Full disclosure: My family lives in Bohol. My grandparents retired on this island and we use to visit them during holidays. I’m partial to this island, though I am sure you will fall in love with any of the 7,000 islands of the Philippines.
Bohol sits in Central Visayas and is known for it’s coral reefs and unusual geological formations. At one point during the Ice Age, Bohol was below sea level. Parts of Bohol are made of limestone from the prehistoric coral. It has plenty of natural wonders and a great place to check out waterfalls, beaches and many other eco-friendly outdoor activities.
When compared to the island of Cebu, Bohol has retained a lot of its island charm. There are less resorts, less malls. It’s way less commercialized and you won’t see any of the famous world brand’s on the island like Starbucks. Even though some areas are less developed, the main roads are well maintained. The great thing about Bohol is that you will rarely experience traffic. You have plenty of opportunity to see the water as you drive along the coast. There is an island connected to Bohol Island, Panglao Island that has become a top beach destination. They are building a new international airport so visit this place before it becomes too popular.
There’s plenty of things to do in Bohol that will allow you to take in the beautiful and lush greenery. With tropical weather all year around, Bohol boasts plenty of opportunity to have a lot of outdoor adventures. It's a great place to experience an eco-friendly island.
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Drive Around Bohol and Panglao Island
This is of course the best way to see the island. You can hire a car or rent a motorcycle if you are inclined. You may be able to hire a tricab which is a motorcycle with an extended cab. If you have your own wheels, you can dictate your own time and stop wherever you want. We saw many tourists riding around in motorcycles. Some even stopped to take a swing from a coconut tree and dip on to the Loboc River. Depending on how leisurely you want to do this, you can probably circle Panglao Island in under an hour without stopping. Bohol Island will be a little bit longer. The drive will be similar to a ride around Oahu, Hawaii. Beautiful, scenic and requires a few stops here and there.
I’m Filipino so I’m also partial to say that it is safe. Just don’t get stay out too late as there are not a lot of street lights. The streets are also fairly small so you are sharing the road with cars, buses, jeepneys, cyclists and walkers. If you do need to stop, just ask. Filipino people are generally very friendly and they speak English.
Bohol has a pretty good spring scene. By that I mean, freshwater that has been redirected towards a constantly flowing pool. I recommend two places to check out: Badiang Springs and Maambong Spring in Roxas Park. These are public pools so you will see lots of locals enjoying the springs. For a fee of a few pesos and less than a dollar depending on the currency rate, you can enjoy a swim in cool water that is constantly getting refreshed from the mountains.
Badiang Spring is located in Valencia, Bohol. It has beautifully maintained grounds. It has an adult, a kids pool and a waterfall. Along the side, you will also see cottages where you can picnic. To the back is the sea so you can potentially swim there too, but it’s a bit rocky. Because the pools use no chlorine, the pool is set to naturally drain at night. In the morning, you will see it completely empty. They then clean it and refill it back. You will see a waterfall gushing from the top. The water is redirected to fill both pools. Next to the spring is the resort. Perhaps, not the resort that you are used to, but for a few thousand pesos (around $40 USD) you can get a room with a small balcony overlooking the pool and sea area and breakfast. Note that this is a public pool so you will see many people during the day, but you can also enjoy it at around sunset when it’s emptier.
Maambong Spring in Roxas Park is located in Garcia Hernandez, Bohol. My grandparents have a house a few minutes from this park and we use to always go here. Similar to Badiang, this also has a water freely flowing from the mountains refreshing the pool. You will notice right away that the water is slightly colder as it comes down from the mountains. Instead of the water draining to the sea, it drains to rice patty fields. It’s a pretty large facility with plenty of space for picnicking as well.
Both these springs provide a different activity from the beach. They will also expose you to other parts of Bohol and to experience how Boholanos spend family time. It’s also a good opportunity to have lunch and picnic. You can bring your own food or snacks. In fact, you’ll see a few families bringing their rice cooker or rice wrapped in banana leaves. Just remember to bring your trash with you.
