Bohol is the main island of Bohol Province, which also includes 75 smaller islands. The island lies southeast from Cebu Island and southwest of Leyte Island in the Central Visayas region. This oval-shaped island is the tenth largest of the Philippine archipelago.
Bohol is a tropical haven of natural beauty. The coastline of the island is skimmed by gentle coves and white sand beaches. Bohol is not as internationally famous as Boracay, but is well-known locally as a paradise for divers and snorkelers. Dolphin watching and whale watching tours are popular with both residents and visiting tourists. The best season is from March to June, but dolphins can be seen year-round.
In addition to white sand beaches and dive spots, Bohol is famous among other things, for its Chocolate Hills; the Tarsier – arguably the world’s smallest primate; heritage sites and old stone churches.
- Tagbilaran — capital of Bohol and the main point of entry to the province.
- Anda — a small but well kept and clean town on the south-east tip of Bohol, has a nicer beach than that at world-famous Boracay; its sand is whiter, the grains finer and you won't be stressed by itinerant vendors and crowds.
- Baclayon — port with tours to Pamilacan Island and the town where the old Baclayon Church (established in 1727) is located. Elegant heritage houses line the main road.
- Bilar — gateway to Bilar & Rajah Sikatuna National Park.
- Carmen — launching point for tours of the Chocolate Hills
- Corella — the best place in Bohol to spot a tarsier.
- Dauis — historic Church with lovely seaside setting, pilgrimage site, and venue for heritage-themed dinners, exhibits, tours, cafe, craft shop featuring local jewelry.
- Getafe — seaside town at the northwest corner of Bohol.
- Loboc — rivertown with historic church and idyllic falls. Home of the famous Loboc Children's Choir. Also famous for its River Cruise including serenade and buffet lunch.
- Panglao Island is close to Tagbilaran and has good diving and many resorts; it is the province's busiest tourist area.
At the moment, Bohol's domestic airport in Tagbilaran services daily Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and Air Asia flights to and from Manila. It is undergoing renovation to accommodate the B-737s of Philippine Airlines. Ramp area improvement and the construction of a modernized airport building will soon ensure bigger aircraft will allow direct flight into Bohol. Most tourists visit the island either by land or sea via neighboring Cebu Island. There have been talks since the early 2000s about the construction of an international airport to be built on Panglao but so far nothing has happened.
The Tagbilaran City Tourist Pier handles more than 4,000 travelers on a daily basis. Nine daily trips from Cebu are processed efficiently, while other ships from Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Dumaguete, Dipolog, Iligan City, Larena, Plaridel and Ozamiz City are also accommodated on a regular basis. Four more port terminals cater specifically to Cebu and northern Mindanao routes. Additional berthing space for fastcraft ferries is currently under construction.
Bohol Island is easily accessible by jeepney, private car, taxi and rental car. Many of the towns in Bohol have a bus terminal where you can get a ride to other towns. Tagbilaran City, the capital of Bohol, has an integrated bus terminal located in Dao, where you can get a bus ride to most towns in Bohol. Most bus lines follow daily schedules. A van service called "GT Express", which operates nationwide, often beats a bus ride, since people travelling in public vehicles are always cramped together like farm animals. Most resorts and hotels in Bohol offer day tours which include all the popular tourist spots.
In Tagbilaran City, commuters usually get from place to place with a tricycle or multicab. Taxis are available sparingly; they usually stand waiting for fares at the two major malls, Bohol Quality and Island City Mall.
For the past 45 million years, tarsiers have inhabited rainforests around the world, but now they only exist on a few islands in the Philippines, Borneo and Indonesia. In Bohol, the Philippine Tarsier was a common sight in the southern part of the island until the 1960s. Once protected by the humid rainforests and mist-shrouded hills, these mysterious primates struggle to survive as their home is cleared for crop growing and poaching.
To date, the Philippine Tarsier Foundation has acquired 7.4 hectares of land in Corella for a tarsier sanctuary. With the Department of Environment and Natural Resources playing an oversight role, the foundation has asked other Bohol towns with tarsier populations to donate 20 hectares (49.4 acres) of forestland for conservation.
It also runs a Tarsier Research and Development Center, which serves as a visitor center and venue for research, as well as a habitat preserve. At the sanctuary, a spacious net enclosure keeps a number of Philippine Tarsiers for feeding, captive breeding and display. Here, visitors can observe the Philippine Tarsier in their natural habitat. Within the sanctuary, the Philippine Tarsiers roam freely and all of them have got used to a seven-foot high fence that circumscribes the territory and which serves mainly to protect them from predators like feral cats while maintaining a theoretical chance for tarsiers to leave the enclosure and return as their wish.
