If there’s one travel destination in the Philippines that literally has something for everyone, it’s Bohol. A first-class province nestled in the Central Visayas, Bohol is home to an incredible range of ecological sights and stunning views— which makes it no wonder that the island is considered one of the top vacation and travel spots in the country, and a growing contender in the region.
Not only is Bohol home to some of the most beautiful natural flora and fauna in the country, it’s also got incredible white sand beaches, diving sites, and much more. The island may not always rank top of the list when it comes to famous vacation sites in the Philippines, but it’s definitely a top competitor for the sheer number of unique activities and sights to see.
Independent travelers looking for a taste of adventure are sure to enjoy what Bohol has to offer.
The province of Bohol isn’t just composed of Bohol, but also consists of seventy-five smaller islands around it. Bohol Island is the tenth largest island in the Philippine archipelago, making it especially prime location for exploring the best of what the province has to offer. The provincial capital seat is located in Tagbilaran City, and Panglao Island, one of the world’s top ten diving destinations, is a mere boat ride away.
The landscape of the main island of Bohol is composed of rolling hills, most famous of which are the Chocolate Hills. It’s also home to four main rivers, namely the Inabanga River, the Loboc River, the Abatan River, and the Ipil River. The province also has one natural lake, called Lake Danao or Lanao, found on Cabilao Island, and there are also several waterfalls and caves in the province that tourists can enjoy and explore.
Bohol is home to a rich cultural and ecological history that spans from the pre-colonial era into the present. Earliest inhabitants of Bohol were said to be descended from the pintados, or “tattooed ones,” and archaeological artifacts unearthed in Tagbilaran, Mansasa, Dauis, and even Panglao Island are all proof of the province’s amazing cultural history.
In 2013, the province was hit by a powerful earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.2 on the Richter scale. This was the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines since the 1990 Luzon earthquake, and resulted in the deaths of at least 57 people and the injuries of 104 others. The quake led to the destruction and damage of some of the province’s oldest churches and tourist sites, although reconstruction efforts are currently underway.
Is Bohol worth visiting?
The short answer is: absolutely. Bohol is one of the most ecologically rich tourist spots in the country, and has a host of activities and options for all kinds of travelers. Families looking for a relaxing vacation can choose to stay at one of the many comfortable resorts on Panglao Island, while solo backpackers and young adventurers can explore the rainforests and ecological zones found all over the province.
While Bohol may not be as world-renowned as Boracay, its natural, tropical beauty and incomparable sights make it an absolutely worthwhile destination. Tourists can enjoy the one-of-a-kind views of the rolling Chocolate Hills, get up close and personal with the island’s tarsiers, and even go dolphin watching and whale watching in the province’s clear, tropical waters.
Bohol’s many dive sites have also made it a favorite for divers and snorkelers the world over. Popular dive spots include Cabilao Island, where you can find pelagic fishes like barracudas and giant trevallies, as well as schools of hammerhead sharks. Balicasag is also known for its ecologically rich marine sanctuary, home to healthy coral reefs teeming with marine life. Panglao Island is also notable not only for its fine white sand beaches, but for unique underwater finds like ghost pipefish and frogfish.
If there’s ever been a one-stop-shop tropical destination, it would be Bohol. Rich with unique flora and fauna, as well as natural geography that simply can’t be found anywhere else in the world, it’s the perfect travel destination for tourists who want to experience the richness of a tropical location. There’s so much to do everywhere in the province— not only will you realize that Bohol is worth the trip, but you’re guaranteed to want to come back again and again.
What is the best month to go to Bohol?
Because the Philippines is a tropical country, generally you’ll find that the weather is balmy and comfortable for most of the year. However, you may want to take note of monsoon season, which usually starts around August leading into the later months of the year, and can put a damper (literally) on most of your plans.
If you’re planning to spend most of your time outdoors, whether relaxing on the province’s many beaches or trekking through Bohol’s rainforests, then you’ll definitely want to look at traveling during the sunny months. March is a great period for planning your Bohol trip, as it’s sunny but not too hot.
