This Bohol travel guide has all you need to know to plan your trip to one of the most diverse and adventure-packed islands in the Philippines. Things to do, how to get around, food and even a sample itinerary. In other words, a must-have for first-timers in Bohol!
I see the island of Bohol as a showcase of what you can find in the entire Philippines. Paradisiac beaches, mangroves, river cruises, jungle adventures and top-notch diving spots all in one place.
This travel guide of Bohol and Panglao is packed with the most up-to-date and reliable information (up to 2018) to start planning your journey. Find here tips about where to go, what to do, where to eat, budget and much more.
Sections of this Bohol travel guide
There are exactly 7,107 islands (!) in the Philippines, but Bohol is surely one of the most diverse and interesting ones you can pick to visit.
If you visit Bohol alone you get a decent idea of what the entire country is all about. An eco-tourism paradise suited for adventurers. Tropical beaches (not the best ones in the country, but we’ll get to that), lush jungle, friendly people and top-notch diving spots all in the same place.
But Bohol checks all those boxes and raises the parade with some unique experiences that you can’t find anywhere else. Odd landscapes like the Chocolate Hills. Architectural heritage from Spanish colonization. Or the endangered tarsier, the smallest mammal in the world.
In other words: in case you’re still having FOMO about the itinerary for your Philippines trip, don’t. Bohol is absolutely a great choice.
How to get to Bohol island
Whether you come by air or by sea, the main point of entry to the island is Tagbilaran City. It’s less than an hour’s drive to the adjacent island of Panglao, where most visitors stay.
If your hotel doesn’t have the transfer included, you can easily arrange a van, taxi or tricycle to get to Panglao. We paired up with a group of tourists and were able to negotiate a van for five.
Here’s how you can get to Bohol from other places in the Philippines.
Manila to Bohol ✈️
The easiest way to get to Bohol from Manila is by plane (1h30). There are several airlines flying from Manila to Tagbilaran airport in Bohol:
Flights are generally inexpensive but book ahead to guarantee a good price.
Cebu to Bohol ⛴️
The best way to get from Cebu to Bohol is to use the fast ferry (a 2-hour trip).
There are mainly two main ferry companies that do the route Cebu City – Tagbilaran several times per day: SuperCat and Ocean Jet.
Ocean Jet is slightly more expensive (800-1000 pesos), but from what I’ve seen the boats seemed newer and more comfortable. Keep an eye on special promos they offer sometimes.
You can purchase tickets in advance directly from the company websites, or through third-party providers like 12Go Asia or Klook.
Alternatively, just head to the ferry terminal and get your tickets there, to be honest, it’s unlikely they’ll be sold out.
Ferry schedules between Cebu and Bohol (updated September 2018)
Bohol (Tagbilaran) – Cebu (Cebu City)
- Ocean Jet: 6:00,7:05,8:20,9:20,10:40,11:40,13:00,14:00,15:20,16:20,17:00,17:40,18:30
- Supercat: 5:50,8:15,11:00,13:15,15:35,17:45
Cebu (Cebu City) – Bohol (Tagbilaran)
- Ocean Jet: 5:10,6:00,7:00,8:00,9.20,10:40,11:40,13:00,14:00,15:20,16:20,17:40,18:40
- Supercat: 5:50,8:15,11:00,13:15,15:35,18:00
Dumaguete to Bohol ⛴️
A 2-hour ferry trip is the best way to travel from Dumaguete to Bohol (Tagbilaran). Ocean Jet makes this trip twice a day (9:50 and 14:30).
You can purchase tickets in advance directly from the company websites, or through third-party providers like 12Go Asia or Klook.
Siquijor to Bohol ⛴️
If you’re in the beautiful island of Siquijor and want to get to Bohol, Ocean Jet makes this trip once a day (12:30). It connects Larena pier in Siquijor to Tagbilaran in Bohol.
Best time to visit Bohol
Like most of the Philippines, Bohol has a tropical climate, which means very rarely the temperatures drops below 20 degrees Celsius. This would make Bohol pleasant for a visit at any time of the year… if it wasn’t for the rainfall. This the key!
