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Bohol Travel Guide: Explore Chocolate Hills & Tarsiers

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Nestled amidst pristine seas, Bohol is a tropical paradise renowned for its natural wonders, where the iconic Chocolate Hills and the world’s tiniest primates, the tarsiers, reside. Our travel guide to Bohol is your key to unlocking the best this captivating destination has to offer, providing insights into what to do in Bohol, where to stay, and how to make the most of your visit. Whether you’re seeking adventures in nature, cultural experiences, or leisure on white sand beaches, Bohol promises a diverse and vibrant range of experiences to suit your preferences.

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Bohol Overview

Bohol, an island province within the Philippines, stands as a celebrated destination, renowned for its abundant natural marvels and rich cultural heritage. Ranking as the country’s tenth-largest island, Bohol boasts an impressive coastline stretching 261 kilometers.

A visit to Bohol is an absolute must for a myriad of captivating reasons. You’ll be awestruck by the iconic Chocolate Hills, a geological spectacle that transforms into a landscape of chocolate-hued mounds during the dry season. Bohol also offers the unique opportunity to meet the endearing Philippine tarsiers, the world’s smallest primates, exclusively found in the Philippines. The island’s natural beauty beckons with pristine beaches, enchanting islands, mesmerizing caves, and leisurely river cruises, creating a harmonious connection with nature.

Furthermore, Bohol’s culinary landscape entices with delectable organic delicacies like flower salads, honey-infused treats, and the iconic peanut kisses. Delve into the island’s rich history and culture through exploration of historic stone buildings, ancient churches, significant monuments, and enlightening museums, all of which unveil Bohol’s fascinating heritage.

Philippines Bohol Travel Guide
Enjoy your leisure time in Bohol

Top Things to Do in Bohol

1. Marvel at the Chocolate Hills: Explore the renowned Chocolate Hills, a natural wonder comprising hundreds of symmetrical green hills that take on a rich brown hue during the dry season. You can soak in the panoramic vista from the observation deck or inject some excitement by embarking on an ATV adventure near these iconic hills. These hills, numbering over 1,200 cone-shaped or dome-shaped formations blanketed in lush grass, are one of Bohol’s most cherished tourist attractions, having been declared the country’s third National Geological Monument.

2. Encounter the Tarsiers: Head to the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary and meet the world’s smallest primates. These adorable and endangered creatures, known for their large eyes and long tails, can comfortably fit in the palm of your hand. Immerse yourself in their natural habitat and gain insights into the conservation efforts undertaken to protect them. The sanctuary, a sprawling protected area spanning more than 160 hectares of Corella’s forest in Bohol, is managed by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, an organization fervently dedicated to safeguarding these tiny wonders and their surroundings.

3. Cruise the Loboc River: Embark on a tranquil journey along the scenic Loboc River, winding its way through lush forests and charming villages. Aboard a floating restaurant, relish a delectable buffet lunch while being serenaded with live music and cultural performances. For added adventure, consider kayaking, paddleboarding, or even a refreshing swim in the river. The Loboc River ranks among Bohol’s premier attractions, offering a rejuvenating and entertaining experience. Moreover, it’s home to diverse wildlife, from birds to fish to enchanting fireflies.

4. Island Hopping: Embark on an island-hopping adventure to explore the nearby gems of Panglao, Balicasag, Pamilacan, and Virgin Island. Snorkel or dive amidst vibrant coral reefs teeming with colorful fish, turtles, dolphins, and perhaps even the gentle giants, and whale sharks. Unwind on the pristine white sand beaches, basking in the warmth of the sun and the allure of the sea. Island hopping in Bohol is an absolute must for nature enthusiasts and adventurers, promising a collection of distinct features and attractions on each island.

5. Danao Adventure Park: For an adrenaline-fueled escapade, venture to Danao Adventure Park, an eco-tourism haven offering an array of outdoor activities like ziplining, bungee jumping, rappelling, caving, and more. Immerse yourself in the local culture and history by visiting the area’s ancient churches, monuments, and museums. Danao Adventure Park, nestled in Barangay Magtangtang, Danao, Bohol, and approximately two hours from Tagbilaran City, is a thriving hub managed by the local government of Danao, catering to thrill-seekers looking for an action-packed vacation.

Philippines Bohol Chocolate Hills
Chocolate Hills in Bohol

What to Eat in Bohol

Delight your taste buds with these delectable Bohol delicacies:

  • Peanut Kisses: These delightful confections, resembling the iconic Chocolate Hills, are crafted from peanuts and egg whites. They offer a satisfying crunch with a sweet and nutty flavor, making them an ideal snack or souvenir. Peanut Kisses, a beloved product of Bohol Quality Corporation, started as a small family enterprise in 1996. They uphold stringent quality standards, utilizing locally sourced peanuts. These treats come in various sizes and packaging, and you can even order them online.
  • Kalamay: Prepare to be enchanted by this sticky and sweet dessert, a fusion of glutinous rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar. Often wrapped in coconut leaves or served in coconut shells, Kalamay boasts a chewy texture and a rich flavor, making it an ideal companion for your coffee or tea. This traditional Filipino delicacy, frequently enjoyed during festivals and special occasions, undergoes meticulous cooking in a large wok over low heat for several hours, with constant stirring to prevent burning. The coconut milk imparts a creamy consistency, while the brown sugar adds a caramelized allure.
  • Ube Jam: Ube, the purple yam adored in Filipino desserts, takes center stage in this thick and creamy spread, harmonizing ube, coconut milk, and sugar. With its vibrant purple hue and sweet, earthy taste, Ube Jam serves as a delectable companion for bread, crackers, or even ice cream. This delectable creation hails from the Good Shepherd Convent in Tagbilaran City, Bohol. Run by dedicated nuns, the convent uses fresh ube sourced from local farmers, and a portion of their profits goes toward charitable and educational initiatives.
  • Sinugbang Isda: Dive into the simple yet flavorful world of grilled fish, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and vinegar. This dish is a testament to the freshness and quality of seafood in Bohol, where you can choose from a variety of fish, including tuna, mackerel, or grouper. Typically served with rice and a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar, onions, chili, and calamansi, Sinugbang Isda shines brightest when savored hot and crispy.
  • Tinolang Isda: Savor the soothing qualities of fish soup, simmered with ginger, onions, tomatoes, and leafy greens. This light and refreshing dish warms the stomach and comforts the palate, with ginger lending a spicy kick and elevating the fish’s flavor. Tinolang Isda, a Filipino culinary staple, can be prepared with any type of fish or seafood and bears resemblance to sinigang, although it uses water instead of tamarind broth as the base. The leafy greens may vary based on what’s available, with malunggay (moringa) leaves being a popular choice for their health benefits.
  • Kinilaw na Isda: For a zesty and tantalizing appetizer, look no further than Filipino fish ceviche, Kinilaw na Isda. Raw fish takes a plunge into a marinade of vinegar, calamansi (a citrus fruit), onions, ginger, chili, and salt, creating a tangy and spicy sensation that whets the appetite. This ancient dish, tracing its roots to pre-colonial times, is believed to have its origins in the Visayas region, where Bohol is nestled. Vinegar and calamansi act as natural preservatives, “cooking” the fish without heat, while onions, ginger, chili, and salt infuse the dish with a symphony of flavors that beautifully complement the tangy undertones. Perfectly paired with your favorite beer or wine, Kinilaw na Isda is sure to stimulate your taste buds.
Philippines Food Peanut Kisses in Bohol
Bohol Food - Peanut Kisses

Where to Stay in Bohol

Choose your ideal Bohol stay based on your preferences and budget, with these top options:

  • Panglao Island: A prime choice offering beautiful beaches, vibrant marine life, and an array of dining, entertainment, and shopping options. Panglao Island features sub-areas like Alona Beach, Dumaluan Beach, Momo Beach, and Doljo Beach, each with its unique charm. Consider accommodations like Amorita Resort, Marina Point Bay Resort, and Gaea’s Apartments for a comfortable stay.
  • Carmen: If witnessing the renowned Chocolate Hills is a priority, Carmen is your go-to spot. This rural town provides an authentic and peaceful Bohol countryside experience. Explore hotels like Chocolate Hills Resort, Villa del Carmen Bed and Breakfast, and Casa Rey Francis Pension House for a tranquil retreat.
  • Tagbilaran City: The capital and largest city of Bohol, it’s teeming with cultural and historical attractions like museums, churches, monuments, and parks. It serves as a convenient base for exploring the rest of Bohol, housing the island’s primary airport and seaport. Opt for accommodations such as The Bellevue Resort, Bohol Tropics Resort, and 717 Cesar Place Hotel for a comfortable city stay.
  • Anda: For diving and snorkeling enthusiasts, Anda is your paradise, with some of the Philippines’ most pristine and diverse coral reefs. Located on Bohol’s tranquil eastern coast, Anda boasts long stretches of white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Explore accommodations like Amun Ini Beach Resort & Spa, Anda White Beach Resort, and Anda Cove Beach Retreat for an idyllic beachfront stay.
  • Loboc River: If you seek nature and eco-tours in a serene, scenic environment, Loboc River is your ideal choice. This winding river winds through lush forests and hills, offering floating restaurant cruises and kayak adventures. For a delightful riverside stay, consider options such as Loboc River Resort, Fox & The Firefly Cottages, and Nipa Hut Village.