Bohol Countryside Tour
This is probably the number one tour to take if you are in Bohol. It takes around a whole day. If you are in a group, pay and hire an air conditioned van. It won’t cost you that much and you will appreciate the break from the heat. If you are an adventurous solo or duo, and can ride a motorcycle, do that instead, but wear sunscreen because it gets hot. On the tour, you will typically see the following: Chocolate Hills, Chocolate Hills Adventure Park (CHAPS), Butterfly Garden, Tarsier Sanctuary, Hanging Bridge, Man Made Forest, Loboc River Cruise, Baclayon Church and the Blood Compact. I won’t go through all of these sites, but highlight some.
Chocolate Hills Adventure Park (CHAPS) has various zip lining activities. I think it’s worth doing if you are not afraid of heights and want a little adventure.
The Loboc River Cruise is a nice mid-day break. It’s a good opportunity to grab lunch, replenish your energy and take in a leisurely cruise across the river. You’ll have a chance to watch kids swing from coconut trees and may participate in a traditional Filipino dance. The food is also plenty so you won’t leave hungry. Lunch is served seated with actual utensils and plates so no plastic here. You will see that a lot of care has been taken to keep the vegetation in place.
Alona Beach and Damaluan Beach
I have some mixed feelings about Alona Beach. It’s beautiful, but it’s busy. During part of our stay in Bohol, we stayed at The Peacock Garden which is 25 minutes away and you can definitely tell the difference. Find my review of The Peacock Garden resort here. Alona Beach is definitely more touristy. It has the white beaches and the people to pack it. It is a good spot at night to grab dinner by the water. Many of the restaurants offer you the ability to pick your choice of seafood and then they can cook it anyway you like. A good option if you want fresh food. Prices are definitely a bit higher, but still much less than what you would pay in the US for fresh seafood. The beautiful 5- star beach resort, Henann Resort, sits by this beach. If you want something lively, definitely the place to stay or have a drink.
Dumaluan is a little bit less commercialized with more beach space that is not taken up by restaurants. The Bohol Beach Club, another wonderful beach resort is right around the corner. Staying at the Bohol Beach Club offers you 4 to 5 star amenities while being close to the white beaches.
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Bohol Bee Farm
Ah, once upon a time, I had the best halo-halo here! Our second time around, it still delivered. OK, so many people may not go the Bohol Bee Farm for halo-halo alone, but add that to the list of things to have there. Halo-halo is a very popular Filipino dessert that include ice cream, shaved ice, condense milk, beans and jellies. I think the best thing about the halo-halo at the Farm is that it is made with fresh fruit and their own ice cream. So good!
The Bohol Bee Farm is pretty unique in that it has a working bee farm, it sells organic vegetables and other products and offers a large menu of options for lunch and dinner. Bohol Bee Farm has a few locations in Bohol so make sure you go the the actual farm, which is also a resort that’s close to the water.
I love their mission to encourage and support sustainable farming for a better environment. Have some ice cream and check out their store as well for some spreads and honey.
Balicasag for Snorkeling and Virgin Island
Ok, so my father signed us up to go visit the islands. We were to be picked up at 5AM. Our driver took us to this dark alley way behind the church. We were led to a bridge and then hopped on a boat all in the dark. It was a little scary, but as the sky became lighter, we were on one of the few boats that made it to Balicasag early. This provided us with the wonderful opportunity to snorkel without a crowd. The water is clear and because Bohol basically is one large coral reef, snorkeling is a must, but go early. If you are lucky, you may see dolphins as you head out.
The Virgin Island is a stop on the boat tour. It offers a glimpse into what a small island looks like in the middle of the ocean. Some parts of the island you can swim in, some parts not. It depends on where the boat docks you. There is an interesting large than life statue of Jesus and his apostles in the water. If you are like me and grew up with those stories from the Bible, you may appreciate this depiction.
Bohol prides itself in the people, in the beaches and the many eco-friendly attractions and activities. Most resorts and beaches are fairly clean, you will see areas where there is just plastic trash accumulating. This is a bit sad. I would encourage you to do your part while you are on the island. Clean up after yourself. Dispose of items properly. Refuse plastic as much as possible. Keep the island clean so that it continues to be there for others to enjoy.