New Normal Guide: Bohol

New Normal Guide: Bohol

Under new normals, Bohol still beckons you to its beguiling emerald isle for a fun and frolic beach vacation with strict health and safety measures

* Editor’s note: This story was last updated on 22 December, 2020. See here for the latest travel guidelines in Bohol.

Bohol was the first island province to implement a lockdown to prevent the entry and spread of COVID-19. That was back then and today, the island has re-emerged from her hibernation and has stirred back to life with most parts of the province slowly reopening to travel, trade and tourism. 

Now, at a time when a premium is placed on health and safety, visitors would be delighted to know that Bohol is committed to the well-being of islanders and tourists alike with the strict implementation of health precautions and safety protocols, beginning with a negative RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours upon entry to Bohol.

So, first things first

After complying with the safety protocols, it’s time to behold and enjoy Bohol. As one of Southeast Asia’s the most scenic tourist attractions, Bohol has a lot to offer aside from its irresistible stretches of powdery white sandy beaches in Panglao and in Anda.

Where to Stay

Bohol definitely has a lot of places to choose from. From modern & luxurious resorts to modest ones, from private villas to B & Bs, you have a lot of options and with the low turn-out of tourists due to restricted global travel, local residents have been checking in at the resorts that have offered discounted rates.

1. The Bohol Bee Farm

 

The Bohol Bee Farm is situated on a cliff that overlooks the Mindanao Sea. Aside from its rustic feel, the farm is popular for its culinary delights, organic farming & educational tour.

 

There are so many things to do and enjoy while at the Bohol Bee Farm.  Take a dip at its refreshing pool, pamper yourself for a rejuvenating & relaxing session at The Spa and Wellness Center, or sip your fave cocktail at the sun deck. Commune with nature and take a walk around the vegetable & herb gardens. For the adventurous ones, get diving lessons, go kayaking, snorkelling or try stand- up paddling. To keep the kids busy, have them on a farm tour on micro- greens, loom weaving, food processing, baking, arts & crafts & bee culture.

 

A visit to Bohol Bee Farm starts with the required temperature scanning, wearing of masks and contact tracing forms. Handwash stations are located everywhere. Sanitizers & disinfectants are also provided. Please note that all bookings are done online and all establishments have a No Mask, No Entry policy. 

  • Find out more here

2. Bellevue Resort

 

The five-star rated Bellevue Resort in Panglao Island boasts of a majestic & imposing presence with its two architectural wonders with 159 luxurious guestrooms & well-appointed suites and three restaurants for al-fresco or indoor dining spread around a four-hectare property, and a family-friendly infinity pool that leads to a serene and secluded stretch of a white sandy beach. Aptly named Bellevue which is French for “beautiful view”, guests will definitely be pleased with the resort’s blend of contemporary & rustic aesthetics.

 

The ASEAN Green Hotel awardee has a wide variety of activities to enjoy. From relaxing wellness sessions & therapeutic massage at the Azurea Spa. Meditative yoga sessions and morning zumba sessions are available too. Fun activities at the beach and at the waters such as kayaking, beach volleyball and their banana boat rides.  

 

With the safety and well- being of its guests and resort staff in mind, precautionary measures have been constantly updated. A mandatory safety check awaits guests upon arrival. Their QR-code enabled scanning assures you of a fast- tracked check in.  

  • Find out more here

3. The Bohol Beach Club

 

The Bohol Beach Club located in Panglao Island was busy preparing for its reopening this October when we did an ocular visit mid- August. A stunning panoramic view of its famed white sandy beach that stretches a kilometre and a half in front of the resort’s sprawling property never fails to take one’s breath away. The beach with its tall coconut palm trees and blue waters became even more beautiful during the time it was temporarily closed off to the public.   

 

The resort’s deluxe rooms and beach view suites have been refurbished with luxurious amenities. The beach paradise has an outdoor pool for adults and a wading pool for children. There is free WIFI access in the entire property.  The resort is well laid out in a beautifully landscaped lush garden to give guests more space, privacy and exclusivity. 

 

Fun & leisure activities include windsurfing, kayaking, billiards and table tennis. Guests can use the resort’s fitness centre and enjoy a traditional therapeutic massage.

