Travel Guide to Cebu and Bohol
Due to the proximity of these two island provinces and their accessibility to each other (only 2 hours by fastcraft), it is wise to visit the two as one joint trip. Cebu City, being the oldest city in the Philippines, has attractions that focus more on religious and historical sites. Although it has a number of non-religious sites, this time we will visit only the ones located in the city. Bohol, on the otherhand, is an all-time favorite of vacationers because it offers a wide range of sights for everyone.
Since you do not have most of the day to explore Cebu, it is best to choose your destination. The following spots are the most popular day destinations in the metro and just enough for you to catch your ferry schedule bound for Bohol. They are accessible by public transportation too. Just ask around. The locals are very helpful, so do not be shy. Tip: before heading out to the city, buy your ferry tickets first (Supercat, Php 535/one way).
1st stop: Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
Say a little prayer before you start your tour. With the Basilica just nearby, the Cathedral has fewer churchgoers in comparison. Hence, a little more solemn. Entrance Fee: free
2nd stop: Basilica Minore del Santo Niño
The Basilica is the oldest church in the country and is the home of the miraculous image of Santo Niño. Whether you are on a spiritual pilgrimage or has just found yourself in the city, a visit to the Basilica del Santo Niño is a must. Entrance Fee: free
3rd stop: Magellan’s Cross
Inside the chapel just outside the Basilica and in front of the old city hall of Cebu City, is Magellan’s Cross. The site is said to be the place where the Christian cross, symbolizing conversion to Christianity of Rajah Humabon, his wife, and some 500 more Filipinos, was planted by Portuguese and Spanish Explorers in 1521. Entrance Fee: free
4th stop: Taoist Temple
Fifteen percent of Cebuanos are chinese. As a result, a temple built inside the affluent suburb – Beverly Hills. If you are commuting, aside from the taxi, habal habal drivers (Php 100/one way) are available to take you up this hilly side of the city. Entrance fee: free
After the temple visit, there is still time for a tour of downtown Cebu. Ride a jeepney alongside the locals for a very authentic tour. Do not forget to check-in 45 minutes prior to your scheduled Tagbilaran ferry trip.
Upon arrival in Tagbilaran City, head to Island City Mall for some souvenir shopping. They say peanut kisses are the cheapest there (Php115/16 pieces). Walk around downtown Tagbilaran and head to Bohol Tropics Resort just in time for the sunset. Entrance Fee: free
It really doesn’t matter where you stay for the night before your countryside tour because Tagbilaran City is only 20 minutes away from Panglao. The local government should really do something about the incredulous taxi rate in the province. It can cost you an additional Php 400 for a one way taxi ride unless you insist that your driver include pick/up and drop off from/to the airport/resort.
Brace yourself for a Bohol countryside scenery overload. There are a number of vehicles for rent (with driver) upon your arrival at the Tagbilaran Air/Sea Port. This is the best time to make reservations as you will be bidding for the right price among a number of operators. Read: cheaper compared to getting the package tours. Rentals range from Php 2500 to 3500, depending on your haggling skills.
1st stop: Hinagdanan Cave
There are over a thousand caves in Bohol, but this is the most frequented by tourists. Inside you will find a cavern of about 100 meters long. Natural ceiling holes create a beautiful and eerie look to to the stalactites, stalagmites, and lagoon. Entrance Fee: Php 20
2nd stop: Baclayon Church
You have seen the oldest church in the country, why not visit the second oldest too. Visitors wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts are not allowed to enter the church, so bring a coverup such as a shawl or a sarong. While picture taking inside the church is allowed, it is prohibited inside the museum. Entrance Fee: free (museum, Php 25)
3rd stop: Blood Compact Site
The earliest contact of the island with Spain occured on this spot in 1565. To seal the peace pact between Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, a Spanish explorer looking for spices, and Datu Sikatuna, they made a blood compact. The monument was constructed to memorialize the said historical event. Entrance Fee: free
4th stop: Loboc Church
You will pas by the church on your way to the Chocolate Hills Complex in Carmen and it is just within the proximity of the Loboc River Ferry Complex, so why not drop by or at least appreciate its facade. Entrance Fee: free
5th stop: Loboc River
To avoid the overrated fee (Php 415) in exchange for a not so spectacular buffet lunch on board the Loboc River Ferry, you may just opt to eat at one of the local eateries along the river across the Loboc Plaza and view the river from where you are seated or at the bridge near the Loboc River Complex.
