The province of Bohol in Central Visayas is known all over the country for the intriguing Chocolate Hills, a collection of over 1,000 dome-shaped formations covering an area of more than 50 square kilometers. But there is more to Bohol than just these hills, the Philippine tarsiers, or the centuries-old churches. It boasts several other natural attractions and one of the most popular is Panglao Island.
Located less than one kilometer off the coastline of the southwest portion of Bohol mainland, Panglao Island has varying terrain, from plain to hilly and mountainous. The island is mainly made of limestone hence the abundance of geographical formations, particularly caves which have become popular among adventure-seekers.
The island is also blessed with white sand beaches, pristine waters, and rich marine life. It actually catapulted Bohol as one of the top summer destinations in the Philippines.
This brief guide to Panglao Island will help you plan your trip. It contains information on what to do, eat, and drink as well as the must-see spots and the best hotels.
Best Time to Visit
It’s best to visit the Philippines during the dry season. Dry season in the Philippines spans from November through April. These are the summer months in this country.
Be aware that temperatures and humidity levels are particularly high in April and May.
The best time to be a beach bum and explore the islands is from March to May.
TIP: This guide recommends that booking for Panglao Island summer trips should be done as early as possible, at least a month before your travel dates, since resorts get fully booked early.
The period from June to October is the rainy (wet) season and is best avoided due to the high possibility of typhoons. The typhoons can not only be destructive, but most tours and activities are cancelled under such circumstances. Transportation via plane and boat is also seriously impacted as well. This happens frequently so beware!
This guide recommends traveling to Panglao Island in April-May or in November-December, just before and just after the rainy season. This will likely bring fewer crowds, yet pleasant weather, and is also a great time to score a travel deal.
Plug commonly used is Type A but Types B and C are used as well. Bring A to B adapter(s).
There are many ways to get here depending on your starting point. This guide recommends using the following online tools to identify all the available options and cost for each while Panglao Island: Rome2Rio and PHBUS. The following are the major ports of entry for this destination.
The following are the modes of transportation available on Panglao Island …
SEE & DO
The following is your guide to places to see and activities to enjoy while on Panglao Island.
1 | Beach bum in Alona Beach
The most popular beach on the island, Alona is blessed with clear water, white sand, and rocky cliffs. The one-kilometer stretch of the beach is lined with businesses such as resorts, hotels, restaurants, and shops to cater to all the tourists coming to the island. It is the jump off point to nearby islands and other various adventures such as dolphin watching.
If not doing the activities, you can spend the day beach bumming and waiting for the sunset as it is also a great spot for sunset-watching.
2 | Go on island-hopping tour
Island-hopping is a popular tourist activity in Panglao. Three most popular destinations for island-hopping are Balicasag Island, Pontod Island (also called Virgin Island), and Pamilacan Island. The waters surrounding these islands are blessed with rich marine life therefore attracting divers and non-divers alike.
3 | See the marine life
Panglao has an impressive marine biodiversity with more than 250 new species of marine crustaceans and 2500 new species of mollusks. You can see the dolphins in their natural habitat when you avail the dolphin watching tour, you can swim with sea turtles, and explore marine sanctuaries inhabited by various species of fishes, corals, and aquatic plants.
4 | Get a diving certification
Having the best dive sites in the Philippines, you can learn how to dive and get a diving certification in Panglao. There are several diving shops and centers that can offer you courses based on your dive level.
5 | Try water adventures
Aside from island-hopping, snorkelling, and diving, you can try other water adventures including banana boat ride, kayaking, stand-up paddle board, and kite surfing.
6 | Visit Hinagdanan Cave
Hinagdanan Cave is a naturally-lighted cavern with a natural pool with crystal clear water where you can take a refreshing dip. Since the cave is lighted, birds are the only inhabitants of the cave as it is unsuitable for bats.
The cave is named after the local word “hagdan” meaning ladder which was used to access the cave when it was first discovered. Presently, there are cement steps leading to the cave’s interior.
