Panglao Island: 10 Days in Paradise

Everything you need to know about Panglao Island in the Philippines

In December 2015 we took a ten day trip to paradise, AKA Panglao Island.

I’ll be honest – Panglao Island wasn’t at the top of our list of beach destinations but we wanted to visit the Philippines and were sold by the cheap and direct flight from Korea to Cebu.

After a quick google I was disappointed to find so many negative reviews about Panglao Island; too touristy, too expensive, no nightlife, better off going to Boracay…

This wasn’t the case for us – we had an amazing trip and the island exceeded our expectations. If you’re looking for sun, sea, sand and snorkelling, I’d highly recommend a trip to Panglao.

You’ll find everything you need to know about the island in this post – but first, check out some of the best bits from our holiday in this video we made (music by Major Lazer & DJ Snake.)

How to get to Panglao Island

We flew into Cebu City (Mactan Cebu International Airport) and from there it was a fifteen minute taxi ride to the port.

To get to Panglao Island, you need to catch a ferry from Cebu to Bohol. You can buy ferry tickets when you arrive at the ferry port, but as we were travelling during the busy christmas period I decided to reserve our seats in advance through Luzviminda Travel and Tours (which ended up saving us bags of time as the queues were huge at the ferry terminal.)

The ferry journey from Cebu across to Tagbilaran City in Bohol was smooth and took around two hours. Once in Bohol it’s about twenty minutes in a taxi or tricycle to the main stretch of Alona Beach where the majority of resorts and hotels are located on the island (scroll to the bottom of this post for information on where to stay on the island.)

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THE BEACHES

Dumaluan Beach

Sand as soft as silk neighbouring turquoise waters as clear as the gin and tonic sitting comfortably in your hand.. No it’s not a dream – it’s Dumaluan Beach.

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I’m a serious beach lover and Dumaluan ticked all my boxes (even Dave was impressed!)

This beach is about an eight minute taxi ride from Alona but so worth it. We much preferred Dumaluan to Alona Beach – it was cleaner, less crowded and popular with the locals (which in my opinion is always a good sign.)

There are plenty of cheap beach huts to rent for the day if you want to take a picnic or get some shade. There’s also a BBQ shack selling cheap food and drinks throughout the day.

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If hanging out with the locals isn’t your scene and you’re after something a little livelier, head to Alona Beach.

It’s still a beautiful beach, but swimming is compromised by boats ferrying people back and fourth throughout the day for diving and snorkelling trips.

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Sunset at Alona

You’re spoilt for choice with places to eat and drink at Alona – see which beach bar takes your fancy and watch the sun go down with a cocktail in hand and the hum of reggae in the background.

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COST

We have been to a fair few destinations in Asia, but the Philippines is definitely up there with one of the cheapest and best value for money.

Panglao is a popular tourist destination so prices are more expensive on the island than Cebu or Bohol City, but still peanuts compared to other places in the world. If you’re happy to drink local spirits, then you can get yourself a short for less than 12 pesos and a satisfying three course meal in a restaurant for under 140 pesos.

Check out our favourite restaurants on Panglao Island here.

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SNORKELLING & DIVING

The Philippines is known for it’s incredible diving and Panglao Island is no exception. Don’t worry if diving isn’t your thing – you’ll be left with a quiet beach during the day whilst people are out taking snorkelling and diving trips.

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Unfortunately we aren’t certified divers (yet!), but we did go on island hopping boat trip to do some snorkelling.

There are tons of dive centres lining Alona Beach offering competitive prices for diving and snorkelling trips – be sure to check out the diving equipment before you settle on a price.

A snorkelling trip will set you back around 350-500 pesos, and two dives a day around 2500-3000 pesos.

ISLAND EXCURSIONS

If you’re not into lying on the beach all day – do not fear! There is plenty to keep you occupied in and around Panglao and neighbouring Bohol.

There are dozens of tour companies lining the beach offering various day excursions, group trips and private trips. Choose one that suits you be it in a group or pay a little extra for a private tour.

We found that the prices in the shops were non-negotiable, so we decided to use a local taxi driver instead. This meant we were able to negotiate the price and tailor the trip to our needs rather than being part of an eight hour group tour of the island.

The 'chocolate hills' of Bohol

The ‘Chocolate Hills’ of Bohol

Other excursions include:

  • Island hopping boat trip to Balicasag Island, Virgin Island and Pamilacan Island.
  • Diving with whale sharks in Oslob
  • Visit the Chocolate Hills in Bohol
  • See the fireflies on a night kayaking tour
  • Zip lining at Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park
  • Take a dip in Hinagdanan Lake
  • Visit the tarsier sanctuary
  • Relax on a Loboc River Cruise

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Loboc River Cruise

ATMOSPHERE

The atmosphere on Panglao reminded me somewhat of that in the Caribbean – chilled and well, slow.

