Home Philippines 7 Essential Things to Do in Bohol, Philippines

7 Essential Things to Do in Bohol, Philippines

by David
Loboc River Bohol, Visiting Bohol Philippines

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Deciding on which islands in the Philippines to visit can be tough, seeing as the country has over 7000 to choose from. At least it was for me when I planned my first trip. While I had read about places like Palawan that were known for their beaches and coast, that wasn’t really what I was looking for. It was fortunate then that I found out about Bohol, as the things to do in Bohol were exactly the kind of thing I was after.

Like most things I do, I ended up visiting Bohol island with only half an idea of what lay in store for me. Over a few days I was able to experience a great variety of places and activities. Even still, I barely scratched the surface. What you’ll see in this Bohol blog post are just the most common things to do there. In fact, they really only cover the island’s southwestern quarter, so comprehensive this is not. But if you’re wondering what to do in Bohol during your visit, I can at least give you the essentials. 

 

Panglao’s Beaches

Alona Beach, Best Places to Visit in Bohol Philippines

For many visitors to the Philippines the first thing on their agenda is time at the beach. The most popular beaches on Bohol aren’t actually on Bohol at all. Instead, they sit along the coast of Panglao Island, Bohol’s little neighbour. Getting between Bohol and Panglao couldn’t be easier as they’re connected by a bridge. But Panglao is also home to the new airport for Bohol and much of the tourist accommodation, so a beach is rarely far away.

On Panglao, Alona Beach is generally the most well-known beach and the first port of call for many tourists. Before my one day in Panglao, I had heard mixed reviews about the beach and problems with trash.

However there’s been a growing eco-friendly movement in the Philippines of late from what I’ve seen and so maybe a recent beach cleanup session had taken place. Regardless, I didn’t find Alona Beach any more touristy than places in Bali or Thailand, with the soft white sand a nice change from some of the region’s beaches.

 

Chocolate Hills of Carmen

Chocolate Hills, One Day in Bohol Philippines

When planning my trip to the Philippines, the main thing that drew me to visit Bohol was the famed Chocolate Hills. I’m always interested in exploring unusual landscapes and these bizarre conical hills among Bohol’s rice fields and jungle definitely fall into that category. The Chocolate Hills of Carmen are the iconic sight of Bohol, with 1500 hills (give or take 250) clusted in the centre of the island.

Now before you get your hopes up, no there is no chocolate in them there hills! Their name refers to the colour the vegetation turns during the dry season and they’re made from karst limestone. What makes them really stick out is that the hills are spread out across a flat plain, so they do seem to just come out of nowhere.

The standard visit to the Chocolate Hills is a trip up to the viewpoint on the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument. There you’ll find an information centre, various viewpoints at the end of a long staircase and even a small chapel. Honestly, I do wish I had been able to spend more time in the hills and explore them a bit more.

Since they were my original reason for being interested in Bohol, I would have liked to actually climb some of them or hike through the region. My own fault really for trying to see all of the main places to visit in Bohol over 2 days.

 

Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary

Tarsier Sanctuary, Bohol Travel Philippines

Animal tourism isn’t something that usually interests me for multiple reasons, but the chance to see a tarsier did pique my interest. If you’ve never heard of a tarsier, don’t feel bad. They’re a kind of tiny primate found in parts of Southeast Asia, known for their bulging eyes. It was at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella that I had the opportunity to see these cute little critters up close.

During my planning, I learned that there were multiple places you could see tarsiers on Bohol. After a little research, it became clear that some didn’t have the animals’ welfare as their main priority. Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella however was recommended online as it’s actually a refuge. My experience reconfirmed that I made the right choice by insisting I go there during my tour and I recommend you do if you can.

Tarsier Philippines, Ethical Animal Tourism Philippines

Tarsiers are quite sensitive creatures and have quite strict conditions to ensure their welfare. Things like sound, confinement and bright light can have devastating impact on their well-being, to the point that they’ve been known to become suicidal.

Thankfully, the refuge at Corella featured quite a large and dense protected area for the wildlife there. Even though tarsiers are much smaller than you’d imagine and hidden away in the undergrowth, the sanctuary’s guides were able to point several out to us. These photos are zoomed in but in person you could still see them clearly.

Unfortunately, there are a number of animal experiences on Bohol that would easily be called problematic. Another place I was taken to described itself as a butterfly enclosure, but for some reason had snakes, crocodiles and other animals locked up in cages. Safe to say, I quickly left and waited outside. If I were you and taking a tour, insist on only the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella or no animal spots at ll.

 

Loboc River Cruise

Loboc River Cruise, Best Things to Do in Bohol Philippines

An unexpected highlight of my Bohol trip was my cruise down the lovely Loboc River. Winding its way out of the centre of the island, the Loboc River is known for its idyllic scenery and emerald water. A common way to see the river is to take a cruise in a restaurant boat, so you eat lunch while watching the beautiful nature pass by. In fact, seeing the river scenery may have been my favourite of the various things to do in Bohol.

Admittedly, this experience won’t be for everyone. The boats host around 40 or 50 passengers, most of whom where Chinese and Filipino in my case. As such the cruises tend to cater to that audience, both in terms of food but also entertainment. While I thought the food was fine, the pop music playing out of the speakers was another story. It definitely felt like the wrong choice for such a tranquil setting but I was in the minority it seems.

Other activities on the Loboc River include stand-up paddle-boarding and kayaking, both of which seem like something I would want to try instead next time. In fact, Loboc looks like an interesting part of Bohol to stay at if you’re looking for outdoor activities.

