Bohol Travel Guide: Exploring the Natural Wonders of the Philippines

by Apr 13, 2020Philippines

© verinize – adobe.stock.com

You can snorkel, dive, and lie on a beach on pretty much any island in the Philippines. But only in Bohol can you get up close to one of the smallest and oh-so-cutest primates in the world, the tarsier monkeys. And that’s not all! In Bohol, you can explore some of the oldest churches in the Philippines, kayak or paddleboard down jungle-clad rivers, spot turtles and dolphins in the wild, and catch a view of hills covered in chocolate. Ok. I admit that the last one isn’t true, but Bohol does have over 1,776 unique-looking hills called the Chocolate Hills. They look pretty amazing if you just happen to visit at the right time of the year (spring). In this Bohol itinerary and travel guide, I’m going to share with you exactly how to see all these amazing places. I’ll tell you how you can visit the sights without having to rely on a motorcycle or scooter.

Bohol is one of my top 15 places to visit in the Philippines. You can click here to find out what my other favorite places to visit in the Philippines are as well. 

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Bohol Itinerary Background

Bohol is one of the 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines. It’s situated in the region called the Western Visayas.

The island is quite large, but tourism is focused on the southern and eastern coasts and interior of the island.

Most tourists arrive by ferry from Cebu City at the port in the main city of Tagbilaran. But they don’t stay there. Most head to a smaller island called Panglao, which is connected to the mainland of Bohol by 2 bridges. Panglao has a few nice beaches but is more touristy than other areas of the island.

The other area that tourists visit is the interior to the northeast of Tagbilaran. This is where you’ll find the Chocolate Hills, the Tarsier Sanctuary, and several old churches. The main city in this area is Loboc, which makes for a good base when exploring the area. However, you can also stay in Panglao to explore the area around Loboc.

Another more off-the-beaten path area of the country is Anda, which is on the eastern coast of the island. This area is harder to get to but less touristy and more low key than Panglao. You’ll find some great beaches with fine sand and crystal clear water, cave pools, waterfalls, and rice terraces.

Bohol has a few off shore islands worth exploring for their snorkeling and diving: Pamilacan, Balicasag, and Cabilao.

PRO TIP: No one likes to think about insurance, but accidents do happen. I highly recommend getting World Nomads. This is what I've used for short-term travel. When  I quit my job to travel around the world, I switched to Safety Wings. They're very affordable (less than US$100 a month depending on age) especially for those of us who are over 40 years old. They now cover COVID19.

Why visit Bohol

Bohol is one of my favorite places in the Philippines. Here’s why:

Easy to get to from Cebu – First of all, Bohol can be easily and inexpensively reached via a 2-hour ferry ride from Cebu City. And Cebu is a quick plane ride from Manila, El Nido, and just about anywhere else in the Philippines.

Great snorkeling and diving – Bohol gave me one of my favorite snorkeling experiences. I saw the most colorful coral anywhere in the Philippines. And if you’re interested in seeing turtles while snorkeling and diving, you can do so easily off some of the smaller islands off of Bohol.

Uncrowded, clean, and accessible beaches – There are some beautiful, clean, and uncrowded beaches (White Beach and Dumaluan Beach) as well on Panglao Island.

Beautiful, off-the-beaten-path islands – For those of you wanting to really get away from it all, there’s a small, remote island called Pamilacan Island that’s just an hour away by fishing boat from Bohol.

A once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience – But probably the best reason to visit Bohol is to see wildlife. Bohol is the home of the smallest primate in the world, the tarsier. You can view them up close and in the semi-wild at the Philippines Tarsier Sanctuary. You can also inexpensively snorkel with giant sea turtles. For a more expensive price, you can also go out to see the dolphins in their natural habitat while they hunt for tuna.

Fabulous natural wonders in the island’s interior – Finally, Bohol is a great destination for exploring an island’s interior. You’ve got the famously photographed Chocolate Hills (only chocolatey in the spring), lots of waterfalls, and rivers surrounded by jungle or mangroves that you can paddleboard and kayak down.

Best hostel in the Philippines – For backpackers, Bohol has one of my favorite hostels in the Philippines: Bohol Coco Farms. Almost every night, the hostel holds some kind of socializing activity whether it’s their weekly Saturday night barbecues or their special drink offering. Since most travelers spend their evenings hanging out in the common area playing cards or hanging out in one of the hammocks, it’s a great place for solo travelers to meet people.

