What you need to know before going to Panglao Island in the Philippines Everything you need to know if you’re visiting Panglao Island in the Philippines
In December, 2015, we went on a ten-day excursion to paradise, which is also known as Panglao Island. I’ll be honest: Panglao Island wasn’t on our list of beach getaways, but we wanted to go to the Philippines and were convinced by the inexpensive and direct flight from Korea.
After a quick search, I was surprised to discover that Panglao Island has a lot of negative reviews; it’s too commercialized, expensive, doesn’t offer any entertainment, and is better off going to Boracay…
This wasn’t the case for us, though – we had a fantastic holiday and the island far exceeded our expectations. I highly recommend a visit to Panglao if you want sunshine, sea, sand, and snorkeling.
Find out everything you need to know about the island in this post, but first, see some of our favorite parts from our holiday in this video we produced (music by Major Lazer and DJ Snake).
HOW TO GET TO PANGLAO ISLAND
We arrived in Cebu City (Mactan Cebu International Airport) and took a taxi to the port for 15 minutes. You can purchase ferry tickets once you’ve reached the pier, but because we were travelling at Christmas time, we opted to reserve our seats in advance through Luzviminda Travel and Tours.
The transfer from Cebu to Tagbilaran City in Bohol took about two hours and was smooth. Once on the island, it’s only about 20 minutes in a taxi or tricycle to the main stretch of Alona Beach, where most of the resorts and hotels are located (for information on where to stay on the island.
From the lush greenery along the coast to the turquoise waters lapping against pristine white sand, you’ll be captivated by the beauty of this small paradise. Beautiful waves crash gently on finely-sanded shores where clear like your gin and tonic, invitingly in your hand. It isn’t a dream.
A ten-minute taxi ride from Alona will take you to a beautiful beach with crystal-clear water, white sand and palm trees. This beach is about an eight-minute drive from Alona but is well worth the trip. We liked Dumaluan Beach much better than Alona Beach – it was cleaner, less crowded.
If you want to take a picnic or get some shade, there are several inexpensive beach huts to rent for the day. Throughout the day, there’s also a BBQ shack that sells inexpensive meals and beverages.
If you’re not into hanging out with the locals and want something a little livelier, check out Alona Beach.
Although the beach is still lovely, swimming is restricted by boats transporting people back and forth throughout the day for diving and snorkeling excursions.
There are so many places to eat and drink on Alona that you’ll be spoilt for choice, especially since there are several beach bars to choose from. Watch the sun set with a cocktail in hand while listening to reggae music and the murmur of the ocean.
We’ve been to a few countries in Asia, but the Philippines is unquestionably one of the most cost-effective and enjoyable.
Panglao is a popular tourist spot, so prices on the island are higher than those in Cebu or Bohol City, but they’re still nothing compared to what you’ll pay in other countries. If you prefer drinking local rum instead of imported beverages, you can get yourself a short for less than 12 pesos.
SNORKELLING & DIVING
The Philippines is well-known for its fantastic diving, and Panglao Island isn’t an exception. If scuba diving isn’t your thing, you’ll be able to enjoy a peaceful beach at night when others are out snorkeling and diving.
Unfortunately, we aren’t certified divers (yet!), but we did go on a boat trip to snorkel in the islands. There are a lot of dive centers along Alona Beach that provide low-cost diving and snorkelling excursions—check out the equipment first before making your decision.
The daily cost of a snorkelling trip is around 350-500 pesos, and two dives per day will set you back about 2500-3000 pesos.
If you’re not a beach person, don’t worry! There is plenty to keep you occupied in and around Panglao and Bohol’s neighboring islands. There are many tour companies along the beach that provide a variety of day excursions, group trips, and private tours. Choose one that is appropriate for you whether it’s with friends.
We discovered that the costs of transportation were non-negotiable, so we opted to hire a local taxi driver instead. This allowed us to negotiate the price and customize the itinerary to our requirements rather than participating in an eight hour group excursion around 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 was very similar to that on the Caribbean – chilly and calm.
Service was incredibly slow throughout the day on Gili Air, with things barely getting started by midday. If you love being waited on hand and foot, Panglao isn’t the holiday spot for you.
Don’t expect someone to come rushing over when you sit down in a restaurant; it frequently fell to us to catch the attention of staff so that an order could be placed, and even then our drinks didn’t arrive for another ten minutes. Yes, it’s slightly aggravating – but not the end of the world if you’re sitting on a beach.
Panglao isn’t the best location to get down and boogie if you’re looking for somewhere to party hard. We’d read on line that nightlife on the island was practically non-existent, so we were concerned about being bored as a young couple.
This wasn’t the case – Panglao is certainly quieter than Boracay’s party island, but there were still plenty of restaurants and lively bars open until the early hours of the morning.
We spent our first New Year’s Eve on Alona Beach drinking cocktails and watching an incredible fireworks display.
It was a great atmosphere at that time with many of the hotels on the beachfront having huge buffets, live music, and DJs spinning throughout the night to keep the party going.
WHERE TO STAY?
There are numerous resorts on the island, and you’ll most likely get a better deal if you show up rather than booking in advance (unless you’re visiting during peak season in December or January.)
The high-end resorts are located directly along Alona Beach, but I don’t believe it’s worth paying a premium to stay in a luxury resort for very long.
The entire beach is open to the public, so you’re not getting much more than a gorgeous pool and a nice bedroom.
We stayed at a mid-range hotel rather than a hostel because my mother would be accompanying us on our trip to the Philippines. We spent the entire duration of our stay at Panglao Regents Park Resort, which cost around 1800 Philippine pesos per night (I booked the reservation through Agoda.)
The hotel was located in a commercial area with numerous shops and restaurants, which took approximately seven minutes to walk to Alona beach (but there were plenty of taxis and tricycles available if you don’t want to walk.) We appreciated being close to the bustle of Alona Beach without being part of it.
We liked the hotel a lot; it was clean, comfortable, and had a nice shower and air conditioner. There were also two clean swimming pools and a wonderful happy hour (s)! You could get food here, but we never ate there.
The personnel were pleasant and helpful, and they can help you plan activities on the island. While I was away from the resort, Dave and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, so the hotel staff went above and beyond to assist him decorate our room – a lovely surprise when I returned from my beach excursion.