There’s something about Bohol. My sister and her husband live in Shanghai but they spend a week in that Central Visayan province every year. They have no ties there. No businesses to oversee, no friends or relatives to visit. They go because they love it and they’ve been doing that for several years now.
The Philippines is an archipelago consisting of 7,641 islands. With so many islands to choose from, you’d think they’d get bored visiting the same place year after year, but they don’t. And I can understand why. Because apart from Bohol being one of the Philippines’ most picturesque provinces, it’s also one of its most intriguing, boasting an array of attractions that you can’t find anywhere else in the country. As my sister and brother-in-law can tell you, it’s a captivating destination with much to see and do.
If you’re visiting Bohol for the first time, then I hope this travel guide can help you plan your trip. Like them, it might be the first of many.
GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS
BOHOL AT A GLANCE
Bohol, for me, is one of the Philippines’ most interesting and diverse destinations. If I had friends visiting from other countries and could take them to just one place, then Bohol would be on my short list.
As beautiful as the Philippines is, many destinations offer mostly sand and surf. But not Bohol. Apart from its many white sand beaches and world-class dive sites, Bohol is known for unique attractions that you can’t find anywhere else in the Philippines. Curiosities like the Chocolate Hills and the Philippine Tarsier come foremost to mind. You like churches? Bohol has plenty, some dating back to the early years of Spanish colonization. If you’re an animal lover like I am, then you’ll be pleased to know that the seas around Pamilacan Island are a main migration route for cetaceans like spinner dolphins and Bryde’s whales. If adventure’s your thing, then you can go stand up paddleboarding on the Loboc River or go cycling on a steel cable 150 feet off the ground.
The Philippines has some of the best beaches in the world so if all you want to do is lay on the sand catching rays, then there’s no shortage of islands to choose from. But if you want a place that offers that and more, then come to Bohol.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BOHOL
Like most regions in the Philippines, Bohol is hot year-round and sees little fluctuation in temperature. What matters more when planning a trip to Bohol is the amount of rainfall and knowing when peak seasons are. June to November are the rainiest months so you may want to avoid that stretch if your goal is to catch as much sun as you can. Late December and Holy Week are peak seasons for locals so I’d say the best time to go would be from January to around Mid-March. The weather is ideal and there are fewer tourists.
DEC-MAR: High season in Bohol is from December till late March when it isn’t as hot (yet) and the weather is dry. Temperatures around this time range from 28-32°C (82-90°F) during the day and drop to 25°C (77°F) at night. As described, the period around Christmas and Holy Week are peak seasons for locals so be prepared to compete for the best real estate on the beach.
APR-JUL: If you’re allergic to people, then anytime after Easter weekend until July would be a good alternative. It’s hot, with temperatures rising to 38°C (100°F) during the day, but it also starts raining more so that may help to offset the scorching heat. Being summer, it’s also the best time to see the Chocolate Hills in their brown chocolate-y color.
AUG-NOV: August to November is considered the wet season so you may want to avoid this time as the rains become heavier and more frequent.
Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Bohol
To help you better understand the climate in Bohol, I’ve included average temperature and annual rainfall graphs below. Suggested months to visit are indicated in orange.
TRAVELING TO BOHOL
Bohol is about an hour and a half south of Manila by plane. We always fly to Bohol from Manila but you can get there by ferry as well if you’re already in Cebu or Dumaguete. Whether you go by plane or by ferry, you’ll be arriving in Tagbilaran City which is less than an hour’s drive to Panglao Island where most tourists will probably be staying. You can book a transfer to your hotel in Panglao from Tagbilaran Airport or Seaport through your hotel or Klook.
Here’s how you can get to Tagbilaran City from Manila, Cebu, or Dumaguete.
On our last trip, we flew to Tagbilaran via Cebu Pacific. Other airlines that fly direct from Manila to Tagbilaran are Philippine Airlines and Air Asia. Be sure to check all three airlines to find the best deal.
If you’re already in Cebu, then you can go to Tagbilaran by fast ferry. As far as I know, there are two ferry companies that service the Cebu-Tagbilaran route – OceanJet and SuperCat. The trip takes two hours with several departures daily. You can click on the links for ferry schedules and to purchase tickets.
We haven’t taken either ferry but I’ve read that OceanJet is slightly more expensive, probably because of their newer and more comfortable ferries. You can purchase tickets directly from the OceanJet website, or through third-party providers like 12Go Asia, Klook, or Kkday. OceanJet offers promos from time to time so be sure to check all four sites to find the best deal.
