Struggling to decide which Philippine island(s) to visit? Want a taste of what the Philippines are all about? Don’t have much time to spend days getting to and around Palawan? Then head for the hidden gem that is Bohol!

Bohol has something for every traveller. You get all the natural beauty combined with relative ease of reaching and exploring the island. It has stunning beaches largely without the crowds and over-tourism you’ll find on Boracay. It has excellent snorkelling and scuba diving, if you know where to look. Plus, it’s very laid-back with friendly locals. And if you have more time, it also makes a good connection for exploring the nearby islands.

 

Bohol Itinerary

This Bohol itinerary covers 2 main areas: the less-visited East of the island, as well as Panglao and the areas easily reachable from there in a day. Unless you just want to lie on a beach, head beyond Panglao to get the most of this majestic island.

 

Bohol Island Itinerary Map

Anda, East Bohol

 

Anda 1Peace Guesthouse Beach Bohol

While snorkelling trips are heavily promoted at the popular Alona Beach, most tours head for the same tired reefs. This makes for a sorry sight of damaged corals and trying not to bump heads with someone else instead of focusing on what’s left of the corals below.

Instead, head for Anda in the east of the island for quiet white-sand beaches and outstanding snorkelling and diving. I recommend popping over to 1Peace GuestHouse where you can go snorkelling right off the beach and enjoy a pristine world below you entirely to yourself. They also offer scuba diving which I skipped on, but the guys coming back had Cheshire cat grins so it’s probably good. 

How to get to Anda: In Tagbilaran, get a tuk-tuk or taxi to Dao Bus Terminal and take any of the numerous vans or buses heading to Anda. It will take you around 2.5 hours. If you’re tall, avoid the smaller vans as you’ll struggle with where to fold your legs. Trust me.

Cadapdapan Rice Terraces

 

Cadapdapan Rice Terraces, Bohol

They may sound like a drum beat (try repeating it over quickly), but Cadapdapan rice terraces offer some of the most tranquil scenery on Bohol. Plenty of hiking around to explore the area from every angle. Being off the beaten track roads to come here are less developed (so aim for a drier day!) but absolutely worth the views not dissimilar to those you’d find on Bali. There is a tiny entry fee to pay.

Can-umantad Waterfalls

 

Can-Umantad Falls, Bohol

Near Cadapdapan rice terraces is the picturesque Can-umantad waterfall – the tallest in Bohol. You can hike there and back from Cadapdapan, otherwise it’s off the beaten track which also means a bumpy road, but nothing unpassable. The best part is that you can enjoy some very swimmable rockpools to reward the trek getting there. In the sun (as you can see, I wasn’t so lucky that day) the water glistens in a gorgeous greenish blue.

As with the rice terraces, there is a tiny entrance fee to pay so be sure to bring some change.

Getting to Can-umantad Falls: Like the rice terraces nearby, it’s up to 3 hours from Panglao so for this part of the island it’s wise to base for sometime in Anda. 

 

Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary

Bohol Tarsier Sanctuary

These tiny cute yoda-like creatures are probably Bohol’s most famous resident and reason to visit. And you definitely should – just don’t touch or flash your camera as tarsiers are known to kill themselves when stressed. Maybe why there aren’t too many of them around.

There are a couple sanctuaries to choose from to see the world’s smallest primate – I recommend the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary. Once you pay the reasonable entrance fee, they’re scattered along a pathway to the sanctuary and the local staff helpfully point them out to you.

How to get to Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary: Easy – it’s around 30 mins’ drive from Tagbilaran. From there you can continue onto Loboc and beyond.

Loboc River Adventure Park

Loboc River Zipline Adventure Park

If you don’t mind a little adrenaline in exchange for unforgettable bird-eye views, this is a must. Amongst other things the park offers, you can zipline over waterfalls and the emerald-green Loboc River that carves its way through the thick jungle valley. It honestly felt surprisingly safe and hardly extreme, so you get to enjoy a minute of stunning views without wondering if it’s your last. The experience takes you to one side and back to where you started so no need to plan your way back.

Loboc River Zipline

 

 

Loboc River Cruise

 

Loboc River Cruise Bohol

A perfect counter-balance to the nearby zipline, the floating restaurant boats are a chance to relax for a couple hours as they lazily cruises along the picturesque Loboc River. At some point you can expect a dancing performance from a group of local villagers backed by an orchestra of guitars – which admittedly felt a little touristy. But they did seem to genuinely enjoy themselves and it’s still very much worth the overall experience.

