Alexandra Stoddard once said, “When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go”. That is exactly what happened to me with Panglao, an island in the north Bohol Sea.
Suffice it to say I fell in love. The island lavished us with sea breeze kisses and glorious blue skies. We indulged in dipping our toes in powdery white sand; swimming in warm, calm waters; sleeping on a hammock under swaying palm trees; and listening to the ocean waves rushing to shore. It was the perfect holiday destination, and I’d pack my bags and go again in a heartbeat.
ESCAPE TO THE BEACH
We landed in Panglao International Airport on December 22, in an attempt to escape Manila’s crazy Christmas chaos. The trip also marked the first Christmas we had to spend away from home. We felt hesitant at first, but we were determined to make it special and memorable.
The drive from the airport to Bohol Beach Club Hotel was very short—it literally took us minutes. Our kind driver, assigned by the hotel, was right on time and waiting for us when we arrived. Along the way, I couldn’t help but think of how lucky we were to be driving calmly through green pastures and getting some fresh air. There was no traffic, no honking, no rush—just pure bliss.
BOHOL BEACH CLUB
We loved our stay at the Bohol Beach Club. We booked our room through booking.com, and I must say, it was a good deal. It was basic but very comfortable. The room came with two double beds, which, in our case, was perfect for a couple with one kid. The room service was amazing. They tidied up at least twice a day, something that we really appreciated.
We enjoyed the food a lot. The breakfast buffet featured the basic stuff you would expect, plus some local Filipino dishes. My vegan friends would be happy to know that Bohol Beach Club Hotel serves the best-I-have-ever-tasted black bean burger. I tried it once for lunch and ended up having it a few more times until we checked out. At times, I would order it without the buns and just have it with the side salad. It’s absolutely delicious and I highly recommend it!
Of course, a trip to Bohol would be incomplete without sightseeing. And undoubtedly the most famous among Bohol’s sights is the island’s Chocolate Hills. A geological formation with least 1,260 coned shaped hills spread over an area of more than 50 square kilometers, the Chocolate Hills are spread over an area covering the towns of Sagbayan, Batuan, Carmen, Bilar, Sierra Bullones, and Valencia. Most of the hills are found in Sagbayan, Batuan, and Carmen.
We arrived at the take off point, hired a buggy, and had a private guide assigned to us. We were required to wear helmets and huge raincoats. When all was said and done, my husband took the wheel. The boys were excited and had fun driving through slippery terrain and muddy paddles in our buggy car. It may sound weird, but the best part was when muddy water came and splashed all over our feet. It was a beautiful adventure even though half the time my heart was trying to beat out of my chest! Mini buggies are definitely not my preferred everyday means of transport.
We picked a short and easy climb to the hills due to our five-year-old son. Nonetheless, we got to enjoy a view that was amazing, unique, and mystical. We spent a few minutes admiring these natural wonders (the world’s eighth) and got to snap a few family portraits, thanks to our guide who had the best angles all figured out.
Visiting Bohol’s tarsier sanctuary was also a must. Since it was part of our tour package, we had the chance to get up close with these cute, tiny animals. Our trek through the sanctuary was short but educational. Here are some interesting facts about tarsiers that will leave you wide-eyed!
1. Tarsiers are primates, but not monkeys.
2. Because of their huge eyeballs, they can not move their eyes. Instead they move their neck 180 degrees, left and right.
3. They are the second smallest primates on the planet, weighing 3 to 5 ounces and measuring up to 6 inches long.
4. They are nocturnal animals and should not be disturbed during the day. Visitors are asked to practice complete silence and to refrain from flash photography during visits.
5. They may commit suicide during captivity due to trauma from touching, noise, and light.
6. They have one of the slowest fetal growth rates of any mammal, taking 6 months to reach a birth weight of 23 grams.
7. They are solitary and territorial animals
8. A single tarsier needs at least a hectare of space.
9. Tarsiers can jump 3 meters from tree to tree.
BOHOL BEE FARM
Even if you’re not staying at the Bohol Bee Farm, it’s still worth a visit. Swing by for an afternoon pick-me-up accompanied by a good read and/or enjoy a delicious meal prepared using organically grown vegetables from their farm. You’ll get the change to shop their locally made products, too!
Bohol Bee Farm gives its visitors a relaxing and serene farm house ambiance. Our visit included a guided tour of their herb garden and their bee farm. Our favorite part, though, was treating ourselves to their delicious yet absolutely healthy ice cream. The boys and I agreed it is one of the best ice cream we have tasted in Philippines. I had a chance to try three flavors and I loved each one of them: Peanut Kisses, moringa, and salted honey.
FLOATING RESTAURANT CRUISE THROUGH LOBOC RIVER
After seeing the famous Chocolate Hills and getting acquainted with the island’s tarsiers, it was time to feed our starving bellies.
We got on board one of the many floating bancas that serve as restaurants on Loboc River where we enjoyed a sumptuous buffet of local dishes. What made this experience extra special is the local band serenading us with a mix of Boholano tunes and international songs as we cruised our way through the jade green waters of Loboc. The one-hour cruise was relaxing and absolutely picturesque. And just before our floating banca made a u-turn to where we came from, we spotted a small, beautiful cascade. It was a totally unexpected sight—a serene beauty amidst the green jungle, leaning over Loboc waters. What a pleasant way to unwind after a full morning of sightseeing!
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the famous Alona Beach, a small yet gorgeous stretch of tropical paradise popular for scuba-diving and snorkeling. It was undoubtedly also a nightlife destination, given the array of bars and restaurants found along the shore. We settled for a cold beer overlooking the sea while watching our son play on the sand, people returning from their underwater escapades, small boats sailing back and forth, stray dogs and a couple lying on the beach, and a bunch of children happily swimming and splashing water. I took my last sip of Heineken as soft music played in the background. It was a day well spent.
CHRISTMAS BY THE SEA
We got back to Bohol Beach Club just in time for a sundowner and quick swim before settling for dinner. It was Christmas Eve and the hotel had organized the most colorful Hawaiian-themed dinner on the beach. The setting was something out of a beautiful fairy movie. Christmas by the sea is not a bad idea after all.
The evening was accompanied by a sumptuous spread of buffet and lots of entertainment which included Hawaiian inspired performances and fire dancers. It was pleasant evening for both adults and children.
A LOVELY STAY
Our stay at Bohol Beach Club was beyond our expectations. It is an amazing resort perfect for family getaways, couples looking for a romantic escape, or even solo travelers on the hunt for a beautiful hideout. The staff is very friendly, and despite being busy, were well organized and still managed to provide excellent service. In addition, the hotel can create customized tour packages to fit your time and schedule. There’s definitely more to see and experience in Bohol than what we did.
BACK TO THE CITY
In no time at all, we were back in the concrete jungle—Metro Manila’s beautiful chaos. Writing this post was a pleasure as it allowed me to relive the few days we spent in Bohol. I miss lying on a hammock under swaying palm trees, the look on my son’s face each time he spotted a beautiful starfish, our long morning walks on the sand, our sunset gin and tonic, and hanging out on the beach in the evenings with the moon casting its spell upon us.
We took away fond memories and left foot prints on the sand—and perhaps a small piece of my heart. I’ll come back for it someday.
Lora By Lora. x