Time was up. Heather and I had only days left in the Philippines. Being a bit of a lazy traveler myself, I was more than content to beach-bum away our remaining days on Malapascua. I’m also pretty easily influenced, however, and so Heather didn’t have much trouble convincing me to add just one more destination to our itinerary — Bohol.
We were enticed for a variety of reasons. Bohol was a close jaunt from the Cebu airport we’d be flying out of a few days later, Lovely Planet promised us a “distinct traveler atmosphere,” and it had both a lush jungle interior and a happening beach scene — and neither of us had had a night out together since arriving in the Philippines.
After a near-disastrous day of travel that I promise to regale you with later (note to self: plan ahead when traveling in Christian countries during Holy Week), we finally arrived on Bohol and made it to our destination in Alona Beach. After yet another Holy Week mishap that almost had us sleeping on the beach, Heather saved the day by booking us into a hotel that far exceeded my budget, and we set out to explore.
Photo by Heather Holt
Photo by Heather Holt
Photo by Heather Holt
To be honest, we weren’t wildly impressed. The beach had nothing on the fine sands of Malapascua, and there was none of the charm of dilapidated seaside Donsol. Mainly we found a beach packed towel to towel with families and domestic tourists. We did have a two fun nights out — one of which ended with a wildly successful four person, one motorcycle experiment, proving that good things actually do happen when you hop on the backs of strangers’ motorbikes — but that was more due to our own determination to have a good time than anything really exciting going on around us.
Not enticed to spend two more days paying for overpriced drinks on a so-so beach, we decided to use the rest of our time to explore Bohol’s interior. We snagged a rental bike (600 pesos per day) but were met with blank stares when we asked about map, so we stop at the Tourism Office in the capital city of Tagbilaran to pick one up. They do have a map, but when we ask for a breakfast place suggestion they recommend Jollibee’s, which is basically the Filipino McDonald’s. Next, they ask if we are Catholic, and giggle uncontrollably at our negative response. It is an appropriately bizarre start to another day in the Philippines.
Photo by Heather Holt
We marveled at how quickly we transitioned from beach town to dumpy city to beautiful forest. We drove in silence, drinking up the cool, crisp air and the empty roads.
Can you even spot the tarsier in his habitat here?
Photo by Heather Holt
Hopping back on the bike, we headed towards deeper into Bohol’s interior. I had read about a place called Nuts Huts, a backpacker hideaway with a great view of the Loboc River. When we reached the rocky dirt path that led there, we almost called it quits a few times — we were on a rental bike in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone service, after all — but I’m so glad we forged ahead.
Nuts Huts was not only charming and idyllically located, but exuded a true backpacker atmosphere that I had found to be almost completely lacking in the Philippines. Rooms were basic but the setting provided great opportunities for unique adventures in the nearby area, all marked on a wall-sized map of the river. The only thing I didn’t like about the place was the fact that there was no wifi, and the somewhat pretentious note in the menu that explained that this was on purpose. Okay, I get it — you want me to commune with nature rather than update my Instagram feed. But not everyone can afford to go offline for a few days without lots and lots of preparation — I get that I’m the exception and not the rule, but don’t give me even more traveler guilt. Jeez.
Photos by Heather Holt
Photo by Heather Holt
We left Nuts Huts dreaming of having a few more days to spend there, swimming in the river and exploring the nearby caves. Ah well, hindsight is twenty twenty. Our next stop was spontaneous and unplanned — the best kind. While lazing around at Nuts Huts, we had heard the adrenaline-induced screams of zipliners flying over the river. Following the road along the river, we found Loboc Eco-Tourism Adventure Park. For just 350 pesos (less than $9), we were able to strap in and zip superman-style across the great river gorge and back.
To see us in action, check out my Philippines Highlights video, if you haven’t had the chance.
Photo by Heather Holt
Photo by Heather Holt — can you spot me in the back?
