The beautiful and friendly Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands so a visit to this country requires some serious planning. On our recent four week adventure we managed to see the busy city of Manila, the gorgeous island of Palawan, the mind blowing Banaue rice terraces and Cordilleras and the incredible province of Bohol.
Although we loved each and every place we went in the Philippines we would have to say that Bohol offered the most variety in terms of different landscapes, unique sights and fun activities.
The island province of Bohol is actually made up of two islands, the large Bohol and the tiny Panglao. The two are situated between Cebu and Leyte in the Visayas and are joined by two bridges so you barely notice that you are leaving one island and entering the next.
Bohol has so much to see and do that you could easily stay a couple of weeks in this peaceful and scenic area of the Philippines. Here you can find mountains, beaches, rivers, jungles, eco-adventures, Colonial Spanish churches and exotic creatures and more. It’s quite impressive that this one region contains such diversity.
Since there is so much to see in Bohol and it is quite a large island it’s a good idea to decide what your priorities are so you can map out a good route. Here is our personal list of favorites which should help get you started.
Bohol Island Countryside
Chocolate Hills of Carmen
These one of a kind hill formations number between 1,200 and and 1,700 and spread over an area of 50 square kilometers making for a very unique spectacle. In the rainy seasons these conical, almost symmetrical shaped hills of limestone are covered in green grass but in the dry season the grass turns brown giving it the look of big mounds of chocolate.
Although not yet considered a UNESCO World Heritage site they are a National Geological Monument and one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines.
Not quite one of a kind but definitely very unique are the teeny tiny Tarsiers. These timid little primates have massive round eyes, elongated hind legs and fingers and can fit into the palm of your hand. They are considered an endangered species but the Philippines Tarsier Foundation sanctuary in Bohol is one of the few that are showing some success at conservation.
When visiting Tarsiers it is necessary to be very quiet and not use flash photography as they startle easily and can quite literally be scared to death. Be sure to visit only a responsible sanctuary like the Philippines Tarsier Foundation near Corella town.
The calm and pretty Loboc river winds it’s way through the rainforest and is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. Here you can board a barge for a leisurely lunch or dinner cruise, explore the river by stand up paddle boards or take an evening boat ride to watch the magical dance of the fireflies.
Although the Loboc River and Chocolate Hills can be seen together in a day trip we chose to spend the night as there are some charming riverside accommodations.
On the way to the Chocolate Hills, just outside the town of Bilar you will drive through the Mahogany Forest. This densely treed, 2 km man made forest was planted by hand and creates a welcome and surprising temperature drop as you drive through. Being from the forested west coast of North America we probably wouldn’t make a special trip to the Bohol Mahogany Forest but it is quite a lovely sight as you make your way up the island.
Bohol has several nice beaches but the most popular, arguably the most beautiful and definitely the most developed is Alona Beach on Panglao Island. This 1.5 km stretch of soft, white sand slopes gradually into clear turquoise waters perfect for swimming, snorkeling and even some diving off shore.
Although the beach is lined with hotels, restaurants and bars it still feels pretty low key and peaceful and the convenient location makes it a great spot for a home base to visit many of Bohol’s sights.
Bohol Bee Farm
The Bohol Bee Farm is a combination of resort, spa, restaurants, shops, farm and teaching facility. Their goal is to encourage, teach and inspire local farmers to use organic farming practices and the food served at the restaurants is organic, fresh and locally grown.
Even if you don’t choose to spend a night in their charming eco-friendly rooms definitely plan to spend a few hours here for a meal and tour of the place. There is also a fabulous selection of arts and crafts and locally made natural foods and beauty products for sale.
This cave hides an underground lake lit only but a few holes of sunlight piercing the roof of the cave. It is quite a unique sight and reminded us of the cenotes we’ve visited in Mexico. Inside the cave you will see stalagmites and stalactites as well as hear the flapping of birds and bats wings. Swimming is allowed in the small lake but it is quite chilly and very unnerving not to be able to see below the surface.
There are numerous Spanish Colonial churches in Bohol but unfortunately many of then were badly damaged in the recent earthquake. Still it’s worth stopping by a few, especially Loboc church and Baclyon Church.
Where to Stay in Bohol
Panglao island tends to be the most popular place to stay in Bohol due to the easy access to beaches, restaurants, diving and Bohol sights. Alona Beach is the most touristy and built up with plenty of accommodation options but there is also Panglao town itself, Dauis and a number os smaller communities and resorts around the island. A good place to look for accommodations of all price ranges in Bohol and around the Philippines is Traveloka.
How to Get to Bohol
Air: There are daily flights from Manila to Tagbilaran which take just over an hour.
Once in Tagbilaran you will take a jeepney, motorbike or tricycle taxi to your destination.
Getting Around Bohol
The best way to get around the islands is to rent your own motorbike. This will give you the ability to tour the islands at your own pace and stop at any of the numerous sights along the way. Motorbike rental will run about 500-600 Pesos per day.
If you don’t like the idea of driving your own motorbike you hire a bike with a driver or you can get around quite well by jeepney or motorbike and tricycle taxis.
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