The island province of Bohol in the Philippines may be smaller than its Visayan neighbors Cebu and Negros, but it doesn't fall short of stunning sights and activities, such as its famous Chocolate Hills.
Joining Chocolate Hills tours will treat you to a breathtaking view of a thousand beautiful cone-shaped hills stretched over 50 square kilometers of land across the towns of Carmen, Batuan, and Sagbayan. This is the tourist spot that put Bohol on the map, and that has baffled many geologists.
The majestic Chocolate Hills is one of the Philippines' most popular tourist attractions and is the top destination for Bohol tours. It got its name from its strange yet unique formation and rich vegetation that turns into chocolate brown during the dry months, hence, the name.
The Chocolate Hills is declared the Philippines' 3rd National Geological Monument and is dubbed as an Eight Wonder of the World. It won't take long before you realize why it's one of the must-visit destinations in the country once you see its scenic characteristics firsthand. These iconic hills are even featured in the 200 Philippine Peso bill.
Complete your Bohol itinerary by visiting this world-famous geological wonder. Here's everything you need to know to plan your trip:
Like most parts of the Philippines, Bohol has a tropical climate. But its peak season is during dry months, which begins in December until May.
The least chance of rainfall is during April. These months make it an ideal time to travel around and experience activities, such as swimming, snorkeling, and sightseeing, in the island province.
Photo by the Philippine Department of Tourism
The Chocolate Hills showcase its iconic chocolate brown look during the dry months of January to May. During the rainy season, the hills' grass turns into a vibrant green, giving them that mint chocolate color. More travelers visit during the dry season when the hills appear exactly as it's called.
The province of Bohol is accessible from major cities of the primary islands of the Philippines, namely Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Your jump-off to get here is Tagbilaran City and Panglao Island in Bohol.
Air travel is the most convenient way to visit Bohol. If you’re coming from Luzon, you have two gateways: from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila and from Clark International Airport in Angeles City to Bohol-Panglao Airport. If you’re flying from Mindanao, you can fly from Davao International Airport.
From the Bohol-Panglao Airport, you can make your way to the Dao Integrated Bus Terminal and ride the bus or van to either Carmen or Sagbayan town. When you reach Carmen, ride a habal-habal to take you to the Chocolate Hills Complex.
For a convenient trip, it's highly recommended to hire Bohol transfers or book Bohol tours with vehicle service.
If you’re traveling by sea, you can book ferry trips to drop you off at Tagbilaran City Seaport from Cebu, Dumaguete, Siquijor, Cagayan de Oro, and Camiguin. While this route may take longer, it offers a different kind of adventure.
Upon arrival in Tagbilaran port, you can hop on a tricycle to go to Dao Integrated Bus Terminal. From there, take the bus or van bound for Carmen or Sagbayan town and ask to be dropped off at the junctions leading to either Chocolate Hills Complex Viewpoint in Carmen or Sagbayan Peak.
The unique geological formations of Bohol's Chocolate Hills can be enjoyed in different ways since it's accessible from almost all parts of the island province. Here are some of the various Chocolate Hills experiences that you can choose from:
The Chocolate Hills Complex is a resort situated along Barangay Buenos Aires in the town of Carmen. It is about 55km away from Tagbilaran City and serves as the main destination for viewing the Chocolate Hills.
The complex is built from two chocolate hills. It is developed into an observation area complete with a cemented road, restaurant, conference room, swimming pool, activity area, and covered deck rest stops to the viewing deck.
Travelers would have to climb the 200+ steps leading to the 360-degree overlooking deck to get the extraordinary sight of seemingly endless Hershey's Chocolate Kisses-like hills covering the massive landscape.
The Chocolate Hills Complex established new buildings to accommodate guests who wish to stay overnight in the middle of the Chocolate Hills. Alternatively, day tour visitors can find this Complex Viewpoint included in the countryside tours of Bohol.
Sagbayan Peak is a mountain resort and recreational center that also provides a stunning view of the chocolate mounds. It is located in the town of Sagbayan and sits on a 5-hectare land area.
It's about 10 miles away from the Chocolate Hills Complex Viewpoint in Carmen, and it offers a more spacious and less touristy viewing experience.
