Panglao is a municipality and the southernmost part of the province of Bohol. It is rumored that the Spanish named the island after the Filipino word "mapanglaw," which means a "lonesome place." Like much of Bohol, Panglao is known for its nice, white sand beaches and dive sites. It exudes a nice blend of natural beauty and calm tropical charm that sun seekers crave for.
Alona Beach tops the itineraries of tourists who come to Panglao. This short stretch of white sand and translucent waters is the best place in town to just kick back and relax. Like all the beach destinations in the country, Alona Beach has a bevy of exciting outdoor activities like swimming, boating, snorkeling, and island hopping. Partygoers will have a variety of options from the resorts, bars, and restaurants that line the shores.
The islands near Panglao has an impressive marine life that has made diving one of its biggest draws. Balicasag Island is among the most visited dive sites around Panglao. Divers will have a great time exploring this marine sanctuary. Some of the underwater creatures that can be seen here are sea turtles, eels, schools of barracuda, clownfish, frogfish, as well as colorful coral gardens.
Another island to explore near Panglao is Pamilacan Island. This remote island is a hidden wonder in the Bohol Sea. While the pristine shores of Pamilacan Island make swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling some of its best activities, its biggest attraction is dolphin-watching tour. While exploring the seas for these magnificent creatures, tourists also get a chance to see some huge whales.
Panglao is located southwest of Bohol, just a few kilometers off the main island. You first need to land at Tagbilaran City before you can travel to the island.
From Manila, there are daily flights to Tagbilaran via local airlines such as Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and Air Asia. Travel time usually lasts about 80 minutes. All flights are served by the Tagbilaran Airport, located in the heart of the city.
Once you have arrived in Tagbilaran City, you have numerous options to get to Panglao. You ride a taxi, tricycle, habal-habal, jeep, or bus. Travel time is approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
Traveling by sea to Tagbilaran City from Manila is also another option, but travel time is about 29 hours. But if you’re coming from nearby provinces like Cebu and Dumaguete, the ferry ride is only about two hours.
Upon arrival in Tagbilaran City, you can take a taxi, tricycle, habal-habal, jeep, or bus to Panglao.
How to Get Around
Once you are in Panglao, you can hop from one place to the other via habal-habal or tricycle. You can also hire a car or van to take you on a tour around the island. Renting a motorcycle for the day is also another option, giving you more freedom to explore the sights and attractions on the island.
What to See
The Panglao Watchtower is one of the more prominent landmarks on the island as it towers over the structures around town. This octagonal stone structure stands five stories above ground and is believed to have been built in 1851 during the Spanish colonial period. The watchtower has seen better days due to neglect throughout the years. It also suffered damages from the disastrous earthquake that struck the region in 2013. Nonetheless, the watchtower is still a sight to behold and a reminder of the historic past of Panglao.
The St. Augustine Church, also known as the Panglao Church, is also a landmark that holds historic and religious significance on the island. The present church was constructed in 1894 but it wasn’t fully completed until 1924. This sacred structure features neoclassical architecture and interiors adorned with antiques and artworks. When you step inside the church, its ceiling murals that depict the seven sacraments will surely take your breath away. Fortunately, the church didn’t suffer any damages during the 2013 earthquake.
The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption found in Dauis is also another sight to behold. The church features a basilica-like architecture with influences from Byzantine and Romanesque designs. The interior of the church is also impressive, where frescoes line the ceiling and the altar features striking woodwork.
When visiting Panglao Island, Alona Beach should be on top of your itinerary. This world-class beach boasts white sands and clean blue waters that are perfect for swimming, diving, snorkeling, or just plain beach bumming. It spans 1.5 kilometers that you can walk from one end to the other in just 15 minutes. Because of its popularity among tourists, the shores are lined with many hotels, restaurants, and bars that make for a fun and entertaining stay on the island. 100 meters away from the coast of Alona Beach, scuba divers are guaranteed to have a grand time feasting their eyes on the beauty of the house reef.
If you prefer to stay in quieter and less crowded shores, you can head to Danao Beach or Dumaluan Beach. Both beaches have less tourists, so you can enjoy the tranquility and serenity of the area. Meanwhile, Momo Beach is equally charming, with a stunning beachscape and shallow waters, while Doljo Beach is known for its abundance of beautiful sea shells.
Aside from its lovely shores, there is also a mystical cave found in Panglao called the Hinagdanan Cave. It is one of the many caves throughout the province of Bohol, also known as “Cave Country.” The cave is filled with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites all over the interiors. There is also an underground lake, though swimming is discouraged because of natural pollutants present in the water. The cave was named “Hinagdanan” because of the series of steps or hagdan at the entrance.
