Beautiful Bohol: Yes it’s Open for Tourism and There’s No Better Time to Go Than Now!

Beautiful Bohol: Yes it's Open for Tourism and There's No Better Time to Go Than Now!

If you watch the world news, you’ve probably heard of Bohol. Located east of Cebu, Bohol is the 10th largest island in the Philippines, and was once a popular tourist destination for both local Filipinos and foreign visitors.

Tragically, in October 2013, it was devastated by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. The whole region of the Visayas was affected, but Bohol was at the epicenter.

The area of Bohol was not at all built for, nor prepared for, any sort of earthquakes. It wasn’t until this quake that scientists even discovered that there was a fault line there.

Philippines - Apr 2014

It was the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines in over 23 years, and the energy released was equivalent to 32 Hiroshima bombs. Talking to the locals who experienced it, they all thought they were going to die, and many tried running from the island as the surrounding water had pulled away from shore. People were worried they would become victim to a tsunami as a result of the severe aftershocks.

For over two weeks, many villages went without power and water supplies.

Many buildings were partially or completely destroyed, including many of their historical sites. The historic Loboc Church, pictured below, once was famous as one of the oldest structures in Bohol, is now unfortunately known as the Ruins of Loboc Church.

Philippines - Apr 2014

Today, the aftermath of the earthquake is very visible, buildings lying in multiple pieces, piles of debris, and destroyed homes, but the area is certainly recovering and is certainly accessible.

Hotels and resorts that used to require booking months in advanced for the Easter season remained empty even with heavy sales and promotion, which was disheartening. The tourism industry still hasn’t quiet recovered, which is why there’s no better time to visit than now. Help support tourism in Bohol. Help promote the beauty of the Philippines.

Bohol was an extraordinary tourist destination, with so much to offer visitors.

We visited for mainly two reasons, but found many more that made us want to stay longer– we didn’t even get to experience the pristine beaches there! While we only got to experience one day in Bohol, we hope to soon return. So here’s a look at what we loved about Bohol:

The Philippines Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary

Philippines - Apr 2014

One of the main reasons we wanted to visit Bohol was for a chance to see the Philippine tarsier. Often called “the world’s smallest monkey”, the tarsier isn’t a monkey at all, although it is one of the small primates on earth. It’s so creepy with its long gremlin-like fingers and huge eyes that it’s actually quite cute.

There are many different “conservation”areas around Bohol with tarsiers, but only one sanctuary. Please visit the sanctuary where there are tarsiers in a large area where they can come and go freely as they’d like. All the “conservation” areas simply kept tarsiers in cages for tourists to take photos of. Please, please, please, don’t take part in this!

I’ll be talking all about these bizarre animals— and why it’s important to visit them only in the sanctuary, so I can guarantee this won’t be the last time you hear of them!

The Chocolate Hills

Philippines - Apr 2014

Probably what Bohol is most known for are the Chocolate Hills. Made from limestone, these formations were created long ago, completely naturally, by the uplift of coral deposits and the motion of rain water and erosion. There are an estimated 1,700 hills within 20 square miles, with some as tall as 400 feet. 

So why are these grassy green hills called the “Chocolate Hills”? Well, in the springtime all the grass dries out and turns brown, making it look like a field of Hershey Kisses.

Philippines - Apr 2014

Prior to our trip we had heard that the Chocolate Hills were impossible to visit because the observation deck in Carmen was damaged during the earthquake. While yes, a portion of the deck was damaged, a majority is still standing and it is possible (and safe) to still visit. So please, do not let that stop you from visiting; this is Bohol’s most famous attraction for a reason and it deserves to be seen!

Cruising down the Loboc River

Philippines - Apr 2014

Another popular tourist destination in the Loboc River, which is incredibly green, and surrounded by lush jungles. The cruise itself is actually a floating restaurant. Made from two long canoes, the restaurant platform is balanced on top of the canoes, while the whole structure is then pushed by a third small boat.

The buffet we had there was absolutely delicious– some of the best food we had all trip (Although I’ve heard some boats have better food than others so you do need to be careful which cruise you take). There was a wide selection of seafood, traditional Filipino food, sweet fruits and other desserts.

Philippines - Apr 2014

As the boat floated down the river, a live band performed and serenaded us with classic hits. During our return the boat stopped at a platform where members of the Ati Tribe performed a few songs on ukulele (a craft they are famous for making). While this aspect of the tour seems a bit commercialized, it was really cool to get to see the children perform traditional tinikling– where they dancing quickly, stepping over large bamboo poles.

Habitat Bohol

Philippines - Apr 2014

Bohol has over 300 varieties of butterflies, and most of them can be observed at Habitat Bohol. Habitat is a butterfly conservation center and it has an open butterfly garden.

I honestly didn’t have too much interest in visiting this location, but while I was there I found it really interesting and I learned a lot I never knew about butterflies, and moths too. When we arrived it was pouring rain, but even still a guide took us around the grounds and gave us a great tour. He was extremely helpful and entertaining, which made our visit even better.