June to December is normally considered the rainy season – you can expect much less sunny days around this time. Heavy frequent showers are more common between August and October, when the southwest monsoon prevails. You’ll want to avoid this time to visit. Late December is also a peak season for locals so there will likely find more crowds and inflated prices in Bohol.
Anywhere between January and June is a good time to visit Bohol. If you come right after the end of the rainy reason – January to March – the rice fields are still vivid green, everything looks more fresh, and photo ops multiply. If you decide to come between April and June, fields will be likely more brown, including the almighty Chocolate Hills.
My weather experience in Bohol
I visited Bohol in mid-December. The temperatures were warm without being unbearable. However it was still very unpredictable. The weather changed from a clear sunny day to heavy stormy showers in a short bike ride. We were struck by surprise twice when we were on the road.
The good thing is that the rain never lasted for long. 1 hour tops. And being soaked while driving just made us appreciate the warm sunny weather even more!
Weather in Bohol
To help you understand better how does weather work in Bohol, here is some more detailed info about temperature and rainfall.
What to pack
Don’t overthink your clothing options too much. As a tropical island with almost-constant temperatures all-year-round, with light summer clothes, you’ll be fine. Pick comfortable and breathable pieces.
A light rain jacket is recommended – we never know when the occasional storm will appear – and you’ll also want to have long sleeve piece to enter churches.
Landscapes are incredible and the adventure activities are a must, so make sure you bring a good camera and consider getting a GoPro if you haven’t got one.
Other than that, don’t forget sunscreen, a snorkeling mask, and a dry bag to keep your stuff. The latter is super useful if you’re doing sea activities or to simply go to the beach.
Getting around Bohol
Bohol is one of those places I absolutely recommend getting your own wheels. Not only the public transportation is unreliable, but it gives you freedom of schedules and itineraries. It can also be cheaper, with rates ranging from 300 PHP to 600 PHP per day. All depends on the number of days you’re renting and your haggling skills.
In fact, one of my best memories and experiences of Bohol was riding a bike around the island. You get to drive next to vivid green paddy fields, forests or just stunning beaches with a view to the Pacific.
You can also get around by tricycle, a kind of moto-taxi that has a capacity for about 3 people, give or take. They usually don’t have meters and prices are haggled by destination. For a journey of about 10km, expect to pay around 400-450 PHP.
Other more local ways of transportation include jeepneys and buses.
Getting from Tagbilaran to Panglao
Most travelers arrive in Tagbilaran to then get to Alona or Dumaluan in Panglao, where most beach accommodation is located. To make this trip, you have some options:
- Hire a taxi. Most convenient but also more expensive.
- Hire a tricycle. It should be around 500 pesos.
- Go on a van. Share it with other people – just ask around – and haggle the price down.
We ended up sharing a van with other travelers to Alona. We were 5 in total paying 400 pesos, which totals a very inexpensive 80 pesos per person!
Are tours in Bohol worth it?
As I mentioned, personally I feel the best way to explore Bohol is to get your own wheels. There’s no need for tours if you’re young, active and know how to ride a motorbike – it adds to the adventurous vibe of the island after all.
However, there are some pre-defined day tours to explore the island – these will cost around 500 PHP all the way to 1500 PHP per person. These are usually rushed, covering all the main sights of Bohol in one day.
Jeepneys and tricycles in Bohol
Jeepney is a local’s favorite and prices depend on the distance. Most jeepneys going along the south side of the island depart from Dao Terminal, including Baclayon, Carmen and Jagna. They’re mostly used by locals.
Don’t expect luxury. Jeepneys are often old and overcrowded. While the experience of a ride amongst dozens of Filipinos as well as animals like chickens (and other random creatures) might be appealing, note that distances in Bohol often mean more than 1-hour long trips.
You can also hire a tricycle driver to get you around Bohol for the day. This can cost you between 800-1000 pesos per day.
Fun fact: did you know tricycle drivers are actually obliged to place verses from the Bible on the back of their vehicle? Yes, it’s a mandatory law by the Government!
Vans and buses in Bohol
Air-conditioned vans with capacity for 10-11 people are also available. However, they tend to depart from the Dao terminal only when they are absolutely packed with more than 15 people.
