Bohol, Where All the Charms Are Waiting to be Discovered

Guide to Planning Your Trip to Bohol
Way back in the distant past, two godly giants had a fight. They ended up throwing huge lumps of mud at each other. As time passed, these large mounds of earth became the Chocolate Hills. Or so the legend says. While these magnificent land forms are Bohol’s most famous landmark, they are by no means the only attractions in the area. This island province of Visayas is also known as a haven of natural beauty. Surrounded by 75 minor islands, Bohol is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.

Bohol is also home to several breathtaking activities. Marvel at the vista of Chocolate Hills via an ultralight plane tour. For those more inclined, you can climb the beautifully shaped landforms. The Loboc River cruise is also another prime activity.

Southwest of the capital Tagbilaran is Panglao Island, internationally renowned for its pristine diving spots. Its southern beaches are also home to spectacular beach resorts. The rest of Bohol’s coastline is also the site of several white sand retreats.

For the nature-lover, Bohol is the home of the tarsier -- one of the smallest primates in the world. Dolphin and whale watching are also popular attractions, especially from March to June. Bird-watchers can have their fill at the Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape, which has grasslands, forests, and natural springs.

For those who take pleasure in vintage architecture, the province also has several old stone churches worth visiting for their beauty. An example is the Baclayon Church, which was established in the late 1500s.

Food tripping is also a great way to enjoy the Bohol experience.There are several restaurants, cafes, eateries, and even plain old carinderias that offer the best of Bohol’s cuisine. Many of the locals still grow their own food, so everything is fresh and natural. Bohol is also famous for its honey, since there are significant bee farms in the area. Nightlife is also abundant, with clubs and bars at every major location.

Trekking to Bohol does not mean you have to leave the comfortable city life behind. There are several lovely bed-and-breakfast inns, as well as a slew of top-notch hotels. These accommodations aren’t meant to dig into your wallet too much either. Whatever your budget is, you can find a nice place to stay in the island. Make sure you plan your vacation ahead, though -- rooms are very scarce during peak seasons. This includes Christmas, New Year, and Holy Week breaks. This is just a picture of how the island has progresses as a tourist destination.

An airport in Tagbilaran allows people to travel freely in and out of the province. There are also seaports that offer routes to neighboring islands. The island is separated from the province of Cebu by a narrow strait, so travel between the two tourist destinations is a breeze. Once you’re there, rental cars, buses, and taxi cars will help you find your way around.

Bohol is truly a paradise many are yet to experience. It does not have the excessive commercialization of other top tourist spots (like Boracay). However, it has all the charm of a new world waiting to be discovered. Hop on a plane and make your way here -- it’s a new adventure from the moment you land!

Getting Around the Island Gem
Filipinos have been learning about the Chocolate Hills ever since elementary school. But what about actually paying this land a visit? It’s easier than you think, and Bohol is much more rewarding a place than any book says.

Bohol is located in the central Visayas area, with one major island and around 75 surrounding minor islands. It has neighboring provinces Cebu and Leyte to the west and north-east respectively. To its south is the Bohol Sea, which opens up to Mindanao. Bohol’s capital city is Tagbilaran, which is also the location of its very own airport.

Getting to Bohol from Manila is easy. All budget airlines have regular flights from Manila to Tagbilaran. These include Philippine Airlines, Zest Air, Air Asia, and Cebu Pacific. Note that as of the moment, the airport is only open during the day. There is a lined up set of renovations to the facility, however, and it is expected that night flights will also be allowed soon. The average travel time from Manila to Bohol is only about an hour and 20 minutes.

If you are already in Visayas and want to hop over from neighbouring Cebu, you can get there via Fast Ferry Services. There are three operators currently plying the narrow strait between the two islands: 2GO, OceanJet, and Weesam Express. The ferry ride lasts around 2 hours. The tourist pier in Tagbilaran can handle nine daily ferries from Cebu while also berthing ships from Manila, Dumaguete, Dipolog, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Larena, Plaridel, and Ozamiz. There are four terminals dedicated to northern Mindanao and Cebu ferries.

There are also alternative routes to Bohol, for those wanting to take their own vehicle. A car ferry can depart from Manila, and land at Cebu. From there, you can transfer to another ferry to land at Tagbilaran. The entire travel time takes about an entire day, so do this only if you have a lot of time to kill (or if you really need to have your own car on the ground).

Once you’re on the ground, you have a slew of transportation options. The entire island can be accessible via busses and taxis. Many of the province’s towns have bus terminals that allow you to get to neighboring areas with ease. Taxis are also abundant, though many of them negotiate the fares beforehand. You can also rent cars so you could take your own route.

