*Before I go on I want to warn you that this post is a bit long but has a lot of useful information if you are planning a trip to Bohol and are just starting out your research. Posts in this series will become more concise as it goes on, I promise! So I hope this doesn’t bore you/scare you away from reading any future posts on this trip because I have so many amazing gems of Bohol to share with you!*
If you’ve been following my blog or my Instagram account, you probably know that we just got back from an amazing trip and if you are new to my blog then I am VERY excited that your first introduction to The Introvert’s Journey is about this adventure because it’s seriously been one of my favorite destinations I’ve had the pleasure of visiting to date! I’m honestly not even sure how to put this trip into words or where to begin but I’m going to try my best in this series! We just returned from Bohol, Philippines and if you’ve been thinking about visiting this island, you NEED to put it on your travel list! If you’ve heard of Bohol, you probably think of its most iconic landmark that tourists flock to, the Chocolate Hills, and indeed they are magnificent, but Bohol is so much more than the Hills! In this series I will be touching on all the popular destinations of Bohol and also TONS of lesser known locations and landmarks that many tourists unfortunately miss out on. I’m actually a little hesitant to write about this trip because I’m a little selfish and want to make sure this island doesn’t get ruined by mass tourism (I’m looking at you Bali…), but this island deserves all the recognition and spotlight for its diverse landscapes and the incredibly friendly, hospitable, fun, and awesome locals!
Bohol has a natural beauty that is hard for me to put into words. I like to think of it as a one stop shop if you want to experience all the variety of natural wonders that exist in the Philippines…beautiful fine white sand beaches with clean clear blue waters, majestic waterfalls, lush green jungles and rice terraces, limestone hills, long and calm green rivers, crazy cool water caves, mysterious cold springs, man-made forests, and so much more! I always do a lot of research before going to each country I visit (to me it is the big part of the fun!) and a lot of the popular blogs that wrote about this island say that it is not very impressive and that a lot of the popular destinations can be seen in a day or two, and yes that is true about the popular tourist destinations, but Bohol is so much more than that! I feel sorry that they missed out on this gold mine in the Philippines, I seriously cannot say enough about this island! The Chocolate Hills are amazing, the tarsiers incredibly adorable, the Loboc River a striking emerald green, the old churches and their incredible baroque architecture cannot be missed, and Alona Beach is just okay (more on this later but there are far better and more private beaches), but Bohol is so much more than just these popular attractions! I searched far and wide for blog posts and websites written by locals of the island or Filipinos who frequent the island and made a list of places that I wanted to see that a lot of foreigners don’t bother to check out and explore. Joe and I did quite a bit in the 9 days we were there as you’ll see in this series, and I still feel like we just barely scratched the surface of all the wonderful activities and sights to see that Bohol has to offer! Enough with my rambling though, let’s begin this series with a little bit about our first day and some tips on how to get to Bohol and how to get around while there because transportation will definitely be your biggest money drainer.
First of all to get to Bohol you can either take a plane or a fast ferry. From what I saw in my research there are flights from Manila and Cebu to Tagbilaran City in Bohol. Most people fly into Cebu/Mactan Island International and take a fast ferry for approximately 400 php (about $8 USD) and that is for open air seating up top. Prices vary between lower level, business class, etc. I didn’t mind open air seating. It’s a little cramped but my 6’2 boyfriend (Joe) fit just fine and also you can see the water and get some fresh air. There are several fast ferry companies but the two most popular are Supercat and Oceanjet. We rode on Oceanjet both ways and had no problems. Oceanjet also has the most time slots which I am so thankful for otherwise we would have had to wait around for a couple hours to take the next Supercat ferry. The ferry ride also includes terminal fee (20 php, about 40 cents USD). From Tagbilaran back to Cebu I believe there is another fee as well but it is also very cheap. My biggest thing to say is to make sure you don’t get ripped off and just find the ticket counter and pay there, even if you are frustrated and there is long lines don’t let someone buy the tickets for you. Don’t get ripped off like we did, and we knew it was a bad idea…it was just one of those times where you are so overwhelmed and stressed out that you aren’t thinking clearly and you want to give people the benefit of the doubt. That we are all good people even though that isn’t always the case. You know what actually, let me rewind a little and tell you a few things that really set the tone for this trip…but also showed me how genuine and hospitable Filipinos truly are, aside from this one major rip-off moment and also another moment that will be discussed in a future post.