Things didn’t really seem to get going on the island much before midday, and even then, service was rather sluggish. If being waited on hand and foot is your thing then Panglao isn’t the right holiday destination for you.

Don’t expect anyone to rush over when you take your seat in a restaurant, quite often it was down to us to attract the attention of staff to make an order, and even then it was still another ten minutes until our drinks arrived. Slightly annoying yes – but not the end of the world when you’re sitting on a beach in paradise watching the sun go down.

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NIGHTLIFE

If you’re looking for somewhere to party hard, Panglao isn’t the right place for you. Prior to our arrival we’d read online that nightlife on the island was almost non existent and as a young couple, we would be bored.

This wasn’t the case – yes Panglao is sleepy compared to the party island of Boracay, but there were still more than enough restaurants and lively bars willing to serve you till the early hours of the morning.

A live band performing on New Year's Eve

A live band performing on New Year’s Eve

We bought in the New Year on Alona Beach drinking cocktails and watching an impressive firework display.

There was a great atmosphere with many of the resorts on the beachfront offering grand buffets, live music and DJs spinning throughout the night to keep the party going.

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WHERE TO STAY?

There are more resorts than you can shake a stick at on the island, and you’ll probably get a better deal by turning up rather than booking in advance (unless you’re arriving during peak season in December and January.)

The high end resorts sit directly along Alona Beach but unless you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your fancy bedroom, I don’t think it’s worth paying through the nose to stay in a posh resort.

The entire beach is public – none of the hotels have a private beach so you’re not gaining much apart from maybe a nice swimming pool and a fancy bedroom.

As my mom was also joining us on our trip to the Philippines, we treated ourselves to a mid range hotel rather than a hostel. We spent the whole of our trip at Panglao Regents Park Resort, costing around 1800 pesos per night (I made the booking through Agoda.)

The hotel was surrounded by shops and restaurants and it took around seven minutes to walk to Alona beach (but there were plenty of taxis and tricycles around if you’re feeling lazy.) We liked being a short distance away from the hustle and bustle of Alona Beach.

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We thought the hotel was great value for money – the rooms were spacious, cleaned everyday and had a good quality shower and air con. There was also a choice of two clean swimming pools and a great happy hour(s!) You could get food here too but we never ate at the hotel.

The staff were friendly and helpful and can assist you with booking excursions on the island. Me and Dave also happened to be celebrating our anniversary during our trip and the hotel staff went above and beyond to help Dave decorate our room – a lovely surprise when I got back from the beach.

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Have you been to Panglao Island? 

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34 Comments

  1. 3rd May 2017 / 1:43 pm

    Bohol is just one of the Paradise in the Philippines. I should say that the Philippines is so blessed with so many beautiful places and beautiful people around the place.

  2. 2nd May 2017 / 8:13 pm

    I enjoyed watching your video. The beach is so beautiful. I would like to experience swimming with marine animals too. I would prefer Panglao than Boracay. I feel that I would get a more authentic experience of the life at the beach in Panglao.

  3. Karen
    28th February 2017 / 6:49 am

    Visiting the Philippines is something I really want to go! I was supposed to go this past trip, but decided to go to Malaysia only. 🙂 Next time the chocolate hills!

  4. 27th February 2017 / 10:56 am

    Great info. With so many Koreans always talking about Cebu, I sort of put it off of my list of places to go because it seems like EVERYONE is always going there. This puts it back on the list though to know I can easily get there and then get to some other places too. Those beaches! Stunning.

  5. 27th February 2017 / 4:12 am

    I just subscribed to your youtube channel after that video convinced me that Panglao is a MUST! What camera did you use to shoot the underwater footage? It’s so clear! I love the photos too, great shots really create a sense of place even if it is vicariously lived. I’m glad you agree the Philippines is inexpensive! I got into a heated argument with someone who suggested otherwise! Maybe accommodations in some parts but yea, so happy you had a wonderful time 🙂

  6. 27th February 2017 / 2:22 am

    i loved my time in Panglao. did you do the early morning dolphin-watching? they are so graceful and peaceful. natural, un-choreographedmovements. you got a good picture of the tarsier in there. thanks for visiting Panglao and the Bohol chocolate hills. the best snorkelling experience i had was at balicasag island, very near panglao when you do island hopping! your post makes me proud of my country’s beauty.

