If you’re an avid scuba diver, the Philippines and its 7,107 islands is paradise.
Scuba diving is popular all over the Philippines, but one of the best ways to discover this stunning island paradise is by hopping on a liveaboard. While the liveaboard industry in the Philippines is rather small compared to the many ships that operate in Thailand and Indonesia, it is very much thriving.
With the stunning Tubbataha Reef as one of the most popular diving destinations in the Philippines, you’re definitely in for a treat.
Due to growing interest from divers, liveaboard boats have started to branch out, taking you around some of the best dive spots in the Visayas region and Apo Island.
To help you get the best experience, here’s our complete guide to planning a liveaboard trip in the Philippines.
- 1 Our Top Philippines Liveaboard Picks
- 2 Best Budget Liveaboard Diving in the Philippines
- 3 Best Mid-Range Liveaboard Diving in the Philippines
- 4 Best Luxury Liveaboard Diving in the Philippines
- 5 Which Philippines Liveaboard to Choose?
- 6 Philippines Liveaboard Diving Highlights
- 7 Philippines Diving: What You Need to Know
- 8 Best Diving Itineraries in the Philippines
- 9 Best Dive Sites In the Philippines
- 10 How to Get to the Philippines
Our Top Philippines Liveaboard Picks
Best Budget Liveaboard Diving in the Philippines
Flying Dolphin 3
Rooms: 4 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €125/day
If you’re looking for a liveaboard in the Philippines on a strict budget, look no further! The Flying Dolphin 3 is a basic catamaran that will take you to some of the best dive sites in the area.
This boat offers a very intimate experience, with a maximum of eight guests staying in four cabins on the lower deck. Because there are so few travelers onboard, you’ll experience personalized treatment from the crew and get to know other divers quickly.
When you’re not sleeping or in the water, spend time on the sun deck enjoying a beer (that’s included in the price you pay!) or eating delicious meals prepared by the onboard chef.
While the ship itself is not particularly special, you’ll still have an unforgettable diving experience at one of the lowest prices around.
The best part is that the Flying Dolphin offers trips of all different lengths, ranging from two nights to nine. Whatever kind of trip you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it here!
What’s Included: VAT, Accomodation, All Meals, Alcoholic Beverages, Dive Guide, Complimentary Toiletries, WiFi.
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Flying Dolphin 3
Rooms: 9 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €165/day
Another budget-friendly liveaboard option in the Philippines is the M/V Dolphin.
Aboard this vessel, you’ll travel to Tubbataha, Apo and Coron reefs for some of the best diving in the world. Typical itineraries last from six to nine days, and you’ll experience guided dives with small groups and a divemaster to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
The Dolphin takes up to 18 guests, and has cabins with private bathrooms. If you’re looking to break away from your budget a little, spring for a VIP cabin located on the upper deck with a mini-bar and TV.
There are plenty of common areas to relax in such as the indoor salon, bar, and the open-air lounge on the top deck. Throughout the trip, you’ll be fed Asian-Fusion cuisine prepared by a fabulous chef, something that’s sure to satisfy after a long day of diving.
You’ll definitely want to keep the Dolphin in mind when searching for a budget-friendly liveaboard trip in the Philippines.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, All Meals, Divemaster Services
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Dolphin
Rooms: 11 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €183/day
Step aboard the 39m Infiniti for a liveaboard experience bound to wow any diver.
This yacht has top-of-the-line amenities for comfort and diving alike, as well as a dedicated crew to make your experience as pleasant as possible.
The Infiniti can carry up to 25 passengers in 11 newly renovated cabins, complete with an en-suite bathroom and a large window for looking out at your surroundings.
The boat also has lovely common areas both indoors and out. Take a break in the air conditioned lounge or lie in a hammock on the sundeck. No matter where you go on this boat, there’s no wrong direction!
The dive deck is spacious and filled with high quality rental gear that’s ready, waiting, and included in the price you pay! The Infiniti also has a brand new camera room that has everything you need for the best underwater photos possible.
Choose from different itineraries to locations like Malapascua, Visayas, and Tubbataha and enjoy your time on the water! There’s nothing like diving from the Infiniti.
What’s Included: VAT, Accomodation, Airport Transfer, Alcoholic Beverages, All Meals, Complimentary Toiletries, Rental Gear, Kayaks
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Infiniti
Best Mid-Range Liveaboard Diving in the Philippines
Rooms: 8 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €240/day
A solid mid-range option, the Narayana was designed specifically for the purpose of liveaboard diving in Tubbataha.