However, if you want to see the Chocolate Hills match up to their namesake, then taking your trip in high summer (May to July) is probably the best. You’ll have to contend with the summer crowds, but it’s definitely the safest time of the year if you have no plans of getting rained on.
How many days do you need in Bohol?
Because of the wealth of things to do in the province, you can actually find yourself spending weeks at a time in Bohol. If you don’t have that kind of free time, four days is usually good enough to sample the best of what Bohol has to offer. If you play it smart, you can actually pack a lot into those four days— including countryside tours, scuba diving, river cruises, and rainforest adventure trips.
The most important thing about planning your itinerary for your Bohol trip is narrowing down what you like to do. Travelers to Bohol are often spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do in Bohol. Even if you’re the type to play it by ear, it’s still best to come in prepared. We’ve prepared an extensive guide of activities to do in Bohol below, covering most of the province’s most exciting and awe-inspiring sights, as well as activities that families, friends, couples, and even adrenaline junkies can enjoy.
Of course, no trip to Bohol is complete without a visit to the province’s famed Chocolate Hills. A geological formation that spans almost 1,700 hills over an area of more than 50 square kilometers, these are the most famous sight in the province, and are more than enough reason to plan a visit. The Chocolate Hills are called so because of the brown color they take on during the heat of the summer, when the grasses are dry. During the rainier parts of the year, they’re green, but no less an awe-inspiring sight.
The Chocolate Hills are actually karst hills, made of marine limestone that’s been dated from the Late Pliocene to Early Pleistocene eras. Their unique formation was caused by a combination of factors, most notably the dissolution of the limestone due to rainfall and erosion from rivers, streams, and groundwater. In between these hills are flat plains, and you can find numerous caves and springs scattered around the area.
The Hills’ unique formation have made them the subject of much speculation over the centuries, both scientific and not. There are numerous popular local legends that attempt to explain the origin of this unique sight. One legend says that the hills were created by two feuding giants who hurled rocks and boulders at each other, and the Chocolate Hills are the remnants of their famous battle.
Still another tells of a giant Arogo who fell in love with a beautiful mortal Aloya. Her death caused him much sorrow, and the Chocolate Hills are said to be the remnants of his tears. Finally, a far less romantic legend tells of a town that was plagued by a giant carabao. Tired of the carabao’s antics, the townspeople left him spoiled food to eat, and the Chocolate Hills are said to be the remnants of his defecation after the trick.
Regardless of origin, the Chocolate Hills are truly a remarkable sight, and one that you’re not likely to find anywhere else in the world. They’re one of the country’s top natural wonders, and are heavily featured on the provincial seal of Bohol, as well as on the reverse side of the Philippine 200-peso bill.
While there are numerous tours that can take you up to the Chocolate Hills, it’s entirely possible to travel there yourself. The quickest way is to take a bus from Tagbilaran City to Carmen, where the main viewing site of the Hills is located. You can simply ask your bus driver to drop you off at the Chocolate Hills, and then take a short but rather steep hike to the viewing point.
There are currently two main viewing points for the Chocolate Hills. The first is the government-owned Chocolate Hills Complex in Carmen, Bohol. This is the most popular viewing spot, but can also get rather touristy, with many stores and vendors selling anything from Chocolate Hills-inspired merchandise to photo opportunities. While it’s certainly worth the trip, it should be noted that there can be quite a crowd during the summer peak season.
Another popular viewing spot is at Sagbayan Peak in Sagbayan, which is around 18 kilometers away from the Chocolate Hills Complex in Carmen. Sagbayan Peak is a mountain resort and recreation center with a 360-degree view of the Chocolate Hills. It’s much less crowded than the Chocolate Hills Complex, and also has several other attractions like a life-sized T-rex statue, cartoon statues, a playground, and a high-powered telescope with which you can view the Cebu City skyline on the neighboring island.
As do-it-yourself trips are currently discouraged due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the most recommended course of action is to book a day tour that will take you through Bohol’s many sights. Many countryside tours that include the Chocolate Hills also include a tour of the hills, whether through short hikes or ATV. Depending on your budget and tour goals, it’s best to pick a tour package that offers you your preferred view of the Hills, whether it’s through trekking through the Hills themselves or viewing them from afar on the designated viewdecks.
Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary
One of Bohol’s top tourist attractions isn’t quite what you’d call a tourist site— it’s something far smaller, and far furrier. The tarsier is a tiny primate that currently exists in the Philippines, Borneo, and Indonesia. Famed for its miniscule size (it can literally fit in the palm of your hand) and its wide, saucer-like eyes, the mostly nocturnal Philippine tarsier is one of the rarest animals in the province, and as such is protected by the local and national government.
Due to habitat destruction and its small size, the Philippine tarsier is an endangered species, and one that you’re not likely to see just by walking around the province. The best way to get up close and personal with these tiny primates is by visiting the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, which is run by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation and the Department of Natural Resources.
The sanctuary is home to a variety of wildlife, but the tiny tarsier is definitely its biggest star. Because these animals are so delicate and are highly emotionally sensitive, they can be greatly affected by high stress situations. The visitors’ center allows you to get a close look at the tarsiers, but visitors are required to keep their voices low and avoid flash photography. Touching the tarsiers is also prohibited, but the center is nonetheless a great opportunity for seeing these fantastic creatures up close.
The Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary is located in Corella, Bohol, around 20 minutes drive from Tagbilaran City. This protected area contains a thick rainforest for tarsiers to live unmolested, and the primates are given free reign to explore and travel through the forest. The visitors’ complex has a wealth of information about these small animals, as well as exhibits on their natural habitat, way of life, and much more. It also has conference rooms, audiovisual rooms, a small cafeteria, and toilet facilities.
While most of the action is at the visitors’ center, tourists can also opt to take a short walk through the sanctuary’s forested area. There’s an affordable entrance fee of around Php 60, as well as an option to hire a guide that can lead you to the tarsiers in their natural habitat. The tour of the sanctuary is relatively quick, and can be completed in around 15 minutes, leaving you the rest of the day to explore the province’s many other attractions.
Bilar Man-made Forest
Close by to the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary is another awe-inspiring sight. The Bilar Man-made Forest is a two-kilometer stretch of mahogany trees between the municipality of Loboc and the municipality of Bilar. While the forest itself it’s a relatively short walk if you choose to get off your tour van, it’s definitely not one to miss, as the sight of the trees stretching overhead is absolutely incomparable.
Once you enter the man-made forest, it feels like another world. The stillness of the trees and the cool breeze makes it a great place to relax and take a breather in the middle of a busy tour day. While many people will take the opportunity to take pictures on this stretch of road, it’s important to note that it is part of the highway, and if you do decide to go for a photo op you should be on the lookout for passing motorists. Although the view is great, safety should always come first!
Bohol Habitat Conservation Conservatory
As we’ve mentioned above, Bohol is an absolutely fantastic destination for nature lovers, and one of the best places to appreciate this is at the Bohol Habitat Conservation Conservatory. This is a popular item on many tour itineraries, as it’s another opportunity to see Bohol’s natural flora and fauna up close.
Previously called Simply Butterflies and found in the municipality of Bilar, Bohol, the Bohol Habitat Conservation Center is an open air, natural butterfly garden with over 200 species of Bohol’s butterflies. Entrance to the Center is free, and you can check out the exhibits on display as well as go for a close encounter with the butterflies.
It also has a restaurant with vegetarian dishes, as well as night safaris from 5:30pm to 7:30pm that offer a chance to spot tarsiers in their natural habitat. Going on night safari might also net you the opportunity to spot some of Bohol’s other nocturnal wildlife, such as owls, frogmouths, civet cats, and bats. If this seems like something you might want to experience for yourself, be sure to book ahead and reserve a slot on the list.
Sandugo is the term for a blood compact, and if you’re interested in the rich history of Bohol and the Philippines, then the Sandugo Shrine is an absolute must visit. The sandugo is a pledge that seals the bond between two tribes, and the shrine marks the most famous sandugo in Philippine history: that of Datu Sikatuna and the Spanish explorer Miguel Lòpez de Jaena, which was marked on March 16, 1565.