The Chocolate Hills
The Chocolate Hills are probably Bohol's most famous tourist attraction. The hills, which look like giant mole hills, are an unusual geological formation with at least 1,268 individual mounds scattered throughout the municipalities of Carmen, Batuan, and Sagbayan. The hills range from 30 to 50m high and are covered in green grass, which turns to brown during the dry season, making them look like chocolate mounds.
Legend has it that the hills came into existence when two giants threw stones and sand at each other in a fight that lasted for days. When they were finally exhausted, they made friends and left the island, but left behind the mess they made. For the more romantically inclined is the tale of Arogo, a young and very strong giant who fell in love with an ordinary mortal girl called Aloya. After she died, the giant Arogo cried bitterly. His tears then turned into hills, as a lasting proof of his grief.
However, up to this day, even geologists have not reached consensus on how they where formed. The most commonly accepted theory is that they are the weathered formations of a kind of marine limestone on top of an impermeable layer of clay.
It is quite possible to have a fine time on Bohol without going scuba diving. The island has fine food and drink and a variety of tourist attractions; see later sections for those.
However, Bohol is well-known as a diving destination; it has many fine diving sites, and there are many diving centers which rent equipment, provide guides and boats, and offer training courses at various levels. All can provide the basic Open Water Certificate, and many have more advanced courses as well. See our articles on individual towns and islands for details.
There is at least one adventure park:
- Danao Adventure Park (E.A.T. Danao), Barangay Magtangtang, Danao. 8AM-4PM. Extreme/Eco/Educational Adventure Park that offers various activities for all ages. It boasts a sky-ride, zip-line, river tubing, caving and trekking activities. Rates vary depending on choice of package or activity.
There are several uninhabited islands to explore just a ten-minute boat ride from Panglao Island. They have no accommodations or infrastructure, but do have fine beaches and are unspoiled, peaceful and rather charming.
- Virgin Island. Technically speaking, Virgin Island is a only a sandbar. Even during low tide, the center part of this crescent moon shaped islet is submerged under 6 inches of water. This flooding divides island into two islets. The submerged part of the islet is a good spot to take photographs because it gives an illusion of walking over the water.
Bohol is known for its bee farm. The honey they produce has become a popular treat. It is also believed that honey from the Bohol Bee Farm has medicinal uses. Some honey-based local delicacies are available in markets and stores.
Bohol's rapidly growing status as a developing tourist attraction in the Philippines has resulted in the improvement of its tourist facilities. From quality boutique hotels to delightfully quaint bed-and-breakfasts, lovely top of the line hotels and resorts to a simple bed rented from a resident. Hence, whatever your budget, you can probably find a suitable place to stay.
- Tagbilaran, the capital and main ferry port, has a wide range of accommodation.
- Baclayon has a great range of accommodation providers, from home-stays in the historic ancestral houses, to high-class luxury resorts and spas. Located only 7 km from Tagbilaran City makes it an ideal location to be based for a holiday on Bohol without the hustle and bustle of "the big city".
- Panglao Island is the most popular tourist area and has a number of resorts, mostly upscale.
- Anda is a smaller and quieter beach town with some moderately-priced options.
During peak periods such as Holy Week, Christmas and New Year, rooms may be a bit more difficult to find and more expensive so it would be advisable to reserve in advance.
- Bohol generally doesn't have high crime rates.
- On the streets in Tagbilaran and while behind glass windows in fast food restaurants, you may be harassed by beggars (badjao). It is best to ignore them. It is illegal to give them money—if one of them sees a foreigner giving out money, more are sure to follow. Giving them food is allowed; however, be advised that most of them prefer money and don't really care for food (they mostly don't sleep out on the streets—they stay at their fisher's village on the shores of the island).
- When renting a motorcycle, make sure to wear a helmet and have an international license. There are occasional checkpoints by the police, especially on the two bridges to Panglao. They mostly check motorcycles, tricycles, and jeepneys. Police officers usually wear dark blue uniforms that say PNP or light blue t-shirts with a logo. Land Transportation Office (LTO) personnel, who wear orange shirts, may sometimes accompany the police at checkpoints.
- When traveling within Tagbilaran City in tricycles, be aware that these vehicles were built to accommodate a maximum of two average sized Filipinos. For example, a 6 ft 5in tall or an overweight 300 lb person will have a hard time fitting into these vehicles.
- Cebu City is a one and a half hour trip by fast ferry. Bohol's Tagbilaran City seaport has eight daily fast craft services to Cebu City. Trips are available 06:00-19:00.
- Camiguin island off the coast of Mindanao is, perhaps, even more friendly than Bohol. It can be reached by fast ferry from Jagna.
- Dumaguete is a short trip by fast ferry from Tagbilaran. From there, you can continue to diving at Apo Island, whale watching near Bais City, or other places on Negros Island
- Siquijor is renowned for witchcraft and scuba diving sites