Before I left for Bohol, people were puzzled that I was going for more than a day. To the trills of, “Just go to the Chocolate Hills and come back!” and “How many times can you take a Loboc lunch cruise?” Au contraire, I told the naysayers. What began as a short hiatus turned into a multi-day extravaganza! Much like Kaua’i, Mau’i or the Big Island hold their own mystique, Bohol was paradise for my ADD, always-need-to-be-overstimulated self. More than the Yoda-like tarsiers and the Hershey Kiss-shaped Chocolate Hills, which are synonymous with the little island at the heart of the Visayas, there was discovering to do–and every explorer wannabe needs a warm bed at the end of the night to recharge for another day of adventure.
Four walls and a bed; that’s what hotels sell. What keeps guests coming back is two-fold: what to do there and, more importantly, the service. From ethereal resorts to cozy homes away from home, here are 6 reasons to get thee to Bohol . . . and stay a while.
1) Forty winks may be too much as you unwind into luxury at Peacock Garden Resort and SPA. With off-road buggies, a four-handed signature massage, homemade port ice cream (big favorite), a cigar room that would do Hemingway proud, an infinity pool that seems to swim you to Pamilacan, an Oktoberfest straight out of Munich, . . . you get the drift. You might want to wait to sleep ‘til you get home from your much needed vacation. One of their newest acquisitions are a trio of off-road buggies that’ll put you in the soon-to-be-very-muddy driver’s seat for two hours of heart pumping adventure. Once you’ve done that, there is no refusing the decadent four-handed signature massage at their Fontana Aurelia Spa, where two therapists work out every kink in simultaneous perfection. Doubles start at P8000 or $185.
2) In Ancient Anda, fledgling beach resort La Petra combines a pinch of the native Filipino with a taste of German flavor. As one of the only beachfront resorts making use of Anda’s powdery-soft white sand, La Petra is a beach getaway that will truly get you away from the crowds in other parts of the island. On weekends, the owners have local bands trek out from Tagbilaran for dancing late into the night on the resort’s lofty verandah. Doubles start at P3500 or $69 and includes breakfast, snacks, and dinner.
3) Bask in Tranquility at Bohol Bee Farm Resort & Restaurant. Lesser-known Dauis, on the island of Panglao, is home to this eco-friendly hidden gem, which sits on a cliff fronting the sea (and home to the mesmerizing ocean view at the top of this article). Steep stairs take you to their private sunning deck, inviting you for a dip in the Pacific’s cool blue-green waters. At sunset most of the tour groups that arrive for the famous Flower Salad have gone and the ocean stillness wraps you in tranquility. The whimsical Beehive and Honeycomb suites are warm and inviting, ocean-front Wi-Fi keeps you Skype-ing at The Cliff or The Cave, and breakfast for two comes included. Bonus: if you’re looking for an extra piece of calm, the traditional Filipino hilot (massage) done right at the ocean’s edge will get you there. Doubles start at P2000 or $46.
4) Take on Tagbilaran (then take a nap) at Panda Tea Garden Suites. Home of KIDDIES BAKEHAUS, family-owned Panda Tea Garden Suites is a great value for families and business travelers. Conveniently located near BQ and Island City malls, Panda Tea is where to stay for easy pasalubong shopping and access to the city’s nightlife. Doubles start at P800 or $18. Breakfast not included.
5) Re-energize at Amarela Resort. What started as a beach home for Atty. Nunag became what is now the beguiling Amarela Resort in Panglao–the Waikiki of Bohol. When I asked Atty. Nunag what Amarela meant he easily replied, “It’s ‘yellow’ in Portugese” and went on to explain that the seahorse emblem is after a tiny seahorse known to play in the waters offshore. The sunny yellow of Amarela resort reflects the friendliness of its staff and warmth of its unassumingly elegant amenities. Doubles start at P5,800 or $134.
6) Nod off in the ‘Jardin’ of Eden. Jardin de Balilihan is a homestay, which means to say you become ‘ohana. You eat what the family eats, are invited to go to the market or on activities that they’d do on any given day, and have an adopted family while away from the things familiar; in short, it’s cultural immersion at its best. At Jardin, it feels like home. Doubles start at P1,700 or $39.
Can’t get enough of Bohol? We’ve got the more you’re looking for.