Located in Central Philippines, Bohol is the tenth largest island in the country. The Philippines boasts of more than 7000 islands and Bohol is undoubtedly the crowned jewel. With a plethora of options both off and on the beaten track, a visit to Bohol should be on the top of your Philippines itinerary.
Apart from the cerulean blue waters and powdery white sandy beaches, there are plenty of things to see in Bohol promising unique and peculiar experiences. The quirky island is home to the stunning Chocolate Mountains (or chocolate hills), the rare Tarsier Sanctuary, the beautiful Butterfly Conservation Centre, the unique man-made forest in Loboc, pristine white beaches of Panglao and much more!
Here are 8 reasons to visit Bohol, Philippines
1 Tarsier Conservation Sanctuary, Corella
“Hush!! Don’t speak loudly, they will get stressed”, said Emily, the volunteer guide at Philippines Tarsier Foundation Inc. With instances of these endemic nocturnal primates being ‘suicidal’ in nature on any sign of threat (even a camera flash), it was me who was under tremendous amount of stress struggling to notice these palm-sized creatures while simultaneously ensuring that my footsteps are nimble and deft.
The Tarsier Conservation program by the Philippines Tarsier Foundation Incorporation in Bohol has helped stem the decline (attributed to a loss of habitat and retailing) of these endangered species that have existed for around 45 million years.
These bug-eyed creatures are the World’s second smallest primate and also the only ones which feed on live prey. With an ability to turn their heads 360 degrees, these quirky animals prefer dense natural surroundings and remain in the shades throughout the day. Rampant hunting for selling them as pets and deforestation had resulted in the steady decline of these little creatures. Since Tarsiers get easily stressed, there have several cases of them banging their head in cages and committing suicide!
The foundation has created a safe haven spanning close to 25 hectares consisting of natural surroundings of bushes, shrubs, grasses and trees with plenty of shadow areas replicating a secondary forest – conditions where the vulnerable Tarsiers thrive.
Located in Corella, Loboc town, it is a must-visit attraction in Bohol, this man-made habitat makes it easier for tourists to spot these peculiar primates in their natural surroundings.
Pro tip: Flash photography is prohibited here. If you want a good shot, be sure to take a zoom lens with you.
Entry fee: Entry tickets cost 50 PHP.
2 Chocolate Hills, Viewing Deck, Carmen
No, chocolates do not grow here! Wish it did though. How wonderful it would have been? Nevertheless, these perfectly round shaped hills are no less fascinating either. Declared as one of the National Geological Monuments of Philippines, these unusually shaped limestone hills are found in the centre of Bohol Island.
The grass on these marine limestone structures turns brown in summers which explains its unique name – chocolate hills. These structures are known to be rich in fossil deposits of plants and animals. There are around 1200-1700 of such hills, fascinatingly uniform in shape with a height of 30-50 meters and spread over 50 sq.km.
It seems that nature created a uniform mould and thrust it open in a beautiful pattern on an elevated ground. To watch the riveting landscape, you have to climb more than 200 stairs for the 360-degree viewpoint.
A must visit attraction in Bohol, you also have two accommodation options in a government operated resort in Carmen and a mountain resort in Sagbayan.
Located close to the hills, these properties provide magnificent panoramic views of the Chocolate Hills.
3 Habitat Butterfly Conservation Center, Bilar
More than the butterflies and moths, you will remember the overzealous guides. They seem very passionate about their job and try to be creative and funny. The exhibits take you through the entire lifecycle of male and female butterflies.
Bohol Island is home to many rare species of butterflies whose dwindling numbers over the years is a cause of concern for the island’s ecosystem. The conservation centre is a safe breeding ground for such butterflies and the lush green surroundings and garden trail inside the centre attracts many wild butterflies as well.
A treat for the eyes, visitors will be able to watch multicoloured specimens of these beautiful creatures. More than 160 species of butterflies have been recorded over the years to have visited the centre. The garden is also home to the rare and amazing hummingbirds. With an ability to flap their wings more than 70 times a second, good luck photographing them without blurring the image!
Entry cost: Entrance fee is 50 PHP.
