Travel Guide for Bohol & Panglao // Philippines
Bohol is a very clean island with beautiful houses and neat gardens. It seems like it’s a wealthier island. There are a lot of huge houses and one host told us that a lot of foreigners are living there. The landscape is very green with lots of palm trees and rice fields. Bohol feels like a very safe place and people are very friendly. You can easily spend a few days in Bohol, because the island is quite big and you can explore it with the scooter, go diving, make a boat trip or just hang out on the beach.
Tagbilaran is the capital of Bohol where all the ferries arrive. The city has not much to offer. There is a church and 3 small malls but not really anything to do. We spent the first 3 nights in Loon (1st picture under the title), which is a small town on the western side of Bohol, 20 km away from Tagbilaran. We stayed there because we found a cheap hostel for 2 € in a dorm. The owner was friendly, the place was very quiet and the view over the landscape was breathtaking! But the hostel is located in the middle of nowhere. It took us 1 hour to go to Tagbilaran with a Tricycle (350 PHP) or 45 minutes with the local bus (30 PHP). The last bus from Tagbilaran left at 10 pm.
We decided to change our accommodation and moved to Alona Beach, which is the main beach on Panglao island, 30 minutes away from Tagbilaran (tricycle 300 PHP / taxi 500 PHP). Alona Beach is a nice place with bars, restaurants and dive shops. It’s more touristic than other beaches and reminded me a bit of a smaller, not that crowded version of Boracay (Philippines). We liked it because you can find quiet places or you can hang out in bars and have drinks directly on the beach – so it’s a good mix of a relaxed and entertaining place. If you walk to the end of the right side of the beach and climb a few rocks, you have a beautiful view over the beach!
Things to do in Bohol & Panglao
Country Side Tour
We booked a Country Side Tour with a Van because we are beginners in scooter driving and didn’t feel confident with driving (some streets are bumpy and under construction). The tour covers stops at the Chocolate Hills, the little Philippine Tarsier Monkeys (mawmag), a snake farm, a reptile zoo, an eco-trail, a butterfly farm, lunch at Loboc river (the floating restaurants cost 450 PHP extra), a church and a zipline. The view over the Chocolate hills is really beautiful and we have never seen a transformation of mountains like this before.
The Tarsier monkeys are very cute and you can only find this species of Tarsier in the Philippines. There are two sanctuaries where you can find them, but we heard that they are quite the same. It’s part of a forest where they are kept and they are not living in cages. A small way is leading through the sanctuary and at certain points you can find the monkeys. I’m not sure if these monkeys are staying on the same tree every day by choice or if the staff places them there for the tourists. During the day the monkeys are sleeping, so you have to be lucky to see one that is awake.
We skipped the other stops and waited outside of the attractions because we don’t like to support zoos or farms where you can touch or stroke snakes, crocodiles or other wild animals. The trip takes 8 hours and costs 400 PHP (not including the fees for the other attractions, but they are cheap). We enjoyed the Chocolate hills and seeing the monkeys but the rest of the day was a waste of time. It’s better to rent a scooter and explore the island by yourself.
Boat Trip to Pamilacan Island
At Alona beach we booked a boat trip to Pamilacan Island where we saw dolphins and turtles. The trip takes around 6 hours and costs 550 PHP, including the island fee of 250 PHP. It takes around 45 minutes to go to the island and on the way there is a high chance to see dolphins. Luckily we saw a lot of them and for me it was a dream coming true, watching these wonderful creatures. The dolphins cross this area early in the morning, that’s why the boat trip starts at 6 am.
From the little island Pamilacan a guide takes you with a paddle boat to the area with the turtles. Our guide was a super funny and friendly guy who lives on the rare inhabited island. We were lucky again because the other tourists were already gone so we could snorkel just by ourselves and could spot a few turtles. And as so often in the Philippines: The water is beautiful and has amazing blue colors.
On the way back the boat stops for 20 mins at Virgin island, which is a small sandbar with dead sea eagles and shells – it looked a bit like a sea cemetery.
How to get to Bohol
- We went from Malapascua to Bohol in 1 day, which took us longer than expected. If you plan on doing the same, you should leave Malapascua early in the morning. There is no direct boat from Malapascua to Bohol, so you have to go back to Cebu first.
- From Cebu there are direct ferries to Tagbilaran which run a couple of times a day. Check out public holidays because the timetables change on these days! We took the speed ferry, which takes 2 hours, costs 400 PHP (aircon class 500 PHP) and the terminal fee was 50 PHP. Slow boats should be cheaper, but we didn’t have time to check the prices.
- There is an extra fee for luggage, which costs (officially) 50 PHP for luggage up to 20 kg and 100 PHP if it’s heavier / bigger. My backpack has 16 kg and I always paid a different amount for the luggage – obviously depending on the mood of the luggage guy.
- Our next destination was Siquijor. You can’t buy ferry tickets or get any information on timetables on Alona beach. If you want to make sure to get the right timetable and a ticket you have to buy it directly at the port. The timetables of the different boat companies change often. Once we tried to get information at the port 3 days in advance and they didn’t know the timetable for that day. So if you want to save time and your nerves, I recommend for every island: Go to the port the day before you want to leave and check your tickets.