Our next destination was the hyped up Chocolate Hills, prominently displayed on every other tourism poster ever produced in the Philippines. I was suspicious they would be a let down — it’s just a bunch of mounds of dirt, am I missing something? But as we rounded the side of the mountain viewpoint at dusk, I was actually impressed by the endless rows of perfectly formed hills. I was even more intrigued when I read that scientists believe the hills were formed by the
I’m sad to report that not even one person was selling hill shaped chocolates – hello, missed opportunities! However, it wasn’t exactly a serene scene. The place was mobbed with Filipino and Korean tourists who stared shamelessly at us, and a few brave ones asked to take pictures with us. Also, someone who I would really, really like to meet alone in a dark alley someday decided to build a massive gong at the viewpoint, which was rung with fervor and eruptive giggles every seven seconds or so.
Photo on left by Heather Holt
It was a very long drive home in the dark but a peaceful one as we listened to the sounds of the jungle, often the only ones on the road.
Photo by Heather Holt
On the final day of our travels in the Philippines, we rounded up a bike for one last round of exploring. Driving through the small towns of Bohol, I noted how European they felt — most had grassy town squares lined with ornate official buildings and churches. The presence of Christianity and other reminders of imperialism are impossible to ignore in the Philippines.
Photos by Heather Holt
For our final meal, we sought out somewhere by the sea, but away from the crowds of Alona Beach. We settled on Bohol Bee Farm, an organic farm with boutique accommodation and a destination-worthy restaurant. I’m going to give it to you straight and tell ya that from what I experienced, the stereotypes about Filipino food are true — I would describe the national cuisine as Burnt Meat Fat. So when I saw that Heather and I were due for a good meal, I mean that we had basically been living on the Filipino version of Saltine crackers for three straight weeks.
Wow, did Bohol Bee Farm deliver.
I’m not much of a foodie, and yet I’m willing to say that if you come to Bohol and don’t eat a meal here you are out of your mind. Every single thing that I snarfed into my face was fresh, flavorful, and delicious. While we were just moments too late for the last hourly tour of the day, we really enjoyed wandering the grounds as well.
Photo on right by Heather Holt
Photo by Heather Holt
I really enjoyed Bohol, and not at all for the reasons I had expected. My advice to travelers is to skip Alona Beach entirely, and base yourself either at Nuts Huts if you want jungle or Bohol Bee Farm if you want ocean, and spend your days exploring Bohol’s interior. For beach time, head to other, much more beautiful islands like Malapascua.
Can you believe this marks the end of my Philippines posts? Onto Singapore…
Your time on Bohol pretty much jives perfectly with what Tony & I ascertained during our stay there. We really enjoyed the island, but as our first stop in the Philippines, we were seriously concerned about what the beaches would be like with Alona as our introduction! We only stayed a day on the beach before moving to a quieter section of Panglao; one of the best perks of the place we stayed was it was only $12US per night, and although not on the beach (no big loss), had a pool AND free motorcycles for guests! With that at our disposal, we spent days simply exploring the interior of the island like you guys did, which I also said in my post was pretty much the best way to experience Bohol.
I had heard a lot of negative stuff about the Chocolate Hills but I found the ride out to them so enjoyable and beautiful that I found myself happy to be there anyway. When you went were there people taking these weird pictures that made it look like they were flying on brooms? There weren’t nearly so many people during our visit, but the people who were there were really getting excited about those photos. No gong either! I guess that’s one of the perks of visiting during shoulder season… 😉
Yes! I did see people doing the weird broom thing. I was a little baffled by that one. And jealous that your trip was gong-less! Haha. And actually now that you mention it I remember reading your post about Bohol’s beaches… I should have heeded your advice!
Oh the tarsiers are just sooo adorable! The look like little gremlins. 🙂
Ha ha, I know! I also saw them compared to Yoda 🙂
I swear, some drunk monkey saw a sexy frog and out popped a tarsier…
This made me laugh out loud! Although I admit I had to read it a few times…
Some travel blog-basketball networking (the best kind!)::: Rafe Batholomew, author of “Pacific Rims” about Filipino hoops will be reading from his book at “Varsity Letters,” the very cool sports reading series: an intrvw here: https://www.gelfmagazine.com/archives/from_mcsorleys_to_the_philippines_to_grantland.php
Astute AlexinWanderland comments readers (u kno who you are!) will remember the A-in-W post “Hiking the Rice Terraces of Batad” and the pic of the rusted basketball support and the comment with the Bartholomew mention to that effect. (The Hoop game being a national craze in the Phillipines).
