Bohol is an island located in the Central Visayas in the Philippines. Being pretty well-known for its chocolate hills, it is certainly not an off-the-beaten path destination. Google “Places to go in the Philippines” and Bohol will for sure pop up somewhere in the suggestions!
I had just arrived in the Philippines from Japan and having spent the last couple of days in concrete-jungle Tokyo, I was craving to spend some time in nature! As I hadn’t made any travel plans as usual, I spent one day in Cebu to come with a rough itinerary, but soon left to take the ferry to Bohol. I ended up not spending a lot of time on the island, but the day we spent exploring Bohol really got stuck in my memory – not only because of the terrible sunburn that I got, but because it was the beginning of my love for the Philippines. Sounds cheesy, but just go & you’ll understand what I mean!
Note: Most people actually don’t stay in Bohol island, but in Panglao island. This small island is connected with Bohol by two bridges and is easy to reach (read below). When traveling alone, Panglao is a great place to meet other travelers! The busiest area on Panglao is Alona Beach, where most beach front accommodation is located. If you’re looking for a quieter location, I can recommend Bohol Coco Farm which is in more of a rural area.
The chocolate hills are a group of cone-shaped hills located in the middle of the island. The exact number of hills is unknown, but there are over 1200 of them within a 50 km2 area! They got their name from the fact that they resemble a row of Hershey’s chocolate kisses when the grass on the hills turns brown.
It is kind of strange but super interesting to see this area – I had never seen anything alike before! Next to the various geological explanantions about how the hills were formed, there are several legends that surround their origin.
One of the legends tells the story of two giants who, in a feud, threw rocks, boulders and sand at each other. As the fight lasted two days, the giants became exhausted, forgot about their feud and eventually became friends. When they left, they forgot to clean up the remnants of their fight, leaving the chocolate hills.
The second legend involves another giant who fell in love with a human, mortal woman. When she died, the giant cried in misery, with his teardrops eventually forming the chocolate hills.
You can visit the chocolate hills during both the dry and rainy season. However, if you want to see them in their “chocolaty” state, make sure to come at the end of the dry season as this is the time when the grass on the hills turns brown.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to climb the hills, you can only admire them from a viewing platform in the distance. I was kind of disappointed about that, but I guess this helps to preserve the environment which is of course more important!
Tarsiers are the world’s smallest primate and can predominantly be found in certain parts of Southeast Asia – the Philippines being one of those places. As far as I know, there are two places on Bohol where you can see the Philippine Tarsiers, the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area and the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary in Correla.
From what I have heard, the former one is not a certified Tarsier Center. I have not visited the place, but I would advise anyone against going there Tarsiers are an endangered species. Did you know that Tarsier are prone to commit suicide if they get too stressed? As I was told in Correla’s Tarsier Sanctuary, this can happen very quickly when the Tarsiers are for instance surrounded by too much noise. This being said, it is extremly important to only support those institutions that provide adequate care for the animals.
In the sanctuary in Correla, we were guided through a small areas of forest, where a guide pointed to the trees a Tarsier clung to. Obviously nobody was allowed to touch them and we were asked to be very quiet. I didn’t even take pictures with my DSLR as I was too afraid of the “clicking” noise of my camera disturbing the Tarsiers.
On our way to the chocolate hills, we stopped along Loboc river several times because the scenery was absolutely beautiful!
It is possible to go on a river cruise on Loboc river, something we did not do – I imagine this to be pretty chill activity though. We stopped at a little market along the road and bought some mangos & a watermelon which we enjoyed in the shade of a tree next to the river. The perfect place to take a break!
Note: There are also several guest houses in the area.
On our way to the chocolate hills, we passed the “Manmade” Mahogany forest. It is hard to miss, as most people take the same route to the hills. We had just left the area around Loboc River behind, when the forest suddenly popped up.
It is a beautiful drive under the shade of the trees, winding along 2 kilometers of the road. Sunrays were beaming through the trees and the air was really cool and fresh. A nice change after driving in the burning hot sun!
There are no parking spaces, but you can stop by the side of the road to take some pictures. Just remember to exercise caution when doing so!
How to get to Bohol:
Tagbilaran, the capital of Bohol, is the main entry point to the island. Being a touristy place in the Philippines it is pretty easy to reach. Bohol is connected by flights from Manila (Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Air Asia) and ferries from Cebu (Oceanjet, Weesam Express). Flights arrive in Tagbilaran, while ferries connect Cebu to both Tagbilaran and Tubigon.
How to get to Panglao:
If you intend to stay on Panglao Island, you can either charter a tricycle (250P), van or taxi. In case you are traveling alone, try to find other travelers to share the expenses.
The fourth & most budget-friendly option is to go by Jeepney. Take a tricycle to get to the Central Bus Terminal located at A. Hontanosas corner E. Rocha Street (close to Tagbilaran Old Museum). Look out for Jeepneys bound for Tawala Danao. You might need to wait a little while as the Jeepneys don’t depart that often.
The fare for the Jeepney is 25P.
If you would like to see all the places mentioned above, you can drive the following route, starting in Panglao:
Panglao – Loboc River – Manmade Forest – Chocolate Hills – Corella Tarsier Sanctuary – Panglao.
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