White Beach in Bohol

WHEN TO GO TO BOHOL

The best time to visit Bohol is in the spring (end of March-May) when the island is at its driest. The dry climate turns the chocolate hills brown, like chocolate. In the other months, the Chocolate Hills are green and at this time, most people say they look pretty disappointing.

November to March is the second-best time to go. The weather is cooler than at other times of the year. There’s also less rain than from June to November. However, the Chocolate Hills will be green and not brown and hotel prices will be at their highest. Tours are more crowded as well.

June to October is the rainier season in Bohol. Seas are rougher, so going on island hopping tours or swimming isn’t as enjoyable as during other items. Since there are fewer tourists, prices are cheaper. 

HOW EXPENSIVE IS BOHOL

Prices in Bohol are the same as prices in other places in the Visayas (Moalboal, Malapascua, Siquijor). However, they’re cheaper than in Palawan (El Nido, Coron, Port Barton).

Here’s a budget breakdown on what I spent in Bohol in February 2020:

Budget breakdown for Bohol

Solo Travel in Bohol

Bohol can be both a good place and a bad place for solo travelers. If you stay at Bohol Coco Farms (jump to this section on where to stay), you should have an easy time meeting other travelers. It’s a very sociable hostel with an inviting commons area where lots of travelers hang out. If you join a tour like the Firefly Tour or Island Hopping Tour, you’ll also have a good chance of meeting fellow travelers.

On the other hand, going on a tour to the waterfalls or rice terraces can be pricey if you’re just one person. Bohol is a big island and the transportation system is terrible, so it can be hard to get to the different sights like the Chocolate Hills or the waterfalls, especially if you don’t drive a motorcycle. You can go on tours, but some of them are too expensive if you’re the only one on them. To make the tours more affordable, you’ll have to round up other travelers, which can be tough to do.

For more solo travel tips and a solo traveler’s personal experience in the Philippines, read my Solo Travel Guide to the Philippines. 

PRO TIP: Here's a list of essential items to pack for all of your island-hopping tours while in the Philippines:

  • Dry bag - You're going to get wet while in the boat and your things will get wet if you don't have a dry bag. Leave your backpack at your hotel.
  • Waterproof bag or pouch for your cell phone especially for your visit to such places as the Big Lagoon and the Secret Lagoon in El Nido.
  • Water shoes - It's important to have a pair because sometimes you'll need to be walking on rocks to get to your destination. You'll thank me later for bringing them.
  • Sunscreen - Make sure to put it on 30 minutes before being in the sun and/or water. Banana Boat worked the best for me. You can buy it in the Philippines, too, but it's pricey (500 - 700 pesos depending on the store--shop around!)
  • Mask and snorkel - OPTIONAL - Most tour companies provide you with a mask and snorkel, but if you want to bring your own, I highly recommend the full face mask and snorkel. It's ideal for those who aren't confident swimmers.

HOW TO GET TO BOHOL

Bohol is an easy island to get to from Cebu. You can get there by plane or ferry.

Flights from Manila

By plane, you can fly non-stop from Manila to Bohol. Bohol’s airport is on Panglao. You can read about how to get to and from the airport in Manila in my post here

The easiest and most popular route is to take the ferry to the main city of Tagbilaran.

Ferry from Cebu City to Bohol

There are several ferry companies that ply the route between Cebu City and Tagbilaran, the main city of Bohol. However, most people take Oceanjet ferry company for its comfortable, affordable, frequent, and fast ferries. Ferries leave hourly from Cebu City Pier 1 and arrive 2 hours laters at Tagbilaran City Port.

I just showed up at the ferry terminal, stood in line, bought my ticket, entered the ferry terminal, exchanged my ticket for a ticket with a seat number, and hopped on the next ferry. The line for Oceanjet was long. I think it was because both locals and foreigners prefer to take it over the other ferry companies.

Here is the ferry schedule for March 2020:

Ferry from Siquijor to Bohol

You can also get to Bohol from Larena Pier in the city of Larena on the island of Siquijor. Oceanjet has 1 departure per day both ways. It takes 1.5 hours and costs 700 pesos (US$14).

You can read more about traveling in Siquijor in this easy-to-follow itinerary guide. 