From Rafe to Alex … score!
Thanks for the introduction, Steve! There were also some great basketball courts in Malapascua. Along with karaoke maybe it’s the national pastime?
you didn’t dive in balicasag? it’s an amazing dive site in bohol.
I’ve heard that, but we were a bit dive-d out (well at least our wallets were!) and ready for some overland adventures!
I’m catching up on your blog posts and being reminded of how much I enjoy your blog. I love how much you focus on photos (and it doesn’t hurt that they happen to be stunning)!
Keep up the excellent work of recording and sharing these beautiful, inspiring, and happy journeys. I look forward to seeing where they take you! 🙂
Thanks Andy, glad you were inspired to check back in, and that you’re happy with what you found! I appreciate your continued support 🙂
Great post, well-written, with lovely photos! The tarsiers are like… Wow! Your post got me curious about the Chocolate Hills, so:
Enjoying your travels vicariously. Hope to get back out there soon myself!
Thanks Steven! The Chocolate Hills were much cooler than I anticipated. Thanks for reading!
Hi Alex, another great post!
I was just wondering how much time you spent on Bohol and Malapascua each?/what would be a good amount of time now you’ve done both?
I’ve booked to stay at the lovely white sands beach huts on Malapascua for 4 nights and wondering whether to prolong it or prolong my 3 nights on Bohol!
Hi Abi! You can find a total breakdown of my time in the Philippines, including how much time I spent in each place and links to my highlights from each, here. Hope that helps!
Hey Alex. If it’s OK, can I ask where you rented your motorcycle. Me and my wife are going there tomorrow. Thanks. 🙂
Never mind I saw the photo 🙂
Happy travels and safe driving 🙂 Enjoy Bohol!
I stumbled upon your blog and I enjoyed reading about your adventure in Bohol. I just giggled a bit when you mentioned that some people shamelessly stared at you. I understand that some foreigners get offended by this, but the truth is that majority of the Filipinos are just amazed by white people. We find your race beautiful, that’s all. =)
Anyway, I’m glad that you enjoyed the Philippines and I hope you can come by again next time. I also have a blog about travelling to the Philippines and I hope you and your readers can visit it by clicking on my name above. Thanks! – Dee
Haha, well in this case I didn’t mind the staring, though it did make us giggle nervously a bit 🙂
Alex, your smile is so cute and very Special ! it melts my hearth!!! Heinz
Thanks Heinz…. I’ll keep smiling 🙂
did random asian people frequently ask to take a picture with you while traveling around asia?
Indeed they did 🙂 I think it is the blonde hair, but I’ve definitely been stopped to be a photo buddy upwards of 50 times!
Saw that Prem asked about places to go for motorcycles for rent.
Allow me to suggest Island Rentals. I rented from those guys when I visited Bohol in December. http://www.islandrentals.ph
They tend to be slightly more expensive than the rest. But I found that their bikes are in good condition and worth the extra dollar. For me it was important that brakes and headlights a.o. were working – you know PH traffic conditions…. The bikes holds insurrance and copy of the legal reg. papers followed the bike. Cool – especially if you hit one of the many roadblocks in Bohol
Another good place to rent a motorcycle in Bohol is at Alona Beach, but the rental guys don´t seem to be organized in the way, you will find it at Island Rentals.
No matter your choice I do agree that Bohol should be explored on a motorcycle. It will bring you to remote areas where average tourists never go – I had some very cool experiences during my stay, and will surely be back one day.
Hi i agree with you.The owner is a nice guy he has big bikes as well. The price is high but he provide the good service. if you want to rent bike we recommencement https://www.islandrentals.ph.
Glad to hear there are so many options available on Bohol these days!
Found your blog and enjoyed my visit here. The pictures in this post on Bohol are stunning and I enjoyed reading it too.