  • Find out more here

What to Eat

Bohol is known for a vibrant culinary landscape and a truly international flavour especially in the tourist town of Panglao where many expats have settled down, and in the capital city of Tagbilaran. Presently, most of the F&B establishments have suspended operations or have opted for take-out and delivery services.

Here are my recommendations for a delightful gastronomic adventure in Bohol:

4. Persona Mesa Restaurant 

In the heart of the capital city of Tagbilaran, Bohol is the top- rated Persona Mesa Restaurant famed for its Filipino & Asian cuisine. It is the love for food and the delight for designs that inspired the creation of the place. The place has both air- conditioned and outdoors dining areas. 

Among the restaurant’s bestsellers are: 

  • Vegetable spring roll 
  • Beef rendang with turmeric rice 
  • Turon 

 

Beef rendang with turmeric rice. Spicy and rich Indonesian stew made with tender beef, spices and coconut milk.

 

Vegetable spring-roll. Stir-fried vegetables in fresh spring roll wrapper topped with Persona signature sauce, shrimps and peanut sprinkles.

 

Turon with a twist. Capping off your meal is native Boholano dessert made of banana slices that’s added with a twist of purple yam, dusted with brown sugar and rolled in spring roll wrapper. Served with a double scoop of ice cream.

 

There’s a mandatory temperature- taking, use of hand sanitizers at the entrance and a No Mask, No Entry policy. The restaurant observes social distancing and there are glass dividers at the tables in the indoor dining area (pictured).

5. Chicken Ati Atihan

Filipino grilled chicken and rice 

One of Bohol's most popular restaurants is a stone’s throw away from the Tagbilaran Seaport. Since it opened in 2006, it has become one of Bohol’s most popular restaurants because of their incomparable grilled chicken and its homey and laidback ambience. 

 

The unpretentious restaurant also serves Filipino favourites like their sizzling squid stuffed with tomatoes, onions and garlic and cooked with glazed sugar. For dessert, try their buko halo halo prepared with ube jam, mango bits, nata de coco, slices of banana and sweet potato and served in a coconut shell.  

 

The restaurant has a No Mask, No Entry policy and there is a mandatory temperature-taking and filling up contact tracing forms. To comply with the social distancing protocol, there are plastic dividers on all tables (pictured).  

6. Bohol Bee Farm Restaurant

 

Your visit to Bohol’s most famous agriculture- based resort isn‘t complete without a visit to its al fresco restaurant that offers healthy home-grown meals prepared from its organically- grown vegetables aside from their fresh meat & poultry selections. The sensory overload of your unique dining experience is heightened with the rustic charm of the place. 

 

The view from the restaurant is amazing with its hodgepodge of bright & subdued colours. Splashes of orange and yellow and bursts of green are everywhere. The woven couches and divans tempered by the weather beaten wooden corner tables add to the trendy and homey ambience. Every corner has private nooks for bookworms and couples alike.

What to Do

There are so many things to do and fun & leisurely activities to indulge in while in Bohol. With Bohol under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) non- contact sports & fun activities such as swimming, biking, tennis and scuba diving are allowed already.

Mandatory safety protocols are observed to allow for an exhilarating yet safe activity. 

7. Cycle and savour natural wonders

Cycling is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Bohol. This group of cyclists meet regularly for long rides, a fun activity in the midst of lockdowns. Photo: Ms. Vanessa Aumentado

Let’s start first with biking, one of Bohol’s most popular leisure activities because of the island’s paved smooth roads. It allows for a healthy cardiovascular workout, bond with family and friends and enjoy the scenic postcard-pretty Bohol landscape. Even before the COVID 19 pandemic, biking has already been attracting hordes of biking enthusiasts and biking groups have even been formed to regulate and monitor their activities. Ms. Vanessa Aumentado, who is the wife of Filipino politician Cong. Aris Aumentado and an avid biker herself, shares some practical tips to fully enjoy the activity:

WHAT TO WEAR Helmet, gloves, bright- coloured cycling jersey & shorts with padding, comfortable rubber shoes and shades.       

BEST TIME FOR ACTIVITY Early in the morning between 5 am and 7 am or late in the afternoon 4 pm to 7 pm.

