manila to boracay

Manila To Boracay - How To Get There & How To Plan Your Holiday!

Manila To Boracay – How To Get There & How To Plan Your Holiday!

Planning a holiday to the beautiful white sands of Boracay island but confused by the many plane, boat and shuttle bus options? You’ve come to the right place! Here you’ll find everything you need to know about how to get from Manila to Boracay, where to stay and what to do on Boracay island!

manila to boracay

manila to boracay

How To Get From Manila To Boracay

You may not realise it, but Boracay island doesn’t have its own airport. So the first step to getting there is to book a flight to its closest neighbouring island of Panay, where there are two main airport options. The closest of which is Caticlan Airport, otherwise known as Boracay Airport or Godofredo P. Ramos Airport.

From this airport, it’s only a short 10 minute land transfer to Caticlan jetty port, where there are speedboats and local outrigger boats to ferry you to Boracay. The boat journey takes approximately 15 minutes. Currently, the main airline options to Caticlan Airport are Cebu Pacific (otherwise known as ‘Cebgo’) or Philippine Airlines, both of which run various daily services.

manila to boracay

manila to boracay

The other main airport option is Kalibo, an approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes bus ride from Caticlan jetty port. Flights to here are usually cheaper, however you must factor in the cost of the transfer. In addition to Cebu Pacific and Philippines Airlines, Air Asia also provide daily flights to Kalibo.

As it’s much quicker and easier, we recommend flying to Caticlan Airport and transferring to Boracay Island from there. However to make the whole process even simpler, we also recommend booking a ‘door to door’ transfer service for when you arrive. This will make the process of getting from the airport to your accommodation so much simpler and less stressful!

As we booked our flights with Cebu Pacific, we were given the option to add a transfer service at a reasonable price which was great! The service was provided by Southwest Tours and we’d recommend them. If you don’t book with Cebu Pacific, then you can also book directly with them via their website.

manila to boracay

manila to boracay

What To Expect?

Firstly, our flight from Manila to Caticlan with Cebu Pacific was smooth and with no issues, unlike our planned return! Unfortunately our return flight was cancelled (due to plane scheduling issues) so we had to book a different flight with Philippines Airlines to ensure we arrived back to Manila in time. We’ve heard that it’s common for flights to be delayed or rescheduled to Boracay so we’d recommend allowing plenty of time for any onward flight connections!

Our boat and shuttle bus roundtrip transfers with Southwest Tours made both journeys so much easier. For the short boat crossing, they use a mixture of speedboats and more traditional local style boats known as outriggers, which we got to experience en route to the island. It was rustic but a great and authentic experience.

Where To Stay On Boracay?

Unless you plan on staying at one of the bigger resorts on Boracay, you have three main areas to choose from along Boracay’s famous ‘White Beach’. These are known as stations 1, 2 and 3.

We chose to stay at the south end of White Beach near to station 3. This was by far the quietest area but still had plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants to choose from. Station 2 is probably the liveliest area of the island, much more developed with an outdoor mall and lots of cafe, bar and restaurant choices. We didn’t spend much time at station 2 as we preferred the quieter and more rustic authenticity of station 3, but if you want to be near the ‘D’mall’, then this would be the place to stay. Station 1 was more mixed, but generally quieter than station 2. Station 1 would be our second choice behind our first choice of Station 3.

manila to boracay
Quiet Station 3, White Beach, Boracay Island

One advantage of staying near station 3 is that there are more budget accommodation options, particularly during the more expensive high season (October to May). So make sure to book your accommodation in advance!

Top Things To Do On Boracay!

manila to boracay

manila to boracay

If relaxing under a palm tree isn’t enough for you, there’s plenty of activities to keep you occupied on and around the island…here’s a list of the most popular:

  • Island Hopping
  • Stand Up Paddle Boarding
  • Parasailing
  • Kayaking
  • Snorkelling
  • Massage
  • Diving
  • Boat Trips

So that’s it! A quick round up of how to get to sunny Boracay including where to stay and what to do on the island. For more general information on how we planned our trip to the Philippines and details on ALL of the amazing places we visited (especially our wonderful El Nido Tours), check out our article Where To Go In The Philippines: Our Top 4 Destinations & Tips!

Get Your Trip Organised!

Book Your Flight/Train/Bus/Ferry Tickets Online!

We always recommend that you book your journey in advance, so you have peace of mind that your seats are booked! We recommend using 12go.asia as they offer flight, train, bus and ferry ticket booking online in advance! Check out your journey options and prices here and get your seat reserved!

Powered by 12Go Asia system

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you choose to book somewhere though our link, we receive a small commission. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything more, and most importantly, we only recommend companies that we use ourselves so you can trust our recommendations!

manila to boracay

Looking for more Philippines Inspiration? Click here.


where to go in the philippines

Where To Go In The Philippines: Our Top 4 Destinations & Tips!

As you know we’ve planned more than a few travel adventures over the last few years! So you would think that we’ve got our travel planning strategy nailed by now? Well we thought so, until it came to the Philippines…

It’s probably something to do with the 7,000 or so islands (!), but when it came to planning our first Philippines adventure, it proved to be much more challenging than expected.