Tubbataha is only accessible by liveaboard and has vast marine life waiting to be discovered below the surface. With the help of the crew and divemasters aboard the Narayana, you’re sure to see the very best of it, for a diving trip that you’ll remember forever.
This yacht can take up to 14 guests at a time in eight comfortable cabins. Each cabin has its own bathroom and air conditioning, and you can choose from a room with either a queen-sized bed, a double bed, or twin bunk beds. The double cabins even have their own balcony!
In between dives, chill out in the lounge area or catch some rays on the sundeck. Feast on buffet meals in the outdoor dining area and take in the views of blue and green.
You’re sure to enjoy yourself on the Narayana without breaking the bank.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Airport Transfer, All Meals, Divemaster Services, Complimentary Toiletries
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for Narayana
Rooms: 8 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €242/day
This beautiful 25m ship travels all around the Philippines, taking you to some of the best dive sites in the country.
With 8 cabins that are well-designed and air-conditioned, there is plenty of room for relaxation and space. The boat has a spacious air-conditioned lounge with a large flat-screen TV where you can compare photos, as well as a sundeck where you can relax and take in the beauty of the tropical landscape.
The cherry on top? Buffet-style local and French meals all throughout your trip.
Seadoors runs trips all over Visayas and the Tubbataha Reef at various schedules.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Complimentary Toiletries, Transfers/pickups from Airport, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Towels
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for Seadoors
Rooms: 20 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €257/day
After undergoing a renovation, the MV Discovery Palawan has a new modern look, and it’s a great choice for divers who are keen to explore the best of Palawan and Tubbataha.
As it is over 50m in length, there is plenty of room onboard for mingling, relaxing, and enjoying the warm sunshine when you’re not exploring the wonders underwater. The boat is equipped with an air-conditioned salon, a dining area, camera room, sun deck, and two other shaded deck areas.
The cabins are comfortable and spacious and the staff will go above and beyond to make sure your dive trip is memorable.
Nitrox and three dive tenders are available throughout the journey.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Transfers/pickups from Airport, Tanks, Weights, Belts, All Meals
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for Discovery Palawan
Best Luxury Liveaboard Diving in the Philippines
Rooms: 10 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €344/day
This beautiful boat was once a merchant vessel but was renovated in 2013. The result? A stunning liveaboard which provides an upscale experience as it travels across the Philippines and Micronesia.
Running trips around Tubbataha and Palau, Micronesia, this vessel is outfitted with 10 luxurious cabins with flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning, and other home comforts.
Dive groups are kept small and are expertly led by seasoned divers and professionals. The boat also has numerous decks, and you can even end your evening with a relaxing soak in the hot tub.
The chef onboard the Solitude One will make sure you are well-fed throughout your entire trip as they dish out tasty meals and snacks throughout the day.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Complimentary Toiletries, Transfers/pickups from Airport, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Possible Fuel Surcharge, Towels Provided
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for Solitude One
Rooms: 8 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €273/day
Sailing across the beautiful waters of the Philippines is the stunning 40m S/Y Philippine Siren. Previous guests of the ship have raved about the fantastic staff who ensure smooth sailing and a comfortable stay throughout your trip.
Equipped with an air-conditioned lounge with a cocktail bar, sofas, a 42-inch entertainment system as well as in-house massages, this is definitely a great choice for those who are looking to explore the Philippines in style.
With 8 large cabins, multiple decks, and delicious buffet-style meals, you will definitely be spoilt throughout your dive holiday.
The best part about the Philippine Siren is that it provides you with free diving equipment if you don’t have your own.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Transfers/pickups from Airport, Personal Diving Gear, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Free Nitrox, Towels
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for Philippine Siren
Rooms: 8 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €284/day
This 32.5m boat offers trips to fantastic liveaboard diving destinations around the Philippines all-year round. From exploring the beautiful Visayas region all the way to Tubbataha, if you’re looking for a premier dive boat, you’ve found your pick.
With a spacious dive deck, personal dive storage areas, Nitrox, and 2 tenders, there is ample room for guests to get situated.
The cabins are comfortable and well-designed. For a more upscale experience, indulge by choosing to stay in their luxury suite The boat is equipped with a sun deck, a wet bar, as well as a hot tub where you can wind down after a long day underwater.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Complimentary Toiletries, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Towels
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for Atlantis Azores
Which Philippines Liveaboard to Choose?
Diving in the Philippines is a once-in-a-lifetime experience so choosing the right liveaboard is crucial.
