We spent an entire month relaxing on the island of Panglao in the Philippines, a tiny island connected to the larger island of Bohol by a bridge. We came with few expectations. In fact, after a three week whirlwind of Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong, we were looking for some peace and quiet. We certainly found it, and a whole lot more. Panglao/Bohol is one of the most underrated destinations we have found. We loved it and will be back. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Panglao/Bohol Philippines.
Keeping it Simple
We originally thought we would rent a car for a couple of days to see some sights. But our wonderful Airbnb host suggested we not. He explained how crazy the drivers were, and we had to agree after just a few days of walking around. So instead we hired a private driver on two occasions to spend the day seeing sights. We also went by Tuk Tuk or Tri-Cab to a couple other sites and beaches close to our bungalow. The hired driver was safe and economical. Our host helped us secure a driver rather than going with a tour. Total cost of an entire day for two people was less for a private tour with driver than it would have been for us to go on a group tour on a bus. And we could pick and choose the sights we wanted to see.
Since we were in Panglao/Bohol for four weeks, we had lots of time to enjoy the sites as well as time to just do nothing. We like to do both! I understand most people probably won’t have a whole month, so I’m listing the things we did and how we liked them and you can pick and chose what works for you.
We spent the month of October, and every day was hot and humid. During the month we saw a couple of cloudy days and a couple of torrential downpours with thunder. Weather changes quickly so be prepared all the time. October is considered the end of the rainy season, with the dry season being December to May, however the high temperature does not fluctuate much throughout the year. It was 87 degrees Fahrenheit pretty much every single day.
So let me tell you our favorite things to do in Panglao/Bohol Philippines;
Our hands-down favorite was visiting the Philippine Tarsier Foundation Sanctuary in Corella on the island of Bohol. If you only do one thing here it must be this. There are other places to see tarsiers on this island but the Philippine Tarsier Foundation is the one that is working to protect, save and conserve these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat for all to enjoy for generations to come.
Our visit included an informative video and then a guided tour into the forest to see up close and personal four Tarsiers who had bedded down for the day. Tarsiers are nocturnal, and because they feel safe, they return to the sanctuary each morning and spend the day. I was smitten by these darling, tiny and highly endangered little beauties. PLEASE don’t visit places that put Tarsiers in cages. These beautiful creatures only survive a very short time if in a cage. Visit the Philippine Tarsier Foundation.
Our second favorite was snorkeling the Napaling Reef with Freedive Academy Panglao. This reef is off the Northwest side of Panglao. This snorkel tour does not involve a boat, instead you are swimming right off shore in a beautiful protected reef. The highlight of this is to swim with millions of sardines…I am not kidding MILLIONS! There’s also many other tropical fish, and amazing coral. It was very cool, the water is clear and clean and our guide took so many great photos and videos for us to take home. Cost was only $20 per person. A must do in Panglao/Bohol Philippines!
PLEASE NOTE – we chose not to swim with the Whale Sharks because we did not feel this activity was eco-friendly or sustainable for the health and welfare of the whales. We discourage you from doing this activity.
We made our way to two waterfalls, both on Bohol. The first one is not far from the Chocolate Hills, but is down a long dirt road. Because the road to Pangas Falls is rough, not as many people visit. Our driver managed it and we were thrilled to arrive and find we were the only ones there. The set of small falls create a beautiful pool to swim in. Ropes are provided to pull yourself through what is a pretty strong current. It was a lot of fun and I am so glad we got to do this all by ourselves. Turned out to be one of our favorite things to do in Panglao/Bohol Philippines.
The second falls we went to was much taller. Can Umantad Falls is located a lot farther away from Panglao and it took us about two and a half hours to get there. We did not swim here although we could have and there were lots of visitors enjoying swimming. To get to the falls you have to pay a guy on a motor scooter to take you down the steep hill to the entrance of the falls. I wasn’t expecting that so I had to psych up to get on the back of that scooter. But it was very pretty and I’m glad we visited.
We visited two caves, one on Panglao close to our Airbnb and one on Bohol, more than two hours drive away. We loved the one on Panglao, but didn’t really love the second one.