The cave was also used as a hiding place by the locals from the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War.
7 | See other beaches on the island
Alona may be the most famous but there are other equally stunning beaches to see on the island. Danao Beach and Bagobo Beach, on either side of Alona, have the same white sand and cool azure waters. Bolod Beach, which is more than two kilometers east of Alona Beach and Bagobo Beach, has also the same white sand but has the longest shoreline in this part of the island. On the other side of the island are Doljo Beach and Momo Beach, they too are blessed with fine white sand and crystal clear water but are more rugged and undeveloped.
8 | Enjoy the nightlife
With all the resorts, restaurants, and bars in Panglao, its nightlife is definitely one of the most active in the province of Bohol. Three of the best bars on the island are Pinarella Bay, Aluna Lounge Bar, and Coco Vida Bar of the Alona Vida Beach Resort. The last two mentioned are located right on the beach.
NOTE: The Sinulog Sa Panglao occurs annually in Panglao Island every January…
EAT & DRINK
The following is your guide to the flavorful food to enjoy and restaurants to try while on Panglao Island.
1 | Bohol Bee Farm Restaurant
Indulge your palate without the guilt at Bohol Bee Farm Restaurant where healthy delights are being served everyday. Feast on hand-picked edible flowers, fresh garden salads, honey-glazed chicken, or seafood lasagna. They have the best ice cream too! The main restaurant is located in Dauis but there are branches along Alona Beach, Tagbilaran City, Tubigon, and Cebu City.
Don’t miss their unique-flavored ice creams including malunggay, salted honey, durian, and spicy ginger among others.
2 | Giuseppe Pizzeria Sicilian Roast
Giuseppe Pizzeria Sicilian Roast is an Italian restaurant located less than one kilometer away from Alona Beach. They are known for their pizza cooked using a wood-fired brick oven. Other must-try dishes are calamari, bruschetta, and pasta.
3 | L’Elephant Bleu Restaurant
The restaurant of L’Elephant Bleu Cottages serves affordable French favorites chicken cordon bleu, creme brulee and flambeed garlic prawns along with a great selection of wine and cheese. It is located in the middle of Alona approximately 200 meters away from the beach.
4 | Tarsier Paprika
Located on the edge of Tarsier Botanika Resort, Tarsier Paprika offers two dining setup – air-conditioned sea view rooms and open air veranda. The restaurant serves international cuisine and is known to have great sushi, ceviche, and cakes. The price range is a bit expensive for local standards but given the amazing foods, location, ambience, and service, it is surely worth it.
5 | Pearl Restaurant
Located in Linaw Beach Resort, Pearl Restaurant takes pride in serving healthy dishes using fresh organically-grown vegetables and herbs from their own garden. They have the best seafood platter in the area and a fantastic selection of wine and other drinks. Aside from food and drinks, the location and ambience is great, too. It’s one of the best places to watch the sunset and have a romantic date night.
6 | Saffron
Saffron Restaurant of Amorita Resort offers a wide range of Continental and Filipino favorites using the best and freshest ingredients available locally. Their buffet offers a good selection of meat, salad, as well as desserts and cheese. Don’t miss their sinigang, calamari, kare-kare, and binagoongan baboy. Amorita may be a luxury resort but the foods are reasonably-priced given the generous servings.
7 | Vanilla Sky Restaurant
Vanilla Sky Restaurant serves Italian cuisine and is well-loved for their buffalo mozzarella, burrata, and pizza as well as truffle, panna cotta, and tiramisu. It has a cozy, relaxing, and warm ambience with friendly and nice staff. Prices are reasonable too and customers rave that it is one of the best places to eat on the island.
KNOWN FOR: Peanut Kisses, a snack made of peanut and white eggs.
WHERE TO STAY
There are many different types of accommodations available in this destination ranging from hostels to luxurious resorts. The following is your guide to our top choices for each range on Panglao Island.
