Bohol is located in the Central Visayas Region in the Philippines. If you visit Bohol, you should know that is a popular destination, with lots of natural beauty, with beautiful beaches and resorts. One of the most popular attraction is The Chocolate Hills which you can see from different points, either by land and by flying. Bohol is also popular for Panglao Island and the Philippine tarsier, a unique mammal, and the world’s smallest primates.
How to get to Bohol?
There are daily ferries going to Bohol from Dumaguete, Siquijor (weekly), Cebu (fast ferry, 2 hours for 400 pesos) and Cagayan de Oro (night ferry, 570 pesos, 8-9 hours). There are direct flights from Manila and Cebu. The arrival point in Bohol is the capital Tagbilaran. If you get to Tagbilaran by ferry, you can walk going downtown (15-20 minutes walking distance) or take a tricycle from the ferry terminal to downtown.
Visit Bohol: Where to go
Panglao Island is around 45 minutes jeepney ride from Tagbilaran. How to get to Panglao? From the port, you can walk (15 minutes) to the town where jeepneys leave to Panglao. The ride costs 25 pesos. It’s a great experience going by jeepney, 20 kilometers from Tagbilaran to Panglao, with children going to school and locals who go for work. Panglao is very cheerful and a very beautiful island and there are just many plans to do!
Things to do in Panglao
If the water is quiet and calm, paddling is a perfect plan. You can practice sport while enjoying nice view. And if you love chasing sunsets like us, do it while paddling, and we guarantee you not only beautiful photos, but also simple unforgettable moments.
You can kayak to explore the beaches, and look for areas you can snorkel. The sea is beautiful, and a good afternoon kayaking can lead you to areas of the water where you can watch starfishes, beautiful corals, and yes, meet locals who are doing their daily toil, catching fish and sea food to earn a living. Love seeing how these men work, and enjoy their fishing. If you are more experienced with the kayak, you can even explore other islands. Just make sure you always check the weather, and any news from coast guards, as these are all set for your safe navigation and travel in the sea.
Cycling to visit Bohol
Panglao is very small. If you rent a bicycle, you can visit local places to see how people live. This is a must for us when we are visiting every place and city. Always be reminded that, beyond all the touristic spots, there are people who live in that area, and visiting these places always give you new learnings on how different people live their lives. If you love cycling, this is definitely a great thing to do in Panglao as there is much less traffic.
Swimming and Relaxing
You can have an easy day swimming, reading, sunbathing. We really loved this infinity pool in Bluewater Panglao with direct views to the sea! The water is very beautiful, and the place is very relaxing. Whether you are enjoying a swim in the infinity pool, or in the privacy of your own villas, you will definitely be full of the natural good vibes!
We had the chance to do snorkeling in Panglao! We saw small fishes and a few star fishes. It’s even better if you kayaked the area, and found more spots to snorkel.
Having a coconut
If you think this is just so banal, think again. Drinking coconut, in a place easily considered paradise is so underrated. Do it, every time you get the chance. The country’s weather is warm, and Panglao is quiet and beautiful, so we did have these perfect moments to relax. And yes, it’s the island life. ha!
We had our first Filipino massage: Hilot. And it was super relaxing. We SUPER loved the place where we had our Amuma Massage inside the garden with a really beautiful set up, just right in the middle of nature. It was actually very surprising, as we didn’t think that Filipino massage was that popular, compared to Thai, Swedish and Balinese massage. However, we are so glad that we were able to try it. It’s even one of the best massages we’ve ever tried to date.
Try something traditional
For the first time in the Philippines, we were able to experience a traditional dance together. In the Aplaya Restaurant, they served themed dinners, and Friday is the Barrio Fiesta, where you get to experience the traditional food in a Filipino Fiesta (fiestas are festivals often celebrated in the name of the patron saint of a particular city. Much of these fiestas are from the influence of the Spanish regime) setup. During our stay, we were able to enjoy watching the traditional dances like Tinikling.
If you don’t like going to bed early, then why not experience the night life in Bohol? In Panglao, this is very possible. You can go around Alona beach and you will enjoy various night life activities, where you can see both locals and foreigners. You can have dinners, drinks, and party with the various choices you have. Want a more intimate scene? Rachel and I chose a romantic dinner together by the beach. Definitely one of the most unforgetable moments of the trip!
Visit Alona Beach
Alona Beach is very busy during the day with people sunbathing, swimming, and many boats for the tours and activities. It’s not really a bad scene, because the place is definitely full of life – with various restaurants to choose from, cooking different cuisines. The beach is big enough to find a quiet place for you, in case that’s the vibe that you are looking for. There are cliffs you can climb, which we did a lot, to see the whole sea scene in a different light. We climb the cliffs to start and end our day in Panglao.
Meeting local fishermen
Local fisherman are fishing very close to the seashore. It’s a great opportunity to go there and watch how do they do they work. We had a great time watching these hardworking men extend their net to the sea, and catch fish. You can even buy fresh fishes from them and have them fresh sea food for lunch!
If you are an early bird, you will have the opportunity to catch the sunrise from Alona Beach. After that, you can enjoy the day in the beach, have a daytrip to Balicasag and other neighboring islands, spend the day in Panglao or visit The Chocolate Hills.
It’s not much of a secret anymore that we are so addicted to watching sunsets. In Panglao, we watched sunsets while kayaking and paddling. The colors were absolutely breathtaking, and it’s just perfect to enjoy with water activities. A must-do definitely. These small moments can easily make your stay in Bohol (or really, any other beach for that matter) extra memorable.