We’d been inspired by an array of idyllic Instagram photos showing off its stunning crystal clear snorkelling waters, pristine beaches and dramatic island sunsets, but other than those, we didn’t really have much clue about where to go, when to go or how to travel around. All we knew was that we couldn’t wait to explore a new Asian country, so the planning began…

Planning Our Trip To The Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where To Start

We started in all of the usual places by ordering a Lonely Planet guide, consulting our trusty friend Trip Advisor, and of course various blogs and forums. As always, we checked our favourite Asian accommodation booking site too – Agoda.com to figure out a rough budget.

The result? An even longer ‘must visit’ list…argh!

When it comes to visiting a new country, the Lonely Planet guide is usually our initial ‘go to’ resource to get a broad overview of a place. We especially like the ‘Top Destinations’ and history and culture overviews, however when it came to deciding on where to go in the Philippines, we were left struggling to decide, especially on a sensible route. That’s where the book let us down.

“Thank goodness for blogs!” I remember blurting out one day when I finally got the information I was looking for and figured out a plan!

Of course we didn’t expect to have time to cover ALL of the ‘best’ places in our roughly 3-4 weeks. One thing we’ve learned over the years from our travels is not to rush around trying to fit everything in. We’d much rather fully enjoy a few places and experiences, than fleet from one place to another without having a chance to fully explore. And of course, some time to relax too!

Where to go in the Philippines
Chilling in El Nido, Palawan

When To Visit

It’s important to take into consideration time, budget and seasonality when it comes to planning a trip to the Philippines, as the ‘best’ time to visit can vary significantly from place to place. Especially given the country’s vast geography!

Thankfully we planned our adventure for the months of December and January, which is typically a good time to visit as it’s mostly dry and not too hot. If you plan to visit during the wet season (typically from May to October), then it’s recommended to allow extra travel time in case your journeys are disrupted by typhoons. As you’ll rely on air and boat travel to get around, it’s probably wise to avoid low season where possible.

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

How To Decide Where To Go

When it comes to the Philippines, there’s no obvious route or well-trodden backpacker path, like with say Vietnam or Cambodia, which is why it’s so tricky to decide. So instead we decided to focus on the places and more importantly, experiences that excited us the most.

Whether you’re passionate about hiking volcanoes, trekking through rice terraces, discovering local marine life, or simply kicking back under a palm tree with a fresh coconut (mm!), you’re spoiled for choice in the Philippines. Being a lover of lists, I decided to write down all of the places that excited us then work through each one to determine:

  • Is it the right time of year to visit?

  • Is it a unique natural wonder?

  • Is it more or less exciting than the previous place/experience?

  • Can it be worked into a sensible route?

Three and a half weeks sounds like a lot of time, but once you factor in travel time, it’s really not that long. You could literally spend months touring the country’s thousands of islands!

With an initial list of around 12 different places and experiences, it was a hard job whittling it down to my target of 3 or 4, but it had to be done! So here’s what we decided upon, including our route and timings…we hope it helps!

Where To Go In The Philippines: Our Top 4 Destinations!

Our route and itinerary may not be exactly for you, but we had a wonderful time and would highly recommend everywhere that we visited!

So in order of highlights, here’s our final destination list:

1 – El Nido, Palawan Island

El Nido is probably one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines, and for good reason. From beautiful white sand beaches and secret clear water lagoons, to stunning cliff-backed islands and spectacular sunsets, it’s a truly magical place. We spent a full week exploring and could have easily lingered longer. For a full account of our El Nido experience, including details of our favourite El Nido Tours, head over to our full article ‘Island Hopping In Paradise: Our Favourite El Nido Tours’.

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

2 – Bohol Island (Western Visayas)

It’s most famous for its unique ‘Chocolate Hills’ and small primates (namely the very cute ‘Tarsier’), but we discovered that Bohol island has a lot more to offer, especially around its beautiful Loboc River. We spent 4 days here with a mix of touring the island’s main sights and relaxing by the Loboc River, which was a great combination. We especially loved our first experience of stand up paddle boarding! For a full account, head over to our article ‘Top Things To Do In Bohol, The Philippines’.

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

We hit the jackpot with our accommodation choice in Bohol! Most of the photos above are from our time at the Loboc River Resort, so if you’re heading to Bohol, we’d recommend checking if its available on your dates on our favourite accommodation website, and get it booked as its very popular!

3 – Boracay Island (Eastern Visayas)

You can’t visit the Philippines without visiting one of its famous white sandy beaches, and although it’s cliche, we decided to see what the fuss was about at Boracay’s famous ‘White Beach’. We were wary about its booming tourism and busy ‘stations 1 & 2’, so we decided to stay near to ‘station 3’ hoping for a more quiet and relaxing time, which thankfully it delivered! You can easily fill your time with some of the various water sports, sailing or island hopping but after a busy time touring and hiking, relaxation was the name of the game for us. So that’s what we did.

