Exploring Bohol: Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Visit
Bohol is one of the 7,107 islands of the Philippines that you shouldn’t miss experiencing at least once in your life. It’s this super chill island located next to Cebu. Though the capital city, Tagbilaran, has huge malls, and popular fast food chains and restaurants, it still maintains it’s “island vibe”. The island’s attractions are mostly found in the countryside and in their famous Panglao Island.
If you’re thinking of spending several days here, here’s a guide that will hopefully help you plan your Bohol vacation :)
How To Get There
The island can be reached via plane and ferry. If you’re flying from some other part of the country, Cebu Pacific offer flights daily. Try doing a mock booking in their websites to see their latest airfares. Flying to Bohol is quite pricey, but convenient since you’ll land in Tagbilaran Airport. From there, you can easily go to your resort in Panglao Island or your hotel in the city.
Aside from flying, you can ride a ferry from Cebu City or Cagayan de Oro City. Fast ferries like Super Cat and Weesam Express will take you from the Cebu Port to Tagbilaran. The travel takes about an hour (or two at most). You can check the schedules of these ferries here: Bohol.ph.
If you are travelling from Cagayan de Oro, plan your trip carefully especially your boat ride schedules. TransAsia Shipping Lines offer trips from CGY to Tagbilaran City only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When you’re heading home from Bohol, TransAsia only offers Tagbilaran to CDO trips on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Lite Shipping Corporation, on the other hand, offer trips from CGY to Jagna Port (they don’t have Tagbilaran trips) daily and it leaves around 10 in the evening. The Jagna Port is quite far from the city center so you’ll have to ride a van going to Tagbilaran. The fare usually costs 100 pesos per person.
Lite Shipping don’t sell you a return ticket (well that was what happened to us) so you’ll have to buy another ticket in their office in Tagbilaran.
TIP: It’s important to check the ferry schedules and purchase the tickets in advance. If you buy a day or two before your travel date, it’s most likely fully booked already.
EDIT: There's a direct journey from Opol, Misamis Oriental to Jagna, Bohol by FastCat. Click this link for more updates.
Where To Stay
You can never run out of choices on where to stay in the island. It all depends on where you want to spend more of your time. When my friends and I visited last month, we wanted to be close to the beach where most of the bars and seafood restaurants can be reached by just a 10-minute walk. So we stayed in Panglao Island.
If you’re looking for less expensive places to stay, there are several places around Panglao Island that has standard airconditioned rooms good for 2 persons (and can only allow one extra person) with prices ranging from 1,200 to 2,000 per night.
For budget travelers, there are dorm-type rooms and pads available in Alona Beach with prices ranging from 700 to 900 pesos per night. Some of them are airconditioned, others have electric fans.
During our visit, we stayed in Liquit. It’s near Cherry’s Home and Villa Kasadya (these places are affordable and nice too!). The one we stayed a have pads with electric fans. We stayed for two nights and paid 900 per night. The four of us divided the fee, so we paid 450 pesos each.
The place isn’t huge but it was enough for us. There are clothesline available outside the room so we hung our wet clothes and towel there. The bed was comfy and spacious enough for the group. Plus, they have a mini fridge that you can use without extra charge. It’s a few minutes away from the lively Alona beach front so we easily go there to eat or hang out.
They don’t really have a contact number (lol we didn’t ask). The place was a last-minute decision, and it was recommended by our tour guide.
The second time I went to Bohol, my friends and I stayed in Twin Tides Panglao. Their rooms were super worth the price. We paid around 1,500 per night because we took advantage of their summer promo. Our stay at Twin Tides was so relaxing. They also have a huge jacuzzi outside their kitchen which was a special treat after a long day of touring.
TIP: Do read reviews about the place. Travelers who post their reviews on TripAdvisor helps a lot.
What To Do
For me, everyone who plans on visiting the island (especially those who will visit for the first time) shouldn’t miss seeing the Chocolate Hills, Tarsier, and the churches in person. Of course, eating in the famous Loboc River Cruise should be on your to-do list.
Most hotels and resorts offer their organized tours with entrance and environmental fees, and meals included. It’s best to check the hotel or resort’s website in advance. When you walk around Alona Beach, some people hand out flyers of their tour packages, but most of these don’t include entrance fees and meals.
For our group, we went with Kuya Naldix’s tour since it was the only tour that we could find in the internet that has good reviews. We wanted to already have a contact before we arrived in Bohol. He’ll be your driver, photographer, and tour guide for the day. His tours have different vehicles to be used, depending on the size of the group. You can also request to not visit a certain place or add more places to visit. For ours, we cut the tour short because we had to find a place to stay. The four of us divided the 2,000-peso fee, exclusive of entrance and environmental fees.
During my second visit, my friends and I found out that there are a lot of travel tours around the Alona Beach area offering almost the same rates. If you can't book early ahead, you can try to negotiate a local travel and tours in Alona.
Dolphin Watching and Island Hopping
Aside from the famous Alona Beach and neighboring white beaches, Bohol also has two islands you can visit via pump boat. There’s Balicasag Island and Virgin Island. Usually, the first stop of the island hopping tour is the Balicasag Island, but before going there you need to spot some pods of dolphins first! They’re elusive and quite hard to spot, but once you do you’ll feel like a little kid again.
Upon arriving in Balicasag Island, you need to pay 100 pesos for the environmental fee. You can also snorkel and feed fishes for a fee of 250 pesos per person. Some tours do not include this in their packages though. You can choose to eat lunch here or bring raw meat and condiments, and have it cooked by the locals for a fee.
After Balicasag, the next stop will be the Virgin Island. It’s just a really long white sand bar connected to a bigger private island. Locals sell fresh sea food, fresh coconut, refreshments, and souvenir items (which is more expensive than those being sold in the main land).
I think there is no time limit as to how long you’d want the island hopping tour to last. But I think it’s advisable to wrap up your visit in the Virgin Island since it will submerge after 12 noon because of the high tide.
Again, there are a lot of people who offer dolphin watching and island hopping tours in the beach front. For ours, we availed of Kuya Naldix’s tour which cost 1,600.
Eat fresh sea food
If you’re a huge fan of sea food (like me lol), you can definitely satisfy your cravings almost every day when you’re in Panglao Island. In Alona Beach alone, sea food restaurants are everywhere. Whether you like them grilled, fried, with soup — whatever it is that you wish to gobble up, they have it all.
Watch the sunrise/sunset
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...while sipping some fresh coconut juice and lying on your back in a beach chair. Ahhh... sounds perfect right? Watching the sun rise or set in the seaside while your feet are walking on white sand is definitely something that you shouldn’t miss. It’s one of those little big things in life ;)
Whether you’re an average or above average diver, seeing the corals and fishes in Bohol’s diving spots is a good activity. If you’re still a beginner, snorkeling is great too. Hotels and resorts have reasonably priced diving packages with well-maintained gears. Check out their websites or inquire about it if you want to try it :)
That’s pretty much it! The simple and laid back vibes that Bohol has is the kind of feeling that I cannot get enough of. I hope that when you visit, you’ll never shake off the same vibes too :D