The Bohol Rundown
The Chocolate Hills saturate the island of Bohol with mythical charm and, without question, generate a disproportionate percentage of tourism interest and lucre in the Central Visayas province of the same name. Yet for all the inherent power behind telltale, bellwether symbols like the Chocolate Hills and the child-like tarsier, a wee, adorable primate whose likeness fills the coffers of souvenir shops, Bohol is as much a sun and sand island as any in the Philippines.
The province off Cebu, though not quite Palawan, is the anti-Boracay and hospitable, long-time islanders want to keep it that way. Panglao, a small island that abuts Bohol capital Tagbilaran City, may be the new star in the Philippines, with more and more international arrivals every year, but, for the moment, the harmful, permanent and tacky effects of package holiday tourism have been held in check.
The majority of Bohol province visitors do escape to resorts on Panglao to dive and revel in tropical indolence. The island of Bohol, however, is far from short on seaside enchantment, with a slew of spectacular, furtive caves, coves, falls and white sand hideouts where locals go to swim and frolic in crystalline waters. If it seems idyllic, it is. Now that the secret is out, hope that management takes measures to protect this foremost Filipino jewel.
Bohol’s Top 10
10. Rice Terraces form the backbone of agricultural activity in eastern Bohol.
5. Hinagdanan Cave is a standout in Panglao, with ancient cave art and a subterranean lake.
9. Buhong Tiawan Cave in Antequera is one of many remarkable cave systems on Bohol Island.
4. Bohol National Museum, in Tagbilaran City, is the provincial archive of record.
8. Himontagon Hills in Loay provide first-rate panoramas of the sea.
3. Rajah Sikatuna National Park is a standout reserve in Bilar municipality.
7. Daks and Gams Wildlife Park is a small zoo on the island of Panglao.
2. Tarsier Research and Development Center is the best place to get up close and personal with the most famous, cuddly primate residents of Bohol.
6. Busay Falls lure many visitors to tiny Sevilla municipality in Bohol.
1. Chocolate Hills Natural Geological Monument is one of the most iconic symbols of the Philippines and a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Baclayon Church - The oldest stone church in the Philippines, built in the 16th century.
- Alburquerque Church - Built out of limestone, this Bohol church is historically significant as well as beautiful.
- Sanduguan or El Pacto de Sangre Monument - A historic blood pact was made here between local leaders and the Spanish.
- Mount Carmel Hill - The top of this beautiful hill features a famous belfry built in the 19th century.
- Balilihan Church - This church was built in the 19th century after a revolt against the Spanish.
Bohol Art & Culture
- Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church - This 20th-century Bohol church is still a centre of worship.
- Punta Cruz Watchtower - This cultural monument offers a great place to take a hike or have a picnic in Bohol.
- Bohol Museum - This popular museum features a unique gift shop for souvenirs.
- Cathedral of San Jose - This cathedral offers a stunning example of Bohol architecture.
- Hinagdanan Cave - This Bohol attraction is a unique experience and a great place to buy souvenirs.
- Aproniana Gift Shop - A unique place to buy souvenirs and gifts to take home.
- Alturas - A small supermarket where you can pick up local fruits and vegetables while in Bohol.
- Island City Mall - For those looking for designer fashions and brand names, this is the place in Bohol to go.
- BQ Mall - This Bohol shopping centre sells everything from clothing to delicious local food.
- Bohol Bee Farm - Pesto, jams and local honey can all be purchased here.
Gay & Lesbian Bohol
- Sherwood Bay Resort - This gay-friendly hotel in Bohol offers water-sport adventures and great views.
- Coco Loco - This seaside bar is a hotspot for gays and lesbians on Bohol.
- Bohol Vantage Resort - This gay- and lesbian-friendly resort offers amazing views from nearly all of its rooms.
- Miss Gay Bohol Pageant - Held in the Bohol Cultural Centre, this annual pageant is a popular event in Bohol.
- Bohol Gay Association - This Bohol organization can answer questions or concerns that gay travellers might have about Bohol.
- Camugao Falls - Just outside of Bohol, this is one of the most popular destinations for hikers.
- Chocolate Hills - These natural formations in Bohol make for a scenic outdoor walk.
- Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary - The sanctuary was originally built to protect the Tarsier, one of the world’s most endangered primates.
- Simply Butterflies Conservation Centre - This attraction features unique insect life on the island.
- Danao Adventure Park - If you are looking for an outdoor adventure while in Bohol, this is the place to go.
- Take a hike around the manmade Mahogany Forest in Bohol.
- Take a walk and a swim at the Mag-Aso Falls while in Bohol.
- Trek to the top of the Busay Falls for beautiful views of Bohol.
- Zip through the Bohol trees with a zipline adventure at Loboc Eco Tourism Park.
- Snorkel and dive at Balicasag Island, just off the coast of Bohol.
Bohol is a province in the Central Visayas of the Philippines that consists not only of Bohol Island but 75 satellite islands. The total population of the province is 1.3 million, which covers 47 municipal divisions in all.
Tagbilaran City is the capital of Bohol and a second class component city of 100,000 people. The city in the southwest corner of the island is a busy transport, economic and administrative hub.