For more information on how to get to Boracay, including tips on where to stay & what to do, visit our article ‘Manila To Boracay – How To Get There & How To Plan Your Holiday!’

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

There are so many great places to stay on Boracay, the island has a huge range of accommodation from budget to high end luxury! Check what’s available on your dates through agoda.com, its the site we use to book accommodation all over the world!

4 – Mount Pinatubo (South Luzon)

Our day hike to Mount Pinatubo was most definitely one of our most memorable experiences in the Philippines. Not only was the scenery unique and spectacular, it was a great adventure! Starting off with a bumpy jeep ride through amazing lunar like landscape, followed by a fairly easy but rewarding hike to the stunning crater of Mount Pinatubo. It was well worth the trip! For our full account and lots more photos, head over to ‘A Spectacular Mt Pinatubo Tour, Philippines’.

Note: It’s possible to do Mount Pinatubo as a day tour from Manila, however we’d highly recommend dedicating at least a couple of days to it. Depending on Manila traffic (which can be horrendous speaking from experience!), the travel time to get there can be quite long and tiring. So to fully enjoy this day hike, we recommend staying at Alvin’s Homestay in the nearby town of Santa Juliana before embarking on one of his brilliant day tours.

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

Where to go in the Philippines

With more time we would’ve loved to visit the famous Banaue Rice Terraces in North Luzon as they look spectacular!

Our Philippines Route

Here’s a summary of our chosen route and how we got around:

  • Manila -> Mount Pinatubo (via private car)
  • Manila -> Bohol (via flight to Tagbilaran airport)
  • Bohol -> Cebu (via fast ferry) -> Palawan (via flight to Puerto Princesa airport) -> El Nido (via pre-booked shuttle bus)
  • Manila -> Boracay (via flight to Caticlan Airport then pre-booked ferry & shuttle bus)

Notes & Tips:

  • We arranged a private car to Mount Pinatubo on the day we arrived to Manila due to the arrival time of our flight, however you can also travel by bus then jeepney or taxi to its nearby town of Santa Juliana, the starting point for Mount Pinatubo Tours.
  • We highly recommend booking your return shuttle bus journey from Puerto Princesa to El Nido in advance, as the best companies get booked up far in advance. Ask your accommodation for up-to-date advice on the most reliable companies to book, however we used Daytripper who were excellent.
Where to go in the Philippines
A Stunning El Nido Sunset

Get Your Trip Organised!

Book Your Train/Bus/Ferry Tickets Online!

We always recommend that you book your journey in advance, so you have peace of mind that your seats are booked! We recommend using 12go.asia as they offer train, bus and ferry ticket booking online in advance! Check out your journey options and prices here and get your seat reserved!

Powered by 12Go Asia system

Looking For Accommodation In The Philippines?

If you’re looking for some accommodation options in the Philippines, we recommend you use Agoda.com to check your accommodation options! Whenever we’re making plans for a new destination, we always research the accommodation options first to check what’s available. That’s just our travel style. If you want to get some accommodation ideas for the Philippines, check out the options here!

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you choose to book somewhere though our link, we receive a small commission. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything more, and most importantly, we only recommend companies that we use ourselves so you can trust our recommendations!

What Do You Think? Have you planned a trip to the Philippines? We’d love to hear your comments and experiences in the comments below!

Looking for more Philippines inspiration? Click here.


El Nido Tours

Island Hopping In Paradise: Our Favourite El Nido Tours

It’s easy to understand why people fall in love with El Nido, Palawan. Or rather, the stunning natural beauty that surrounds it known as The Bacuit Archipelago. It’s one of those special parts of the world that you really need to see to believe.

From beautiful white sand beaches and secret clear water lagoons, to stunning cliff-backed islands and spectacular sunsets, it’s a truly magical place.

el nido tours

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

We decided to dedicate a week of our time in the Philippines to El Nido, and we could have easily lingered a little longer. Not only are there plenty of amazing boat tours to occupy you, it’s a beautiful place just to relax and take some time out. So our advice? Don’t rush this place. Simply kick back, order a fresh coconut with rum (well it’s a local favourite so it would be rude not to!), and enjoy another spectacular sunset. You’ll think you’ve landed in paradise.

el nido tours
Coconut + Rum + El Nido Sunset = Paradise!

Whilst we could’ve easily sat around drinking fresh coconuts all day, we actually did go on some adventures during our time in El Nido, and we’ve been looking forward to sharing them!

Read on for our highlights including top tips on island hopping tours, how to get there, and where to stay!

El Nido Tours

After some basic research on El Nido, you’ll quickly learn that most of the island hopping tours on offer are to set destinations around the Bacuit Archipelago, and there are 4 main tours to choose from. Simply known as Tours A, B, C & D, each one offers a different experience to some of the 45 beautiful islands and islets of the Archipelago.

