I recently took a 10 day trip to Panglao island in Bohol, Philippines to gather hotel information and photos for updates to my Alona Beach Guide website (http://alonabeachguide.com). I haven’t been to Alona Beach since 2008 (time flies), so the website was pretty stale and the trip was long overdue. A lot can change in 8 years. I also hoped to visit other areas and beaches of Panglao to see how they compare to Alona Beach and other areas of the Philippines.
Getting To Bohol
Getting to Bohol was simple, especially since I was already in Dumaguete (check out my Dumaguete Travel Guide @ http://dmgte.com). I took the 2 hour OceanJet "fast craft" from Dumaguete to Tagbilaran, Bohol. It leaves everyday at 3:00PM and costs P700 (~$15USD). This is the fastest, most comfortable boat to Bohol.
Getting Around Panglao
After arriving at the pier, I ignored the trike and taxi drivers and walked a few minutes to the main road to rent a motorbike. The going rate is around P500/day (~$12USD), which is on the expensive side for the Philippines - but you can usually negotiate lower if you are renting for more than a few days. I paid P400/day for a Honda XRM. Alternatively you could just take a trike to your destination, but since I was staying well outside the touristy Alona Beach and planned to travel around Panglao quite a bit, I wanted to have my own transportation.
To get to Panglao, head right on the main road from the pier and after a few minutes of driving just follow the traffic towards the right and over the bridge to Panglao.
Of course things don't always go smoothly. On the 2nd day of my trip, my motorbike starting having issues. Rather than take it to the rental place back in Tagbilaran, I happened upon a small shop fixing motorbikes and let him take a look. An hour of work and P100 (~$2USD) later I was on my way, good as new!
Momo Village Tower
I decided to stay quite a ways from Alona Beach in an interesting hotel I found online (http://alonabeachguide.com/hotel/MomoVillage). This place is a really cool tower with 4 rooms in a quiet, rural area of Panglao very near Momo Beach. If you are looking for a cheap, clean place to stay away from the touristy areas of Panglao, I'd highly recommend it. There isn't much in the area, so you really do need your own transportation if staying here (or you can rent a motorbike from them). The rooms are simple, clean and have everything you need but lack some of the more luxurious items such as aircon.
Momo Village Lookout
There's even a lookout spot at the very top for some great views of the area. This was an awesome spot to watch the sunrise.
My Room at Momo Village
My breezy 4th floor room had a private balcony, ref, TV, fan (no aircon) and fast internet for P900. Surprisingly, this is some of the better internet I've had in any hotel in the Philippines. I was thankful to be able to get some work done here!
5th Floor Room at Momo Village
After a few days I switched to the 5th floor, which is the top. This room is quite a bit smaller but is also more private with a larger balcony facing the other direction. I ended up preferring this room despite it's smaller size. The entire room is surrounded by windows (yes, even the bathroom!!!), so it feels quite open and airy while still being private. Note the bathroom, which is extremely basic and open to the world!
Breakfast at Momo Village
Breakfast was surprising good and included some of the best wheat toast I've had in the Philippines. There was even a croissant!
Finally back in Alona Beach
After 8 years, I finally made it back to Alona Beach. I was surprised at how much has changed but in most ways it's still the same place - A small stretch of beautiful beach with every nook and cranny packed with tourists, dive boats, resorts and restaurants. I enjoyed walking from one side of the beach to the other, checking things out with my fresh Avocado shake in-hand.
The not-so-good about Alona Beach
While the beach and water itself is quite nice and very picturesque at times, Alona Beach isn't without major downsides.
It is very crowded and there isn't much public beach area.
If you are looking for a relaxing beach to find your own private paradise, this is not it. Beach space is at a premium here and you'll be sharing!
The beach isn't great for swimming.
The beach here is no doubt a very beautiful white sand and the water a lovely shade of blue... but due to all the dive boats and activities, it's not easy to find a spot to swim or lounge in the water. Swimming tip: head to the far end of the beach (looking at the water, turn right) and swim where the locals swim near the rock formation:
Decent, affordable, beach-side accomodation is lacking.
Alona Beach has some amazing resorts (like the new Henann Resort) but if you're on a budget, you'll find it difficult to find a hotel/cottage right on the beach at affordable rates like you can in other areas of the Philippines. Due to heavy development in the area, long gone are the days of P500 cottages on or near the beach. The good news is you can still find decent accomodation nearby - but the quality really varies from place to place.
