Travel guide to Bohol, Philippines.
Bohol is a small island where one of the Earth’s most unique landscapes, the Chocolate Hills, and the world’s smallest primate, the Tarsier, are found. Not only that, though, Bohol also boasts white sand beaches, man-made forest, and floating restaurants. Bohol has rich history as it is one of the qtes of earliest Spanish settlement in the Philippines that dates back from the 1500s.
Bohol is located in Central Visayas, in the Philippines. It is located south of Cebu, 2.5 hours by boat. It has a land area of 4,821 km2 (1,861 sq mi) and a coastline 261 km (162 mi) long making it the 10th largest island in the Philippines. Besides the Chocolate hills, the island boasts many other smaller islands that are good for snorkelling and diving as well. From Bohol, other must-see destinations are easily accessible by boat such as Camiguin and Siquijor.
On 2013, the island was rocked by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 on the Richter scale, destroying many scenic, and historic churches and other architectures, even destroying the old viewpoint of the Chocolate Hills, and many roads on the island. About 200 lives were lost as well, making it the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines since 1990.
Getting to Bohol
Bohol is pretty easy to reach from Cebu, the usual starting point when exploring the central and southern Philippines. This is the most popular way of getting to Bohol by backpackers and many tourists. Many boat companies offer hourly trips to the island. It is a 2.5-hour trip from Cebu to Bohol. If you come from Manila, easily fly to Cebu, head to Pier 4 via taxi, and take a ferry to Bohol.
There are also three airline companies that fly directly to Bohol – Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia Zest. They fly from Manila to the Islands capital, Tagbilaran City. Check out their websites for flight schedules.
At the airport/seaport, taxis, vans, and tricycles are already lining up to take you to wherever you are staying. Big groups take vans while solo travellers and couples can use the tricycle for a cheaper option or a taxi (not metered) to take you to your next destination.
From port to Alona beach the fares are P600 by van, P500 by taxi, and P250 by tricycle, vice versa. The trip would take around one hour.
Many of the accommodations are located in Panglao Island, a small island connected by a bridge from mainland Bohol. Specifically, luxury hotels, as well as budget to mid-range accommodations, and restaurants are located in Alona Beach, the popular white sand beach of Bohol. For our stay, we decided to go for a budget-friendly accommodation.
- Address: Daorong, Danao, Panglao Island, Bohol, Panglao City, 6340
- Contact number: +639285523435
- P750 per day for a two-person room, with fan, including the use of a motorbike
- Located 1.5 kilometers from Alona Beach.
- We Booked through Booking.com or you can contact them directly.
- With restaurant on site
Rooms are simple but clean. Perhaps the best thing about this homestay, besides that it is cheap, the price already includes the use of their motorbikes for the entire length of your stay that you can take to wherever in Bohol. Make sure to ask for the helmet as well.
Where to eat in Bohol?
Bohol is filled with restaurants, in the main town in Tagbilaran, also in Alona Beach in Panglao, Bohol where it is buzzling with restaurants, and even in the center of the island as you go to the Chocolate hills and at the viewpoints. Alona beach is especially crowded with restaurants where they line up the beach with a beautiful view of the sea. Along the road at the Alona area, there are also many restaurants and a 24-hour doughnut store.
- Asian, Filipino
- Location: 30 JS Torralba Street, Tagbilaran City 6300
- Contact: +639399084038
- Reservations Needed
- Rated number one in Tripadvisor among Best Places to eat in Bohol.
One of the more high-end restaurants in Bohol, it offers the local Dinakdakan, made of pork cooked in coconut milk and mayonnaise, and the deep fried ribs that are their best sellers and must-try.
- Italian, Pizza, Mediterranean
- Location: Alona Beach
- Contact:+ 0385024255
- No need for reservation
Cosy place with nice ambiance; Pizza is good as well as the eggplant lasagna. Not something to rave for in terms of quality of food for the price but it is good enough.
- Doughnuts, Bunwiches and Coffee
- Location: Alona Beach
- No reservations
A great place for delicious doughnuts and coffee especially that the shop is open 24 hours everyday. They also offer breakfast sandwiches.
Chocolate Hills Viewpoint Restaurant
- Location: Carmen
- No reservation
Located at the viewpoint complex, just before the stairs leading to the top viewpoint. Good food for the price. They also offer massage which can be nice after a hike.
Most of the attractions in Bohol are found in the center of the island which can be reached easily on a motorbike. From Alona Beach to the Central Bohol where the Chocolate hills are found is just 4 hours on a motorbike. A good view of the clear sea can be seen while driving along the highway south of Bohol and upon entering the center of the island, idyllic ricefields and small sparsely distributed hills can already be seen.
- Location: Southwest of Panglao Island, Bohol
- Main white sand beach of Bohol
- Good for swimming. Snorkelling and diving in smaller islands off Alona beach
- Plenty of accommodations and restaurants
Alona Beach is a stretch of white sand beach on the southwestern part of the island of Panglao. This is where most of the tourists stay. The town has small shopping centers and smaller stores. It has many restaurants that offer a good view of the sea and the night life is buzzling along the beach with bars open until morning.