Since Bohol is a small island, tourists can go around via motorbike. You can cruise through the coastal roads and view the sparkling blue seas. The roads in this part are in good condition, better than the average Asian standard. The interior areas are also particularly scenic, and one can get an overview of the island’s beauty just by taking this route.

Bohol is a gem that is largely undiscovered for many Filipinos. The scenery, the local life, the biodiversity, the pristine waters -- these are all things that draw tourists from all over. Go to Bohol and experience the magic -- it’s easier than you expected.

Top Attractions

If you want a magical place to satisfy all your wanderlust, Bohol is the perfect place to go. The sheer number of places you can visit and activities you can do there will leave you breathless. And once you’ve tried them all, you’ll keep coming back for more.
Here are just some of the best places to see around this central Visayan wonderland.

1. The Chocolate Hills
Who said lots of chocolate is bad for you? The rest of the world have nothing like these hills. More than 1,200 mounds of chocolate brown earth rise from 30 to 120 meters high. The complex is a National Heritage Shrine, spread for about 50 kilometers.

2. Sagbayan Peak
Want to see the hills from a bird’s eye view? At Sagbayan Peak’s viewing platform, you get that plus the sparkling blue seas beyond. This resort stands above the town of Sagbayan. Climbing the steps is sure to make you hungry, but you can always drop by their restaurant.

3. Tarsier Sanctuary
The tour through the sanctuary takes less than half an hour, but the experience is priceless. See the cute animals in their natural habitat, and take home some souvenirs.

4. Mahogany Forest
Once you’re in, it’s hard to believe that this place is actually man-made. The artificial forest is the first and only in the Philippines. It’s a two-square kilometer patch of mahogany trees planted in close proximity.

5. Loboc River
Have fun in the spectacularly clean waters of Loboc river, and enjoy a fine meal at a floating restaurant mid-river. There is also the hanging bridge made of bamboo in the river’s upper part. This is the perfect treat for thrill-seekers -- many consider it to be one of the scariest hanging bridges in the world.

6. Churches
Ancient churches still remain standing in Bohol, even after the 2013 mega earthquake that destroyed many of them. You can still see parts of history through the Albuquerque, Loboc and Baclayon churches.

7. Blood Compact Shrine
The Visayas region was the epicenter of early Spanish colonization. Located in Tagbilaran, the shrine is a tribute to the first friendship treaty between Spain and the Philippines. Here, in 1565, colonist Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and the local Datu Sikatuna forged a bond of friendship.

8. The beaches
Bohol has several major beaches. Doljo beach is perfect for an afternoon of snorkeling. Dumaluan beach is recommended for those looking for some quiet time. Panglao Island is also famous for its perfect dive spots. For those seeking some lighthearted fun in the sands, Alona beach is the perfect getaway.

9. Ultralight flights
Because of the country’s tropical weather, one can fly all-year round. Take an ultralight plane around the most famous sights in Bohol, and experience an all-new thrill. The best flying season is from October to May.

10. Food tripping
You don’t always have to go hopping around tourist spots just to see the magic of Bohol. Take a detour at a carinderia near your accommodation, and check out the flavorful local cuisine. Sinanglay, brua, calamay, peanut kisses -- be sure to take some home!

Bohol is undermined by the more famous attractions such as Palawan and Boracay, but it can stand up against any competition. And you can check this out for yourself!

Staying In

Accommodation is always the pain point for most travellers. With lots of budget travel packages, a good place to stay is sometimes the most expensive part of a trip. Most famous places have tourist trap hotels, with lodgings and services with an outrageous price.

This is not the case with Bohol. With a wide array of accommodations for a reasonable price, Bohol would make you want to stay for more. Almost all of the havens in the province are also located near the shoreline, giving you a wonderful view wherever you stay.

For the budget conscious traveller, here is a list of some of the most affordable hotels in the province.

Ladaga Inn
With rooms for less than Php 1,000 a night, Ladaga is one of the best budget hotels in the area. It is located in Dauis, and is complete with a function hall and conference rooms. This makes it ideal for group or company outings and other events. An in-house restaurant lets you enjoy local cuisine.

Alexis Cliff Dive Resort
At the heart of the famous Panglao Island, Alexis is just minutes from the beach and the must-see Hinagdanan Cave. It has simple amenities, with a great outdoor view of trees and mountains. There is also a restaurant offering both local and international cuisine. All this for a price of around Php 1,200 a night.