Thanks, Carla! The Philippines are stunning and I can’t wait to return someday.
You’re such a whiney, uninformed, somewhat-condescending tourist. In case you didn’t know, you visited a “third-world” country. FYI, that country was a Spanish colony for 300 hundred years, of course they would have some architectural remnants of their past.
Lindsey, I went back to reread this post to see what your comments could possibly be directed to and I came up empty. I loved the architecture of Bohol — it was one of the many things I complimented in this post. The only part I didn’t love was Alona Beach, which I hardly think is the most authentic slice of Bohol.
First things first, I read this whole post and would like to say that I in no way see how saying that Bohol has a European cultural and religious influence that is “impossible to ignore” make you a “whiney, uninformed, somewhat-condescending tourist”. I am pretty sure you said that knowing full well that The Philippines was a Spanish colony for 300 years. Just felt like I needed to put that out there.
With that out of the way, your blog is very helpful as I am in Bohol now and deciding what to do around here. I am excited to travel the island and the places you mentioned.
My question is actually a logistical one about travel by motor bike in general. I want to tour as much of SEA as possible by motor bike. Despite my amazing Tetris skills, I can not fit my computer, camera, toiletries, enough clothes for a few days, and the other essentials into one backpack. Now, I have mastered wearing two backpacks to the airport or on a boat. However, I imagine mastering that skill while on a motorbike would be quite a feat. How did you girls manage to take all your stuff with you? Any advice you could give would be splendid.
Ha, thanks Peter. Glad I wasn’t globally misunderstood 🙂 So glad my blog has been helpful in making your plans for the Philippines! Unfortunately I’m not sure if I’ll be much help — we rented the bikes by the day and traveled from location to location, with all our endless bags of crap, by plain old bus, taxi, train and plane. So while we were out playing during the day all our stuff was safely ensconced in our hotel room, save our small day packs. Sorry that wasn’t much help, but enjoy Bohol!
Hi Alex! I just love your blog. I especially love how photo-driven all of your posts are! I find that a lot of travel blogs are very text heavy, and I hardly make it through the whole post (guilty as charged here, too). I’m planning to take a page out of your book for my next trip to Costa Rica and stock up on the photography! 🙂
Speaking of photos – I’m really curious to know how you got that shot of you riding your motorbike from behind. I love it! Was that a mounted GoPro you used? I saw on your Camera Gear you have one and just assumed. I just got one for Christmas and am trying to decide which mounts to go for!
Thanks in advance!
Ha, I definitely think a lot of people can barely get through mine — I am constantly asked questions that are really clearly answered in my posts 🙂 And actually, I didn’t have the GoPro yet around this trip. All photos were just taken with arms outstretched!
No way! That is some serious skill going on. You managed to snap that AND drive a motorbike at the same time?! Major props. I am not that coordinated. Thanks for the reply!! 🙂
Ha, no, I was on the back of the motorbike! At least I think we are referring to the same photo 🙂 But yup, lots of backseat snapping!
I have just chain read your posts on the Philippines ahead of my visit this year, and as always they were so well written, full of great info and pretty damn funny. I cannot believe I missed this whole section of your blog!
anyway, I’ve now added Malapascua & inland Bohol to my itinerary…thanks Alex 🙂
Aw, thanks Paula! So glad to hear they were helpful. It was a wild trip! I need to go back and see a bit more. The internet is so bad I couldn’t do long term there, but I love little bite size doses 🙂
Love this post. I am headed to Bohol today and planning to do lots of motorbiking around the island, just wondered if you remember the names of any of the towns/villages you went to along the way? They all look great!
Hey Yasmine, navigating the island is really simple 🙂 If you head to all the spots I call out my name in this post, you will pass the same little towns and villages along the way as well. We just stopped whenever something caught our eye. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!
Will it be fine to use 2 of your photos on our website?
If so we can credit your site or the photographer’s name as its sources. If you’d allow we’d like the photo of the chocolate hills – the plain not those with the beautiful girls but if its ok with the girls it would be much better 🙂 and the other one the sta.monica church of alburqurque. Hope to hear from you!
