For my second trip to the Philippines, I was torn between two destinations: Palawan or Bohol. I’d heard great things about both, but elected to go with Bohol. I’d been told the diving was fantastic, and there seemed to be a variety of things to do around the island — perfect for the Philippines vacation I had in mind. It turned out to be a solid choice! Here are some things to do in Bohol when you make it there…
Check out the Chocolate Hills
If you go to Bohol, you go to the Chocolate Hills — at least the first time. Over 1700 of the grass-topped hills dot a 50 sq. km. area, varying in hue from green to brown depending on the time of year you visit. The best spot to view them is just outside the town of Carmen. A road winds to the top of one of the formations, whereupon you can get out and make the short trek to the summit. On a clear day, you can see for miles. It’s a great view, and worth the paltry entrance fee.
Ride through the Rice Terraces
When the guy I rented my scooter from heard I was going to check out the Chocolate Hills, he excitedly ran over to a map of the island and proceeded to point out a road to me. “When you finish with the Chocolate Hills,” he said, “you must travel this road. Mountain villages, no traffic, and there are rice terraces. It’s a beautiful drive.”
Keenly missing my motorcycle rides through the South Korean countryside, it took no more than that description to sell me on the idea. After leaving the town of Carmen, I took the road towards Sierra Bullones as instructed and enjoyed some of the best scenery in Bohol. It was everything the scooter man had said it would be.
Visit the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary
A tiny primate, tarsiers are only found in the wild in three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Primates (but not monkeys), tarsiers have been around for well over 40 million years. Notable for their bug-eyes and creepily long fingers, as well as their eponymous long leg bones, they’re strange-looking creatures before you even factor in their diminutive size. The Tarsier Sanctuary is one of the few places on the island which actively works towards protecting and preserving this species, and they take great care to ensure tourists don’t negatively impact the health of the tarsiers. Don’t forget to be quiet when you go — sudden loud noises can give the poor things a heart attack!
Go Scuba Diving at Balicasag Island
In a country filled with top-tier dive sites, Balicasag Island is the best place I’ve seen so far. Clear water, healthy coral, and an abundance of sea-life (more turtles than you can shake a stick at) make this a great option. Book in advance, as there is a government-imposed quota on the number of divers each day and the bigger dive shops have an annoying tendency of buying up more tickets than they need ‘just in case’.
We went with Go Scuba and were very impressed with the dive shop as a whole, as well as with our dive-master Craig. He took some great pictures, of which you can find more of on their Facebook page.
In addition to tons of turtles, quite a few frog fish, and a giant barracuda in the distance, I had the pleasure of seeing a trigger fish up close and personal. Luckily, I was able to fend it off with my flippers after a few charges and resumed my dive with no injuries.
Catch a Sunset on Dumaluan Beach
Alona Beach, the main sandy draw on Panglao Island, is pretty unappealing, to be honest. Unless you’re keen on diving or blowing a good chunk of change on some barbecued seafood, skip it and check out the beaches to the east instead. White Beach is much less crowded and infinitely more relaxing, while the adjacent Dumaluan Beach is a great spot to stand in shin-deep water and watch the sun set behind the island.
PRO TIP: Rent a scooter when you are going around the island. Attractions are pretty easy to find, and it will save you a lot of hassle instead of trying to do everything via public transport. Plus, you can stop wherever you like for photos, picnics, defecations etc.
There you have it! A few awesome things to do next time you find yourself in Bohol. Anything I missed? Let me know your recommendations in the comments below.