Bohol is a two-sided coin for family travelers, and it’s a win-win toss-up. Heads you get Panglao Island’s beach, sea and sunshine; tails you get the cultural charms and natural attractions of the more expansive Bohol Island. You don’t have to choose one to the exclusion of the other — you can book a hotel or resort on one side of the causeway, then simply make a day trip to the other side.
Alona Beach on Panglao Island feels a lot less crowded — with most restaurants and bars concentrated in one portion of the long stretch — and infrastructure build-up has not yet reached a frenzy of Boracay levels.
Bohol simply outshines almost all other island destinations with its well-rounded offerings in eco-tourism, culture and adventure. You can easily pack your days with exciting activities — ATV riding between the Chocolate Hills; whale- and dolphin-watching off Balicasag Island; riding the Philippines’ longest and highest zipline in Danao Adventure Park; visiting the 300-year-old Baclayon Church and other churches that survived a massive 7.2-magnitude earthquake in 2013; and reading the cave markings at Lamanoc Island on Bohol’s far east. For visiting families, three days simply aren’t enough to experience everything there is to Bohol. Book a week and a van with a driver, and wait for your family to thank you later.
Prime time: March to June, when sightings of spinner dolphins peak off the shores of Panglao and Balicasag Islands
Stay and play: Family rooms go for as little as P2,000 for budget resorts in Tagbilaran and upward of ₱P10,000 for luxury digs in Panglao.
Tuck in: Enjoy the rich flavors of coconut milk, ginger and lemongrass in Boholano cuisine at restaurants around Tagbilaran.
Stock up: Tagbilaran has three malls (Island City Mall, Galleria Luisa and Bohol Quality Mall) and two supermarkets (Alturas Supermarket and Plaza Marcela).
Shop stops: Two standout souvenir shops are Aproniana, with its great range of Bohol souvenirs such as crunchy Peanut Kisses, and Bohol Bee Farm for honey-based products.
Action and adventure: There are over 20 dive shops, not including those attached to resorts around Panglao Island.
Average daily cost for food and drink: Depending on your budget, you can spend as little as P500 to as much as P2,000 per family member per day.
In case of medical emergency: Bohol’s hospitals are some of the Philippines’ best-equipped. The 127-bed Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital in Tagbilaran is the biggest government facility on the island, and a center of excellence for the treatment of animal bites.
Lights out: Both Panglao and Tagbilaran rock the late nights that are part and parcel of international tourist stops.
Also read: Want to get away from it all? Head to Coron
This article first appeared in the December 2016 issue of Smile magazine.