Never heard about Bohol Island in Philippines? No worries, amazing places are generally kept in secret. And lucky you that we discovered this enchanting island and we are delighted to share some unforgettable experiences. Bohol Island in Philippines is a precious destination, if you don’t believe me, just have a look in the video! 😉
You don’t need to tell me, I know you loved it! And your next holiday will definitely be Bohol Island in the Philippines. I don’t blame you, after two weeks there I’m already dreaming to go back. And you know why? Because while many tourists are flocking to Boracay (we visited there too and enjoyed a lot), not that many people go to explore this beautiful island. So there you can feel the truly Filipino atmosphere!
Bohol is the tenth biggest island in the Philippines, is located in the middle of the archipelago (the country has more than 7.000 islands). It has a bit more than 4k square kilometers and is surrounded by others 75 small islands.
Most people think that the Philippines is just about paradisiac beaches, actually is much, much more. Bohol is the perfect example, there you can find stunning white sand beaches, lush green forests, symmetric hills and an incredible underwater life. Bottom line: Bohol Island in the Philippines will enchant you!
Are you prepared to follow us around Bohol? I promise I will try not to write a huge post as I did about Boracay, but its hard to keep it small and simple, we love the Philippines!
» Our first recommendation: rent a motorbike in Bohol and explore the island on your pace. There is no better way to see the amazing nature, to meet locals and have fun. Don´t be afraid, Filipino traffic is fine, people drive very slowly and there are signs all over the island.
If you get lost, no worries, everybody speaks English. And be lost is the perfect opportunity to make friends and feel how warm and helpful Bohol people are. We rented our scooter with Island Rentals, and we receive great tips about safety and on what we need to pay attention when renting a motorbike. We learned so much that I decided to write a small guide: How to Rent Motorbike in Bohol & Everywhere in the World.
Now that you know the best way to get around Bohol Island in the Philippines, time to show why this wonderland enchanted us!
Bohol » Panglao Island » Alona Beach
Alona beach in Panglao Island is the most famous place in Bohol. The majority of the tourists stay there. Panglao is connected to Bohol main island by a bridge, and the commuting between the two islands is super easy. Here is what you can’t miss in Panglao Island:
» Alona Beach
White sand, crystal clear water, giant starfishes and a breathtaking sunset. Do you need any more excuses to stay there?
In Alona Beach you can find many restaurants, bars and hotels literally on the sand. Sunbathing and eating on the same time! Perfect for beach bums like us! 😉 From Alona you can take a boat to Balicasag and the Virgin Island. The hoping island trip is a must, if you go to Bohol and don’t do it, you’re a fool! (Sorry no offense!)
» Hoping Island Trip to Balicasag & Virgin Island
Negotiate the price of the trip with the fishermen on the beach, and don’t buy from the first seller that approaches you. The price can drop more than a half, so use your bargain skills. However, keep in mind that this is their job and the islands are far away. Reach a fair price. 😉
Balicasag was one of the best places to snorkel we have gone! Before we reached our destination, the sunrise and the dolphins welcome you to the sea, what a spectacle! On the island we swam with colored big fishes, preserved corals and dived in a deep blue sea. Balicasag has an underwater cliff, what makes the island one of the perfect spots for diving in Bohol Island and in the Philippines.
After some hours snorkeling we were hit by a big storm. No problem, even freezing on the boat our captain took us to the Virgin Island and we sailed safe and sound back to Alona`s shore. The only downside is that our pictures are not stunning, but they are quite fun! 😀
Panglao Island has other interesting places to visit like caves, untouched beaches and fishermen villages. For us the three days we spent there were enough to see and enjoy the island, but if you can stay more, do it! 😉
Loboc River » Tarsier » Chocolate Hill
The mainland of Bohol Island was a great surprise for us! With our scooter we had the opportunity to go to small villages, where we couldn’t find any tourists. There is nothing more rewarding them visit a place that makes you feel comfortable, happy and part of it. That´s how I felt in Loay, our second address in Bohol Island.
I´m sure the people from Bohol are the biggest reason why I want to come back there. One afternoon we went for jogging after my 5Km I stopped on the beach to do some stretching while Rob was finishing his run. In less than 2 minutes I was surrounded by 6 or 7 kids all them doing the same exercises as me. We stayed there playing for almost half an hour, counting in English and Boholano (they tried to teach me their dialect), until the beautiful sunset put an end on our fun.
