Islands off the Radar – The Intrepid Traveler’s Guide to Bohol

Chocolate Hills, Bohol
For most visitors, Bohol means tropical beach life without the bustle; there are dozens of picture perfect beaches fringed by swaying palms and not a garish neon sign to be seen

Just a short hop from the hectic sunshine isle of Cebu, Bohol receives a steady stream of day trippers enamored by its old world charm and dramatic scenery. Think of Bohol and the cuddly critter known as the Tarsier is a big draw, along with the mysterious natural phenomenon of the Chocolate Hills. This is an island of dramatic extremes that deserves your undivided attention rather than a fleeting visit. As far as idyllic tropical islands go, it ticks all the right boxes. There are dazzling white sand beaches to rival Boracay which are fortunately far less crowded, the interior offers a wow factor of lush forests of mahogany and deep river gorges and for the inquisitive history buff, fabulous Spanish colonial heritage – among the most extensive in the Philippines.

For most visitors, Bohol means tropical beach life without the bustle; there are dozens of picture perfect beaches fringed by swaying palms and not a garish neon sign to be seen. Many visitors come to Bohol to take the plunge at offshore Panglao Island, famed for its pristine coral reefs or head further out in search of dolphins and whales. There are rich cultural rewards to be had when venturing off the beaten path – a Loboc River cruise will give an intimate peek of a fast disappearing way of life as tourism becomes the dominant force. This is most certainly not a decadent party place but the heady fiesta season brings its own special brand of making merry and of course, taking center stage is nationally renowned Boholano food. Don’t miss out on tasty bites such as oysters, clams, sweet and tasty broas the ubiquitous ‘chocolate kisses’.

Best for Eco-Adventure

For those who crave adrenaline-fuelled thrills and spills, Bohol fits the bill perfectly. At EAT Danao, you can get your kicks in the water, underground or flying through the air. This is an eco-adventure park using nature’s greatest gifts to offer high speed zip rides, canyon swings, offroading, kayaking, caving and rock climbing all in one place. Yet this isn’t just about mindless rough and tumble; there is a fascinating organic farm and inspiring tropical scenery – from emerald green rice paddies to dramatic river gorges.

EAT Danao Magtangtang, Danao, Bohol Tel: +63 38 4122338

Best bites in Bohol

There is a real buzz on Panglao Island, particularly if you are craving some gourmet Boholano goodies. Bohol Bee Farm showcases its famously sweet and sticky organic honey along with camote pies, home-made ice cream and other deli delights. You can learn the art of bee-keeping and organic farming or simply laze away the day on the picture postcard tropical beach. The perfect honeymoon retreat in every sense.

Bohol Bee Farm Dao, Dauis, Panglao Island, Bohol Tel: + 63 38 5022288

Best for Luxury

If you crave a little luxury escapism, Eskaya Resort is pretty much paradise found. This intimate rustic hideaway boasts 15 individually-styled thatched villas exuding indigenous charm and lavish colonial-style décor and the infinity pool is a real show-stopper, perfectly framed by the island’s most eye catching beach. A boutique spa and fine dining under the stars completes the indulgent experience.

Eskaya Resort Tawala, Panglao Island, Bohol Tel: +63 38 502 9516 Villas from US $500 a night

Photos: Eskaya Resort
A Walk on the Wild Side

The symbol of Bohol is the adorable tarsier, the world’s smallest primate, featuring trademark huge bug eyes and E.T.-like hands and feet. This is a bizarre looking creature that is both nocturnal and extremely reclusive, but that curiosity can be satisfied at the Bohol Tarsier Center. Definitely a good bet for equally wide-eyed youngsters, you get a close encounter with this magical little ‘monkey’ on the ‘Tarsier Trail’ in an area of spectacular rainforest scenery.

Philippines Tarsier Foundation Canapnapan, Corella, Bohol Tel: +63 9275412290

Best for Natural scenery

When the sun shines, the glistening Chocolate Hills definitely look good enough to eat. Numbering over 1,200 chocolate covered mounds that look like they were carved from Willy Wonka’s own hands, it is a mysterious, symmetrical natural phenomenon spread out over a vast open plain. The views are incredibly photogenic and this is a captivating spot for al fresco lunch (bring your own confectionary) or a day of undemanding hiking in the hills.

Carmen, Bohol