The Sandugo Shrine doesn’t mark the spot where the sandugo actually happened— that’s located in the municipality of Loay, between Albuquerque and Loboc. However, it is the monument that most famously depicts that historical event, and has a fantastic view of the ocean that links Bohol to the rest of the country and the world. It’s also home to an incredible sculpture by National Artist Napoleon Abueva, who hails from Bohol himself.
The shrine is easily accessible along the national road, and is also home to several souvenir and gift shops so you can buy something to commemorate your trip. If you’re a Philippine history buff, or simply want to appreciate the fantastic view from the viewdeck, then this should definitely be an item on your itinerary.
La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church, also known as The Immaculate Concepcion of the Virgin Mary Parish Curch or Baclayon Church, is the second-oldest Catholic church in the country and the oldest church in Bohol. Built from coral stone, the church was completed in 1737 and has become one of the most famous historical landmarks in the province since.
Baclayon Church is a National Cultural Treasure as declared by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2010, and was declared as a National Historical Landmark in 1994 by the National Historical Institute (now National Historical Commission of the Philippines). While the church has survived a revolution and a World War, it was heavily damaged by the recent earthquake in October 2013. Renovations were completed in 2017, and it also houses the Baclayon Art Museum, which contains several historical and artistic artifacts from Bohol’s history.
Only around 7 kilometers from Tagbilaran City, the Baclayon Church is a definite must see if you’re interested in historical architecture. Taking pictures of the church interiors is free, but photography inside the art museum is not allowed. The art museum also charges a small fee of Php 25 per person for maintenance costs, so if you want to take a look inside be sure to prepare some small change.
Loboc River Cruise
Bohol is home to four beautiful rivers, but perhaps the most famous of them all are the wide, calm waters of the Loboc River. While the river is definitely a sight to see from the shore, the best way to really experience it is by going on a river cruise. And not just any cruise— the Loboc River Cruise takes everything a step further by taking you on a buffet cruise that lets you enjoy the sights and sounds of the river, while enjoying some fantastic food.
With prices starting at around Php 650, the Loboc River Cruise is a 1 to 2 hour cruise that takes you up and down Loboc River. The cruise is more or less a floating restaurant, allowing you to sit back and enjoy your meal while listening to traditional Filipino music. Floating gently down the river while enjoying your meal and music is an experience you’re not likely to forget, and is definitely something you’re going to want to add into your list of things to do in Bohol.
Loboc is around 40 minutes by car away from Tagbilaran City, and Loboc River is known for being one of the cleanest rivers in the country. The cruise generally starts by the Loay Bridge in the neighboring town of Loay, or you can also choose to start from Loboc town proper. With the tranquility of the Loboc River’s waters, the fantastic views of the neighboring forests and towns, and some relaxing music, this is going to be one of your most unique meals on your trip, so make sure that you set aside some time for it in your itinerary.
Bamboo Hanging Bridge
Another great way to enjoy the river isn’t by cruising along it, but by crossing over it. Also known as the Tigbao Hanging Bridge or the Twin Hanging Bridge, the Bamboo Hanging Bridge is a pair of bamboo bridges that cross over the tranquil waters of Sipatan River, where dozens of Loboc River cruise boats pass through every day.
While the bridges themselves are only around 40 meters long, there’s nothing quite like walking suspended over the sparkling waters of a river. To reduce traffic, visitors cross over on one bridge, and walk back on the other. While the bamboo bridges may look a little flimsy, they’re perfectly safe, as they are held up by steel cables and concrete posts.
The bridges are open 24/7, although you’ll have to pay an entrance fee of around Php 35 during the day (children under 9 years of age get in free). You also don’t have to worry too much about going hungry, as there are several stores selling snacks and light food in the area. It’s a great break to take in the middle of your tour, so don’t be afraid to take some time to sit back and enjoy the view with food or fresh coconut water.
