The Chocolate Hills of Bohol boasts of not less than 1200 hills making up a scenic landscape. The province is also a favorite among divers, having a distinction of one of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems. The endangered Philippine tarsiers at Bohol’s tarsier sanctuary are one of the smallest primates in the world at about 3 to 6 inches in height.
This rustic province is perfect for those seeking sight-seeing activities and a relaxing time with nature. Frequently compared to Boracay, Alona Beach in Panglao Island has fine white sand minus the crazy parties like those in Boracay.
Panglao is home to several white sand beaches and pristine waters. Alona Beach is lined up with luxurious resorts and restaurants along approximately 1.5 kilometers of coral white sand. It is the most developed beach and can get pretty crowded during peak season. For more peace and quiet, tourists can opt to stay at Bagobo Beach, Doljo Beach or Danao Beach. All of which have equally beautiful white sand and azure waters.
Besides the beaches, what attract tourists to Panglao are its world class dive sites and diving schools. There are at least 12 nearby dive sites, only short boat rides away from the island. Beautiful coral gardens, a shipwreck and an abundant diversity of marine species are waiting to be explored including eels, sharks, large sea fans, barracudas and schools of fish. Snorkeling, island hopping, dolphin watching, cave explorations and underwater photography are also favorite activities in this one-of-a-kind destination.
Cruising along this enchanting river is a must do for travelers. On a clear day, the waters are distinctly green in color with lush vegetation lined along the river banks. The cruise features local dishes in a lunch buffet setting aboard a local boat. Talented singers serenade tourists with acoustic music while the boat makes it way upstream towards a small waterfall. If you’re lucky, you will get to hear the Loboc Children’s Choir practicing nearby. This award-winning choir is distinguished in both the local and international music scene. During the boat tour, a stop is made where a cultural show is performed for the guests. So eat plenty, sing with the band and soak in the rural vibe.
The Philippine Tarsier Foundation manages this 7-hectare conservation center for endangered tarsiers. The nocturnal tarsier can fit on the palm of a person’s hand and has the biggest eye-to-body ratio of all mammals in the world. It is the oldest surviving primate in the world at 45 million years. Steven Spielberg apparently got his inspiration for the film E.T. from this cute, shy creature.
Regarded as the second oldest stone church in the Philippines, Baclayon Church was built in 1727. The edifice is made of coral stones taken from the sea and turned into blocks. What sets apart this church is its collection of ancient artifacts such as a statue of Jesus Christ made from ivory, centuries-old church music written in Latin on sheep skins, a statue of Virgin Mary given by Queen Catherine of Aragon, vestiges of St. Ignatius of Loyola, gold ecclesiastical clothing, books with carabao skin covers, and paintings by a local artist dating back from 1859. Walk a few meters from the church and you will pleasantly find ancestral Filipino-Spanish homes preserved for several centuries. Some have been converted to guest houses and offer an authentic taste of the local lifestyle to guests.
Bohol Bee Farm
One of the gems of Panglao Island is Bohol Bee Farm, a cozy and calming place to commune with nature. Stay in their native style and ocean view rooms, sunbathe or lounge at the cliff, have delightfully healthy meals with homegrown ingredients, or pamper yourself in their spa treatments. You may also take a stroll along the organic farm and see how locals harvest honey or buy souvenirs. On a hot summer day, their uniquely-flavored ice cream varieties will surely refresh and satisfy your taste buds.
How to get to and around Bohol
To get to Bohol, you can travel by air or by sea. There are local flights from Manila and Cebu to Tagbilaran City. A few international flights land in Cebu which is more convenient for a connecting flight to Tagbilaran since it is much nearer than Manila. Traveling by sea from Manila will take more than 24 hours but is a lot cheaper than air travel. From Cebu, there are ferries available that can take you to Tagbilaran Port for about an hour and a half journey for approximately PHP500.
The best way to see top Bohol attractions is to hire a private car or van depending on how many persons are traveling together. Van and car rentals should not cost more than PHP3000 per vehicle for a full day of sight-seeing. This amount includes gas and driver who most probably will also serve as your tour guide. To get to nearby places, take rickshaws which are very easy to flag down. Further distances may require you to take public transportation such as jeepneys or multicabs which ply inter-city routes. In extreme cases, the locals take habal-habal, a motorcycle. This form of transportation is not advised for tourists because drivers are notorious for speeding without wearing safety gears.
- Avoid buying seashell and coral souvenirs from beach vendors. It is possible that some species used to make them are protected and can get you into trouble when bringing them back home
- When buying native crafts, go to the Sunday market in Antequerra. This is where the popular native baskets are made then sold for double the price in souvenir shops.