Forget Boracay (crowded), Phuket (too touristy), and Bali (been there, done that). Here's why Bohol, Philippines is great for families.
One of the best things about living in Singapore is the ability to hop on a flight to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We’re talking powdery white sand, turquoise waters, gorge sunsets – all just a few hours away. Now for the tough part: deciding where to go! If you’re done with touristy Phuket, crowded Boracay and island hols stalwart Bali, why not try something new and head to Bohol, Philippines instead? Not only is it home to the famed Chocolate Hills, but it’s also where you can find the world’s smallest (and cutest) primate, the tarsier. Plus, there are awesome beaches, fab family-friendly resorts and delish, fresh seafood – all for the fraction of the price of your usual beach vaycay. Grab your suitcases and snorkels, peeps! Here’s our lowdown on Bohol…
HOW TO GET THERE
The easiest and most straightforward way to get to Bohol from Singapore is via a three and a half hour flight to Manila, Philippines, then taking a quick one-hour connecting flight to Bohol-Panglao International Airport in Bohol. Alternatively, you can also fly to Cebu (another major city in the Philippines) and take a 45-minute ferry to the island.
WHERE TO STAY
There are heaps of hotels to choose from in Bohol, ranging from backpacker hostels to swish five-star hotel digs. When we went, we stayed in The Bellevue Resort on Panglao Island, a five-star resort well-recommended by families with young children. And it worked out well! For a little family of four, the Deluxe Room with two queen beds was the best choice – we slept comfortably (and very soundly) throughout our five-night stay.
We also loved being able to stay at the resort the entire day. There were heaps of activities (including a glass-bottomed boat ride and a movie night under the stars!) for the whole family to do. We also loved the pool and beach – it was clean, private and there was always an available lounge chair for us to leave our stuff on. Plus, the staff was really friendly, too!
WHAT TO DO
There are many tour packages available in Bohol, but you don’t have to do everything. Your best bet is to get the contact details of a driver at the airport, tell them where you want to go, and negotiate for a daily rate. When you find a driver, make sure that they are DOT (Department of Tourism) certified and compare their rates to ones you find online. For quick trips around the island, you can grab a tricycle (the Philippines’ equivalent to the tuk tuk), or even rent a motorcycle.
Go on a river cruise for lunch
One of the best ways to get an awesome view of Bohol’s beautiful countryside is by riverboat on the Loboc River, where you’ll get a nom-worthy traditional buffet lunch. As you’re eating to your heart’s content and checking out the scenery, you’ll be entertained by onboard musicians playing classic hits you can’t help singing along to. And if that isn’t enough, there’s also a mini cultural show during the cruise, too. Feeling adventurous? We hear the Loboc River paddleboard tour is pretty cool!
Visit the Chocolate Hills
Sadly, these hills aren’t made of actual chocolate… The Chocolate Hills are actually grass-covered hills that turn brown in the summer, hence its name. Once you’re done taking your photo, head over to the Chocolate Hills Complex for zip bikes, nature trails, and playgrounds. Our top tip? Rent an ATV and explore the hills on wheels!
Take a peek at the Tarsiers
These adorable primates are perhaps, the cutest animals in the wild. If you want to get a glimpse of these endangered species, head over to the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, located in the town of Corella. Don’t expect to see trees covered in tarsiers though… If you’re lucky, you’ll probably spot a handful of them peacefully sleeping. Fun fact: these animals are the size of an adult human thumb – so cute!
Go island hopping
If your hotel’s beachfront isn’t enough, make the most of your trip by going island hopping. Be warned: you’ll need to dedicate an entire day to it. Most island day tours involve snorkelling around Balicasag Island, a small island off the coast of Panglao Island. You’ll get to swim with the sea turtles and tropical fish, enjoy a grilled seafood lunch, before hopping on a boat to Virgin Island – a sandbar with amazing crystal clear water. You’ll also visit Isola di Francesco, an island with a picturesque chapel and another great sandbar.
Scuba diving in Balicasag
Scuba divers will tell you that Bohol is twice as beautiful underwater as it is on land. Our favourite, and possibly the best of the lot? Balicasag Island. It’s a marine sanctuary with rich biodiversity, where you’ll get to see multiple species of tropical fish (including schools of jacks and barracuda), sea turtles and corals at different depths. There are six different dive sites at Balicasag – including the famous Black Forest and The Royal Garden sites. Should you choose to dive in Bohol, we find Bohol Divers Club on Alona Beach to be one of the most reputable centres.
WHERE TO EAT
Bohol Bee Farm
For a dining experience you won’t forget, head over to Bohol Bee Farm. This cosy restaurant is owned by Chef Vicky Wallace, who prepares delish healthy organic food. Getting here is tricky – you’ll need to rent a car because the place is located a kilometre off the main highway. Kids will love walking around the garden and eating their homemade ice cream for dessert. You can also take a tour around the farm!
Grilled seafood on Alona Beach
When the sun sets on Alona Beach, you’ll find restaurants setting up outside with grills and fresh seafood. The beach is lined with all these restaurants, and they get packed really quickly. Our tip? All the restaurants serve the same food, so if you spot a place that can accommodate your whole group, chope away! Hot tip: don’t forget to haggle to get the best price for your seafood.
Luna Rossa Vegetarian Italian Restaurant
Looking for a different cuisine? If you’re craving for Italian food, you must go to Luna Rossa near Alona Beach. Owned by an Italian couple, it serves the best vegetarian Italian food you’ll ever have. Our favourite dishes (kids included) were the tiramisu and the lasagna – a nice surprise in this part of the world.
So there you have it – your next beach adventure, sorted. See you and the family in Bohol!