Panglao is the premier tourist island of Bohol province and, with incomparable marine biodiversity, is a major draw for divers. Home to a modest lineup of resorts, the island is accessible from Tagbilaran City by a short bridge and, happily for now, lacks the crass chockablock development of beach islands like Boracay.
Anda, a small municipality in eastern Bohol, contains some beautiful stretches of coastline.
Bilar is a prime example of why it pays to explore the interior of Bohol Island. The small town is on the doorstep of lush and exquisite forests, as well as the Chocolate Hills.
Catigbian points of interest include Bongbong Cave, Candumayao Cave, Cantalina Cave, Haguilanan Cave and Dagook Falls. The municipality in west central Bohol contains 25,000 people.
Jagna is a town in southeast Bohol with close to 35,000 people. The port and commercial hub is home to a few significant colonial landmarks from the Spanish occupation.
Sierra Bullones is a hill resort municipality in central Bohol.
Talibon is approximately 115 km from Tagbilaran City in northern Bohol. The breezy town of 60,000 people has some gorgeous seascapes and colonial era points of interest.
Tubigon is around the corner from Tagbilaran City on the Cebu Strait and has close to 45,000 people. The town is a major seaport that provides ferry access to and from Cebu City.
Ubay is a first class municipality in northeast Bohol with a population of just under 70,000 people. The area is a hub of agri-tourism and a seaport with access to Leyte Island in the Eastern Visayas.
Bohol Eat & Drink
Most of the tourist bars and restaurants in Bohol operate on the tiny island of Panglao, just off Tagbilaran City and the southwest coast of Bohol island.
Oops Bar (Alona Beach, Panglao) is a fun, casual spot on the beach.
Oasis Resort(Alona Beach, Panglao) is a superb choice for dinner and drinks by the water.
Coco Vida Bar & Restaurant (Alona Beach, Panglao) whips up cocktails and grills fresh fish.
L’Elephant Bleu (Panglao) is a swanky resort restaurant that doles out Filipino and continental classics with equal flair.
Jasz (Alona Beach, Panglao) is a popular seafood restaurant on Alona Beach.
Helmut’s Place (Alona Beach, Panglao) is a paradisal beach snack bar.
Pearl Restaurant (Danao, Panglao) has a typical international menu of pizzas, steaks, soups and salads.
The Prawn Farm (Island City Mall, Tagbilaran) is a popular bet for affordable, crustacean feasts.
Bohol Bee Farm Restaurant (Dauis, Panglao) serves more than just honey. Perhaps the best breakfast on Panglao island.
Loboc River Cruises (Loboc) offer waterfall excursions with generous, leisurely buffets on the water.
Bohol holds a number of important festivals throughout the year that fall under the purview of the Catholic faith. Much like the rest of the Philippines, towns commemorate patron saint and feast days with exuberant zeal and pageantry, with manifest traces of indigenous culture.
Sandugo Festival commemorates the March 16, 1565 blood compact between Bohol chieftain Datu Sikatuna and explorer cum conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi.
Tagbilaran City Fiesta starts with the Feast of Saint Joseph on May 1 and features beauty contests, concerts, plays, parades and other events in the Bohol capital.
Agbunan Festival, in San Isidro, takes place on June 28 and highlights the best of the foremost agricultural region.
Ube Festival, in January, celebrates that most famous of Bohol exports. Ube, the venerable purple yam, forms the backbone of halo-halo, the Filipino national dessert.
SidlaKasilak, from August 30 to September 8, is a colourful festival of lights in the Bohol municipality of Loon.
Pahinungod Festival is one of the most vibrant patron saint festivals in the month of May in Bohol. The ten-day festival takes place in the municipality of Calape.
When To Go
The equator metes out meteorological uniformity and, indeed, Bohol has stable temperatures between 73°F (23°C) and 91°F (33°C) for the year. While the tropical climate induces inevitable periods of rain, the protection of the Central Visayas mitigates monsoons and keeps violent storms in check. All in all, Tagbilaran City sees a relatively paltry 1,000 mm of precipitation a year. The months of June, July, October, November and December bring the most rainfall, on average, but distribution is somewhat even.
What To Miss
The rise of international arrivals to Bohol and Panglao has led to a parallel jump in some of the more undesirable facets of tropical island tourism. Though far less common than in Boracay or, indeed, Thailand, plucky, persistent and opportunistic entrepreneurship is more and more pervasive in the Central Visayas. From fly-by-night tour operators to beach touts, Bohol has some crafty fortune-hunters. On the whole, however, the level of predation is less pushy and sinister and exudes far more politesse than other parts of Southeast Asia.
The vast majority of visitors to Bohol make land at Tagbilaran Airport from Ninoy Aquino International in Metro Manila or, less frequently, Mactan-Cebu International in Lapu-Lapu City. Fast ferry service from Cebu is less common, as is access by ship from the likes of Manila, Cagayan de Oro City, Dumaguete, Dipolog, Iligan City, Larena, Plaridel and Ozamiz City.
Car hire is the best method to explore Bohol and Panglao on your own time but a variety of bus lines do crisscross the islands and hit up major and minor towns and points of interest. Arrangements must be made in Tagbilaran City. The capital of Bohol also runs a modest but effective taxi fleet. Passengers should negotiate terms and fares in advance.