1 | Alona42 Resort (Budget)
2 | Dumaluan Beach Resort (Mid-Range)
3 | South Palms Resort (Luxury | Resort)
This guide recommends using the following sites to conduct research online of where to stay on Panglao Island or for a specific destination:
Book your room with these trusted online booking sites. Booking online in the Philippines almost always guarantees the best price and a room when you arrive. We use these sites frequently to get the best prices and enjoy convenient bookings. Click each of the buttons below to find the best place for you at the lowest rates:
TIP: Dumaluan Beach Resort is the best property to experience this destination.
Use the chart below to get an idea of how much to budget daily. Actual amounts will depend on YOUR travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages … some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less. Prices are in USD.
A bed in a hostel dorm costs from 350 PHP ($7 USD), but smaller dorms can cost from 500 PHP ($10 USD). For a private double, prices start around 700 PHP ($14 USD).
Most budget hotels begin at 700 PHP ($14 USD) per night for a double room and usually include free wifi and breakfast. For a three-star hotel, prices begin around 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night. AirBnB is also widespread throughout the country, with private rooms starting from as little as 500 PHP ($10 USD) per night. For entire apartments, expect to pay at least 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night.
Resorts and luxury accommodations vary greatly from 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) to 5,000+ PHP ($100+ USD). However, there are some really nice resorts and luxury accommodations which are surprisingly affordable.
Local food is extremely cheap, with street food costing under 50 PHP ($1USD). For an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant, prices start around 100 PHP ($2 USD). For a meal at a mid-range restaurant with drinks and table service, expect to pay from 200 PHP ($4 USD). Knowing that their target customers are primarily tourists, Western food venues can be pricey compared to Filipino food. Also, some of the ingredients need to be imported, which contributes to the higher cost. Western food (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) is much more expensive but is still relatively affordable at around 200 PHP ($4 USD) for a meal and drink.
Fast food like McDonalds will cost around 200 PHP ($4 USD). A beer at the bar will cost around 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD).
A week’s worth of groceries will cost between 300-600 PHP ($6-12 USD) per person. However, food in this country is so inexpensive, and kitchens & refrigerators are hard to come by, I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss!
There are many modes of transportation available in the Philippines and each varies greatly.
Public Transportation is cheap. Bus services on the islands are inexpensive. Local buses (called jeepneys) are the most common type of transportation in towns and cities. The fare is usually between 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD).
On islands without a bus system, a taxi or tricycle is the only form of transport with fares starting at 50-500 PHP ($1-$10) USD for short trips.
Taxis are everywhere, and they’re very cheap. Most fares shouldn’t cost you more than 500 PHP ($10 USD) around town.
To get between islands, you’ll need to take a boat or to fly. There are ferries that connect the island together since they aren’t too far apart but, generally speaking, flights are the most realistic option.
Flights between islands usually cost about 2,000-3500 PHP ($40-70 USD). However, this isn’t the cheapest way to travel. It’s only recommended if you have limited time.
Attractions & Activities
Most attractions and activities in the Philippines are pretty cheap. Most attractions throughout the area are FREE to enter, though some of the more well known and popular ones cost 5-100 PHP ($.10-$2 USD) to enter.
Depending on the activity, most day tours only cost around 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD), oftentimes less. You have more bargaining power if you go with a group. If you are expecting to do some climbing, remember to pack some warm layers. It gets cold at the top!
Other activities such as Island Hopping, scuba diving, helmet diving, swimming with whale sharks, jungle trekking, canyoning, ATVs, jet skis, wakeboarding, cruises, parasailing, horseback riding, cultural experiences, and tours can cost as much as 1,250-5,000+ PHP ($25-100+ USD).
The Philippines is one of the least expensive places to learn how to scuba dive. Learning to scuba dive usually costs about 15,000-20,000 PHP ($300-400 USD), but often includes FREE accommodation for the duration of the course, which lasts three or four days.