If you’re already in Dumaguete, then you can travel to Tagbilaran by fast ferry. OceanJet makes this two-hour trip twice daily at 9:50AM and 2:30PM. You can purchase tickets directly from the OceanJet website, or through third-party providers like 12Go Asia, Klook, or Kkday. OceanJet offers promos from time to time so be sure to check all four sites to find the best deal.
WHERE TO EXCHANGE CURRENCY
Being from Manila, we don’t need to exchange currency but there are a few money changers around Alona Beach on Panglao Island. Some hotels will exchange your currency as well. However, I’ve read that the rates aren’t as favorable on Panglao and you can can get better rates in Tagbilaran.
Assuming you’re coming from a bigger city like Manila or Cebu, then you’re better off exchanging your currency there before traveling to Bohol. The exchange rates will most likely be better.
Alternatively, you can also withdraw Philippine Pesos (PHP) from an ATM. The rates are competitive. Just be sure to advise your bank you’ll be using your ATM card overseas so you don’t run into any problems.
WHERE TO STAY IN BOHOL: Panglao Homes Resort & Villas
If it isn’t important for you to be right on the beach, then Panglao Homes Resort & Villas is a great choice of hotel. Located about 2 km from Alona Beach, it’s a secluded boutique resort with clean spacious rooms and a nice swimming pool. The distance from the beach didn’t bother us at all since they offer free one-way shuttle service to Alona beach five times a day. Check out my post on Panglao Homes Resort & Villas in Bohol for more pictures and information.
We booked a room here through Booking.com, but you can make a reservation through Agoda as well. Be sure to check both sites to find the better deal. If Panglao Homes isn’t the right resort for you, then you can go through those links to find alternate listings. You can search for accommodations on Panglao Island through AirBnB as well. If you’re new to the site, then you can get up to USD 43 free travel credit when you sign up via this link.
Approximate Room Rate: PHP 1,912 per night (as of Mar 2018)
THINGS TO DO IN BOHOL
1. Visit Bohol’s Top Tourist Attractions on the Countryside Tour
Bohol has many interesting tourist attractions like the Chocolate Hills in Carmen, the tarsier sanctuary in Corella, and the Loboc River. The problem is, they’re spread out across the island so it can be a challenge to visit them on your own. The Countryside Tour — a chauffeured tour that takes you to all of Bohol’s top sights in one day — makes it easy. Check out my post on the Countryside Tour in Bohol for more pictures and information.
Tour Duration: 7-9 hrs / Cost: Starts at PHP 1,520 per person
2. Go Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling at Balicasag Island
Like the Countryside Tour, dolphin watching and island hopping / snorkeling is another popular excursion in Bohol. You’ll set off at dawn to go dolphin and whale watching before spending a few hours snorkeling around Balicasag Island. There you’ll come face to face with a spectrum of marine wildlife like fish, turtles, and giant clams. Check out my post on Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling at Balicasag Island for more pictures and information.
Tour Duration: 11 hrs / Cost: Starts at PHP 2,224 per person
3. Go Stand Up Paddleboarding and Mountain Biking at Loboc River
If you like action sports, then you’ll love this. What better way to enjoy the Loboc River than to ride along its banks in the morning then dive in from your paddleboard in the afternoon? It’s loads of fun and a great way to beat the summer heat. Check out my post on Stand Up Paddleboarding and Mountain Biking at Loboc River with SUP Tours for more pictures and information.
We booked both activities directly with SUP Tours, which was the first company to offer these stand up paddleboard tours on Loboc River. I’m not sure if this is the same company but you can book the mountain biking and stand up paddleboarding activities through Klook as well.
Activity Duration: 1 hr each / Cost: Mountain Biking – PHP 500, Stand Up Paddleboarding – starts at PHP 800
4. Bike on a Zipline at Chocolate Hills Adventure Park
We did this at Eden Nature Park in Davao and had a lot of fun with it. You’re basically riding a bike with specialized wheels that wrap around the cable. You’re attached to a safety harness while a metal bar tethers your bike to an overhead cable, so there’s no chance of you falling off. I hope. 😆
We haven’t been to Chocolate Hills Adventure Park but a friend of ours told us it’s in the midst of the Chocolate Hills so you’ll be treated to some pretty spectacular views. Aside from this bike zipline, Chocolate Hills Adventure Park offers plenty of other attractions as well like a surf zipline, treetop rope challenges, wall climbs, and zorbing. It looks like a lot of fun so you’ll probably want to save a whole day for this.