Chocolate Hills

 

Chocolate Hills Bohol, Asia's Natural Wonder Gem

Bohol’s most unique and famous scenery: the 1,000+ peculiar hills in the island’s centre that stretch to the horizon and resemble Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses (a US thing) in the dry seasion, when they turn brown. Come in late November to May for the chocolate shades, but even in their greener state this is a sight to behold.

Being a popular venue, expect some crowds in the most popular viewing platforms (especially Chocolate Hills Complex, less so Sagbayan Peak), although there are other options for great views. Best idea would be to head to Chocolate Hills early, or spend a couple hours just riding the scenic roads on a moped or car.

Dumaluan Beach

 

Dumaluan Beach, Bohol

Dumaluan beach on Panglao offers the sort of views that you might remember from Bounty adverts. There are resorts here which also own some of the beach space, but it’s definitely quieter than the nearby Alona Beach.

Assuming you’re not staying in one of the resorts, you should really consider renting a Day Pass from one to enjoy its amenities. There’s nothing like enjoying the dream-like ocean views while getting a massage. Check with the resort first, but it can cost as little as £7-8/day.

Bohol Bee Farm

 

Bohol Bee Farm Restaurant

On the Southern coast of Panglao you’ll find Bohol Bee Farm. Offering more than the name suggests, they grow all sorts of their own produce and offer cheap 30-minute tours of the farm. Be sure to try some of their own homemade pesto (Italians will protest, but it’s actually good) and the curiously purple ube ice cream.

Most importantly, it’s also an alfresco restaurant with some of the best ocean views on the island. The organic food offering manages to live up to the views and makes for a change from most menus on the island. 


Where to stay on Bohol?

Most tourists stay on Panglao, a small island connected via a bridge to Bohol and the base for its new airport. It has the best infrastructure and serves as a good base for visiting the rest of the island. The Southern coast is where you’ll find the convenience of countless restaurants, resorts and popular beaches. If you want something quieter with a more local feel, head to the North of the island.

Or better still, consider staying elsewhere in Bohol. In the east of the island lies Anda: a far more tranquil base with fewer tourists, far more pristine snorkelling and closer to the idea of quiet, tropical getaway. This is my top recommendation for where to stay in Bohol, or at least part of your stay.

Bohol Coastal Road, Philippines

 

How to get around Bohol?

For most flexibility, rent a scooter. They’re cheap and so easy to learn to use. Outside of the main city Tagbilaran, traffic is quiet so the experience is relaxed. Just try to get home before dark as roads aren’t well-lit and things get more hairy. Most things on this list can be reached by moped within a couple hours and combined well into 1 or 2 day trips. For East Bohol it’s more like 3 hours each way, so it’s best to 

Otherwise there are the various other fun means of private and public transport. Yes, there are taxis, but the price add up especially on Panglao. For the most local experience, get into a tuk-tuk. These tricycles are widespread across much of Asia, but the Bohol variety are famous for their biblical quotes on the back. That’s how religious they get in Bohol!

 

Bohol Tuk Tuks Philippines

For the most pimped out (but definitely not comfortable!) transport, get on the back of a jeepney. These vividly colourful buses are a nod to the US colonial period: essentially they are military jeeps leftovers from WW2 days, converted into cheap local transport. There are also crammed minivans connecting the island’s towns – I’d avoid if you are anywhere over ~165cm as there was literally no leg space.

Bohol Jeepney Transport

 

How to reach Bohol?

It’s quite easy, which makes Bohol a great option for someone with less vacation time or a compact schedule.

Option 1: Fly into Manila, then get a domestic flight straight to the new Bohol-Panglao Airport. In this case you might want to overnight in Manila.

Option 2: Fly to Cebu International Airport (well-connected to key hubs like Singapore, Hong Kong & Dubai), then a quick taxi and a 2-hour ferry to Tagbilaran Pier. There are plenty of operators so you shouldn’t have problems getting a ticket. This options works well if you also feel like exploring the bigger island of Cebu.

What to avoid on Bohol

If you don’t like crowds, avoid the heavily-touted snorkelling / dolphin spotting / Virgin Island tours promoted everywhere on Panglao. They all seem to leave Alona Beach at the same time and you end up in an enormous regatta of bangka boats heading for exactly the same few stops and snorkelling sites. If viewed from above, the snorkelling site we were taken to must have looked like a shipwreck survivor scene.

It didn’t feel particularly safe either. At some point our boat punched a hole into the side of another. Their captain duly filled the hole with… a lifejacket. And carried on.

 

Bohol Boat Accident

Other than that, keep in mind that the closer you are to Alona Beach, the more expensive restaurants, taxis and shops become. As you’d expect in the most touristy zones.

 

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