After 19 hours of travel making our way to Panglao Island via tricycle
When we first arrived to the airport everything went really smooth and quick. We zipped right through and everything was very similar like when we had landed in Bali. We were in the process of buying sim cards at the cellphone stands that are located right by customs when you walk out, when all of a sudden Joe turns to me and says, “Kelsie the laptop bag with our computer and Gopro is missing…I think I left it somewhere”. Okay, I got to say that I was pretty damn proud of myself for not losing it at that moment. If you know me then you know that I’m a worrier, I’m paranoid, I freak out about the littlest details, and I have a tendency to blow things out of proportion from overanalyzing so much and jumping to the worst case scenario. These are things I am working on. So I pleasantly surprised myself when I calmly turned to him (albeit with a stern voice) and said “Joe go back right now, talk to security and tell them you think you left it on the plane. I’ll take care of the sim cards” and then I proceeded to pay the girls and have our phones activated. I’m waiting by customs still keeping my composure surprisingly, and lo and behold…Joe comes back with the laptop bag in hand and everything was in it! I was stoked! Thank you Eva Air! Also, this could only mean good things for our trip. This isn’t the first time Joe left something laying around the airport/airplane though, which he did with his suitcase in Bali and again he was lucky it was just sitting there and nobody had snatched it up. Joe is actually incredibly responsible and tedious, please don’t think he’s an idiot, but I think the whole travelling and in-transit just stresses him out, as it does to all of us. I just wanted to remind anyone out there that even experienced travellers still make mistakes, and sometimes VERY big mistakes.
After grabbing a taxi and heading to Pier 1 for the Oceanjet ferry two guys approached the car and opened the doors and grabbed our bags and asked if we were taking the 11:40 am ferry to Bohol. I figured they worked for the company (again I was very frazzled after 17 hours of travel, and still having about 3 hours left to go!) and I let them grab our bags. We walked over to a police station and sat down and they said that they would go buy our tickets for us and could bypass the line they just needed the money and passports. I was so wary, I knew it was wrong and so did Joe but the guy kept insisting that it’s ok and we are right in front of the police station and we can just wait with his friends and get the police if we need to. So I let him take it and watched him go in the right direction and hoped for the best, all the while screaming in my head that I’m an idiot. He did come back pretty quickly tickets, passports, and change in hand. I was pretty surprised. He asked for a tip so I gave him a little bit but then Joe realized that he had already kept a little for himself. He also quoted the ticket price wrong and said it was 600 php (which I believe business class is but he purchased the 400 php open air seating for us) and kept a little bit of the change including what I tipped him. I was mad at myself for letting it happen but mostly I was relieved to have my passport back and that we bypassed a line. Also in the big scheme of things it really wasn’t a lot of money, but still, we could have done a lot with that in the Philippines. I just told myself that he needs it more than me and it’s not a huge deal, plus I was asking for it!