MOST POPULAR ROUTES From the capital city of Tagbilaran to Panglao (20 kilometer distance) , Tagbilaran City to Corella and Sikatuna (10 kms. & 17 kms from the city, respectively)  Panglao to the interior towns of Loboc, Bilar & Carmen (20 km, 40 km & 60 km, respectively or Panglao to Jagna (66 km) in eastern Bohol.

'Chocolate Hills' of Carmen in Bohol. Photo: Getty

For those who traverse from Panglao, bikers may choose to go to eastern coastal Bohol or tour the interior part. It’s both a lesson in history and a pleasant travel experience as you pass by towns with their age- old stone churches, busy markets and modern town halls. In between, there are unobstructed views of the coast that overlooks the Mindanao Sea. You may do quick stop overs for refreshments, some chitchat and selfies at IG- worthy sites.   

Want a feel of Bohol’s interior towns? Then proceed to Loboc (20 km distance) via Corella (home of the Tarsier Sanctuary) and Sikatuna. From Loboc where you get glimpses of its famed floating restaurants, you may proceed to Bilar where you pass through the enchanting Bilar Man-Made Forest and see the iconic Chocolate Hills in Carmen (60 kms)

8. Dive into an underwater paradise

Bohol underwater scene. Photo: Haka Dive Center in Panglao, Bohol

Being the tenth largest island in the Philippines, Bohol is considered a diver’s paradise. It offers more options in the variety of dive spots & tours, a greater diversity of marine life & ecosystems, coral reefs and awesome underwater photography prospects.

Some of the most famous among the dive spots in Panglao Island: 

  • Panglao Island dive sites are mostly a 5 to 10 minutes boat ride. Whether you choose a wall dive, deep dive or even a wreck dive, you’ll love the Philippines’ underwater scenery.  
  • Balicasag island is the most famous dive spot and is 40 minutes by banca (traditional Filipino boat) from Haka Dive Center, you can enjoy the spectacular underwater world that Balicasag island offers. NOTE: Since Balicasag is a marine protected area, there’s a government regulation that allows only 150 divers per day. Marine tickets are reserved in advance.
  • Pamilacan island is a wild authentic non-touristic island and it’s another top diving destination. The dive spots around the island has amazing marine life and plenty of stunning soft corals. 
  • Virgin island is a sandbank in the middle of the ocean. The island is surrounded by one big wall and the shallow areas are full with colorful corals. Perfect for a chill and colourful dive?   

We visited Haka Dive Center, an authorized PADI Dive Center and one of Panglao’s best for some tips. Their diving courses and dive trips are run in small groups by their team of professional & multilingual PADI certified dive guides and instructors. During this pandemic time, size of diving expeditions have been reduced to 50% of the previous maximum capacity.

  • For more info, see here.

In Pictures: Entering Bohol

1 - Airport staff donning masks and face shields at domestic arrival hall 

- Multiple signs showing Bohol's strict policy of "No mask, No entry"

- Mandatory COVID-19 RT-PCR tests, including temperature checks are required when entering Bohol 

- Safety distancing measures implemented; stickers on the ground indicate where to stand at Panglao Airport

5 – Touirsts will be given a card with a QR code to access Bohol’s establishments upon arrival

With Bohol’s reopening starting November 15th, local officials want to ensure that tourists will have a safe, secure and seamless travel experience and that includes getting an “UBE Seal,” or the “Ultimate Bohol Experience” accreditation by the Bohol provincial government and the DOT. 

Disclaimer: Bohol is currently open to domestic travelers ONLY

Raul Phillip Gatal has been living in Bohol all his life. He is a columnist for one of the biggest lifestyle publishers in Bohol, The Bohol Chronicle. Follow him through his award-winning blog, Bohol’s Roving Eye, where he writes about the latest in entertainment, arts & culture, and the latest happenings in Bohol. 

Ghen Lumayag-Tabat is an established photographer, shooting travel, nature, weddings, milestones and lifestyle photography. She lives in Tagbilaran City, Bohol.

  • This guide is in association with Philippines' Department of Tourism, read more about the Philippines' new normal at app.philippines.travel
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