Bohol is an island in the Philippines which effortlessly entwines everything Filipino. From lush, green jungles to pristine white beaches, Spanish inspired churches and the tiny tarsier. It is also home to world class dive spots and of course, the unforgettable Chocolate Hills.
This is the ideal location to start your Filipino adventure as there is just so many things to do in Bohol.
how long to spend on bohol?
If like me, you only have a limited time here then to make the most of it I would recommend you split your time between Loboc and Panglao Island and allow at least 5 days to see everything Bohol has to offer and even a couple more if you plan on diving.
Where to stay on Bohol?
Loboc is situated on Bohol itself and is the perfect base for exploring The Chocolate Hills, The Tarsier Sanctuary, taking in a Loboc River Cruise and visiting the Baclayon Church. We done these things whilst based in Alona Beach on Panglao Island, however it meant we had at least a two hour drive to reach these places. So, in hindsight it would have been better to actually stay on Bohol and then move onto Alona Beach. I have heard great things about Nuts Huts, accommodation which offers a quiet slice of paradise in the Bohol jungle.
Bohol is surrounded by over 50 islands and Panglao Island is the most popular of these, connected to Bohol via two bridges. Most people flock to Panglao to dive and base themselves on Alona beach which is a 1.5km stretch of white sand. Whilst Alona Beach cannot compete with the other incredible beaches in the Philippines, it has plenty of bars and restaurants and is full of other travellers so it is a nice place to relax for a few days and a good base for diving and exploring Panglao. I stayed in the Alona Swiss Resort which was perfect. It was a short walk from the beach, had its own pool and gorgeous gardens.
View from our Balcony, Alona Swiss Resort
What to do in bohol
With so many things to do in Bohol; here are the highlights which you absolutely cannot miss!
The Chocolate Hills
The Chocolate Hills is one of the most famous attractions in the Philippines which consists of over 1200 mounds over 50 square kilometres. These hills turn a chocolately brown in the dry season, hence the name, and remain a complete mystery to scientists even today. These majestic hills are unlike anything I have seen and the sheer number of them creates the most stunning landscape. There is a well trodden route through the chocolate hills with viewpoints peppered throughout, we rented a motorbike and headed to the Sagbayan Peak which is the furthest away and least promoted viewpoint which meant we were the only people there and the views to ourselves. The journey to Sagbayan Peak took two hours on motorbike from Alona Beach, and as the sun sets at 5.30pm in the Philippines I would recommend heading as early as possible as driving in the dark is not the best idea.
On the way to Sagbayan Peak, you can stop off at Camugao Waterfall for a swim!
Visit The Tarsiers
Tarsiers are the smallest primates in the world and are endangered. These little guys are nocturnal animals so you will most likely see them sleeping during the day. They are also incredibly sensitive to light and noise, and will commit suicide if they become stressed!
The best and most ecological way to see Tarsiers is to visit the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella. Tarsiers in this sanctuary are wild, which is far better than visiting some enclosed "sanctuary" with hounds of tourists flashing cameras.
Relax the the Beach
There are some gorgeous beaches on Panglao island once you get away from Alona beach. We rented a motorbike and drove around the island, my favourite beach was Dumaloan. Only 15 minutes on motorbike from Alona, you are greeted with an expanse of white sand and crystal clear water, and hardly any people.
We were told the best beaches are on the east side of Bohol island but sadly we didn't have enough time to visit any, but if you are in Bohol for longer then this an area i would suggest checking out! (and let me know how you found it!)
You can also do an island hopping tour from Panglao Island which will take you to Virgin Island and Balacasang Island, we had signed up to do this but managed to get sick the night before and due to the 6am start we were unable to make it. I've heard great things about these island though, and Balacasang is very popular with scuba divers and snorkelers. The island hopping trip cost us 1200 pesos each, starts at 6am and you should get back to Panglao about 2pm.
Have lunch at The Bohol Bee Farm
Bohol Bee Farm is one the best places I visited in all of Bohol. Not only is the food amazing, but everything is grown locally on the farm, you can learn all about honey bees (Did you know one honey bee will only make about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime?!) and it is home to the best gift shop in all of Bohol. It also offers the most gorgeous views. Oh, and the mango butter is AMAZING!!
View with lunch
Take a Loboc River Cruise
The Loboc River Cruise makes for a relaxing afternoon as you sail down the lusciously green Loboc River whilst enjoying a buffet lunch. The scenery is stunning and it is the perfect opportunity to try some local cuisine. There is live music on board (Filipino's just can't get enough of live music!) and the boat also stops halfway down the river where a local group perform by singing and dancing to Filipino music.
We really enjoyed our time in Bohol, for us, it was the perfect balance between authentic and touristy, beaches and jungles. Bohol itself is a gorgeous island and we would like to go back and spend more time here as there is still so much i didn't see. Despite the fact Alona Beach is very westernised now, it was nice to have so many bars and restaurants in the one area. I wouldn't recommend staying here for anymore than a few days and don't expect an authentic Filipino experience, but if you are looking for somewhere to simply recharge with a few home comforts then stopping here could be ideal.
Bohol was our very first taste of the Philippines and it made us want to see even more.