 

Sipatan Twin Hanging Bridge

Considering it’s fabulous setting, it’s no surprise that the Loboc River features another popular place to visit on Bohol. At a different point along the Loboc River you’ll find the suspension bridges of Sipatan Twin Hanging Bridge. This won’t be a long stop on your tour of Bohol, but it’s good for a photo or two. That’s because the bridges offer some nice views along the river for those brave enough to waddle out onto them.

Even though I’ve been on suspension bridges before, there was a lot less stability on these bridges than you’d expect. Bamboo lines the bridges as well, meaning that there’s far more give than you’d expect from a bridge. Add in low side rails and you soon have a lot of people very slowly making their way across. In fact, I even lost my shoe at one point – thankfully not in the river – as it wedged in between the bamboo. 

 

Man-Made Forest of Bilar

Man-Made Forest, Visiting Bohol Island Philippines

One of the more minor stops while travelling around Bohol is the so-called Man-Made Forest of Bilar. Driving from Loboc to the Chocolate Hills, the main road you’re on will suddenly take you into a dense forest. But instead of rainforest or jungle, this is a patch of mahogany trees that stretches roughly 2km along the road. Other than being man-made, its origin was never clear to me but that didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of it.

You might be wondering if that’s a wide-angle lens or photography tricky above. No, the trees here do actually bend in to form an archway along the road, creating a tunnel effect that’s quite neat. And it’s not just the scenery that changes when you enter the forest. The shade from the trees creates a micro-climate that is noticeably cooler than anywhere else in the area. 

Now you’ll know you arrived when you see a whole bunch of cars and bikes stopped at the side of the road. It’s pretty common for people to be standing out in the road to get a picture so be mindful of your surroundings here. Same goes when you’re out in the middle of the road taking photos.

 

Baclayon Church

Baclayon Church, Bohol Sightseeing

A trip to Bohol very much focuses on the island’s nature and landscape, but there are some cultural landmarks there too. Probably the most important cultural landmark on Bohol is Baclayon Church, a symbol of the local Christian faith. This Catholic church was built in 1727, although a Christian mission had been there since the 1590s. Interestingly, Baclayon Church is made from coral stone, which gives it a gleaming white appearance.

The church suffered pretty serious damage during an earthquake in 2013 and underwent years of restoration before reopening in 2018. If you can, it’s worth going inside the church. Inside you’ll find some lovely murals and the altars can be quite decorative as well. It’s here that the restoration work is most obvious as everything looks not a day old.

 

Getting Around Bohol

Bohol Tricycle, Getting Around Bohol

The above places to visit in Bohol are spread out so you’re going to require transport to get about. You have a few options open to you depending on the attraction and where you’re staying. While it’s possible to take jeepneys or ride a motorbike, I got around by bus, tricycle and with a tour.

While I didn’t have any experience with jeepneys I did use a tricycle to get from Tagbilaran City to Alona Beach. A tricycle is a small moto-taxi where you sit in the small backseat behind the driver on motorbike. It’s relatively cheap but not too comfortable over longer rides. Still, it’s suitable for areas like Panglao and even Baclayon Church. However, public bus connects Alona Beach to Tagbilaran City and that was a more comfortable experience on the way back for sure.

Since I’ve yet to learn to ride a motorbike properly, I took a tour to see most of the sights above. I organised my private tour through my hostel as the regular group tours run out of Panglao Island. This was definitely the most expensive option, except for booking online.

The one saving grace was I was able to make changes to the itinerary, like visiting a specific tarsier sanctuary. My full day tour with driver, excluding activities, came to 2500PHP or roughly US$50. Not great for a budget traveller in the Philippines but I enjoy my day and that’s what matters most.

 

Visiting Bohol

Bohol Rice Fields

When it comes to where to stay in Bohol the two main options are Panglao and Tagbilaran City. Panglao is the more popular choice but you will find some budget options like Safari Hostel which are good value for money.

As for arriving in Bohol, you can get there by either air or sea. Bohol’s airport moved from Tagbilaran City to Panglao just before I arrived with flights mostly to elsewhere in the Philippines. Then there are the high-speed ferries from Tagbilaran to Cebu City and to Siquijor if you plan on island hopping that way.

Then there’s what time of year is best to travel to Bohol. My broader travel plans had me visiting Bohol in February which I thought was a great time to be there. Sure the days were warm and there were plenty of tourists, but neither were overwhelming. In fact that’s meant to be one of the best times to visit Bohol and I can see why.

 


Have you heard of Bohol or any of these attractions before? Which of these things to do in Bohol would you be most excited for? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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4 comments

California Globetrotter January 13, 2020 - 10:21 am

Taking a boat tour through that beautiful scenery sounded so pleasant until you mentioned the pop music! Still, I’d suffer the music in return for the beauty! 😉

Reply
David January 13, 2020 - 4:09 pm

I think if I had just been in a kayak drifting along the river in peace and quiet it would have been perfection!

Reply
Angie, Moalboal Eco Lodge February 26, 2020 - 2:57 am

We haven’t yet made it to Bohol but we hope to do so soon, so thank you for this great post. As an owner of an Eco Lodge and animal lover, I appreciate your section on the tarsiers. For people who wish to see these beautiful primates, we always recommend Philippine Tarsier Foundation/Sanctuary in Corella for all the reasons you have mentioned, as do National Geographic and other ecotourism organisations :D. I have pinned this post for when we visit Bohol.

Reply
David March 3, 2020 - 5:29 pm

Glad to hear you’ve heard the same advice as I have Angie. Hope to visit you guys and Moalboal one day!

Reply

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