What to see and what to do in Bohol, Philippines
IJsselstein, Thursday, 27 January 2011 (updated: Monday, 7 April 2014)
Bohol has a tremendous lot to offer, so much that many tourists have a hard time to select those most important things to see in their limited time. You can easily spend a week on the island, and just see the highlights.
To help you in your selection, we give a short overview of the more popular tourist destinations, some of which are included in the organized tours that are offered by various travel agents. If you have just a few days, you could join with one of those; however, if you have more time or more adventurous inclined, you can also visit those places on your own - in which case it is advisable to arrange for your own transport, which can be a taxi or rented car or motorbike, as trying to travel the island by public transportation can take considerable time.
Tagbilaran is the capital of Bohol, and its only city. It is located at the south-western end of the island. Most boats arrive here, and all scheduled flights land on its one-strip airport, not far from the city center. Apart from visiting several shopping malls, such as Bohol Quality, Island City Mall, and Plaza Marcela, you dine in various restaurants, visit the Bohol Museum, and a number of interesting landmarks, such as the Sandugo blood compact site, which is located in the Bool district of Tagbilaran city. This monument is included in most tours, and offers a nice view over the Bohol sea, with Panglao island to the right and Pamilacan island a bit farther away to the left.
Leaving Tagbilaran in the southern direction, we can cross a bridge to Panglao island.
|Alona Beach from the air|
Panglao is both the name of the island south of Bohol, and of the southernmost of the two municipalities on this island, the other being Dauis, which you will pass through first. The municipality of Panglao is home to some of the best known beaches of Bohol, including Doljo beach, Dumaluan beach and Alona beach, and has numerous beach resorts. For those curious enough to take a short ride to the town proper - easily done on a morning or afternoon, the old town Panglao (known as the poblacion) still preserves the traditional layout of a Philippine rural town: A large town-square, covered with grass, with on one side the Church, another the town hall, and on a third the local school. Add to this the remnants of an older church (of which only one stone wall remains, the remainder of this building was previously made of bamboo), and a massive hexagonal watchtower, the largest on Bohol.
From most of the resorts, you can arrange whale or dolphin watching tours, island hopping and excursions to the most well tourist destinations. The more adventurous inclined can rent motorcycles here, and explore the island at their own pace. The many diving schools and diving boats near the beach will be hard to miss. Around Panglao and the nearby islet Balicasag are some of the best diving spots in the Philippines.
Dauis is the other municipality on Panglao island, and its entrance through two bridges to the mainland, also has a church that is worth visiting - don't forget to walk to the back and watch the watchtower and convento, - and is the home of Hinagdanan cave, a small underground lake surrounded by stalactites. This cave is one of the tourist destinations in Bohol, and a large number of souvenir shops have been set-up around its entrance.
To the North-east of Tagbilaran, we can follow the route most tourist tours make:
|The Pier of Baclayon|
Baclayon town is not far to the east of Tagbilaran. Its monumental Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, opposite the pier, is well worth a visit. This church also has a small museum, with some old church relics on display. When you visit here, also take a look at some of the traditional houses here, with their wooden floors, often massive logs of teak, and sliding windows made of capiz (shells). Some of the owners, organized in the Association of Baclayon Ancestral Homes, allow guests to stay here overnight. For Filipino movie buffs: this is also the home-town of Boholano movie star Cesar Montano, that is, when he is not busy on the set.
Baclayon is also the base for some of the dolphin watching tours - often operated by fishermen from the nearby Pamilacan island that belongs to this municipality - but they are just as willing to pick you up at the beach in front of your resort on Alona beach or elsewhere on Panglao. If you want to go dolphin watching, you will need to wake up early. You're best changes to meet with those aquatic mammals is in the early morning, when they hunt for their breakfast. If you per change encounter a whale, you should consider yourself lucky, as, although not uncommon, they are not seen every day. After your dolphin watching tour, you can also visit Pamilacan island itself, where they can prepare you a lavish meal of seafood, and you can find yet another Spanish era watchtower. Just wandering around in the tranquility of this tiny island, without cars, makes it easy to doze away and transport yourself back in time...