Darunday Manor

This is located at Tagbilaran City, where the pulse of the province is located. Stay here for a metro feel, near all major restaurants, shopping malls, and the Cathedral Rizal Park. An Aztec motif pervades the cozy atmosphere, while the Manor’s coffee shop serves a mouthwatering menu. All for about Php 1,300 a night.

Acacia Sunset Village Inn
A mere 5 minutes away from the beautiful Danao beach, the resort has a lagoon pool section and a bar. There’s cable TV, free Wi-Fi, and air conditioning. There’s a kitchen with a fridge, comforts in the middle of pristine nature. All this for about Php 1,300 a night.

Natura Vista
Located just 20 minutes from Tagbilaran City, this Panglao Island resort is just a few minutes away from both public and private beaches. The charming native style of the place is complete with full amenities such as cable TV, hot and cold showers, and even tour and transfer arrangements. Experience the relaxing atmosphere for a little more than Php 1,300 a night.

Of course, budget hotels aren’t all there is. Those who want to be kings and queens for their stay can try out the Astoria Bohol for Php 7,500 a night. This Baclayon getaway is a full-fledged beachfront resort, with all the luxury. Then there’s the Eskaya Beach Resort and Spa, which is a first-class enclave in Panglao. The sheer beauty and seclusion of the place is well worth the Php 15,500+ you will shell out a night.

Bohol truly has something for everyone. From budget hotels to a private paradise, you’re sure to find the perfect place to camp as you enjoy the beauty of this jewel.

Dining

Bohol is a paradise not only for the eyes. It is not just meant for people with a love for exciting activities. It is also a haven for foodies of all forms.

Of course, there’s the basic tourist take-homes, especially the famous peanut kisses. These are Chocolate Hills-shaped treats that have a melt-in-your-mouth quality. Not too sweet and with just the right flavor, these are must-bring items when you’re on your way home.

If you are the type of person who loves fresh food, Bohol has a very unique offering. Head over to Manga Markets, a few kilometers from the center of the capital Tagbilaran. This is located on the road to Cortes. If you time your visit right (usually after 4PM), you will see all the fresh catch laid out among the aisles. These are straight from fishermen’s boats -- crabs, lapu-lapu, squid, and lots more.

The market also has a lot of fresh vegetables. You can buy them at affordable prices! They would taste perfect when cooked just right. What’s that? You don’t cook? Well that’s no problem -- across the market is the Lic Lic Restaurant. It specializes in preparing delicious cuisine from the fresh catch you just bought. Simply head down to the kitchen and talk to the chefs. Keep in mind that you can ask them to prepare the food just as you want. That means virtually unlimited choices! If you’re not a cooking aficionado, you can rely on them to cook the food in a trademark Boholano way. How’s that for a five-star experience?

If you do not want to go the extra trouble of buying your own food, you can check out any of the several top-quality restaurants in the province. Aioli Tagbilaran, located in the 717 Cesar Place Hotel, is famous for its tasty Filipino cuisine, classy decor, and unparalleled service of its staff. Most of the people here have been drafted from Eskaya Resort -- one of the most exclusive resorts in the region. It’s good food and customer service at its finest.

If you made your way to Alona Beach, make sure to try Guiseppe’s Restaurant. This is one place remarkable for its menu, which is authentic Italian. Their famous lamb shanks (in large servings!) and pizza will make you want to come back.

If you want some luxury to accompany your dining experience, look no further than Peacock Gardens. Their menu is mainly Swiss and German, and the place is distinctly European. The imposing gates are just heralds of an evening filled with good food and fine wine. The resort-style restaurant (yes, there is such a thing) in Upper Laya Baclayon is always worth a visit.

There are around as many restaurants in Bohol as there are places for accommodation. This number does not even count the number of carinderias and small shops serving delectable local food stuff. And who can be blamed? Filipinos are natural foodies. If there’s one thing you’ll never be in the whole of your Bohol visit, it’s hungry.

Shopping

Shop Till You Drop. Bohol Style. What’s the use of visiting a new town unless you can take home a load of goodies? In Bohol, you can shop till you drop. In fact, there is about as much shopping to do here as any other activity! If you have tried all the other sights, make sure to save some stamina for the following shopping havens.

Jubelle’s Souvenir Shop
If you made your way to Alona Beach in Panglao, look for this nifty shop that sells all the souvenirs you can possibly need. From painted refrigerator magnets to pearls, Jubelle’s has an eye-catching variety. Unlike souvenir shops from other parts of the country, this one does not charge extravagantly for its wares. You can get Bohol keychains at a 4-for-100 price, and cellphone holders come at 5 for 100. The ever-present T-shirts sell for around Php 280 to Php 350 each.



