By : Gabriella Fisher Last Update: January 2024
Things to do in Bohol, the Philippines
Bohol is an Island province in the Central Visayas of the Philippines. It’s also the name of the largest Island in the province. The capital of Bohol is sometimes referred to as Bohol City, but it’s actually Tagbilaran.
Avid divers will know Bohol for its world renowned dive sites that are teeming with marine life and diverse corals. No surprise that resorts on Bohol always harbor lots of dive enthusiasts. But divers aren’t the only ones that will enjoy Bohol. Not by far, I might add, since Bohol Island has many more sights and activities to offer. Combined with easy access to excellent beaches for a few relaxing days, one could easily spend a week or more on the Island. Whether it’s tourist attractions or off the beaten path discovery, Bohol delivers.
Our guest writer and fellow traveler Gabriella Fisher put Bohol to the test and wrote this fabulous account of her Bohol adventures. Here’s her list of exciting things to do in Bohol, the Philippines:
Disclaimer: Some of the mentioned Bohol tourist attractions require an entrance fee, which are fluid and subject to high/low season. All in all, it won’t differ all that much.
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As it was our first time in Bohol we went straight in with all the must see and most popular things to do in Bohol besides diving. We thought of joining an organized tour, but ultimately decided to rent a scooter motorbike. to explore on our own. Quick research learned that we could cover the 5 main Bohol tourist attractions in one day so that’s exactly what we did.
Sure, an organized tour has its perks, but at times we prefer the freedom and flexibility of our own transport. Boy, did we make the right decision. Riding through scenic countryside and discovering hidden gems along the way turned out to be a highlight of our trip. In fact, we liked it so much that motorbike cruisin’ in Bohol qualifies as an activity on its own. In addition, the motorbike allowed us to skip traffic at the most popular Bohol tourist attractions to enjoy activities at our own pace.
From Tagbilaran, it’s a 1.5hour ride to the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, our first stop of the day. If you’re staying at the Panglao beaches, add another 30min. We left Tagbilaran just after breakfast, but fellow travelers we met on the way told us they left Panglao at 4am to catch the sunrise over the Chocolate Hills.
Prepare your trip
First things first, a little prep never hurt nobody:
- Make sure you’re gassed up, because there aren’t that many gas stations on the route. However, with a full tank you should be able to make it the entire day.
- Arrange your rental motorbike the night before so you can leave early in the morning without stress
- Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! Because of the breeze you generate you won’t feel how much UV your skin is catching. So keep that skin healthy and apply sunscreen before you leave and keep applying throughout the day. I’ve learned the hard way, believe me. 😉
- Bring a sarong (this is one of my favorite tips for bike trips) to cover the seat when you’re not riding. It’s a way of preventing the seat upholstery from heating up and burning your bum. Again, I’ve learned the hard way, ouch.
- Best put your stuff in a dry-bag (if you have one), to keep your belongings dry and safe from rain and water activities.
- Plenty of water and a few snacks are always a good idea to bring, although you will find small shops on route to get refreshments
Without a motorbike license (either from the Philippines or your home country), you are not allowed to drive a motorbike above 50cc in the Philippines! Of course we know that many visitors do and vendors don’t care. The latter will gladly rent you a motorbike as long as you’re paying. However, your problems start when you’re in an accident. Fines and even serious jail time if there’s gross negligence on your part. Moreover, any insurance you might have will be invalid.
Nestled in center of the island, the Chocolate Hills of Bohol are a natural wonder with conical hills stretching out towards the horizon for as far as your eyes can see. What makes them truly unique is their color. During dry season, when the vegetation dies off, the hills turn a rich shade of cocoa brown, resembling giant chocolate truffles.
We visited just after the wet season and instead of chocolate we were treated to pistachio green truffles. Still pretty, but not glorious. So, please forgive for sharing a stock image to show you how the Chocolate Hills of Bohol look like when visited at their finest hour.
Science tells us that the Chocolate Hills of Bohol were shaped over thousands of years by the forces of erosion. However, local folklore claims they were formed by the falling tears of a giant, grieving over his lost love. I counted 1268 hills, while my friend counted 1776. We bickered over who was right and finally agreed on 1500 something. but in the end we just felt sad for the giant shedding so many tears.
While cruisin’ to the viewpoint, you already get a sneak peak of the area and a chance to see some of the oddly shaped hills up close. Upon arrival at the official viewpoint, park your scooter in the designated parking lot. From there, take the air-conditioned shuttle bus to the viewing deck, which takes about 5 minutes and costs 100 PHP p/p (entrance fee included).
