Bohol is an island and province in the Philippines and situated in the Central Visayas region of the country. The province of Bohol consists of the main island Bohol along with several other smaller islands that surround it. Bohol is a great place to visit, for such a small island it has a huge variety of things to see and do. Bohol is most famous for its quirky geological formations, coral reefs and its most recognised little primate – the Tarsier.
The island of Bohol had a short stint of independence at the turn of the 19th century, so many of the locals still refer to Bohol as the Republic of Bohol. When visiting Bohol you can see the island is steeped in history and has been influenced over the years which appears in its Spanish colonial architecture.
Bohol has something for everyone whether you want to go jungle trekking, cave exploring, wildlife spotting, admiring history and architecture or chilling on beautiful paradise beaches, this tiny province in the Phillipines really does have it all.
Sights & Activities
Entrance Fee: Museum 50 PHP / Church is free to enter
Babclayon Church is the oldest christian settlement in Bohol and second oldest church in the Philippines. Located only 4 miles away from Tagbilaran City which is Bohols Capital. It was created back in 1717 and was built using coral stone. It has undergone some major renovations over the years as its encountered various damages over the years, but endured most of its damage from the 2013 earthquake.
The church is also part of the UNESCO world heritage, next to the church is an old convent that is home to the church’s musuem which houses lots of religious artefacts and antiques. We visited after going to the Loboc River as it’s not too far from there, and had a wander around the outside and inside of the church.
Bilar Man Made Forest & Eco Park
Bilar Man Made Forest and Eco Park is a stretch of man made mahogany forest, and a lot of visitors stop by on route to the Chocolate Hills and Loboc River. The Forest has huge trees which cover the sky completely when stood underneath, the forest can be viewed from the main road or the viewing platforms set in the forest. The forest is so dense and thick that it is much cooler under the trees than outside of the forest which is much warmer.
The reforestation plan was started back in 1953 to combat the huge deforestation that occurred after locals sought refuge during World War II, the damaging slash and burn farming method destroyed much of the original forest. You can’t miss the man made forest you are bound to drive through it at some point on your trip.
Entrance Fee: 50 PHP to enter viewing deck
The Chocolate Hills is Bohols most iconic sight and attraction, the hills cover a vast area in the centre of the island and consists of atleast 1260 hills, but there are many more that are spread out. The hills are covered in green grass which turns brown during dry season, which is where they get their name from.
This unique geological formation has a viewing platform in Carmen Town which gives you a 360 degree view of the hills, which seems never ending. The hills vary in height from 30 meters to 120 meters, and are sometimes considered the eighth wonder of the natural world. The site is also part of UNESCO world heritage. The Chocolate Hills is a must as not only is it one of Bohol’s top attractions, but also one of the top places to visit in the the Philippines.
Entrance Fee: 550 PHP for buffet lunch river cruise
The Loboc River is one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever been to, the rivers source is located in the town of Carmen in the centre of Bohol Island, and takes its course through Loboc and to the south of the island where it then meets the Bohol Sea. The scenery around the river is so green and tropical, with lots of palms, coconut trees, banana groves and vegetation surrounding the river on each side, there are small boats used by locals which you will see passing, as well as local children swinging from trees and jumping into the river.
The river is a popular tourist attraction and has lots on offer for visitors such as standup paddle boarding, paddleboard yoga, bird and firefly watching, river crusing buffet lunches and cultural displays.
When we visited we decided to book on one of the river cruises which serves up a traditional filipino buffet lunch. The river cruise is a great way to see the river and float along on a floating restaurant, they also have local musicians playing traditional Boholano songs, and the leisurley cruise takes you to Busay Falls. Just by the falls is a small floating cottage where a local rondalla group (filipino music which was introduced by the spainish) performs dances and music.
I would really recommend the lunch cruise along the river as the food and the views were amazing and it was a really relaxing and peaceful part of the day.
Entrance Fee: 50 PHP
Mag-Aso Falls are twin waterfalls which are 25 feet in height and surrounded by wild plants and trees, and located about 30 minutes drive away from Tagbilaran City. The waterfalls are a really nice and quiet place to come and visit as its not one of the most popular tourist attractions.
You can swim in the pools of the waterfalls, however when we visited it had been raining heavily and we were advised to not get into the waterfalls as it may be dangerous as it had higher levels of water. I’d suggest asking at the entrance if its safe or not to get in. Theres loads of stairs and rails to get down to the waterfalls and it is a lovely walk down through the forest. When we visited we were the only ones there, and it was so nice having the area to ourselves to admire the scenery.
Panglao Island is located to the south of Bohol Island and less than 10 miles away from Tagbilaran, its known for its popular beach resort of Alona Beach. This small paradise island is connected to Bohol island by a road, so is easily reachable. The island has beautiful pristine beaches which attract both local Filipinos and overseas visitors.
