Most known for its chocolate hills, tarsiers, and beautiful beaches, the island province of Bohol is one of the most popular and tourist-friendly destinations in the Philippines. This island province with stunning natural wonders is a favorite among couples, families and friends because of its beautiful white beaches, stunning landscapes and various fun adventures and activities.
If it’s your first time or you’re traveling with a large group to Bohol, it’s more convenient to avail of package tours to maximize your trip. Just scout around for the best Bohol tour packages for you to choose from to customize your experience. Some agencies even offer packages that include airfare, luxurious resorts and guided tours to make your trip more unique.
While I’ve been to Bohol several times for family vacations, work and personal trips, as a solo traveler, I really enjoyed motorcycling around Bohol. For riders, Bohol is a great place to explore by motorbike since you have the freedom to go around on your own. Bohol is the 10th largest island in the Philippines, with a 261-kilometer coastline and cross-country roads, which means there’s a lot of places you can ride to. Just renting a motorbike and going DIY is a great option especially if you’re for a repeat visitor who wants to cover more ground and experience a different side of the island province.
WHERE EXACTLY IS BOHOL:
Bohol is located in the Central Visayas region, consisting of the island itself and 75 minor surrounding islands. To the west of Bohol is Cebu, to the northeast is the island of Leyte and to the south, across the Bohol Sea, is Mindanao.
HOW TO GET THERE:
The fastest and easiest way to get to Bohol is by plane. Cebu Pacific Air, Philippine Airlines (PAL), and AirAsia all operate multiple flights from Manila to Tagbilaran City, the capital of Bohol. Travel time is around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
You may travel by sea to get to Bohol. The Tagbilaran City Pier is the destination of a number of ships coming from Manila. There are also vessels from other parts of the Visayas including Cebu and Dumaguete. The ferry from Cebu to Tagbilaran – takes only 1 hour and 20 minutes. If you’re coming from Mindanao, you may hop on a boat to Bohol in Cagayan de Oro and Dipolog. There are also boats from Camiguin but the destination is Jagna in the southeastern corner of Bohol.
Locals usually make use of public transportation like jeeps, buses and tricycles to get around. It’s also possible to rent a car in Tagbilaran or Panglao. But like I said earlier, if you’re a solo traveler and know how to drive a motorbike, Bohol is a great place to rent one. Motorcycle rentals are widely available on the island. Bikes for rent range from fully automatic scooters, semi-automatic scooters, manual motorbikes and sport bikes. Motorcycle rental in Bohol ranges from P400-P800/day for 24 hours use, excluding the cost of gas.
For my solo motorbike tour in 2016, I rented a Honda Scoopy (P450/24 hours use) from Hey Joe Motor Bike Rental. They are based in Baclayon but provide free delivery to Tagbilaran City. All motorcycles are new, well-maintained and affordable. Contact Tim for inquiries: 0915-2781949
WHAT TO DO IN BOHOL:
Visit the Chocolate Hills
Bohol’s primary attraction is the Chocolate Hills, a geological formation of grass-covered hills, that is one of the country’s most iconic landmarks, which is featured in local currency.
See Tarsiers up close
For first-timers in Bohol, another main attraction in Bohol is seeing the Philippine tarsier, which is considered to be among the world’s smallest primates. The Tarsier Conservation Area is a six-hectare woodland area located in barangay Upper Bonbon, Loboc town.
Cruise down the Loboc River
The Loboc River Cruise is another mainstay attraction in Bohol that’s often recommended for first-time visitors. Visitors can enjoy an hour-long cruise aboard floating huts with buffet meals while being serenaded by local folk singers.
Try SUP Tours
If you want to explore the Loboc River differently, Stand-Up Paddleboarding or SUP is a new attraction being offered in the area.
Visit Heritage Churches
Bohol used to be known for their heritage churches, though some structures were badly damaged by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the island province in 2013 and are still in the process of being reconstructed. Notable churches include:
- St. Joseph Cathedral in Tagbilaran City
- Church of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon
- Santa Monica Church in Alburquerque
- San Nicolas de Tolentino Church in Dimiao
- Holy Trinity Church in Loay
- Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Dauis
Ride through a tree tunnel at the Bilar Forest
The Bohol Forest is a man-made mahogany forest stretching in a two-kilometer stretch of densely planted Mahogany trees located in the border of Loboc and Bilar towns.
Chill out on Panglao Island
Panglao Island is a popular tourist destination that includes several small islands, such as Gak-ang, Pontod, and Balicasag. This is where most of the high-end resorts and good restaurants are located. If you’re based here, you can just relax or chill out on Alona Beach.
