Philippines – Bohol, more than just beaches

Bohol chocolate hills

View from our own chocolate hills

Bohol Island (close to Cebu) has been on my to-visit list for a while and the opportunity to finally get there came when we recently spent a family Xmas in the Philippines. Filipino beaches are amazing and Bohol’s beaches are up there with the rest of the country’s shores, but unlike other islands Bohol offers a number of other reasons to visit.

tarsier bohol

The famous tarsier of Bohol

The first thing to go and see is the local star: the tarsier. It is the smallest primate in the world and is very cute, but it is unfortunately a victim of its popularity and they are struggling with habitat loss. Tarsiers are shy and don’t live well in captivity but there are opportunities to go and see them in their natural habitat (in reserves) like we did. I’m sure, like us, you are going to fall in love with their huge eyes!

loboc river

View of the Loboc river

Second stop, after taking a pretty road lined with coconut trees and paddy fields, was lunch next to the Loboc River. It was a nice area but you have to deal with the boat-restaurants that sound like nightclubs going down the river… we had a quick lunch in the jungle and then escaped the tourist trap to the highlight of the day: the famous chocolate hills.

chocolate hills

chocolate hils
The chocolate hills are called thus because of their color at certain times of the year, but when we went there they were very green! We went up our “private” chocolate hill with local kids as guides and enjoyed the magic scenery in peace. We really explored in depth the area by taking a very bumpy road that wound through the Chocolate Hills – despite the road it is a very good memory!

baclayon bohol

Baclayon church that has been damaged by the earthquake

baclayon bohol
Bohol also has architectural heritage to view with its famous XVI century churches, such as at Balcayon. This church was built totally of coral, which adds to the nice atmosphere within (but unfortunately the church was damaged by a large earthquake in October).
We finished our Bohol adventure by visiting one of the little islands that surround Bohol and that can be reached rather quickly in a banca (the national boat of the Philippines). We went for Pamilacan, a quiet island where we got a warm welcome with flower necklaces and spend the day relaxing. The children have a great time playing with the local kids. We also went for a tour of the little island on a scooter, went fishing and enjoyed the relaxed rhythm of the local life. A day well spent in Filipino style.

pamilacan bohol

Arrival on our little island

pamilacan boho

The children of Pamilacan

Tourism, except on Panglao, has not yet arrived in force on Bohol so go and enjoy this little paradise!

pamilacan bohol
Voyagista’s tips

  • Access from Cebu followed by a ferry to Bohol (between 1h30 to 2h depending on the ferry), or fly and connect in Manila to Bohol (1h15 flight from Manila)

  • Go and see the tarsier at the “Philippines Tarsier Sanctuary” in Corella – the tarsier are well treated and able to enjoy their own habitat

  • Sleep on Panglao, where you will have a lot of choice of hotels. We stayed at Bohol Bee Farm, which offers great views from the restaurant. No swimming pool but there is a jacuzzi.

  • There is an official chocolate hill viewing platform looking over the other chocolate hills but it is much better to climb your own one and go for a drive in between the hills

  • From Bohol you can go snorkeling in Balicasag or Pamilacan, which is less touristic and a very pretty place to enjoy local life. Less fishes though.

  • If you choose a hotel with no direct beach access, you can pay to use the beach of other hotels (such as Bohol Beach Club)

Comments

  1. Great info and photos, it has made me add Bohol to my trip list.

  2. Nice to see the place back on its feet

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