I don’t have pictures of the awesome moment with the kids. I never expected that could happen. However, that day will stay forever in my memories and in my heart. Because doesn´t matter where you came from, or which language you speak, friendship and smiles are universal and the Filipino kids know this!
After making friends was time to explore a bit more of Bohol Island in the Philippines, and you will be amazed by such beautiful nature we found there.
» Loboc River
Loboc river berth is in the middle of the island, but it´s near the Loboc Village that all the action starts. Many people go for the restaurant boat to see the river, but we found it too boring for us! That´s why we decided to meet Frederic from the SUP Tour Philippines. If you read our post about Boracay you already know that stand up paddle is my new affair, so practice SUP on the Loboc river sounded like a perfect plan to me!
Nature and the river are fantastic. The water is so clean and all the green around is a real tropical paradise. We did just the SUP tour on Loboc river, but the company also offer mountain bike tours and yoga activities. Worth to check the schedule and join the groups.
» Chocolate Hills
Can you imagine 1.700 symmetric hills all them side by side with same shape and size?
Incredible isn’t it? And it´s true!
In the heart of Bohol Island you can find the Chocolate Hills. They are spread in an area of 50 square km and during the dry season the green grass of the hills changes to brown color, that´s why they are called Chocolate Hills. No doubt this is the most delicious attraction in Bohol!
The Chocolate Hills are definitely a place you have to go by motorbike. There are daily bus tours going to the viewpoint, but you will just get a small taste of it. The best part is to explore the area around the Chocolate Hills, drive between them in tiny muddy streets and be enchanted by the perfection of nature.
» Man-Made Forest
The Bilar Man-Made Forest is for me one of the most powerful attractions on Bohol Island in the Philippines. The beautiful forest is the proof that men and nature can work together. While driving in the forest we stop several times just to contemplate the beauty.
The dense forest stretches up to 2 kilometers between the Loboc and Bilar towns. In 1947 the government started a project of reforestation. Together with the community, red and white mahogany trees were planted in 19,410 hectares of land, putting an end to the deforestation process that was happening in the Loboc watershed.
In the middle of such unique nature a tiny cute animal spends all day sleeping on the trees. Not easy to find a Tarsier, but when you see it the first impulse is to scream, hug, squeeze and play with them. But please don’t do it, never, ever…
The Tarsier is one of the smallest primates in the world, measuring less than a human hand (85 to 160 millimeters). They are really shy animals with nocturnal habits, spending most of the day sleeping in hidden places. Because the Tarsier is shy and nervous, touching, hugging and camera flashes can really stress the animal. The stress leads to the Tarsier commit suicide by hitting its head against objects. 🙁
To see a Tarsier in nature we went to the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, where we could find all the information about this strange and cute animal. And please, NEVER visit the Tarsiers kept in cages along Loboc river, they are kept illegally and most of the time they don’t survive for long 🙁
Remember: We have to be responsible tourists!
Tagbilaran » Antequera
Tagbilaran or simply Tag is the capital of Bohol Island in the Philippines. The port and the airport are located there, also the shopping centers, big restaurants chains and street food markets. From Tag you can reach all the small villages in Bohol and Panglao island.
» Bohol Festivals
Walking around Tag you can visit many churches and witness how strong the Catholic Religion is in the Philippines. During the year there are many festivities and parades happening there. We were super lucky while exploring the island we found a nice party going on. Kids were all dressed up in costumes and big performances were happening beside the church.
Again, we were the only foreigners there, but that wasn´t a problem. In 2 minutes we were already talking with people, dancing and taking pictures together.
» Antequera and Mag-Aso Falls
Get your motorbike and drive from Tag to Antequera. The road is really scenic and only 20 kilometers from the town you will find a cute village in the mountains and a beautiful waterfall. Mag-Aso Falls was an 8 meters twin waterfall with crystal clear water, one of the top attractions in Bohol. After the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in 2013 and subsequent typhoons, the waterfall has a changed a lot but is still beautiful.
The natural disasters affect Bohol Island in the Philippines a lot. Not only the waterfalls were damaged, but other attractions like bridges, churches and many houses were destroyed. Driving around the island you can see the scars on nature and on the urban areas.
