After kicking off my trip in Cebu, I decided to hop on a ferry to Bohol for the next few days. I originally was conflicted about this decision since I heard mixed reviews from other travelers about Bohol, but given I spent an extra day in Cebu, I thought it made sense to choose a nearby island before hopping on a flight to Palawan in 3 days.
Despite the skepticism, I absolutely LOVED my short chapter in Bohol. It was basically a chiller, lusher, jungle-y version of Cebu which is right up my alley.
Day 5: Motorbiking Bohol countryside & jungle + chocolate hills
I hopped on a night bus from Moalboal to Cebu City, and then a 2-hour ferry to Bohol. Even this nearest island was quite a trek! Luckily traveling at night meant I arrived in Bohol early in the day – the sun was up, I drank a large cup of coffee, and I was ready to rumble!
First, I checked into my hostel which also doubled as an organic coconut farm. I instantly fell in love. My dorm was a wooden hut in the middle of this mini jungle, there was the cutest hippie decor, and the staff was SO welcoming (every person remembered my name by the end of my stay)! The vibe was so peaceful yet social as they only had electric outlets in a large common area where people would charge their phones and hang out.
I didn’t stay too long at the hostel as I was eager to get moving after my long travel night. I ate some breakfast at the hostel (completely organic and SO delicious), mapped out my day, rented a motorbike, and was off.
There are only a handful of attractions in Bohol, which to be honest, aren’t the greatest. I think that’s why other travelers recommend against Bohol. Yet I decided to use the day to see as many as possible, and to be honest…this ended up being on of my favorite days of the trip so far. The landscape along the way was to die for, and my excitement level was through the roof as I ooo-ed and ahh-ed at the green jungles and rural villages around me.
First stop, a tarsier sanctuary. Tarsiers are an endangered primate species that can fit on the palm of your hand and have adorable HUGE eyes. I visited a sanctuary that is helping to preserve them in Bohol.
Next, I drove through a scenic road in the middle of a man made forrest, which was also a tourist attraction. I was actually kind of surprised how many people were taking pictures since it basically felt like I was back in California :P.
The next stretch was a long but memorable one. Bohol is famous for its chocolate hills, and the drive to the viewpoint was my favorite stretch of the day. I took my time stopping through villages, saying hi to locals, and taking things slow in the rural countryside. Riding a motorbike has really changed my outlook on traveling as I was way less fixated on getting to the destinations, but rather soaking in every inch along the way. I feel like those in between portions are where you get the authentic experience; just observing people’s day-to-day lives/living conditions, and even stopping to talk to locals along the way.
I finally made it to chocolate hills. The views were pretty awesome, but the observation area was jam packed with tourists which and quite overwhelming. I snapped a few pictures and was on my way.
I got back to the hostel in the evening. As I was sitting in the common area charging my phone, I met two new friends, William from France and Grabriella from Switzerland. We chatted away and decided to link up for dinner as well. I just loved hearing about their travels so far, especially Gabriella who was traveling for 5 months in SE Asia – amazing.
I was super beat after dinner given my previous night travels. Before heading to bed, I decided I wanted to dive the next day and booked the first dive shop I found through my hostel. As I was laying in bed, Gabriella bursted into the room cheering that she booked the same dives for tomorrow! I was excited to finally put my open water certification to use on this trip, and also spend the next day with a new friend. 🙂
Day 6: Scuba diving + another side of Bohol
I woke up the next morning to hand wash my clothes – living like a local ;). It was early so I eased into the morning with coffee and enjoying the hammocks to myself and the fresh morning air.
When Gabriella woke up, we had some breakfast at our hostel, and we were off to the dive shop by 7:30am. It was convenient that both of us were the same beginner level, both having dove 5-6 times in our lives. We met our awesome crew, got our gear ready, and were off to the boat.
The diving deck was super relaxing, in the middle of the ocean, filled with coffee and fresh fruit, and plenty of space to chill in between our dives. The crew was a hilarious group of guys who basically nonstop joked around with us the whole time. The visibility of the water was crystal clear and I was excited to dive right in.
The first dive was really interested. There was a ton of marine life, mostly large groups of smaller fish which I loved. Our dive master did a great job at making me feel comfortable and pointing out the marine life. Total dive time was 45 minutes which was pretty long!