Always book your tours and activities when you arrive. Stick to travel agents who are selling on the ground. If a travel agent won’t negotiate with you, move on to the next until you find one that will. Booking tours online is almost always more expensive.
Typical Costs on Panglao Island in 2021:
- Hostel Dorm Bed: 250-350 PHP ($5–7 USD) night
- Budget Hotel: 700 PHP ($14 USD) night
- Mid-Range Hotel: 1500 PHP ($31 USD) night
- Street Food: 50-150 PHP ($1–3 USD) meal
- Restaurant Meals: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) meal
- Local Beer: 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD) bottle
- 1.5L Bottle of Water: 38 PHP ($.75 USD) bottle
- Jeepney Ride: 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD) ride
- Tricycle Ride: 20-100 PHP ($.5-2 USD) ride
- Taxi: 75-500 PHP ($1.50-10 USD) ride – use GrabTaxi app
- Long-Distance Bus Ride: 400-500 PHP ($8–10 USD) ride
- Public Ferry Ride: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) ride
- Domestic Flight: 2,000-3,500 PHP ($40–70 USD) flight
- Island-Hopping: 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD) trip
The following is some of our best advice on traveling to Panglao Island. Learn what you need to know BEFORE you go!
Tips & Hacks
he following are our Top 10 Tips when visiting this destination in the Philippines:
- Be aware that a tourist VISA is only 30 days. You can extend it upon arrival, or within the first 30 days, for an additional 30 days for a fee of approximately 3,000 pesos.
- Don’t buy into the fear factor. The Philippines has an unjustified reputation of being a dangerous place. It’s true there are security guards everywhere, but that is to deter theft.
- Manila is NOT the Philippines. Get outside of the cities to see the real Philippines.
- Don’t over plan. Boats, buses, and even airplane schedules are notoriously unreliable. Be flexible.
- Check the weather. The weather varies greatly throughout the Philippines daily.
- Typhoons can have a huge impact on your plans. Account for this when planning your trip.
- It’s not cool to raise your voice or show outward frustration in public.
- Be polite at all times. Realize that your country’s sense of humor may be different from Filipino humor and take this into account when interacting with Filipinos and while in public places.
- Things move at a slower pace. Accept it … don’t get frustrated … but do account for it.
- Don’t drink the tap water… but stay hydrated! Save money by buying large bottles (6-10 liters) of water and using it to fill your water bottle or hydration bladder in your backpack.
For a complete list of our travel tips & hacks, check out the following guide and be sure to download a FREE copy for yourself.
The Philippines has its own currency called the Philippine Peso. Banks, ATMs, and money-changers can be found on the island. If you are exploring the neighboring islands or provinces, make sure to bring enough cash that will last until the next time you get to an ATM or bank since most tours, transportation, and budget accommodations only accept cash.
Health & Safety
While overall the Philippines is a safe country to visit, as is Panglao Island, you need to use common sense just as you would in any country, especially when traveling, and in a city, town, or area you are unfamiliar with.
Consult your hotel or resort front desk as they are more likely to give you reliable information than a random stranger on the street. Be careful when approaching strangers and selective about who you approach. Always pay attention to your gut feeling and follow it.
There are many things to consider when traveling in order to stay safe … things that we may not be accustomed to during our normal everyday lives. The following are articles about tips on how to stay safe while traveling in the Philippines:
- 6 Common Accidents to Avoid
- How to Beat the Heat in the Philippines
- Taxi Safety Tips: Dos and Don’ts
- Motorbike Safety Tips
- Beach & Ocean Safety Tips
- Sun Safety Tips
Staying fit & healthy can be challenging when traveling in the Philippines.
The tropical Philippines climate requires you to prepare for illnesses that you may not normally be accustomed to.