Baclayon is included in most daily tours.
The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon is one of the historical monuments that was badly damaged by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish church
|Mural in Loboc Church|
Loboc is an inland town 24 km to the east of Tagbilaran. According to Filipino historian Fr. Horacio de la Costa, Loboc was founded by Fr. Juan de Torres who succeeded in persuading the local population to settle their barangays in this site in 1602. This makes Loboc one of the oldest towns of Bohol. Loboc is also the site of an historic Spanish period church, Saint Peter the Apostle Parish with a small museum in its large three-story convento and a separate bell tower. Witness also one of the biggest planning blunders in Bohol: a partly completed bridge, which, if it where to be completed would require the monumental church to be destroyed. A few kilometers down the road, you can come across a traditional hanging bridge, and try your nerves crossing it.
Loboc is the hometown of the famous Loboc Children Choir who have been traveling to many countries in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.A to share their angelic voice with the world. Loboc is also well-known for its floating restaurants that cruise on the Loboc river and where you can eat Filipino food as much as you can eat and enjoy the live band or watch the Filipino folk dances being performed by the local dancers. The tour will end at Busay falls and then returns to its origin. Since the return trip goes downstream, it is much faster, and before you know it, you will be back at your starting point.
|Children Jumping into Loboc River|
A visit to Loboc and its interesting church is included in most local tours. For a trip with the floating restaurants or attending a performance - or even just a rehearsal - of the Loboc choir, you will need to make separate arrangements.
Not far from Loboc town, a zip-line and cable car have been constructed, not as long and high as the one in Danao, but still an impressive flight across Loboc river, and not requiring the two hour trip to Danao.
The Saint Peter the Apostle Parish Church in Loboc is one of the historical monuments that was badly damaged by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake
Saint Peter the Apostle Parish Church
|Tension bridge in Sevilla|
Sevilla is 36 km to the east of Tagbilaran. The famous bamboo hanging bridge can be found crossing the Sipatan River in Sevilla, Bohol. This hanging bridge has become a tourist attraction in Bohol because crossing it is quite different from crossing a concrete or wooden bridge. While crossing the bridge, you can feel that the bridge that is swaying and bouncing a little bit on every step, especially if there are several people crossing the bridge at the same time. For some people, letting go of the railing is quite scary, which can give problems when you have to pass somebody crossing in the other direction, luckily there are two bridges, one for each direction. The entrance fee for tourists is P 10.00 to cross the bridge. (There are several similar bridges in Bohol, you can cross for free, but those are not part of the common tourist tours.)
|The Man Made Forest|
Bilar is some 40 km to the North-east of Tagbilaran. When getting closer to the town, the road will make many hair-pin bends, as you are ascending to the higher part of the island. Locals jestingly call this road the "tina-i sa manok", chicken-intestines.
Bilar is best known for its Mahogany man-made forest, a dark area of thickly reforested land on the way from Tagbilaran to the Chocolate Hills. Most Bohol tours stop here for a short while.
However, Bilar has far more to offer. It is currently being developed as an eco-tourism destination, and rightly so, as within its borders is the Raja Sikatuna National Park, which is the a 9000 hectare nature reserve that offers great tours for trekking, curious and interesting lime-rock formations, some of the last remaining primary forest on Bohol, caves, and great opportunities for observing animals and bird watching. To get here, you can to go to Logarita, where you can find a large swimming pool, fed by a natural spring. Although the water is sometimes moss-green, it is clean, as it is constantly refreshed. This place makes an excellent starting points for treks into the park.
Also in Bilar, you can visit the Simply Butterflies Conservation Center, where you can see many types of native butterflies, hand grown in the center.
