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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you been to Panglao Island?
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