The resort offers a variety of facilities for the guests, including an open-sided chapel, a tarsier sanctuary, a covered pavilion for guests to dine, an air-conditioned café, and a butterfly dome that houses 18 different butterfly species.
There are also several cartoon character figures scattered around the area that are a joy to look at, especially for kids.
Apart from the beautiful brown hills, visitors can also get a glimpse of the sea that separates Bohol and the island of Cebu.
Photo by Chocolate Hills Adventure Park
If you're up to bring your Chocolate Hills tour to a thrilling escapade, make sure to visit the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park (CHAP), where you can experience biking midair (Bike Zip) or surf zipline (The Wave Runner) overlooking the scenic view of the beautiful hills.
It is an eco-tourism park located at Barangay Buenos Aires, Carmen. Apart from the Bike Zip and The Wave Runner, visitors can also enjoy the park's many activities and facilities, such as their Rope Courses, feed chickens and fishes, admire butterflies as well as the rich flora and fauna in "Ang Paru-Paro" Butterfly Garden, go horseback riding, and trek up and down their Eco-Hiking Trail, among others.
Right before the long stairs leading to the viewing deck, visitors can check out the Serpentarium, where different species and sizes of snakes are aplenty.
Photo by Chocolate Hills ATV Rental
For those who want some nature adventure with their sightseeing, hit the trails by riding an ATV! You can either choose a guided tour or simply rent an ATV for this exhilarating experience.
Travelers will be given a quick orientation about how to control the ATV and be taught safety guidelines, and they would need to sign a waiver before hitting the terrain.
Take note of these handy travel and safety tips for a stress-free and fun-filled trip to Bohol's famous Chocolate Hills.
While many major establishments in Bohol accept credit cards, and even though you can find ATMs and money changers in Tagbilaran City and Panglao Island, it would still be more convenient if you bring Philippine Peso (PHP) with you.
Always carry smaller bills in 20, 50, and 100 denominations and loose change for easier and faster transactions. This comes in handy when taking public transportation and buying food from vendors.
What to Wear
When it comes to what you should wear, you don't have to overthink your options. Make sure to pick breathable clothing pieces, such as light summer clothes, for your comfort. Since the weather is always unpredictable, bring a light rain jacket.
Don't be afraid to ask questions or directions when in Bohol. While many locals in Bohol can speak Cebuano and Tagalog, most of them can understand English. Smile and say hi, and they'll welcome your inquiries warmly.
Apart from the Chocolate Hills itself, you can find other Bohol tourist spots not too far from the famous hills. Here are some of them:
Bilar Man-Made Forest
Travelers going to the Chocolate Hills in Carmen will be passing along the enchanting Bilar Man-Made Forest, that is why it has become a popular pit stop and photo-op spot for tourists.
The lush man-made forest, composed of tall white and red mahogany trees, is situated on the border of Loboc and Bilar and runs 2-kilometers long. It's part of the reforestation project to prevent the Loboc watershed deforestation.
Passing through the man-made forest, you'll notice a sudden change in temperature, especially during summer. The overhanging trees block the sun entirely, greeting you with a cool breeze. The dense forest looks as if it's straight out of a fantasy film, making it a good stop for a travel photo.
Aside from the Chocolate Hills, Bohol is also known for its big-eyed mammals, the tarsiers. These nocturnal creatures are the smallest primate in the world, about the size of a human hand. No Bohol experience is complete without seeing these small creatures in Tarsier Conservation tours.
While there are more than one tarsier sanctuaries in Bohol, many tourists visit the Corella Tarsier Sanctuary and Tarsier Conservation Area in Loboc. These sanctuaries will not only allow you to meet these cute little animals up close but also educate you more about the species.
Since they're asleep during the day, you'll find them resting on branches. Make sure to reduce noise when you visit them, for they're sensitive to sound. Also, keep the flash of your camera switched off if you'll take photos of them. Touching them is also prohibited because it will cause them stress.
Plan Your Trip to Bohol's Chocolate Hills
Between the beaches, dive sites, and its other natural wonders, don't forget to spend a whole day exploring Chocolate Hills and its nearby attractions when you visit the beautiful island of Bohol. This famed site will not disappoint, and chances are, visiting it will become one of the highlights of your Philippine tours.