Hi Amy — what website are you hoping to use them on?
I loved Bohol! The scuba diving there was great!
We stayed on dry land while we were in Bohol… sounds like we need to go back!
This article is just perfect! We only have half a day to explore Bohol. Doing so with a motorbike like what you girls did is what we’ll do.
Enjoy, Finne! You can see a lot in a day and a half 🙂
I just recently started following your blog and I find it amazing. By the way, I am from the Philippines. And did I mention I am from Bohol? Yes, I am from Bohol. haha… Whenever you can come back here, I suggest you go to Anda. The beaches there have finer sand than Panglao (Alona). And since you are into diving, you don’t want to miss Balicasag Island. 🙂
Looking forward to your next posts. Cheers!
I definitely plan to return to the Philippines one day, and would love to hit up the places you mention when I do! Thanks for the advice 🙂
Sure. I’ll be happy to help you get around Bohol. And oh, be sure to take more days to spend here in the Philippines. Where you have been was just the tip of the iceberg. Keep safe and enjoy! 😉
Definitely! The three week visa went by quite fast.
haha… next time, make it a year. you’ll not regret it.
hi alex, my name is furqan, it is really nice to see that your traveling, Stories, i have been bohol my self and it was great time and fun, i would like you offer my scooter for free if you come to cebu, i own a scooter rental shop. you can visit my page and contact me if you ever coming to cebu.
That’s very kind Furqan! Glad you enjoyed this story. I do hope to make it back to the Philippines someday!
I enjoyed reading your entry, Alex! This was a lovely post and I am glad you loved your stay in Bohol. It’s a shame that I haven’t tried going to Nuts Huts yet! I need to take a day off and truly experience the place myself!
Please also try to visit Mag-Aso falls the next time you decide to go back to Bohol. 🙂
Thanks for the tip! I will file that away for next time 🙂
Thanks so much for all of the great and informative posts, Alex! Heading to Philippines for 2 weeks with my fiance in December and we are getting SO excited reading all your posts and looking at the gorgeous photos!
We were pretty bummed to read about your less than stellar experience in Alona beach. We were considering there for New Years Eve – we want to stay away from the craziness (and costs!) of Boracay, but still want a beach and a bit of partying; we usually go for the off-the-beaten track route completely when it comes to beaches, but wanted something a little bit more lively for the holiday! Do you have any other suggestions?
Well, I really loved Malapascua but it might be a little too laid-back for what you’re looking for for New Year’s Eve. I don’t know, Boracay might be better — I hear it at least has a bit of a backpacker and independent traveler scene, whereas when I was in Alona it was pretty much exclusively package tourists. Sorry I don’t have better suggestions — three weeks there went quick!
I’m so glad I found your site while I was traveling in The Philippines in Aug ’15! After a couple days in Manila, I booked a flight to Tagbilarin, grabbed a motorbike from the same vendor, and had a similarly awesome time in Bohol. But it wouldn’t have worked out as great had I not stumbled across your site! So Salamat!
That’s so awesome to hear, Michael! I really appreciate you taking the time to write me and let me know after the fact 🙂 I often hear from those in the planning stages but don’t always get to hear about how it went afterwards. Happy travels!
Thanks for sharing your experience in Bohol! I’m planning a trip there in a few weeks and this blog entry has helped so much! How many days in total did you spend on the island? I’m planning to arrive on a Saturday afternoon and leave on Tuesday afternoon for a total of 3 days and I’m wondering if that’s enough time to see and do an itinerary similar to what you guys did.
Hey Dennis, we were there for three days as well! Enjoy your time in Bohol — it’s amazing!
I’m glad i came across a very honest blog site.
You’re definitely one of my favorites.
Thanks for reading and for the kind words 🙂
Did you drive all the way to the chocolate hill from Alona beach? Do you recall how long it took you guys? Thank you for sharing your trip! regards from Barcelona, Spain.
Hey Berta, yes we did do that drive in a day! I don’t remember how long it took except that we were back before dark. Best of luck!
