Philippines is made up of thousands of islands so deciding where to land and divide our time took a bit of research and some well traveled friends help. We flew into Cebu City because it was central and we found affordable flights in and out of Mactan International Airport. David and I had just spent the last two months in Australia and New Zealand and were ready to get back into Southeast Asia (missing the affordable accommodations and flavorful food).
For this leg of our journey we had two friends join us for a few days. Together we traveled from Cebu to Bohol island via ferry. The seats were anchored lawn chairs, enticing us to kick back and relax on the two hour journey. Arriving at the dock in Bohol we took a tricycle to the small island of Panglao (connected to Bohol via bridge), where we spent the next few days.
Panglao is known for having clear views of coral reef and the best beach in Bohol – Alona Beach. A ten minute tricycle ride brought us into the night life and busyness of Alona beach. During the day we kicked it poolside (at our resort) and at night we enjoyed the lingering heat of the day on the warm sand of Alona Beach.
If you are planning your time in Bohol/Panglao give yourself four days to discover and relax.
Day 1 – Alona Beach
This is the go to beach in Bohol. Filled with other visitors, food that can be enjoyed beach side, and enough people offering you daily tours you could sink a ship. Take a whole day to kick back and relax here. Enjoy the hot sand during the day while you catch some rays and stay for dinner, the warmth lasts long after sunset.
Our favorite restaurant located right on the sand was Oasis Resort where its nearly impossible to get the bill over $10USD a person. Our vegetarian friends, and David and I found endless options here. We may have eaten here more than once…
Day 2 – Motorbiking the Island
Rent a motorbike from Alona Beach and enjoy a full day exploring Bohol. Get an early start (9am) to ensure you are back before the sun goes down (route in above map).
Our favorite stops:
Made of bamboo, the bridge will sway and wiggle with each step. I took the bridge more at a run (not loving heights), but you can also have a good time making the structure swing with a few friends.
These hills look like chocolate kisses during dry season and offer a great look out over the island any time of year. Grab a glass of cold coconut juice for a quick cool down before heading back down.
CHAP Adventure Park
If you are looking for a bit of adventure, this park has a variety of options to bring your blood pressure up. Our group decided to ride a bike across a zip line. I won’t do it again, but it was interesting, and something I have not seen anywhere else.
Tarsier Conservation Area
These adorable little bug eyed monkeys are about the size of hamsters and move very little during the day. Tarsiers have the largest eyes in ratio to their small bodies of any mammal. Don’t be shy to ask if you are having a hard time spotting them, the staff can quickly guide you to a spot where one is sleeping.
Note: We were unsure of the quality of living conditions at this sanctuary, however the chances of spotting them in the wild is unlikely. If you would like to see a tarsier, this is the best option we found.
Day 3 – Boat Cruise
Consider renting a motorbike for a second day to head back into Bohol for a lunch cruise. A great way to get on the water and enjoy an authentic meal and (less authentic) live music. The cruise begins with lunch and entertainment as you make your way to a village. The “village” welcomes you with locals dressed in native clothing and playing traditional music. This was a bit over the top for our group, if you decided to join in, make sure to tip.
Day 4 – Whale Sharks
While walking Alona Beach you will be asked by several travel guides if you would like to swim with whales sharks. We signed up and met at Alona early the next morning to board a boat to Oslob city. Once there, we got our snorkel gear, hopped into a little double outrigger and paddled off the shore. After a few minutes we saw a large dark area in the water and jumped in. Our heart rates immediately started to rise as two massive whale sharks cruised through the water. They look like 30ft sharks with wide whale mouths. These graceful giants were truly magnificent to swim next to.
Note: Getting to Oslob from Bohol was a bit of a headache (car – boat – tricycle – sign up – tricycle – 1.5hour wait). Also, the company threw chopped up fish in the water to attract the whales to areas so people could see them. While it was amazing to see these massive creatures, the experience left us wanting something more hands off.
Bohol is known for their chocolate hills, tarsier monkeys, connection to the whale sharks of Oslob, and extremely affordable accommodations/food. We were very grateful to share this adventure with our friends. This island is perfect for anyone looking to see some of the quieter areas of the Philippines.
Tip: Take their tricycles. At 50 cents a person for a 20 minute ride you can’t beat the value (and the warm breeze)