The Philippines is a country that offers endless possibilities for all types of travelers. You can easily spend weeks in the country and still not have time to see everything it offers. The sad part is most of us can only afford to take short vacations and therefore we don’t have a choice but to prioritize what’s the most important place to cover and things to do.
For short trips to the Philippines, the Visayas area should be your chosen destination. Visayas is one of the largest regions of Philippines, and includes of thousands of islands – most notably Cebu and Bohol. Cebu is a major tourist attraction and is close to various other beautiful islands – the best one of these is Bohol. So, for all those who have 4 to 5 days in hand, a great itinerary can be built around those two places.
Cebu and Bohol are both perfect beach destinations for group or couples who are looking for a luxury stay in a beautiful tropical island setting. It is also great for backpackers who are looking for budget accommodation and vibrant nightlife. For longer stays, this itinerary could easily be coupled with a visit to some other popular islands such as Palawan or Boracay for example. Or, you can go to one of the nearby smaller islands which are easily accessible by ferry, such as Siquijor.
How to Get to Cebu and Bohol
It is really up to you whether you wish to start this trip as both Cebu and Bohol are major transportation centers and connect to most other islands in the country. With the addition of Bohol’s new international airport, there are now flights coming in from many nearby countries as well. It is much easier to find cheap flights if you start your trip there, and these flights only take an hour going in from Manila.
Getting from one island to the other is also incredibly simple as there are numerous ferry lines running between the two. The best ferry company is Oceanjet and it leaves every hour or so. The ride takes roughly 2 hours to complete. If you book these tickets a long time in advance you have a chance to enjoy a promo, but even if you wait until the last minute and buy them directly at the pier you should have no problem getting a seat.
Sample Budget Cebu-Bohol Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive at Bohol
From Manila there are between 7 and 8 daily flights going to Bohol. The latest one usually leaves around 5PM with AirAsia. You should aim to get there before lunch, so you can check in and leave your bags at the hotel before having at least half a day remaining to do some exploring.
Rent a motorbike and go visit the Twin Falls of Pangahog Falls. It is about an hour from the famous Alona Beach. You can enjoy the amazing drive that takes you through the serene coastal towns but the last one kilometer has to be done on foot, trekking through a flight of steps. Once you are at the falls, you can see the lovely streams of water flowing into an emerald pool. There are also several crevasses to explore, which make it a magical place to spend the afternoon time.
If you are not too enthusiastic about doing the waterfall, you can watch the sunset at the Chocolate Hills instead. Known for its amazing landscape, Chocolate Hills are a little greener during the rainy season and brown otherwise. If you do not want to visit them separately, you can do it as part of countryside tour or with the Hinagdanan Caves. The caves are on route to the Chocolate Hills and are often full of tourists so it’s actually better to get there as early as you can.
Day 2: Island Hopping
Island lovers can take an island-hopping tour on Day 2, which is almost a whole day full of stunning marine attractions. Bohol is without a doubt one of the best places in the country to take such a tour. The beaches you’ll see are very nice, but unlike other places in the Philippines the emphasis in this trip is less on beaches and lagoons and more on marine wildlife.
The tour starts with dolphin watching, before you continue to Balicasag marine sanctuary. There, you will have all the time in the world to relax on the beach, or snorkel at two pristine sites. One site is famous for its rich selection of coral and fish, while the other offers a vast population of sea turtles. Afterwards, you’ll make a stop at Virgin island before heading back to Panglao.
Day 3: Countryside Tour of Bohol
You can spend your third day admiring the unique countryside of Bohol. You can either do it on your own or take a tour. The tour is much more structured and includes the Chocolate Hills (viewdeck only), Tarsier Sanctuary and Loboc River Eco Adventure Park.
If you’d like to include other locations or activities, it is much easier to just rent a bike and do this trip on your own. It will allow you to actually visit the Chocolate Hills and ride the ATV instead of just getting a panoramic view, as well as include other nice locations such as the man-made forest, blood compact, Baclayon Church and more.
Day 4: Historic Day at Cebu
The first day in Cebu can be spent getting familiar with the city; you can take it light to recover from the ferry ride. A nice way to spend this day is by taking a walking tour – you can either do your own research or get in touch with one of the tour agencies in Cebu. The city takes pride to be home of fascinating historic and cultural monuments, so why not enrich your trip by learning some more about the region.
Day 5: Kawasan Falls
If you only have a single day left to spend in the Cebu area, there’s no better way to do it then by going to the famous Kawasan Falls. This spectacular three-tiered waterfall is considered one the most impressive ones in the Philippines, and you could easily spend a few other there just relaxing in the cool waters or performing thrilling cliff jumps into the pools below.
Better yet, it is also possible to reach Kawasan Falls by taking the canyoneering trail from Moalboal. This is a 4 hours trek and is not difficult or dangerous at all. In fact, it is a lot of fun and a very unique experience. You will make your way through the canyons and follow the river through the jungle until you finally reach the falls.
If you can afford to spend some more time in Cebu, or would like to experience other attractions instead, there are plenty of other things you could try out. Island hopping in Mactan is quite nice, although it is better if you travel up north to Malapascua. And then there is also the Oslob whale sharks experience of course, which is an interesting activity for the whole family.