If you ride a motorbike it takes arround 1hour 30mints. Same with the van but their are places you will stop by it is one day trip
Thanks for this informative post and for sharing that funny description about the tarsiers, which is so fitting. I’m a Filipino and I’ve never even visited Bohol yet, which has to be remedied soon. Your the second blogger who’s mentioned skipping Alona beach so I’ll heed that warning. I’ll definitely follow your recommendations too! It’s a shame that you didn’t enjoy most Filipino food! What exactly did you try? Did you not enjoy Jollibee too? I’ve been enjoying binge reading your blog!
Hey Dia! It’s been years now and since I wasn’t really a fan of the food in general I don’t recall the specific dishes I tried, though there were many over the course of my three week stay. Thankfully I loved everything else 🙂
Hi Alex, nice post and nice pictures. I would like to share that now their is website for renting and sharing motorbike in Philippines where people can find the local motorbike rental shops. People can share their bike to other people. It is call book2wheel.com I think this is be good idea to share with your readers. If they are looking for rental shops in Bohol, cebu, Manila, or any other places
Interesting — the share economy comes to motorbikes!
hey there !
first of all its feels really good to read you!!
this small message to ask you if you dont mind if i repost your Bohol & philippines blogs on my Facebook pages?
Hope to read you soon.
Hi Jessy! Thanks for asking — feel free to share my posts anytime!
Found your blogs really useful for tips in the Philippines, I am going in February. I do scuba and have my Padi OW, is Malapascua ok for fairly new divers. I would OVE to dive with the Thresher sharks but from what ive read you have to go down further than OW allows so is it not worth travelling out my way for it?
Also the motobike/scooter hire, did you have a license or previous experience? Ive driven a scooter before once but don’t hold a license for bike just for a car, would you say its still safe to hire?
Hi Caroline! To be honest this trip was a long time ago so I don’t remember the diving conditions perfectly, but I do think there are some very shallow sheltered sights that would be perfect for a new student. Maybe email one of the shops and ask about the thresher dive? Or better yet, go for your advanced while you’re there! Can’t think of a more beautiful place to do it.
As for the motorbikes, we both have lots of previous motorbike riding experience but no, no formal license for it. There is some traffic downtown which could be intimidating for a new driver.
Thanks for your blog, it’s very helpful while I’m preparing a travel to the Philippines.
I plan to go to Bohol as well, and I like a lot to visit places by motorbikes so it seems like a good plan.
As I plan to stay in Panglao (maybe at the Bee farm !) and don’t really want to change hotel every night during my stay in Bohol I was wondering if it is feasible to visit the interior of the island by motorbikes being based in Panglao ?
The island seems quite big so I’m wondering if some places aren’t too far from Panglao to reach during the day ?
Thanks a lot
Hi Thibault! Absolutely. We stayed in Alona, which is actually further away than Bohol Bee Farm, and explored the interior every day. I didn’t love Alona but I LOVED the Bee Farm and the interior — you’ll have a great trip!
I have always wanted to see the Chocolate Hills of Bohol since I was a kid.. I’m so intrigued how they came to be because they look perfect in pictures.. I’m already 25 🙁 I hope I can check it off my bucketlist in a year or two 😀 By the way, love the post, specially your pictures <3
Twenty five! You’ve got plenty of time 🙂 Hope you have an amazing trip! <3
Hi Alex. Fantastic blog! My wife and I are staying in Cebu City for a few days. Do you think it is feasible to do Bohol in one day, exploring on motorcycle?
Hey there! Honestly I’m not sure about the transit times, so it’s hard to say if a day trip is possible. Personally, I’d HIGHLY recommend hopping over to Bohol and staying even for just one night!
We would love to stay in Bohol but we’ve already booked our accommodation in Cebu:( Thanks for your reply!
No problem! Good luck and enjoy your trip!
The food here is freaking terrible.
Ha! I can’t really disagree 😉 Try the Bee Farm!
If you dont mind me asking, where did you stay for $12 ? Pool and free motorbike, cant beat that! Solo traveler:)
Oh, I’m sad to say if it’s not in this post it has long since slipped my mind 🙂 I’m sorry! My bad memory is part of why I write this blog!