Bohol is situated in the Central Visayas Region in the Philippines and is famously known for the chocolate hills and its amazing coral reefs. We took the ferry from Cebu to Bohol on Oceanjet Ferries which took around 1.5-2hours, and the tickets cost around $55 for us 5 in tourist class.
We stayed at the Henann Resort which is a fairly new 5 star resort on Alona Beach. It’s a beautiful big property with plenty of pools, bars and restaurants, and great for kids and families. We stayed in a superior room which had 2 x double beds and did us 5 just fine. It wasn't cheap, around $230 a night but great facilities and being beachfront, a fantastic atmosphere! Food and drinks, especially beer and cocktails were really cheap, and the pool bar has happy hour from 5.30pm until 7pm - BONUS !
Things to do in Bohol
We took a trip in a traditional Banca over to Balicagsan Island which took around 40 minutes from Alona Beach and cost around $50 return for the day. We found a local boat operator on the beach and off we went. Once on the island you pay for activities depending on whether you want to find turtles, or visit fish sanctuaries. We did both which cost around $60 for the guides aswell and we managed to see a few big and small turtles. The sealife here was incredible – so many fish it was like being in an aquarium! Even better when the guides feed them while your snorkelling – we were suddenly surrounded by fish. There was one small restaurant on the island which we didn’t eat at so I can't vouch for the quality but I defnitley recommend visiting this Island ! We got caught in a hail storm on the way back and got absolutely soaked but was still a fantastic day!
There were plenty of other islands to visit and I heard later that Virgin Island is great, but we ran out of time to do anymore day trips.
Chocolate Hills Tour
We organised a day trip through a local family run tour operator who took us on the chocolate hills tour. This included stops at the Butterfly Farm, Mag-Aso Falls, tarsier monkeys, chocolate hills viewing area, hanging bridge, largest python ( I do not recommend this “zoo” which included a beautiful leopard cat in a concrete cage…just awful) and the Loboc River cruise.
The chocolate hills are so worth the drive (around 1 hour 20 mins from Alona Beach) – the photos don’t do it justice. There are around 1700 hills in Bohol and in the summer they turn a chocolate brown hence the name. They were still quite green when we went and just beautiful! For those wanting some adventure you can ride an ATV through the hills or visit the adventure park where you can zipline down the mountain. The zipline was under maintenance when we were there, what a shame as I TOTALLY would have done it (yes being sarcastic). It's quite a trek up to the viewing platform, around 200 steps but definitely worth it !
This was my favourite part of the day – a river cruise on the floating restaurant. It cost around $40 for the 5 of us and included a buffet lunch and drinks. The buffet had seafood, rice, satays, salad and fruit and was delicious! The cruise takes you down the Loboc River, past local kids swinging off ropes into the river and to platforms where local children perform a little song and dance. Loboc is home to the Childrens Choir and the kids performance was just gorgeous. The music they play while cruising is fantastic and adds to the atmposphere. The river has the most striking green water fringed with palm trees, and the banks are dotted with thatched bungalows that house some of the locals. I Highly recommend this tour- all up it took around 1 hour and made for some beautiful family photos.
The Tarsier Monkeys are tiny nocturnal monkeys with big beady eyes, and the ability to turn their heads 180 degrees.They are found in the southeastern part of the archipelago, particularly on the islands of Bohol, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. You have to remain extremely quiet while wandering through to spot the monkeys – they are known to get stressed with loud noises and will often commit suicide by banging their heads against something. The ones we saw were all tucked under palm leaves sleeping with their eyes open which was a little freaky.
The hanging bridge is a nice little tourist spot consisting of two suspended bridges made from bamboo over the river. You can walk down one bridge and back again and get a lovely typical tourist shot 🙂
Alona Beach stretches 1.5kms on Panglao Island and is a very busy tourist area - It is filled to the brink with backpackers & holidaymakers sunbathing and drinking beers at the local beach bars. The beach here is beautiful, we managed to get some amazing sunrise and sunset photos - especially first thing when the locals start preparing their boats in the sunrise.
The beach has plenty of bars, restaurants (with SHOCKING service I might add) little dive resorts and tour operators. It's fantastic for swimming (although full of sea urchins so wear booties if you plan on wading out) and we spotted plenty of starfish in the shallows. The kids loved wandering up and down collecting shells while we had a drink at happy hour (5.30 - 7 at the pool bar at the Henann Resort, which is situated right on the beach). My only complaint about the beach would be the staff and the service like I mentioned earlier...you literally had to chase someone down to get so much as a beer let alone a meal, and it was always very slow to arrive with very unfriendly staff. Being a frequent Bali traveller where they go out of their way to bring you menus and drinks, I found this really disappointing.
This place is a must visit for anyone in Bohol. A gorgeous little organic restaurant, hotel, bar and snorkelling spot. We had lunch here which was 2 pizzas, chips, and drinks which cost $25AUD! They also bring out a plate of snacks before your meal arrives including mango dips with cassavia chips, and apricot bread complimentary which was amazing. Down the wooden steps it leads to an open deck overlooking the water with cushions and daybeds, and you can jump straight in from here and head off snorkelling. (Again sea urchins so beware...what is it with Philippines and sea urchins?!)
There is also accommodation here which comes in packages of full board meals and tours, and a day spa which looks incredible. The ice cream is to die for and has some very interesting flavours including avocado and salted honey!
Defnitley put this place on your list if your visiting and stay for some lunch and ice cream
Dao, Dauis Panglao Island, Bohol, Philippines
Mag – Aso Falls
Mag -Aso Falls was a beautiful spot and defnitley a place I recommend visiting in Bohol. There is quite a few steep steps down to the waterfall but it is well worth the trek up at the end. The water was a little cool, but the kids had tons of fun jumping off the waterfall! There were also a lot of mozzies and bugs around so take plenty of mosquito spray.
Hinagdanan Cave is a small grotto with stalactites and stalagmites and a beautiful pure lake. The cave was accidentally discovered by a farmer; while clearing his land he found 2 holes and curious, he dropped a stone and heard a splash. He built a ladder “hagdan” and was able to access the cave and find its hidden beauty, thus the origin of the name Hinagdanan. The highlight for the kids was swimming in the lake, where the water was around 25 degrees and had little fish. They both said it was the coolest thing they had ever done!
It's around 100 pesos for adults to swim but free for the kids. The cave has natural light through holes and cracks ( and the guides use these to take some great optical illusion pics!) and is also home to lots of swallows. It's a beautiful spot for a visit and very easy to access, just a few steps down into the cave so suitable for all fitness levels.
Man Made Forest
Stretching up to two kilometers, the dense man made forest is made up of red and white mahogany trees and is located along the border of Loboc and Bilar towns. The Bilar man-made forest, which started in 1947, was part of a bigger reforestation project that was created in response to the alarming deforestation in the Loboc watershed. This was caused by the destructive slash and burn farming system called kaingin, which was done by the locals who sought refuge in the forested area during World War II. It makes for an interesting, yet in some way, chilling drive and some gorgeous photos.
Bohol was one of our favourite places - from the turtles and sealife, to the striking green rivers and amazing beaches - there is SO much to do here and something for everyone. It's defnitley a place we plan on visiting again with the kids !