Buses going North of the island – Loon, Calape and Tubigon for instance – start from Kogon Market in Tagbilaran.
What to do in Bohol
Bohol is a perfect for for adventurers and nature enthusiasts. The island is packed with 7 outdoor experiences and unique activities.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed time, hop on a river cruise in Loboc or hit the white-sand beaches of the twin island of Panglao await you.
To make things visual, I’ve prepared a map of all the main sights in Bohol.
In purple the main towns; in orange the main sights; in blue the main beaches.
Tarsier Sanctuary (the real one!)
When in Bohol you’ll see that are quite a few tarsier “sanctuaries” in Bohol. Make sure you go to the Tarsier Sanctuary near Corella, the only “real” one.
They have less than a dozen animals, but it’s the only place where they live in the wild and have enough space to have an acceptable quality of life. See, when they tarsiers don’t have an hectare of forest to live and are enclosed in little cages, they often attempt suicide. 😥
Corella Tarsier Sanctuary
- Ticket price: 60 pesos
- How to get there: Follow the road to Corella and Sikatuna, turn left on the fitting Tarsier Sanctuary Road. There are buses from Tagbilaran to Sikatuna where you can drop off nearby too.
- What to do: Your main task is to spot the tiny tarsiers in the middle of the trees!
I found Loboc to be one of the most interesting little towns in Bohol. People are friendly and the setting is beautiful, right next to the jungle-resembling Loboc River.
Next to it, the Baclayon and San Pedro churches, destroyed during the 2013 earthquake that stroke the Philippines are there to remind of the country’s Spanish colonial past.
Loboc is also popular for its cruises that take you up and down the river, and often include a fancy meal aboard.
- Ticket price: N/A
- How to get there: Loboc is nearly halfway between Tagbilaran and the Chocolate Hills.
- What to do: From the popular floating restaurants to mountain biking & paddleboarding tours, there’s a lot to do here. Don’t miss the iconic bamboo bridge!
Probably the most iconic postcard of Bohol, the Chocolate Hills are a geological formation consisting of 1,776 conical-shaped hills ranging from 30 to 120 meters high. The name comes from the fact that during the dry season they change their color to a light brown color. In the rest of the year, they’re actually a lovely vivid green!
The Chocolate Hills Complex is located in Carmen, in the very center of Bohol. The road there wanders across beautiful paddy field sceneries but nothing prepared me for the moment I got to the viewpoint. The hundreds of identical hills going as far as your eyes can see are dazzling. Don’t miss this.
- Ticket price: 50 PHP
- How to get there: Follow the road to Carmen. After you pass the Man-Made forest, it’s a fairly straight ride. If you’re on a a bus, take one at Tagbilaran bus station heading to Carmen. You can ask the driver to drop you off at the Chocolate Hills.
- What to do: On a clear day, you can spend hours admiring the landscape.
The Marine Sanctuary of Balicasag is a world-class diving spot. Featuring a rich wildlife of fish, dolphins, turtles, and corals it’s a must if you’re into the underwater world.
That said, there have been rising environmental concerns regarding snorkeling. The high number of boats with careless tourists touching starfishes and turtles (they’re sensitive to human bacteria) and swimming with sunscreen on (whose chemicals can literally destroy the corals). Please be aware of this when going there.
To get away from it all, you can also spend the night in Balicasag Island Dive Resort.
- Ticket price: Don’t pay more than 300 PHP if you’re going on a organized tour
- How to get there: Join an organized tour or haggle with a boatmen to take you there on a outrigger
- What to do: Snorkeling and diving are the main highlights here.
Beaches of Bohol & Panglao
To be completely honest, I was expecting more from the beaches in Panglao. My biggest disappointment was the infamous Alona Beach. What once was a tropical paradise, now it’s a dirty overcrowded beach, full of restaurants, bars and dodgy stalls oriented for mass tourism.
I’ve toured across other beaches and whether was the trash, the algae or the total absence of sand to lay in, they all seemed they needed some kind of maintenance.
While Bohol has Anda Beach, a rising eco-tourism hotspot, most beaches of Bohol are actually located in the twin island of Panglao. On the map it looks like an appendix, but this place boasts a different vibe from Bohol.