To give you an idea, here’s a summary of each tour:

Tour A – Lagoons & snorkelling

  • Small Lagoon
  • Big Lagoon
  • Shimizu Island
  • Secret Lagoon
  • Seven Commando Beach

Tour C – Secret beaches & shrines

  • Secret Beach
  • Hidden Beach
  • Shrine Island
  • Star Beach
  • Colasa Beach

Tour B – Pristine beaches, caves & snorkelling

  • Snake Island
  • Cathedral Cave
  • Lunch On Deserted Island
  • Lagen Beach Elis Island
  • Cudognon

Tour D – Exploring Cadlao Island

  • Helicopter Island
  • Pasandigan Cave
  • Ipil Beach
  • Cadlao Lagoon
  • Paradise Beach

If like us, you don’t have enough time (or budget!) to do all four tours, choosing which tour to take can be tricky. We looked into each one a little more and decided that we didn’t want to miss the famous lagoons and snorkelling from Tour A, and Snake Island looked incredible in the photos we’d seen, so Tour B was a must too. Luckily it turned out that these are the most popular tours too, so we secured the cheapest tour rate based on exceeding the minimum number of guests filling our boat – bonus!

As most companies and accommodations operating island hopping tours offer the same inclusions and type of boat, typically at similar standard prices (approximately 1,300 PHP/$28 USD per person as of December 2015), we didn’t feel the need to shop around for a change. For convenience, we simply booked through our accommodation in Corong Corong (Greenviews Resort) and the next day we were off on our first island hopping tour – we were so excited!

Tour B – Beaches, Caves & Snorkelling!

Following our long journey to El Nido, we decided to rest up for a day and book the next available day tour, which happened to be Tour B. So forget chronological order, we started with Tour B!

Packed and raring to go, we greeted our fellow travellers before wading our way out to our boat. As with most sailing and fishing boats in the Philippines, it was a beautiful traditional style outrigger boat, otherwise known as a ‘bangka’. It was cute but much smaller than we expected, so we prepared for a bumpy ride!

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

All aboard and greeted by our local tour guides for the day, we set sail for our first destination, Snake Island. Of all the places we were set to visit around the Archipelago, we were really excited about Snake Island! Imagine two islands, beautifully connected by one long and winding pristine beach, accompanied by crystal clear water on either side…yup, this is real!

El Nido Tours
Snake Island, The Bacuit Archipelago

Wandering barefoot along Snake Island is an experience to treasure, and if you feel like it, you can also take a short climb up to a beautiful outlook point. Just make sure you bring some decent walking sandals, it’s well worth it!

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

Having worked up an appetite from our small hike and time wandering Snake Island, we were excited when our guide told us we were heading to our lunch spot next…and what turned out to be our first experience of the Archipelago’s famously pristine and deserted beaches…

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

After a delicious lunch (freshly prepared by our tour guides!) and a wander along what felt like our own private beach, it was time to return to our bangka and cruise to our next destination – the aptly named Cathedral Cave.

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

After admiring Cathedral Cave, it was time for some snorkelling in the nearby waters. Unfortunately we didn’t spot any turtles as hoped, but there was plenty of other marine life to admire. It’s the crystal clear waters around the islands that make it extra special.

We’re not sure if it’s normally part of Tour B, but our lovely guides stopped by another beautiful island on our way back…it was the perfect end to our first tour of the Bay.

el nido tours
Relaxing by the beautiful Bacuit Archipelago

Safely back to our temporary home by Corong Corong bay, we took our positions to enjoy another amazing sunset while we reflected on a wonderful day, and got excited for the next…

el nido tours
Sunset by Corong Corong, El Nido

Tour A – Lagoons & Snorkelling!

Having got a taste of the sheer beauty of the Bacuit Archipelago from Tour B (and a relaxing day to recover in between!), we couldn’t wait for the adventure that awaited us on Tour A….secret lagoons, snorkelling and more deserted beach hopping!

And with a few more fellow travellers joining us this time, we were treated to a cruise on a slightly larger bangka!

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

Arriving to our first destination was no less than spectacular.

el nido tours

Unfortunately we don’t have an image of the small lagoon, as we had to swim through a small gap in the limestone to reach it, so you’ll just have to take our word for it that it’s beautiful! Completely surrounded by jagged limestone cliffs and deep crystal clear waters await you here.

It was enroute to our next stop that we got to admire some of the most beautiful limestone islets we’d seen so far…

el nido tours

el nido tours
Spectacular limestone islets of the Bacuit Archipelago

The Big Lagoon

el nido tours

That night we witnessed some of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen in our lives! The Philippines sure does spectacular sunsets!

el nido tours
El Nido Sunsets

And just when we thought they couldn’t get any better, the colours just kept changing…

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

Our Favourite Sunset…

el nido tours

So that was our El Nido Tours summary! If you haven’t been then hopefully we’ve inspired you to visit, and if you have, then hopefully this brings back special memories of an incredible place.

As usual, we’ve noted down some top tips to make your experience even more enjoyable!

El Nido Island Hopping Tips

  • Bring some dry bags to store cameras, smart phones and any other valuables. It can get pretty wet on the simple bangka style boats, especially if it’s a choppy day at sea!
  • Bring some rubber shoes to cover your feet to avoid cuts from the coral, though try to avoid stepping on any in the first place!
  • Bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat, especially for sailing between islands when you’re most exposed.

