The best things to do in Bohol are, luckily, within arm’s reach. You can spend each day exploring its attractions — pristine waters, blue skies, lush rainforests — even in just a few hours. Clearly, something as exotic and mystifying as Bohol needs to be unveiled. But don’t worry; we’re here to help you enjoy this tropical gem in Visayas.
Best things to do in Bohol for fun on the water
1. Cruise and dine over Loboc River
Nothing beats eating delicious food over a mighty river; a cruise over the Loboc River offers this glorious experience.
Known for its strong and steady current, the Loboc River has a sweeping width from its uniform rainfall distribution, making the river cruise as smooth as it can be. You can choose to board a banca to experience the dimensions of this river while observing its surrounding flora and fauna in intimacy. Alternatively, you can join a feast in a small floating restaurant within a raft. You may get to experience cultural performances on board, too!
Pro tip: Picking which time of day to book your cruise may make a significant difference. Daytime cruises will let you see the surroundings clearer than in the nighttime. In the evening, however, you get the opportunity to witness fireflies light the river. There are also light installations along the riverbank, setting almost a poetic and romantic atmosphere.
2. Have fun with the sun, sand, and sea on Panglao Island
If you’re tired of the beach parties in Boracay or La Union and prefer a more laid-back time on the coast, Panglao Island may be the beach you are looking for. Visiting this partly secluded island will bless you with the sight of crystal clear waters and immaculate white beaches. Compared to the most famous beaches in the Philippines, Panglao Island doesn’t have as many commercial developments. So on a good day, you can expect to hear only gentle waves on the sea as you stroll its shores.
Exploring Panglao Island is very rewarding, as the island features some of the best water activities that the Philippines has to offer. For gorgeous diving spots, you can try Pamilacan Island to see whale sharks, dolphins, and coral reefs up close. You might even uncover the mysterious and eerie Habagat Wreck! For a truly extraordinary experience, dive and swim inside Hinagdanan Cave, which houses a beautiful underground lake.
Best things to do in Bohol for history buffs
3. Reflect inside the historic Baclayon Church
It is amazing to see how Baclayon Church still stands mightily after so many centuries. Jesuit evangelists used coral stones to build its walls back in 1737. But, after an earthquake tore down most of its walls in 2013, the church had to undergo rehabilitation. Thankfully, the church reopened in 2017; and today, it stands as a stronghold of Catholic faith for Boholanos.
From its highly-detailed ceiling mural to its gold-plated altars, this church undoubtedly presents divine interiors; overall, it highlights the binding Catholic faith of the locals.
If you want to learn more about its history, the Baclayon Church Museum is nearby. It features artefacts significant to the church’s growth. From old hymnals, statues, and clothes of priests passed, these relics document the church’s rich history.
4. Learn how the Spaniards colonised Bohol at Sandugo Shrine
One of the most prominent parts of Philippine history is, of course, the Spanish colonisation period. Sandugo Shrine in Tagbilaran City commemorates the event where it all began. This monument depicts Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi engaging in a blood compact ritual with Bohol Datu Sikatuna, along with five men standing around the table. This event is widely considered by Filipino historians as the first friendship treaty between Filipinos and the Spaniards.
The monument is highly expressive as it was made by the talented hands of National Artist Napoleon Abueva. With the overlooking view of the Bohol Sea as its backdrop, the Sandugo Shrine makes more than a tour stop when travelling to Bohol.
Best things to do in Bohol to experience the beauty of nature
5. Take a picture of the iconic Chocolate Hills
Of course, you’ve never really gone to Bohol without taking a photo of this world-famous land formation. The Chocolate Hills gets its enticing name because of its colour: During hot summers, its green grass dries and turns into a dark brown hue. Over a thousand of these hills scatter throughout the towns of Carmen, Batuan, and Sagbayan.
Fun fact: Allegedly, these hills were once coral reefs, uplifted from sea level by erosion. The theory stems from the fossils of shallow marine corals and algae on the hills’ surface. Geologists consider these hills a remarkable example of conical karst topography.
Meanwhile, another myth circulates about the formation of the Chocolate Hills. Some locals believe that the hills came about after two giants got into a fight and hurled boulders at each other.
6. Savour the fresh air in Bohol’s forests
Across the province of Bohol are forests populated with different species of trees. One of them is Candijay Mangrove Forest, which can be toured either through a river cruise or a stroll on its boardwalks. This mangrove forest sustains multiple species of marine animals, birds, and wildlife.
Meanwhile, the Bilar Man-Made Forest is another green lung for Boholanos and its wildlife. This stretch of mahogany trees spans up to two kilometres. While you can stop, breathe, and even take photos of the area, remember that a highway cuts through the forest. Be on the lookout for speeding vehicles!
7. Get up close and personal with the world’s smallest primate
Prepare to see something cute! The Philippine tarsier is one of the smallest mammals in the world, with adults averaging only up to 16 centimetres. But, don’t let their diminutive appearances fool you. These creatures can leap from branch to branch up to five metres away. Their strange appearances have also earned them worldwide fame, as their eyes are bigger and heavier than their heads can hold.
As a result, any force applied to their head could prove lethal. To protect them from further endangerment, the Philippine Tarsier Foundation in Corella watches their numbers closely. Pay their facility a visit to see these creatures up close!
8. Learn how to cultivate a colony of bees
We know bees can be scary. But, spend some time taking a tour of the Bohol Bee Farm and you might find a different side to these hardworking insects. The bee farm advocates sustainable and organic farming, from planting herbs and produce to beekeeping itself. You can also bet that the food they serve here is fresh and delicious, with most ingredients sourced from the farm. Make sure to buy some honey for yourself as a souvenir!
Best things to do in Bohol to experience the local culture
9. Embark on a gastronomic adventure in Bohol
Exploring local food is absolutely one of the best things to do in Bohol. There are a lot of restaurants worthy of the discerning palate when in this province.
The easiest recommendation for a quick and filling meal is Chicken Ati-atihan. As the name suggests, their best seller is their version of the chicken inasal. The meat is firm and juicy with just a hint of smokiness. Pair it with their pickled papayas for a bit of acidity and sweetness.
Gerarda’s Family Restaurant, on the other hand, is a restaurant that exhibits Chinese, Spanish, and Filipino culinary techniques right in the heart of Tagbilaran. This heritage restaurant remains a destination for big family gatherings. Their menu is quite diverse with the local-favourite nilaw-oy, their version of the Bohol vegetarian soup, while their chow pat chin, mixed vegetables sautéed with beef and shrimp, shows their excellence in Chinese cooking.
10. Visit just in time for the Sandugo Festival
Book a trip to Bohol province around July and you might get to be a part of the annual Sandugo Festival. This festival commemorates the historic blood pact between the Spaniards and Filipinos.
Activities include traditional dance competitions, complete with costumes adorned with more colours than a deluxe crayon box. These dances usually depict the historic meeting between de Legaspi and Sikatuna. Be prepared for floats that look like Spanish galleons cruising through Bohol’s streets during the festival’s motorcades.
Aside from this, the Miss Bohol Sandugo Beauty Pageant is also held annually, where candidates across Bohol promote their advocacies as they compete for the title. On top of this, the festival also holds night markets and photography contests — both of which are open to tourists.
There is still so much to discover that the best things that you can truly do in Bohol is explore. Its seas and skies are welcoming, its natural resources will sustain you, and most importantly, the people are friendly enough to celebrate with you. Once you leave this province, you’ll be planning your return the moment you leave.
Featured image credited to bortnikau via Canva Pro.