Aproniana Gift Shop

Proudly being the largest souvenir shop in Bohol, this will probably be the one you’ll find if you ask directions for any “gift shop”. It has every kind of souvenir, from bags, to shirts, to delicacies (peanut kisses, kalamay, peanut fingers and “hillcolates”). The prices may not be as affordable as can be, but it sure beats having to scour all the other stores just to find what you’re looking for. It’s a real one-stop shop.

Alturas
This is a Tagbilaran supermarket (“mall”) that also sells different souvenirs from Bohol. The prices are affordable, and you can also stock up on groceries and other stuff in the same breath. And of course, as a mall, it has cinemas -- the only digital cinema in the whole province.

Island City Mall
Like Alturas, Island City Mall has shelves especially dedicated to souvenir items. Some of the stuff are more affordable here than anywhere else, so make sure to check this out if you’re in Tagbilaran.

Loboc River shops
If you took the Loboc River cruise (or if you just decided to walk by here), you will find a lot of souvenir shops around. These are little shops that sell basic souvenir stuff, such as shirts and key chains. You can also find similar shops around the Hinagdanan Cave (shirts are very affordable here) and the Tarsier Sanctuary.

Bohol Bee Farm
If you want something totally extraordinary, hop over to the Bohol Bee Farm and bring home some of their famous handicrafts and foodstuff. They make a mean ice cream made from all-natural flavors. The cones are also home-made from cassava! You can’t take the ice cream home without melting, but you can grab some of their local jams, sauces, pesto, and sweets.

Of course, there are countless other ways to get souvenirs here in Bohol. When out on the sea in Balicasag Island, for example, souvenir vendors will even row and board your boat! The markup price is surprisingly small, too. You can literally find souvenir items for sale by walking around anywhere in the province. Just make sure to bring along an extra bag when you go here as you’re sure to end up packing a lot of goodies on the way home.

Nightlife

There’s a lot of things to do in Bohol any day of the year. For some people, however, it’s what you can do at night that can define the worth of a tourist attraction. Fortunately for them, Bohol does not disappoint. True, it does not have as lively a nightlife as some of the more commercialized areas (like Boracay, for example). But Bohol has ample offerings for anyone who wishes to spend the night amidst good company.

If you still have energy after a full day of going around the province, why not check out some of the famous night-time spots below?

Oops Bar
According to this establishment, no trip to the province will be complete without them. That’s true -- this is one of the most vibrant night time spots anywhere on the island. This is a resort bar located on Alona Beach Resort, and always has a good crown about it. It opens at 8PM daily, and stays up late as the night goes. Make sure to sample as many of the drinks as you can -- they have a very extensive selection. Be careful of the drink combinations though!

Pinarella Bay
This is considered as one of the best bars this side of Bohol. Located in Panglao island, Pinarella bay is a fairly small bar that hosts big parties. Don’t expect to do a lot of sitting around here -- the main attraction is the dance floor, with the bar’s DJ as the guide. Perfect for socializing, the bar opens from 6PM and closes at 4AM.

Insanity Panglao
Located in Panglao’s Libaong area, go here if you want to experience that modern vibe. Colorful lights shine through the night as you sip one of their delightful cocktails. You don’t have to shell out too much, as everything on the menu is affordable. Open every 10PM to 3AM, this is a bar with a real hype about it.

Cliffside Swim Up Bar
The name says exactly what it is. You can snorkel at the bottom of a cliff face, and make your way at this unique bar. Also in Panglao, the place is open during the day, too -- from 7AM to 12MN. This is the perfect stop after a day of diving -- an office of Bohol’s Prana divers is just adjacent to the swim up bar.

Aluna Beach Lounge
Our last entry is also in Panglao. While a beach lounge does not sound special at first blush, the main attraction here is the tasty Mexican food. The burritos, the chimichangas, and many other menu items taste like the original Mexican thing. It goes best with some drinks (particularly the B52 cocktail!), and guarantees a good night ahead. The place is very laidback, and you can use the wait between orders to socialize.

Of course, these are not by far the only nightlife spots in Bohol. Out in the middle of the city, you can find different kinds of nightlife, too. All it takes is a little sense of adventure. You are here, after all, to get lost in the special place that is Bohol.

Photo: Mr. Wood

Bohol is truly a paradise many are yet to experience. It does not have the excessive commercialization of other top tourist spots (like Boracay). However, it has all the charm of a new world waiting to be discovered.