6th stop: Visit Tarsier (Loboc)
View the shy nocturnal animal at the Loboc Tarsier Sanctuary up close and observe how their head rotate up to 180 degrees. Entrance Fee: donation
7th stop: Man-Made Forest
Located along the borders of Loboc and Bilar, the man-made forest spans 2 kilometers. The dense rainforest that line the winding road provide an interesting backdrop for a fun jump shot. Entrance Fee: free
8th stop: Carmen Chocolate Hills
There’s really nothing better to do on top of a hill than to enjoy the fresh breeze on your face. There are over a thousand hills spread over an area of more than 50 square kilometers. The hills turn to brown during the dry season, hence the name. Be prepared for a short hike up one of the hill. Entrance Fee: Php 50
9th stop: Sagbayan Peak
If you still can’t get enough of the chocolate hills, head out further to Sagbayan Peak. For those interested, there is a butterfly sanctuary inside the complex. Entrance Fee: Php 30 (butterfly sanctuary, additional Php 20)
10th stop: Visit tarsier (Sagbayan Peak)
Normally, visitors are not allowed to touch these gentle creatures. Not in this sanctuary. The caretakers allow the tarsier to jump on your arms or shoulder. I guess there’s a difference between humans touching the animal and the animal touching humans. Entrance Fee: part of the Sagbayan Peak entrance fee
11th stop: Cortes Hanging Bridge
Take a break. Get off your tourist van and walk the suspension bridge. A river cruise on the Abatan river lined with nipa without the commercialized feel (read: exhorbitant fee for an ordinary meal by the river) would have been nice. However, there is no regular river cruise yet. So just content yourself with a walk down the bridge for now. Entrance Fee: free
12th stop: Balilihan Belfry
Situated on top of the Mt. Carmel Hill, right in the center of the town, the Balilihan Belfry used to be the bell tower of a church that was burnt during the war. Entrance Fee: free
13th stop: Balilihan Church
The town and Parish of Balilihan was originally a part of Baclayon to make room for Dagohoy’s followers. Entrance Fee: free
Since you will be going on a dolphin watching tour early the next day, it is adviseable to stay the night in Panglao, whether it be in Bolod or Alona Beach. You should be on your way around 530 in the morning in time for the feeding of the dolphins.
Start the day early and get ready for some island fun! Play chase with dolphins, run the stretch of Virgin Island, and swim with marine creatures at the Balicasag Marine Sanctuary. Balicasag settlers who were once whale/dolphin hunters, now serve as dolphin spotters/boatmen to tourists. Dolphin watching/island hopping tours range from Php 1300-1400.
1st stop: dolphin watching off the waters of Balicasag Island
As if enjoying the attention, the dolphins play chase and sometimes do synchronized leaps above the water surface for all to see.
2nd stop: Balicasag Island
Swim with colorful marine creatures at the Balicasag Marine Sanctuary. You may content yourself with just snorkelling or you may free-dive towards the deep but beautiful abyss of a steep coral wall. Because big boats are not allowed near the marine sancturay, boatmen with smaller boats are available to take visitors to the sanctuary for Php150 per person. Normally, snorkelling gears are not included in the island hopping tour rate, so prepare an additional Php 100/gear just in case.
3rd stop: Virgin Island
The sand bar is interestingly shaped like a crescent and can stretch to 1 kilometer. During high tide, shallow water partly cover the sand and create a wonderful scenery. Get a taste of a sea urchin for only Php10-20 a piece.
4th stop: Bolod Beach
One advantage of staying at Bolod Beach is that you get to take a stroll/swim/hang out by the beaches of Bohol Beach Club for free. With one and a half kilometer stretch of white sand and shallow water to boot, it is ideal for beachcombers and families alike. Entrance Fee: free (Bohol Beach Club, Php 300 )
5th stop: Dauis Church
You started your tour with a little prayer in Cebu, end it with another one in Dauis. This unassuming church that sits a few meters from the sea has a well at the foot of its altar. The water from the well is believed to be miraculous because despite its location, the water is fresh. You may even bring home a bottled one for free, but a donation is definitely appreciated. Entrance Fee: free
You may choose to replicate our jam-packed itinerary or take it slow. After all, what’s a vacation without the relaxed feeling. But then again, to each his own.
Accommodation in Panglao
Dumaluan Beach Resort II (Php 1000/fan room – good for 3 pax), read review here.
Bolod, Panglao, Bohol, Philippines
Kuya Doro (Php 1300 – include dolphin watching & island hopping tour)
*** Please excuse the picture overload on this post. Click here for our itinerary.