Looking for your next training destination? Dahab, Kalamata, Dean's Blue Hole? Maybe you should take a look at Panglao, the Philippines' leading freediving spot. And why should you do that? Martin Zapanta knows.

The Island

Panglao is a small island located in the Central Visayas province of Bohol. The turquoise waters around Panglao Island offer perfect conditions for freediving training and snorkeling along the tropical reefs with all of their colorful inhabitants. A water temperature of 29 degrees and stunning visibility almost all year round make it one of the top locations for diving and snorkeling. 

Getting There

When you arrive in the Philippines from Manila, you can take any daily domestic flights to Panglao International Airport. The flight takes about an hour and fifteen minutes via Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, or Air Asia. Once you arrive in Panglao, you can hire a taxi or tricycle to your resort which will take around 5-10minutes of land travel. If you are coming from Cebu, you can take the ferries going to Tagbilaran City in Bohol. The fast ferries leave multiple times a day, and it will take about 90 minutes to Bohol. From the pier in Tagbilaran, a taxi or tricycle can bring you to Panglao, which will take approximately 20 minutes.

Freedive Panglao

Before the pandemic, thousands of freedivers worldwide would flock to the island for training, competition, and to explore the beautiful waters and reefs of Panglao. The first school was Freedive Panglao, founded in 2012 by German national record holder Stefan Randig and Korean national record holder Dongha Kim also known as DK. But now it is being run by John Folkvord, Air Yang, and Martin Zapanta. Panglao Island was tagged as Asia's freediving capital. Top freediving athletes, namely Alexey Molchanov, William Trubridge, Guillaume Nery, William Winram, Hanako Hirose, and Adam Stern visited Panglao. There are nine freediving schools in Panglao, and they offer courses from AIDA, Molchanov, and SSI. At the same time, Alenka Artnik regularly trains in Freedive Panglao for Vertical Blue competition and World Championships.

The Event

Asian Freediving Cup, the biggest competition in the region, is an annual event organized by Freedive Panglao. It is the most awaited event in Asia. More than 60 male and female athletes worldwide are competing for the title and overall ranking. 


If you want to dive deeper, training in Panglao is effortless and accessible. You have unlimited depth close to the shore and options on where to freedive depending on the monsoon. If it's northeast monsoon, it's ideal for diving in Danao. If it's southwest monsoon, you can change location to Doljo. On some dive sites, such as Napaling Reef, you don't need a boat to go out. You can easily swim out and anchor at one mooring buoy.

Fun Diving

Panglao is the perfect spot for recreational divers and explorers if you are not into competitive freediving. About 10 kilometers away from Panglao is Balicasag Island, a tiny island with fantastic reef and marine life. Here you will easily find the school of jackfish, green sea turtles, and, if you are lucky, eagle ray and whale sharks. On the other side of Panglao, there is Pamilacan Island, famous for dolphin watching, and the school of barracuda. On some occasions, you might also see marine mammals such as pilot whales and blue whales.

Where To Stay

There are many apartments and resorts in Panglao. If you are staying for the long term, it's better to live in an apartment. The average monthly rent for a studio type and one-bedroom apartment is roughly around PHP10,000 to PHP15,000 a month. Budget resorts range from PHP3,000 to PHP7,000 per night, and high-end resorts can go up to PHP10,000 to PHP25,000 per night. Some freediving schools have accommodation, or they can recommend a good apartment through their partners.

Where to Eat

If you love food, it will be easy for you to find a restaurant in Panglao, especially along Alona, the busiest part of Panglao Island. There are many Italian restaurants, Swiss-German restaurants, Chinese and Korean restaurants. Indian, Mexican, Greek, and Filipino food is also easy to find. If you are vegan or vegetarian, some restaurants specialize in this. Restaurant food ranges from PHP250 to PHP350 per meal, while in a local cafeteria, it's only around PHP100 to PHP200 per meal. There are also bars and a few clubs in Alona if you want to unwind. Alcoholic beverages cost around PHP70 to PHP200 per drink.

The Weather

The high season on Bohol is from December until May. During this time, the weather in Bohol is usually dry, with only very few rain showers from time to time. The temperature during this high season ranges from 28c to 32c in the daytime and drops to about 25c at night. It gets scorching in Bohol from March until July, with temperatures rising to 38c in the day. 

The typhoon season in the Philippines lasts from Jun until December. Luckily, Bohol is located a little south of the infamous "typhoon street" and rarely gets hit by typhoons. August to November is the wet season. During these months, the weather conditions and the resulting sea conditions can be unpredictable. The water temperature around Panglao is about 28c to 29c throughout the year.

Other Activities

There are tons of activities to do on the island of Bohol. But aside from seeing the usual tourist spots like chocolate hills and tarsier sanctuary. Bohol is also a unique place for camping and hiking. It features magnificent sights such as a sea of clouds, lakes, rivers, hills, and mountains.

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