July 1

Chocolate Hills and Tarsiers in Bohol, the Philippines

19  comments

Without a doubt Boracay is the most famous beach in the Philippines, usually ranked among the top ten in the world. It is a place where sun worshippers flock en masse each year, with accommodation catering to the budget traveler and resort tourists aplenty and several water activities available to entertain everyone. This means however that the beach can get crowded, and besides swimming and laying in the sun there is not much more to do. Thus we chose another beach which has all that (maybe is not as long) and more: Alona beach in Panglao island, Bohol.

alona beach

Getting to Alona beach from Cebu is easy: a 1.5 hr ferry to Tagbilaran (550p/p) and a trycicle to the beach (200 p) which wil take an additional 30 minutes. Cheap accommodation is scarce, so if you are tavelling alone you might want to head elsewhere. For 800 pesos you can find a room at Bohol Divers Resort ( no frills) and for 1400 or there abouts you have a lot to choose from- good bargaining can make the prices drop about 40%.

reading at the beach
Myself hard at work

We visited several options as suggest by our trycicle driver, and eventually chose Bohol Sea Breeze- a big cottage with 2 levels, cable, AC, clean, excellent staff and Hank being the manager you would like to find everywhere.

Alona beach is about 800 m long, with palm trees, white sand and turquoise water. It is one of those picture perfect beaches. Snorkelling is not very good but can keep you busy if you wish and there is plenty of diving, but prices are higher than anywhere else in the Philippines.

It is also a good place from which to visit the Chocolate Hills and Bohol’s Tarsier, a primate that is an endengared species and endemic to these islands. There are several options to do the trip, but we chose to rent a scooter (450 p) for 24 hrs and stay overnight somewhere in Loboc, the closest town to the Chocolate hills.

chocolate hills
UNESCO's World Heritage Chocolate Hills

Alona beach is about 800 m long, with palm trees, white sand and turquoise water. It is one of those picture perfect beaches.

The ride to Loboc is about 1 hour from Alona, where accomodation is easy to find in Nuts Huts or Cottage Hills, both offering stunning views. We stayed at Cottage Hills because it wasn’t as secluded and getting to town was easier. We made friends with Jani, a Finnish solo traveller with whom we would hook up the following day to ride to the hills. The 2 motorbike convoy rode smoothly through spectacular scenery, spotting places that you usually only see in Nat Geo or Discovery Channel. The Hills are an interesting site, but I would say that riding the motorbike and stopping along the way to take pictures and chat with locals is the best part of it all.

field work in bohol
Field work

After visiting the Chocolate Hills we went to the Bohol Tarsier Sanctuary to see the Tarsier, an endangered primate with two species one of which can only be seen in Bohol. The sanctuary is relatively well funded (donations) and is one of a kind in the world, and the keepers make a big effort to preserve this sleepy little animal.  There are other places where you can see Tarsiers near Loboc, but these little creatures are very nervous by nature and stress out easily, many of them dying in the hands of the owners who do not care about them being endangered and only about the money they make when showing them to tourists- it is up to you to decide where you want to see it.

tarsier in bohol
Tarsier

The following day we expected to hop on a ferry on our way to Mindanao and eventually reach Cloud 9 in Siargao, but were surprised to learn that communication problems had us in the wrong side of the island at departure time. We made it to Jagna a day later where the ferry now departs from, and I rented a scooter again to get lost  somewhere in the mountains- a wonderful experience yet again, spotting  Kawasan falls but not being able to jump in the emerald colored water because it was getting dark and I had to make it back to town.  If you have to sleep here do so at Idea Pension House and Garden Cafe, a simple guesthouse run by deaf people who will go out of their way to make your stay as confortable as it can be.

I believe that choosing Alona beach versus Boracay was the best decision we could have made. We spent several days at the beach relaxing and enjoying the fine sand and weather and once we wanted to see something new we made our way to the Chocolate Hills and Tarsier Sanctuary. The motorcycle rides accross the island are superb, the area is safe and despite Alona not being the cheapest of beaches the  place  is very well worth visiting.  Will I be back some day?

Have you seen the Chocolate Hills? Were they brown when you were there?  How about Alona beach, did you make it there? It was fascinating to see the Tarsier as well, don’t you think? Please share this post if you liked it!


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  1. ¡Pero hombre, Fede! ¡Que el libro en la foto está al revés!

    Me alegra ir leyendo tus andanzas, mi duda es como logras documentarte sobre los sitios. Usas libros que compras por allí? Preguntas a los lugareños?

    Un fuerte abrazo,

    Diego

    1. Ja ja ja…por que sera que no me sorprende que tu te hayas dado cuenta de eso? Para hacer la foto hizo falta trabajo en equipo…y no me percate de ello!

      En cuanto a lo segundo, pues un poco de todo…libros y guias que tengo, cosas que me cuentan los de aqui, otras que pregunto…

      Otro para ti!

  2. Ooops…so you do have numerous entries about the Philippines. Sorry if I judged your site prematurely. 🙂

    Bohol is my favorite island here. It’s charming and has a bit of everything, except a big city.

    Btw, the Chocolate Hills were green when I was there. It was during the rainy season so vegetation was lush. It turns brown in the dry season.

    1. No worries. I also liked Bohol the most, and the chocolate hills were green as well. The scooter ride from the hills to Tagbilaran (not along the coast) is one of a kind…truely spectacular.

      Federico

  3. Great article. I visited Cebu a couple of years ago, but passed on Bohol. After reading this article I wished I would have checked out the Chocolate Hills and the tarsier. Next time.

  4. I agree with the tourism harming the Tarsiers more. I feel bad after visiting one tarsier place, they’re supposed to be sleep during the day but while visitors are taking pictures of them they can’t help but be wide eyed during the day.

    But over-all Bohol is a great place to be.

    1. Yup…this happens particularly in the illegal Tarsier farms, where they sometimes even die early because of stress.

      Federico

  5. hi,

    The Chocolate Hills are probably Bohol’s most famous tourist attraction. They look like giant mole hills, or as some say, women’s breasts, and remind us of the hills in a small child’s drawing. Most people who first see pictures of this landscape can hardly believe that these hills are not a man-made artifact.

    1. They are indeed an unusual scenery. Oddly enough we found something similar but on a smaller scale near Taranaki, in New Zealand’s North Island.

  6. This place looks ace, I’ve never been to the philippines & the more I read about it the more I want to go! I’d love to see the whole visayas including Bohol & beyond!

    1. The Philis are quite an adventure destination Slice, entertainment of all kinds wherever you go! And it is an affordable destination for westerners…

  7. Hi Im from bohol Phil. Bohol have plentty of tourist attractions, not only chocolate hills. I should say you must visit bohol. 😀

    1. I did make it to Bohol Phil! Read the post…from Alona Beach to the Hills, wathcing Tarsiers and then exploring the eastern part of the island too 🙂

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