A Weekend in Bohol Philippines
The Philippines is famous for its many beautiful and diverse islands. Your trip to the Philippines isn’t complete without considering a visit to one of these islands. But which one? While it’s hard to go wrong, we share our weekend trip to Bohol Philippines.
A Bit about Bohol
The tenth biggest island in the Philippines, Bohol island, is located in the middle of the archipelago (the country has more than 7 000 islands). It is just over 4 000 square kilometers in size and is surrounded by 75 other small islands.
Bohol is located centrally within the Philippines geographically. It has a busy ferry port and access to adjacent islands, but if you’re flying you’ll most likely fly in from Manila to Tagbilaran city (Tag).
Bohol Island has stunning white sand beaches, lush green forests, curious geologic hills, 16th century Spanish colonial churches, a Tarsier monkey sanctuary and incredible underwater life. There’s also a whole list of amazing activities to enjoy while in Bohol. It even has its very own UNESCO World Heritage, The Chocolate Hills.
On the south western tip, the well-known marine sanctuary of Balicasag Island, has long been the main draw card for divers. It is accessed from the dive centres based on Alona Beach on Panglao Island.
Further north in the Cebua Strait, is Cabilao Island, and also in the newer dive destination of Anda to the south east. Bohol also now offers Whale Shark interactions.
Getting to Bohol
Tagbilaran or simply Tag is the capital of Bohol Island in the Philippines. The port and the airport are located there, along with the shopping centers, big restaurants chains, and street food markets. From Tag, you can reach all the small villages in Bohol and Panglao island.
Tagbiliaran City airport has flights from Manila and several other Philippines destinations. But you can also choose to visit Cebu City and take a two hour ferry (fast ferry) to Tagbilaran. Many fast ferries depart daily. If you want to visit Panglao Island, you can take a taxi or even a trike for about $6.
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Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit the Philippines is between the months of November and April which are the summer months. The wet season is from June to October and brings quite a bit of rain with warm temperatures. The Philippines generally experiences only two main seasons: wet and dry.
The wet season starts in June and continues until October and travel is still recommended if you don’t mind your hot days sprinkled with some rain. Typhoon season, however, is generally September/October, so you may want to avoid travelling during this time.
We travelled to Bohol at the end of November and actually coincided with a rare Typhoon. While we had to deal with some cancelled flights we didn’t mind being stranded on this beautiful island for 48 hrs.
The dry season, from December to May, is a very popular time to visit the Philippines and with blue skies and perfect beach conditions. The hottest months are April and May, and during this time you will experience daytime highs of around 34°C .
STAY AT ALONA BEACH ON PANGLAO ISLAND
Alona beach in Panglao Island is the most famous Bohol Island Destinations. The majority of tourists stay there, and I believe that it’s the most beautiful of the Bohol tourist spots. White sand, crystal clear water, giant starfish, and a breathtaking sunset. Do you need any more reasons to stay there?
The beach is quite pretty and the liveliness of the businesses along the beach is infectious. Many resorts, hotels and homestays are along the beach as well as within a short walk from the beach.
We stayed at the Amorita Resort. The service at the resort was top notch. It has two pools. One pool is located near the lobby and bar area and overlooks Alona Beach.
The second pool is located next to the restaurant and overlooks the ocean. This pool is surrounded by lush vegetation. It also has much more seating and lounging areas nearby.
We had several delicious meals at the Saffron Restaurant. There is a well stocked open-air bar at this restaurant where you can order delicious drinks, including several signature cocktails, all the day long.
Best things to do in Bohol
Bohol Island Tours or Explore on Your Own
Along Alona Beach, or at any hotel you stay at in Bohol or Panglao, you will find many opportunities for a day tour to see all of the sites on Bohol. Most tours will feature all of these sites:
- Tarsier Sanctuary
- Loboc River Floating restaurants
- Man-Made forest
- Blood Compact Site
- Zip-lining Adventure
- Historic Churches
- Chocolate Hills
- Bohol Bee Farm
The Chocolate Hills are a famous tourist attraction of Bohol. They are featured in the provincial flag and seal to symbolize the abundance of natural attractions in the province and have been declared the country’s third National Geological Monument and included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
There are at least 1,260 small symmetric round hills but there may be as many as 1,776 hills spread over an area of more than 50 square kilometres (20 sq mi). They are covered in green grass that turns brown during the dry season, hence the name.
They were created 40 million years ago when the seabed rose exposing these coral rock mounts. The softer material was washed away leaving just over 1,100 of these curious mounts. The lookout point is on one of the highest giving a 360° vista over the hills and the rice paddy is below.
The Tarsier is one of the smallest primates in the world, measuring less than a human hand (85 to 160 millimeters). They are shy animals with nocturnal habits, spending most of the day sleeping in hidden places. They are loners, and nocturnal so the ones you see dotted around the sanctuary and pointed out by the numerous staff are mainly sleeping quietly in the branches of trees.
Because the Tarsier is shy and a bit nervous, touching, hugging, and camera flashes can really stress the animal.
To see a Tarsier in nature we went to the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, where we could find all the information about this strange and cute animal. And please, NEVER visit the Tarsiers kept in cages along Loboc river, they are kept illegally and most of the time they don’t survive for long
Our recommendation is to go with a local dive operator. Sea Explorers, for example, who have a dive centre right on the beach with accommodation at the Alona Vida Beach Resort, and also, a dive centre in the decidedly luxurious Amorita Resort on the cliff at the quiet end of the beach. There are other options as well, but the dive centers are more reputable and have more equipment options than the smaller single boats offering day tours.
Balicasag Island Marine Reserve
Balicasag island is well-known for turtle watching. It is also a marine sanctuary just 20 to 30 minutes away by boat from Panglao Island.
This tiny island is 600 meters in diameter with a white-sand beach all around and many seafood restaurants on the land.
Balicasag Island is where you will find a 400 meter Marine Sanctuary of healthy corals with plenty of pelagic visitors characterized by vertical walls over deep waters with strong currents.
One can also enjoy dolphin watching in the island of Balicasag. Dolphins can be seen between the islands of Balicasag and its neighboring island, Pamilacan. Visitors will also enjoy the island’s crystal-clear blue waters which provide a vivid view of its corals and other marine life.
Balicasag Island Diving in December or January can offer treats of Hammerhead Sharks and sometimes Whale Sharks.
Alona Beach has implemented a few restrictions concerning diving at Balicasag Island. First, to make sure that the area is continuously protected, there is a limit of 150 divers only allowed per day with a maximum of 300 dives. Second, diving courses are no longer allowed on the island.
Dives at Balicasag cannot be confirmed ahead of time and can only be booked locally. Any registered divers in Balicasag cannot be cancelled once confirmed. With these rules and regulations, the local government tries to protect the area around Balicasag to preserve the nice coral gardens as well as to care for marine life in the interest of all.
Cabilao has a variety of diving terrain, from its stunning drop-off at The Lighthouse, thick with marine growth, to coral reefs and seagrass fields in the shallow areas. As such, it has a diversity of marine life from nudibranchs to stargazers. Between January and March some thresher sharks may be spotted in addition to the usual, white and black tip sharks.
The reef around Anda runs in the north west around the south to the east. It starts as a 10m drop into sand and gets deeper as it travels south and shallower again around the point. This gives a mixture of dive sites, from shallow shelving reefs, where you could learn to dive, to large sandy bottoms, to steeper reefs and 30m walls to keep even the most advanced diver interested. You can see everything from nudis, to pipefish, pygmy and regular seahorses to eagle rays and turtles – sometimes on the small dive!