Remember my last post about the Philippines? After many emails asking for tips about my favorite destination in this wonderful country, I decided to write about Bohol. Never heard about Bohol Island in the Philippines? Don’t worry, my friend. Just remember that if a place is secret, the chances of being amazing are higher.
Bohol was my top favorite island. Winning by 1000 points from every other place in the Philippines. Why? Because nature is admirable, the people are fantastic, the water is blue, the sand is almost white, and the food is great. Another great thing about this island is that loads of tourists usually go straight to Boracay, so Bohol is a more local experience. Not a lot of people exploring the sites with you, you know? In Bohol you can feel the true Filipino vibe.
About Bohol and the Philippines
First, let me tell you a bit about Bohol. Bohol is the 10th biggest island in the whole Philippines. It is located almost in the middle of the archipelago, a bit south Cebu. Bohol is around 4 or 5sq kilometers and around Bohol you can find over 70 smaller islands. Most people thinks that Philippines is mainly beautiful and unflawed beaches and that’s it. But they couldn’t be more wrong. Philippines is much, much more and Bohol is a great example.
In Bohol, you will see incredible underwater life, gigantic forests, dazzling white sand beaches, untouched nature and unique wildlife.
But… what to do in Bohol?
Motorbike your way around
My first tip is about how you’ll move there. You need to rent a motorbike and explore the island at your own pace. Trust me; there’s no better way to see the entire beauty of this paradise on earth.
Since it is fairly unknown and the island has basically only 1 city, the traffic is fine. Just ask someone where you can find a rental place and remember to bargain a lot. I mean, keep in mind that it is their job and all but don’t trust the first price you see. And since English is one of the official languages in the country, you’ll be fine. Besides, Filipinos are well known for being one of the most friendly and helpful people. If you get lost, you’ll end up making friends. My friend rented his bike in one of the many rentals around Alona beach. I think he paid something around 250 pesos per day for 30 days with the scooter. But I believe this was a special price for 1 month, I think you can bargain the price to something around 350 or 400 pesos per day for 10 days. But you gotta see for yourself.
Remember that to rent a motorbike you MUST have a driving license and some experience, ok? I don’t wanna see nobody getting hurt. My friend rented the scooter because I know nothing about driving one.
The second thing you must pay attention when you’re renting a motorbike is the conditions of the bike. Check closely all the safety features and if everything is working fine. But if you’re like me and never pay check things and gets lost in the process, here’s a checklist:
– Check the bike for damages, scratches and all. Take a picture of both sides and show to the owner. This can save you a lot of stress in the end.
– Try the helmet and see if you’re comfortable with it. Please make sure that you are since you must wear one at all times.
– Ask for a emergency number in case something happens to the bike.
– Check the breaks (Duh)
– Check the lights
– And the tires too!
– Ask for insurance. Better safe than sorry. (And please, always travel with travel insurance!)
– Pay attention to the gas tank. Check if opens and closes properly.
– Test the bike in front of the shop before closing the deal
– Ask the owner for a complete demonstration if you’re not familiar with the model you’re getting.
– Write down where are the gas stations in the area. Put them on your phone. Google maps can work offline if you need.
Enjoy the beautiful Alona Beach
Alona beach in Panglao Island is the most famous place in Bohol. My hotel was 15 minutes walking from the beach, and the location couldn’t be more perfect! For those who haven’t check the map yet, Panglao is connected to Bohol by a bridge. Going from one island to the other is super easy!
Back to Alona now. Alona is a crystal water, white sand outstanding beach that can make you entertained day and night. With out-of-this-world sunsets and sunrises, bars that serves drinks and beer all night long and various restaurants, Alona is definitely where you wanna stay. In this beach you can find all kinds of accommodations, from rental apartments all the way to 5 star hotels. Make sure you choose one from this link here.
Nice to say that from Alona you can take a boat to Balicasag and the Virgin Island. This hoping island trip is a must! Again, bargain your way around the first price you hear. I will add a map in the end of this post with the location in the main island of all my recommendations, ok? In the best order possible. For the Island hopping and Alona beach, save the map below.
Island Hopping: Balicasag & Virgin Island
Like I said before, negotiate the price of the trip with the fishermen on the beach. Do not go for the first seller that approaches you and definitely don’t believe the first price you hear. The price for everything in Bohol can drop more than a half if you’re good in negotiations. Use your bargain skills everywhere! Just keep in mind that this is how most people make the day and the islands are far away. Don’t push it too hard. Reach a fair price for both parts.
Balicasag has an underwater cliff, so if you know how to dive, make sure you get to see this place.
Chocolate Hills and the cute overload of Bohol, the Tarsier
Close your eyes and imagine 1.700 symmetric hills all them side by side with same shape and size. Now picture them as if they were just a bunch of chocolate powder – yes, the same kind you mix with your milk. Incredible isn’t it? And it´s true! Unfortunately I couldn’t catch them in the right color since I went after/during the rain season, in October and November. But nevertheless the view is quite something, regardless of when you’re seeing it.