    • 21st May 2017 / 4:51 pm

      You can always tell an expert! Thanks for cottirbuning.

  7. 26th February 2017 / 6:05 pm

    Ahhhhh, every article I read about the Philippines only makes my feet itch more and more to get there! I have one more year of teaching before I set out for my extended solo backpacking trip and the Philippines is a country I am eagerly looking forward to! I think I’ll spend at least a month bopping around, maybe longer! I’ll be sure to book mark your article so I can reference it when the time comes.

  8. 26th February 2017 / 3:34 pm

    Such a peaceful and serene island. Philippines is a real hidden gem. With a hoard of places offering spectacular natural beauty, you can never truly get enough of this country!

  9. 26th February 2017 / 1:55 pm

    I agree, even I have come across a lot many negative reviews about Panglao Island and was never keen to add it to my bucket list. But now what I see through your experience, it’s quite an amazing place to chill out. The pictures are great! This place should really be tried out. Thank you for the post 🙂

  10. 25th February 2017 / 10:06 am

    I hate when people say that places are too touristy. Usually tourists go there with good reason! Panglao Island looks beautiful. I love that the beach is public. The snorkelling looks amazing. Was that a blue starfish or just the water reflecting? Either way, beautiful photos!

  11. 24th February 2017 / 12:46 pm

    We stayed on Panglao Island last year on our Philippines trip, too! We were there just a month after you. Our hotel was gorgeous and we loved being able to see stars at night! Most of our time was spent on the main island of Bohol- we got a scooter and did our own DIY tour of Bohol which was really fun. I didn’t realise that there was another beach because we also weren’t impressed by Alona Beach. I wish we had known! Did you go to the Bee Farm at all? The food and the ice cream there was incredible!

  12. 24th February 2017 / 3:09 am

    What pretty things to see! The monkey with the cute toes and the blue star fish!! What sights! We always travel with the kids and enjoy seeing things through their eyes. I love the orange flowers on the huge tree. So pretty and a lovely shady spot for snacks and relaxing. Would love to visit. Great tips for all the logistics!!

  13. 24th February 2017 / 1:10 am

    Phillippines is downright gorgeous. Have been planning to go there for so long but some or other time my plans get postponed. Such amazing beaches and I envy you – 10 days truly in the paradise.Thanks for the virtual trip of the island. have bookmarked your page to plan my trip 🙂

    • 21st May 2017 / 2:24 pm

      Es ist wirklich schwierig mit kreativen Contents Geld zu vee;3enrn&#82i0d..So bescheuert es klingt…. Aber ich glaube wir müssen ganz neue Lebens-Stiele finden, welche der Kreativität und Phantasie (“Ohne Phatasie hat man keine Zukunft” (Zitat eines Chinesen s.h. “Winners and Loosers” der Globalisierung) Raum schaffen.Hat Edison die Glühbirne als Auftragsarbeit erfunden?

  14. 23rd February 2017 / 5:14 pm

    The Philippines, hands down my best vacation destination to date. Great value for money, amazing sunsets and overall very friendly locals. I would go back there if the chance comes around. We also found the service to be quite slow at most places so maybe just the way things go there? We spent one night in Cebu a few days in Moalbal, we swam with the whale sharks in Oslob. Also a few nights in a tiny island two ferry trips away which was amazing, it was like we had a private resort! Would recommend the Philippines to anyone. Thanks for sharing so much information.

  15. 22nd February 2017 / 8:20 pm

    I loved my time on Panglao (and Bohol) Island! Dumaluan Beach was definitely my favorite, and I stayed near it for the whole trip. Couldn’t wait to get out of Alona Beach, but I had to go there for my dive and I ended up there a few times for dinner. Did you make it out to Balicasag Island? I went diving out there and had a few of the best dives I’ve ever done!

    Bohol is great as well. I rented a motorcycle and did a several day trip that was one of the highlights of my several month long journey. Great times! Didn’t get to do the Loboc River Cruise, though.. that’ll have to be for next time. Thanks for the chance to relive some memories!

  16. 22nd February 2017 / 3:55 pm

    Panglao looks like a paradise indeed. I have been to cebu and I would love to visit it when I get to this side of the Philippines. Alona Beach is amazing and that sunset photo is stunning!

  17. 22nd February 2017 / 2:12 am

    I am a big fan of Islands. Life on a Island takes you a another world. this one is also looking too good. your pics are amazing making me eager to visit this Island as soon as possible.