How To Get There

It’s a little bit of a trek to El Nido in the North of Palawan island, but it’s most definitely worth it, so try not to let the distance put you off going! Unless of course you don’t have enough time to allocate a few days to it once you arrive.

One of the cheapest and most common ways to get there is by shuttle bus from Puerto Princesa, which depending on stops, takes approximately 5-6 hours.

Puerto Princesa is the main town on the island and has a local airport hosting many budget airlines including Cebu Pacific, Air Asia etc which all operate regular flights from Manila and Cebu.

When it comes to arranging your shuttle bus transport from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, we highly recommend booking this well in advance, especially during peak season (public holidays and typically March to early June). We used the service Daytripper for our journey and would highly recommend them. Alternatively, book an online transfer with www.elnidoparadise.com.

Where To Stay In El Nido

We decided to avoid El Nido town itself as we’d heard it’s nothing special, and chose instead to stay round the coast by the bay of Corong Corong. Why? Well mainly because of the sunsets! Unfortunately El Nido town’s sunsets are obstructed by tall Cadlao Island, so if it’s sunsets you’re after then we’d highly recommend staying in the Corong Corong area instead. It’s also very peaceful and has a good selection of restaurants and accommodation options, most of which offer the standard island hopping tours. What more could you want?!

Greenviews Resort, Corong Corong

El Nido Tours

El Nido Tours

Get Your Trip Organised!

Book Your Flight/Train/Bus/Ferry Tickets Online!

We always recommend that you book your journey in advance, so you have peace of mind that your seats are booked! We recommend using 12go.asia as they offer flight, train, bus and ferry ticket booking online in advance! Check out your journey options and prices here and get your seat reserved!

Powered by 12Go Asia system

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you choose to book somewhere though our link, we receive a small commission. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything more, and most importantly, we only recommend companies that we use ourselves so you can trust our recommendations!

What Do You Think? Have you been to El Nido, Palawan? We’d love to hear your comments and experiences in the comments below!

el nido tour

 

Looking for more Philippines inspiration? Click here.


where to go in the philippines

Top Things To Do In Bohol, The Philippines

With over 7,000 islands, choosing your own adventure in the Philippines can be a tricky decision! Which are the best islands to visit? How long should you go for? We chose to visit the island of Bohol, and boy was that a good decision! There are so many things to do in Bohol, from stand up paddle boarding, to the epic chocolate hills, and of course the cutest animal of them all (the tarsier!), here’s our 7 top things to do in Bohol!

Top Things To Do In Bohol

1. Stand Up Paddle Boarding On The Loboc River

This is something we’ve always wanted to try, and with the promise of a calm river and beautiful scenery, we signed up for a half day paddle boarding adventure on the Loboc river! 

things to do in bohol
The stunning and serene Loboc River, Bohol

Early in the morning, we made our way down to the river’s edge, where our guide was waiting with our paddle boards. We clambered down the bank, and shuffled tentatively onto a floating bamboo raft attached to the river bank.

As I (Barry) moved towards my paddle board, the sides of the raft rose and fell as I adjusted my balance. This was meant to be the easy part – I hadn’t even got on the paddle board yet! As I steadied myself on the bamboo raft, our paddle board guide got onto his board, and motioned for me to step forward. It was my turn. Rather ungainly, I crawled onto the paddle board floating just off the jetty, and straight away I was pushed out into the river, with our guide shouting:

“Get up whilst you’re still moving!”

I was now floating away from the bamboo jetty and right into the middle of the river! How was I supposed to get up again? Where do I put my feet? It was now or never…

If I was going to fall in, it would be in front of our entire group, and the dozen men working on a building across the river. They all downed tools as they saw me float out onto the river…my masculinity was at stake, this was serious!

I checked my feet were in the correct position, either side of the small hole in the middle of the board, and hunkered up from my knees, and onto my feet. Now just to stand up. I raised my back and straightened my legs, wobbling ever so slightly as I adjusted to the uncertain footing underneath. I was up, and it felt awesome!

After a few seconds, I steadied my feet and legs, and began slowly paddling, bending my knees ever so slightly to give myself more control. The first few minutes were great, and it was far easier than I thought it would be. I watched as Laura got onto her board and stood up with minimum of fuss as well. Maybe we had found our calling in life! It turned out that everyone in our group of 6 got up first time, and for the entire duration of the tour, no-one fell in once, an impressive feat! We turned our boards around, left the jetty behind, and set a course for some waterfalls an hour or so upstream. We were off! 

things to do in bohol

things to do in bohol

Stand up paddle boarding is a fantastic experience, a serene way to see local life in action along the river bank. As we glided along the deep aqua green waters of the river, we saw locals planting mangroves along the rivers edge, mothers hunkered over the river bank, washing their clothes, and various boatmen tending to their small vessels. It felt far less intrusive than being on a motor powered boat, making the whole experience nice for us, and more importantly, nicer for the locals.

