Hankering for a tropical getaway, but with a little culture on the side? It’s time to meet the beautiful island province of Bohol in the Philippines. Often described as a “quieter Boracay,” Bohol definitely has her own distinct charm once you make her acquaintance.
The beaches along Panglao island are Bohol’s primary allure—powder-fine white sand, clear waters, and dive spots are ranked among the best in the world. Book beachfront accommodations for the ultimate island getaway. There’s nothing quite like waking up to a palm-fringed seafront view and strolling down a few steps from your villa to dig your toes into the soft sand, dive into the water, or simply sunbathe on the shore, coconut shake in hand.
Also read: Discovering Dolphins and a Virgin Island
Tarsiers, Chocolate Hills and other Curiosities
If you can pry yourself away from the sand and sea, take a day tour around the bucolic countryside (book a guided tour, or rent your own van for an adventure!).
First stop: the famed Chocolate Hills! At Carmen, climb 200+ steps up to an elevated deck for a panoramic view of the postcard-worthy wonders of nature, hundreds of limestone mounds which turn brown in the summer to resemble Hershey’s Kisses.
On the way back to the city, stop by the Bilar Manmade Forest. You’ll know you’re there when a verdant canopy seems to block out the sun. Step out to marvel at the eerie beauty of towering Mahogany trees, and don’t forget to pose for that Twilight-inspired photo op!
Hungry? Bohol’s Loboc River Cruise is touristy, yet totally enjoyable. The cruise starts off on the river dock just behind the Loboc Church (where the world-famous Loboc Children’s Choir often practice). Enjoy a buffet of native dishes as you drift down the river, serenaded by cheerful minstrels who belt out practically any song request, from the classic “Moon River” to “Gangnam Style” with gusto. The boat occasionally stops in front of river-front platforms where schoolchildren perform traditional dances.
For true romantics, opt for the Loay-Loboc River Firefly Cruise at dusk. You’ll have to make prior reservations to include dinner, but who needs food when the ethereal glow of fireflies flitting through the mangroves demands your undivided attention?
When in Bohol, you must visit a (legit) tarsier sanctuary and gape at these adorable wide-eyed critters up close. Because teeny tarsiers (the second smallest primates in the world) are naturally nocturnal and easily stressed, please be kind and avoid flash photography, speaking in loud voices, and coming too close.
Other interesting sights include: the Butterfly Farm (a small but educational stopover for kids and butterfly lovers); Hinagdanan Cave (an underground cave and spring; not for the claustrophobic or bat-phobic!); Danao Adventure Park (for extreme sports enthusiasts); and the Bohol Bee Farm (a rustic organic farm, resort, restaurant famed for their exotic ice cream flavors, organic food, and traditional woven handicrafts).
History buffs will love the Sanduguan (Blood Compact) site in Tagbilaran, where a bronze sculpture by National Artist Napoleon Abueva depicts Bohol chieftain Datu Sikatuna and Spanish leader Miguel Lopez de Legazpi forging the first international treaty of friendship between the Philippines and Spain back in the 1500s.
Visit the Spanish-era Dauis Church (or The Church of Our Lady of The Assumption) for its ceiling murals and “miraculous well.” Come around the back for a leisurely merienda (afternoon snack) at Café Lawis, or pick up a lovely memento (vintage jewelry, perhaps?) at the Handumanan gift shop.
Baclayon Church (or The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception) is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines and boasts religious artifacts and liturgical material that date back to the 1500s in its museum. Before heading back, drop by Aproniana’s souvenir shop nearby. After all, how can you return home without an “I-heart-Bohol” tee?
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