You go to Manilla for city life; Boracay for beach life; and Bohol…that’s for jungle life. Expect a vacation filled with picturesque jungle adventures that will get your heart pounding and endorphins flowing!
As the 10th largest island in the Philippines, you can imagine that there is a lot of ground to cover! In the center of the island, you’ll find the epicenter of nature fun with ziplining, waterfall climbing, cave exploring, and river cruising. South of the island you’ll get your fix of white sand beaches and cocktails with tiki straws. Also in the South, you’ll find the capitol city, Tagbilaran, which is filled with shopping malls, restaurants, bars, and guesthouses. You can also venture up north to mingle with locals who aren’t used to seeing tourists in their parts.
When you need a break from all of the thrill-seeking adventures, there is a lot of history to be learned on this island. Over the centuries there has been Spanish colonization, Japanese occupation and U.S. intervention- all of which you can see traces of every where you look.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Bohol:
1. Visit the Chocolate Hills
The Chocolate Hills are by far the most popular tourist attraction on Bohol Island and once you see it, it’s easy to understand why. Here lay hundreds of symmetrical green mountainous hills as far as the eye can see.
During the dry season, these hills take on a milk-chocolate color- hence “Chocolate Hills”. During the rainy season, they are lush and green.
Hire a motorbike taxi to take you and enjoy the winding roads with natural and cultural sights along the way.
2. Bohol Habitat Conservation Conservatory
Butterflies, spiders, centipedes, caterpillars, birds, and flowers- come witness a dense collection of natural beauty at the Bohol Habitat Conservation Conservatory.
Walk with a guide who will point out fauna indigenous to the island, persuade you to let bugs crawl on your arm, and take a few funny photos while you’re at it. Afterwards, stop by the restaurant and ice cream shop near the entrance to try some all-natural ice cream!
As the tour doesn’t take much time- maybe 30 minutes- it’s a great idea to make this one of many stops that you do in the area.
3. Bamboo Hanging Bridge
Visit the Bamboo Hanging Bridge where you’ll walk across a bamboo-weaved bridge over the slow flowing river. Each step on the bridge gives you a little tingle up your back as it feels quite delicate- but not to worry as the bridge is suspended with sturdy cables that won’t let you fall!
Once you cross the bridge, there are little souvenir shops to purchase magnets, bags, shirts, and more.
4. River Paddle Boarding
Journey down to the southwest corner of Bohol where you can embark on a day of paddle boarding. You’ll navigate through winding jungle passageways and around small waterfalls that offer a taste of nature in its purest form.
When you book a tour with SUP Tours Philippines or Loboc River Watersports, they’ll provide you with the paddle board, paddles, life jackets and a traditional Filipino lunch that is to die for.
5. Tarsier Conservatory
Tarsiers- locally known as ‘mamag’- are an endangered species and would be close to extinction if it weren’t for the efforts of the Tarsier Conservatory in Bohol. Tarsiers are considered a “dependent” species meaning that they cannot thrive in the wild on their own. Every visit to the Tarsier Conservatory helps fund efforts and habitat to keep these cute little creatures alive.
When you visit the conservatory, you’ll see several of these little frog-fingers primates hanging out in the trees, sleeping under leaves and staring at you with their great big eyes. The tour only lasts 20 minutes because they don’t want to stress these Tarsiers out, but it’s totally worth it.
6. Take an unofficial cruise down Loboc River
On the way to the Chocolate Hills, you’ll drive along side a small river surrounded by pure jungle. Locals have built fishing huts and small vendor stations selling snacks. Some of these locals own small wooden boats and are happy to take you for a ride. You can ask your driver to help you arrange a deal.
Once on the small local boat, the cruise down the river is absolutely breathtaking with tall palm trees and undisturbed jungle. It feels like a scene out of the book, “Where the Wild Things Are”.
At the end of the river is a fresh-water waterfall. Hop in with your clothes if you’d like. You can splash around in the shallows or duck under the waterfall for a nice back massage.
7. Official Loboc River Cruise
If you’d like to float down the Loboc River in comfort, than join the organized cruise selling tickets at the shore. The boat resembles a large floating house with a thatched roof and large dining room.
You’ll cruise down the river looking at the sights while enjoying a buffet style lunch. There is a live band that plays a collection of songs from around the world to appeal to the assembly of international guests on board.
Towards the end of the trip, your boat will stop by a platform full of Filipina women and children dressed in traditional clothing, singing and dancing for you. You may join in on the festivities and of course, a donation is welcome.