Activity Duration: About 1 hr for the bike zipline / Cost: PHP 510 for the bike zipline with park entrance fee
14 MUST-TRY FILIPINO DISHES
Thanks to social media and the global expansion of fast food giant Jollibee, Filipino food has become more mainstream over the years. There are many delicious things to eat in my country but in my opinion, these are the dishes that you need to try. Follow the link for a list of 14 delicious things to eat in the Philippines, most of which you can probably find in Bohol.
WHERE TO EAT IN BOHOL
1. Giuseppe Pizzeria & Sicilian Roast
Giuseppe Pizzeria & Sicilian Roast is one of the best Italian restaurants we’ve been to not just in Bohol, but in all of the Philippines. It’s really good. Owned and operated by Italian Chef Giuseppe Genco who’s worked at premier hotels like the Hilton, Manila Peninsula, and Shangri-la, this was probably the single best meal we had on this trip.
Check out my post on Giuseppe Pizzeria & Sicilian Roast in Bohol for more pictures and information.
Expect to Spend: About PHP 500-600 per person with drinks
2. Pearl Restaurant at Linaw Beach Resort
What romantic getaway would be complete without dinner on the beach? A TripAdvisor favorite, Pearl Restaurant is located at the far end of the more secluded and much quieter Danao Beach. They have an extensive menu offering all kinds of dishes like fresh seafood, Australian rib eye, fondue, pasta, pizza, and paninis. They even serve more exotic fare like crocodile and ostrich! In my opinion, dinner and cocktails here on the beach whilst watching the sunset is a must in Bohol.
Check out my post on Pearl Restaurant at Linaw Beach Resort in Bohol for more pictures and information.
Expect to Spend: Anywhere between PHP 500-900 per person with drinks
3. L’ Elephant Bleu
Owned by a French-Italian who does all the cooking himself, L’ Elephant Bleu in the heart of Alona Beach is a good restaurant that serves delicious French fusion cuisine. Pictured below is an interesting chicken breast dish made with Madagascar vanilla sauce, potatoes, haricoverts, and pink peppercorns. It’s clear when you talk to him that he’s passionate about what he does and you can taste it in his food.
Check out my post on L’ Elephant Bleu in Bohol for more pictures and information.
Expect to Spend: About PHP 450-550 per person with drinks
4. Bohol Bee Farm
A TripAdvisor favorite and Bohol staple, Bohol Bee Farm is known for serving good food using only the freshest organic greens and vegetables. You can walk around their expansive facility and visit their many herb and vegetable gardens. They bake their own bread and churn out their own ice cream served in house-made cassava cones as well. Resembling a giant treehouse, the restaurant offers the most stunning ocean views.
Check out my post on Bohol Bee Farm for more pictures and information.
Expect to Spend: About PHP 450-550 per person with drinks
POINTS OF INTEREST IN BOHOL
To help you get your bearings, I’ve created this map so you get a better sense of where everything is. All the places recommended in this guide are pinned on this map.
HOW TO GET AROUND
The majority of travelers to Bohol stay on Panglao Island. You can get around by tricycle/habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) or by renting your own motorbike. Tricycles don’t have meters and charge per destination, but PHP 80 for every 2 km (for up to 3 people) seems a good rule of thumb. Motorbike rentals may vary from resort to resort but ours charged the following rates: PHP 500 per day (1-3 days) / PHP 400 per day (4-7 days) / PHP 350 per day (8+ days).
If you rent a motorbike, then you probably intend to visit Bohol’s tourist attractions on your own. If so, then you can refer to the map above or ask your hotel for detailed directions. If you’re going on the countryside tour, then you’ll be picked up and driven around in an air-conditioned car/van.
HOW MANY DAYS TO STAY / SAMPLE ITINERARY
Like many destinations in the Philippines, Bohol is one of those places where you can stay for weeks doing little more than laying on the beach. But if you don’t have weeks, then four full days should be enough. It’ll give you enough time to do everything in this guide. Here’s a sample 4D/3N Bohol itinerary I put together to help you plan your trip.
| DAY ONE|
• Blood Compact Shrine
• Baclayon Church
• Man-made Forest
• Chocolate Hills
• Simply Butterflies Conservation Center
• Loboc River Lunch Cruise
• Corella Tarsier Sanctuary
| DAY TWO|
• Dophin and whale watching
• Virgin Island
• Balicasag Island Marine Sanctuary
• Relax on the beach
| DAY THREE|
• Mountain biking
• Stand up paddleboarding
• Get a massage on Alona Beach
| DAY FOUR|
• Chocolate Hills Adventure Park
BUDGET / SUMMARY OF EXPENSES
Assuming you’ll be traveling with one other person, then a budget of around PHP 3,500 per day for four full days should be plenty. This takes into account a moderately priced hotel, restaurant meals, must-do tour fees, transportation, and pocket wifi rental.