On Panglao only about 15 min drive from where we were staying is Hinagdanan Cave. Entrance fee was under $2 and you walk down some dark stairs and then suddenly you are deep in the earth with the most crystal clear beautiful pool of freshwater. Life jackets are available if you need a boost of confidence, but we enjoyed a swim in the cool refreshing pool with the filtered sunlight coming through the top of the cave and the tiny bats flitting around. A definite must visit.
On Bohol, and about two hours from Alona Beach is the Cabagnow Cave Pool. This cave is deep but with a complete open top. You have to go down a steep ladder to enter. We were there right after a big rainstorm and the water was not very pleasant looking. I’ve seen photos where it is not so brown, but the day we visited it wasn’t very appealing. Also the care of the surrounding area is very poor, very muddy and rocky with no facilities, so we really thought we could have left this off our itinerary altogether. Disappointing. We only paid about $1 each so no great loss!
Popular Tourist Sights
There are several other miscellaneous sights scattered about with numerous options for getting to these sights. We did not do all the sights, some of them seeming a bit tacky to us, but here is what we did do;
Cadapdapan Rice Terraces – these beautiful terraced rice fields stretch golden across the landscape on the hill above the Can-Umantad Falls. When we visited rice was in harvest and along the stretch of road throughout the region rice is laid out to dry. Very pretty and worth a stop if you are in the region, easily combined with a visit to the falls. There is also a restaurant here.
Chocolate Hills – these geological formations are fascinating. And although the vantage to view them is very touristy, we are glad we went to learn. Wikipedia says – The Chocolate Hills form a rolling terrain of haycock-shaped hills—mounds of a generally conical and almost symmetrical shape. Estimated to be from 1,268 to about 1,776 individual mounds, these cone-shaped or dome-shaped hills are actually made of grass-covered limestone. The domes vary in size from 30 to 50 metres (98 to 164 ft) high with the largest being 120 metres (390 ft) in height. One of Bohol’s best known tourist attractions.
Definitely worth a stop on Bohol.
A Few More Sites
Tigbao Bamboo Hanging Bridges – I had seen some photos of these twin bridges that hang over the Sipitan River and I wanted to check it out. So we did. To cross the bridge you pay less than $1, and the view is very pretty. Although the bridges sway, I felt completely safe.
Baclayon Church – historic and beautiful old Catholic Church built in 1727 of local limestone coral blocks, this is a favorite stop on most local tours. There is a museum, but we did not go inside, we just admired the exterior.
We visited several tourist beaches during our stay and there are many more we did not visit. The most beautiful beach we thought was Dumaluan. There are many resorts on this stretch of white sand but we visited through a small private park and paid 100 pesos (about $2) for access to the beach for a day. Alona Beach, which was the closest one to our Airbnb, is also the most crowded and home to lots of resorts and departure point for dive boats. The Alona area of Panglao is definitely the tourist base, but it’s also pretty and a nice place to swim.
Doljo Beach is also nice, but very shallow. Much of the island is surrounded by coral reef and you can walk hundreds of yards in shallow water. Doljo was like this but also beautiful. We spent a couple of hours on Momo Beach, where lots of locals and no tourists were enjoying the white sand. It was very swimable but a bit remote to get to.
Resort Day Use Pass
We discovered how inexpensive it is to visit local resorts on a day use pass and we took advantage on three occasions. All three were amazing and we definitely recommend this if you are staying in a place like our Airbnb that, although it has a pool, is not located near the beach. All passes included food and drink. We recommend the following;
Close to our Airbnb in Dinao
BE Grand Resort – This beautiful resort was about a mile from our Airbnb. There was a gorgeous pool, a lovely manmade sandy beach with stairs down to the ocean. We had one of the best meals we had all month in their restaurant. We paid 1200 pesos (about $22 USD) and that included $15 towards food and drinks. I really appreciated the beautiful and large locker room with showers.
Nightly rate at the beautiful BE Grand mid November starts about $140. This beautiful hotel would easily cost $600 a night in Maui.
Two on Doljo Beach an Easy Tuk Tuk Ride
Modala Resort – We really loved this beautiful beach resort as well. The pool was busy but very nice. A very shallow but long white beach fronts the property. Our lunch here was delicious and the service was great. We paid 950 pesos (about $18 USD) and that included $12 for food and drinks.
Nightly rate for mid November at Modala is around $253 per night.
