3 day itinerary in Bohol, what to do?
Bohol, which is on many travelers’ itinerary, has gained popularity thanks to its Chocolate Hills (unique geological formations) and its adorable little tarsiers, which are among the smallest monkeys on the planet. The island of Panglao, connected by a bridge to that of Bohol, offers beautiful beaches (including the famous Alona Beach) and superb diving sites.
We spent 3 days visiting the island of Bohol in rainy weather which did not allow us to do everything we wanted and in particular to discover the waterfalls. In this blog post, I detail what to do in Bohol and Panglao between Chocolate Hills, tarsiers, rice fields, beaches and a wild river. Also find for each site the best addresses to sleep in Bohol .
How to get to Bohol Island in the Philippines?
- By ferry
The ferry is the most economical way to reach Bohol, the main connections to Tagbilaran are with the islands of Cebu (Cebu City and Talood), Negros (Dumaguete) and Siquijor.
There are many departures from Cebu to Bohol Island, so there is no need to book your ticket in advance, you can buy it directly at the port (Pier 1). Two companies share the Cebu – Bohol journey in fast boats (2 hours journey): Oceanjet and SuperCat Ferry, but there are also slightly cheaper slow boats.
We took the company Oceanjet which offers 3 different classes (one way fare): business class (1,000 pesos), tourist classwith air conditioning (700 pesos) and open air on the outside deck without air conditioning (700 pesos). If you have a big luggage you have to pay an additional 100 pesos.
- By plane
Bohol airport located on the island of Panglao is connected by plane to Manila and Cebu.
How to get around Bohol?
- Scooter rental
To visit Bohol and be as independent as possible, the best thing is to rent a scooter, you will easily find rental companies in town and in all accommodations. Be careful not to underestimate the distances, the island of Bohol is large and the journeys can be quite long, especially from Panglao.
Count 500 pesos a day if you are in the tourist sector of Panglao. In Loboc our guesthouse Stefanie Grace Inn offers scooter rental at 300 pesos per day (5 €).
- Tricycle / Taxi
For a short trip and on Panglao Island it is easy to use tricycles. Taxis that are more convenient for long journeys are more expensive. For example, we paid 800 pesos (14 €) to go from Tagbilaran to Loboc (50 min).
- Public bus and jeepney
For the less in a hurry and the most broke, it is possible to take the public buses and jeepney (large American jeeps) which circulate in Bohol. Most of the tourist areas are accessible by public transport: Chocolate Hills, Canapnapan (tarsiers), Panglao Island and Anda. For Loboc the fare is only 28 pesos (0.50 €) from Tagbilaran.
So let’s start our 3 day itinerary in Bohol!
Day 1: Loboc: idleness by the river
After an imposed stopover of one night in Cebu (our flight arriving too late to continue with the ferry), we take the fast boat of the company Oceanjet towards the island of Bohol at 1h50 from the port of Cebu City. If you haven’t had time to change money at Manila airport (which has one of the best rates in the Philippines), there is a “money changer” in the Cebu City ferry departures hall which offers a great rate (the best I’ve seen after Manila airport). Don’t change at Cebu airport the rate is really bad.
From the port of Tagbilaran on the island of Bohol we take a private transport (800 pesos) to the accommodation we have reserved in Loboc: Stefanie Grace Inn, a friendly hotel with a swimming pool by the river. We chose to stay in Loboc to avoid the overly touristy side of Panglao Island. In addition Loboc benefits from a more central position on the island which facilitates travel by scooter to visit Bohol. The small town of Loboc has a cash machine (ATM) and a few stalls along the main road, enough to find the essentials there.
We spent this sunny afternoon (the only one of our 3 days in Bohol) recuperating from travel and jet lag enjoying the hammocks by the river and pool.
Accommodation in Loboc
Here are some good addresses for accommodation in Loboc, remember to book in advance, especially during the high season because accommodation fills up quickly. Even if we took it in advance, the best ones were already booked for our dates in February.
It is possible to take a cruise on the Loboc River aboard floating restaurants (meals served as a buffet) where groups and singers perform. It’s a pretty popular attraction but we didn’t do it, I’m not a fan of that kind of atmosphere but you might like it. The boats passed right in front of our accommodation.
In the same way it is possible to take a cruise at nightfall to see the fireflies in the trees by the river. The boat can pick you up directly at the Stefanie Grace Inn (500 pesos per person). For a more enjoyable experience, I recommend the kayak trip on the Abatan River (4 km round trip) organized by the Kayakasia agency.
