Panglao is one of the only small islands in the Philippines that doesn’t require a boat for access! Just a quick drive over the bridge that connects it with the island of Bohol and voilà- you have arrived!
Panglao is the perfect island to spend a few days or even a week just living life in the slow lane. Spend one day hopping from one white sand beach to another and the next day partaking in your own bar crawl while getting your fill of tropical tiki drinks on the Alona strip.
When you feel a sudden burst of motivation to do something active, there are plenty idyllic spots for snorkeling, kayaking, and diving.
You can find a whole range of accommodation here from budget bungalows to mid-range hotels to upscale resorts. During the low season, you can show up to Panglao without a booking and wander the beach looking for the best deal.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Panglao:
1. Alona Beach
Here is where the magic happens! Alona Beach is the main beach on Panglao. This is where you’ll find the seaside restaurants with awesome views of the water, laidback beachfront bars where you can drink late into the night, and plenty of tour hawkers that want to take you on a trip into Bohol or around the island.
Alona Beach is home to some lovely guesthouses that stretch back into the jungle. You’ll find cabanas with pebble walkways and tropical flowers, and you’ll also find modest homestays for dirt cheap. It’s the best of both worlds.
2. Get a Massage on the Beach
If you are not interested in a massage, it can be hard to shake the friendly and persistent massage ladies who have their massage beds set up under shady canopies on the beach. They practically form a human wall to get you to come in. It’s quite impressive.
But if you are looking for a massage, then you’re in luck! Lay on down and let these experienced masseuses work their magic. Prices are reasonable and the view is perfect.
The massage girls are there all day so you can just rock up when you’re ready. Or if you’d prefer a massage at a later time, you can arrange house calls and have them come to your room- this is perfect for rainy days.
3. Dumaluan Beach
With shallow depths and crystal clear water, you can wade out into the sea quite a ways. Search for baby crabs, little seashells, and sand dollars in the pure white sand. Take a rest in the shallow water where the tide is quite mellow.
With such gentle waves, many travelers use this beach to take kayaks out on the water where they get fabulous views of the island with it’s palm tree-lined beaches at a distance.
There are a few stalls for BBQ and beverages for sale that allow you to chill out in the sand all day!
4. Go Scuba Diving
Right off the coast of Pangloa are some dive sites sure to leave an imprint on your memory.
There is Balicasag Island where you’ll come across dive-worthy topography including steep walls and deep slopes where rich reefs have developed.
Then there is Pamilacan Island where it is possible to see and swim with dolphins, whale sharks, and even Manta rays.
You’ll find plenty of dive shops that are happy to take you out for some underwater adventures. Two of the most respected dive shops in the area are Bohol Divers Club and Alona Divers.
5. Snorkel Boat Trip
Sure, you can rent a snorkel and swim just off the shore of Panglao where you’ll see a couple fish and some reefs, but if you really want a cool snorkel experience, then hire a boat to take you to the best destinations.
The captains of the boat will know the best snorkel spots to cruise to, including Pamilacan Island, home to a small reef island with lots of colorful fish. There is a chance for you to see dolphins, Manta rays, and whale sharks even without diving deep.
The guides provide the snorkels, but don’t provide any sunscreen! Bring some with you!
6. Yoga Vibe Panglao
After being tangled up in cramped busses or sat down too long on tiring flights, your body probably needs a little TLC. Yoga Vibe Panglao is just the place to get your muscles stretched and your soul feeling back in sync with your body.
You can drop in on morning yoga, sunset yoga, or yin/restorative yoga every day of the week. Some sessions are held right on the beach, and others in a beautiful beachfront cabana. The teachers are passionate, knowledgably, and happy to welcome you to their class.
7. Virgin Island
Virgin Island isn’t much more than a sandbar a few meters off the shore of Panglao- but it’s absolutely gorgeous. As Virgin Island is pretty close to the mainland, you can kayak over here on your own or you can choose to hire a boat to zip you on over.
Go on a starfish hunt in the water, check out the small patches of mangroves, or take the opportunity to have a quick photo shoot on a beach that looks like it is in the middle of nowhere.
