Anilao is a unique dive destination located in the Batangas region on the main island of Luzon just 2.5 hours southwest of the Philippine capital, Manila. Anilao’s calm waters have been a favourite amongst the local dive community for more than 50 years and claims to be the birthplace of diving in all of the Philippines.
Over the years, countless Manila divers have come to complete their open water dive training, expand their dive skills or just enjoy the quick access to great dives. What many of these divers didn’t realise was the significance of the abundant marine life found here. Ocean and tidal currents, depth and other elements have come together in a way to make this small enclave a very unique dive destination indeed.
Geographically, Anilao is located on the middle part of a large “W” shaped peninsula, surrounded by two large bays. To the west is the Balayan Bay and the east is Batangas Bay. The “Verde Island Passage”, known for its dense biodiversity, also supplies this coastal region of Batangas with a fresh and abundant supply of sea life that naturally makes scuba diving here so exciting.
While remaining a local favourite, Anilao has also gained an international reputation as being a prime destination for underwater macro photography. The area is regarded as a “muckdiving” paradise, with critter-rich dive sites like Secret Bay, the Mabini Pier and Arthur’s Rock boasting numerous sought-after and highly photogenic critters. Hairy frogfish, stargazers, rare nudibranchs, even Rhinopias can all be seen with regularity in Anilao – especially with the help of a local spotter.
But if hovering over a sandy bottom isn’t your thing, perhaps a colourful wall dive at Kirby’s Rock might do the trick. Alternatively, explore the coral gardens of Sombrero Island, a local wreck dive, or visit the shallow pinnacles of Apohls Point. Anilao is never short on dive sites and has something to offer divers of all skill levels.
It’s true that diving remains supreme in Anilao but there are also some other things to see and do when visiting. Anilao is best known for its underwater nightlife as opposed to a bar scene (which doesn’t really exist), so if you fancy a drink or two, you’re better off hanging out at your resort. Instead, to really feel the pulse of what Anilao is all about, use the following ideas as a pointer for visiting like a local:
Hike to the top of “Gulugod Baboy” (roughly translated as the “hog’s spine”) for a commanding view of the two bays. On a clear day you can see across the pass to the island of Mindoro and all the way from Verde Island on the left past Sombrero Island to the right. The “spine” is a narrow single file walkway from one hilltop to the next on a green windswept hillside.
Island hopping and sunbathing on one of the scenic nearby islands will give you a true “castaway” feel. Spend the day without seeing another soul as the sun crosses the sky.
Relax like a local in one of the volcanic superheated mineral hot springs. A local resort has harnessed the heat and built large mineral pools that make a fun night out that adds to the local experience.
Windsurfing and Kiteboarding
Windsurfing and kiteboarding in Balayan Bay are very popular amongst the locals and a seasonal favourite. Plan to be here from January to March to take advantage of the cool easterly winds that gust across the bay each afternoon.
Ocean kayaking over shallow reefs and clear blue waters is a memorable experience and a great way to unwind from the demands of another world. Either by shore or by boat, kayaking is a great way to get away and enjoy the quiet.
Barbecue on the Beach
Enjoy a barbecue and picnic on the secluded Sepoc Island beach, just a short 30-minute boat trip away. It’s perfect for get-togethers with family and friends, or even that special one-of- a-kind wedding photo.
Snorkel in one of the protected marine parks. Twin Rocks, Arthur’s Rock and Cathedral Rock are all marine protected areas that offer colourful corals, and an assortment of reef fish and turtles.
Top Dive Resorts
- Crystal Blue Resort is built for underwater photographers, with renowned guides, a 23-bay camera room, on-site photo pro, 17 air-conditioned rooms and a trained chef. The resort conducts underwater photo workshops year round.
- Vivere Azure offers 13 boutique suites with lovely views of Anilao, and activities ranging from diving and snorkelling to surfing and kayaking, with the promise of a relaxing spa massage afterwards.
- Sea’s Spring Resort, facing Secret Bay, has over 65 rooms for leisure, a dive operation, Korean barbeque restaurant and mineral hot springs.
- Anilao Beach Club serves up a mean menu of native Filipino dishes and international fare, but many come for the famous giant burgers, designed for four!
- Johanna’s Grille (P. Burgos, Batangas) in Bauan is famous for their baby back ribs. Be sure to order the large rack with extra barbecue sauce if you’ve had an exhausting day’s diving. Johanna’s also has a nice assortment of beers and a full bar.
- Sea’s Spring Resort Korean barbecue is a great treat when visiting the hot springs. Be sure to order the Spicy chicken soup and enjoy the assorted kimchi.
- OMG (Majuben, Mabini) is another local restaurant that serves up a thick hearty noodle soup called lomi. Lomi is made with seafood or chicken (or whatever the menu has to offer) but is always topped with pork crackling. Lomi shacks can be seen at many of the dive sites and make a great way to warm up between dives.
Anilao is a year-round destination but the ideal times are October to June. The strong monsoons in July and August are best avoided. Throughout the year, expect great visibility, around 20 metres, and air temperatures averaging 25°C. The water temperature is around 27°C in the April–May peak season, dropping to about 25°C in the cooler January–March months.
International Airport, which is well connected to cities around the world. Your resort can arrange your transfer from Manila. Alternatively, hire a private car or take a taxi, bus or jeepney if you’re feeling adventurous.
Most foreign nationals will be granted a visa on arrival for stays of up to one month, but check with the Philippines embassy in your country. Check the luggage weight restrictions for inner island flight transfers and ferry systems.