Chocolate Hills Viewing Deck
Prepare yourself for crowds during peak hours. We arrived at 10am and the stairs to the viewing deck were packed with tourists blocking the stairway while taking pictures. It made the ascent very slow and we still don’t have a clue why they did not just wait until they were at the viewing deck. Best arrive before 9.30am as that’s when the tourist buses invade the viewpoint.
The view from the top was nice, but nevertheless a bit underwhelming. Maybe we set our expectations too high. Having said that, we still feel it’s worth a visit to see the third National Geographical Monument of the Philippines. The hills aren’t that high, but what left us in awe was the incredible vastness of the area. Chocolate (or pistachio) truffles going on for miles and miles, there just seems no end to it. And let’s be honest, who wants to say they have been to Bohol without seeing the Chocolate Hills of Bohol? Don’t be that guy.
The drive from the Chocolate Hills to the next Bohol attraction takes about 20min. Make a quick stop at the Batuan public market for a refill on water. Maybe even try some of the exotic fruits or a local Buko Pie.
We confess to not knowing what a tarsier was until we actually saw them here, but this teeny tiny creature sure found its way into our hearts. These tiny primates are among the smallest primates in the world and easily fit in the palm of your hand. The Bohol Tarsier Sanctuary dedicates itself to their conservation and much needed protection. It offers visitors a chance to see the small primates up close in their natural habitat.
Although the tarsiers are undeniably cute, the sanctuary itself is kind of small and fenced off. Especially when there are lots of tourists around, this can make the experience feel a bit cramped and even uncomfortable. Caretakers are available to help you spot the elusive little creatures and also offer to take close up photos of the tarsiers with your phone. This would mean them shoving a phone right up in the tarsiers faces. A bit off putting for our taste, even more so because they charge an extra fee that goes straight to their pockets.
That being said, if you’re interested in seeing these unique creatures, the Bohol Tarsier Sanctuary is still worth a visit, although but it may not be the highlight of your trip to Bohol. The entrance fee is 150 PHP.
Now, if your anything like me, at this point coffee crave will start to kick in. From the parking lot, cross the road to a tiny coffee house called “Kakanin Atbp”. They have a few seats outside, nice coffee and varyious home made sweet snacks. With this welcome caffeine boost under our belt, we were ready to continue our merry way to the next Bohol experience.
One of the most popular attractions in Bohol is the Bilar Man-Made Forest, a stunning 2km archway of red and white mahogany trees. A winding road goes right through the man-made forest with arching trees forming a natural tunnel for almost all of the way. When we visited, we didn’t even make a stop, but instead enjoyed the very scenic drive through the fairy-tale forest.
We learned that the forest was planted 50 years ago as a re-forestation project, since the area had become barren and neglected from logging and slash-and-burn agriculture. While the environmental intentions were good, the choice for planting mahogany turned out to be not so great. Mahogany is not native to the area and pretty much screwed up the area’s biodiversity. Native insects didn’t like it and left, taking all birds with them, which explains for the mysterious silence.
The silence combined with the dense canopy throwing shadows and dropping temperatures, caused the locals to nickname this area “The dark side of Bohol”.
Be aware that many tourists will stand in the middle of the road to snap some pictures. As they are trying to figure out their next viral Instagram pose, they are most definitely not paying attention to traffic. So if you’re visiting, try dodging the rogue tourists 😉
So, the journey continues. Once you exit the Bilar Man-Made Forest, it’s no more than 5min to the idyllic Loboc River, which is another major Bohol tourist attraction. You have two options here: either enjoy the river by lazy cruise or by active SUP (hey, no one is judging!).
The Loboc River Cruise offers river rides. Cost is typically around 550 PHP p/p for a 1 to 1.5 hr cruise. While the scenery is beautiful, the cruise is a rather “over the top” touristic activity. There’s a continuous assembly line-like set up with boats coming and going that are on/off loading large groups of tourists.
For a longer and more relaxing boat trip you can opt for the “Loboc River Buffet-Lunch Cruise“. A 4hour river cruise with wonderful views of local villages and untapped nature while enjoying a buffet of traditional Filipino cuisine and live music performances by local artists. Transport from your accommodation and back is included.