Panglao is packed with at least a dozen white-sand beaches to choose from. Some of them boast beautiful palm trees, clean sand, and crystal clear beaches, especially if they are maintained by resorts or hotels. In this category, Dumaluan Beach was my favorite.
If you’re a beach bum and mostly want beach time, there are better islands in the Philippines.
Beaches in Panglao and Bohol
- Alona Beach: don’t matter what Google images tell you, skip it. What it used to be a picture-perfect beach in Panglao, today is a mega-touristy and rather depressing stretch of sand full of boats, trash and restaurants.
- Anda Beach: unspoiled stretches of sand in the southeast tip of Bohol. A great choice if you’re looking for the off the beaten track.
- White Beach: packed at first, but pretty secluded after a 10-minute walk. I still found some plastic and trash on the sand, but nothing dramatic.
- Dumaluan Beach: awesome. You need to pay an entrance fee to the STUNNING Bohol Beach Club, but it’s worth it. This the kind of beach you see in travel magazines.
- Doljo Beach: the scenery here is stunning. The sand is so white it creates a natural mirror during low-tide. Lots of starfish. I didn’t find it amazing for swimming though.
- San Isidro Beach: super disappointed with the level of trash and low level of sand. The way I’d describe it: a dirty rocky bay.
- Danao Beach: another one not inviting enough to lay around for long.
Sample Bohol Itinerary
Find below a suggested itinerary to explore Bohol and Panglao. Even though I’ve created a list of sights up until 5 full days available in Bohol, I’d say 2 full days is the absolute minimum to have a well-rounded experience of the island.
This itinerary is in order. If you only have 3 days available on the island, my suggestion is that you do the things on the first 3 rows.
|Days||What to see|
|1||– Chocolate Hills
– Tarsier Sanctuary
– Man-Made Forest
|2||– Dumaluan Beach
– Bohol Bee Farm
– White Beach
|3||– Loboc River Cruise
– Hanging Bridge
– Baclayon Church
– Mag-aso Falls
|4||– Balicasag Island
– Doljo Beach
– Hinagndanan Cave
|5||– Anda Beach
– Cabagnow Cave Pool
– Candijay Rice Terraces
Where to stay in Bohol
My first suggestion is to skip beach-front accommodation in Alona Beach. Firstly, all the prices are inflated. And then from what I’ve seen, I can hardly call it a “beach” anymore.
Basing yourself in Panglao is a good idea, specially if you’re looking for some beach-bum time. But instead, base yourself near Alona Beach. If your budget allows, don’t even think twice. Stay in Bohol Beach Club:
Bohol Beach Club
You might never want to leave this place. The setting is fantastic and right next to the best beach I’ve seen in the entire Philippines. Book now >>
I understand if you can’t spend that much. Here’s another suggestion of good value:
Find your accommodation in Bohol
If you want to find your own hotel, start with this shortlist of the top-rated hotels and resorts in Bohol, with WiFi and breakfast included.
Or make your own research:
Food in Bohol
Compared to other places in Southeast Asia like in Vietnam, the food in Philippines can be somewhat disappointing.
Or maybe I was biased because I came to the Philippines coming from Ninh Binh in Vietnam which has some of the most delicious food I’ve tasted.
In any case, I had some pretty nice meals in Bohol.
What to eat in Bohol 🍳
- Chicken Adobo: chicken marineted in a delicious rich sauce of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves
- Kare-Kare: traditional Filipino stew complimented with a thick savory peanut sauce. Beef, pork, ox or chicken meats can be used.
- Lechón: roasted suckling pig. I don’t eat babies so I didn’t try this, but I got to say it looked good!
- Halo-halo: the most famous dessert in the Philippines. It’s a rather odd and indulging mix of shaved ice, jelly, sweet beans, coconut and fruits.
Places to eat in Bohol 🍽️
Bohol Bee Farm Restaurant (Panglao)
This restaurant in Panglao is part of a hotel with the same name and serves healthy, organic food.
The ingredients come from the owner’s farm and the view of the sea brings up the experience by a notch. They also have a smaller café right in Alona Beach – The Buzz Café – where I went religiously every evening for their organic ice creams.
