While Bohol isn’t as popular as some of the other islands in the Phillipines, it’s definitely one of the more naturally stunning places to visit. If you’re after a bit of a chill out after partying too hard on Boracay, or you want to experience somewhere purely unique with lots of different things to do, Bohol should be at the top of your list.
Being the 10th largest island out of the 7,641 islands in the Phillipines, it might be difficult to chose where to go and stay, especially if you’re limited on time. I would recommend staying by Loboc River, about half an hour drive inland from Tagbilaran, the main city of Bohol. The scenery around that area is gorgeous and the whole vibe is very chilled out – I instantly felt more at peace there.
If you are after more of a buzz and a party, you could stay in Tagbilaran, but the city itself wasn’t that nice, it was run down and not nearly as beautiful. We did stay there for one night but it was a massive disappointment, the city was sort of broken up into different areas and we couldn’t find anywhere good to eat or go out. We ended up in a weird dingy bar listening to some Filipino karaoke, not quite what we had in mind but it was interesting to say the least.
Panglao island, connected to Bohol by two bridges, is meant to have a more vibrant nightlife with buzzing beach bars and resorts, but we didn’t get time to go there. It also has some nice beaches if that’s what you’re after – I’d had my fair share of beautiful beaches in Palawan so I wasn’t too bothered about missing it.
Anyway, there was plenty to do around Loboc to keep us occupied over the couple days we were there. The hotel we were staying at organised a driver to take us to all the sights and attractions on one of the days…
A super-fun and exhilarating experience, we sped down the bumpy dirt path through the jungle with glimpses of the chocolate hills. Not sure how great the health and safety was, at some points I felt like I was about to go flying off my bike as we dodged other quad bikers on the road. It was one of my highlights of the trip though.
Bamboo hanging bridge
Not nearly as exciting as the quad biking, and it only took about ten minutes to walk to the other side and back, snapping a few photos whilst trying to balance on the swinging bridge. The scenery was very charming and pretty, and made for some nice photos.
Zipline over the jungle
You can’t see much from these photos, but the zipline went all the way across to the jungle on the other side of the river. I hadn’t done a zipline like this before – you get strapped in lying on your belly, so when they let you go it feels like you’re literally flying through the air. It’s also one of the more scenic ziplines I’ve done, over the jungle and river below – amazing. Although I think I probably scared away all the wildlife with my screaming!
The chocolate hills are probably the most well-known attraction in Bohol and the main reason people visit the island. If you go to Bohol, they are a must-see but I wouldn’t go just to see them. There’s so much more to this stunning island, and while the chocolate hills were cool, I would say it’s a slightly overhyped touristy thing to do. I got some nice photos but the viewing platform does get very crowded with tourists, you have to wait your turn to get a photo. I thought the moped ride up through the jungle, man made forest and beautiful countryside was much more fun than the actual chocolate hills.
Tarsier conservation area
Another thing Bohol is famous for is the tarsiers, funny little monkey-like animals with long tails (they’re a cross between monkeys and lemurs). They are so tiny, you have to really look hard to find them in the trees, often they’d be hiding in the leaves because they’re so shy. They are nocturnal animals so you have to be really quiet whilst walking around as they’re trying to sleep.
There’s a few of these sanctuaries around the island, we went to the one in Loboc on the way up to the chocolate hills. Again, it was heaving with tourists and I felt a bit bad for the little tarsiers getting stared at and photographed. But it is one of the main things to do in Bohol – and its good to support the local tourism.
Also one of the stops to or from the chocolate hills, this Habitat Conservation Centre had loads of beautiful butterflies. A guide showed us around the small but nice centre and we learnt a lot about moths, butterflies and caterpillars. It had a decent little restaurant as well.
Loboc River Cruise
After a very action-packed day, the following day we had more of a chilled one and went on a river boat cruise, a nice thing to do for lunch or dinner. There were singers entertaining us as we cruised down the stunning, calm river and enjoyed a delicious buffet of Asian food.
Getting to Bohol
I went to Bohol from Coron, an island just off of Palawan. I found travelling around the Philippines quite a challenge because there usually wasn’t a straightforward way to get from island to island – most of the time it involved taking about two or three methods of transport.
From Coron I took a tiny plane to Cebu, this flight took under an hour but it still cost about £100 – flights in the Philippines are not cheap! In Cebu I got a taxi from the airport to the ferry dock, which was overwhelmingly busy and stressful. We had to stand in a very long queue to buy a ticket, with all our bags in the sweltering heat – it was not fun. Then we waited in the ferry terminal and finally boarded our ferry, hoping we were getting on the right one, it was pretty chaotic. It took about two hours to Tagbilaran, and although it was very busy, we had comfortable seats and thank god there was air con.
Where we stayed
We’d booked an affordable guesthouse/ hotel called Stefanie Grace Paradise Inn, situated right on Loboc river and had a swimming pool. The rooms were basic, slightly old, but clean and had views over the river. The main lobby and dining area had a strange vibe, it was quite dark with dark wooden furniture. But the outdoor seating area by the river was lovely, and the food was nice and cheap.
The surrounding area
The hotel was down a rustic path from Loboc town, surrounded by local houses and farms. It really felt so secluded and serene compared to the hectic city of Tagbilaran.
The town itself was very small, had a few basic shops and a little family-run pizzeria (which had excellent reviews on Tripadvisor) all set around a cultural centre with some well-maintained gardens. We tried the pizzeria on the first night, not the cuisine you’d expect to be really good in the Philippines but it was delicious.
Map of Bohol
Hope you enjoyed reading about my Bohol experience, you should definitely go if you get the chance!