The Bellevue Resort – not far from Modala Resort is The Bellevue Resort. We liked the pool here but the beach is very shallow. We had a nice relaxing day. Cost was 950 pesos (about $18) with 600 pesos for consumables. Restaurant was more expensive than the other two resorts but the food and service were excellent.
Nightly rate mid November at The Bellevue Resort is around $135 per night.
Clearly if you want the full resort experience but you are on a budget…Panglao is the place to go.
We used the tiny kitchen in our Airbnb most days as we usually do to stay on budget. However we did eat out a few times during our month on the island. Here are our favorites;
A Little More Upscale
The Pearl – located in the Linaw Beach Resort walking distance from our Airbnb. Our host recommended we visit and also made a reservation for us so we could sit with our toes in the sand at sunset. The service and view were impeccable. We had a full meal with several drinks and it was only $30. A lovely evening.
BE Grand Resort, The Food Hall – while visiting on a Day Pass to the BE Grand Resort we had what was possibly the best meal during our month. The service was amazing, and the food was on point, beautifully presented and absolutely delicious and authentic.
Gerardas Family Restaurant – our Airbnb host recommended this very authentically Filipino family restaurant and we are so glad he did. It was very inexpensive, (huge meal with drinks and desert $25) the service was great and we were able to try several delicious Filipino favorites. Several locations throughout the Bohol area. We enjoyed this place so much we went again on our final night on Panglao.
The Garden Cafe – my deaf friend Veronica, who used to live on Bohol, recommended this restaurant. It is a restaurant that employs deaf people from Bohol. We liked this concept and wanted to support their cause. We enjoyed our meal especially the lumpia. $28 for a big lunch.
Toto e’ Peppino Pizza and Italiano Restaurant – we went looking for a Taco place we had heard good reviews about, but when we found it closed we ended up at this wonderful little Italian spot. Pizza was authentic and delicious, service was great and as usual…so inexpensive. $18 dollars for pizza, salad and beer.
Garlic n’ Lemon Bistro – this highly rated Alona area restaurant says it’s Thai, but we actually didn’t find much Thai on the menu. However we did find delicious food, giant portions, lovely service and great prices. Our dinner was $25 and we took lots of food home.
Guitarwoodhouse – We came to the Guitarwoodhouse just because it was a must see. We only had a beer and an appetizer (an authentic Filipino pork dish called sisig), but the Guitarwoodhouse has a full menu, bar and nightly music in a unique setting.
There is much more to do on this beautiful island, and we think we should come back and visit again. We did not get out to any of the outlying islands but there are multiple options to do this. Diving, snorkeling and free diving are very popular activities and draw the most visitors.
Our Airbnb bungalow was perfect for a long stay, complete with pool, bottled water and a kind and helpful host. We paid with tax and fees $69 per night. Rate varies by season. With a long stay it included a weekly house cleaning. We would definitely stay here again.
How To Get Here
Originally we had booked an Airbnb in Cebu City on the island of Cebu. But that got canceled, and in hindsight we are so grateful it did. Otherwise we would not have ended up on Panglao/Bohol. But we already had a flight to Cebu City from Manila that we couldn’t change. So from Cebu City we took the two hour ferry to Bohol. See it here.
However, there is no reason to go through Cebu. You can fly direct to the newly opened Panglao Airport from Manila. There are also direct flights to Panglao from Korea.
We Will Be Back
We did not meet any other Americans. This surprised us given how popular Vietnam and Thailand are with American travelers, why not here? Likely the Americans here are staying at the resorts or are full-time expats we did not encounter. It’s a very inexpensive place to retire. We only met a couple of Europeans. Most the visitors are Korean, Japanese and Chinese. We thought it was an outstanding destination.
Our Favorite Things to do in Panglao/Bohol Philippines
Thank you for reading our post Our Favorite Things to do in Panglao/Bohol Philippines. We definitely think more people should visit here. It is so inexpensive, and also beautiful. The beaches are clean and the food is good and the people are friendly. It is now the most, budget friendly place we have ever visited since we started our world travels more than seven years ago. It beat out Bulgaria by about $15 per day. You should get here before the secret is out.
Our next stop is Australia for two months…we hope you will continue to follow us on our Grand Adventure.
See last week’s post Cooking Class in Hong Kong with Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio
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