Tickets from Bohol to Siquijor have a tendency of selling out, so buy them at least the day before from the ticketing office outside of the ferry terminal in Tagbilaran. You CAN buy them online through 12Go.Asia. However, I don’t recommend using them for this route. They often tell you that tickets are sold out when in fact they aren’t. The sucky thing, though, is that in order to get to the ticket office in Bohol, you need to either hire a tricycle (300 pesos (US$6) one-way) or take a jeepney (cheap but dreadfully slow and inconvenient). Just getting to and from the ticket office will cost you almost the same as what the ticket will cost you.

HOW TO GET AROUND BOHOL

The thing I hated about Bohol was the transportation system around the island. I don’t drive a motorcycle or scooter, so I had to rely on public transportation, overpriced tricycles, or expensive tours to get around. 

The island is also large, and attractions are far away from each other. So, I couldn’t just rely on my own two feet. I had to always take some kind of overpriced public transportation. 

If you don’t have much time, going on an organized tour or going by tricycle may be your best bet. However, if you’ve got lots of time, be adventurous and use public transportation.

You can also rent a scooter or motorcycle and get to see even more of the island. It only costs 300 to 350 pesos (US$6-7) per day to rent a scooter.

All prices and times are from February 2020. These are prices that I paid or that my friends told me about.

What to do in Bohol

Baclayon Church

The Philippines is not known for its historic landmarks and buildings. But luckily for us history nerds, Bohol has two of the oldest buildings in the country—Baclayon Church and Loboc Church.

The church, whose official name is La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgin Maria Parish Church, was built in 1717 by native forced laborers from coral blocks from the sea. If you’re interested, check out In Our Image by Stanely Karnow for more about how locals were mistreated by the Catholic church under the Spanish. 

Admission to the church is free. There’s a small, uninspiring museum filled with religious artifacts and furniture that charges 50 pesos. Check out the church, but skip the museum.

COST: The church is free; the museum is 50 pesos (US$1).

LENGTH OF VISIT: 30 minutes

TOUR OF BACLAYON CHURCH: Join a Countryside Tour of Bohol that includes a stop at Baclayon Church as well as the Tarsier Sanctuary, Chocolate Hills, and Loboc.

LOCATION: Google Maps

GETTING TO THE CHURCH: Take a bus heading to Baclayon from the Bus Station in Tagbilaran; take a tricycle for 300 pesos (US$6) from your accommodations in Panglao.

Beaches of Bohol

You can find some good beaches on Panglao island (an island connected to Bohol by a causeway) and at Anda.

Panglao Beaches

Most people stay on Panglao Island. There are 3 beaches with good sand and water for swimming. I suggest heading to White Beach and Dumaluan Beach. Skip Alona Beach.

Alona Beach is the busiest and most developed. The beach and water are lined with bars, restaurants, and hotels, and it’s crowded with middle-aged white men and their twenty-something Filipino girlfriends. I suggest not even bothering with this beach.

Alona Beach

LOCATION: Google Maps

GETTING TO ALONA BEACH: From your accommodations on Panglao, take a tricycle for 150 pesos (US$3) or jeepney for 20 pesos (.40 cents). 

White Beach is a better one to hang out on. It’s a narrow and long beach that’s quiet and uncrowded. Decent sand and crystal clear water. There are few hotels along the beach as well. It’s a 15-minute walk from Bohol Coco Farms.

White Beach in Bohol

LOCATION: Google Maps

GETTING TO WHITE BEACH: From your accommodations on Panglao, take a tricycle for 150 pesos (US$3) or jeepney for 20 pesos (.40 cents). If you take a jeepney, you’ll need to walk about 10 minutes more to the beach.

Dumaluan Beach is the most stunning beach on Panglao that’s connected to White Beach. It’s got gorgeous sand and crystal clear water. The beach is a bit hard to find. The best way to get to it is via White Beach. To get to Dumaluan Beach from the main paved road requires you to pay money to pass through a high-end resort.

Dumaluan Beach

LOCATION: Google Maps

GETTING TO DUMALUAN BEACH: Take a tricycle or jeepney to White Beach and when you get to White Beach, turn right and keep on walking down the beach.

Anda Beaches

A great alternative to Panglao is the off-the-beaten-path beaches in Anda. The Anda area has got some lovely white sandy beaches. Plus they’re much quieter than Alona Beach. Anda is 3 hours by bus from Tagbilaran, so it’s not a place where you can visit on a day trip on your own. You’ll need to stay overnight or book a tour. Klook has a tour of Anda that includes the rice terraces and waterfall.