Gerarda’s Place (Tagbilaran)
Located in Tagbilaran, this family-owned restaurant serves unpretentious, delicious and inexpensive food. Good for trying local flavors. Try the buttered chicken, actually served on butter!
The Wine Cellar (Panglao)
It’s on the higher end of the price spectrum but when you’re on vacations, sometimes you need a treat. Boasting a wide choice of Asian and European dishes and wines from Germany and Austria, you can rest assured to have a neat meal here.
Sunset Grill Authentic Mexican Food (Panglao)
Well, the name says it all! When you’re traveling through Asia, mixing things up with different flavors is a breath of fresh air. This authentic Mexican place with great food and big servings is the place to go.
Coco Loco (Anda)
One of those beach bars serving delicious food all-day-long. Come for the breakfast menus, stay for craft beers. Perfect spot to unwind, with the beach just a few steps away.
Cost of things in Bohol
To give you a good idea of the budget you can expect, I’ll give you some examples of what things can cost. The prices are up-to-date at the date of writing of this article.
Bohol budget and daily costs
- Transportation: The ferry from Cebu on Ocean Jet was 500 pesos (plus extra 100 for the luggage). We haggled down the price of a van from Tagbilaran to Alona for 400 pesos.
- Vehicle rentals: motorbikes can be rented from 350 pesos per day next to Alona Beach. I’m sure you can find for less in other more remote areas.
- Gasoline: if you go to the petrol station, filling your tank can be as low as 100 pesos
- Food: Local restaurants serve main dishes starting at 60 pesos, but on average a lunch would cost around 150-200 pesos. Some restaurants in Alona can be slightly more expensive during dinner: a full meal for 2 people starts at around 300 pesos. A beer starts at 40 pesos.
- Water: don’t forget to hydrate! A big water bottle (1,5L) was around 15-25 pesos.
- Accommodation: I’d say you can expect to pay somewhere between 1000 and 1600 pesos per day for a medium-quality double room in most places in Bohol. Even in Alona Beach. Of course there are backpacker dorms cheaper and resort rooms more expensive than this.
- Entrance fees: everywhere you go in the Philippines you need to pay a small entrance fee (even in airport terminals!). See below the entrance fees for the main sights in Bohol.
|Attraction||Entrance fee (in pesos)|
|Tarsier Sanctuary||60 PHP|
|Chocolate Hills||50 PHP|
|Loboc River Cruise||From 450 PHP|
|Python Sanctuary||10 PHP|
|Bohol Bee Farm||30 PHP|
|Butterfly Sanctuary||30 PHP|
|Hinagdanan Cave||30 PHP|
|Baclayon Church||25 PHP|
|Mag-Aso Falls||40 PHP|
I found the prices in Bohol to be in line as compared to other places in the Philippines and a bit lower than in touristy hotspots like El Nido.
If you’re traveling with more people, you can easily get around with less than 1000PHP or 50EUR/USD per day.
Bohol Travel Tips
- Bring sunscreen.
You can get burned easily if you’re not careful. Read other stuff to pack while traveling in Southeast Asia.
- Always have some change and small money with you.
In the Philippines (too) any places ask for a minimal entrance fee (even churches and airport terminals). They might just change their name to FEE-lipphines.
- Don’t stay right in Alona Beach.
Biased by Google Images results and promises of a tropical paradise, I almost made this mistake.
Bohol stroke me as the most diverse place in the Philippines. While other islands excel in beaches or jungle landscapes, this one seems to have a bit of everything. Sort of a mini-showcase of the Philippines.
While the Chocolate Hills and Dumaluan Beach were definitely an highlight, my fondest memories were actually small things on the day-to-day. Like driving through the island. The winding roads through paddy fields and lush forests are beautiful to look at. The school kids waving at you and older people smiling every time you enter a restaurant or a shop.
The level of infrastructure is just right and it is suited for all kinds of people, from the budget backpacker to the most luxurious traveler. However, some places are starting to lose its charm and yes I’m speaking again of Alona Beach. What a disappointment!
In any case, Bohol is safe, friendly and the definition of adventure. If it’s your first time in the Philippines I highly recommend you stay for a few days.