The following are our Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy while Traveling in the Philippines:
- Maintain a Balanced Diet
- Stay Hydrated but Only Drink Bottled Water
- Get Plenty of Rest
- Allow Your Body Time to Adjust
- Keep Active
- Sanitize Often
- Be Aware of Food Safety Concerns
- Take Your Vitamins
- Practice Safe Sex
- Be Prepared Should You Get Sick
You need to have a local-based SIM card in order to stay connected when in the Philippines. Network giants such as Globe and Smart have SIM cards you can use to make calls, send text messages, and also to connect to the Internet. A SIM card costs around 50 PHP ($1 USD) and usually comes with a FREE load worth 50 PHP ($1 USD). You can buy a card containing a code you can enter on your phone to replenish your load or buy an electronic load that is available almost anywhere in the city.
While you may not have problems with signal strength when in the city, it is not always the case when on islands or in remote areas of a province. So when arranging for transportation pick up, say when renting a boat to take you to and pick you up from the island, it would be best that you make it clear what time you need to be picked up before the boatman leaves.
Recommended Travel Apps
Apps for smartphones and tablets can be useful both before you leave and while you’re traveling. Most are available for iPhones and Android phones.
- Grab (taxis/ride shares)
- Angkas (motorbike ride-hailing)
- WhatsApp (phone calls)
- Skyscanner (flights)
- Rome2Rio (transportation)
- Agoda (accomodations)
- Booking.com (accomodations)
- AirBnB (accomodations)
- Traveloka (flights, accomodations, activities)
- Klook (attractions & activities )
Be certain to download and set up apps BEFORE leaving on your trip to make certain each is installed and working properly.
For our complete list of travel apps that we use and recommend while traveling in the Philippines, checkout our checklist below. Download a FREE copy for yourself as a PDF.
Trying to decide what to do when traveling to a destination for the first time can be a bit overwhelming given your lack of familiarity with the place along with all of the available options.
We’ve created the following itinerary to help simplify the process and ensure that you get the most out of your trip. Although we provide a 7 day itinerary for this destination, it can always be adjusted to fit the length of your trip.
The secret to a successful and stress-free trip is to start by using a packing list. This will reduce anxiety from the start and ensure that nothing important is forgotten when packing. To make this process easy for you, we’ve created a detailed packing list. Click the link below to download it for FREE now.
Carrying your checklist with you during your travels can be useful when repacking, by helping to ensure that you do not leave anything behind.
Things to Remember
This guide recommends to take note of the following while traveling on Panglao Island or in the Philippines in general.
There is a nationwide ban which prohibits smoking in public places including indoors, the streets, on sidewalks, in restaurants , and on public transportation, requiring smokers to use designated smoking areas. Selling tobacco to and purchasing from or for minors is also prohibited. Violators are subject to fines (up to 5,000 PHP | $100 USD) and even 4 months in prison.
The minimum legal drinking age is 18. Alcohol such as beer and hard drinks can easily be bought in grocery and convenience stores. The most common alcoholic beverage is beer, generally served cold. Local alcoholic drinks include tuba (coconut wine which is usually very strong) and potent moonshine-like clear liquors made from sugar or fruit. Imported beer, wine, and name brand hard alcohol are available but expensive.
Drugs are illegal in the Philippines. Don’t use, buy, or sell any non-prescription drugs while in the Philippines … not even marijuana. It is considered an especially heinous crime to buy from, for, or sell drugs to children. The penalties are severe … up to and including death.
Public nudity is illegal in the Philippines and is not tolerated. Most locals consider it offensive. There are laws which prohibit provocative and erotic clothing and swimwear, therefore carefully consider your clothings and swimwear choices to make certain they are not too revealing.
Foreigners & Expats
If you are not a Filipino citizen, remember that you are a guest when visiting this country … be certain to act accordingly. Respect the people, their customs, and the environment and wlidlife. You can be deported and banned … so behave … but have fun and enjoy all that this wonderful destination has to offer.
Don’t Forget …
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