Wed

13

Apr

2016

Meet Bohol: The Philippines’ Sun-Kissed Island Paradise

Bohol Travel guide - Philippines © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
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I have had the great pleasure of exploring much of the Philippines from north to south, and when people ask me where to spend their 2-4 week vacation in the country, Bohol is definitely one of my TOP 3 suggestions! Why? Well, Bohol is one of the most stunning, accessible, and diverse islands of all...

 

 

Hammock on the beach - Bohol, Philippines © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Perfection.

Yes, there are powdery white-sand beaches, but there are also opportunities for dolphin watching, incredible diving, caving, and countryside tours

 

Located in the heart of the Philippines, Bohol is accessible via a direct flight to Tagbilaran from Manila, the country's capital.  

 

Pronounced boh-Hole (emphasis on the big H), the island was the site of the very first international peace treaty between the local datu (king), and the Spanish conquistadors.

 

Boholano people are known to be very warm and friendly, and as you can see, the island they call home is nothing short of spectacular.

 

Bohol Beach Club Sunrise - Philippines  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

Sunrise at Bohol Beach Club, Panglao Island.

 

Panglao island is where most of the hotels and restaurants are located....it's about 30 minutes from the airport by taxi or "tricycle" (local transportation). It is connected to the mainland of Bohol by a bridge. FYI: If you're staying in a resort, they will often provide a shuttle to pick you up. 

 

Alona Beach

A very popular tourist destination on Panglao island. Here you can find island hopping and dolphin watching tours. While not as crowded as Boracay (its cousin to the west), Panglao can definitely get crowded during the Filipino summer months of March to May...and also during Holy Week each year.

 

Snorkeling near Momo Beach House - Panglao  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

Snorkeling near Momo Beach House, I came across these incredible corals!

Please note: Wearing sunblock with the chemical "oxybenzone" or "Benzophenone-3" kills these beautiful  coral reefs!

Countryside Tour by Motorbike

Of course, there will be countless touts on the beach that will arrange guided tours for a fee, but I always love the adventure of renting my own bike and exploring at my own pace.

 

If you are backpacking on a budget, consider staying at Hope Homes. a few kilometers from Alona Beach. It is one the cheapest places I found - and it comes with a free motorbike! They are not terribly friendly, but I suppose you get what you pay for. Don't worry, if a luxury resort is what you're after, keep reading...it's coming!

 

Motorbike trip to the Chocolate Hills  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
A self-guided countryside tour is quite an adventure!

Renting tips: Make sure you have a drivers license, and always wear a helmet. It's a good idea to inspect your bike and go over any previous damage with the owner (take photos even), so you can prove that you weren't the one who damaged it. I've never had a problem with dishonest renters so far, though.

 

Once I made it through the mild traffic of Tagbilaran City, my first stop was Alburquerque Church. There are many beautiful and historic churches in Bohol, so if that interests you, I recommend searching for some local blogs on the subject. They are very helpful.

 

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Loboc River

Next, I ventured north to the tranquil Loboc River. Here, you can take cruise in a floating restaurant, but I just went straight to Nipa Hut Village (pictured below), where I had a cottage waiting for me. I loved this place. It's nothing too fancy...just a quiet, rustic property along the river. It was just what I was looking for.

(click photos for more info)

Chocolate Hills

The next morning, I woke up and continued to the Chocolate Hills, pictured above. These grass-covered limestone mounds turn brown during the dry summer months, hence the "chocolate" appearance. Quite unique! I recommend going on a sunny day if at all possible. 

 

Tarsier Sanctuary

On the way back to Panglao, I stopped at the fascinating Tarsier Sanctuary. This species can only be found in the Philippines, and has the largest eye-to-body ratio of any mammal. They can also turn their heads a full 180 degrees, which is just as creepy as it is awesome!

 

Panglao Hotels

BE hotel and grand resort - Panglao  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

Newly opened BE Hotel in Panglao.

 

 

Bohol Beach Club

Staying here was so epic! I haven't been to Hawaii, but I imagine it's a bit like this....

(Click photos for more info)

 

I love the open feel of the place, and all the coconut trees. Plus, this is hands down the best beach I saw anywhere in Panglao. However, the most memorable part of Bohol Beach Club was the service. I am a full-time traveler, and I pay a lot of attention to this stuff.

 

In the Philippines, I try to help properties raise the bar, so that tourism in the country will become more globally competitive. That way, along with the economy, local communities should also begin to benefit. Well, Bohol Beach Club is already doing a fantastic job. The property is well maintained, food was quite good, and for me, most importantly, the bedding was heavenly. Haha.

 

I have to admit, the other reason I loved this place so much was because of the dolphin watching tour and diving trips I signed up for. Check out Pamalican and Balicasag Islands! Ask for kuya Edgar as your divemaster - he was such a great guy. My full post can be found here.

 

Check Bohol Beach Club rates.

 

Momo Beach House

Tucked away on the other side of Panglao, Momo Beach House seems to be in a league of its own. It has an elegant, rustic charm - unlike any hotel I've ever experienced. "Beach-y" really is the best way to describe it...and it is indeed "homey" as well.

 

 

Momo is not the nicest beach I've ever walked along, but again...it's charming. It reminds me of the local communities along the beach in Corong Corong, El Nido...and I think it's a great location for sunrise photos.