The Nova Shell Museum is an attraction you shouldn’t miss, especially if you are fond of sea shells in all sorts of shapes, colors, and sizes. All the shells found in the museum are collected by its owner, Mr. Quirino Hora, who has an extensive 30-year career in sea exploration under his belt.
There is also the Tarsier Botanika, a highly recommended place for nature lovers. This fairly new attraction in the heart of a 10-hectare mixed-use property has a lot of features in store for its visitors. Onsite is a botanical garden and a small zoo-like facility which serve as sanctuaries for horses and tarsiers. Tariser Botanika also houses a resort hotel, a spa, and a restaurant.
Dolphin watching is also possible when in Panglao. You can rent a boat in the wee hours of the morning that will take you to the middle of the sea where you can watch dolphins as they go out for an early morning swim. These magnificent creatures can be very elusive, so you have to be alert as a dolphin sighting can happen very quickly.
Events and Festivals
Every August, the island of Panglao becomes a vibrant spot in the province of Bohol with colorful streamers and fun-filled activities for its week-long celebration of the annual Hudyaka sa Panglao. A total of 10 villages from all over the island compete in a dance competition that showcases the history, culture, and tradition of the Boholanos, especially the natives of the island.
Where to Eat
When it comes to dining in Panglao, Buzz Café at the Bohol Bee Farm definitely tops the list. They have an array of mouthwatering dishes that are not only tasty but organic as well, so you can eat to your heart’s desires. Make sure to try their cassava lasagna or their organic roasted chicken. End you meal with their famed salted honey ice cream too!
If you’re in the mood for some Italian fares, head over to Giuseppe’s Pizzeria and Sicilian Roast. You can try their porcini e pancetta pizza or their Pizza Gregorio—thin crust pizza topped with tomato, mozzarella cheese, sausage, salami, smoked ham, and Parma ham. You can also try their angel hair pasta with mushroom and truffle sauce or their ravioli spinaci e ricotta.
For those who love French cuisine, there is L’Elephant Bleu, which serves garlic prawns, escargot, and crème brulée. If you’re into schnitzels, sausages, and other German favorites, then CU Biergarten is the place for you. But for some homey and beloved Filipino dishes, you will enjoy the offerings at Trudi’s Place, which are all affordable as well.
Lastly, to complete your beach experience, you shouldn’t miss pigging out on fresh seafood. Oceanic Seafood Restaurant features an impressive menu of their different recipes for prawns, crabs, shellfish, and several kinds of fish, all fresh from the ocean.
Bars and Clubs
Much like the popular beach destinations in the Philippines, Alona Beach has a vibrant nightlife as seen in the bars fringing its shores. Panglao Birdwatchers is perfect for happy hour and is a good spot to enjoy some beachfront entertainment. There is also Coco Vida Bar, which is frequented by both local and international tourists. For some good music and different kinds of beverages, you can check out T2 Lounge and Aimz Bar.
For those who just want to sit at the bar and enjoy a drink or two with some soft music, you can visit The Wine Cellar. It has a fine selection of liquors and wines all the way from Germany and Austria.
Fare: PHP 3,500.00++
A roundtrip flight from Manila to Tagbilaran City costs as low as PHP 3,500.00. Remember that that the price depends on the season and even airline promos. Be on the lookout for great deals when booking.
If you’re traveling by sea, the fare ranges from PHP 200.00 to as much as PHP 700.00 for a one way trip, depending on the point of origin.
Once in Tagbilaran, jeeps or buses to Panglao charge about PHP 25.00 to PHP 30.00 per person. Motorcycles, on the other hand, usually charge PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00. If you wish to rent a motorbike in Panglao, it will set you back about PHP 500.00 a day.
Food: PHP 200.00 to PHP 800.00
A budget of PHP 200.00 per meal would be already enough for most restaurants. For the more upscale establishments, expect to shell out PHP 500.00 to PHP 800.00 per meal.
Shopping: PHP 20.00 to PHP 300.00
Popular souvenirs like key chains, ref magnets, and pens are available for about PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 per piece. Souvenir shirts cost somewhere between PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00, depending on the design and material.
Accommodations: PHP 800.00 to PHP 6,000.00
Basic hotels can go for as low as PHP 800.00, perfect for backpackers and budget travelers. Meanwhile, an overnight stay in a hotel room in Alona can cost about PHP 2,000.00 to as much as PHP 6,000.00.
Activities: PHP 150.00 to PHP 3,000.00++
Price varies for every activity. Museum entrances are priced at PHP 50.00 on average, while snorkeling costs roughly PHP 150.00 to PHP 200.00. For diving the estimated price is PHP 2,500.00 per person.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00++
When dining at restaurants, tipping is no longer necessary since a service charge is already added to your bill. You can still choose to leave a tip if you wish; around PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 should be enough.