Although we could not see a ton of butterflies outside due to the rain, we still saw quite a few and even got to play with some when they landed on us!

The Blood Compact Site

Philippines - Apr 2014

I knew Cebu had a lot of history, but I had no idea that Bohol did as well. Along with many churches and historical sites, the Blood Compact Monument is another interesting place to visit.

The monument is actually a shrine of sorts commemorating the Sandugo, which was a blood compact between the local chief of Bohol and the Spanish. Sealing their friendship, they each cut their arms with a dagger, followed by mixing their blood in a cup and drinking it. This is the first time this sort of tribal tradition was ever recorded. I have often heard of this ritual in various forms; however, I never knew it originated from the Philippines.

The large brass monument depicts this important historical occasion– and check out that water behind it! Next time I’m in Bohol, I’ll visit the beaches for sure!

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There are no international flights to Bohol. You have to fly via Manila or Cebu.

The fastest way to Bohol is by plane to Tagbilaran, the capital of Bohol. There are no international flights, so you will either need to stop in Manila or Cebu first. For flights I’d recommend Cebu Pacific Air.

From Cebu take a boat to Tagbilaran. The boat takes 2 hours. Price is around 550 PHP, one way, using Super Cat.

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What would you like to do in Bohol?

A huge thank you to the Philippines Department of Tourism and Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort for hosting our stay in this wonderful country. As always, all opinions and first impressions are entirely our own.

72 Comments

  • alexa says:

    Was that a 1 day excursion? Curious how long you were in Bohol or how long you recommend staying. I’ll be in Cebu, so would probably take a boat if I visit.

    • Beth Williams says:

      Hi Alexa! Yes, we took the ferry from Cebu City … I think they had us leaving around 7 or 8 am? Then we were shown around Bohol for the day before heading back to Cebu at 8pm!

      However, if I were doing it on my own, I would probably want to stay a day or two in Bohol to explore!

  • Christine says:

    Looks awesome! We’ll definitely have to check it out if we ever get over there. That floating river cruise looks beautiful! I bet the food was yum.

  • Samantha says:

    I think it is so sad when beautiful places get destroyed by natural disasters. I have always wanted to visit the Philippines, its a beautiful place. But I didn’t know about The Chocolate Mountains so I would love to visit them!

  • Brianna says:

    What a gorgeous area, I’m glad to see its returning from the devastation of an earthquake.

  • You would never think that a place with such stunning scenery and traditions would have faced a devastating quake in the past. It truly looks like a gifted place, and I’m an avid lover of butterflies. Used to collect them (live), so I would LOVE to see the species they have there…

    • Beth Williams says:

      They had some pretty amazing ones. I was amazed at how much we learned in the short visit we had there!

  • Maria says:

    Looks so charming, like a fairytale :)))

  • Bob R says:

    Those chocolate hills looks dreamy. Love ’em!

  • Christina says:

    The tarsier is so cute. Would love to see one of them in it´s natural environment. And overlooking the Chocolate Hills would be awesome too.

    • Beth Williams says:

      Both are great things to do in Bohol! But I was certainly a sucker for the tarsiers.

  • Brad Frankel says:

    it looks incredible, my girlfriend is dying to see a Philippine tarsier> we are going for 3 weeks in November but we don’t know where to go. So many places look great but we don’t want to rush around, any reccos would be great. Thanks. Brad

    • Beth Williams says:

      3 weeks is quite a bit of time! I’d recommend avoiding Manila, or at least just flying in and leaving. Cebu and Bohol were great, and very close to each other. (Especially if you want to see tarsier since they’re only on Bohol) I’d start down in the Visayas and then head up to Boracay … or if you want to go south, head to El Nido. Beautiful beaches!

  • Bohol looks absolutely gorgeous and I love the Chocolate Hills! Would love to visit one day

    • Beth Williams says:

      The Chocolate Hills were really cool… even if they weren’t exactly “chocolate” yet ;)

  • It is so nice to hear an informed opinion on this. Far too many articles since the disaster – even relatively recent ones – have focused on the negatives, of how it has affected tourists, of how tourists can’t do this or visit there, and it is such a shame. One thing I have learned about disasters is how resilient people can be, and how travellers can make a huge difference in helping to restore an economy, so I totally agree with you and urge everyone to not listen to the negatives and discover the amazing Philippines for themselves.

    • Beth Williams says:

      Even before we went, we read news article saying how it’s unaccessible and it’s too damaged, etc.etc… but we didn’t find that AT ALL. We did talk to many locals who are suffering because of the lack of tourism, so I really hope people can see past the negatives to begin visiting once again.

  • Laura says:

    Excellent post! We’ve always wanted to go to the Philippines but now we want to go even more!!

  • Karen Warren says:

    Looks like a lovely place. Hope it manages to rebuild itself and recover the tourism in due course.

    • Beth Williams says:

      I think it will. It’s hard to keep tourists away from anywhere that beautiful.