8. Mahogany Forest
Rent a motorbike to experience the beauty that is the Mahogany Forest. The roads wind and bend making for a seriously fun ride. The roads are nicely paved and the traffic isn’t too heavy so even new riders can handle the journey.
Park your bike on the side of the road and meander up the hill to get a closer look at the massive roots that tangle together in the soil. With the sun peering through the trees and the fresh air surrounding you- you’ll get a feeling of what Bohol is all about.
9. Cathedral of San Jose
You’ll quickly notice and discover that religion is deeply rooted in the culture of Filipino people. The Cathedral of San Jose is one of the largest in Bohol’s big city and is the most frequented by locals throughout the week and on Sunday for mass. No matter your religion, it’s interesting to visit the Cathedral of San Jose and witness how locals worship. You might even stumble upon a wedding or a baptism.
Like many historic structures in the city, this cathedral still has walls made of coral stone. While there have been some renovations, including new paint on the walls and a makeover of the paintings on the cathedral’s dome ceiling, the church’s original integrity has been impressively kept in tact for centuries.
10. Baclayon Church
Baclayon Church, also known as “The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary Parish Church”, is the oldest Christian settlement in Bohol. Founded in 1596 and still standing, this Roman Catholic Church has been officially declared a ‘National Cultural Treasure’ that attracts thousands of tourists year round.
The church is a mysterious-looking building made from grey coral stone that has been weathered over the centuries. There are archways starting to crumble and pillars that have been eroded by the wind and typhoons as it sits next to the seaside. The 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Bohol in 2013 did some damage to the church but luckily left the museum unharmed. All in all, it makes for an interesting visit.
11. Blood Compact Monument
It will only take you five minutes to stop and gather the story that this bronze structure is here to tell. Set with the sea as the backdrop, the Blood Compact Monument features 5 soldiers gathered round a table making a toast. With a few drops of blood, a pact was made between Spanish General Miguez Lopez de Legazpi and the Native Filipino people who vowed to work together.
There’s a short historical explanation near the monument to give you more information. Have a read, take some photos, and then carry on your merry way.
12. Cambuyo Rice Terraces
Rice terraces, with their sprawling flat plains and bright green colors, are a signature of Asia. In mucky plains of muddy water, farmers plant rice seeds that grow long green stems creating gorgeous landscapes. It isn’t that rice needs water to grow, but rather, the water ensures that the rice do not become compromised with fungus or disease.
In the Philippines, rice represents a huge source of sustenance and commerce with thousands of Filipinos working in rice fields day to day. Hop out of your vehicle on the side of the road to take it all in and you’ll surely see some farmers working away. Feel free to snap a few photos of the rice plains, just be respectful of the farmers.
13. Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park
If you like heights, nature, and adrenaline, you’re going to love Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park. Located near the Chocolate Hills, this adventure park offers a day full of fun. You can buy a package ticket that includes the official lunch cruise down the Loboc River but not before you fly through the jungle on your belly via a frightening, yet exhilarating zipline course.
This, however, is no standard zipline that simply plunges you through the trees at speeds too fast to enjoy the view. This zipline takes you over the jungle, the river and even gives you a view of the Chocolate Hills. This is definitely a GoPro-worthy adventure.
14. The Secret Waterfall
Do you remember the book/movie ‘The Beach’ where locals kept an incredibly gorgeous piece of paradise a secret? Well, there is the waterfall equivalent to that on Bohol.
A trek into the jungle will reveal the most beautiful natural waterfall and swimming hole that you have ever seen in your life. The water is a bright aquamarine color, the waterfall is at least 3 stories high and the water is the perfect temperature for swimming. You can jump off a tall cliff, slide down smooth rocks and hang out with a couple locals who may be surprised to see you.
There are no tours going here, so you’ll have to befriend a local and ask them to take you.
15. Dimiao Twin Waterfalls
Despite being named the “twin” waterfalls, there are actually 3 waterfalls in the vicinity. Take a van to Dimiao public market where you can wander around looking at crafts and snacks. Outside the market, you can find plenty of drivers waiting to take tourists like you to the waterfalls- it’s all standard business. The tour guides will drive you, trek with you, take your pictures, and bring you back to the market.
The waterfalls themselves are breathtakingly beautiful with turquoise water to swim in, heavy waterfalls to lie under, rocks to climb on, cliffs to jump off, and rafts to play on.
16. Hinagdanan Cave
Are you brave enough to swim in the deep dark waters of this bat cave? Don’t worry, there are no scary creatures swimming around to pull you under. This cave might look very creepy with spikey features hanging from the ceiling and bats flying all around, but it’s quite a fun experience.
