This article was originally published in August 2013 and updated in March 2020
Sparkling white sand beaches, vibrant coral reefs, lush rainforests and jewel-toned rivers are enough reason to make the trip to the laid back island of Bohol, Philippines, and the sights don’t stop there. There’s also a floating restaurant, a phenom known as the Chocolate Hills, and even the world’s cutest primate (or weirdest, depending on who you ask).
Found in the Central Visayas region in the southeastern Philippines, the gateway to the island is a city called Tagbilaran which has an airport and ferry terminal. There aren’t many things to do in Tagbilaran save for a few shopping malls and a pit stop at the nearby Sandugo blood compact site which has great views, but the real fun starts once you hit the coast. Here are some of the most unique Bohol attractions.
Alona Beach, Bohol
One of the most popular Bohol tourist spots is called Alona Beach, which is on Panglao Island. Rivaling Boracay when it comes to long stretches of dazzling sand and bright blue water, the area hosts a number of hotels and restaurants. The vibe is laid-back and relatively quiet, which makes it a great spot to get some R&R. The diving is also world-class, and there are a number of dive shops set up along the beach.
One of the fun things to do in Bohol is heading over to Balicasag Island. The tiny island is surrounded by a vibrant reef, and the place is all but deserted save for the Balicasag Island Dive Resort and about a dozen homes. You can easily hire a boat from Alona Beach, and the ride takes about half an hour. Spend an hour wandering around the island, then settle down on a stretch of sand for some tanning, snorkeling or hop in the water to go diving.
The Chocolate Hills
One of the most impressive natural wonders of the Philippines, the Bohol Chocolate Hills draw travellers from around the world. Located near the town of Carmen, there are about 1,200 grass-covered hills which turn cocoa brown during the dry season in April and May, hence their name.
After scampering up 200 steep stairs, you’ll arrive at the viewing point which offers a panoramic view of the huge, symmetrical mound-shaped hills dotting the landscape below. Each one is anywhere between 30 and 50 metres high, and one stretches as tall as 120 metres.
The government has developed two of the hills into resorts—one being in Carmen, the other Sagbayan Peak—and there’s a proposal to add the site to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Admission is about $1, and there are souvenir shops at the main gate.
How to get to the Chocolate Hills Philippines: Book this Bohol day tour which includes a stop at the island’s main attractions, or hop on a bus heading to Carmen or Sagbayan at the Dao Terminal in Tagbilaran City and ask the driver to drop you off at the junctions leading to the resorts and walk up from there.
While admittedly there’s not a lot to do at this site, it’s worth a stop since you’ll likely drive by it anyway. The long suspension bridge is in a place called Sevilla, and is made entirely of bamboo. It hangs over the bright green Sipatan river, which makes it one of the best places to visit in Bohol for photos. Not for the faint of heart, the bridge swings quite a bit as you walk over it, so be prepared! It only costs about 50 cents for the honour of walking across, and afterwards you can stop to chat with the local village women and buy some souvenirs.
One of the top Bohol tourist attractions is also the most memorable: a chance to get up close and personal to those ridiculously cute tarsiers, which kind of look like an alien creature. Considered the world’s smallest primate, these guys are only about the size of an adult’s hand, but have HUGE eyes and creepy long feet. They do exist in the wild, but the easiest way to check them out is with a visit to the tarsier sanctuary.
Admission to the tarsier conservation area is only about $2, and you’ll walk into a fenced off area full of trees sheltering the tiny tarsiers. These little dudes cling on to the tree branches and likely won’t be doing much else when you arrive as they’re nocturnal, but it does make for great photos since they conveniently stay put in one spot. And no, don’t even think about trying to cuddle them.
Loboc River cruise
The Loboc River is one of the most popular places to go in Bohol, where calm, emerald water is framed by towering, lush palms. Book in at the Loboc River Floating Restaurant, and you’ll get to enjoy a boat ride through the jungle while eating lunch.
At one point during the tour, the boat pulls up in front of a group of women and children who perform a cultural dance to the music of ukuleles—and will insist you join in! Make sure you have some cash on hand for donations.
Practicalities for planning your Bohol sightseeing tour
Getting there: Fly from Manila or Cebu into Tagbilaran which takes just over an hour, or hop on the ferry. The journey takes more than 30 hours from Manila, but only about two hours from Cebu which is much more reasonable. Click to book
Currency: Philippine peso (PHP), though some places will accept USD.
Other things to see in Bohol: Want an adrenaline rush? Check out this post which has more ideas for Bohol sightseeing, including zip lines and an ecotourism adventure park.
Booking a Bohol tour
An organized day tour is the easiest way to see all of the Bohol attractions, and it’s also possible to hire a taxi for the day instead. Expect to pay at least $50 plus entrance fees to check out all the main sites, plus the cost of the ferry if you’re taking a day trip from Cebu.
Where to stay in Bohol
- J&R Residence– Head to this intimate resort if you want to get off the tourist path but still be surrounded by crystal clear waters and white sand beaches. Guests love how peaceful the surroundings are, and how staff go above and beyod. Click here to book
- Blue Star Dive Resort– Landscape gardens surround this resort, which is tucked into a hillside offering up ocean views. If you’re into diving you’ll be in good hands here, and the well-kept rooms are the perfect place to relax after a day of underwater adventures. Click here to book
- Isla Hayahay– Nestled in a gorgeous grove of swaying palm trees with rooms looking right out over the water, this is an amazing budget option that doesn’t sacrifice comfort or location. It’s situated in a marine reserve which makes a great base for snorkeling and diving, and the resort is a short bus ride from the capital away making it an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle. Click here to book
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