After 45 minutes, we reached a small inlet where a natural spring poured from the bedrock below our feet, and we slipped off our boards to enjoy a relaxing dip as local boys swung and somersaulted from a nearby tree. The whole experience was just so invigorating. As we paddled further upstream, we admired more local life until we reached our destination, a group of small waterfalls.

Here, the serene and calm green waters gave way to faster moving white water, as it gushed over the small waterfall ahead. We sat on a nearby rock and relaxed, taking in the peace and quiet and switching our minds off.

things to do in bohol

things to do in bohol

After a while, we climbed back onto our paddle boards, and made our way back to the jetty where we began our paddle boarding adventure. Our reward after a hard morning’s paddle boarding? A cold fresh coconut to quench our thirst, and a bowl of noodle soup! 

Paddle boarding on the Loboc river was an invigorating and enjoyable experience. It gives you time to be alone in your thoughts as you glide along the beautiful green waterways and we highly recommend it!

Tips:

– If you get tired standing, you can always kneel or sit down, and paddle from there. Or in Laura’s case, lie down and make me paddle for the both of us!

– Cover up your skin as much as possible – the sun is hot and relentless, even in the morning. I wore long shorts and a long sleeved diving top, and also wore a hat which protected me well (along with sunscreen).

– Take sunglasses!

2. The Chocolate Hills

Reaching the final step, we turned to look at the epic view stretching out in front of us. We’d made it to the viewing platform at the top of a hill, and stretched out in front of us were the magnificent chocolate hills, as far as the eye could see. It was a unique sight, each hill a uniform dome like the others around it, almost like they had been copied and pasted across the landscape to make up a surreal scene.

things to do in bohol

In truth you probably won’t spend much time at the chocolate hills, unless you take a 4×4 off-road experience as well. We opted to view them from the viewing platform, and spent around 30 minutes there before moving on. Don’t confuse this short time with disappointment, we were very impressed with them, we just felt after half an hour we were ready to move on.

Tips:

– Arrive in the morning for the best conditions. We were there at 9am and it was already hot and bright, so anytime towards lunchtime would be extremely bright and potentially very hot! 

– The viewing platform was being rebuilt at the time we visited (December 2015) making the best view slightly obstructed with a metal pole and fence, so if you have a zoom on your camera, use it!

3. The Tarsiers Of Bohol

As we moved further into the jungle, the signs around us were very clear.

“Be quiet, shhhh…”

It was late morning, and the Tarsiers we had come to visit were resting. Tarsiers are mostly nocturnal, therefore asleep during the day, but they wake up every now and again, as we luckily witnessed whilst we visited the sanctuary. As we walked through the jungle sanctuary, local guides were on hand to point out the tarsiers in the trees. If it wasn’t for these guides, we would never have spotted them ourselves, they are tiny and hide well!

Our first sighting was an amazing moment of revelation and intrigue. In a tree a few feet from us, the guide pointed through the leaves in front of us, to a branch further back. As we focused our eyes from the foreground to the background, suddenly this tiny, minuscule tarsier came into view. It really was an incredible moment, as our minds tried to process just how small it was. Tarsiers are one of the smallest primates in the world, and this little guy you’re looking at here was no bigger than my clenched fist.

things to do in bohol
The extraordinary Tarsiers of Bohol

They are intriguing little things, their large eyes burrowing into your own as you stare at them. As we gazed into the tarsiers eyes, we still couldn’t quite process this unique little creature. Everything about tarsiers was interesting to us, from the large eyes, to the long fingers wrapped around a branch as they sleep, and the long tail hanging down below the branch. They are one of the most alien animals we’ve ever come to face to face, and also the cutest as well.

As we travel, we’re always wary of visiting places where animals are an attraction. Some places are blatantly not good for the animals, others are better. This sanctuary was one of the better ones, we’re glad to say (as backed up by various guidebooks).

things to do in bohol
The Tarsier Sanctuary, Bohol
things to do in bohol
Tiny hiding Tarsiers in the forest branches!

We wandered further into the jungle, and saw 2 more tarsiers in the 45 minutes we were there. Each time we were blown away by their size and features! They are truly remarkable little things and well worth a visit! 

things to do in bohol
The sleepy nocturnal Tarsier
things to do in bohol
An extraordinary tree mammal and unique primate

Tips:

– Be quiet and respectful whilst touring the sanctuary as they get easily disturbed. 

– Take your time and let your eyes adjust. Some of the tarsiers were deep in the trees, and we had to squint and wait as our eyes adjusted to the darkness to see them.

4. Fireflies By The Loboc River

From one amazing little creature, to thousands of much smaller creatures!

Fireflies are beautiful to witness, tiny balls of light zooming around in the night sky. They normally congregate around a bush or tree, hundreds moving about in random directions. If you’re lucky, and the weather conditions are just right, you might see a swarm of fireflies lighting up a tree or bush nearby.