Good to know: There are a couple modest stalls set up with coolers of beverages and snacks.
8. Hinagdanan Cave
The opening to Hinahdanan Cave is merely a small hole in the ground- you might miss it if you’re not looking for it closely. To explore, you’ll ascend into darkness via a sturdy set of stairs and the tour will begin.
A guide will walk you through the cave, telling you a bit about the origins of its formation. The cave is a little spooky with spike-like cave rocks hanging down by the thousands with bats flying all around the ceiling.
There is a cold pool at the base of the cave where you can swim, if you dare! There aren’t any creepy creatures swimming around, but the pool will be cold. You only live once!
9. Bohol Bee Farm Restaurant
For a healthy, organic option, dine at Bohol Bee Farm Restaurant on Panglao. This restaurant encourages local farmers to grow without pesticides and fertilizers, to compost their scraps, and to use all-around environmentally friendly farming methods. Bohol Bee Farm Restaurant teaches their famers new farming methods and approaches to help them move towards this eco direction.
Eat a fresh meal in their restaurant of visit their shop where you can buy organic honey made from their very own bee farm!
10. Philippine Tarsier Recreation Inc.
Tarsiers are the small and endangered primates that are native to nearby Bohol. It is said that without conservation centers, including the Philippine Tarsier Recreation Inc., that these little creatures would go extinct.
At the center, you’ll walk down a beautiful jungle path surrounded by rich green trees and foliage. Look up in the trees, and you’ll see sets of big round eyes staring back at you. The tarsiers are as curious about you and you are about them. Other tarsiers will be peacefully sleeping under big leaves and not even notice you’re there.
11. Trudi’s Place
For a seafood feast, look no further than Trudi’s Place. Located right on the beach with palm trees over head and live music playing in the evening- it doesn’t get any more tropical than this.
If you love squid, the squid adobo is to die for and the barbecued squid with garlic butter is even more heavenly. They’ve got the juiciest prawns and the most tender fish.
And as true seafood lovers know, nothing goes better with seafood than an ice-cold beer and Trudi’s Place has the cheapest! It’s a win-win all around.
12. Doljo Beach
Sunsets at Doljo Beach will give you life! This beach is located on the very opposite end of the island from where you enter on a small peninsula that jets out into the sea. The beach is well maintained and not too crowded. It offers a really peaceful experience away from the hawkers, bars, and tourists.
The tide can get pretty low which allows you to walk far out into the sea where you can hunt for sea treasures in the wet sand.
There are a couple resorts over here but are mellow establishments- you’ll hardly even notice they’re there.
Experience the turquoise blue waters off the shores of Panglao and the coral reefs teeming with biodiversity through the bottom of your clear kayak! There are green sea turtles, clown fish, schools of colorful fish, anemones, urchins and more- all of which you can see up close and personal.
The crew at Explor’Aqua will catamaran you and your clear kayak out to the best lagoons and reefs, then set you free to paddle about. This is an especially fantastic way for people who can’t swim to play on the water.
14. Oasis Resort Restaurant
When you imagine dining on an island, you probably picture a romantic restaurant that requires no shoes with candlelit tables on the beach. Oasis Resort Restaurant has this, plus cozy bean bag seats with low tables so you can enjoy a relaxing meal with your toes in the sand. Take your pick.
You can order a wide variety of dishes here from western to Filipino seafood feasts. Try the burger which will extinguish any cravings you’ve been having for food from home or go with the tuna sashimi for a fresh taste of the Visayas.
15. Tarsier Botanika
Take a couple hours to step away from the beach and into a botanical paradise. Tarsier Botanika is a café, botanical garden, resort, and wildlife haven all in one.
Explore the garden where you’ll be greeted by friendly grey parrots who love to talk and have their heads scratched, in addition to a few tarsiers who like to spend the day cuddled up in the trees. Walk down a long wooden path between cactus gardens, perfectly manicured wetlands, and beautiful tropical flowers.
For your dining experience, choose between garden seating or seaside tables where you can enjoy a cup of coffe with some dessert, or a traditional Filipino meal.