Visit the Bohol Bee Farm
The Bohol Bee Farm is a homey and relaxing place on Panglao island where you can enjoy healthy and organic food in a rustic setting.
For those who have more time to spare, island-hopping tours are highly recommended. Pamilacan and Balicasag are usually offered for island-hopping tours, where you can enjoy the day swimming, snorkeling, beach-bumming and dolphin-watching.
Pandanon Island is another secluded island destination with clear waters, a white sand beach, sandbar and a structure with white columns that resemble ruins from a temple in Greece. It’s actually easier to get here from Cebu, but this island is politically part of Bohol.
Explore by bicycle
If you’re into biking, you can opt to explore the Bohol countryside by bicycle. Some shops offer mountain bike rentals so you can explore on your own, while other tour operators offer guided mountain bike tours that cost P500 to P1100 per person depending on the length of the tour.
During a visit to Bohol in 2017, I was able to borrow a mountain bike from Amorita Resort for free (all checked in guests get complimentary bike rentals) to circle Panglao Island on a DIY half-day tour.
Tucked in the extreme eastern edge of the province, the municipality of Anda boasts a number of white beaches and other natural attractions.
WHAT & WHERE TO EAT IN BOHOL:
There are a lot of dining options in Panglao Island, particularly near and along Alona Beach. Top choices for first-time visitors include:
- The Buzz Cafe by Bohol Bee Farm
- Saffron Restaurant at Amorita Resort
- Tomar Tapas x Bar
- Tarsier Paprika
- Sunset Grill / Cafe Restaurant
- Giuseppe Pizzeria and Sicilian Roast Restaurant
- Gerarda’s Place
- Beach Tree Cafe at Momo Beach House
READ MORE: Hip Restaurants to Visit in Panglao Island
In Baclayon, Genaro’s Grill is a chill seaside hangout where you can pick fresh seafood and have it cooked any way you want.
In Anda, check out Coco Loco, an alternative, friendly café, store and eco tour provider that supports local community projects and sells organic products.
Be sure to try Bohol Bee Farm’s famous homemade ice creams served in cassava cones, which comes in unique flavors like malunggay, honey, spicy ginger, pandan, dragonfruit and lots more.
Peanut Kisses, peanut and egg white cookies made that are made to resemble the Chocolate Hills are Bohol’s top food souvenir item, along with bottled and packaged products from Bohol Bee Farm.
Bohol Calamay is another unique local treat. This sweet delicacy is sold sold inside halved smooth coconut shells.
Tinolang Saang is a Boholano specialty that makes use of spider conch shells cooked in a ginger-based soup.
Chichaworms are packaged as “exotic” treats for tourists. These crunchy treats are composed of cultured “Super Worms” that have been fed with organic food like fresh fruits and vegetables and then flavored with sugar, salt and chili powder.
For craft beer lovers, Ken’s Place in Panglao Island has a pretty good selection of craft beer from local and international brewers, including a few by The Cebruery and Crazy Carabao featuring the iconic tarsiers of Bohol.
Amorita Resort is a secluded luxury resort located on a limestone cliff on the southern edge of Bohol’s Panglao Island. This tranquil seaside retreat combines world-class service with signature Filipino hospitality and is a favorite of expats and European tourists because of its quiet luxury and intimacy.
Momo Beach House is a quaint boutique resort that offers stunning seaside and sunset views, nature-inspired architecture, delicious al fresco dining, and eco-friendly amenities and a unique bed-and-breakfast vibe in all guest rooms. The property also includes the Beach House pool, the child-friendly Beach Hut, and equipment for water sports and activities.
For backpackers, there are lots of budget-friendly options around Panglao Island, Tagbilaran and Baclayon. In Baclayon, I stayed at Homestay de Bai near the Baclayon Church, which had a solo aircon room for P600/night with free breakfast.
TRAVEL TIPS & USEFUL INFO:
- Most tourists stay in Bohol 3-5 days to cover the main highlights. You can combine this with a trip to Cebu by taking the ferry to save on airfare.
- Best time to visit: Summer between late March to May, but weather is good all year round. Bohol suffers much less typhoons than any other Visayas provinces, so visiting during the low season (July-October) is actually best if you wish to avoid the crowds.
- Nightlife: Only the most touristic areas in Panglao have a few bars and nightclubs so that will be your best bet. Shops and restaurants generally close early in the smaller towns.
- Local festivals and holidays : Bohol is famous for its religious and cultural festivals, attracting both international and local tourists. This is a great and fun way of getting a taste of the local lifestyle and culture.
- Most notable events include The Tagbilaran city fiesta (May 1st), SidlaKasilak or Festival of Lights ( August 30 – September 8) and the Sandugo Festival (whole month of July).