4 Man Made Forest, Bilar
Located on the border of Loboc and Bilar town, this 2 km stretch (on the way to Chocolate Hills) of dense mahogany trees is a man-made wonder. Rampant deforestation due to the traditional slash and burn farming system called ‘kaingin’, the Loboc watershed area had suffered ecologically.
Due to the concerted effort of the Government, students and socio-civic volunteers during the late 1970s, this beautiful green shadowy stretch was possible. Unlike natural forests, there is no vegetation growing in between the trees. The trees stand like looming, guarding sentinels overlooking the highway. It’s a sight to behold.
5 Blood Compact Site, Tagbilaran
Nationally renowned artist, Napolean Abueva created five life-sized bronze figurines sitting around a table and raising a toast to each other to commemorate the first friendship treaty between the Spaniards and Filipinos in March 1565.
The second expedition from Spain (after the famous Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan who organized the first-ever expedition to Philippines archipelago from Spain) was led by Miguel Lopez Di Legazpi. After encountering hostile locals from a few initial islands, he finally found friendly refuge in Bohol. He convinced the then Chieftain Rajah Sikatuna that his fleet came in peace.
To mark this historical event, both the leaders sealed their friendship by drinking wine from the same cup mixed with few drops of blood from each other’s arms – a typical Boholano way of ascertaining a true pact in those times.
Located close to Tagbilaran city (also the capital city of the province of Bohol), the site offers beautiful views of the Bohol Sea as the backdrop. There is no entrance fee for this site.
6 Floating Restaurant, Loboc River Cruise
Cruising through one of the cleanest rivers of the country, snaking through palm-fringed banks and small villages with an all-inclusive delicious Filipino buffet for lunch, is an invigorating experience. One of the top things to do when in Bohol, this one-hour river cruise (back and forth) features on every tour operators itinerary.
Entry cost: Depending on the vessel, the price of this tour ranges from 400-700 PHP.
Built in 1727, it is the oldest Church of Bohol. Severely damaged in the 7.2 magnitude earthquake of 2013, the restoration work went on till early 2018. The 69 feet bell tower was the most affected and several cracks can be seen on the outer walls.
Made of pulverized corals and limestone, the walls were cemented by using millions of eggs. A museum at the backside of the Church exhibits religious artefacts and paraphernalia dating back to the 16th century. The legacy of the Spanish visit is on display with gold embroidered vestments, big Latin hymnals covered with animal skin, religious statues with ivory parts and much more.
Pro tip and entry fee: Photography is prohibited inside the museum and the entrance fee is 50 PHP per person.
8 Bohol Beaches
It’s difficult to fault the beaches of the Philippines. The island nation has so many spectacular ones to boast of. Bohol lives up to the expectations. Most of the famous beaches are on Panglao Island which is a small landmass connected to the South Western part of mainland Bohol. Alona, Doljo and Bikini beach are the most beautiful ones with white powdery sand and azure blue waters. There are a plethora of accommodation options in Bohol. Most of the popular and luxury beach properties are in Panglao Island.
Also read: Amazing beach destinations around the world
There are daily flights from Manila to Cebu City. Tagbilaran port in Bohol is a 2 hours ferry ride from Cebu. The best and the most comfortable way to explore the island is to book a private cab for a day or two and visit all the attraction and beaches. The cheaper way is to book a tuk-tuk which would require quite a bit of haggling for a good bargain.
WHEN TO GO:
The period of December to March is the peak season. It is mostly dry but can have rainy days due to the northeast monsoon.
May to June is hotter and humid but promises bright sunny days throughout and property rates will be cheaper.
WHERE TO STAY:
Hotel Bellevue, Bohol: A luxury 5-star property on Doljo Beach with an infinity swimming pool. Rooms double from $135 onwards.
Henan Resort Alona Beach: The biggest beach resort in Bohol Island is another luxury beach property on the most famous beach of Alona. Rooms double from INR 11k onwards.
Bohol Sea Resort: This budget property in Danao Beach is one of the most popular ones providing free Wi-Fi and parking. Rooms double from $27 onwards.