantis Azores dive deck

all photos of Atlantis Azores courtesy of liveaboard.com

One word: Jacuzzi!  

It’s not often that you find a hot tub included in a liveaboard in the same price range as an average cruise.  This Tubbataha liveaboard features eight cabins all with an en-suite bathroom, as well as all the amenities you would expect in a top notch boat such as camera space, sun deck, dining room, TV room, and a library.

I call this an affordable luxury!

√  Nitrox and gear rental available for an additional fee

Route: North and South Atolls at Tubbataha National Park

Duration: 8D/7N (total ~18 dives)

Before You Go:
Some Tips for Your Philippines Liveaboard Trip

  • Keep in mind that you will likely incur additional expenses for beverages, staff tips, marine park fees, etc.
  • Confirm the requirements for minimum certification and logged dives with the operator before booking
  • Do you need to rent equipment? If so, inform the operator in advance so that the proper size can be prepared before your arrival
  • Aside from your main dive equipment, don’t forget to pack:
    √  Eardrops
    √  Mask Defog
    √  Seasickness medication
    √  SMB (surface marker buoy)
    √  Torch (especially if you plan to do night dives!)
    √  Logbook
    √  PADI certification card
    √  Dive insurance card

If you don’t have dive insurance, make sure you get DAN coverage before your liveaboard trip!

Summary

Scuba diving in the Philippines is an experience like no other.   Whether you are a novice diver or an experienced diver, a liveaboard dive trip is something everyone should experience at least once – it’s truly addicting!      

I have joined a few liveaboards in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia, and I can tell you that they all had one thing in common – I didn’t want to get off the boat! 

I hope this post offered inspiration for your next dive trip to the Philippines.   If not, feel free to continue browsing through more Philippines liveaboard dive boats by clicking below!   

Looking for more liveaboard inspirations?

Check out this post on Liveaboard Indonesia!  Featured diving destinations include the world-famous Raja Ampat, Komodo National Park and more!  

Inspired? PIN it!

Travel Philippines | Scuba Diving | Liveaboard | Philippines is located inside the Coral Triangle and hosts some of the most incredible marine life in the world! Check out this post for some of the best diving destinations in the Philippines and the liveaboard cruises that will take you there! #scuba #divetrip #scubadiving #coraltriangle #philippines #dive
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2 Comments

    • Mo

      Just be careful – once you do your dive course you will be addicted 😉 You will want to dive all around the world! But Coral Triangle is really the place to be. The underwater life is so stunning – I’ve dived in many places throughout the Philippines and Indonesia, and have not yet been disappointed!

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