Where to sleep in a budget in Panglao?
We stayed in Twin Tides Panglao, which was a great option when traveling on a budget. Twin Tides Panglao is very new, small, and stylish hotel with a great location – a few minutes walk from Alona beach. We enjoyed their breakfast choices, and the time flexibility was actually really good. You can either choose to have them prepare you a very early breakfast or have a late breakfast at around 12 noon, after your day trip to the islands. Quiet and calm atmosphere in the hotel, simple, but really good for a cheap stay. It’s pretty much incomparable to hostels since it’s really just a small hotel with all the amenities you will need.
We enjoyed the great breakfasts in Twin Tides Panglao. Western choices and even Korean soups like Ramen.
Where to stay for a full luxury experience in Panglao?
We spent a few days in Bluewater Panglao where you will enjoy the best luxury in Bohol, for a reasonable price. You can enjoy your own villa with a private pool, perfect for intimate moments, or just enjoying a private and exclusive time with friends or family. You can also have your own private beach where you can enjoy your day, whether its activities on the island itself, or getting your own boat and touring the neighboring islands, like Balicasag. The staff is very friendly and will treat you like family, and don’t even get us started with the food. Filipino food at its best! Check the next section for more of their amazing food choices.
What to eat in Panglao?
It’s hard not to think about eating while watching the sea view, that’s why breakfasts with a view were non-negotiable! Starting the day with a wide selection of fruits, juices, good bread, hard coffee and even hot chocolate made our days very positive. They say start your mornings right and you’ll have a great day ahead of you. And it’s definitely true! Want the authentic Filipino experience? They usually start their day with full breakfasts whiich usually include rice and egg, and a choice between dried fish, tomatoes, and other fried dishes like tapa (beef) and sausages.
We tried local dishes in Panglao like adobo with fried rice, lechon one of the typical dishes in the Philippines. And the most popular dish in Panglao and Bohol: Ube. If you love sweet things, you definitely shouldn’t miss the Philippine’ ube halaya!
What to visit around Bohol
Visit Balicasag Island
The most popular island tour from Panglao is the visit to Balicasag Island. Panglao is full of daily boats going to Balicasag from Alona beach, to experience the most popular fish sanctuary and turtle areas, either for snorkeling or diving. Prices start from 700 to 1000 pesos. It depends on the activities that you choose to do and how good you are dealing with the tour sellers (prices aren’t fixed). The departure of the boat to Balicasag is around 6 am from Alona Beach and boats are back around 1 pm. The tour starts with a dolphin watching on the way to Balicasag. Then, in Balicasag Island you can do snorkeling, swimming, and watching fishes and turtles. Too bad for us that for our scheduled snorkeling day in Panglao, they didn’t let our boats go due to gale warning. 🙁 Our boats men actually forced the boats to go, but the coast guards stopped the boat finally. For now, here are some information on the Balicasag island tour. We are hopeful to get our own photos and videos when we go back there!
Visit The Chocolate Hills
The Chocolate Hills is one of the most popular places in the Philippines and it’s a must if you visit Bohol. How to get to The Chocolate Hills? At the beginning we planned to go to Tagbilaran by jeepney and going by public transportation to Chocolate Hills. But when we found out that there were tours in Panglao for 300 pesos each person, we decided to join a tour the whole day. And the experience was nice, stopping in different places. You only pay for the transportation and you decide if you want to purchase the entrances during the tour or you don´t. The tour is starts around 9 am from Panglao and finishes around 5 pm in Panglao. Tours companies will pick you up from your hotel in the morning and they will drive you back in the afternoon. The entrance fee to The Chocolate Hills is 50 pesos per person.
See The Philippine Tarsier in the Tarsier Sanctuary
Apart from The Chocolate Hills, it’s a must when you visit Bohol to have a visit to the Tarsier Sanctuary. There are around 100 Tarsiers in the sanctuary and it will be easy to see some of them and take a picture. Tarsiers are very quiet mammals, and very endangered. They quietly stay in trees, the size of a palm of a hand, with big ball eyes. If you see them hanging on the tree, they don´t usually move. The entrance fee for the Tarsier Sanctuary is 50 pesos per person. And tarsiers are so cute, you would love to take pictures of them! Just make sure you don’t scare them away, as they are considered to be very sensitive.
Zip Lining over the Loboc River
For 350 pesos, you can already enjoy an amazing top view of the Loboc River and the surrounding palm trees and greenery surrounding it. If you love adventure, not afraid of heights, and want to discover Bohol in another way, you definitely have to do it!
The Baclayon church is included in the UNESCO World Heritage. It was founded in 1296 by Jesuit priest Juand de Torres and Gabriel Sánchez. It suffered damage in the eartquake in 2013. There is an entrance fee 50 pesos per person. If you love heritage sites, and infrastructure and buildings inspired by the old times, you definitely need to see this.
There are boats sailing around the river. Loboc River is great scenery to watch and take pictures of. For 450 pesos, the most popular activity promoted here is to have lunch while cruising the river. As you see, we pass on the chance to have lunch, since we wanted to just go around and eat in the local places, and take a picture of the river from the top (this one’s taken from the bridge).
As you can see there are many plans to do in Bohol and Panglao. That’s why it is one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines. And if you want to know more places to visit in the Philippines, read here to know more about our experience hiking Taal Volcano. And click here to read our experience in Boracay Island.
Planning to visit Bohol in your next trip to the Philippines ? Tell us what you are most excited about! Or if you’ve been here and you feel we missed anything, let us know.
Happy travels everyone!