Anda Beach in Bohol

TOUR OF ANDA: If you’re short on time, you’re not staying in Anda, and/or you don’t drive a motorcycle, I’d do this tour of Anda with a stop at a beach, the Cadapdapan Rice Terraces, and Can-Umantad Falls. It’s a pretty good deal if you can get a group of 4 to do it. You can also do this tour of Anda through Klook that also includes the Tibao and Combento Caves.

LOCATION: Google Maps

GETTING TO ANDA: 100-150 pesos – Take a bus or van from Dao Bus Terminal in Tagbilaran to Anda (3 hours); I was told to get off in Guindilman and take a jeepney to Anda – buses leave at 5:00 am, 12:30, 2:30, and 5:30.

PRO TIP: Download these apps onto your phone for your trip to any country in Asia. They will make your life so much easier!

  • Grab: - Grab is the ride-sharing service that people use in Southeast Asia. It's a must-have for getting around Manila, Hanoi, Singapore etc. It's not so necessary on the smaller islands.
  • Klook - Klook is a tour-booking website used by lots of travelers in Asia. You're more likely to book with an honest tour company through Klook than through anyone else.
  • WhatsApp: What's App is the best service to use for getting in touch with other travelers, tour guides, and businesses in the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, etc.
  • Booking.com: I think Booking.com is the best website to use for booking accommodations in Asia.
  • MAPS.ME & Google Maps: I have both of these apps on my phone. Sometimes MAPS.ME works better than Google Maps and vice versa. Make sure to download your maps to your phone before you start your adventure so you can view them offline. If you switch SIM cards, you might lose your downloaded maps.

Cadapdapan Rice Terraces in Candijay

Another amazing thing to do while in Bohol is to visit the Cadapdapan Rice Terraces in Candijay. I asked the owner of my hostel and lots of tricycle drivers how to get to the rice terraces without using a motorcycle, and they all said it was too difficult or they quoted outrageous sums of money to get me there. It wasn’t until my last day that I checked Klook and saw that I could have booked a tour of the rice terraces through them. Ugh! I wanted to kick myself for not checking Klook sooner. So, now that YOU know how to see them (please check the tour links after this photo), you don’t need to miss them.

rice terraces in Bohol

According to a friend of mine, when you visit the Cadapdapan Rice Terraces in Candijay, you need to pay a 30 peso (.50 cents) entrance fee. You’re then free to walk around the rice terraces. You can then make your way down to Can-Umantad Falls.

Here are some tours through Klook that will take you to the rice terraces in Candijay:

RICE TERRACES TOUR + CAN UMANTAD FALLS: This tour through Klook takes you to Can Umantad Falls, the Cadapdapan Rice Terraces and a beach at Anda.

RICE TERRACES + CAN UMANTAD + CAVES TOUR: Another tour through Klook stops at Can-Umantad Falls along with Tibao and Combento Caves, the rice terraces, and Anda Beach. I didn’t do this tour, but I’ve heard that the caves aren’t accessible anymore.

Chocolate Hills

Ever since I saw my first photo of them, I’d been fascinated by the Chocolate Hills. It was one of the main reasons I chose to visit Bohol.

There are something like 1,200 to 1,700 hills dotting the interior of Bohol. In the spring when it’s dry from little rainfall, the hills are brown, like chocolate. But during the rest of the year, it rains and the hills turn green. 

Chocolate Hills

Most tourists go to the Chocolate Hills Viewing Complex to view the Hills. Here you and all the other tourists can experience 360-degree panoramic views of the hills.

I won’t lie to you. It was a bit of a letdown. I’m not sure if it’s because when I saw the hills, they were green, the fact that you don’t get to see that many of them, the experience was so touristy or I saw them at the wrong time of day. Perhaps you can find a local to take you to a less touristy spot to view them.

COST: 50 pesos (US$1)

LENGTH OF VISIT: 45-60 minutes

TOUR OF CHOCOLATE HILLS: Join a Countryside Tour of Bohol that includes a stop at the Chocolate Hills through Klook. Tour includes transportation.

LOCATION: Google Maps

GETTING TO THE CHOCOLATE HILLS: 70 pesos (US$1.50) – take a bus headed to Carmen; if you’re short on time, join a tour of the Chocolate Hills.

Diving

The Philippines is one of the best places in Asia to dive, and many people visit the country just for this activity. Bohol has some of the best diving in the Visayas. It’s known for its stunning coral, wall dives, and reef sharks.

turtle off a coral reef in Bohol

Some popular diving places are Balicasag Marine Park, Pamilacan, and Cabilao Island. There are lots of dive shops in Alona. You can also reserve a spot with your hotel or hostel.