As a result of the darkness and their movement, they are nigh on impossible to take a photo of, but I did go one better and captured their movement over a few seconds, the yellow squiggly lines are the firefly trails as they move about in the sky.

things to do in bohol
Fireflies by the Loboc River

Tip:

– If you can’t find the fireflies by your Loboc river accommodation (we stayed at the Loboc River Resort where you can see them in the resort), you can take an evening boat tour where you’re more likely to find them in trees along the riverside. Apparently 8pm is the best time to see them, so long as it isn’t windy.

5. The Butterfly Sanctuary Of Bohol

As part of our day tour around the famous Chocolate Hills and Tarsiers of Bohol, we made an extra stop along the way at a charming and well kept butterfly sanctuary (the only one on the island we believe!). It was an unexpected highlight and made for an interesting and enjoyable short visit.

On arrival we were allocated a guide to take us around, who was very knowledgable of the butterflies, talking us through the various lifecycle exhibits before taking us into the enclosure.

things to do in bohol
The ‘pupa’ or ‘chrysalis’ stage of a butterfly’s development cycle
things to do in bohol
Learning about butterflies!

We were given time to wander around, as our guide excitedly pointed out various butterflies as they appeared all around us. They were many, of all different types and colours.

things to do in bohol

It’s a small place but worth a visit if you’re passing by from the Chocolate Hills as one of the more relaxing things to do in Bohol.

Tip:

There are many beautiful lush green rice fields on Bohol island and we came across these on our tour around the Chocolate hills and butterfly sanctuary, so be sure to look out for them along the way!

things to do in bohol
Bohol rice fields
things to do in bohol
Lush green rice fields
things to do in bohol
A beautiful stilted bridge over the lush green rice paddies of Bohol

6. Buffet Lunch Loboc River Cruise

Now this is not something us Worldly Nomads don’t normally sign up for, but as a listed highlight of things to do in Bohol we thought we’d give it a try, and to be honest we quite enjoyed it!

things to do in bohol

The premise is pretty simple, you get on a boat, where a buffet lunch is served, and you take a cruise up the river. As you cruise, there is live ‘soft rock’ music from a trio at the back of the boat, you’ll stop at a local village where a group of locals will play ukuleles and sing songs, inviting you to join in if you so wish.

It is incredibly touristy and cheesy, but you know what? We enjoyed it! Sometimes it’s nice to just relax, and let an experience take over. It certainly won’t make it onto our highlights reel, but it was a pleasant cheery way to spend a couple of hours on the beautiful Loboc river!

7. Admiring Sunset By The Loboc River

Last but not least on our list of top things to do in Bohol is simply spending time admiring the incredible sunsets over the Loboc River. Since it’s not really an activity mentioned in any guidebook, this was probably our most unexpected highlight of our time on Bohol, but gave us some of our favourite moments!

We experienced many amazing sunsets in various parts of the Philippines (especially during our El Nido Tours on Palawan island), but the beautiful effect on the river and surrounding landscape in Bohol was something very special. Here’s a couple of our favourite views.

things to do in bohol
Watching locals on the river as the sky turned pink!
things to do in bohol
Amazing reflections on the Loboc river

The beauty didn’t end after sunset however. Bohol, and particularly by the Loboc river, is a great place to enjoy the night sky and stars. Again, here’s a couple of our favourite views!

things to do in bohol

things to do in bohol

So that’s it, a whirlwind tour of our top things to do in Bohol! We hope you have enjoyed them and feel free to share your experiences or questions in the comments box below!

Get Your Trip Organised!

Book Your Flight/Train/Bus/Ferry Tickets Online!

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Tip:

If you’re looking for a recommendation on where to stay in Bohol, then we particularly enjoyed our 4 nights stay at the Loboc River Resort…

things to do in bohol
The view from the Loboc River Resort, Bohol

Looking for more Philippines inspiration? Click here.

What do you think? Have you been to Bohol? We’d love to hear your comments and experiences in the comments below!


where to go in the philippines

A Spectacular Mt Pinatubo Tour, Philippines

Rattling along the dusty, stone laced riverbed, our jeep suddenly skidded to a halt. After an hour of being bumped about in the back of the 4×4, our driver surveyed his options.

Directly in front of us, a flowing river cut across our route to the start of our Mt Pinatubo tour. The loose rocks and stones we’d been travelling over for the last hour slipped down into the flowing water below us. Revving his engine, our driver suddenly edged the jeep forwards, and splashed down into the river – there was no turning back now! 

The Beginning Of Our Mt Pinatubo Tour

We’d arrived a day earlier, heading North from Manila to the small village of Santa Juliana, a small town located near the base of Mt Pinatubo. It’s possible to take a day tour from Manila, but we would recommend getting out of the city for a couple of days, and taking the time to relax near Mt Pinatubo. We used Santa Juliana as our base for the next few days, as a starting point for our Mt Pinatubo tour. 

After a good night’s sleep, it was time for our Mt Pinatubo adventure!

We began our bumpy, bruise inducing Mt Pinatubo tour early, rising for breakfast at 6 before leaving our homestay at 7. After breakfast, we clambered onto the back of our open top jeep, and headed out along the village road towards the vast, dry bedrock of the nearby river. 