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Philippines Liveaboard Diving Highlights
People who choose to travel to the Visayas region via liveaboard will get to visit some of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines.
Along the way you’re bound to visit popular dive spots in Malapascua, Leyte, Camiguin, Siquijor, and the popular Apo Island and Malapascua.
I have personally traveled to many of these islands myself and have found the reefs to be nothing short of spectacular. The diversity of landscapes and the number of dive spots you will encounter along the way is resounding.
As the Philippines is made up of many islands, being able to travel from one dive spots to the next via liveaboard is definitely one of the best ways to explore the region.
Named as one of the top dive sites in the world, the remote Tubbataha Reef can only be explored by liveaboard. Its pristine reefs are reason alone to venture towards this area as you will be spoilt for choice as to what you can see underwater.
This 97,030 hectare Marine Protected Area in Palawan is at the heart of the Coral Triangle and marine biodiversity. Made up of two huge coral atolls, the North and South Atoll as well as the Jessie Beazley Reef around 20km away.
Home to about 90% of all of the coral species in the Philippines, a trip to Tubbataha is indeed a once in a lifetime experience.
When diving here, you can see eleven different species of sharks, 479 species of fish, and large pelagics such as jacks, manta rays, tuna, and whale sharks. It also has the highest population density for white tip reef sharks!
Apo Reef & Palawan
Another popular route that liveaboards take is a dive tour around Palawan, taking you across Batangas, Apo Reef, through to Coron Palawan where you can explore some of the best wrecks and dive sites in the area.
From diving in WWII shipwrecks to spotting rare mythical creatures like the dugong, Palawan has so much to offer when it comes to marine diversity.
Apo Reef alone is a site in itself, known to be the second largest connecting coral reef in the world, right after the Great Barrier Reef. Crystal clear waters full of life and various tropical fish and other pelagics, this place is a treat to explore.
Philippines Diving: What You Need to Know
Best Time to Go Diving in the Philippines
When planning a liveaboard trip to the Philippines, it’s important to have your timing right. While trips run year round, your best bet for warm waters and clear visibility is between March and June during the dry season.
Wet season is serious in the Philippines and between the months of September and December the area experiences typhoons. Typhoons are a major safety hazard both on land and in the water, so it’s best to avoid taking a trip during these months.
Philippines Diving Safety
Because there are so many different dive sites in the Philippines, diving is suitable for a wide range of skill level and experience.
That said, many of the most popular dive sites experience strong currents that are best suited for experienced divers.
While on a liveaboard trip, you’ll be accompanied by a dive master who is not only an experienced diver, but knows about the currents and water patterns, ensuring travelers safe diving conditions. Be sure to always follow your divemaster’s instructions for maximum safety on a Philippines liveaboard.
A good practice is to ensure that you always have a neon dive flag or collapsible pole stowed in your BC pocket in case the current sweeps you astray. Reef hooks and gloves are also advisable due to the strong currents.
Besides all the necessary gear and safety equipment, we always recommend having dive insurance in case of any medical emergencies.
Best Diving Itineraries in the Philippines
Short Philippines Liveaboard Trips
Typical liveaboard trips in the Philippines run from six to ten nights and feature jam-packed itineraries to make the most of your time at sea.
While on a liveaboard, you’re looking at diving three to four times a day, meaning that you can have up to 40 dives per trip!
If you’re looking for a week-long getaway, a short trip to the Philippines is a great way to spend your time. When you’re not diving, you’ll get to enjoy all that your boat has to offer, lounge on nearby beaches, and get to know your fellow travelers.
Extended Philippines Liveaboard Trips
If you’d like a little more time to explore the Philippines, you can choose to take an extended trip lasting up to two weeks! That means twice as many dives, way more dive sites, and the chance to see even more of the breathtaking Philippines.
Extended trips aren’t available in all locations, so be sure to check specific boats for up to date itineraries and timelines.
Best Dive Sites In the Philippines
Dive Sites in Cebu
Experience diving with one of the most fascinating creatures ever, the elusive thresher sharks who are frequent visitors in the Malapascua area. In fact, it is probably the only place in the world where you can see a thresher shark daily.
Home to over 20 dive sites, Malapascua is a dream for divers as it boasts of warm tropical water conditions, unbelievable diversity, and stunning landscapes.
The Monad Shoal is a submerged island with a steep 200m drop off home to threshers, manta rays, devil rays, and over varieties of sharks.