Carmen is best known as the center of the Chocolate Hills. Here you can find the Chocolate Hills Complex, a government-run hotel and restaurant. To enjoy the scenery, you'll have to first climb the stairs on one of the hills for a magnificent view. This is probably the best spot to enjoy the eyrie landscape of the famous Chocolate Hills. Carmen is 59 km to the north-east of Tagbilaran. This complex is included in virtually all tours of Bohol.
Chocolate Hills Complex after the earthquake
Returning to Tagbilaran, we can also make an excursion towards the North-west. Doing so, you will first pass Cortes, with an interesting old church, and then Maribojoc.
|Punta Cruz Watchtower|
Maribojoc is located near the coastline of Bohol and is 14 kilometers north from Tagbilaran. At the south-western-most tip of Bohol, you can find an old triangular Spanish watch tower built in 1796, the Punta Cruz Watch tower. From here you have a good view of the islands of Panglao and Cebu, and, and with clear weather you can also see Siquijor and Negros.
Maribojoc was severely hit by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on 15 October 2013. Many houses were damaged, and the historical church completely destroyed. At places, the sea-bed was lifted more than a meter, and as a result, the coast-line receded some 50 to 100 meters. Punta Cruz watch-tower is no longer directly at the sea.
Punta Cruz Watchtower
Continuing your trip from Maribojoc, you'll reach Loon.
|Inang-Angan seen from below.|
Loon is a friendly old town with an impressive church. Inside, you can find some of the more interesting murals of Bohol (although unfortunately several of them are in dire need of restauration). When you visit the church, don't forget to walk to the back of the church, and then down some massive nineteenth century stone stairs (called Inang-Angan) to the lower part of the town with its pier.
Continuing to the north, you pass through Calape, with its characteristic neo-gothic church (the only neo-gothic church in Bohol), and continue to Tubigon.
Loon was severely hit by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on 15 October 2013. Many houses were damaged, and the historical Our Lady of Light Parish Church completely destroyed. The port of Catagbacan in Loon is badly damaged.
Our Lady of Light (Nuestra Señora de la Luz) Parish Church
Tubigon is 54 km to the north of Tagbilaran. Being much closer to Cebu, Tubigon makes a good alternative port of entrance to Bohol. Several ferries cross the Cebu straight every day, including several fast craft and a Roro ferry, in case you want to bring a car. Even when you are going from Cebu to Tagbilaran, it may be both faster and cheaper than a direct ferry, as you can take a bus or Vhire ("van for hire", minivans with air-con used for passenger transport, filling the gap between buses and taxis) to Tagbilaran city. This route, following the coastal ring-road, is quite interesting because you can enjoy the landscape, will cross several rivers, have some nice sea-views, and pass through a number of historical towns.
There are some pension houses in Tubigon if you would like to stay in Tubigon.
Sagbayan is a mostly rural municipality, but here you can also find Sagbayan Peak. Sagbayan Peak offers a number of facilities such as a restaurant, well maintained gardens with some Disney-like statues, a butterfly dome, swimming pool and a view point where visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of Chocolate Hills. Sagbayan is 76 km to the north-east of Tagbilaran.
|E.A.T Danao, The Suislide|
Danao is 92 km north-east of Tagbilaran. For those you likes adventures, the Extreme Adventure Tour or E.A.T. Danao is really it. E.A.T. Danao offers ziplet, sky ride, plunge, suislide, river trekking, river tubing, river kayaking, wall climbing, village tour, organic farm visitation, camping, rappelling, root climbing and caving. For more information, you can visit their website.
If, instead of following the coastal road up north, we make some inland detours North of Tagbilaran, we can turn right just before Maribojoc, and go to Antequera.
Antequera is an interior town some 19 kilometers to the north of Tagbilaran City and northeast of Maribojoc. The well known Mag-Aso falls can be found a few kilometers from the Poblacion - the road towards it makes a good walk. Antequera is also well known for its native products such as native baskets and furniture, and on Sunday mornings, you can still buy those products directly from the producers on the weekly basket market. If you want to visit this market, make sure to arrive on Sunday morning before noon.