If you're on a tight budget and are okay with being near (not on) the beach, check out Bohol Sea Breeze Cottages which is an easy 5 minute walk from the beach and has decent cottages for around P900 (~$20USD). Another option even closer to the beach is Tierra Azul, which looks the same as when I visited 8 years ago!
It's oddly a bit rough and dirty in places.
For such a well-known beach in the Philippines, I find it oddly rough, unkept and dirty in some places, yet only meters away are world-class resorts. Eight years ago when I launched my Alona Beach website, I added a note to the Alona Grove page indicating to be careful walking on the path to the beach. I'm sad to say that this path is not only still there, but it's even worse than before. I hoped that it was just temporary and that eventually the path would be cleaned up and made safe for visitors. Unfortunately that is not the case at all. When I was there recently it was a dumping ground for trash and the path was still lined with barbed wire. This is the path you use to get to the beach from cheap accomdation such as Alona Grove or Alona Bamboo House - so I do not recommend staying at these hotels.
The Good Side of Alona
However, despite some negatives, the Alona Beach area has a lot going for it. If you're looking for beach activities such as diving, island-hopping and nightlife - Alona Beach is for you. It has tons of nice restaurants and bars on the beach as well as on the nearby main road. You'll easily find fruit shake stands, souvenir shops, bbq stands, etc along the beach and it's fun just to walk the beach and see what you'll discover.
If you're looking for that relaxing, tropical paradise beach, you might find Alona too crowded, busy and claustrophic for your tastes. But don't worry, there are other beaches nearby!
Other Beaches of Panglao
Panglao, Bohol is a very small island and you can easily drive around it in an hour or so. While Alona Beach is the main tourist destination on the island, there are plenty of other beaches worth checking out especially if you crave something a bit more relaxing.
Danao Beach is the closest to Alona and has a few well-known resorts such as Linaw and Panglao Tropical Villas. I find this beach much nicer and more relaxing than Alona. The beach isn't long, but it has a secluded feel to it. It doesn't connect to any other beaches, so you'll need to take a tricycle or have a motorbike to get here.
After visiting almost every beach on Panglao, Dumaluan beach quickly became my favorite. It is long, wide, beautiful and easy to find a private spot to sit and relax. While it does get busy at times (especially in front of the Dumaluan Resort, which is the best place to park), it is plenty big enough to take an easy stroll down the long beach and away from the crowds. Be sure to walk passed Bohol Beach Club and the South Palms to see some truly amazing resorts.
Doljo beach is home to The Bellevue Resort, a beautiful new resort on Panglao. They have their own little stretch of the beach and keep it well-maintained. However, the rest of the beach isn't so lovely especially at low tide. This is mainly a beach used by locals and fishermen and you won't find many tourists here. Unless you're just adventurous, I'd skip visiting this beach and head for Dumaluan instead.
A truly local beach where you'll find kids swimming and families sitting by the water, Momo Beach is located on the North side of the island about 20 minutes from Alona. It is small, isolated and dirty at times. I would not recommend beach-goers visit this beach. But for the adventurous, it's worth checking out! If you happen to be staying at Momo Village, this beach is only a 5 minute walk away. The best section of beach is at the end near Momo Beach House.
More to do on Panglao
During this trip I managed to drive around Panglao a bit and check out some other things it has to offer visitors. You can drive around the entire island in about 1-2 hours.
Bohol Bee Farm
This was surprisingly the highlight of my trip to Panglao. Walking through their lush, well-maintained, shady surroundings was really nice. I also truly enjoyed their organic breakfast. I went back another day just to try it again. Their shop also has high quality honey and different soaps, spreads, etc for sale (with free samples). I highly recommend a visit to the Bohol Bee Farm. Tip: skip the tour and just walk around yourself - unless you just really want to have your photo taken with some bees! Oh, and don't forget to try their famous ice cream!
This cave is small but I enjoyed my visit here. You pay a cheap entrance fee and get a young "volunteer" guide to take you in to the cave. Be careful though, as some of the floor is slippery! Be sure to get here early before tourists arrive.
Overall I had a great trip to Panglao, Bohol and hope to make it back soon!