In the morning, it boasts blue waters. A lot of peddlers offer boat rides to the nearby islands. Apparently, the smaller island off Panglao has good diving and snorkelling spots. Dolphin sightings are also common in the area.
Chocolate hills are a unique geologic formation not found anywhere else in the world. They form a rolling terrain of small hills, generally conical in shape, and they are made by limestone and corals covered by grass. They have formed from erosion that shaped them to be like they are today. The height of the hills can go from 30 to 50 meters, the highest being 120 meters. There are about 1268 to 1776 mounds that turn brown during summer when the grass that cover them dry out, turning the hills into chocolate-colored hills, hence the name. The best time to see them would be March to June. It turns back to green during the rest of the year when rain revives the vegetation on the hills.
They are scattered among the towns of Sagbayan, Batuan, and in Carmen, where the main Chocolate Hills Viewpoint can be found. This viewpoint offers a beautiful 360 view of the chocolate hills. There are about 200 steps to take to reach the top, but it’s fairly easy. There will a lot people probably, so you’ll have to go slow.
- Location: Mainly in towns of Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan
- Main viewpoint: Chocolate Hills Complex in Carmen town
- Entrance Fee: P50 per person
Alternative Viewpoint: Sagbayan Peak in Sagbayan town
- Entrance fee: P50 per person
- Restaurant in the complex
- Climb around 200 steps to the viewpoint
- Carmen is 4 hours from Alona Beach on motorbike, Sagbayan is 4.5 hours
The other viewpoint is found in Sagbayan town, north of Carmen. Sagbayan Peak offers more activities with their butterfly sanctuary, tarsier sanctuary, restaurants, and playground for children, accommodation and swimming pool. To see the tarsiers there, an additional entrance fee of 10 pesos is needed. They also would appreciate a little donation for the preservation of the tarsiers.
As mentioned, the hills are scattered sparsely among towns in Central Bohol, so that along the way, you might see the Chocolate hills, as seen from the ground, with green ricefields on the foreground. Driving through these towns offers a pleasant experience.
Bohol Tarsier Sanctuary
- Location: Corella, Bohol
- Entrance fee: P50 per person
- With souvenir shops and restaurant
- Travel time from Alona beach to the Sanctuary: about 3 hours
Tarsiers are very small primates; about a size of the fist. They have huge eyes lodged on their relatively large heads. They are nocturnal, feeding mostly at night and moves about from tree to tree. However, during the day, they just mostly hang on to a stem and turn its head almost at 360 degrees with its wide eyes inquisitive to its surroundings. They eat insects primarily. It is listed as one of the most endangered primates in the world.
Before reaching the Chocolate Hills, you will be able to pass through Corella, the town where the sanctuary is. In the sanctuary, they are taken care of by local women who lead tourists to where the tarsiers are located. Once within the tarsier forest, it is advised that everyone should be quiet and camera flash must not be used at all times as they are very sensitive to sounds and light. They have got to be one of the cutest animals in the planets, with soft silky hair covering their body.
Bohol Man-Made Forest
- Location: Loboc – Bilar Town Border
- Travel Time from Alona Beach to the Forest: about 3 hours
The first and only man-made forest in the Philippines, it stretches 2 kilometers from Loboc to Bilar town which will lead to the town of Batuan and Carmen where the Chocolate Hills are found. Upon entering the road, tall mahogany trees line up the road and an abrupt drop of temperature can be felt. . In the middle of the road, you will see a park slightly within the forest. It is a popular backdrop for various movies in the Philippines
- Location: Baclayon town
- Entrance fee: none
- With souvenir shops
- Travel time from Alona Beach to the Church: 1 hour
Rich in history, it is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. On the way to the center of the Bohol Island, you will pass an old church by the highway in the town of Baclayon, unfortunately ruined by the 2013 earthquake which also destroyed the previous viewpoint to the Chocolate Hills as well as many infrastructures of the island. Only the bell tower stands as the original part of the church. The museum, also a souvenir shop stands opposite the church.
ATMs, Safety, the People, and Overall Experience
ATMs can be found in Alona Beach, and they are numerous in the Island’s capital, Tagbilaran City where big shopping malls and cinemas are located. It is generally safe to tour Bohol. The crime rate is low compared to the other bigger islands like Cebu. The people are friendly like in so many places in the Philippines. The roads going to the center of the island can be tricky especially when driving at night as big buses also travel through narrow, winding roads. It is advised that all motorists should wear a helmet.
Overall, exploring Bohol is a unique experience. Not much to see in terms of other landscapes and sceneries, but whatever that is on the island is truly exceptional. It has one of the most unique landscapes in the world, Chocolate Hills, and it is home to an endangered species, the smallest primate in the world, the Tarsier. It is not just the attractions themselves but getting to where they are, traveling on a motorbike and witnessing scenic views, and historic sites along the way made the experience even more amazing.
Rating (out of 10):
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 7
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: 7
EASY TO TRAVEL:8
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I had definetly hoped to get some more and better shots of the Milky Way above the ricefields and Chocolate Hills, but mother nature didn’t cooperate with me very well and this was the best I could do.
Text by Jen Yap, photos by Martien Janssen