When I was in Bohol a few weeks ago, I checked out some packaged day tours to see the Chocolate Hills, the Tarsier Conservation Area, and the Loboc River but found them very expensive, especially since I’m by myself. Most tours also require at least 2 people.
Fortunately, exploring on your own is easy and a lot cheaper using public transportation than taking the tour. Plus you’re on your own schedule, you can spend as much or as little time as you wish at each spot. Here’s how I did mine starting from Tagbilaran. (A good place to stay in Tagbilaran, by the way, is El Portal Inn. A single room with A/C is 750 PHP. The room was very clean and in great condition, looks pretty new. The staff were very friendly and attentive as well.)
First Stop: Chocolate Hills
Start your day early, around 8-9am and head to the Chocolate Hills first. A tricycle from my hotel to the Dao Bus Terminal near the Island City Mall cost me 30 PHP.
At the bus terminal, look for a bus going to Carmen. Ask one of the guys there which bus to the Chocolate Hills to be sure. The bus ride costs 60 PHP. Tell the driver to drop you off by the Chocolate Hills Complex. It’s pretty easy to spot, you’ll see the Chocolate Hills before you get there and a big sign. Takes about 2 hours to get here from Tagbilaran.
Near the entrance of the complex, you can take a “habal-habal” (motorbike) up the hill for about 40 PHP. It only takes like 5 minutes and it’s a pretty easy hike, but I didn’t know at the time so I took one. You also have to pay an entrance fee of 50 PHP.
There’s a hotel, restaurant, and public bathrooms at the complex. You also have to climb up some stairs to get to the viewing area. About 1 hour here is more than enough. I walked down on the way back which was very easy.
Second Stop: Tarsier Conservation Area
Opposite the entrance to the Chocolate Hills Complex, take a bus going back to Tagbilaran and get off at the Tarsier Conservation Area in Loboc, which should take about 30-40 minutes. Cost should be about 30 PHP.
I’ve been wanting to see these creatures since I was little after reading about them in school. There’s an entrance fee of 60 PHP to see these cute little creatures. They were actually much smaller than I thought they would be, smaller than my hand. You can take pictures, but without flash. You can also get very close but you’re not allowed to touch them. About 30 minutes here is more than enough.
Third Stop: Loboc River
My last stop of the day was lunch at one of the floating restaurants on the Loboc River. You can take another bus going to Tagbilaran again (opposite of the Tarsier Conservation Area) to the center of Loboc, near the church, for about 10 PHP. Look for a sign that says something about “tourism” and follow it. You’ll be crossing a bridge where you can see the restaurants.
It was a buffet lunch for 350 PHP, but you have to pay an extra 100 PHP river entrance fee. Someone will be playing music/singing to entertain you while the restaurant moves along the Loboc river, being dragged by a small boat. There’s also a stop where you can see the locals perform traditional Filipino dances, such as the “tinikling.” I have to say, though, that they looked very tired (I was on the last ride at around 2-2:30 PM). It definitely didn’t look like they wanted to do the performance, they’ve probably done it so many times throughout the day. It might be better to try and get here earlier, around noon if possible.
I went with “Riverwatch Floating Resto,” which I honestly can’t recommend as I thought the food selection wasn’t very good, nor the singer. He did know a bunch of songs in different languages. He sang songs in English, Cebuano, Tagalog, Spanish, and even Korean (lots of Korean tourists in the Philippines). We passed by a few other floating restaurants on the way and they had much better entertainers.
The view of the river was beautiful though.
After the river tour, I walked back to the center of town to take some pictures of the church then flagged a bus to take me back to Tagbilaran bus terminal for 35 PHP. From there, I took a tricycle back to my hotel for 30 PHP.
- Tricycle from hotel to Dao Bus Terminal: 30 PHP
- Bus to Carmen (Chocolate Hills Complex): 60 PHP
- Habal-habal (motorbike) ride up to the complex: 40 PHP
- Chocolate Hills entrance fee: 50 PHP
- Bus to Tarsier Conversation Area in Loboc: 30 PHP
- Tarsier Conversation Area entrance fee: 60 PHP
- Bus to Loboc River: 10 PHP
- Loboc River entrance: 100 PHP
- Floating Restaurant buffet lunch: 350 PHP
- Bus back to Dao Bus Terminal: 35 PHP
- Tricycle back to hotel: 30 PHP
- Total: 795 PHP
Around 800 PHP to see these sites if you do it yourself, less than a third of the cost of the packaged tours which cost around 2500-3000 PHP.