Bohol is a tiny island in the Philippines, yet it’s one of the most famous tourist destinations in the country. From the diverse wildlife, breathtaking nature views, stunning beaches, and world-class diving resorts, Bohol has everything you can ever think of for a perfect island getaway.
I’ve been to Bohol many times, usually with a group of friends and once, as a solo traveller, so I’m quite familiar with the place. If you’re heading to Bohol for the first time, here’s my guide on how to get there, how to navigate the island, places to see, and pretty much everything you need to know to prepare for your trip.
How To Get There
The fastest and the most convenient way to get to Bohol is by flying from the capital city of the Philippines, Manila. You’ll be landing at Bohol’s only airport, the Tagbilaran Airport. There are plenty of domestic flights coming from Manila to Bohol every day.
Aside from Manila, there are also flights to Bohol coming from the nearby island of Cebu, which is a major city in the Philippines and a tourist destination as well. Most travellers would first head to Cebu before coming to Bohol.
If you’re coming from Cebu, you can take several ferries going to Bohol. There are fast ferries that will only take more than an hour to get to Bohol and there are also regular ferries that could take up to four hours. Take note that there are plenty of ports in Bohol, but the major port is in Tagbilaran, the capital city and an ideal starting point for your Bohol holiday. If you have booked your hotel in advance, be sure to ask where the nearest port is.
Getting Around the Island
I booked a tour on my solo travel to Bohol simply because it’s more convenient than taking public transportation. Also, public transportation on the island is not that reliable and will only leave once it gets full and would often make frequent stops, so it’s a total waste of time.
A driver on a motorbike came to pick me up from the pier and took me around the island the whole day for only $25. If you don’t mind driving by yourself, you can rent a motorbike or scooter that costs as low as $10 per day. Just make sure you have a license and always wear a helmet. You can ask for a map from the tourist centre in Tagbilaran or use the GPS on your phone. I’m not comfortable driving around by myself and I’m not good with directions either, so hiring a motorbike with a driver is the best option for me.
If you want a more comfortable way of navigating the island, you can rent an air-conditioned car with a driver who will also serve as your guide. This should cost around $50 to $60. If travelling in a group, I would highly recommend renting a van. It only cost us $60 and we divided the cost amongst ourselves, so we ended up paying only $10 each, which is way cheaper than hiring a motorbike with a driver.
What To See
There are plenty of attractions in Bohol but since it’s a tiny island, you can visit everything in only a day or two. Here are some of my favourite places in Bohol.
Tarsier Sanctuary – Bohol is famous for the tarsier, a tiny little creature considered as the smallest primate in the world. Unfortunately, they are also among the most endangered primates due to their vulnerability. In fact, they are said to commit suicide if they feel stressed. It is for this reason why visitors are advised not to use cameras with flash and are refrained from making too much noise when visiting.
Chocolate Hills – the Chocolate Hills are the most famous attractions in Bohol. These are tiny hills scattered across the island that turns into a chocolate brown colour during summer, thus, the name. There are more than a thousand Chocolate Hills all over Bohol, but you can best view them at a viewing deck in the Chocolate Hills Complex or in Sagbayan Peak.
Loboc River – cruising along the Loboc River is another favourite of mine. This is where we had lunch, while onboard a floating restaurant that traverses along the beautiful river. What makes the experience even more special is that a group of local singers is serenading us while we enjoy the sumptuous lunch buffet and the scenic river views.
Man-made Cave – this forest is made up of densely planted Mahogany trees that line a 2-km stretch of road. The kaleidoscope of green foliage is truly a sight to behold and something that you shouldn’t miss when visiting Bohol.
Baclayon Church – built-in 1727, the Baclayon Church is the oldest church in Bohol and houses an amazing collection of religious treasures and artefacts dating back to the Spanish era.
Hinagdanan Cave – another attraction that I find really interesting is the Hinagdanan cave. There’s a deep lagoon right in the middle of the cave where you can take a dip, although I’m not that brave enough to do it. The cave is in a place called Panglao, where most of the Bohol beaches can be found, so we dropped by at this place on our way to the beach where I’ll be staying.
Panglao – finally, my absolute favourite is frolicking at the powdery white sand beaches of Panglao. Panglao is located at the southwestern tip of Bohol and is connected to the main island by a bridge. I have chosen to stay at a resort in Panglao, near Alona Beach. My last two days in Bohol were spent lazing around the beach, taking a dip, and simply enjoying the marvellous beachside views.
Where To Stay
There are plenty of accommodations all over the island, but I would recommend staying at any of the resorts in Panglao if you want to be able to fully relax during your holiday in Bohol. If you’re diving, then Panglao is also a perfect base because this is where the diving sites are located. Aside from diving, you can also take part in a whale and dolphin watching tour, as well as island hopping tours. Your hotel should be able to help you in booking any of these tours, although you’ll find plenty of locals offering these tours once you get to Panglao.
I stayed at Henann Resort, a 5-star hotel that’s right in front of the pristine shores of Alona Beach. There are several other resorts and hotels nearby that are cheaper, such as the Alona Vida Beach Resort and Panglao Regents Park.
I find that the accommodations in Panglao are more expensive compared to the other areas in Bohol, so if you’re on a budget, you can stay at one of the hotels in Tagbilaran, which is just 30 min. away from Panglao. Food is also much cheaper in Tagbilaran than in Panglao.
More Tips to Keep In Mind
Here are more tips I would like to share for a hassle-free holiday to Bohol.
- Always negotiate – negotiating is the way of life in most of the tourist destinations in the Philippines. This is especially applicable if you’re booking a tour. Take note of the average cost of tour packages so you’ll know if you’re being quoted a higher price. If possible, book a tour online ahead of your trip. Negotiating is also necessary when hailing a trike, whenever you need to travel from one place to another.
- Join a pre-arranged island hopping tour – if you’re a solo traveller and would like to take part in an island hopping tour in Panglao, you can save money by joining a pre-arranged group tour instead of renting the entire boat. You can inquire from your hotel in Panglao if they can get you in touch with a tour operator that arranges island hopping group tours.
- You don’t need to visit everything – while there are lots of interesting attractions in Bohol, not everything is really worth your time. So to save time, do your research well and decide which places you’re only interested in visiting, and inform your driver/tour guide about it.
Bohol is one of my favourite destinations in the Philippines. It’s a truly magical place with lots of interesting sights to see. So if you are heading to the Philippines, I would suggest including Bohol in your itinerary. It’s an excellent holiday destination, whether you are traveling solo, as a couple, or with family and friends!