All year round, thousands of tourists flock to the stunning archipelago of Palawan. Located in the western Philippines, this popular Southeast Asian destination consists of over 1,700 islands that are mostly surrounded by crystal clear waters and are blessed with incredibly rich marine diversity.
The small population size and scattering of islands have enabled Palawan to maintain its pristine condition both above and underwater. You’ll find world-class beaches, breathtaking limestone lagoons, and an underwater world that features World War II shipwrecks, lush coral fields, and a great variety of marine life.
With water temperatures ranging from 79-86˚F (26-30˚C) and ideal weather conditions lasting more than half a year, it’s no wonder that Palawan has some of the most popular diving spots in the world. Read on to learn more about the best Palawan scuba diving destinations!
Must-Visit Palawan Diving Destinations
Discover the scuba diving and snorkeling wonders of Palawan by visiting any (or all!) of the following destinations:
Coron, which is located in the northern tip of Palawan, is known for having the most spectacular shipwrecks in Southeast Asia. Many Japanese ships sank in Coron Bay during the Second World War, and it’s the perfect dive spot for history buffs and self-confessed undersea explorers.
Coron Bay is best explored during December to March when visibility can reach up to 50 feet (15 meters). Some spots can be dived by beginners while some will require more experience and certification from diver courses. To maximize the experience, make sure to check out the Akitsushima, Okikawa Maru, Irako Maru, and Kyokuzan Maru wreck dives.
Tagbao Island, El Nido
In El Nido, which is home to stunning coral gardens, you’ll find two tiny islands called Tagbao off the northwest point of Miniloc—right at the center of Bacuit Bay. And like many of El Nido’s premier diving spots, the three reefs (known locally as Tres Marias) nestled between these two islands are surrounded by shallow waters, making it perfect for beginner divers and snorkelers.
Enjoy the sight of bountiful reef fish, painted crayfish, and colorful corals just a couple of feet underwater. If you’re lucky, you might even get a glimpse of whale sharks between October to December.
Tubbataha Reef Natural Park
The Tubbataha Reef Natural Park is considered to be one of Palawan’s top diving spots alongside El Nido and Coron Island. This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts of over 97,000 hectares of land and water that’s home to more than 600 fish species, 360 coral species, about a dozen shark and dolphin species, and 100 bird species. It is only accessible via a liveaboard diving vessel and is best dived between March and June.
Although it’s far from the provincial center (it’s a 10-hour boat ride from Puerto Princesa to the middle of the Sulu Sea), it’s worth the trip—just ask CNN Travel!
Barracuda Lake is another popular diving spot in Coron Island. Also known as the “craziest dive site in the Philippines,” the lake is in a volcanic crater that has both fresh and saltwater and was named due to the discovery of a large barracuda skeleton within its waters many years ago.
Although barracudas still inhabit the lake, there’s no need to be afraid as they’ve been known to be completely harmless to humans. It’s definitely a must-visit for those who are looking for a unique diving experience.
Cuttlefish Shawl, Puerto Princesa
The Cuttlefish Shawl in Puerto Princessa is an ideal dive spot for those who are looking for a more challenging dive. Its great depths are home to various sea turtles, angelfish, barracuda, and the cuttlefish, which are known for their fantastic ability to change their shape, texture, and color to blend into their surroundings.
Even with a lot of experience in deep diving, the site can be difficult to locate so it’s best to find a local guide who can point you in the right direction and give you important tips for the dive.
The Wall, Roxas
The Wall may not be that popular, but it’s a great spot filled with excellent marine biology. It’s only a twenty-minute boat ride away from the main island and is frequented by underwater photographers. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced scuba diver, you’ll find something new during each plunge into The Wall’s impressive display of beautiful and diverse marine life. Make sure you have your underwater camera!
Bulawit Bay, Linapacan
If you’re on a budget, check out the very accessible Bulawit Bay. Located just off the pier coast southwest of the jagged main island of Linapacan, you’ll find seagrass floors and starfish in shallow waters. Navigate past 150 meters and you’ll reach a drop-off point where you will be welcomed by a wider range of marine life forms, including eels, barracudas, batfish, pipefish, ribbon fish, and other tropical fish species.
Apo Reef Natural Park
Although technically located within the borders of Occidental Mindoro, the Apo Reef Natural Park is accessible from Coron via liveaboard. Aside from being the largest contiguous coral reef system in the country, the Apo Reef is the second-largest in the world (after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef) and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You won’t be disappointed by the abundance of coral reefs, steep walls, coral-covered shipwrecks, and marine creatures like sharks, mantas, barracudas, bumphead parrotfish, and other species of colorful fishes. If you’re a beginner, don’t worry; you can go snorkeling in shallow areas where you can still find some corals, fish, and even a 50 meter-long shipwreck just 15 meters underwater near the lighthouse!
What are your other favorite Palawan diving destinations? Let us know in the comments below!