Destination Hot Spot: Bohol, Philippines

by  Will McGough | May 12, 2016

The island of Bohol -- located south of Cebu in the Philippines -- is rich in relaxed beach communities, coral reefs, and rainforest landscape. The island is, at present, mostly a backpacker’s hangout due to its limited access, requiring a series of flights and/or ferries to reach. But that will change next year. Bohol is set to open a brand-new international airport in 2017, promising more non-stop international flights, including a direct from Los Angeles. Poised to become one of the most visited destinations in the Philippines, we rundown what there is to see and do on the diverse island of Bohol.

Instagram Yourself at the Chocolate Hills.

Bohol is best known for its Chocolate Hills, a unique geological landscape of more than 1,500 hills that turn chocolate brown during the dry season. Most people visit the viewing platform at the Chocolate Hills Complex, located about 55 kilometers from Tagbilaran City. Here, you'll get a broad look at the landscape, which is photo-worthy, but crowded. If you’d like to avoid the masses, there's another viewing station called “Sagbayan Peak.” It's farther away from the major cities (75 kilometers from Tagbilaran City) and much less promoted. If you’d really like to immerse yourself, hire a guide and hike through the small trails that weave in between the hills and the rice-growing villages.

Peep the Smallest Primate in the World.

The tarsier is one of the smallest primates in the world, normally about the size of a grown man’s fist. Unfortunately, its cuteness hasn't stopped it from becoming a threatened species due to a shrinking habitat. The Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary in Canapnapan is dedicated to protecting the tarsier and its habitat with a variety of programs, including conservation and awareness through eco-tourism. Here, you'll (hopefully) see the tarsier in the protected forest. Pencil in a half-day visit to speak with sanctuary reps and learn more about the life, personality, and future of the tiny tarsier.

Day Trip and Dive at Bohol’s Neighboring Islands.

Scuba divers will find that Bohol offers a wide range of opportunities and experiences. The closest dive sites are found off the shores of Panglao Island, which is connected by bridges and easily accessed from Alona Beach. Many other dive sites are located farther offshore near Bohol’s neighboring islands, such as Pamilacan, Balicasag, and Cabilao islands -- all great for a full- or half-day trip. Pamilacan is a good place to spot dolphins and whales; Balicasag is teeming with shallow reefs; and Cabilao is the best for diving along a sea wall. You can link up with dive shops and tour operators either online or at Alona Beach.

Kick it at Alona Beach.

Alona Beach is the most well-rounded, tourist-friendly community on the island, offering a wide range of hotels, bars, restaurants, massage parlors, tour operators, and dive shops that blend local and western tastes. From the luxurious Henann Resort to an endless selection of hostels and small inns, travelers will have no problem finding something to balance their preferences and budget. Alona Beach is a hub for finding guides and tour operators for trips to neighboring islands and other Bohol adventures, like Balicasag Island and the Chocolate Hills. It's also a great place to kick back and relax, with a white-sand beach, blue water, beautiful sunsets, and busy nightlife.

Visit the Bohol Forest.

The Bohol Forest is a man-made mahogany forest, known for its uniformity and massive root structures, with trails for walking and biking. While only two-kilometers in length, the forest borders the towns and natural forests of Loboc and Bilar, ensuring you can get in a proper walk and make a half day of it. Not only is the creation of Bohol Forest important to the health of the enviroment, it also helps to highlight the great diversity found on Bohol, specifically how the rainforest interior and its villages nicely compliment the coastal towns and their beaches.

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