Just a few minutes away by banca boat from the beautiful beaches are colourful coral reefs and world famous dive sites. As well as stunning beaches on offer the island is also home to several other sights and attractions such as Hinagdanan Cave, Bohol Bee Farm, Nova Shell Museum and the Saint Augustine Church to name a few. I would really recommend visiting all of these and they can easily be done in half a day!
We loved stepping down into Hinagdanan Caves, it’s a beautiful small cave with a lagoon pool and a real natural treasure! The Nova Shell Museum was also really interesting and a great place to stop at, it showcases all of the shells that are found around the island. The Bee Farm is an absolute must for lunch, if you want healthy organic food with great views it’s the perfect spot!
We visited Panglao for the day but actually wish we had booked accommodation on Panglao and based ourselves there instead of Tagbilaran. If you are planning a trip to Bohol, I would really recommend basing yourself on Panglao Island as the rest of Bohol is easily accessible from there.
Read more about Panglao Island: Best Places To Visit On Panglao Island
Philippine Tarsier Foundation
Entrance Fee: 50 PHP conservation fee
Tarsiers are the worlds smallest primate and have been around for millions of years, they are tiny with long tails, huge eyes and they can rotate their heads by 180 degress. They are the only primates which are entirely carnivorous and feed on insects, lizards and snakes. There are a five types of tarsier species which used to inhabit many of the worlds rainforests, but today can only be found in certain parts of the Philippines, Indonesia and Borneo.
The tarsiers that can be found in the forests of Bohol are the Tarsius Syrichta species, there are several so called sanctuaries dotted around the island of Bohol, however a lot of them allow visitors to hold them and have their photos taken with them. These places are not sanctuaries and are doing more harm than good, as tarsiers are timid and can be easily scared so handling them can be detrimental to their mental and physical health.
Always do your own research prior to visiting any animal or wildlife sanctuaries to check that they are legit and your not investing your money into nothing more than a tourist trap. I have made mistakes in the past and visited animals in other destinations without researching prior to the visit, and then later realising the animals were mistreated or were not being cared for in the correct way, and as an animal lover was heartbroken when I found out that I had paid into such a cruel system.
If you would like to see tarsiers then make sure to visit the Philippine Tarsier Foundation non profit sanctuary and conservation program which covers 167 hectares of protected timberland area and covers three areas – Corella, Sikatuna and Loboc. We went to Corella and a guide took us through to some of the woods where we could spot some tarsiers living wild in the trees and bushes. You are allowed to take photos but the flash must be off, and you have to be really quiet and you are not allowed to touch them. This was a real highlight of our trip to Bohol.
Sevilla’s Twin Hanging Bridge
Sevilla’s Twin Hanging Bridge are two bamboo constructed bridges which hang over the Sipatan River and located in the town of Sevilla, each bridge has a one way system you cross over on one, and walk back over on the other. Originally these bridges were just made of bamboo and rope, but as its tourist numbers have increased steel cables have been added for extra safety. Originally the bridge was used by locals to cross the river, but today is one of the islands top attractions as it has views over the river and the surrounding greenery.
Entrance Fee: 20 PHP
Shiphaus is a pretty quirky attraction and located not too far away from the Chocolate Hills. This strange building is shaped like a shipping vessel and its owner is a local ex mariner captain. It was created back in 2011 and has some hotel rooms which you can book into which continue the nautical theme. There is a roof deck and all staff are dressed in sailor uniforms, when we went they also insisted that we dressed as sailors too, I left the photos out of this blog as they were so cringey! The staff pretty much had us doing one of those cheesy couples photo shoots, it was all part of the fun I guess. If your visiting the Chocolate Hills its worth going to as its something a bit different.
Tagbilaran is the capital city of Bohol, its the only city on the island and the hub of commerce. The city is busy with traffic and people, there is a variety of malls, shops, cafes and restaurants as well as a few sights such as St Josephs Cathedral which showcases Spanish colonial architecture. There are also a few statues and monuments one of the most popular ones being the Blood Compact monument which depicts a friendship treaty between the natives and the king of Spain back in 1565.
While in the city also take a wander into some of its museums such as the National Musuem of Bohol which house lots of Bohol memoribilia and historical information and artefacts. I would suggest going into Tagbilaran one afternoon to have a browse, but dont expect to be blown away by the sights as there are much nicer areas all around the island. We went into the city shortly after we arrived in Bohol to grab something to eat and had a walk around to see what it had to offer.
Food & Drink
Bohol Bee Farm Resort
Bohol Bee Farm Resort is located on Panglao island and is an absolute must visit, this gorgeous organic farm has the most beautiful restaurant built onto a small cliff overlooking the ocean, and serves up fresh organic dishes. Before your food is served they provide squash bread and pesto and mango spreads which were amazing. I ordered the honey glazed chicken which was delicious and beautifully presented with flower garnishes.