  18. 22nd February 2017 / 1:43 am

    Gosh the Philippines look beautiful! I haven’t been yet but it’s so high on the list. Those sunset pics are unreal, and how cute are those hotel room decorations?? Was there a special occasion for the balloons and lovey dovey stuff, or were they just pampering you? 🙂

  19. 21st February 2017 / 8:32 pm

    Like some of the others, I’ve never head of this spot (although a potential detour to the Philippines did cross my mind when I was planning my trip to Asia), but it looks beautiful! Dumaluan beach is probably my favourite from the list – the sand! And the trees! It’s just perfect. I haven’t actually heard about the Chocolate Hills until a couple of months ago when I was reading someone else’s post, but I’d love to see them if I’m ever in the area! Thanks for another great and in-depth guide! 🙂

  20. 21st February 2017 / 4:57 pm

    So glad that you didn’t let the negative reviews on the net deter your chance to visit the island. I think we should always take what we read on the internet with a pinch of salt. The island looks quaint and charming. Love the little huts for renting by the beach and the chocolate mountains are both cute and something fun and touristy. The diving possibilities only makes this a go to place. Thanks for all the information.

  21. 21st February 2017 / 4:51 pm

    This is really a very comprehensive guide covering all aspects of travel to Panglao island. I am glad you enjoyed your trip inspite of all the negative reviews that you had heard. This looks like a wonderful place to spend some days of vacation

  22. 21st February 2017 / 4:31 pm

    The place looks great. I’m yet to visit Philippines and its on top of my wishlist! So thanks for this post. Btw, that pic of the Tarsier is incredibly cute!

  23. 21st February 2017 / 9:13 am

    I’ve actually never even heard of this spot. Of course living in Korea I’ve heard all about Boracay, so it’s interesting that people would say Panglao is too touristy. I’d be interested in finding out how you got your cheap flight (from where in Korea and how much was it? This girl’s trying to make it out as much as possible this year!).

  24. 21st February 2017 / 7:00 am

    My goodness… Just another thing added to the bucket list! Ha! I love that it has such a “chill” atmosphere. Cities are nice and all, but sometimes it’s good to just get away and relax! This seems like the perfect place to do just that! The beaches there just look way too beautiful!! Thanks for the read, dear! xx

  25. 21st February 2017 / 5:19 am

    I am hoping to get to the philippines next winter. The area you visited looks so beautiful. I certainly need to add it to my list of places to go. The beaches just look like heaven. I can’t wait to visit.

  26. 21st February 2017 / 3:27 am

    I am planning on visiting this spring. It’s the chocolate hills and tarsiers that I was interested in. You’ve opened my eyes to the beaches and diving too. I guess I’ll find a local taxi driver and haggle the price down. The hotels look to be decent value too. I’ve got to remember when booking, I must stay in Panglao!

    • 21st May 2017 / 2:27 pm

      Thanks, I have ended up searching for iniramotfon on this topic for ages and yours is the best I¡¯ve identified till today. But, what about the conclusion? Are an individual sure in regards to the source?

  27. 21st February 2017 / 2:55 am

    That’s amazing you got to ring in the New Year on Alona Beach! We visited El Nido and Cebu last year but didn’t have time to ferry over to Panglao Island. It looks like we missed out because it sounds awesome! When I was reading up on Bohol all the threads I come across rave about Alona Beach. Good to know that Dumaluan is nicer than Alona- we’ll keep that in mind when we go back to the Philippines.

  28. 21st February 2017 / 1:48 am

    Wow what an incredible holiday! I have been wanting to go to the Philippines for a while and have to say that I am overwhelmed by the choices! Thanks for providing so much detail to help plan.

  29. 20th February 2017 / 11:38 pm

    Great tip about booking the ferry from Cebu to Bohol in advance during peak seasons. I’ve been to the El Nido and Puerto Princesa Palawan. Your blog and pix reminded me of my trip. I don’t recall the currency conversion from Philippine pesos. It sounds like your happy with the price paid for your trip.

  30. 20th February 2017 / 10:36 pm

    Wow, wow, wow! Those beaches look perfect. I’ve never really considered the Philippines as somewhere to go but posts like these can really change a girl’s mind! Great video too – I love how you snapped Nemo & his Dad in it 😉
    I would love to do some snorkelling here as the water looked so pure & clear… like I said, just wow! 🙂

  31. 20th February 2017 / 1:01 pm

    I was there for my grad trip last May. You got me missing the Philippines so much! Thanks for the visual reminders. 😀

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