Many tourists tell me that the thing they recall most fondly about Bohol is the friendliness of its people. This friendliness can add an extra dimension to its three major tourist attractions, the Chocolate Hills, the white-sands of Alona Beach and the first class dive sites around Panglao Island. Bohol is endowed with a varied natural beauty which is evident everywhere; when touring the country side or coastline, when on a white sandy beach or when snorkeling or diving in the blue tropical waters.
Bohol is the natural habitat for the Tarsier, the worlds’ smallest primate, which is also the icon for Bohol, as are the Chocolate Hills.
Bohol is also steeped in history and famous for its many very old Roman Catholic churches - every town you pass through seems to have one. The most famous is the Baclayon Church, considered to be the oldest or second oldest church in the Philippines.
Bohol’s most popular tourist attraction is the Chocolate Hills, so-named because they turn brown during the summer months. Most tourists will see them as a part of a one day tour package which will include many other places of interest along the way. The Chocolate hills can also be explored by renting a small motor cycle. If you can ride a bicycle and have a driver’s license, then you can probably ride one of these automatic motor scooters. There are a plethora of motorbike and scooter rental places around the tourist haunts and in Tagbilaran. The cost is typically P500 to P600 for 24 hours. For more information, see our Chocolate Hills Travel Guide.
Anda is a town on the east coast of Bohol, about an hour and a half's drive from Tagbilaran. The tourist development here is very recent, so, for those looking for peace and tranquility, it may be a very good alternative to the more crowded tourist spots of Alona Beach. More details are included below in the section called Casa Amihan.
There is one bus terminal in Tagbilaran called the Integrated Bus Terminal. It is on the outskirts of the city beside Island City Mall, Bohol’s largest and most modern shopping mall. Regular buses leave from here to every corner of the province, but passengers are often crammed in like a sardines. It is possible to go by bus from here to the Chocolate Hills near Carmen, or to Alona Beach - expect to pay about P50 for either journey.
The biggest complaint many tourists have about Tagbilaran is getting hassled by taxi and tricycle drivers when arriving at the pier. This was also my experience several times. While at the pier for several hours very early one morning, waiting for a friend to arrive, I had a chance to chat with many of the drivers and got to see them from a very different perspective. They wait at the pier for long hours for a small fare. Some may get a little enthusiastic when the passengers arrive, but I did not see one of them really hassle anyone – so no need for the “getting hassled dread” on arrival - this pier is very tame when compared to ones in Manila or Cebu.
Both the pier and airport are near the center of Tagbilaran, Bohol’s capital. It is about 1 km from the pier to the airport, 1 km from the airport to Island City Mall and the Integrated Bus Terminal. The pier is 1 km from BQ Mall which is in the city center. So travel distances into the city are very small.
From the pier or the airport, taxi is the best means to get to Alona Beach. You will always be charged for the return trip because they are unlikely to get a passenger going back. The total cost will typically be P400. Tell the driver to turn on the meter and pay double the fare. Vans are also available and expect to pay a few hundred pesos more. Some resorts, the Bohol Bee Farm for example, have free pick up for their customers from the pier or airport - make sure that you coordinate your schedule with them in advance.
The Taxi driver I use is reliable and if you want to make life easy for yourself on arrival, give him a call and get him to pick you up. His name is Nilo Soy and his cell phone numbers are 0910 878 9005 (Smart) and 0915 642 5310 (Globe).
Tricycles are available to take you to Alona beach and will typically cost P250. The ride will be uncomfortable if you are tall..
There will be small jeepneys waiting at the pier when you arrive and they will take you and your luggage to the Integrated Bus Terminal for P20.
Whether by airplane or ferry, your destination will most likely be Bohol’s capital, Tagbilaran. It is easily accessible with about 12 fast ferries from Cebu City and 7 flights from Manila daily. Both the ferry terminal and airport are only a few minutes drive from the Tagbilaran city center.
If coming from Manila or Clarke, it’s sometimes cheaper to fly to Cebu and catch the ferry from there. This may especially be so if Cebu Pacific is offering promo flights to Cebu. There are a total of 7 flights from Manila to Tagbilaran a day by Philippine Airlines, Zest Air and Cebu Pacific. It is worth checking the rates for each airline because anyone of them could be significantly cheaper on a particular day.
The taxi ride from the Cebu airport to the pier will take about 20 minutes and cost less than P200.
Weesam and SuperCat ferries leave for Tagbilaran from Pier 4 in Cebu. These two ferry services operate from the same terminal and between them there are 7 services a day to Tagbilaran. Departures are spaced roughly 90 minutes apart. The first leaves at 7:30 am and the last at 6:20 pm. Travel time is 1 hour and 45 minutes. The ticket cost is P500 plus a P25 terminal fee. There are 8 return ferries a day from Tagbilaran to Cebu, again spaced roughly 90 minutes apart. The first leaves at 7:00 am and the last at 6:30 pm
Oceanjet ferry operates from Pier 1 in Cebu with many trips per day - 6am, 9:30am, 11am, 1;50pm, 3:35am and 6pm.They also have an open-air fare which can be quite cheap if you book at least a day in advance. I nearly always choose Oceanjet because they are the cheapest, but I loathe the way they try and get you to pay ridiculous amounts for baggage, which is suppose to be free for under 15kg.
