I’ve visited a lot of islands and hot spots in the Philippines, and other people who are coming to visit often ask me for a list of suggestions what to do and see. I’ve written out a detailed list about Coron, Palawan, Boracay, Cebu Island, Dumaguete, Sijiour, Siargao, Bantayan, Malapascua, and getting in and out of Manila and Cebu so many times that I actually now have it saved in a document that I can clip and paste, make amendments, and send it to them in an email or a Facebook message.
But I just realized that there is one place missing from that list, which is also one of the top-10 destinations out of the Philippines’ 7,600 islands, Bohol. I’ll give you a 10,000 foot-high snapshot of Bohol today, and then break down the individual attractions in further reviews.
I also realize why I purposely exclude Bohol from the list – I’ve been there only once and had a pretty crappy experience there. It had nothing to do with the island, which I found beautiful and fun, but I caught some crazy jungle fever my first morning there. It hit me so hard and so fast that it went from an itchy throat in the morning to barely being able to move in the afternoon, with a ridiculously high fever. I couldn’t get out of bed my last 24 hours of my trip to Bohol and stumbled my way to the ferry like a zombie to get back to Cebu.
But enough of my illness, let’s give Bohol a fair shake here.
Bohol isn’t just an island but a province in the central Visaya region of the Philippines. But most of it is contained on the island of Bohol, which is pretty big – it takes most of the day to circle it. The biggest attraction on Bohol is the Chocolate Hills, which is an attraction that brings in tourists near an far.
The Chocolate Hills is a set of rounded natural mounds, or hills. They’re made of limestone, not harder stone, so they naturally eroded from the rains over the centuries, leaving them perfectly rounded and smooth. In the rainy season, they are green with grass, but in the dry season, the grass browns and dries, leaving them looking like Hershey’s Kisses according to the locals – or chocolate hills.
You can’t actually hike among them because they’re protected, but there is one lookout point that you hike up to (the stairs will test your legs!) that gives you a fantastic view of hundreds of them.
Aside from the Chocolate Hills, Panglao Island is also a big draw, especially for tourists and expats living there. This island has smooth white sand beaches, plenty of snorkeling and SCUBA diving, and even more bars and nightlife. Alona beach is a similar stop.
Driving from point A to point B on Bohol, you’ll probably pass through the Bilar Man-Made Forest, a huge densely packed forest of mahogany trees. It’s truly gorgeous, and the tradition is to sit in the middle of the road (be careful!) and snap a photo.
Bohol is also home to the adorable Tarsier, a tiny mammal monkey that would fit in the palm of your hand. They’re super cute, and Bohol is one of the places where they still live – and you can still see them – at the Tarsier Conservation Area.
Other stops in Bohol include firefly watching along the river at night, or just renting a moto and driving through the smaller towns and meeting the kind, hospitable people.