 

If you're adventurous enough (and have your own gear), snorkel out directly in front of the property and turn left when you're about 4 meters deep. Then snorkel toward the stone structure sticking out into the water. Along the reef wall there, I saw some of the most colorful and fish and corals I've seen anywhere! Not many people know about it:)

 

The service at Momo Beach house is also great, and in general, the food in the restaurant was the best I had anywhere in Bohol. My compliments to the chef! The lightly-fried chicken and veggies, pictured above, was scrumptious. Momo is the kind of place I could see myself staying a longggg time. Haha. Highly, highly recommended.

 

Check Momo Beach House rates

 

Amorita Resort - Alona Beach

 

If you're looking for a sleek, luxurious island getaway, Amorita is the place for you. Many resorts in the Philippines are owned by foreigners, but I'm happy to say that Amorita is Filipino owned.

 

Amorita Resort Pool - Panglao   © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
The evening pool lights at Amorita

One of the great things is that you will enjoy your peace and quiet, but can easily walk down the stairs to soak up some of the action on busy Alona Beach below.

 

The property is quite large, and the architecture and landscaping is truly beautiful. There are sweeping views of the beach and sea from up here, and the infinity pool (pictured further below) is the perfect place to experience them.

 

 

I found that my room was so sleek and comfortable that it was hard to leave! However, Amorita's breakfast buffet was just what I needed to get me on my feet. You'll have an incredible sunset view near the infinite pool, so keep in mind that is an ideal place to enjoy dinner or drinks.

 

Everywhere you go, the staff will greet you warmly. Next time I'd like to try a massage at the spa! It looked inviting. My full post can be found here.

 

Check Amorita Resort rates.

 

Agoda is my first choice for hotel deals...

Bluewater Resort

Bluewater is a sprawling property with a few impressive swimming pools, a well manicured garden, and bright and cheery rooms...that somehow still feel sophisticated. Along with the wonderful service (high-end hotels in Bohol seem to have cornered this market!), the highlight for me was definitely the design of the room.

(Click photos for more info)

 

The bright red accents and native inspired designs are surprisingly classy, and the skylight over the bathtub is an elegant and dramatic touch. Add to that the "floating" cantilever beds, and you'll see why I loved my room so much! Very well done.

 

I'm not sure Bluewater is particularly known for their food, but I did try Halang Halang, which I heard was a local Boholano specialty. It a spicy blend of chicken, coconut milk, hot pepper, and lemongrass. So delicious! I highly recommend it.

 

Another unexpected find was the marine sanctuary directly in front of the resort beach. I spent an  hour or two snorkeling in the water there, it's pretty nice! One last thing to note: Bluewater is great for those with kids. They will have a blast here.

 

Check Bluewater Resort rates.

 

Anda Beach

If you're really feeling adventurous, you can ride or bus 4 hours from Panglao to Anda Beach, It's just as nice as Alona, but without the crowds. If you need, you can stay at Richem Pension Hauz (in Valencia) on the way. They offer quality fan and aircon rooms at very affordable prices. +63 926 864 4008 . Once at Anda Beach, check out Anda Lodge for similar pricing...it's across from the public market.

 

Tip 1: The cheap carinderia (eatery) next to the market is among the very best I experienced anywhere in the country!

 

Tip 2: For a unique dining experience, check out Coco Loco restaurant nearby...you can try a veggie hamburger with a patty made from coconut! It's pretty good, too. Wash it down with a Filipino craft beer...it's amazing that you can find a place like this all the way out here!

 

Tip 3: Stop at Blue Star Dive Resort on the way to Anda Beach (it's about 5kms away), and consider diving or snorkeling there. "Paradise Gardens" is considered one of the best snorkeling sites in Bohol, and you can swim out to it directly from the resort beach!

 

Check out a live map of the cheapest flights all around you right now...pretty cool! - Nathan

 

Budget Restaurant & Lodging Tips

 

There is a new native-style place called Alona Hammocks where backpackers can sleep in a provided hammock...it even includes a simple breakfast, and all for 200 pesos ($5USD). Near Amorita Resort Entrance.

 

Isis Bungalows and Thai Restaurant - At the other end of Alona Beach, they have a very friendly staff, affordable and delicious Thai food + BBQ, inexpensive mid-range lodging, and a rather unfortunate name. They're not super budget rooms, but still a great value.

 

Other Alona restaurants to try: Sunset Grill - Mexican Food, owned by a Mexican-American (it's legit), Giuseppe Pizzeria (pizza is also legit), and Lola Spanish Restaurant (!!). Chefs come from all over the world and get stuck on Panglao Island...lucky us:)

 

Thanks for the memories, Bohol.

 

Now you can see why I can't get this island off my mind...it's the kind of adventure that sticks with you for a lifetime! I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did. Many thanks to Melo Villareal for the help putting my trip together!

 

If you need help finding cheap flights, I had a lot of fun playing with this new site:)

 

- Nathan Allen

 

 

Thanks for reading, and feel free to share the island love!


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Nathan Allen has spent 6 years taking photos and documenting life in Asia.  A long-term traveler, he lives by the motto "spend less, see more".  Follow him HERE.

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