Chocolate Hills loop from Loboc: 189 KM
This morning we rent a scooter for the day at the Stefanie Grace Inn (300 pesos), our goal is to complete a 189 km loop to visit the main tourist sites of Bohol. On the program for this day: the sanctuary of the tarsiers, the mahogany forest, the Chocolate Hills, the rice terraces of Pilar then return by the road from Sierra Bullones to Jagna which according to the Lonely Planet would be picturesque.
This circuit represents a good distance and I don’t hide the fact that at the end of the day I was tired of driving, especially with the weather we faced. If you start from around Alona Beach on Panglao, this loop is even longer with 230 km, honestly I don’t advise you to do it on a scooter unless you really like to ride (that’s why we chose accommodation in Loboc to visit Bohol).
Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary
There are two places to observe tarsiers on the island of Bohol, the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary which is in Canapnapan (next to Corella) and the Tarsier Conservation Area in Loboc. It is absolutely necessary to go to that of Canapnapan which is an official foundation which works for the protection of the tarsier and where the primates are free unlike the second.
The tarsier is one of the smallest monkeys but also the oldest survivor of the group of primates. His huge eyes are 150 times larger than human eyes (proportionally) and he can turn his head almost 360°. Despite its small size and sleepy appearance (it is a nocturnal animal), the tarsier can leap up to 5 meters. They are animals very sensitive to noise and light and can commit suicide if they are under great stress, hence the precautions to be taken (no noise and no flash) when observing them. Unfortunately tarsiers are endangered, they are found on the islands of Samar, Leyte and Bohol but it is very rare to see them while walking in the forest.
The Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary allows you to observe 8 tarsiers in the observation area but a good hundred live in the immediate vicinity of the center. The visit (60 pesos) must be made in small groups with a guide. In the morning, the staff spot a few tarsiers which they then show to visitors by taking a small path.
I admit I was shocked by the behavior of some tourists making noise and going so far as to stick their cell phones on the heads of the tarsiers when it wasn’t to take a selfie with them. It’s a shame that the guides don’t enforce the instructions more.
Cars Man-Made Forest
The “Bilar Man-Made Forest” is a mahogany forest which, as its name suggests, was planted by man, so its appearance is not natural. Honestly we can’t say that this is one of the things to see in Bohol, but as this forest is on the road to the Chocolate Hills you will necessarily pass by. Be careful if you are on a scooter, a lot of tourists put themselves in the middle of the road to take their picture.
The “chocolate hills” funny name for these undulating hills, this one comes from the chocolate brown color that the vegetation takes on during the driest months (February to July). The Chocolate Hills are said to result from the uplift of ancient coral deposits shaped by rain and erosion.
There are 1,268 hills spread over 50 km², the largest site to observe them is at the viewpoint of the Chocolate Hills Complex (access 50 pesos per person). This complex built on one of the hills houses souvenir shops and a restaurant offering meals and sandwiches. During our visit to Bohol the weather was not on our side which limited the visibility on the Chocolate Hills. Note that this is the only place in the Philippines where I saw a sign prohibiting drones (after 8am).
For the little anecdote we punctured with the scooter just before arriving at the Chocolate Hills, fortunately there was a repairman (indicated “Vulcanizing” at the edge of the road) 5 min further. For barely 100 pesos (not even 2 euros) he repaired the tire and the inner tube and we were able to continue our journey.
Day 2: Pilar Rice Terraces
The rice fields are not easily accessible, we would never have found them without the maps.me GPS application (enter the destination “Pilar Rice Terraces”). From the center of the village of Pilar you have to take a stony dirt road but this is not a problem with the scooter, you just have to be careful. Follow the GPS at each fork (because you won’t find any signs) to come to a basketball court where you can park. From here you have to continue on foot for a hundred meters to see the first rice terraces.
Route from Sierra Bullones to Jagna
From the rice fields of Pilar we return to the village of Poblacion to take the road to Sierra Ballones which will take us to Jagna on the south coast. This road crosses beautiful landscapes between hills and rice fields and offers some superb views of the coast. Unfortunately we face a light rain and mist all along the 36 km journey which did not allow us to see much.
The many advertisements for McDonald’s in Jagna along the road will leave me little choice, Daniela absolutely wants to stop there for a sundae (I also gave in to the temptation).
From Jagna we follow the south coast to return directly to Loboc, there is nothing to visit in this part of Bohol and I admit that I no longer saw the end of this loop. The traffic is denser on the seaside road, you have to be vigilant especially at nightfall because the headlight of the scooter does not illuminate anything at all. I take this opportunity to fill up for 160 pesos (it must be returned with the same level of gasoline but no one has ever checked).
After this long day and lazy to come out, we dine at the Stefanie Grace Inn (the dishes are around 150 pesos). For the moment the food in the Philippines does not really enchant us, most of the dishes are greasy and fried, we are far from what I have eaten in other Asian countries.