Although, even after so many problems (earthquake and typhoons) the island is still strong. Everything has been rebuilt and people there are so proud of their homeland. My respect to all the Boholanos for such persistence, and I really admire how they talk with passion about their island and country. If you have a chance talk to them about their history you will be amazed. 😀
Where to Stay in Bohol Island?
As I said, Bohol has so many things to do and see that we decided to split our stay in two different areas of the island. That way we could enjoy different vibes and reach all the attractions in a small driving distance. If you want to explore the whole Bohol Island [what we strong recommend] just follow our tips to book the best hotel for you.
To enjoy the white sand beach book your accommodation in Panglao Island. The busiest beach is Alona, where you can find luxury resorts to middle range hotel. Just be aware that most of the cheapest hotels in Bohol offer only fan and cold shower.
» Loboc River
Loboc River is the perfect spot to relax and be in contact with nature. From there you can easily reach the Chocolate Hills, Man-Made Forest and Tarsier Foundation. My recommendation is to book your accommodation at the beautiful Fox & Firefly Cottages. The place is carefully designed, you can stay in a traditional Filipino hut, in the middle of the green with all the comfort and amenities you need. The best part: Loboc River is your neighbour!
» Tag, Loay & Anda
These three areas are great spots to find a hotel in Bohol Island. They have different types of accommodation from hostels to luxury resorts. Tagbilaran is the center of Bohol, we stayed there just one night, the day before our flight. As we were leaving the island early in the morning we thought would be smart stay near to the airport and avoid traffic jam.
Loay was the village we stayed during the time we explored the mainland of Bohol. The tiny fishermen beaches are super interesting and you can have the real connection with local people. Loay is one of the best places to eat fresh fish and from there you can reach all the other parts of the island.
Another great touristic spot is Anda Beach. A little bit far from Tagbilaran, this beach is famous among the divers. Hotels and resorts are laying on the beach waiting for travelers and sea lovers.
How to get to Bohol Island in The Philippines?
Bohol Island is located in the middle of the Philippines archipelago, just beside Cebu Island. To get to Bohol by flight, first you have to fly to Cebu City or Manila and from there take another flight to Tagbilaran Airport. Most of the Asian budget airlines fly to Tag. (Thanks God!)
Or you can get to Bohol Island by boat, ferries depart every day from Cebu Port. There some other lines operating from small islands around Bohol, but they are not often. From Cebu to Bohol we choose the SuperCat ferry and they offered a reasonable price and good service. You can check the timetables here.
If you have some extra days in Cebu you must visit Oslob and get to close to the giant and majestic whale sharks. Check here how to get to Oslob and add this adventure to your travel itinerary.
Local Food » The Travellers` Big Issue
Food is a tricky subject when we talk about traveling to the Philippines. I have heard so many different opinions:
“I liked it, they have great fried chicken!”
“Ohh, I hate it. Everything is deep fried!!”
It´s impossible to please everybody, and also we can´t generalize that a country cuisine is bad or good. However, as a food lover and also an enthusiast about the Philippines, I think I have the right to express my opinion and say that my stomach was really happy while we were traveling through Bohol Island in the Philippines.
True: They have lots of fried chicken, fried pork, fried sausages, and most of the drinks comes really sweet.
False: The local dishes aren’t delicious.
First you have to leave your prejudice outside of the restaurant and then you will be amazed by different and unique flavours. In Bohol we tried a delicious savory soup made of coconut milk, jackfruit and ginger. Sounds like a strange combination, but it was yummy!! Rob elected it as one of his favorite asian dishes.
I loved the Malunggay and young coconut meat soup, the ginger ice-cream, the fresh salad with flowers… OMG!! Better stop now, I’m getting hungry!
My point is: be open and try new things. Most of the time we ate in small eateries, sharing the table with students and workers, learning about local veggies and tasting delicious recipes. Different from Boracay (busy and more touristic developed), Bohol Island is the perfect place to forget the big restaurants, to avoid fast food and just immerse yourself in the local culture.
I guess I wrote too much again… But if you kept reading till this point it means that Bohol Island in the Philippines enchanted you too! Welcome to the club! Our trip through the Philippines ended in Bohol and I have to say that I regret not having more time to explore this magnificent country. The list of city and island we want to visit in the Philippines keep growing, and every time I talk to a Filipino they point me a new unmissable destination.
Now it´s time for you to organize your trip to Bohol Island in the Philippines, and we’ll be here dreaming and planning our come back. Because the Philippines is still on the top of your bucket list!