  • Emily says:

    #What a beautiful place! That earthquake damage is shocking, though, and very tragic. I’d love to visit the chocolate hills :)

    • Beth Williams says:

      The earthquake in general was very shocking. I can’t believe they didn’t know they were on a fault. Hopefully they’ll be more prepared now incase one ever strikes again.

  • Elena says:

    I really wanna visit it, didnt have time while in Philippines! Why are they called Chocolate hills? I would expect them to be brown!

  • Lovely pictures! I would love a trip on that river! I actually so this recently on BBC travel and have been thinking about it for ages now.

  • Jeanette says:

    Lovely photos and article. Thanks for posting this. Love the shot of the lovely, lush Loboc River!

    • Beth Williams says:

      Even though it was raining during most our cruise, we really enjoyed the Loboc River area!

  • An interesting location indeed! Saddened by the post-earth quake damage, but great that they reopened for tourism. Love to see those chocolate hills!

    • Beth Williams says:

      The Chocolate Hills were certainly something. I had no idea there would be so many!

  • Amazing! I didn’t know much about this place and now I absolutely want to visit. I would love to see the tarsier sanctuary, they look like something out of a Disney movie. It’s great to hear that everything is slowly being rebuilt after the quake, makes me want to go even more.

    • Beth Williams says:

      Do go if you get the chance, especially to see the tarsiers. They do look like some weird Disney creature don’t they? :)

  • Aah… Weirdly enough, this is the second post on Bohol I’m seeing recently, which is weird considering I’d never heard of it before. Maybe it’s a sign I should go there. Would be thrilling to be there during such a fascinating time, when it’s rebuilding itself.

    • Beth Williams says:

      It’s a really great time to travel there. There aren’t many tourists and you’re helping to support the region!

  • Illia says:

    You saw Philippine tarsier!! Oh my God, oh my God!! Also, I love butterflies so much, the more of them the better. :) Now I really want to visit Bohol!

    • Beth Williams says:

      It’s a great place for nature. And yes, I couldn’t go to the Philippines without seeing a tarsier :)

  • Dave Cole says:

    The river water is very beautiful – I’m not used to seeing it as such a lovely shade of green. I’ve seen some photos of tarsiers on a few sites recently and am dying to get near some in the wild, they are such unique-looking creatures!

  • Marie-Carmen says:

    Really love the butterflies and the wildlife!
    I’ve considered the Philippines, maybe soon, and visiting Bohol is probably also a good way to help rebuild the area!

  • Michele says:

    The more I read about the Phillipines the more I want to visit. Thanks for sharing another thing to add to my list

  • Lauren says:

    It looks so amazing! I love those Chocolate Hills and I’m so glad that you visited a sanctuary for the tarsiers. I’m glad something like that exists. I would hate to see those little guys kept in cages.

    • Beth Williams says:

      Yeah, I’m glad we didn’t see any in cages. It would’ve made me feel horrible!

  • Megan Claire says:

    I hadn’t actually heard of Bohol – I should start watching more news! How devastating for the area – sounds like there is a lot to see and do though; hopefully tourism will begin to pick up now that the word is getting out about it being safe to visit :)

    • Beth Williams says:

      I hope it does as well, since it’s their main industry of income now. :)

  • Jenna says:

    I never knew how much there was to do in the area! I’ve always wanted to see the Chocolate Hills and the Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary, but your other suggestions sound like a lot of fun too! It’s sad how much devastation the area has gone through, but I’m glad to hear it’s still ok to visit!

    • Beth Williams says:

      I’m also glad it’s still okay to visit, and hopefully more people will go there to help support tourism (which is their main industry now).

  • This is horrible but I hadn’t heard of Bohol. It looks amazing though! Just another place to add to my mental list.

  • Britany says:

    It’s great to hear that they’ve been able to bounce back from such devastation.

  • I’ll have to add Bohol to my list of places to visit. It looks like an amazing place to go see. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • The Guy says:

    The tarsiers look incredibly cute, visiting to see them alone is a good enough reason.

    It is great to hear Bohol is open to tourism again. It sounds like what happened there with the earthquake was devasting.

  • Agness says:

    Darn, now I really regret not going there! Absolutely stunning!

    • Beth Williams says:

      You did get to Bohol though, didn’t you? I thought I saw you made it to Alona Beach– which is somewhere I wish I had been able to go to. The water around there looked amazing (from a distance).

  • jill says:

    What a wonderful and diverse region – love the chocolate hills! Definitely a place I’d love to visit if I’m ever in the Phillipines.

    • Beth Williams says:

      The Chocolate Hills were so fun. Standing on the platform, seeing the for miles and miles surrounding you, it was really cool!

  • It looks stunning and you’ve taken some really nice shots Beth. That little tarsier monkey is so cute but so freaky at the same time. It definitely looks like a gremlin!

  • Looks like a beautiful place to visit. The Chocolate Hills look unique, and I would love to visit them!

    • Beth Williams says:

      Bohol was very beautiful, and the Chocolate Hills were certainly unique. I really enjoyed my time there, so do visit if you get the chance!

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