On our third day in Bohol, we stayed put on Panglao Island to tour the different islands and beaches, where we also booked our accommodation for four days and three nights at Twin Tides Panglao. There are a handful of white sand beaches on the island led by its most popular beach, Alona Beach. While you can also explore other beaches in the province such as Dumaluan Beach, Bagobo Beach, Danao Beach, Bolod Beach, Libaong Beach, Balicasag Island, Virgin Island, Momo Beach, and Doljo Beach.
Panglao Island is very well-known for scuba diving, whale, and dolphin watching so we had to experience it firsthand with our own eyes how it is comparable to the other islands in the Philippines like Palawan and Cebu, where we’ve been before. There’s also a new tourist spot, St. Padre Pio Island, on the already known Virgin Island that we have to see in person.
Island Hopping on Panglao Island
We woke up early morning to start our island hopping to see the dolphins en route to Balicasag Island. We hired a private boat for two for the whole day tour. The best months to see the dolphins are from May to June.
It was our second time doing dolphin watching and the first time was in Puerto Princesa, Palawan years ago when our tour guide who has become our friend joined us with ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya‘s boat. In Panglao, it’s quite a different experience because you don’t need to wait for the dolphins to come out instead you’ll see them almost right away. In Palawan, we had to wait for hours for them to appear.
It seems like this has been a very touristy activity as the dolphins are very used to the boats around them as they swim towards the island as we cruise our way on the sea. Yes, we enjoyed watching them as there were many, but honestly, I had a disconcerting feeling that we are disturbing their sanctuary as if almost chasing them, similar to when I swam with the whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu which became an issue on media – comparing it to the whale sharks in Sorsogon, Bicol.
The first island we visited was Balicasag, a marine sanctuary. There’s a Php 100 Environmental fee, Php 150 for Snorkeling Gear, and a tour guide fee of Php 250 per person. Since I always bring my snorkeling gear, I didn’t pay for theirs anymore and it’s much more sanitary to have your own considering many tourists are using them.
You can have breakfast here or have it packed while on the boat. The island is very commercial now with plenty of stores and eateries offering Filipino food, soft drinks, and souvenirs. The snorkeling area is very near the shore and we were transferred from our big boat to a smaller one for two people with a boatman manually paddling his way around the snorkeling spot.
Bring some bread to feed the fish so they’ll come to you faster while on the boat or while you snorkel. It’s a beautiful sight underneath with the colorful Nemos and a few sea turtles but the corals are more damaged now that this island has become quite commercial over the years sadly. We’ve been to many other snorkeling and dive spots where we can compare the corals; honestly, the island needs to take a breather.
St. Padre Pio Island (Isola de Francisco)
The best island we saw that wasn’t there in 1998 was St. Padre Pio Island which was a surprise that they have. St. Pio has been my patron saint ever since I had Lupus decades ago (now miraculously healed) and to find an island in the middle of the sea is just amazing.
The island is also the famous Virgin Island (also known as Pungtud or Pontod Island) but not the part where the currently controversial sand bar is full of overpriced food stalls. It’s on the main island itself separate from the sandbar which you can see from afar. Our boatman didn’t like the sand bar full of tourists and said Isola de Francisco is more beautiful. I must say he was right, this island is a must-see place in Bohol.
We were in awe of the peaceful holy island full of birds flying around, trees, statues of St. Pio himself, St. Michael de Archangel, and even a boat with Jesus Christ with the fishermen. There’s a chapel where you can pray solemnly, donate to help the caretakers maintain it, and see the photos of the original Padre Pio chapel in Quezon City.
Visiting this island reminded us of the days when I was sick with Lupus and we were doing novenas, praying hard that I heal (despite the illness having no cure). During those years in 2004 or 2005 if I remember correctly, St. Pio in Libis, Quezon City was the only chapel in the Philippines. I felt so grateful to miraculously be healed from the disease and be alive in my 30s when we went in 2019.
After visiting these islands in Panglao, we headed back at 4 pm before sunset. When we were dropped off the shore, we had a mesmerizing view of the sunset at Alona Beach.
A smaller version of Boracay Island with its white sand beach but less swimmable as it was filled with boats and the sand isn’t as fine. Alona reminds me a bit of Port Barton, Palawan because of its size and the gorgeous sunset but it’s noisier and full of bars, restaurants, and resorts with plenty of tourists.
It has become quite commercial over time and looks like it needs to shut down for a few months like Boracay to rehabilitate the beach so it can breathe for a while and restore Alona Beach to its glory days. The far end of the shoreline leading to Amorita Resort is quieter if you prefer it. There were plans pre-pandemic to do so but given the 2020 Covid-19 shutdown of travel days, I’m not sure if it fully happened.
Our hotel concierge told us the next time we revisit their island, try to stay at Dumaluan Beach. I was considering it but since I needed stable internet I opted to book a hotel near the restaurants instead of the beachfront, which I usually do as I love waking up in the morning with the smell and view of the ocean. Dumaluan Beach is less commercial, more serene, and has a longer shoreline compared to Alona Beach. There are plenty of resorts here such as Dumaluan Beach Resort, Bohol Beach Club, and South Palms Resort.
You can visit other beaches in Panglao at the back of the island or beside Alona Beach like Bagobo Beach, Bolod Beach, Libaong Beach, Momo Beach, and Doljo Beach if you prefer quieter, less touristy areas. Some of the resorts on these beaches are for watersports or laidback vacations.
Watch out for Panglao Island Part 4 on The HodgePodge Lifestyle.