Late Night Passenger Ships from Cebu to Tagbilaran
The are a few passenger/cargo ships that ply the the Cebu to Tagbilaran route. Their fares are typically cheaper, around P200, but their main advantage is that they travel later at night when the fast ferries have ceased running. If you are arriving in the Philippines too late to catch a flight directly from Manila to Bohol, catch a flight to Cebu and then the later ship to Tagbilaran. Lite Shipping runs a daily evening service leaving Cebu at 10 pm or Tagbilaran at 10:30 pm. The travel time is 5 hours but the ship often leaves or arrives late.
There are several buses daily going from Manila going direct to Tagbilaran. It is a long 27 hour journey, and about the same cost as flying when considering airport fees. It is about P1,700 for a non-aircon bus and P2,200 for an aircon bus. The main advantage of the bus is that you can carry more luggage without a surcharge. The fare includes the cost of the ferry from Luzon to Samar and from Leyte to Bohol. The route is very scenic in places but you may miss some of it by traveling at night. It is also easy to do this journey by different buses, stopping along the way as you choose.
Jetafe is the closest sea port to Cebu, being only some 24 kilometers by boat from Mactan Island’s Hilton Pier. It is 40 km to Cebu’s Pier one, making it about the same distance as Pier 1 is to Tubigon. The main interest to the tourist is that it’s another option in travel between Cebu and Bohol. The Mactan Airport is also very near the Hilton Pier while it’s quite a taxi ride to pier 1.
Only one boat per day goes to the Hilton Pier on Mactan Island. It leaves Jetafe at about 9am and the travel time is just over an hour. The trip to Cebu City’s Pier 1 takes about 2 hours, and there are 7 trips per day. The first leaves Jetafe at 6:15am and the last at 2:30 pm. From Cebu’s Pier 1, the first boat leaves at 7:30am and the last at 3:30pm. The boats are 40 to 70 seat bangkas (pump boats). All the fares are P120 one way, and it cost P120 to take a motorbike on the boat. It will also cost P70 pesos to have the motorbike loaded and another P70 for it to be unloaded.
A bus from Jetafe to Tagbilaran costs P90 and an aircon van costs P120. The van will take about 2 hours and the bus about 4 hours. It’s a scenic drive. For the budget tourist, get off the bus just after Clarin and start your low cost Chocolate Hills tour from here by bus.
There is one 4 room guest house in Jetafe and more information about it can be found below.
Daily passenger/RORO ferries leave the Ports of Bato and Maasin in Southern Leyte going to the northern Bohol port of Ubay. Ubay is a 120 Kim drive from Tagbilaran and Panglao Island. Looking at the map will show that the shortest distance between Bohol and Leyte are between these ports. The RORO ferry leaves Bato at 9 am while the Maasin Ferry leaves at 7 PM. These ferries will wait for the Manila buses to arrive before departing as they are a main source of passengers - the wait was 2 hours in my case. The passenger fare From Maasin is P200. The cost for my car and driver (me) was P1,700 (July, 2010). The Maasin port is run by the Philippines Port Authority. It is a clean ( but not the toilets ), friendly and well run and RORO does not get easier than this. All that is needed to get your car onto the ferry is to show a copy off your original receipt and registration, pay your fare, get a P12 gate pass and that's all. There are no arrestre (handling fees) to pay. The Bato port is privately run and may be a little more expensive but the RORO processing is also quick. The journey time is about 3 hours as the ship will chug along at about ten knots.
The ferry leaves Ubay for Maasin at 12:30 PM and for Bato at 1:00 PM.
Lite Shipping Corporation has 3 trips every day except there is only one service on Sunday and 2 on Monday. The first ship leaves at 6am, the second at 11am and the last at 4pm. On Sundays, the trip is at 9am and on Mondays, the first is at 9am and the last is at 4pm. The fare for passengers is a very low P105, and it costs P485 to take a motorbike. A car will cost about P1,200 to ferry across. (These prices are not fixed and vary often.) No other services operate form this pier and there are no other destinations. There is no ticket office and tickets are sold on the ship. The port is about 7 Kim north of the town of Loon, about 35km from Tagbilaran. The journey time from Loon to Argao is 2 hours.
The schedule from Argao to Loon is 2 hours earlier than for the reverse trip.
There is not enough accommodation in Bohol to meet tourist requirements during the peak season. Make sure you have your accommodation booked in advance during these periods. The low season is June to September.
The drive to Anda is scenic, as the road follows the coast for almost the entire distance. Consider including the chocolate hills tour on the way there or on the way back.
The town of Anda offers little for the tourist, except for a great range of alcoholic beverages. The attraction of Anda is the lovely small beaches for swimming, snorkeling and diving.
I stayed at Casa Amihan for only one night, which was a mistake, as I had only just begun to wind down when it was lime to leave. The snorkeling in front of Casa Amihan is great, but best at the reef about 400 meters out. The swimming is wonderful, and it's nice just to be able to walk down the steps and go swimming. (much better swimming than at Alona beach).
Casa Amihan has three bedrooms, and they are rented out individually. I think that this place would be ideal for a small group looking to take over the whole place. To book the whole resort would cost you about $170 a night (P7,500), and includes on site staff to do your cooking and take care of you. Everything is new as it just opened in October 2012.
The details and contact numbers of the site are here. The pictures speak for themselves.
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