The next day the weather did not improve, it rained all night and it continues, we are a little disgusted because it is not at all the weather it is supposed to have in February. Finally it calms down a bit, so we take a scooter for the day (300 pesos + 50 pesos of gasoline).
Bamboo Bridges of Seville
7 km north of Loboc in the municipality of Sevilla are two bamboo bridges that cross the Loboc River (Twin Hanging Bridge). Not really knowing what to expect before going there, I thought I would find a bridge used by the locals to cross the river, but not at all! It is in fact a paid tourist attraction (35 pesos) whose crossing leads to souvenir shops. So we find ourselves in single file walking on a bridge with lots of other tourists landed here by minibus. And if you want, you even have the right to a magnificent souvenir photo like at Disneyland.
Unless you are in the area, there is no great interest in coming here to take these bamboo bridges. When in the souvenir shops you will find the same thing as elsewhere, they still served us as shelters while waiting for the end of the downpour.
So as not to end up soaked at the end of the day, we stop in Loboc to buy two magnificent plastic ponchos (20 pesos). Given the weather we had in the Visayas, they were very useful to us since we also used them in Siquijor.
In the planning that I had made to visit Bohol I had planned to go see Camugao Falls, a pretty waterfall 25 km from Loboc. Only seeing the rain we have today I gave up on the idea knowing that to get there you have to take a dirt road and then a steep path. Nevertheless I strongly urge you to go there if you have a sunny day. You will also find another waterfall, Kawasan Falls, less than 10 km away.
The imposing coral block Baclayon Church was built in 1727 and is one of the oldest in the Philippines. Some 200 forced laborers were needed for its construction, the coral having been extracted from the Bohol Sea just opposite. On its wing is an impressive watchtower.
The Baclayon church was badly damaged during the 2013 earthquake, but the restoration work is now complete. The interior is to be seen with a nicely decorated ceiling on the other hand the museum (entrance fee 20 pesos) which looks more like a bric a brac is not worth a look. The Baclayon church being on the road to Panglao does not require a detour.
Day 3: Island of Panglao
The island of Panglao southeast of Bohol is connected to it by two bridges, while riding a scooter you don’t really realize that these are two different islands because they are relatively close. The island of Pangalo is famous for its seaside tourism and its hotel complexes, it is here that most of the tourists who come to visit Bohol gather. Asians (mainly Chinese and Koreans) make up the vast majority of visitors to Bohol. Having traveled during the coronavirus crisis where the Chinese were banned from traveling to the Philippines, we took advantage of an island relatively calm compared to what it can be.
For a lunch break on the road that runs along the south coast of Panglao before arriving at the beaches, I recommend the Bohol Bee Farm which serves excellent dishes. As a bonus, you will enjoy a magnificent view of the sea.
Dumaluan beach and White beach
Alona Beach in Pangalo has the reputation of being invaded by tourists and boats, so we prefer to go to Dumaluan Beach located a few kilometers before Alona Beach. To access Dumaluan beach, which is in front of a hotel, you have to pay 25 pesos per person plus 25 pesos for the scooter parking lot, valid all day.
If you don’t want to pay you can go to White Beach located just before Dumaluan. From the main road that runs along the south coast, you have to turn at the junction towards the “Chocolate Hill Resort” and go down the road to the beach. It is not very wide but quite pretty and without too many people (you will tell me, given the weather, it is normal for there to be nobody). By walking to your right you can reach the public part of Dumaluan beach.
Accommodation in White Beach and Dumaluan Beach
To avoid the crowds of Alona while staying on superb beaches, here are the addresses where to stay in Dumaluan and White Beach.
Visit the Beach
To see what this famous beach looks like, we continue our journey on a scooter to Alona Beach. Change of scenery, the area is very touristy with its lot of sellers of all kinds and its string of bars and restaurants along the beach. Nothing to do with the rest of Bohol, which reinforced our idea of basing ourselves in Loboc. We hadn’t come to visit Bohol for its beaches knowing that afterwards we would go to El Nido and Coron, we rather wanted to see the interior of the island.
Accommodation in Alona Beach
If you prefer lazing around in a beachfront hotel with a nightlife vibe, below is a list of the best accommodations around Alona Beach.
I had considered visiting the Anda region southeast of Bohol before realizing that it was 96 km from Loboc which meant a lot of scooter driving for just one day. The ideal if your accommodation is in Loboc or on Pangalo is to go there by private transport. The Anda Peninsula is renowned for its white sand beaches, karst caves and underground pools (Lamanok Island).
If we had had more time to visit Bohol (at least 4-5 days there), we would have liked to spend a night or two in the Anda region. It is also an opportunity to see Can-umantad Falls (a beautiful waterfall) and the rice fields located in the area.