Located off of Moalboal, Pescador’s most popular dive site is named “The Cathedral” which is a large cavern illuminated by small holes letting light in. It is truly a spectacular experience.
Memorable to me because this is the place where I first began discovering the beauty of the underwater world, Moalboal is a beautiful place with stunning house reefs, and playful turtles.
However, what makes this place so exciting is the large school of sardines which call this place home. Often, large pelagics attracted by the food grace the diver’s presence as you get to watch an unbelievable show of cat and mouse as the sardines move and change shapes.
Home to beautiful coral gardens, wrecks, and the occasional hammerhead sharks.
Dive Sites in Negros
If you enjoy swimming with turtles, head on over to Apo Island, home to some spectacular hard corals and turtles that endlessly graze and swim around.
At present, the island is home to over 650 documented species of fish and around 400 species of corals. Most of the Philippines’ 450 species of coral can be found here.
This spot has been named one of the top 100 dive sites in the world.
This site is most well-known for the two sunken Volkswagens which sprung into a fabulous artificial reef and also a great spot for macro and much diving. When else will you have the chance to see a VW underwater?
Home to a marine protected area, you will be treated to beautiful coral gardens, turtles, and large schools of reef fish.
Dive Sites in Tubbataha
Amos Rock (Southwest Rock)
This popular scuba site found at the North Atoll features a stunning wall with large gorgonian fans as well as a variety of large fish.
As the currents are often strong in this area, find yourself drifting in the dive site as you spot grey reef and white tip sharks, large groupers, and mackerels.
Night scuba diving is also particularly good in this area.
This wide plateau-like shelf is home to hawksbill and green sea turtles as well as whitetip sharks that cruise along the drop-off edges.
This site is ideal for night diving as you can often spot moray eels, pufferfish, and other night creatures. This is certainly one of Tubbataha’s most fertile areas.
If you’re an experienced diver, the washing machine is the perfect place for you as often the currents can shift and are very unpredictable.
Your reward for battling the currents? It is known for having some of the best visibility (often boasting of 40m!) where you can see grey reef sharks and a variety of other tropical reef fish.
Dive Sites in Apo Reef
Popular for black and whitetip reef sharks, this site is a popular one to visit when diving the depths of Apo Reef.
In addition to the numerous sharks on sight, you will also find shallow caves where lots of critters take cover. From moray eels, lobsters, large groupers, and if you’re lucky, you can even spot some manta rays swimming around.
This site is particularly suited for experienced divers due to its swift currents. Apo 29 is a seamount with a tip of around 25m.
Watch the show unfold before you as you get treated to thresher sharks, groups of hammerheads, reef sharks, and large schools of pelagics. It is an incredible place for those who can handle all the action.
Dive Sites in Palawan
Although not visually striking due to the lack of marine life, if you’re looking for an out-of-the-world experience, dive in Coron’s famous barracuda lake.
Swim through large caves and cathedral as you dive through an almost alien-like world full of underwater rock formations.,
WWII Shipwrecks in Coron
In Coron alone there are at least seven shipwrecks to discover, some of which are so large that it would easily take about two to three dives to fully see the area.
For underwater wreck enthusiasts, Palawan is the perfect place to discover and explore.
How to Get to the Philippines
Getting to the Philippines is relatively easy as there are tons of international flights that fly directly to Manila every day.
From Manila, you’ll have to travel to the specific port your liveaboard will depart from.
Most liveaboards headed to Visayas depart from Cebu which is a direct flight from Manila and will cost you between $40 – $100 USD round trip. The flight only takes an hour and a half, so you’ll be setting sail in no time.
If you’re traveling from other Southeast Asian countries, you may be able to get a direct flight to Cebu, cutting out Manila entirely.
If you’re taking a liveaboard to Tubbataha, you’re likely to depart from Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Palawan is accessible from Manila and Cebu as well as a handful of Southeast Asian countries. If you’re in Manila, Palawan is also an inexpensive, quick flight away.
Many liveaboards offer an airport pickup and transfer either as part of the package or an add-on, so be sure to check this out when you’re booking your trip. In my opinion, it’s definitely worth it to save yourself the headache of getting to the port on your own.
So there you have it! A rough overview of some of the best Philippine Liveaboards including the popular dive sites that these boats sail to.
The Philippines is home to some of the best scuba diving imaginable, topped off with warm and friendly people, fantastic tropical weather, and cold $1 beers. Trust me, it can’t get any better than that!
For those looking for last-minute deals, liveaboard.com offers greatly discounted prices which are worth checking out. Happy diving!
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