Mt Pinatubo tour

After a few minutes, we swung off the road and down the embankment to the riverbed, where we would spend the next 1.5 hours being jolted about, splattered with mud and covered in dust as we made our way to the start of our Mt Pinatubo tour. It was an exhilarating journey! 

Mt Pinatubo tour

Despite the uncomfortable ride, the landscape on our jeep ride was breathtaking. Magnificent rock formations jolted out of the ground around us, the dark grey stone brought to life by the lush green vegetation and trees that has somehow found a foothold in the crevices. We admired the scenery as we perched ourselves on the bench on the back of our jeep, hanging on by the metal frame around us. Luxury this was not!

After half an hour, we reached the first of what would be many river crossings. We clung on as the jeep jolted forward, and dipped down into the river. We were flung forward, and then back as the jeep levelled out in the river. 

mt pinatubo tour

Instead of going straight across and up the other side of the river, our driver swung the jeep to the right and started driving straight upstream! Surges of water splashed across the windscreen, and our backs splattered with mud as we made our way upstream. This was to become the norm as we made our way on our Mt Pinatubo tour. 

As we made our way closer to the base of the volcano, the landscape became more and more incredible. We had begun our journey surrounded by white and grey rocks, but as we got closer to the base of Mt Pinatubo, the grey gave way to lush green hills.  The green landscape rolled around us, punctured every now and then by sharp grey jagged peaks as the surrounding hills slowly eroded away. From the wide expanse of the river at the beginning of our journey, the valley narrowed as our driver navigated through the ancient lava flow/river bed.

mt pinatubo tour

Every now and then, we’d stop to let the engine cool down, and in the distance locals would appear from nowhere, eager to say hello and share a high five with us. As they approached us, the scale of our surroundings became apparent, our new friends a mere spec on the magnificent canvas laid out in front of us. This place was epic.  

mt pinatubo tour

mt pinatubo tour

After an hour, we rounded a bend and got our first glimpse of Mt Pinatubo, and what a sight it was! Layer upon layer of rock and stone gave way to rolling green hills and then, in the distance, Mt Pinatubo.

mt pinatubo tour

Finally, after an hour and half, our jeep pulled to a stop and we jumped out. After a few minutes of twisting our necks back into place and getting our bags organised, we began our trek. Ahead was a fairly leisurely 2 hour climb to the crater.

The trek itself was beautiful, again the landscape changing from grey valleys, to lush jungle as we closed in on the summit. We clambered over small rocks, and jumped across streams on our way. In our opinion you would only need a basic level of fitness to complete this trek.

mt pinatubo tour

mt pinatubo tour

mt pinatubo tour

After a couple of hours, we finally reached the crater, and what a view it was! We were blown away. The caldera of the volcano is huge, spanning 2.5km from one side to the other. The rugged, steep and unstable crater wall surrounds a deep blue lake. As we got closer, the lake stretched out into the distance in front of us. We sat down on the waters edge, and admired the view and tranquility. It was breathtaking.

mt pinatubo tour

mt pinatubo tour

mt pinatubo tour

mt pinatubo tour

As we ate our lunch, suddenly a huge explosion was heard to our right! If there’s one thing you don’t want to hear when you’re sitting in a volcanic crater, it’s the sound of an explosion! Thankfully, this noise was from a rock fall on the ridge and not the volcano ‘waking up’. Phew! Incidentally, the last eruption of Mt Pinatubo in 1991 resulted in it losing 260 metres from its summit!

mt pinatubo tour

After an hour relaxing and taking in the view, we began the leisurely descent back down the volcano. The scenery again was incredible!

mt pinatubo tour

mt pinatubo crater

mt pinatubo tour

We made it back to our jeep, and began the bumpy journey back to our homestay. Hanging out the back of our jeep, the views looking back towards Mt Pinatubo were just as incredible!

mt pinatubo tour

Later that evening, still tired from our trek, we took a short walk up the hill near our homestay to watch sunset. Again, the scenery was spectacular and we got a sunset to match! It was a spectacular end to our time at Mt Pinatubo.

mt pinatubo tour

mt pinatubo tour

Our Mt Pinatubo tour was one of our highlights from the Philippines, and easily one of the most epic things we saw there. Despite the bumpy jeep ride (which adds to the excitement), the scenery and landscapes on offer are incredible. The trek to the summit was easy for us, and well worth it for the views of Mt Pinatubo crater. If you’re visiting the Philippines, we’d highly recommend a visit if you have time!

Top Tips

  • A Mt Pinatubo tour from Santa Juliana begins at around 7am and depending on how long it takes you to trek and have lunch, you can expect to be back in Santa Juliana by around 2pm.
  • The sunset view above is from the top of the hill overlooking the same route you take to get to Mt Pinatubo by jeep. You can walk along the village road (passed the Air Force base checkpoint) and up the small hill for these views.
  • Stay for a night or two in Santa Juliana if you have time, it’s better than driving all the way from Manila early in the morning and trying to get back that same day. We stayed at Alvin’s homestay/Bognot Lodge.

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