In June I spent over one month in the Philippines, exploring both Palawan, Cebu and the Visayas together with my partner in crime (and husband). After the closure of Boracay earlier this year, lots of travelers are seeking for alternatives in the Philippines – and luckily there is an overwhelming amount of beautiful and interesting islands available.
Bohol is rather on the less traveled path – but let me tell you – it should be on your next itinerary!
I actually ended up on Bohol rather by accident as I intended to spend my last days in the Philippines on Siquijor island (which is also an awesome place!). Arriving on Siquijor island, I realized that the ferry time table I found online wasn’t recent any more (Don’t trust any time tables in the Philippines!). Unfortunately that meant, that there was no direct ferry to Cebu the day my plane was going to leave. A new plan was needed!
After some research I figured out, that the best idea would be to take a ferry to Bohol the day before and then head on to Cebu from there. Luckily, Tagbilaran Port on Bohol is a main port in the region and ferries go there numerous times every day in both directions. So essentially, our travel plan left us with a little over 24h on Bohol – so I came up with a one day itinerary!
Discover Bohol by scooter
To see the most of this underrated island in one day, the best idea is to rent a scooter! Driving around the island on your own gives you much more flexibility and is so much fun! But don’t forget to wear a helmet!
Renting a scooter is super easy in Tagbilaran and also very cheap. Expect to pay around 400-500 Pesos for a full day rental. Your hotel can probably assist you – otherwise just walk around – scooters are everywhere! So let’s start with the route – some of the stops are optional, while you should not miss the others (I’ll get to this right away)! Plan to drive for at least 4 hours in total as road conditions are good but not made for speeding.
We started rather early around 7am with our tour and went past the Blood Compact Monument (only interesting if you are the history kind of person) and did the first stop at the Baclayon Church.
Unfortunately it was closed because it was independence day! Normally, the inside is really pretty and it is actually the second oldest church in the Philippines (built by Jesuits in 1596). Anyway, it is definitely worth stopping there for a few minutes – and it is for free! 🙂
Twin Hanging Bridge
Next stop on my one-day itinerary was the Twin Hanging Bridge. It’s a little bit a touristy thing and you don’t need to plan to spend a lot of time there. There are some locals who will sell you fresh young coconut (don’t pay more than 40 pesos!). “Entrance” to the bridge is 35 Pesos and then you can walk over the bridge which is almost entirely made of bamboo. On the other side you will find a few souvenir shops and then you can walk back on the other bridge (yes, this is a strict one-way system 🙂 )
The Chocolate Hills!
The next stop is the one that Bohol is most famous for: The Chocolate Hills! They are even on the official flag of Bohol and were named a national geological monument!
If you look at the picture and think (like I did when I saw them) “That’s green – why the heck are they called CHOCOLATE hills???” – here’s the answer: they are called this way, because in dry season, they really look like Hershey’s chocolate!
I googled and found a few pictures – I think they look nicer in green though! Another fun fact about them: Actually scientist still don’t agree on how those cone-shaped hill where formed – but they are definitely cool to see! At the Chocolate Hills Complex (that’s where all the tour buses head to) there is a nice viewing platform with 200 steps to walk up.
Entry was moderately priced with 50 Pesos per person. Another option is to book an ATV tour – if you are into that kind of thing, don’t worry about pre-booking – you WILL be approached by locals offering it. If you are a coward like me – politely decline and enjoy the view!
On your way back towards Tagbilaran you will pass by the Man-made forest. Actually you already drove through it during the way to the Chocolate Hills without realizing this is considered a sight. Or maybe you realized that something is supposed to be there because you saw a Chinese tour bus stop there and Chinese tourists were almost running in front of your scooter while taking photos of trees. No, there were no monkeys. They were actually taking pictures of the trees. To me, it pretty much looked like any western forest – but that’s the point: it doesn’t look like rain forest as it was planted by humans (thus, completely surprising, the name!
The Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella
If you managed to draw your attention away from this forest, here comes THE highlight of your trip: The Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella! Tarsiers are actually the smallest monkeys on the planet – and they have huge eyes! But before I tell you more about the cutest monkey on earth, let me give you a warning: Don’t accidentally go to the Tarsier Conservation Area in Loboc!
They might sound similar and you will see a lot of the tour buses stop there – but the “Tarsier Conservation Area” is actually less about conservation than about making money from exposing the Tarsiers to humans without really caring about them. And that’s a big problem as those tiny monkeys (they weight around 100g and are 10-15cm big!) do tend to show suicidal tendencies when they have to live in captivity!
The Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella is officially recognized by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation – the main non-profit organization caring for the endangered Tarsiers in the Visayas. As Tarsiers are nocturnal creatures, they are usually sleeping during the day and you have to be very quiet when visiting the sanctuary. Entrance is 60 Pesos and there is a short path that you can walk along to see the Tarsiers (plan something like 15min for the visit). There are volunteers along the path that show you where they spotted some Tarsiers – otherwise you won’t have a good chance of spotting them yourself!
Of course you can’t touch the Tarsiers – but if you are lucky, you can still snap a shot with them. 🙂 Most of them will sleep – but some might show you their beautiful big eyes – they actually have the largest eye-to-body-ratio in all mammals!
Once you have enough of the cuteness of the Tarsiers, it is time to head back to Tagbilaran! If you didn’t have lunch yet somewhere on the route, there is a few decent places in the city center. (e.g. Just sizzling) Or, you could hop on to Panglao Island (if you didn’t decide to stay there already anyway) and spend the afternoon and evening at one of their beaches! A really good (bur pricey) resort there is the South Palms Resort. If you are looking for a budget place close to the Beach, the Royal Paradise Guesthouse is a good bet for you!
In the end I can just say that this misleading ferry timetable website was the best that could have happened to me in the end! Bohol is definitely a mainly undiscovered and highly underrated destination in the Philippines!
I hope my itinerary will help you with your travel plans and hopefully you also enjoyed reading about my one-day-adventure! I would love to see you around on my blog – there is also an itinerary for Palawan and more travel tips!