Corella is another inland town, some 10 km north of Tagbilaran. In Corella, you can visit the Tarsier Sanctuary where tarsiers are observed, protected and are freely living on its natural habitat. In the sanctuary you can find trails and pathways (with tour guide) where you can observe the tarsiers in its natural habitat. If you are lucky you can see tarsiers jumping from trees to trees. If you really want to learn something about tarsiers, we strongly advise you to go here, and avoid the overcrowded cages near Loboc river. You are not allowed to touch the animals here, but that is only for the good of those shy nocturnal creatures.
|Balilihan Spanish Belfry|
Balilihan is 22 km. North of Tagbilaran. Balilihan can boast of its large number of waterfalls, including the Kawasan falls and Camugao falls. Camugao falls is located in barangay San Isidro, and Kawasan falls is some 5 kilometers from the center of Balilihan town. On top of Carmen hill, you can find yet another Spanish belfry, built in 1836 and inaugurated in 1846. This tower was also used as a watchtower to be able to give the villagers an early warning for marauders and other unwanted intruders.
The Balilihan Spanish belfry on Our lady of mount Carmel hill after the earthquake
Finally, we can leave Tagbilaran in the eastern direction, following the coastal ring-road counter-clockwise, we pass a number of towns.
Dimiao is located on the southern coast of the province. Dimiao is home to an attractive and interesting church, the Saint Nicholas Tolentine Parish of which the ceilings have been recently repainted with attractive murals, behind which are located the fascinating Ermita ruins, including a wall of tombs in a honeycomb-like arrangement, constructed between 1800 and 1815, but apparently never used.
|Pahangog twin Falls|
In the inland area of this municipality, numerous interesting natural attractions can be found, including attractive twin falls (and twin caves) located in barangay Guingoyuran, which requires a trek of a few hours to get there and back, during which you can see some nice views like rice terraces. The municipality is developing these as tourist attractions. You can ask the local tourist office for guidance.
Saint Nicholas Tolentine Parish church and the Ermita Ruins after the earthquake
Jagna is 63 km to the east of from Tagbilaran. Jagna has sea port where you can find shipping companies that offers connections to Mindanao, such as Butuan, Cagayan and Nasipit. Jagna is also famous as the home of one of Bohol's best known delicacies, Kalamay (Kalamay hati), a sticky and very sweet paste of sticky-rice flour and coconut milk, packed in a coconut shell, sealed with a characteristic red tape.
Anda is located on a small peninsula with the same name on the eastern end of Bohol, almost 100 km from Tagbilaran. In spite of the distance, this town is certainly worth a visit, and, since several resorts have been opened here, you can also stay here if you have more time at hand. You won't regret it, as Anda has much to offer: long unspoiled stretches of white beach, curious lime-stone rock formations and cliffs, countless caves, and some of the nicest and best preserved ceiling paintings of Bohol in its local church. Also for scuba-divers this place has a lot to offer.
Anda is now developed as an eco-tourism destination. On La Manok Island you can visit caves where ancient Andahanons brought native chicken (manok) to offer to the spirits (engkanto) during their rituals. In the La Manok Island tour you will be able to walk through a mangrove forest on a bamboo-made boardwalk. At the end of the boardwalk you will take a kayak or traditional banka to get to La Manok Island where you'll be guided through the mystical caves.
Places you can visit in a day:
- Bool District, Tagbilaran: The Blood Compact monument (Sandugo).
- Baclayon: Immaculate Conception Parish church, which was founded in 1596 and proclaimed Parish in 1717.
- Alburquerque: Prony the Python (If you are interested in seeing a large python).
- Loboc: Saint Peter the Apostle Parish church, which was founded in 1595 and proclaimed parish in 1602; Loboc Children Choir, Loboc river tour with its famous floating restaurants and a few captive Tarsiers (I rather see them in their natural habitat in the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella).
