Things to Do in Bohol
Jutting out of the center of the island are well over 1,000 conical, grass-covered hills. Geologists aren't sure how the Chocolate Hills were formed, and the surreal landscape they form is one of the most stunning in the country, particularly during the dry season when the grass turns brown, giving them a chocolate color.
Bohol is also known for a wide-eyed little creature called a tarsier. Native to only a few islands in the Philippines and Indonesia, these tiny primates are thought to be the smallest on earth, and you can see them at the Tarsier Research and Development Center.
Don’t look down! This thin and wobbly bridge made of woven bamboo is a great thrill, especially for those conquering a fear of heights. Suspended some 131 feet (40 meters) across the murky, green Loboc River in southwestern Bohol, the flexible bridge creaks, bounces and sways with every step as you make your way across. Add a whole family and it’s an experience you’re not soon to forget.
The bridge, originally constructed of just bamboo and rope, was once open to local foot traffic and (eek!) small motorcycles heading in both directions. As a popular tourist attraction, the bridge has since received some safety upgrades: steel cable handles, a 10-person maximum on the bridge, and a second return bridge that ensures traffic is always one-way only. On the other side, vendors sell affordably priced hats, fans, t-shirts and snacks, and the “Buko (Coconut) King” offers his namesake nuts impressively stripped of their husks using his teeth.
Scenic Mag-Aso Falls in Antequera is tucked into a hilly jungle forest of giant tropical ferns and towering trees. There, a meandering stream rains down a 25-foot drop over boulders and pours into a compact sea green pool. Adventurous swimmers can ply the water around the fall’s base, though must be careful of the pool’s outlet, which continues on over rocky boulders.
The water that feeds the falls fills a man-made pool on a ridge; there’s also limited overnight accommodation in rustic cottages nearby. The falls are located below at the base of the ridge and accessed via a flight of concrete steps with a metal handrail. On the approach, there is an overlook and popular photo stop before continuing on along the stream to the falls.
Several natural caves and groundwater spring attractions are also within a few kilometers of Antequera in the vicinity of the falls. Removed from the usual tourist route—which runs from Tagbilaran to Loboc and on to the Chocolate Hills—you may need to hire a taxi or request a tour stop at the falls.
This tropical municipality located on the island of Bohol is known for its popular lunch cruises that take crews of eager travelers along the Loboc River. A highlight of this afternoon excursion is—in addition to buffet lunch—a liver performance by the famed Loboc Children’s Choir. This world-renowned group comprised of youthful voices has made a name for itself in competitions across the globe.
Travelers who prefer land to water can explore the iconic Loboc Church, which was built in the early 1600s. Its stone façade and religious detailing is a clear example of Jesuit colonial influence on this tiny municipality. Visitors will find ornate stone carvings, colorful stucco paintings and intriguing gargoyles, as well as other medieval creatures.
On the island of Bohol, the Chocolate Hills are hailed as one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in the Philippines. The more than 1,260 mounds—which get their name from the rich, brown color they turn during the summer months—are a geological anomaly best seen from an elevated overlook in the town of Carmen.
The Baclayon Church, sits atop the original site of the first Catholic mission to Bohol and dates back to the 16th century. The simple cross-shaped church facing the Bohol Sea that visitors can see today is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. It is fashioned from coral-stone block and was completed in 1727.
The church and its adjacent bell tower suffered major damage in the 7.2 earthquake that shook the region in 2013. A new red roof has been added and visitors can once again wander inside, taking in the ceiling frescoes around the altar, tiny saint figures tucked into its nooks, and a handful of glass-enclosed statues from the earliest days of the church. Renovations are ongoing.
Behind the church in the old convent, the Church Museum houses many of the building’s artifacts including gold-stitched vestments, hymnals bound in water buffalo skins and inscribed with plant-based inks, as well as additional saints, iconography and relics.
The Abatan River in Bohol winds its way through the town of Antequera to the town of Balilihan for an estimated length of 12 miles (20 kilometers). In the past, before the roads were developed in this area, the river served as a waterway for local people to reach the towns.
These days, the government has opened up Abatan River to the eco-tourism trade, with kayak and boat trips allowing visitors to explore the lush green scenery that the river has to offer. However, one of the most fascinating highlights of the Abatan River occurs at night, when a dazzling light show courtesy of thousands of fireflies illuminates the night sky. This spectacle has long been known to the locals, and it is only in recent years that visitors from other parts of the country and the world have come to witness it.
An evening firefly watching tour will navigate you through the mangroves to witness one of nature’s most incredible shows. Ideal for couples, private river cruises are available and often include a romantic dinner.
The skinny, uniform trunks of red and white mahogany seem to erupt from nowhere along the road between Loboc and Bilar towns, a route frequented by traffic heading from eastern tourist towns to the Chocolate Hills. Their quiet and leafy canopy tunnels over the road forming a shady respite for visitors that extends for more than a mile. The trees were planted by volunteers in the middle of the last century in an effort to restore the destruction caused by kaingin, a form of slash and burn agriculture that decimated the original forest and was used by residents who sheltered in the region during WWII. Though beautiful—with tendril-like tree roots consuming above-ground boulders—the Manmade Mahogany Forest has drawn criticism for the decision to feature mahogany; the hardwood tree is native to South and Central America and foreign to many native species of plants and animals that remain absent from the scenic area. Fortunately, the mahogany stand is bookended by more naturally evolving forests containing native trees and ferns.
A bronze statue on a hilltop fronting the sea commemorates The Sandugo, a traditional tribal trust ceremony shared by regional chief Datu Skiatuna and Captain General Miguel López de Legazpi of Spain shortly after his arrival in Bohol in 1565. The symbolic gesture formed the foundation for lasting peace between the Spaniards and the Island residents.
The statue, near the site of the original ceremony, sits on small raised pedestal and depicts the two men seated in their period regalia and clanking glasses while three Spaniards look on approvingly. The blood compact required both men to create a small incision in their forearms, sprinkle blood in a glass of wine, exchange cups, and drink, thus solidifying the compact.
Hinagdanan Cave can be found on Panglao Island in the Philippines’ Bohol Province. Made from limestone, Hinagdanan Cave is naturally lit by sunlight filtering in through holes in its rocky ceiling, which in turn creates some interesting lighting effects.
Concrete steps lead down into the cave from the entrance. The stalactites and stalagmites here are particularly impressive, protruding from both the ground and the ceiling, and
surrounding an underground lagoon, which is warm enough to swim in (although costs extra). The cave is also a place for nesting swallows, which sweep into the cave and sleep in the tiny holes in the ceiling.
Hinagdanan Cave has become a popular attraction since its accidental discovery by the land’s owner some years ago, and there is now a firm holding of souvenir shops and stalls that need to be navigated before visitors can reach the cave’s entrance.
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