Check out these Bohol tours:

Dolphin Watching

Every morning, the dolphins around Bohol breakfast on tuna. You can see these dolphins during their morning tuna run.

I hired a boat from Pamilacan (1,000 pesos (US$20)) through Mary’s Place, the guesthouse I was staying at. You can also see dolphins on some Island Hopping Tours from Panglao.

Others I spoke to who went on tours to see dolphins didn’t see any. I was able to see lots of dolphins, but we didn’t get very close to them. I enjoyed the experience. It was fun seeing them do twists and jumps in the wild rather than in a place like Seaworld.

COST: 1,000 pesos – 2,000 pesos (US$20-$40)

DOLPHIN WATCHING TOURS: You can join an island hopping tour through Klook. The tour includes dolphin watching, snorkeling at Balicasag Island and a stop at the Virgin Island sandbar.

Firefly Kayaking Tours

I did the Firefly Kayaking Tour with Kayakasia. I’d never seen fireflies before so that part was interesting, but I think it was way too expensive. I paid 1,700 pesos (US$35) through my hostel but Kayakasia’s website has it priced at 2,450 pesos (US$50).

I was picked up by a van at 4:45 pm from my hostel where we were then driven all the way to Kayakasia’s office along the Abatan River.

There were about 12 of us from different countries.

If you don’t know how to kayak, you can go with a guide and he can do the steering. If it’s your first time kayaking, I would go with a guide because you’re going to be doing it in the dark. There was 1 kayak that had trouble steering straight, and they had to be rescued and transferred to a boat with a guide.

We kayaked down the Abatan River, whose banks were lined with mangroves. We stopped at 4 locations to view the fireflies. I expected them to be down at eye level, but actually the fireflies were high up at the top of the mangrove trees.

There are only 4 to 6 places on the river with firefly clusters. There used to be over 30 but erosion has destroyed the fireflies’ habitat. In order for fireflies to survive, habitat conditions need to be perfect. They need the right species of trees placed in the right location with the right amount of wind.

At the end of the tour, we had a simple dinner at the Kayakasia offices.

TIMES: 3:00 to 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm

COST: 1.700 pesos – 2,450 pesos (US$35 – $50)

TOUR THROUGH KLOOK: You can book your tour with Kayakasia through Klook.

GETTING TO THE TOUR: Kayakasia will pick you up from your hotel/hostel and drive you to the starting point of the kayaking adventure. It takes around an hour to get there.

Twin Hanging Bridges

The Twin Hanging Bridges are not a must-see sight in Bohol, but since you’ll probably pass by it on your way to the Chocolate Hils, you might as well stop by.

Hanging Bridge in Bohol

The Twin Hanging Bridges were built around World War II, and they were originally used by locals to carry their farm products and livestock across the Sevilla River. There are supposedly more of these bamboo bridges around Bohol, but this is the only one that’s been converted into a tourist attraction. There are two bridges. You take one to cross to the other side of the river and the other one on your return. The bridges are made of bamboo and they do swing a lot.

COST: 35 pesos

LENGTH OF VISIT: 30 minutes

TOUR OF HANGING BRIDGES: Join a Countryside Tour of Bohol that includes Hanging Bridges as well as Tarsier Sanctuary, Chocolate Hills, Loboc, and Baclayon Church.

LOCATION: Google Maps

GETTING TO HANGING BRIDGES: If you don’t have your own set of wheels, the best way is to join a tour that includes a stop at the bridges.

Island Hopping Tours

I didn’t go on an island-hopping tour when I was in Bohol. I’d been on so many already that I was sick of them. However, I’ve heard good things about them from other travelers. People have raved about the snorkeling off of Balicasag Island. Unlike the coral and fish on island hopping tours in El Nido, the ones on Bohol tours are stunning. 

A typical island-hopping tour includes early morning dolphin watching, snorkeling at Balicasag Island (photo above), and a visit to Virgin Island (sand bar). The tours leave really early in the morning (5:00 or 6:00 am) and return at mid-day between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm.

You can book a tour from your hotel or hostel or book one from a tout on Alona Beach.

TIME: 5:00 am – 11:30 am/12:30 pm

COST: 850 pesos – 2,000 pesos (US$20 – $40)

ISLAND HOPPING TOUR: Join an island hopping tour through Klook; they’re generally very trustworthy; tours include dolphin watching, snorkeling at Balicasag and a stop at Virgin Island sandbar.