There are a few holes in the ceiling of the cave that shine down on you like a Disney movie and make for the perfect photo opportunity. Make sure to go early in the morning before all the crowds of tourists show up!
17. Alona Blue Sailing Charters
Spend the day living like an Instagram model lounging on a yacht as it traverses the open seas. There will be chips & salsa, fresh mango, freshly squeezed orange juice, and of course, a full spread for lunch featuring some local Filipino specialties.
Soak up some rays, work on your tan, and jump off the side of the boat for a refreshing swim. You’ll pull up near a small island where you can enjoy snorkeling near the reefs. The Capitan and his staff will take good care of you and make sure that you have every thing you need!
18. Bike Tour with Anda Adventures
Are you ready for an extreme adventure in the jungles of the Philippines? With Anda Adventures, you and your crew will mountain bike through lush paths and make your way to different sites like bat caves, rice fields, and the community center. You’ll even stop at some water caves where you can take a jump in to cool off.
No matter what kind of shape you’re in, the tour guide will find a route that matches your abilities. Plan on being happily exhausted by the end of your thrilling adventure.
20. Go Night Kayaking
Kayakasia Philippines offers a kayaking experience like you’ve never had before. Start your trip while the sun is out, paddling down the still river while looking upon the banks filled with wildlife. As the sun sets, the sky turns to beautiful shades of orange and pink. Then, when it starts to get dark, fireflies become active. The trees begin to glow a fluorescent green color and some fireflies dance in the air- all while you paddle alongside and under them. It truly is a magical experience.
Don’t worry about your paddling level or kayaking competence, as Kayakasia Philippines will give you a short lesson before you enter the kayak.
21. Go Shopping at Bohol Quality Mall
While there are many malls on the island of Bohol, Bohol Quality Mall has the most to offer in terms of a Filipino experience. BQ Mall, as locals call it, has a nice mix of shops, food, and entertainment.
You’ll find lots of local desserts freshly baked and ready to try, plenty of shops selling dried mangos and pineapple that make for great souvenirs, and a full supermarket that has plenty of bath and body products to browse.
The mall is a bit old which gives it the kind of charm that you won’t find elsewhere. Have fun perusing the 5 levels of bargain stores, getting a massage, watching a movie in the cinema, or if you’re lucky, you’ll be there on a day where a special event such as a live dance performance or live band is entertaining the crowd on the lower level.
22. Mosia Cupcakes and Cookie Shop
Got a sweet tooth? Let it loose at this gourmet cupcake and cookie shop in Tagbilaran! You’ll find every flavor cupcake you could ever want such as Salted Caramel, Snickers, Cookies and Cream and the super popular Classic Red Velvet. There are also mini-deserts to share like French Silk Pie and Banana Crème Pie, as will as whole cakes to take away or order by the slice.
I think you get the picture by now- this is a desert lover’s paradise! The dining area is quaint and comfy, perfect for getting out of the hustle and bustle of the city for an hour of chill.
23. Bo’s Coffee Club
Coffee lovers will rejoice when they discover what Bo’s Coffee Club has to offer! This coffee company grows their own coffee beans right here in the Philippines. They make it a point to support local farmers and coffee growers in order to positively impact the economic and social growth in their community. Each cup of coffee you buy will go towards one of Bo’s Coffee Club’s monthly initiatives like uplifting women weavers or fighting climate change in their own backyard.
You can help them do this all the while reaping the benefits of bold flavored brews any way you like them. There is nothing better than fresh coffee with a cause.
24. Visit Panglao Island
No boats are involved in getting from Bohol to Panglao- just a small bridge. Spend the day on this beautiful white sand beach playing in the water, getting a relaxing massage, or sipping some cocktails at a beachfront bar. This island is great for romantic candlelit dinners that offer seafood platters with huge shrimp, lobster, and fish! Hire a tour boat to take you snorkeling or join a dive shop for an underwater exploration.
As Panglao is just a short drive away from the center of Bohol, this makes for an easy day-trip. If you decide to stay the night, however, there is plenty accommodation for you to stay.
Treat yourselves to some traditional Filipino food at this super popular restaurant in Tagbilaran. You’ll notice that many dishes here have both Asian and Spanish influence stemming from the rich history of the country. It’s this fusion that makes Filipino food so unique and delicious. Try the Seafood Noodles in black squid ink and the fried ice cream for dessert!
In addition to the food, the location of the restaurant is quite charming. This ancestral house has many interesting features such as old wooden floors and elegant hardwood chairs that add a level of comfort that other restaurants can’t meet. The staff here is accommodating, the host is friendly, and the chefs are clearly very talented in their craft.