It has taken me far too long to get around to blogging about the fantastic island of Panglao but I suppose it is better late than never. Panglao is a little island that is connected to the island of Bohol that makes up the group of islands called the Visaya Islands. After my stint in the jungle on the island of Bohol I was really looking forward discovering my first taste of tropical paradise: white sand, palm tree lined beaches.
I am not sure if I mentioned in my previous post about the friends I made on the way to Cebu. If I didn’t, let me tell you about them now. As a solo traveler you really just have to be brave and talk to literally everyone you come across. While I was in the coffee and cookie queue in Manila airport, there were a couple of English girls being served infront of me. Unlike me, they looked like sightly more accomplished travellers and were ordering semi sensible options at the bar: not a large coffee that would run through them!! While waiting on my coffee, I decided to crack a joke about how drinking a large coffee before a flight, especially in the Philippines, was probably a very very bad idea. They laughed politely at me and probably thought to themselves “why was a random girl making crude jokes to a couple of strangers”. Anyway, upon arrival to my seat on my flight to Cebu City, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself sitting next to the girls I had bumped into earlier. I would say we would have been on the plane for a short 10 minutes before we starting speaking like absolute motor mouths to one another. It was like we had know each other forever, I think the man sitting in-between me and them must have thought we hadn’t been in contact with other humans for years. We covered every topical imaginable and they kindly welcomed me into their pack of 2 with open arms. Anyway, long story short is that these lovely girls became my new friends, let me introduce Abi and Rachel.
I had already planned my first couple of days in Bohol before meeting the girls and had booked my accommodation in the jungle. I left the girls to go and explore but we had arranged to meet on the island of Panglao a couple of days later. The girls had booked into Alona42 Resort which was a short 15 minute walk from the centre of the main area of Alona Beach. The accommodation was clean, had relatively good wifi and friendly staff. I would definitely recommend staying here if you were a couple of friends or a couple looking for a private room at a reasonable price and you were quite happy with each others company. If you are a single traveler watching your pennies and looking for some atmosphere it’s maybe not your best option as it charges a steep $36 a night for a double room and we barely came into contact with other travellers when we were staying there. My 5* recommendation for accommodation close to Alona Beach is without a shadow of a doubt is the Bohol Coconut Farm. For a girl who normally likes the comforts of a hotel this place really surprised me. At an amazing $7.20 a night for a bed in a 8 bed dorm you really couldn’t ask for a better place to stay with a better atmosphere. Ok, it was extremely basic but that just adds to the atmosphere. The moment I arrived the place was buzzing with people. The common area that is centred in the centre of the farm covered by bamboo leaves is a tranquil area to hangout and converse with other travellers making their way through the Philippines. During the evenings this area was perfect to eat dinner prepared freshly for you by the amazing staff (the coconut noodles were outstanding), followed by a night of card games with new friends. I had an absolutely fantastic time here and met some truly amazing people. I hadn’t intended to stay so long on this island but boy I am so glad that someone recommended this farm to me as it was just brilliant. It really was one of the highlights of my trip.
Panglao island itself offers a lot of activities for the enthusiastic traveller. The most popular areas of the island is Alona beach that is lined with lovely cafes, restaurants and dive shops that offer excursions, canoe hire and boat trips. One of my absolute favourite places on the beach front was a cafe called the Buzzz Cafe. The cafe is a part of one of the islands main attractions; The Bohol Bee Farm. Finding these places literally made me die and go to heaven. The cafe on the beach front is the perfect place for breakfast or lunch and all the ingredients used are grown organically on the farm that is located around 10km away from the beach. They have a great selection of salads, smoothies, warm main courses and the best peanut butter ice cream I have ever tried ( I think i almost sampled everything on the menu). The Bee Farm itself is also really worth a visit set out of town in the lush countryside there is a hotel, cafe, yoga centre and breathtaking views from the terrace. You would be mad not to visit this place, I think I spent about 80% of my travel money here demolishing endless ice creams. Another couple of recommendations for eating while in the Alona beach area are the L’Elephant Bleu restaurant and another one which for the life of me I cannot remember the name (not very helpful), but it was on the front about 50m from the Buzz Cafe.
So, onto the activities that a partook in during my prolonged say on the beautiful island of Panglao. Again, like Bohol, the best way to explore the islands is by renting a moped. You can explore so many hidden treasures this way and experience the true essence of the island. One day a few friends and I rented bikes and found ourselves at a place called the Alexis Cliff Dive Resort. This resort is a pretty run down old resort but it is home to the area where you can dramatically through yourself off a 8(it)m cliff into the crystal clear waters below. I think we got charged around 20 Pesos to enter which was absolutely worth the money. Another area we found on our jaunt around the island were the Hinagdanan Caves. The cave is a single cavern with a nice pool to swim in. I wouldn’t have said this was one of the highlands of the island but definitely a good alternative to a day of diving if you have grown tired of it. In the evening we decided to chance the sunset to the very top of the island. It really was the best was to end a day of exploring the island. The drive back to Alona beach was spectacular. we passed through all of the townships where the people were sitting outside eating and talking to their friends and family.
Two trips that I would really really recommend while on this Panglao are a couple of boat trips. One boat trip takes you to see wild dolphins and then a couple of islands, one of which you can snorkel with tropical fish and turtles and then on the return you stop at the Virgin island which is a beautiful white island with a beautiful beach. Arranging this is relatively simple, there are many people during the evenings selling these trips down at Alona Beach. I think for the first trip we paid around 500 Pesos which only included the boat trip and then an extra 200 Pesos for the environmental fee to swim with the fish and the snorkel rental. The other trip which was an absolutely incredible experience was a trip from Panglao to the main island of Cebu to a place called Oslob to swim with Whale Sharks. I have slightly mixed feelings about this trip because it is extremely touristy and I am not sure how ‘natural’ the environment is but aside from these concerns the experience while in the water was amazing. i went with one of my Dutch friends I had met at the coconut farm. The boat trip from Panglao cost us 500 Pesos and then it was another 500 to swim with the sharks. The price of the swimming contributes to protecting the sharks in their environment, or so we were told. On the way back from the swimming, the captain of the boat decided to load too many people onto the boat. 20 minutes into our journey back the engine blew…a 2 hour boat trip ended up talking almost 4 hours and we arrived back to Panglao a different colour from when we left (extremely red).
I hope that some of this information may be of use to someone travelling to this beautiful island. Enjoy the photos.