LOCATION: Google Maps

Loboc

A lot of travelers use Loboc as their base to explore the other interior sights of Bohol. I had planned to do this as well, but I enjoyed Panglao so much that I stayed longer there. Hence. I only made it to Loboc on a day tour.

Loboc River

There are a number of things you can do in Loboc: lie in a hammock beside the Loboc River, go standup-paddleboarding, go on a dinner river cruise, or go on a hike through the jungle.

I did the touristy river cruise, which I’m not going to recommend. You sit in a boat eating a 650-peso (US$13) lunch buffet of Western/Filipino food while listening to live music and looking out at the river. The river is nice, but It’s nothing to write home about.

Church in Loboc

Loboc also has an old church from colonial times, but it was damaged in a devastating earthquake that happened in 2013, so it’s not open to the public.

TOUR OF LOBOC: Join a Countryside Tour of Bohol that includes a river cruise in Loboc, Tarsier Sanctuary, Chocolate Hills, and Baclayon Church.

STAND UP PADDLEBOARDING ON LOBOC RIVER: A much better alternative to doing the touristy river cruise in Loboc is to go down the river by paddleboard. You can stand up or sit down on the board and paddle yourself lazily along the river. You can book the day time tour that leaves every hour or the night time tour through Klook. 

LOCATION: Google Maps

GETTING TO LOBOC: 30 pesos – Take a bus from the bus terminal in Tagbilaran to Loboc (45-60 minutes)

Pamilacan Island

If you’re looking for a peaceful, untouristy tropical island, then Pamilacan is for you. I spent 3 nights on this tiny, remote island. During the day, it’s filled with about 10 day-trippers, but in the late afternoon and evening, they leave and it’s just you, a handful of other tourists staying overnight, and locals.

There’s a nice white sandy beach, crystal clear water, a coral garden with the most colorful coral I’ve ever seen and where you can snorkel (250 pesos (US$5) for a required guide), an area for snorkeling with turtles (250 pesos (US$5) for required guide), and some great diving spots. In the morning, you can go out on a boat to see the dolphins for 1,000 pesos (US$20).

a beach at dusk on Pamilacan Island

Just be aware that there’s no running water on the island and the internet is just about non-existent.

You can book accommodations on Booking.com. I stayed at Mary’s Place, and I am going to recommend that you DON’T stay there. They’re incredibly greedy and rude and their huts don’t have sea views and their pretty rank. There was an animal in my hut that was the size of a cat but looked more like a rat.

Instead, I suggest staying at Junior & Nemesia’s Cottages. They’re decent and they’ve got huts with sea views. For more luxury, you can stay at Liwayway sa Bohol Pamilacan Bed and Breakfast.

PAMILACAN DAY TOUR: You can also book a day tour to Pamilacan that leaves at 5:00 am and returns at 2:00 pm.

LOCATION: Google Maps

GETTING TO PAMILACAN: If you’re not going to do a day tour, you can go to the Baclayon Pier and catch a fishing boat to the island for 250 pesos (US$5). The boat leaves when it’s full. You can also get a boat from Alona Beach for 1,000 pesos (US$20). If your hotel arranges the boat ride for you, double-check the price. Some places have been known to charge you double. It takes 1-2 hours to get there depending on the weather.

Tarsier Sanctuary

The Tarsier Sanctuary was my favorite place to visit on Bohol. Tarsiers are one of the smallest primates in the world–about the size of the palm of your hand.

Tarsiers are fascinating animals. They’re the only carnivorous primates, subsisting on insects, birds, and lizards for food. Their distinguishing features are these 2 large bulging eyes that are bigger than the size of their brain and freakishly long thin and powerful fingers that help them jump from branch to branch. Another cool thing that they can do is that they can actually twist their heads 360 degrees.

tarsier monkey in Bohol

Tarsiers are incredibly shy and do not do well in captivity. If held in zoos, they’ve been known to commit suicide by banging their head against something.

This tendency to kill themselves is one reason its hard to find them in zoos and also why you should be careful about where you go in Bohol to see these animals.

There are 2 places in Bohol to see tarsiers: Philippines Tarsier Sanctuary and the Tarsier Conservation Area.

The Philippines Tarsier Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization that protects tarsiers in their natural habitat.  This is where you want to go to see tarsiers. They are not held in cages and are free to stay or leave the sanctuary whenever they want.  You walk around a small wooded area where tarsiers are clinging to trees. Wherever there’s a tree with a tarsier, a guide is standing next to it. You can look at the tarsier and take pictures, but you can’t touch them.