The Bamboo Hanging Bridge is one of the most popular tourist spots in Bohol, so it’s usually included in many tour itineraries. While walking on a bamboo bridge may not be for the faint of heart, it’s definitely worth a visit for the photos and view alone. The sight of the lush greenery of Bohol and the turquoise blue waters of Sipatan River make for an unforgettable photo op— just make sure you don’t drop your camera in the water!
Bohol’s incredible sights aren’t limited to just the main island, and a little bit of exploring will net you some hidden gems in the province. One of these gems is Hinagdanan Caves, found in the municipality of Dauis on Panglao Island. Hinagdanan means “laddered” in Cebuano, and the cave is so-called because of its accidental discovery by a farmer, who built a ladder to enter the cave after coming across it by accident.
A karst cave around 100 meters long, it’s home to incredible stalagmite and stalactite formations, as well as a small lagoon with beautiful emerald green waters. The color of the water comes from the green limestone found at the bottom of the lagoon. That, coupled with the dappled sunlight coming in from the cave entrance, makes it a gorgeous natural destination that definitely shouldn’t be missed.
Hinagdanan Cave also has some history to it, as it was once used by locals to hide from the Japanese Imperial Army. Thanks to its growing popularity, there are several souvenir stores and restaurants that have popped up near the cave, so even a short visit is likely to be worthwhile. If you want yet another glimpse of the scale of natural beauty available in Bohol, Hinagdanan Cave is a good place to start.
Pahangog Twin Falls
Ever wondered what it was like to experience the beauty of a tropical waterfall firsthand? Pahangog Twin Falls is probably where you’ll want to go. Nestled in the heart of the forests of Dimiao, Bohol, Pahangog Twin Falls has two waterfalls cascading into a clean, emerald green pool of water. The pool is large and deep, so there’s lots of space to swim around and enjoy the natural landscape.
Pahangog Twin Falls is one of the most picturesque sights you’re likely to see on your trip, and is worth a visit if you want a swim somewhere out of the ordinary. Near the cataract are two caverns filled with stalagmites and stalagtites, and worth a look if you’re in the mood for a bit of a climb.
It takes around an hour to get to Dimiao from Tagbilaran City, and from the Guingoyuran town proper you can take a motorcycle ride (about Php 50 one way), followed by a 10 minute walk downhill to the falls themselves.
One of Bohol’s best-kept secrets is another waterfall a short car ride away from Pangahog Twin Falls. Also known as the Secret Waterfall, Ingkumhan Falls is a tucked-away waterfall that has a more natural, rugged look than Pangahog, but with the same exciting appeal.
Ingkumhan Falls is a favorite summer spot for locals, and it’s not hard to see why. With a wide, aquamarine pool, as well as locally-made rope swings and various outcroppings from which you can safely jump, it’s a lot more fun for the family. Plus, there are actually two tiers to Ingkumhan, the second one being around a 300-meter trek away. The second tier is definitely more peaceful, if a little harder to get to, and can be a unique opportunity for cooling down after a long day in the sun.
The Central Visayas is known for its diving spots, and one of the most popular options is Balicasag Island. Only around 6 kilometers from Panglao Island, this haven for marine life has been declared a marine sanctuary, and is home to both soft and hard corals and schools of pelagic fish like barracuda, wrasse, and much more.
Balicasag Island is a notable dive spot not least because of its incredible submarine cliffs, the tops of which are covered in sponges and gorgonians. With such a rich marine ecosystem, it’s no wonder that scuba divers from all over the world make the trip to this tropical gem. The island only has one resort, namely the Balicasag Island Dive Resort, and is generally a tranquil spot. There are day trippers that come over from other parts of Bohol, but if you’re a dive enthusiast looking for a great spot to park your bags, Balicasag Island is it.
Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the sights and spots in Bohol without talking about Panglao Island. Located not far off the coast of the main island, Panglao is easily accessible via bridge, making it a quick and easy day trip for visitors coming from Bohol Island. Panglao Island is the perfect spot in Bohol for people looking to enjoy the sand and surf, with incredible beaches, food, and dive spots.