There is a cute gift shop selling souvenirs and locally made products and produce, and a small ice cream shop. We had a look around the gardens and went down to the sun deck which provides stunning views of the sea. You can also stay overnight as there are suites and chalets available to book. There are beehive tours you can go on at selected times too. I would really recommend visiting for lunch and to wander around the resort, it really is a lovely relaxing spot to visit.
The Garden Cafe is a Tex Mex and American food restaurant with a cowboy theme, which may seem a little out of place in the Philippines, but this restaurant employs deaf waiters and chefs and the menus provide a beginners guide to sign language. Its a great little place to come and visit for comfort food, while also providing job opportunities for the hearing impaired.
Gerarda’s is a family run restaurtant in Tagbilaran and is well known by locals, it serves traditional Filipino food in a traditional setting. The service was friendly, and we saw lots of locals coming in for big family meals. We tried a few dishes and the waiter recommended the Binagoongan Baboy which is a Filipino pork dish, all the food was really tasty and filling. If you want to try some typical Filipino cuisine this is the place to come!
Payag is another authentic Filipino restaurant which is set in a Spainish styled home in Tagbilaran. The restaurant is famous for its chicken inasal which is chicken marinated with several ingredients such as lime and coconut, its basically Filipino barbecue chicken. We opted for some lechon which is an extremely popular pork dish in the Philippines and some sizzling gambas. All the food was delicious and fresh and the setting was traditional and homely. Payag is another great place to go if you want to try a variety of Filipino dishes, and are staying close to the city.
Ocean Suites Boutique Hotel
Ocean Suites Boutique Hotel is situated next to the Blood Compact Monument in Tagbilaran, and is an ocean facing hotel with an infinity pool. Unlike other areas in South East Asia, I have to admit you don’t get as much bang for your buck or nowhere near the same level of accommodation in the Philippines. So make sure you set your expectations as I found accommodation in the Philippines to be similar or a little more expensive but without the same high standards of other places such as Indonesia, Thailand etc.
Ocean Suites Boutique Hotel was a lovely hotel however, and the public areas were clean, slick and modern. The rooms are a bit more basic, nice enough but nothing particularly special. I wouldn’t quite call it a boutique hotel unless referring to the public areas. The location was great though, and not too far from the city centre, and the hotel had amazing views over the ocean and you could see Panglao in the distance. The hotel also has a bar and restaurant which serves tasty food and drinks and had a relaxing atmosphere.
The cafe area in the hotel was fantastic and served the most delicious cakes, and was nice to sit and have a drink and cake after a long day exploring. The staff were really friendly and helpful too. If you want to base yourself in Tagbilaran then I would recommend booking into Ocean Suites.
Personally if I were to return to Bohol in the future and knowing what I know now, I would suggest looking at accommodation options on Panglao Island. I didn’t realise how close and accessible the island was prior to going to Bohol, but as it’s connected to Bohol by a road it is extremely easy to reach all of Bohol’s main attractions, and after a day of exploring you can sit on the beach with a drink and watch the sunset!
Transport & Getting Around
Bohol is pretty easy to navigate around and there is a variety of options to get around the island. When in Tagbilaran city everything is within walking distance, however when exploring the rest of the island I would suggest booking a driver for the day or booking onto a day tour for ease, and to go and see all the main sights.
We booked a driver for two days, one day we got driven all over Bohol and the second day we went to Panglao. It’s really affordable to do and personally would recommend this rather than booking a tour group, as you can spend as little or as much time as you want in certain places, and have more flexibility. When going short distances just hop in one of the many tricycles zipping about the streets.
3 Day Itinerary
- After arriving grab lunch explore Tagbiliran and it’s sights and attractions.
- Visit Bohols main sites; Philippine Tarsier Foundation / Bilar Man Made Forest & Eco Park / Chocolate Hills / Shiphaus / Sevilla’s Twin Hanging Bridge / Loboc River / Babclayon Church.
- Start your day at Mag-Aso Falls before heading over to Panglao Island then visit Panglao Islands top attractions; Hinagdanan Cave / Bohol Bee Farm / Nova Shell Museum / Saint Augustine Church / Alona Beach.
My best bit of advice for visiting Bohol would be to base yourself on Panglao Island, I really wish that’s what we had done. It’s so close and convenient when exploring the rest of Bohol, but you have the beautiful beaches to chill out on after a day of sightseeing.
When visiting Bohol avoid the so called Python Sanctuary at all costs! When we were driving around the island our driver took us there, we hadn’t done any research prior to going and as the driver said it was a sanctuary we agreed for him to take us there, which now I regret! The place is like hell on Earth for the animals living there. Monkeys are kept in tiny cages and the conditions are just heartbreaking, as soon as we stepped in we decided to leave straight away. I emailed several animal charities afterwards to see if I could get these animals help, but didn’t have much luck! Seeing the animals kept in those conditions still haunts me to this day, and made me feel so helpless, and I’m so annoyed that we paid into this awful place!
- Language: Filipino, English
- Currency: Philippine Peso
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