Travel Guide to Bohol, Philippines

An Overview of the Mysterious Home of the Tarsier and the Chocolate Hills

Chocolate Hills, Bohol, Philippines
Chocolate Hills, Bohol, Philippines.

Per-Andre Hoffman/Getty Images

To travel to Bohol in the Philippines is to encounter a curious place, steeped in devout folk Catholicism, bustling with energy, and intimately connected to nature.

Only a few generations out of small-town mode, the island of Bohol retains a laid-back feel that sometimes seems at odds with the noise of the capital, Tagbilaran, and the fun-seeking party atmosphere of nearby Panglao Island.

Much of the charm of the island draws from its unique geography: Bohol's islands, caves, rivers, and odd geological formations take their shape due to Bohol's karst topography: due to an abundance of limestone in the bedrock, Bohol boasts of a series of odd natural formations, including (but not limited to) the Chocolate Hills. 

This quirky limestone-based geology serves as the Bohol tourist's ideal backdrop for adventure: whether you're into diving around Panglao, or viewing the Chocolate Hills (or even better, ATVing around them), or visiting a "mystical island" on the other side of Bohol.

Getting Your Bearings on Bohol

Bohol is the tenth-largest island in the Philippine archipelago, covering about 1,590 square miles (only slightly larger than Long Island in New York). The egg-shaped island lies about 550 miles south of the Philippines' capital Manila; regular flights from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (IATA: NAIA) fly to Bohol-Panglao Airport (IATA: TAG) on adjacent Panglao Island, and ferry services serve sea routes between Manila or Cebu and Bohol.

From Bohol's capital Tagbilaran, three major highways split up to cover Bohol's coast and interior, three traffic arteries linking to the island's major attractions. The well-developed road network in Bohol allows travelers to reach deep into the island; riding from end to end can take about two and a half hours' straight drive.

How fast you get to where you want to go depends on how much you plan to spend - if you have a middling to big budget, you can rent a private car with driver; if you have less money, the rest of Bohol is perfectly accessible via the island's public transport system, if you don't mind tacking an extra hour or three on your travel schedule.

Boat off Panglao Island, Bohol, Philippines
 Jayzon Cabog / EyeEm / Getty Images

Tagbilaran, Panglao, and Bohol's Other Attractions

The main city on Bohol Island is Tagbilaran, the island provincial capital, on the southwestern coast. As the only city and the main gateway to the rest of the Philippines, Tagbilaran is the island's main nerve center for commerce and transport.

Buses, jeepneys and v-hires departing from the Integrated Bus Terminal connect travelers to the rest of the island. From the IBT, Baclayon (home of Baclayon Church) lies just 4.3 miles east of the city; the Chocolate Hills, about 34 miles northeast; and Panglao Island, about 11 miles west, accessible via two bridges spanning the Panglao Strait.

Panglao Island is one of Bohol's main travel stops, as it possesses some of the province's best-known white-sand beaches and finest dive spots. A few islets off Panglao are ideal for island-hopping and sunbathing: Gak-ang and Pontod can be reached by boat hire through any of the resorts on the island.

  • Busy in Bohol: For a more detailed list of activities for travelers in this part of the Philippines, read our list of Things to Do in Bohol - which includes details on the Chocolate Hills, the tarsiers, and river tours that tourists come to Bohol to find.

Where to Stay in Bohol

Bohol has taken a while to wake up from its sleepy stupor, but the tourist market has quickly picked up on the area's natural attractions, hot diving spots, and charming churches.

Panglao beach bums have plenty of options: these resorts in Panglao Island, provide great value on island accommodations. Access to the beach costs more, though - but the off-the-beaten-path resorts offer some relief from the noise of areas close to the beach.

When to Go to Bohol

Bohol is good for travelers all year round, but the dry, cool season between December and March is the perfect time to go. Summer really heats up between March and July, until the heat breaks with the coming of the rainy season.

Carefully consider any travel in Bohol between August and November, as heavy rains fall on the island between these low tourist months.

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