How much to budget for accommodations depends on several factors like hotel preference and number of travel companions. We booked a room at a boutique resort for about PHP 1,990 a night. Expect to pay much less if you’re staying in a dorm room.
Again, this is subjective, but based on our experience, I’d say around PHP 1,000 a day per person if you dine at restaurants. You can spend much less than this if you eat at lower end eateries.
| TOUR / ACTIVITY FEES|
Of the four activities suggested in this guide, I’d say the countryside tour and island hopping are the absolute must-dos, meaning you won’t have a complete Bohol experience if you skip them. Both tours will cost at least PHP 3,744 per person.
| POCKET WIFI RENTAL|
If you’re sharing the cost with one other person, then you’ll each be paying PHP 225 per day.
The only time you’ll be taking a tricycle or habal-habal is if your hotel is too far from the beach. If you’re sharing transportation costs with one other person, then that should amount to about PHP 80 each per day. Allocate more for transportation if you plan on renting a motorbike for the duration of your stay.
This comes out to PHP 3,236 a day per person. Ren and I are middle of the road travelers who enjoy good food and drink, so the recommended budget is a good baseline for travelers like us. Adjust accordingly based on your own travel habits.
1. Plan your Trip with Sygic Travel
This has been my go-to trip planning app for many years now. I’ve been using it ever since it helped me plan our first trip to Osaka. What it does is allow you to visualize all the places you want to visit on a map so you can see exactly how far they are from each other. That way you can easily group attractions and restaurants by day to come up with an efficient itinerary. Check out my post on the Sygic Travel app for more information.
2. Rent a Pocket Wifi Device
Aside from my passport, the three most important things for me when I travel are money, my smartphone, and a pocket wifi device. Being able to access the internet whenever you need to is so important these days, especially when you’re in a foreign country. You’ll need it to navigate, convert currencies, and stay connected to the people back home.
You can secure a constant wifi connection by buying a sim card or renting a pocket wifi device. I find pocket wifi devices to be simpler so I prefer that in spite of the added cost, but either one is fine. Assuming you’ll be going to Bohol by way of Manila, then you can rent a pocket wifi device or buy a sim card and have them waiting for you in Manila. You can either pick them up from Ninoy Aquino International Airport or have them delivered to your hotel.
3. Check for Discount Passes
There are many websites that offer discount passes to tours and services. Two of my favorites are Klook and Kkday. They offer deals to many destinations around the world, including Bohol. If you’re looking for deals on tours, transfers, activities, etc, then you may want to search through the Klook or Kkday websites for a list of Bohol attractions.
4. Get Travel Insurance
If you’re a foreigner traveling through the Philippines, then you may want to get travel insurance. The Philippines is a little “rough” around the edges and you never know what can happen. Personally, we get travel insurance if we plan on doing anything physical on a trip. In the Philippines, I assume you’ll be doing a lot of outdoorsy stuff so I think getting travel insurance is a good idea.
We buy travel insurance from World Nomads because many digital nomads recommend it. Follow the link to learn more and get a free travel insurance quote from World Nomads.
5. Bring the Right Power Adapter
Electrical outlets in the Philippines typically feature two-pronged flat sockets, either Type A or Type B. Be sure to bring the right power adapters for your devices. Electrical voltage is 220V and the standard frequency is 60Hz.
I’ve been to Bohol many times but I still don’t consider myself an expert. Nonetheless, I hope you found this guide useful. I’m only sharing some of the things that I learned from our trip. If you have any questions or comments, then please leave them in the comment section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well.
Thanks for stopping by and remember to keep your voices down when saying hi to the tarsiers!
These are some of the things we brought with us to Bohol. Aside from my photo and video equipment, we did a lot of outdoorsy things so I brought gear suited for that. If you’d like to see what other gear we use, then you can check out our “What’s in Our Backpack?” post. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon affiliate links.)
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JB and Renée are the Traveleaters behind Will Fly for Food, a travel blog for the gastronomically inclined. They enjoy experiencing food from different cultures so they’ve made it their mission to try every country’s national dish. Read more about them and their National Dish Quest here.