The ferry ride itself is very smooth, not bumpy at all for anyone out there worried about getting seasick. Most likely you’ll probably just fall asleep. The perks of sitting up top in the open air is you get to use a different exit and it’s easy to step off the ferry when you arrive, no crowds like down below. When you get off the ferry you will be bombarded with lots of tour companies, taxis, and tricycles offering you rides and day tours. Our villa offers car pick up from the ferry terminal to Panglao Island for about 600 php which seemed really steep to me so we hired a tricycle for 300 php. This still seemed steep (seriously do some shopping around before saying yes to a ride) but either way it saved us 300 php and it made for a fun experience! It was pretty cramped in there but you have to try it at least once! Bohol is spread out so you will definitely need dedicated transportation while there and you have your choice of hired private drivers, taxis, buses, jeepneys, tricycles, v-hire, or renting out a scooter/motorcycle or car of your own. We loved riding scooters in Bali, just having that freedom and feeling the cool breeze on your skin while zooming through cities and back roads without a care in the world. It’s an exhilarating feeling and I definitely think that if you want the full experience that you should rent out your own mode of transportation for your entire trip and take the reins when it comes to your adventures. Having a scooter allowed us to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. It was easy to navigate and allowed us to take interesting (albeit sometimes sketchy) dirt roads/back roads and take the road less travelled which made for some memorable moments.
View from up top in the open air seating
Selfies, reading a book, and a nap is probably what will happen on said ferry ride
We rented our scooter from Mike’s Bohol Island Motorcyle Rentals for about 4500 php for 7 days (about $90 USD). In the grand scheme of things and compared to Bali prices it was definitely more expensive renting out a scooter in Bohol. However gas is incredibly cheap and we only filled up a few times for less than 500 php total ($10 USD). Yes that’s right, we spent around $10 on gas the entire time we were there, and mind you we were constantly using the scooter and taking the long scenic routes. Plus we spent half our trip in Anda and the trip to Anda and back to the ferry is 2 hours! So think about that…renting a bike is more than worth it. Mike’s bikes are in good condition, thoroughly inspected, delivered to you with a full tank of gas and helmets, and have all the registration papers and insurance (so legit/legal). You know that you are riding a good quality and safe bike and that you aren’t going to get pulled over by a cop and find out later that you were riding a stolen bike and that you are essentially screwed (this does happen). After doing the math, the $90 for rental plus the $10 in gas (TOTAL!) was far less than multiple tricycle rides, cab rides for futher away places (especially Anda which would have been about $65 just one way), and much more comfortable and faster than taking jeepneys (which is by far the cheapest method, about 10 php, but they are very small, hot, jam packed with people, and take FOREVER since they stop at so many different places to pick people up. I recommend them for destinations not to far away). Plus as I said before the freedom and time you gain is priceless, as well as how fun it is to ride a bike and to just zoom by all the beautiful landscapes, towns, and villages admiring the authentic local life unfold all around you. Not having to rely on anybody and being able to zoom and squeeze past traffic rather easily is also a huge benefit. We experienced so many unique perspectives of Bohol just from scootering and exploring all the different areas, taking roads that most tourists don’t even know exist. So I can’t say it enough, if you have the ability and feel confident enough to do so, try renting a bike! The traffic in Bohol is not bad at all either, we hardly ever encountered extremely congested traffic. The roads and infrastructure are also very well maintained. They have signs everywhere making it easy to navigate and most of the roads are in great condition (aside from some villages which you’ll hear all about in a later post). They even have tons of safety signs such as slow down, accident prone area or intersection coming up, tourist crossing area, etc. It’s nowhere near as crowded as Bali, even in the busiest of cities, so really this island would be a great place to try riding a scooter out if you think that you can do it.
Disclaimer: realistically you should have prior experience and practice within your own country first I would think…but I guess we all start somewhere? Don’t listen to me though I’m not an expert! Always proceed with caution and be safe!