- Sevilla: Bamboo Hanging bridge
- Bilar: Simply Butterflies Conservation Center (if you like to see colorful captive butterflies) and the Man made forest with Mahogany trees.
- Carmen: Chocolate hills complex (Chocolate Hills Panorama).
Places you can visit if you have more than a day:
- Panglao island: Panglao island has two municipalities, Panglao ang Dauis. Panglao island is famous of its white beaches like Alona beach, Doljo beach, Bingag beach and more. Aside from the beautiful beaches that Panglao has to offer, you can also visit some interesting places like Hinagdanan cave in Bingag Dauis and the Assumption of our Lady Shrine Parish, in Dauis which was proclaimed as Parish on 1697 and proclaimed a shrine in 2004. This church has a water well at the foot of the altar which has a unique story on why there is a well inside the church. There is a Spanish watchtower behind the St. Augustine Parish Church in Panglao (town) which was proclaimed parish in 1782.
- Corella: Tarsier Sanctuary (Where you can see tarsiers in their natural habitat).
- Antequera: The beautiful Mag-Aso falls and Native products market, every Sunday morning.
- Balilihan: The interesting Spanish watchtower on top of Mt. Carmel is not far from the road. Balilihan is also home to several nice waterfalls, such as Kawasan falls, which marks the end of navigatable part of Abatan river.
- Sagbayan: Sagbayan Peak where you can enjoy the Chocolate hills landscape but the panoramic view here is not as magnificent as that of the Chocolate hills complex, however their facilities are good.
- Danao: This place is the home of the Extreme Adventure Tour (E.A.T) Danao. Here you can use a zip-line to cross a 480 meters wide and 200 meters deep ravine, and observe an impressive rough landscape. For the more adventurous, they have the Plunge, in which you drop of into this ravine.
- Loay: In Loay you can find the oldest surviving house of Bohol, the Clarin Ancestral home build in 1844, and in fact the only wooden house that survived the burning of Bohol's towns in 1901.
- Loon: The Loon Macaques Habitat in Cantomucad, Loon where you can see wild (but they are used to be around people) Macaques monkeys living in the mangrove forest in this neighborhood. In order to see these monkeys it is advisable to visit here in the morning and to call and inform the Loon Macaques Habitat in charge a day before you'll visit here to make sure you can see the Macaques.
- Maribojoc: The Punta Cruz Spanish watch tower located in Punta Cruz, Maribojoc. The Spanish had it built this Tower in 1796 as a look-out post against pirates and Muslim marauders, who at that time where a plague to the people of Bohol.
- Dimiao: The Saint Nicholas Tolentine Parish Church was founded in 1750 and the Ermita Ruins next to the church. The Ermita Ruins has a wall of tombs in a honeycomb-like arrangement, constructed between 1800 and 1815, but apparently never used. In the inland area of Dimiao, numerous interesting natural attractions can be found, including attractive twin falls (and twin caves) located in barangay Guingoyuran, which requires a trek of a few hours to get there and back
- Anda: Anda is located on a small peninsula at the eastern tip of Bohol, 99 kilometers from Tagbilaran City. Due to distances from Tagbilaran, Anda is still not really a touristic destination although Anda has numerous nice places to be explore like beautiful diving spots, a peaceful and beautiful long stretch of white beaches, caves where some of them were used as a burial place of the ancient Andahanons. Anda is now developing as an eco-tourism destination. Part of that effort is the La manok island tour where you can visit caves where ancient Andahanons brought native chicken (manok) to offer to the spirits (engkanto) during their rituals.
- Dolphin watching and island hoping: There are some islands you can visit after you have completed your Dolphin watching tour, like Balicasag island, Virgin island and Pamilacan island. In Pamilacan island you can visit the Spanish watchtower, fish sanctuary or just enjoy the underwater beauty by snorkeling, walking around the island or just relax at the white beach.
- Snorkeling and Diving: There are several places where you can enjoy the underwater world like Balicasag island, Pamilacan island, Panglao island, Cabilao island, Anda and President Carlos P. Garcia
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