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Exploring Bohol island's lush nature

Exploring Bohol island's lush nature

Bohol is a world of natural wonders. Located in the Central Visayas region, it’s the tenth biggest island in The Philippines and a place where foreigners and locals go for their holidays. What makes Bohol so especial among the other 7,000 islands in The Philippines is its nature and the unique activities that are only available on the island.

Bohol is blessed with rivers, waterfalls, pristine beaches, underwater cliffs and diving spots. The famous Chocolate Hills are there too, circa 1,700 round hills, all the same shape and size, spread in a 50 km² area. They are limestone formations covered in green grass that, during the summer time, turn into brown, like delicious chocolate bonbons.

Bohol is a place to be discovered. The island is 4,821km² and 261 km of coastline with beautiful beaches and crystal clear sea. It is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway as the island is close to Cebu, the fifth biggest city in The Philippines, with an international airport that receives daily flights from Singapore.

Tagbilaran (aka Tag) is the main town of Bohol, with shopping malls, local markets, and fast food restaurants. Most of the tourists arrive in Tag and go straight to Panglao, a small island connected to Bohol, address of the big resorts and some cozy B&B. Alona is the main beach with white sand, calm seas, western restaurants and cafes.

To explore Bohol you need at least 3 days, the island is big and all the natural attractions and things to do are a bit far from each other. So here’s the plan to explore the island’s nature.




Day 1 to Bohol, Philippines

Singapore to Bohol

You will be landing in Cebu around midday, grab a taxi and head to Canvas Bistro & Gallery for a well-deserved lunch. Relax and eat, enjoy the art exposition followed by a dessert and coffee. The boat departs at 4:20PM, so leave the restaurant around 2:30PM, traffic in Cebu is heavy and your ride to the port can take longer than you expect.

By 6PM the boat will dock in Bohol, from the port you can grab a taxi or one of the local tricycles to take you to the hotel (from 8 – 10 SGD). Hotel check in done, it’s time to relax! For dinner get a table at Pearl Restaurant, on their menu fresh seafood and organic vegetables.

Have a sweet tooth? Walk to The Buzz ice cream stall at Alona Beach Road. The homemade cassava cones and the ginger ice cream are delicious. Back to the hotel for a good night of sleep.

Day 2 in Bohol, Philippines

Chocolate Hills & Loboc River

Finish your breakfast and hit the road! Leave the hotel before 9AM and find you way to Carmen, the central area of Bohol. It takes almost two hours from Panglao to the famous Chocolate Hills. On the way small villages, rice fields and old churches. Have your camera ready to snap some good photos, especially from the kids playing on the road side.

Before the Chocolate Hills there is the Man Made, a 2 kilometers mahogany forest between Loboc and Bilar Town. In 1947 the government started the project of reforestation to recover an area of 19,410 hectares. Take your time to appreciate the beautiful landscape and the fresh breeze that comes from the trees.

Next stop is the Chocolate Hill Complex. The vehicles are allowed only half way, after that, you must climb the stairs (entrance fee SGD 3). It’s not a long way, but the 100 steps staircase is quite steep. From the viewpoint you can see how surprisingly round and symmetric the hills are. For a close look at them go on an ATV tour through the muddy roads and get a different perspective of this natural wonder. Book you tour in advance, the one hour ride will cost around 25 SGD.

On the way back to Panglao stop at Loboc River for an organic lunch and a stand-up paddle experience. At the Fox & The Firefly Cottages you can have a healthy lunch in a relaxed restaurant facing Loboc River. From the restaurant the Sup Tours team will take you on an expedition to explore the river, admire the birds and the dense forest on the river banks. If you are not confident enough to paddle your own board, ask for a ride on the guide’s board.

The day was packed with nature and activities, to recharge your batteries try some Filipino dishes at Cafe Olegario, in Loya. For drinks and pool, Hemut’s Place is the tourists and expats favorite in Alona Beach.

Day 3 in Bohol, Philippines

Balicasag Island

The third day of the trip is dedicated to the sea. If you are diver, you will find plenty of tours and companies to take you to the best spots in Bohol. Balicasag Island Marine Sanctuary is one of the premier diving spots in The Philippines and it’s only 6 km southwest of Panglao.

If you don’t dive, no problem! Go on an island hopping tour! You must be at Alona Beach by 6 – 6:30AM to catch a boat to Balicasag Island. If you feel adventurous you can arrive on the beach and talk to the fisherman, find the best boat and the best price for the tour. There will be plenty of boats on the beach, some will take groups (20 SGD per person) and others will offer a private boat (100 SGD). Or if don’t want to take the risk, talk to your hotel reception the day before and they can arrange everything for you.