A different day, but here’s me look derp-y with our bike, a Honda Click
Taking a break so we took off our helmets for fresh air
Before wrapping up I really want to talk a little bit about our first villa we stayed at because I highly recommend staying here if you are spending any time on Panglao Island. It’s called Villa Formosa, just a 5 minute walk from Dumaluan Beach, and I was very impressed with this lovely little “resort”! When we first walked in our eyes were treated to a beautiful tropical garden surrounding a wonderfully bright blue and large rock pool and hot tub. The big thing I noticed when we first walked in though was how quiet and serene it was within the compound. For the first time since embarking on our nearly 20 hours of travel I felt calm and relaxed. The staff greeted us immediately and welcomed us with complimentary drinks. We rented out one of the detached deluxe bungalows and I adored our room! First of all, the bungalows are REALLY spacious and super clean! The bed is big and very comfortable and there is a lot of closet space. The closets have body length mirrors spanning the entirety which made it useful for trying on outfits and bikinis ;P The bathroom is also spacious and very beautiful. The floor and shower is made of a green stone and has an oriental/tropical vibe to it. The hot water is a little iffy however and the water pressure is hit or miss as well. The rooms have their own WiFi and air conditioning and both work like a charm! We stayed nice and cold all night long and the Wi-Fi is steady and strong. There is WiFi at the restaurant as well. The best part of the bungalow is the patio area with chairs and a table. It’s so pretty and the perfect spot to relax. The restaurant has superb cuisine, although I would definitely say it is a little overpriced for the Philippines, but I understand because it is Panglao Island after all. The food is mostly Italian and very authentic. I believe one of the owners is Italian and a chef though we never got to meet the owners (I think they were on vacation). The restaurant serves some of the best carbonara I’ve ever had! With homemade pasta!! I also recommend the Formosa island punch especially since it’s on the happy hour menu which is a buy one, get one free deal! When you book with Agoda and Booking.com the reservation includes free breakfast and they have several options to choose from all very yummy and filling! My favorite was the Filipino breakfast which consisted of delicious and juicy corned beef, rice, eggs (fried or scrambled) and cucumber/tomato garnish. Each breakfast also comes with tea or coffee.
Beautiful big pool, sadly I didn’t take many pics of the grounds. I got to caught up!
I didn’t make that mistake at our 2nd villa though as you’ll soon see.
Not too hot!
Our deluxe bungalow
The staff is what really made this place shine (although the grounds and the rooms speak for themselves). They were all so friendly and hospitable and it never felt fake to me. One of the girls (I feel like she may have been a manager) even let us use her scooter the first day we arrived to go to the ATM and store to pick up a few things (we weren’t receiving our scooter until the next day) because no tricycles were nearby to come get us. She trusted us with her bike, I mean I really took that to heart. Anyways, the only major con to me aside from the price in food and drinks was that you couldn’t bring food to your room, which to me defeated the purpose of having that awesome patio to lounge at which would be perfect with some delicious snacks and an ice cold drink, but I understand the whole sanitary issue. It was still strange to me because at other hotels, airbnbs, etc. I’ve never seen a rule like that where you can’t bring outside food in. I think hotels would lose a lot of business if that were the case. That’s minor though and no big deal in the grand scheme of things. Location might be a problem for some that are more interested in spending their time at Alona Beach and the Alona strip but in all honesty, trust me when I say that Dumaluan Beach is 100x better than Alona (you’ll see in my next post). If you have a scooter or catch a tricycle then you’ll be fine regardless as Alona is only about 10-15 mins away.
We booked Villa Formosa through Agoda as they have a pay later option which was handy for us since we booked almost 7 months in advance. It charged us the month we were staying there instead, so I’d recommend it if you want to go ahead and get your room booked for piece of mind but not get charged until basically you are close to getting there. It gives you ample time to cancel as well with no penalties and then you don’t even have to worry about the long process to credit back your card. You can also book the lodging through Booking.com as well as Airbnb and of course directly through Villa Formosa on their website. I’ll post some pictures that we took and links below for booking. Villa Formosa team and owners, if you ever come across this post, thanks for everything!
Well that pretty much wraps up our first day in Bohol! I know it wasn’t the most exciting post but I hoped it helps you in terms of figuring out transportation and potentially choosing a place to stay at on Panglao Island. I hope you tune into my next post in this series! I promise it’ll get more entertaining and I’m really excited to share our many adventures with all of you!!
Until next time,