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- 18 Jan 2021, 3 nights
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Just off the coast of Bohol, low-lying Panglao Island is one of the Philippines' best-known beach destinations. It's centred around the white sands of Alona Beach, where you'll find laid-back bars and restaurants along a shoreline sprinkled with tall palms and lapped by clear turquoise water. The sea teems with tiny tropical fish, and the island is full of dive schools where you can learn scuba basics or improve your skills to explore its colourful underwater landscapes.
Panglao Island hostels are clustered around the beaches, so you'll never be far from the waves. You can stay in traditional Nipa huts near Alona Beach, a bamboo treehouse with a mattress or gently swinging hammock, or in Filipino-style woven rooms. Some hostels on Panglao Island offer a free breakfast, and a few have free mosquito nets to keep any bugs away at night. If you're keen to get out and about, choose a Panglao Island hostel with on-site motorbike and scooter rental, or one with a shuttle service to Alona Beach.
The town of Panglao on the island's western shore has a smattering of historic colonial buildings and calm beaches sheltered by wide reef flats. Head south for Danao Beach, which turns into Alona Beach along Panglao's south coast. This is a hotspot for bars, restaurants, water sports and boat trips. A few kilometres out to sea, idyllic Pamilacan Island is known for snorkelling (you might even spot dolphins!), while Balicasag Marine Sanctuary draws in scuba divers.
Many people visit Panglao to relax on the beaches or to dive, but there are plenty of other things to do here. You can see the Panglao Watchtower, an octagonal structure built in 1851, or head off the beaten track to the 18th-century Dauis Watchtower. Nearby, Hinagdanan Cave has a crystal-clear lagoon and spectacular limestone rock formations. You can experience local life at the Panglao Public Market, or take a day trip to Bohol main island to explore the Chocolate Hills, a site with over a thousand small hills stretching as far as the eye can see.
Bohol-Panglao International Airport is the easiest port of entry, a 15-minute motorised tricycle ride from Panglao town. Alternatively, you can catch a boat from Cebu to Tagbilaran Pier (around 2 hours). You'll need to cross the bridge to Panglao, taking a tricycle to your destination or heading to Dao bus terminal where you can catch a jeepney (a quirky local bus) to Alona Beach. It's easy to get around the island by hailing tricycles, or you can hire a scooter.