Undoubtedly the most famous beach in Panglao Island is Alona Beach. Named after a Filipino film actress who was beloved by the locals, it’s a 1.5 kilometer stretch of fine, white sand, bordered in on either side by incredible rock walls. The combination of white sand, turquoise sea, and blue sky makes it home to some of the best seaside views in Bohol, as well as a thriving tourist economy and nightlife that anyone can enjoy.
Panglao in general is home to a number of luxury resorts and hotels, but Alona Beach is by far the most popular spot. It’s a great hub to start your island hopping journey, with islands like Balicasag and Virgin Island only a short boat ride away. When the season is right, you can sometimes even catch dolphins playing in the deeper waters. There’s also a wide range of restaurants and cuisines available to vacationers, plus a beachside nightlife that’s fun yet relaxing at the same time.
Panglao Island is also home to the Bohol-Panglao International Airport, which makes it the main gateway for domestic and international travelers. Whether you’re in Bohol for a short stay or a longer vacation, there’s tons to see in Panglao, and it would be a waste not to enjoy what it and neighboring islands have to offer.
Adrenaline Junkie Activities – Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park
While taking it easy is always enjoyable, there are equally as many things to do in Bohol for the adventure lover. The province is full of natural sights and sounds, making it a particularly exciting place for adventure lovers and adrenaline junkies.
Thanks to Bohol’s growing popularity as a tourism destination, as well as its rich natural landscapes, there are now several activities available for travelers looking for a bit more excitement in their trips. You can take an ATV through the Chocolate Hills, for example, or even touch base with your tour operator and try out night kayaking and firefly watching in Maribojoc in Bohol.
Probably the best place in Bohol to get your adrenaline fix, however, is the Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park. Found in Loboc, around 27 kilometers from Tagbilaran City, the Adventure Park is packed with activities that anyone from families to solo backpackers can enjoy. Trips to the Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park are best enjoyed when you spend a full day there, so be sure to set aside enough time in your itinerary.
Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park has a range of activities that you can enjoy, including the famed 520-meter long Loboc Zipline. The beginning of the zipline is found at 120 meters above sea level, where you can get an incredible view of the Loboc River and the nearby rainforest.
While the experience may seem daunting at first, you’ll have experienced handlers strapping you in, and the whole zipline course is maintained with the strictest safety standards. Despite the length of the zipline, the whole trip down takes only a minute— and once you get down, you might even want to try it again. Plus, because there are actually two ziplines available, you can make it even more fun by racing with your family and friends in the spirit of friendly competition.
Another thing you can enjoy in the Adventure Park is the standup paddleboard, which is provided for use for an hour. You’ll be briefed on how to safely ride and manage your board, and then once orientation is over you’re free to explore the length of the river however you like. It’s a great option for having fun in the water that isn’t your typical beach day, so it’s a good idea to make the most of it while you can.
While the zipline and standup paddleboard are included in the cost of your ticket to the Adventure Park, you also have the option of enjoying a much slower cable car ride over the forest tops for an additional fee. This is a great option for people who would rather not fly through the sky at breakneck speeds. The cable car option is far from boring, however, as it’s basically just an open-air bench that you can share with four other people that travels 100 meters back and forth between the landing spots.
If you want to add a bit more spice and fun into your trip to Bohol, then the Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park is the best way to do it. You can coordinate with your tour operator on the best schedule and package for your needs, as many companies will offer entrance to the park as part of a bundle tour. Be sure to pack water, an extra change of clothes, and appropriate footwear so that you can enjoy the rest of your adventure worry-free.
James Gonzales is a Filipino-American travel enthusiast and writer currently based in the Philippines. After living and working in New York for 10 years, James decided he wanted to see more of the world and leave the city behind. In the course of saving up for what would become an epic trip across Asia, he wrote about previous traveling experiences for various travel websites and publications based in the Lower East Side.
James focused on journeying through the Philippines in the hopes of understanding his roots, and began Daydreaming in Paradise to share his thoughts and experiences. He’s always looking for like-minded travelers to trade stories and swap tips with, and he hopes you’ll join him on his journey.