Welcome to laid back and no worries Bohol. If you’re coming by plane you will land in Tagbilaran City where you can immediately feel island life take over; palm trees line either side of the runway and a no-frills airport set the scene for what will be a fantastic stay. You may choose to overnight in Tagbilaran or head straight to the beaches of Panglao…
Things to do in Bohol
Enjoy a quiet night in Tagbilaran city:
Follow the local way and eat BBQ chicken from Hearty’s Grill then head to Martins Resto for a few drinks. Jump in a tricycle and get anywhere within the ‘city’ in 5 minutes.
If you need to stock up on supplies then try ICM or BQ quality mall. Beware though, BQ closes at 8 pm, ICM at 9 pm and most of the city is quiet by 10 pm!
Tagbilaran is a small yet very pleasant place to visit and can provide a welcoming starting point for your Bohol adventures. Try Douglas Pension House for clean rooms with a nice vibe (800P/night).
Over one thousand mound-like hills around 50m high have become known as the chocolate hills and have become one of the biggest tourist sites in Bohol, especially for domestic tourists.
Some tell the tale of Arogo, a young and very strong giant who fell in love with an ordinary mortal girl called Aloya. After she died, the giant Arogo cried bitterly. His tears then turned into hills as a lasting proof of his grief… Filipinos enjoy coming up with stories like this for how their islands are formed!
If you want primitive and you like diving then head to the northeastern coastal area of Anda.
These furry little critters look like they’ve seen one too many scary movies. A small monkey-like creature with extremely wide eyes could probably give a gremlin a run for its money! Catch them near the Loboc river, but be nice to them because they’re endangered!
There are two bridges that separate Panglao Island from Tagbilaran City. The bridge closest to town will take you to the slightly less developed side of the island, with an underground swimming cave and more low key resorts.
The second bridge will take you to Alona beach where most of the Panglao resorts are located. Drop into the Bee farm on your way (see below). Tanawin Beach has equally white sand but is a bit more low key than Alona. The live music and quaint dining on the edge of the sea at Alona however, is hard to beat.
An amazing place to dine where locals will take delight in offering you a flower salad. Tasteful and organic this spot is not to be missed. You can stay overnight here, each room bee themed with its own unique character!
Most of the food is grown on-site. Big thumbs up for the little details that make staying and dining here a dream. While there is no beach, there is a wooden covered jetty type structure with tables and places to lounge. You can also take a tour of the bee farm or simply grab a mask and explore the sea.
Diving and snorkelling at Balicasag and Virgin Islands:
From Alona, it is easy to organise a day trip out to Balicasag Island where there is some more great underwater life. The Virgin Island is a white sand, uninhabited paradise where you can stop, take a picnic and feel like a castaway.
Dolphin and Whale watching:
The Baclayon area in Bohol is a place where Filipino heritage meets adventure. If you want a real local feel then make the extra 15-minute journey along the coast and out of Tagbilaran City.
This is a platform for dolphin and whale watching on Pamalican Island, sea kayaking, checking out the historic church or an Eco-buggy riding extravaganza.
Once you’ve finished with your daily activities dine at the Baclayon Wharf and soak in a very local Filipino vibe! Stop into the municipal tourism office and they can direct you on any of the above activities.
Visit Danao Adventure Park:
Featuring zip lining, camping, caving, climbing, trekking and lots more…
Go firefly Kayaking:
Try both with traditional paddles and Philippine-style ladles.
Ok so we’re sure you get the picture, there’s a lot to do!
Where to Stay in Bohol
Aside from the aforementioned Douglas Pension House, backpackers in Bohol have plenty of good options of where to stay. For example…
Alona Hammocks on Panglao Island is a basic but likeable option. Staff are friendly, beds are cheap ($3 USD in low season) and the atmosphere is fun.
Batuan Hammock Hostel is near Chocolate Hills, in Batuan. Dorm beds are a similar price to Alona (I should mention that in neither place are you expected to sleep in a hammock!). Doubles are also available for around $8 USD!
It is much cleaner and more comfortable than Alona. However, you are a long way from the beach. Great if you’re after the peace and quiet of country life. The breakfast is excellent!
Oasis Balili Heritage Lodge is the top backpacker pìck if you want to stay in Tagbilaran City. The staff are incredibly friendly and helpful. The house is a beautiful old building in lovely grounds. Beds cost $4 USD and up, depending on the season. A great choice!
Overview Hostel has a view so good, they named their hostel after it! It’s in a remote area in Loon, so you will need to hire a bike to get around (offered on the premises for 500P/Day). There’s a real bamboo thing going on at Overview, even the bunk beds are made of everyone’s favourite grass!
Dorm beds start around $4 USD and private rooms are available for $10.
Steffi’s Place doesn’t do too badly for views either. Perhaps not so impressive as those at Overview, but who can complain when you’re slap-bang on the beach? The beds here are a little more expensive. Dorm beds start at $5 USD and privates are more like $20. Breakfast is included in the price.
Intoy’s Place only has dorm rooms and the beds are slightly more expensive, around $8 USD. It’s very popular, nevertheless. Spotless, welcoming and in a great location (Danao Beach).
Jump on a ferry from Cebu and you’ll be in Tagbilaran city in 2-hours for just 500P. Ferries are an easy and economical way to get around the Visayan Islands. Timetables do change but as of April 2011 the following shows the ferry schedule from Tagbilaran to Cebu and back:
Cebu-Tagbilaran Ferry Schedule
6:00AM (Ocean Jet), 8:30AM (Supercat), 9:00AM (Weesam), 9:30AM (Ocean Jet), 12:50PM (Supercat), 1:50PM (Ocean Jet), 2:00PM (Weesam), 3:35PM (Ocean Jet), 5:10PM (Supercat), 6:00PM (Ocean Jet), 6:30PM(Weesam)
Tagbilaran-Cebu Ferry Schedule
7:00AM (Weesam, Ocean Jet), 9:30AM (Ocean Jet), 10:40am (Supercat), 11:20AM (Weesam), 11:35AM (Ocean Jet), 3:00PM(Supercat), 4:10PM (OceanJet), 4:30PM(Weesam), 5:30PM (OceanJet), 7:20PM (Supercat)
If you’re coming by air CebuPacific, AirPhils, Zest and PAL all service Tagbilaran from Manila. If you’re coming from other parts of the Philippines then just head to Cebu and catch a ferry. There is also an overnight ferry service going from Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao to Tagbilaran and vice versa.
Where to next
- Siquijor Island: Catch a 2-hour ferry to Siquijor Island, the land of beautiful deserted beaches and witchcraft!
- Surigao: For the surfer dudes, hop on an overnight ferry to Cagayan de Oro then a 6-hour bus to Surigao for some surfing.
- Apo Island: Catch a short ferry to Dumagette and check out Apo Island, one of the best dive spots in the Philippines!
Written by Anna Cleal