Who doesn’t have a travel bucket list? Living in Malaysia, our bucket list seems to grow every month and looking to beautiful pictures on Instagram doesn’t make it easier. Last year, the Philippines made it to the top of my list, after I saw many beautiful pictures of white sandy beaches and amazing forests on social media. We booked flights from Kuala Lumpur to Cebu for the Chinese New Year holidays. The children had 10 days off school; enough time to do some island hopping.
The Philippines has more than 7000 islands. As we were traveling with children, we chose easy accessible islands from where we could make daytrips. After reading books, blogs and other travel itineraries, we decided to stay on Bohol, Panglao and Siquijor. These three islands are located close to Cebu and they’re easy to get to by ferry. We read that Ocean Jet is one of safest ferry companies. Make sure to book your tickets a few days ahead when traveling during the holidays.
As we arrived late in the evening, we booked a cheap hotel near the airport. Just like in Kuala Lumpur, you can use your Grab app to book a cheap ride to your hotel. Another tip is to get a local sim card, which is always the first thing we do when we arrive in a new country.
The next morning we took a Grab car to the pier, to book a boat with Ocean Jet to Bohol. To avoid a long wait, it is best to buy tickets online. We had to wait for another 1.5 hours to catch the next one. Bohol is known for the Chocolate Hills and the tarsiers (one of the smallest monkeys in the world). We didn’t want to stay too far from the sightseeing points and booked a hotel in Loboc, next to the river. We rented scooters to explore the island, this way we had more freedom than with a car and driver. Make sure everyone wears a fitted helmet. The roads on Bohol are good and it’s easy to find your way around.
Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park
The highlight of our trip was the Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park. This park is one of the ‘must do’s’ when you are in Bohol with your children. The park was very quiet, there were no queues and there are a lot of fun activities. As we really love challenges and adventures, the four of us were very excited about the ‘superman’ zipline. This zipline hangs 120m above the ground and is 520m long. It takes you over the Loboc river and was definitely our kids favourite activity of the entire holiday.
Other activities you can do at the adventure park:
- Cable car ride, with a breath-taking view over the river and jungle
- Challenge trail
We also visited the man-made forest of Bohol for a short hike, the Tarsier Conservation Area and the Chocolate Hills, from where the views are unique.
Loboc River Resort
We picked the Loboc River Resort near the Loboc river and not too far from the attractions. They don’t have family rooms, so we had to book two double rooms for our family. Our river view breakfasts were very relaxing and we saw some beautiful sunsets from our chairs next to the pool. The staff at the resort is very child-friendly and every day at 4pm they organise little tours on the resort site. The food was good and the menu offers a lot of choices. There is a pool, a table tennis, a volleyball net and a small cinema to keep the children busy. We also rented scooters here for a reasonable price; they were very well maintained and safe.
Panglao is located south-west of Bohol and less than one hour by boat from Loboc. Our hotel on Panglao island was just a short tuk-tuk drive away from the famous Alona beach. After reading a lot about this beach, I was excited to see it. The beach was very crowded and less pretty than we expected. Many boats were waiting for tourists in front of the beach, so snorkelling from the beach was not going to happen. We did a snorkelling tour using one of the boats and visited Balicasag and Virgin island. The snorkelling spot was beautiful, but also very crowded because of the Chinese New Year break. The boat trip was the highlight of this part of our holiday for us. A beautiful coral reef and millions of colourful fish; what more do you need on an island?
Panglao Homes Resort & Villas
We stayed in Panglao Homes Resort & Villas, right between the two best beaches of the island: Alona beach and Dumaluan beach. We had lunch at South Palms Resort Panglao on Dumaluan beach and it looked great for kids. This beach is very child-friendly, so if you are looking to stay in a resort right on the beach, I would definitely recommend Dumaluan.
A two hours boat trip from Bohol brought us to Siquijor, the last island of our island hopping tour in the Philippines. The island was less crowded than Bohol and more laid back with many backpackers and quiet, isolated beaches. Our goal on this island was relaxing on the beach and enjoying the hotel.
On our first day we visited the popular Cambugahay waterfall. We spent more than two hours jumping and sliding from rocks, swinging on ropes and enjoying this blue lagoon in the jungle. The rest of our days on Siquijor island we just did nothing…
Hotels in Siquijor, Philippines
We decided to stay in two different hotels on Siquijor. The first night we slept in a ‘hobbit home’ at Kamp Aninipot. As this hotel is more like a campsite, toilets and showers are outside the room and breakfast was not included. The little rooms are basic and felt really humid. The view was absolutely amazing, which makes it worth to stay there. For the other nights we choose a more upmarket option by the beach and booked the Kalachuchi Beach Resort. Our large duplex family villa overlooked a green garden, was well maintained and super clean. The restaurant is built with local timber and has a view over the pool and the ocean.
The day before our flight we had to take two boat trips back to Cebu, for our last night in the Philippines. People say: “It’s more fun in the Philippines” and after our fantastic holiday there, I totally agree!
If you have more time you can explore Cebu island to see more amazing waterfalls, do some canyoning and hiking or swim with whale sharks.