When I visited, there were 6 tarsiers in the area but only 5 were visible. Sometimes when you visit, they hide in the trees and avoid looking at you, so you don’t get to see them. And since they’re nocturnal, they’re not active during the visiting hours. Luckily, I was able to see their faces and I even got to see one tarsier jump from one tree to another.

The Tarsier Conservation Area is a for-profit business that holds tarsiers in captivity. They are supposedly kept in cages at night and only taken out into the open during visiting hours. Don’t visit this place! As I said before, they don’t do well in captivity. However, sometimes bus drivers will drop you off here rather than the Tarsier Sanctuary, and so you’re stuck seeing them here.

OPEN: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

COST: 60 pesos (US$1.15)

LENGTH OF VISIT: 30 minutes

TOUR OF TARSIER SANCTUARY: Join a Countryside Tour of Bohol that includes a visit to the Tarsier Sanctuary, the Chocolate Hills, Loboc, and Baclayon Church. It’s an efficient and convenient way to see tarsiers. Ideal for those with limited time in Bohol.

LOCATION: Google Maps

GETTING TO THE TARSIER SANCTUARY: Take a bus or jeepney that is headed to Sikatuna from the Bus Terminal near Island City Mall. You can also take a bus from Loboc. Just make sure the driver doesn’t drop you off at the Tarsier Conservation Area.

Waterfalls

Bohol has a lot of stunning waterfalls that should not be missed. The two most spectacular falls are Dimiao Falls (photo below) and Can-Umatantad. With the latter falls, you can visit the rice terraces along the way. 

Dimiao Twin waterfalls in a mountain gorge in the tropical jungle
If you have your own wheels, it’s easy to visit the waterfalls. However, if you don’t, not to worry. You can join a tour or hire a driver. I highly suggest signing up with one of these following tours with Klook. I tried to arrange a tour myself locally and it was a nightmare. The drivers wanted a lot of money even the ones who wanted to take me via motorcycle.

CAN UMANTAD FALLS + RICE TERRACES TOUR: This tour through Klook takes you to Can Umantad Falls, the Cadapdapan Rice Terraces and a beach at Anda.

CAN UMANTAD FALLS + RICE TERRACES + CAVES TOUR: Another tour through Klook stops at Can-Umantad Falls along with Tibao and Combento Caves, the rice terraces, and Anda Beach.

DIMIAO FALLS TOUR: On the Dimiao Falls tour, you visit Dimiao Falls (also called Pahangog Falls) and Inkumhan Falls.

MAG-ASO FALLS + KAWASAN FALLS + CAMUGAO FALLS: On the Mag Aso Falls tours, you get to see 3 waterfalls.

BOHOL ITINERARY

Here are my suggested Bohol itineraries. You can do a 2-day, 3-day, or a 6-day tour of Bohol. If you have just 2 days for Bohol, do days 1 and 2 of this itinerary. If you have 3 days, then do the first 3 days of this Bohol itinerary.

 

Day 1

  • Ferry to Tagbilaran, Bohol
  • Visit White Beach and Dumaluan Beach

Day 2

  • Countryside Tour
  1. Tarsier Wildlife Sanctuary
  2. Chocolate Hills
  3. Hanging Bridge
  4. Loboc
  5. Baclayon Church

Day 3

  • Island Hopping Tour
  • Firefly Kayaking Tour with Kayakasia

Day 4 or Days 4-6

  • Day 4: Take a tour of Anda visiting the beaches there, the Candijay rice terraces, and Can-Umantad Falls.
  • Days 4-6: Spend 3 days in Anda or on Pamilacan Island

Where to stay in Bohol

Panglao

Panglao has got tons of places to stay all at different price points. There are some good beaches here as well.

Budget: I stayed at Bohol Coco Farms (US$8) (AGODA | BOOKING.COM) and didn’t want to leave. This place is special! These people know how to run a hostel. Nearly every night management arranges some kind of activity for their hostel guests. Every Saturday there is a fabulous barbecue filled with delicious western (French fries! Pasta!) and Filipino food.

It’s the PERFECT place for solo travelers! Everyone hangs out in the hostel in the evenings, so it’s really easy to meet other travelers. The common area is far from the private cottages and dorm rooms, so at night it’s quiet in the rooms. Plus there are lots of hammocks around the grounds. for you to relax in.