The island hopping includes a visit to Balicasag Island where you can snorkel in the shallow waters around the island, or if you are a good swimmer you can go deep and see the stunning underwater cliff, a few meters from the shore. Hold your breath and go deep, you might see a sea turtle hanging around. On the island a small family restaurant will be serving snacks and local food for lunch. Enjoy the surroundings and rest under the trees. The next stop of the island hopping tour is the Virgin Island, a sandbar islet in the middle of the blue sea.

The island hopping or the dive tour will finish in the middle of the afternoon. You can stay by the beach, do a massage and enjoy the sunset. Or go back to your hotel for a relaxing shower and get ready for dinner.  

For local dishes and tasty food go to Bee Farm, a well-known hotel/restaurant/shop in Bohol. Their menu is delicious with organic ingredients and unusual recipes. The vegetable and flowers salad is a big hit.


Day 4 in Bohol, Philippines

Mag-aso Waterfall

Depending on your flight back to Singapore you can either head straight to Cebu Airport, or enjoy the last day in Bohol. Ask for your hotel to do a late check-out, or pack your bags and leave them at the reception. Have an early breakfast and around 8am make your way to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Bohol. Mag-aso Falls located in Anquera area, was destroyed by the earthquake in 2013, and suffered more changes during the typhoon Seniang in 2014, but nature adapted itself, and the falls are still stunning. The pool formed under the fall has a unique transparent green colour.

Back to the hotel, collect your belongings and stop for lunch at JJ Seafood before saying goodbye to Bohol.




Places to stay in Bohol, Philippines

Affordable

Isis Bungalows Beach Resort – rooms from SGD 57

Cozy rooms in a small property located right on the beach. You can’t beat this price for this location.

Mid Range

Henann Resort Alona Beach– rooms from SGD 160

One of the biggest resorts in Bohol. The rooms are bright and with a clean decoration. You will find all the facilities in the hotel, gym, swimming pool, business center, mini shop…  

High End

Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa from SGD 455

Luxury spread across 16 hectares of land. Cliffs, a ravine, caves, gorgeous sea views and of course a pool within the property, atop Alona beach, with infinity views over it and the ocean. The villas are in Filipino style with modern amenities.

Getting to Bohol, Philippines

There are two ways to get to Bohol Island, the easiest one is to catch the direct flight with SilkAir (Thursdays or Saturdays) at 9AM, it takes 4 hours to Cebu. Another option is fly with Tigerair on Friday at 7:55AM, arrives at 11:40AM. From Cebu you need to catch the ferry to Bohol for two more hours. Ocean Jet offers 10 boats daily and  SuperCat Fast Ferry has three boats per day.

On the way back home you can fly from Cebu with SilkAir on Sunday and Monday at 3:20PM, arriving in Singapore 6:55PM, or on Tuesday departing at 4:15PM, arrival at 7:40PM. If you want to stay a bit longer in the island, there is also a flight with Cebu Pacific Airlines that departs from Cebu at 7:55PM on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays (arrival in Singapore at 11:55PM).

The other option is to fly from Singapore to Manila, and from there take a domestic flight to Bohol Tagbilaran Airport. You can fly to Manila with Singapore Airlines, Tigerair or Cebu Airlines with daily flights. From Manila to Bohol, AirAsia, Philippines Airlines and Cebu Pacific have early morning and midday flights. The trip with a stopover in Manila can take up to eight hours.The flights schedules could change according to the season, it’s recommended to double check it with the airlines.

Getting Around Bohol, Philippines

Bohol is a big island and if you want to experience the freedom to move around searching for your perfect natural spot, a motorbike is what you need. The traffic in Bohol is calm, and people are friendly. Everybody speaks English, so if you get lost they will help you to find your way back to the hotel. To rent a scooter ask the travel agents at Tagbilaran town or at your hotel reception.

If driving is not your thing, you can hire a tricycle or a driver to take you around the island. To find a driver is easy: talk to any tour agent in town or with your hotel concierge. You can also book a tour to the main attractions like the Chocolate Hills and Loboc River, but it is usually more time consuming unless it is a private tour so it might be best to organize your itinerary at your pace.

Other Things to know about Bohol, Philippines

The best months to travel to Bohol are from November to April. May and June are the hottest months with high humidity.

Bohol is still a very local island. Apart from on Alona Beach, you won’t find many western restaurants, resorts and places open till late.

Filipinos love karaoke, but in Bohol this passion goes up to an extreme level. Don’t be surprised to see them singing from 9AM to midnight, especially in the small villages.

Malunggay is a local plant and is considered a superfood, rich in iron and vitamins, Boholanos eat it in soups and stews, don’t forget to try this local delicacy.

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