A Panglao Island Beach Vacation
Alona Beach on Panglao Island offers beach resorts that make a good base for exploring the rest of Bohol.
Bohol is a good place for an all-around vacation--it has natural, ecological, cultural, and historical attractions, all easily accessible from its major accommodation centers. Even if you choose to spend most of your time relaxing on the beach in Panglao (Bohol's most popular island destination), you can still see the rest of what Bohol has to offer just by taking a quick day off to tour the popular sights, as Kam Cudia's stay in Alona Beach on Panglao shows.
Resort Living at Lost Horizon in Alona Beach
A relaxing vacation was what my cousins and I had in mind when we planned a four day, three night trip to Panglao. Panglao Island is located off the southwestern shores of Bohol and is accessible overland from the main island. It's a well-populated area, with numerous resorts and hotels, restaurants, and dive shops clustered in different areas around its coast.
We stayed at the Lost Horizon resort on Alona Beach at the southern tip of the island. It was a short 30 minute ride from the Tagbilaran Airport (we arranged for a van transfer through the hotel; P500). The resort itself was conveniently located along the beachfront but within walking distance of a BPI bank and a small grocery.
We got a Modern Standard room (P2,895 with a P400 charge for additional persons). We found both the resort and our room very cozy and homey. In particular, their make up room service was excellent--they quickly and consistently replenished our complimentary water, coffee, and bathroom supplies. We had a small refrigerator and thermos in our room. The resort also has good facilities and clean bathrooms with a good supply of hot and cold water. Our room had no telephone, but we had free Wi-Fi access anyway, for both the public and private areas.
We had access to the hotel pool and the beach, so we enjoyed a lot of swimming, though during our stay it often rained in the late morning, just before noon. Despite the weather, we found lots of other things to do to keep us busy. Panglao is a good place to go diving, and there are many dive shops that can arrange trips. Other activities include dolphin watching around Pamilacan Island.
We spent a lot of time at the resort, so most of our meals were taken at the resort restaurant or along the beach at the seafood grills set up by the different establishments. Most places were closed by 10PM though--we had to eat early so we wouldn't miss any meals. We also tried breakfast at the STK Food Haus. STK is a popular dining concept in Bohol and Cebu--it means Sugba, Tula, and Kilaw, which are different ways of cooking food (over a grill, in soup, and in vinegar).
Though we spent most of our trip at the resort and on the beach, we made it a point to set aside one day for a city tour. We took a car (arranged with the help of our resort; P3,000 for the car, split among 4 passengers) for the entire day's Bohol tour. Our driver doubled as our guide. Our first destination was the famous and magical Chocolate Hills located in Carmen. From the hotel it took us 1 hour and 10 minutes to get there, over zigzag roads that can make you really dizzy! (I suggest taking motion sickness medicine before setting off, or having some menthol candy on hand.) We went up 214 steps to a viewing area with a 360 degree view of the 1,280 hills that make up this amazing cluster. There was an entrance fee of P50 for adults and P10 for kids.
After taking pictures and enjoying the atmosphere at the hills, we went to the Butterfly Conservation Garden (P30 entrance fee) We interacted with the butterflies (particularly the Mariposa), tried Madame Butterflies homemade ice cream (P40), and browsed through the offerings at their souvenir shop.
On the way to Loboc, we stopped at the majestic man-made Mahogany forest in the town of Bilar. I really appreciated this project of the Boholanos which lets us see these humongous trees--a pleasing and refreshing site for city-based tourists. For P10, you can also walk over to a neighboring island by crossing the kawayan Hanging Bridge.
From there, we headed to the Loboc River to experience the famous river cruise. The entrance fee of P400 (adults) and P250 (for kids), includes lunch buffet and singing entertainment at the floating restaurant. The cruise had a number of stops: at some, we were serenaded by Boholanos, at another, we passed a small waterfall, and at another we went to the Rio Verde Tarsier Place by the side of the river, which had a small tarsier exhibit. These cute animals, with their long tails and big eyes, are known to be the smallest monkeys in the world. It was amazing to see these creatures, and I felt blessed to have the chance to interact with them.
We also visited the Baclayon Church, where we lit candles and offered our petitions. Then we went to both the old and the new locations commemorating the historic blood compact, the first treaty of friendship between the Filipinos and the Spaniards.
Our last stop was at the Aproniana Gift Shop, where we grabbed some souvenir items and pasalubong. Here, I got some mouth-watering calamay, peanut kisses, lengua, and tableya de Bohol.
The full Bohol experience
Our stay gave us just enough time to experience both the relaxing beaches of Bohol and see its historic and natural wonders. Whatever your main purpose is when you visit, make sure you take the time to see the different attractions of this popular island destination.