The dorm rooms are basic but comfy. I love the fact that there are actually windows that allow fresh air to pass through the room. You’ll find a lot of hostels in Asia are windowless boxes.

Plus it’s a 15-minute walk to the quiet and lovely White Beach, which connected to the stunning Dumaluan Beach.

Panglao

  • Midrange: You can find some decent midrange places in Panglao. They’re probably not going to be on the beach, though. One place that has good reviews is OHANA, Panglao Resort (AGODA | BOOKING.COM – US$49).
  • Luxury: Bohol Beach Club (AGODA | BOOKING.COM – $150 +) is a very highly rated hotel found along Dumaluan Beach, Panglao’s best beach. If I were splurging on accommodations, I’d stay here.

Loboc

If you want to stay in the interior of Bohol, Loboc has some good places to stay.

Anda

For a less touristy and more low key place with great beaches, try Anda.

  • Budget: Little Miami – The owners of Bohol Coco Farms recommended Little Miami to me.
  • Luxury: I’ve heard so many good things about J&R Residence (BOOKING.COM – over US$100) from other bloggers and vloggers. It’s got a pool, a nice beach, and great views.

Pamilacan

If you want something really remote and quiet, Pamilacan is a good place for that. But there’s no running water and internet is poor.

  • Budget: Mary’s Place (US$10) – I stayed here, and I hated it! I don’t recommend them at all.
  • Budget:  Junior and Nemesia’s Cottages (AGODA | BOOKING.COM – US$25)are decent.
  • Midrange: Liwayway’s sa Bohol Pamilacan Bed and Breakfast (AGODA | BOOKING.COM – US$50) gives you a bit more luxury.

PRO TIP: When you arrive in the Philippines, you can buy a SIM card at the airport. There are 2 companies used throughout the Philippines: Globe and Smart. Each of them gives you 10 or 12 GB of memory for 30 days for 1,000 pesos (US$20). I used 2 GB in 30 days.

If you have to "add load" (add minutes or data) for some reason, you can do it at a convenience store around the Philippines. Tell them you want to "add load". You need to give the clerk your phone # to complete the transaction (I usually store my SIM card # in my Contact,s List).

BUT that's not it. You then need to register your phone. If you have Globe, dial *143#. I usually have the store clerk or someone at my hostel or hotel help me complete the registration. If you don't register after every time you add data to your phone, the minutes and data disappear.

What to Pack for Your Trip to Bohol

Full Face Snorkel Mask

I love these full face snorkel masks. They're helpful if you're not a great swimmer or if swimming in the ocean freaks you out. THIS is the best thing I bought for my trip to the Philippines!

Waterproof Dry Bag

Another must-have item on your island hopping tours in the Philippines is a dry bag. I like this one because it comes with a waterproof phone case. And the price is pretty reasonable.

Water Shoes

Another of my best packing decisions was a pair of water shoes for when you need to walk from the boat to shore. I met someone who broke her toe on an island hopping tour in El Nido. These shoes will help prevent that from happening.

There you have it! I hope this travel guide helps you in planning your trip to Bohol.  If you have any questions, ask me in the comment section below. I’m more than happy to answer them.

And check out all my other Philippine travel posts here!

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tarsier monkey holding onto tree branch

More Info on the Philippines:

5 Comments

  1. Hello! Great and detailed, this travel guide it really helps me plan my trip. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  2. Wow so much great information here. I haven’t made it to the Philippines yet (unless the Manila airport counts) but it is high on my list. Saving this information for planning purposes. Thanks!

    Reply
  3. The animal as big as a cat but looks like it might be a rat, is probably a palm civet 🙂 Very common in SE Asia; my mother often rants at the one that keeps eating her mangoes.

    Reply
  4. What a comprehensive post! I have yet to visit the Philippines but they are on my list & now Bohol is well & truly up there! I was lucky enough to see a Tarsier in Borneo & it felt such a privilege. Such beautiful animals!

    Reply
  5. Wow this is amazing – actually I had hoped to be in the Philippines this year, so, thanks to you, it’s almost like I was. 🙂 Thanks for this inspiring post!

    Reply

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About the Bamboo Traveler

Julie Krolak

Hi! I’m Julie, the Bamboo Traveler!  This blog is devoted to helping the inquisitive traveler explore Asia’s history and culture. On this site, you’ll find itineraries to help you plan your trip, reviews to help you make more informed decisions, lots of history and cultural information to help make your travels more meaningful, and book recommendations to help you understand a place more deeply.

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