Unfortunately after getting out of the water, I felt really dizzy and nauseous…I think because my ears did not equalize properly during the dive. I tried to wait it out but ended up deciding to sit out for the next dive. I was disappointed, but also confident in my decision. In these situations I know it’s important to play it safe as people can get very hurt under water. I am however kind of worried about my future with diving since I also had problems equalizing the last time I dove in California…
Gabriella and the dive master were off, and I enjoyed the quiet time hanging out with the crew and snorkeling on the surface…it was nice just to be out on the water.
Afterwards, we headed back to shore and to the hostel. Gabriella and I decided to link up for the rest of the day as we both were pretty beat from the morning and just wanted to relax on the beach. We spent an hour chilling and catching up on our phones on hammocks. It was so nice to lie down after diving, which really wears you out!
Afterwards, we shared a motorbike and drove around to find lunch spot. We took a nice looong lunch and talked nonstop. Gabriella is so positive and full of life – I feel like we were actually pretty similar in our outlooks on life / traveling which made it easy to get along. It was so easy to open up and she kind of felt like an older sister. 🙂
After lunch, we decided to hit up Alona Beach, a popular beach attraction for tourists. While driving up to it, the vibe completely changed. It was packed with people and locals trying to sell you things, and filled with shops/restaurants/massage places – I was actually quite taken aback since it felt like a complete 180 from the chill, nature-y vibes I associated with Bohol. I guess it was kind of cool that you could get both these sides in one island. We decided to turn around and find a chiller beach.
After some bumps in navigation, we arrived at White Sand Beach. Being with Gabriella helped me just laugh off these bumps as she is really one of the most free-spirited people I’ve ever met. Since Gabriella was traveling for 5 months, being with her helped me slow down my day and enjoy every moment, which I needed since I was trying to fit so much in 2 weeks. I really appreciated having her company.
We got to the beach and spent a few hours relaxing on the sand, swimming, and watching the sunset.
Afterwards, we still had some energy, and actually decided to turn around again and hit up the Alona Beach area. There was a lot of activity there which felt like a fun option for nighttime. When we made it, our perspective completely changed from our visit before…daytime Alone felt overwhelming, crowded and kind of gross, but nighttime alone was lit up with bright lights, live music, people out drinking and chilling…just add a fireshow and we were basically back in Thailand :). We both agreed how happy we were that we came back!
We walked around, got some ice cream, and saw a group dance class – I couldn’t help but join 😉
Then we spent some time sitting on the steps to the beach, looking into the dark ocean, listening to the live music from the restaurant behind us, and chatting away. I really loved this moment – I feel like these genuine conversations and enjoying simple moments are what backpacking is all about. ❤
We headed back to our hostel and linked up with William from yesterday. The three of us enjoyed our last meal together and a few drinks on the hammocks. Gabriella and I both agreed that we were shocked that we only met each other yesterday, as it felt like so much happened and we shared so much. Just being together on the hammocks chilling and talking really felt like the perfect end to our time together.
Day 7: Last morning on the farm + Travel day to Coron
The next day, I woke up early to pack and enjoyed my last morning on the farm. I took one last walk around the place and played with the animals while sipping my coffee.
I definitely would have loved an extra day in Bohol – I just fell in love with the chill, nature-y vibes, and especially the farm hostel – this was my favorite hostel I’ve been to anywhere yet.
The rest of the day was spent traveling to Palawan, a whole different part of the Philippines know for its stunning beaches and islands. Rene recommended a 5-day island boat tour that gives you an authentic taste of Filipino island life – very remote as we will even be camping on the beach with no phone service. Rene said it was her favorite part of her 6 month solo trip and super popular among backpackers, and a big reason I came to the Philippines.
We had orientation in the evening and met the other travelers on the tour over some rum cocktails. I could tell we had a social and like-minded group, and after a week of roadtripping and handling logistics on my own, I’m really excited to relax on this tour, meet new friends, and let the itinerary be made for me :).
This trip is just flying by; I can’t believe it’s halfway through! It’s definitely bittersweet to say goodbye to this first chapter in Cebu and Bohol…what I imagined the experience to be was completely different than reality. I was NOT expecting to get addicted to the motorbike and see so much on both islands, but it ended up being a huge blessing. It’s cheesy but so true when they say that “it’s not about the destination, but the journey.” I really feel like this past week embodied that as I truly fell in love with Filipino culture/scenery/vibes through this unique road trip. ❤