As an alternative you can also go supping on the Loboc River. This allows you to enjoy the beauty of the river at your own pace, while getting a bit of a workout as well. Sup rentals are available along the river and there are plenty of operators that offer sup tours as well. Maybe not as relaxing (and tummy filling) as the river cruise, but it’s a great option to enjoy the river away from the crowds. Exploring the Loboc river this way really proved to be one of the more fun and adventurous activities in Bohol.
We tried the One Hour Stand-up Paddle Tour (800 PHP) from SUP Tour Philippines, located at Fox & the Firefly cottages. I remember that we were kicking ourselves for not finding this spot earlier. It would have been great to stay here during our time in Bohol. The cottages looked lovely and inviting and the location is such a tranquil spot right next to the river. The SUP tour was nothing less than fantastic and we regretted not having more time.
After the Loboc river we almost reached the end of our day trip. One more attraction to go!
6.1 Baclayon Church
1 hour activity
From Loboc, just follow the scenic road along the Southern coastline of Bohol that will take you back to Tagbilaran and Panglao. There was still one more attraction on this route we planned to visit on this last part of the route. Little did we know that it would actually be three.
The coastal road will automatically take you past the Baclayon Church, which is the oldest church in Bohol. Built by the Spanish as far back as 1596 and since restored multiple times. The most recent restoration dates from 2013 after an earthquake destroyed large parts of the church.
The church indeed looks old and even a bit weary, but the interior displays beautiful murals and ceiling paintings. There’s also a small museum with information about the history of the Baclayon church and religious artifacts. It’s well worth a short visit. Entrance fee is 110 PHP.
6.2 Blood Compact Monument
15 minutes activity
Bohol Blood Compact Monument. A bit of a sinister name for a monument that remembers a peace and friendship treaty between the Spanish and the Boholanos.
The Blood Compact Monument in Bohol commemorates the historic treaty between Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi and Datu (Chieftain) Sikatuna. A life size bronze statue depicts 5 men performing a traditional blood compact ritual.
Although it’s a nice work of art, the monument isn’t an interesting or impressive sight per se. But hey, you’re passing it anyway and it represents great historical significance to the Philippines. Also, the view from the monument towards the sea is gorgeous. Reason enough to stop for a few minutes and take a look.
6.3 Chido Café
At this point, you are probably hungry (I know we were!). We quickly went online an found Chido Café, which is listed as the nr. 1 restaurant on Bohol (according to TripAdvisor). And the best part was that its location is just 100m from the Blood Compact Monument.
But then, confusion all around. The first time, we drove right past the location where Google said it was. Then, we past it for the second time, we didn’t see any café there. The third time we spotted a small sign on an office building saying “Chido Café”. A bit reluctant we entered the office building expecting to be disappointed, but little did we know.
We really enjoyed everything about this colorful little restaurant so we do recommend to pop in for some food. Take a seat on the balcony and behold the views of the ocean and Panglao Island. Enjoy nice refreshing drinks, complementary Cajun popcorn and some of the best international comfort food. We specifically recommend the Cajun potatoes, they are the absolute bomb!
From Chido Café it was a mere 5 minutes back to our accommodation, which concluded our motorbike cruisin’ day trip.
7. Final thoughts
Maybe this day didn’t offer the most unique experiences, but it was still a lot of fun. Additionally we’ve got to visit all the must-see tourist attractions in Bohol without going by organized tour. We did take it slow, it’s our holiday after all, but even after making quite a few stops to refresh we were back at our accommodation pretty early.
One more tip: our backs were really sore after an entire day of motorbiking. So, at the end of the day we treated ourselves to a soothing massage at our hotel spa and so should you 😉
As said before, on our motorbike trip to the Bohol tourist attractions we took it real slow and had time to spare at the end of the day. You can always add more attractions to your trip. Or do as we did and visit them on another day.
There are plenty of other interesting places to visit on Bohol that are less visited by tourists.
8.1 Bohol Waterfalls
With regards to waterfalls in Bohol it’s practically just pick and choose since there are sooo many. Explore by yourself or join professionals to discover the most beautiful and exciting waterfalls in Bohol.
- Can-Umantad Falls is said to be the highest waterfall in Bohol (60ft/45m). Unfortunately it’s quite far from Panglao (2.5hr drive), 20 PHP entrance fee.
- Ingkumhan Falls is great for cliff jumping and rope swinging and also has incredible turquoise water. About 1hr driving from Panglao, 20 PHP entrance fee.
