Flight: Cebu Pacific Air
Cost: Php 6,644.96 /per ticket (U$154.79) – carry-on only, no checked baggage
Everyone told me that it is very cheap to fly from Manila, that it shouldn’t be more than U$100 for local destinations, but I have yet to find tickets that cheap. After checking prices at Cebu Pacific and Philippines Airlines, Cebu Pacific was by far the cheapest.
The flights were only a little over an hour long, and it arrived on time both ways. The seats were comfortable, and we even scored exit row seats on the way back!
Hotel: Alona Tropical Beach Resort
Cost: Php 3,460.00/night (U$80.60)
We got the “Deluxe Air Conditioned Room” that included breakfast for two at their beach front restaurant. The weather in Bohol was not hot – it was actually quite a bit cooler than Manila. I’m not sure if that’s the usual weather there, or if we just got a cold spell, but we definitely could have saved the Php 1,000 per night by choosing a fan room. We turned the AC on and off as needed, but it was off more often than it was on.
The room even had an outdoor patio with a table and chairs.
The breakfast was definitely worth it, though you could have just bought it on the spot, it was nice not having to carry cash with us for breakfast. Plus, the only day that the restaurant was very busy was Saturday morning, and the beach front tables were reserved for those with the breakfast coupons. Breakfast could also be eaten at anytime during the day, so even taking excursions in the morning didn’t mean we would miss it. There were three options: Filipino, Continental or American Breakfast. We chose the American breakfast all three days, and it’s your standard eggs, toast, bacon, fruit juice, coffee setup.
The hotel had a lot of green area (which is probably one of the reasons it was a bit cooler) and a really nice pool.
It also had (which was heartbreaking for me) a monkey and many types of birds in cages, including an eagle, that would cry in a way that was saddening.
The beach wasn’t the long white sandy beach that I’m used to like we have in Brazil. It had sand, but also quite a few rocks, so going in the water was tricky, as you had to be aware of what you’re stepping on. (Water shoes might be a good idea though!) If you like to snorkel, there’s definitely tons to see, right outside the hotel.
The main problem with the beach? Tons and tons of seaweed washed off right in front of the hotel. I’m not sure if it’s a year-round thing, or just seasonal, but it was gross. Said that, once you got past the seaweed, the water was clear. Also, walking a bit further away from the hotel and you had clear sand as well. And no, I’m not exaggerating on the amount of seaweed…
But as you can see, just on the other side of it the beach was much clearer.
The day we left the seaweed had gone down a lot as well.
The beach is not a bad beach for people that have kids – no waves to speak of, just calm water, and you had to go quite a while before the water got deep. The day we left there were a ton of jellyfish, but we didn’t see any on the days before then. The good news? The jellyfish were almost an orange color, and the water was so clear that it’s not hard to spot them quite a ways away from you.
Despite the seaweed problem, I would still recommend this hotel for the price. The room was comfortable, clean, the area quiet and quite beautiful.
On that we were quite boring! We ate at the Ooops! Bar just a little walk down from the hotel the first night, and shared the seafood platter. The seafood was ok, and included a crab, but no mallets, so we wasted a bit on the parts we couldn’t crack with our hands. Drinks were expensive, same price you would pay for a drink in the US. Service was crap, we even had to get up to pay the bill, because no one would come to us despite trying to signal the hell out of it.
On the other two nights we ate at the Alona Tropical restaurant, which was the hotel restaurant. For us it was perfect because we didn’t have to get sand on our freshly showered legs, but we were still just a few feet away from the water. The food there was really good, we had beef both days. The prices were reasonable as well (cheaper than where we live in Manila!). The service was excellent – super-friendly waiters!
Countryside Tour: Php 2,500/car (fits 4 people, 3 comfortably – you can hire a van for another Php 1,000 if you have more people in your party) NOTE: Price does not include entrance fees/lunch. Expect to pay anywhere from Php 10/person for the hanging bridge to Php 50/person for the Chocolate Hills.
We booked this tour with the same guy who drove us to the hotel from the airport. The prices however are pretty standard whether you book through the hotel or with another driver, I guess the difference is that the hotel doesn’t get a cut when you book directly. The tour included:
Tarsier Monkeys: it disappointed me that it was in a little tourist area, they were not in the wild, and there were quite a few other animals in cages as well,
Chocolate Hills: A must-see if you go to Bohol!
The butterfly conservatory: A small little area setup with butterflies, but very interesting, with a knowledgeable tour guide.
Man Made Forest: you drive by it for quite a while and the driver will stop for pictures. It’s really pretty.
Hanging Bridge: It was fun – you cross the bridge once each way. Pretty views of the river while you’re up there too.
Riverboat Cruise: You stop here for lunch (note that all these things are optional and you can tell your driver to skip it if you’d like). We almost skipped it, but then we got hungry. It isn’t cheap at Php 400/person, and the food wasn’t too great (noodles, rice, etc), but it was a relaxing boat trip and in the end it was a nice break for the day.
Baclayon Church: One of the oldest churches in Asia, and the oldest in the Philippines built in the Spanish era. They also have a museum, which we didn’t visit (we were pretty tired at this point).
Blood Compact Site: A statue of a memorial friendship treaty.
All in all, the trip took about 5.5 hours, and it’s definitely worth it to get to hit pretty much all the spots in Bohol.
Dolphin Watching and Balicasag Island Boat Trip: Php 2,500 (for a boat that fits up to 5 people. Another Php 1,000 if you need a bigger boat)
I loved this trip! Dolphin watching was my favorite part of the whole trip to Bohol! At first I was expecting to see a couple of dolphin here and there, but instead we saw at least a couple of DOZEN of them. It was awesome!
We spent about 15 minutes watching the dolphin then we went off to Balicasag Island. Karl had a coffee while there, and I had a mango juice. They were out of all the other flavors of juice. The island was nice, but we couldn’t relax, there was this one guy there that was trying way too hard to get us to rent snorkeling stuff. There’s even a trip you can take on another boat so you can go to the corals for snorkeling, but he was so persistent following us everywhere that we got sick of it and left the island sooner than we would have otherwise.
It was hard to walk on the island since it wasn’t sand but crushed corals, so our walk was cut short. There wasn’t much of a space to go to the water either. The picture below shows our boat, but ten minutes later the whole coast was covered with boats, and you were forced to swim on the 5-10 feet gap in between boats, so it wasn’t much fun.
From there, we went to the virgin island, which is this TINY little island a few minutes away. No one trying to sell you anything, not that many boats docked on the island itself, just on the sand bars that were near the island and just calm water to relax in.
All in all, I really recommend this trip! We were out for about 4.5 hours on the boat, for the cost of about U$60. Since you don’t pay per person, this is even cheaper if you have more people on your party.
Bohol was the perfect first trip in the Philippines!