How Many Days to Stay in Bohol

Tailor your Bohol adventure to your interests and the time you have:

  • 2 Days: Opt for the island’s main highlights, including the iconic Chocolate Hills, the enchanting Tarsier Sanctuary, the tranquil Loboc River Cruise, and the vibrant Panglao Island. You can conveniently explore the countryside and witness Bohol’s unique landscapes and wildlife by renting a scooter or joining a full-day tour.
  • 3 Days: Extend your stay and add more activities to your itinerary. Dive or snorkel in Balicasag Island, delve into history at Baclayon Church and the Blood Compact Monument and embark on a hiking excursion to the captivating Can-umantad Falls. Embrace the serene charm of Panglao and Anda’s white sand beaches for relaxation.
  • More Than 3 Days: With extra time, venture into Bohol’s hidden gems. Discover the cave pools of Anda, witness the mesmerizing fireflies along the Abatan River, explore the fascinating butterfly farm in Bilar, and wander through the captivating rice terraces in Candijay. Consider a day trip to nearby islands like Cabilao, Pamilacan, or Siquijor for even more adventure.
Philippines Wildlife Tarsier
A Tarsier

Bohol Weather & Best Time to Visit Bohol

Bohol experiences a tropical climate defined by two seasons: dry and wet. The dry season spans from November to April, while the wet season takes over from May to October. With average temperatures ranging from 25°C to 32°C year-round, humidity consistently remains on the higher side.

Choosing the ideal time to visit Bohol hinges on your interests and activities. Here are some essential factors to weigh:

  • For Nature Enthusiasts: If you’re keen on exploring Bohol’s natural gems like the Chocolate Hills, the Tarsier Sanctuary, the Loboc River Cruise, and Panglao Island, the prime window is during the dry season, especially from December to February. This period boasts cool, pleasant weather and minimal rain, though brace yourself for peak tourist season, which translates to higher prices and larger crowds.
  • Cultural and Historical Exploration: To delve into Bohol’s rich cultural and historical heritage, marked by landmarks like Baclayon Church, the Blood Compact Monument, and the Sandugo Festival, the wet season, particularly from June to November, is your go-to. This is when you can partake in the vibrant local celebrations amidst fewer tourists and budget-friendly rates. However, do stay prepared for sporadic typhoons and heavy rainfall that might impact your plans.
  • Underwater Adventures: For those seeking underwater marvels through activities like snorkeling or diving in Balicasag Island, Cabilao Island, or Pamilacan Island, set your sights on the period from March to June. During these months, the sea remains calm and crystal clear, teeming with marine life. Keep in mind the jellyfish season that typically occurs from April to May and take necessary precautions by wearing protective clothing or avoiding specific swimming areas.

Bohol Transportation: How to Get to and Travel around

How to Get to

By Plane: The primary gateway is Bohol-Panglao International Airport. Several airlines provide direct flights, including Jeju Air from Seoul-Incheon, AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur, and Cebu Pacific from Singapore. If flying to Manila or Cebu first, you can catch a connecting flight to Bohol with local carriers like Philippine Airlines, Cebgo, or AirSwift.

By Ferry: Alternatively, you can reach Bohol by ferry from Cebu, Dumaguete, or Siquijor. OceanJet, among other operators, offers regular ferry services. The journey spans around 2 hours from Cebu, 2 hours from Dumaguete, and 1.5 hours from Siquijor. For those seeking an economical but lengthier route, a combination of bus and ferry is available from various points in Luzon or Mindanao, although this entails a journey lasting approximately 23 to 24 hours.

Philippines Ferry from Cebu to Bohol
Ferry from Cebu to Bohol

How to Travel Around

  • Bus: If you’re exploring the main island, buses are both affordable and practical. They connect you to key attractions like the Chocolate Hills, Tarsier Sanctuary, and Loboc River Cruise. Catch one at Tagbilaran City’s Dao Integrated Bus Terminal, with fares ranging from 20 to 100 pesos, depending on the distance.
  • Taxi: For swifter travel in Tagbilaran City and Panglao Island, taxis are readily available. While pricier, they offer comfort and speed. Taxis are useful for airport transfers, ferry terminal trips, or reaching your accommodation. The initial fee is 40 pesos, with a metered rate of 13.50 pesos per kilometer.
  • Tricycle: A common sight in Bohol, tricycles are motorized vehicles with sidecars accommodating up to four passengers. They’re ideal for short distances within towns or cities, offering affordability. Fares vary based on distance and negotiation skills, typically starting at 10 pesos per person.
  • Motorcycle: Adventurous travelers often opt for motorcycles to explore Bohol. Rentals are available in Tagbilaran City and Panglao Island, costing around 300 to 500 pesos daily. To ride, you’ll need a valid driver’s license and a helmet. Alternatively, you can hire a motorcycle driver or “habal-habal” for destinations inaccessible by bus or car.
  • Car: For added comfort and flexibility, consider renting a car from Tagbilaran City or Panglao Island, typically priced at 2,000 to 3,000 pesos daily (excluding fuel and driver fees). An international driving permit, along with a driver’s license, is essential for car rentals. Booking a car with a driver or tour guide is also an option for a hassle-free experience.
  • Boat: When island-hopping between Bohol’s islands like Panglao, Balicasag, Pamilacan, and Cabilao, boats are your best bet. Island-hopping tours often include activities like snorkeling, diving, dolphin watching, and lunch, with prices ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 pesos per person. Private boat or “bangka” rentals are another option, typically priced at 1,500 to 3,000 pesos per day.

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