In the heart of Bohol Island, you go and check the Chocolate Hills.
The Chocolate Hills are a area of around 50 square km and like I said, during the dry season the vegetation turns brown giving the chocolate effect. Please eat something before going there otherwise you’ll be craving for sweets the whole day. And by the “whole day” I really mean it, ok? In you want a cool view, go through the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park.
The Chocolate Hills are a site you have to go with your rental scooter. If you don’t want or can’t rent a scooter, there are daily bus tours going there, but you will just get a small taste of it. Another alternative is to make some friends in the hotel or hostel you’re at and share the costs of a private van.
Here are some cool and cheap options for hotels that for sure will have some people willing to go there with you in Panglao, Loboc, Tagbilaran, and Anda. Those are the major spots, but you can search for something in this inspiration box right here to see what fits best for you. I guarantee a great price if you follow this link.
Another cool thing to do by scooter – or by shared van, is to check out the tarsier. Tarsiers are cute and tiny animals that spend all day sleeping on trees in this such unique nature that Bohol has. It is not easy to spot them in the wild so you gotta go to the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Center. It is one of the only places where you can see the tarsier in the nature, without a cage.
And when you see the cute overload, your first impulse will to scream, hug, squeeze and play with them. But please don’t do it, ok? Never do that. Or use flash photography. The tarsier is so delicate that even the stress of a flash can kill it of heart attack or make it commit suicide by hitting its head against objects. Don’t know how true this info is but it was everywhere in Bohol.
The Tarsier is one of the smallest primates in the world. They are smaller than your hand probably. Something between 85 to 160 millimeters. And please, NEVER visit the Tarsiers kept in cages along Loboc river. Responsible tourism is a must! Those poor animals are kept illegally, and most of the time they don’t survive for long.
Butterflies in your stomach
This goes for everybody crazy about colors and new experiences. The Simply Butterflies Conservation Center is a butterfly sanctuary with over 300 different species. You can even let them land in your hand if you’re lucky enough! It is magical!
The Loboc River and its cruises
The Loboc River is a giant and beautiful river crossing Bohol. It is born in the middle if the island, but when it gets closer to the village of Loboc, is where the action starts. There are floating restaurants that can take you along the river showing you everything. Some even have locals dancing traditional music.
If you think this is a bit boring, you can try to do the river by SUP (stand up paddling). I didn’t do that since I only found out about it after I left Bohol. I know, really sad. Loboc River’s nature is fantastic. It is a must do while you’re in Bohol.
The Man-Made Forest in Bilar
Yes, you read it right. Bohol has a man-made forest! Like, WTF, right? In Bilar, a small town on the island, you can find this incredible and outstanding site. The Man-Made Forest is for me one of the most powerful attractions on Bohol Island in the Philippines. For me symbolizes that we, humans, can work together with nature to build something great!
I recommend scheduling this on the same day as the Chocolate Hills since it is on the way. And while you’re driving through the forest, please stop and enjoy the vibe.
This dense forest stretches up to 2 kilometers between the Loboc and Bilar. History goes that in 1947, after the WWII, the Filipino government decided to start a reforestation project. And together with the people, a bunch of white and red mahogany was planted in almost 20.000 hectares of land. This meant the end of the deforestation process that was happening in the area.
The incredible Mag-Aso Falls and Antequera
Hop on your scooter again and drive to Antequera. Just the road from Tagbilaran to this place is something else. It is pretty! And just about 20 kilometers from the town you’ll see a cute village in the mountains and an amazing waterfall.
The Mag-Aso Falls was an 8 meters twin waterfall with crystal clear water once. It was one of the top attractions in Bohol. But after a devastating earthquake in 2013 and the consecutive typhoons, everything changed. The waterfall might not be the same but is still super beautiful and deserves your time. Trust me!
All the endless natural disasters affect Bohol and the whole Philippines a lot. It is really sad. A lot of other attractions like churches, bridges and many homes were destroyed. You can see the scars when you drive around the island. In urban areas and nature.
But Bohol and the Philippines stand strong! They rebuilt most of the things. My true respect goes to all Filipinos for such persistence! Coming from a country with no natural disasters like Brazil, I can only imagine the amount of pain those people feel. If you have a chance talk to them about their history, they will be happy to tell you. And you’ll be amazed!
The whole country is such an example of resillancy and can inspire you so much. It is worth a bigger trip around these islands, believe me! Nina has a great post with a complete itinerary for your next trip to the Philippines, take a look.
Have you ever been to Bohol Island? And the Philippines?
Are you think about going there? Share your plans or your past experiences with us here in the comments! I would love to hear more from you all!