- Pahangog Falls, also known as Dimiao twin falls, charges 20 PHP as well. But hey, you get 2 falls for the price of one. It’s everyone’s favorite waterfall with beautiful swimming water, cliff jumping and tubing. 1.5 driving hours from Panglao.
- Camugao Falls is within one driving hour from Panglao. Entrance fee is 25 PHP, but you’ll get to enjoy incredible blue rock pools surrounded by a green clad cliff.
8.2 Bohol Beaches
Even with so many things to do in Bohol, the beaches remain the biggest tourist attractions in Bohol. There’s ample choice, whether you’re in for a lively beach or a more subdued atmosphere. With some effort, even tranquility seekers will find a beach to their liking.
- Alona Beach on Panglao Island is truly gorgeous. It has that picture perfect look and feel you expect from a tropical beach paradise. This stretch of coastline is very vibrant with resorts, restaurants and bars.
- Dumaluan Beach, also on Panglao, is not any less stunning then Alona Beach. As a destination, however, Dumaluan is more geared towards families with less vibrant nightlife. The beach is lined with grande resorts, each with their own in-house entertainment.
- Quinale Beach at Anda village in the Southeast of Bohol is a perfect alternative for the Panglao beaches if you can do without the nightlife. Although more subdued, Quinale is certainly not undeveloped. White sands, clear waters, no crowds, but an adequate tourist infrastructure is what sums up Quinale beach.
8.3 Sight Seeing in Bohol
- Cambuyo and Cadapdapan are the two most idyllic locations to behold the Bohol rice terraces. Shades from yellow to green and everything in between, covering the rolling hills in neat rows and crazy curves. Even wide angle lens cameras are not able to capture its full beauty.
- Catch the sunrise with the Sea of Clouds at Mt Puntaas near the town of Dagohoy in the Bohol highlands.
- St. Joseph the Worker Cathedral Shrine holds great significance for the local population. It’s located in Taglibaran straight off the bridge from Panglao. The eclectic architecture is a must see and the interior with beautiful altars, paintings and murals even more so.
8.4 Adventurous activities
- Hinagdanan Cave is conveniently located on Panglao. So if you’re staying on the Island or Taglibaran you won’t have to travel far. The cave is not very large, but the real attraction is the interior lagoon and holes in the ceiling that provide beautiful sun ray effects. The cave opens from 7:30 am to 6 pm on weekdays and weekends from 8 am to 5 pm. Entrance fee is 25 PHP.
- Night Kayaking through mangroves is a wonderful way to watch the famous Bohol Fireflies. However, with night excursions it’s very important to join a professional and certified outfit. Health and Safety, Sustainability and local Community are all taken into account by Kayakasia Philippines. You’ll pay a little more, but it’s definitely worth the experience.
- The Sevilla Twin Hanging Bridge is an Instagrammer’s dream. The bridges are safe, made from steel cables with a bamboo deck, though still shaky and wobbly. Bridge span is 40m and the backdrop of the river below at 20m will make sure to blow the roof of your Instagram post. Crossing will set you back 50 PHP though.
- Rent a mountain bike and explore the countryside of Bohol. Take a peek into rural village life and challenge yourself off the road. If you’re apprehensive to go on your own you can also join a bicycle tour with an enthusiastic guide.
So, are you excited about Bohol yet? Let us know in the comments below if you’re planning to visit or if you feel that there’s an activity missing from our list of “Exciting Things to do in Bohol, the Philippines”. We would love to hear from you.
Enjoy your travels,
— Gabriella Fisher for walkaboutmonkey.com
FAQ Bohol, the Philippines
Bohol in the Philippines is definitely worth visiting. The famous “Chocolate Hills of Bohol” is a National Geological Monument, the beaches are top notch, dive sites are world renowned and the Island’s interior is great for adventurous activities.
Bohol has many sights and activities to offer, both tourist attractions and off the beaten path exploring. A stay of at least three days is recommended. However, combined with the easy access to excellent beaches for a few relaxing days in between, one can easily spend a week on the Island. More if you’re into diving.
Without a doubt the Chocolate Hills is the most famous attraction of Bohol.
Bohol is quite safe for visitors. Of course it’s not fairy-tale land where you can walk around at night when intoxicated with cash money in plain sight hanging from your pockets. Other than that, you’ll be fine. The most danger to expect is probably from your own careless behavior when participating in adventure sports.
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