In early January, as we were contemplating our next summer trip, our kids smartly suggested that we should live up to the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” theme. And so, we headed off to Bohol a couple of weeks back, booked a tour and were billeted at The Bellevue. The beach bums my family and I are not, the conveniences and luxury of Bellevue Bohol more than made up for the searing summer heat.
Bohol is serene luxury and relaxation for the seasoned traveler. Not the party place Boracay is known for, Bohol caters to the more mature and discriminating traveler.
Belle-vue is located on the tame, less crowded Doljo beach side of Panglao Island. The closest thing to the party scene the island gets to though is found on the other side in Alona Beach. Bustling with divers and beach enthusiasts, Alona Beach is a busy, commercialized coastline lined with hotels, restaurants and bars. Wherever you are though in Panglao, the coastline has fine white sand and magnificent waters.
Being local tourists, we were booked on a countryside tour on our second day. To the new-bie like us, the Chocolate Hills were remarkable indeed. Though you typically see photos of these on magazine covers, trust me, it’s simply not the same as when you see them! Humps and humps of limestone formations that cover a multitude of towns across the Bohol countryside were indeed an amazing sight.
The travel to the hills however, takes a bit of a drive but the coastal highway leading to this sight was surprisingly smooth and scenic with old churches and ancestral homes along the road. Another must-do adventure on the way to the Hills too are the zipline and cable car which my children were thrilled at trying out.
From the view deck of Chocolate Hills, we headed off to lunch on the Loboc River Cruise. A very touristy attraction, with local food served on board, the cruise is a relaxing voyage on the well-preserved river where canopies of green trees still rustle even in the faintest wind. After the cruise came the Tarsier Wildlife Conservation Park, where the tarsiers are housed under canopies of verdant trees. Just seeing how tiny, fragile and scarce the tarsiers are were well worth the trip to this park.
On the way home, we then had a planned walk-through of the Baclayon Church that left us all riveted by the image of Padre Pio embedded in the church’s buttress. Unplanned, we took time to drop by The Assumption Church too in Dauis where a healing well is found in the middle of the altar. Behind this church in Dauis, you’ll find a quaint café and a store selling the best of Bohol’s handicrafts. It is fortunate really that Bohol has preserved these centuries-old churches reminiscent of our colonial past.
One other development in Bohol though that was a wonderful find is the Botanical Gardens called Tarsier Botanica. With an elegant glass house overlooking the sea, it simply felt like being in a picture plucked out of a travelogue. In their menu were the most exquisite sweet desserts—with their own version of chocolate hills—caramelized choux pastry filled with oozing chocolate ganache inside. The botanical gardens also house stables and soon lodgings for the selective vacationer.
Flying in and out of Tagbi-laran’s small airport simply does not prepare you for the best that Bohol has to offer. But given its delightful culinary choices and captivating natural attractions, Bohol is a must-see island even for the most seasoned travelers.
For us, Bohol was a delightful discovery—an unexpected surprise with its quiet, rustic, green countryside and captivating beaches that the Philippines will always be known for best.