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Panglao is connected by 2 bridges to the south of Bohol. The island has an area of 80.5 square kilometres (31.1 sq mi).
Panglao Island is one of the main tourist destinations on the Philippines. Alona Beach is the most popular tourist spot on the island; it is noted for its white sand and clear water.
Like Boracay, Panglao has become crowded due to opening of more and more restaurants and bars. There are also a lot of attractions for tourists such as SCUBA diving, island hopping, dolphin watching, snorkeling, kitesurfing and fishing.
For GRANDPAckers, Panglao is expensive but (unlike El Nido, Palawan) Panglao DOES live up to its ‘hype’. But… read on.
I made my own way from Siquijor to Panglao by bangka (traditional boat) and fast boat.
The banka left from Siquijor Ferry Port at 8:00am and took 1 hour 15 minutes to get to Dumaguete (Negros). I had to wait in Dumaguete to catch to 3:00pm fast boat from Dumaguete to Tagbilaran, Bohol. The fast boat took 2 hours 15 minutes. I had collected my suitcase and cleared the Ferry Terminal by 5:30pm.
At the ferry terminal, Tribikes wanted PHP500 for the 20 km ride to my hotel. Welcome to Panglao! I walked the 500m to the bridge between Bohol and Panglao and flagged down a Tribike there for PHP250.
I still had my Globe SIM card that I purchased at Manila Airport for PHP1,000 when I flew in from Hanoi to Puerto Princesa. For this, you get a 1 month ‘unlimited’ Data Plan.
I top this up with PHP1,000 each month and select the SUPERSURF999 data plan.
GRANDPAckers will need their own Mobile Data Plan on Panglao. Many of the cheaper hotels do not have wifi and those that do may only have a ‘wifi zone’ in one of the common areas. The free wifi provided at your cheap hotel can be very ‘variable’. If you use the internet a lot (like myself) you are best to have a mobile plan of your own to fall back on.
You can easily walk around Alona Beach by foot.
Around the island, many of the resorts are isolated; if you at one of these you won’t need to go anywhere anyway.
The normal ‘rule of thumb‘ for a Trike in The Philippines is PHP10 per km PLUS PHP10 for each large suitcase / backpack. In Panglao, if you aren’t careful, they will DOUBLE OR TRIPLE IT.
They often overcharge people. Here are the correct rates:
- Between Tagbilaran Ferry Terminal and Alona Beach: PHP250 for the whole Trike
- Between Alona Beach and Panglao City: PHP50 for the whole Trike
The Trike driver will try and charge foreigners for the whole Trike as if he were a taxi. The Whole Trike Rate is usually 6x the Shared Rate. If you want the cheapest rate, take the price that the Trike asks for, divide by 6, offer him that price, and tell him that you want to ‘share’.
The ‘standard’ rental is PHP500 for 24 hours. Some resorts offer better rates for their guests (as low as PHP350 for more than 1 week). Some resorts (such as the Calypso) offer scooters free to their guests.
You should be able to ‘hard negotiate’ the PHP500 down to PHP350. Stand your ground. Petrol is PHP40 / litre. On a good scooter, this will take you nearly 80kms.
WHERE TO STAY:
GRANDPACKers will most likely end up in Alona Beach.
If you read my post on Where To Stay, you will see that I went to quite a few hotels / homestays around the island and had a good look at pricing, beaches, and options.
In the end, I chose Alona Beach because this is the area for restaurants and bars.
I used AGODA.COM to pre-book my first 2 nights at the Spirit of Norway.
This hotel is an enigma. It is a very comfortable, new-build hotel in the middle of nowhere. Nowhere near restaurants nor bars.
But, they rented very good scooters for PHP400 / day which got me around the island and allowed me to review Where To Stay.
After looking around the island on the scooter for 7 hours, I decided upon the Aquatica.
The Aquatica is just below GRANDPAcker Standard but I was willing to drop my standards to be in a hotel on the Alona Beachfront.
Read my post on Where To Stay for all of the analysis and details.
The Aquatica was very ‘average’, most GRANDPAckers would not enjoy staying in their cheap Fan Double rooms.
You will struggle to find Breakfast on the beachfront for less than PHP180 (including coffee), Lunch for less than PHP180, and Dinner for less than PHP200.
There are 2 main exceptions:
- The Aquatica does a simple selection of breakfasts (including coffee) for PHP105
- About 40m heading north along the beachfront path you will find a ‘local’ restaurant that has reasonable prices
Food prices in Panglao are generally at least 150% the price for the same thing elsewhere in The Philippines.
BUDGET / TIN-POT BUFFETS:
There are the normal ‘tin-pot buffets’ scattered around the island but only a few in Alona Beach. You have to get away from the beachfront to find them.
You will find a ‘cluster’ of about 4 such tinpots on the main road at the top of Alona Beach road. You will find a couple more behind the Amorita Resort near Bananaland.
As a ‘rule of thumb‘ the Tin-Pots charge PHP20 for a small serving of vegetable dishes, PHP40 for anything with meat, and PHP30-35 for a small fried fish. Budget PHP50 for a simple Lunch. A fruit juice is, usually, best bought elsewhere; budget another PHP50 for that.
Some of these Tin-Pots also do ‘set breakfasts’. A typical ‘set breakfast’ would be a serving of rice, one fried egg, and some meat. You can select which meat: corned beef, sausage, dried fish … The best price that I found was PHP55 (excluding coffee).
MID RANGE RESTAURANTS:
There are plenty of places to choose from in the mid range. Mid range prices are PHP220 plus / minus PHP30. Most are ‘average’ quality.
I tried a Chicken Adobo at the One 4 Da Road for PHP195. The One 4 Da Road is on the Alona Beach road set back 100m from the beach. It was the worst value Chicken Adobo that I have had in the Philippines so far. The portion was small and not very tasty. I was paying PHP180 at Shantal’s on the Boracay beachfront for something twice the size with twice the chicken meat.
The Aquatica have different types of Chicken Wings for PHP175 (rice is extra). I tried their Garlic & Parmesan Cheese Wings.
Almost opposite the One 4 Da Road is a place that does Shawarmas and Doner Kebabs. I tried a Doner for PHP120; it was OK but nothing like a real Doner and it was small and nothing to shout about.
UP MARKET RESTAURANTS:
There are several ‘expensive’ restaurants around where a typical meal will cost PHP300 plus/minus PHP30. Some are better than others.
The ‘Tripadvisor’ highest rated restaurant on the beachfront is the Bee Farm. You go through a shop and upstairs to get to the restaurant. I ate there one night. I had Pork Ribs (which were succulent and fell off the bone) for PHP330. The Ribs came with complimentary home made bread and dips. The night that I ate there, they had a live duet playing below us on the beachfront. I am not a big eater nowadays. After adding a couple of PHP60 beers on top, I walked out of the Bee Farm feeling ‘uncomfortably full’.
There are several restaurants offering pizzas between PHP250 (basic cheese) and PHP395 (the ‘works’).
If you want to partake in the Seafood Grills that scatter the beachfront, expect to pay up to PHP500.
Expect to pay PHP60 for a San Miguel Pilsner.
For better prices, target the Happy Hours where you can get a San Miguel for PHP50 or a ‘Buy 1 Take 1’ for PHP100. Cocktails (like a Tequila Sunrise) can be had for as little as PHP50 in Happy Hour. Most Happy Hours end at 7:00pm – but some end at 9:00pm.
Be careful with the Happy Hours though. Some places still charge as much as PHP60 for a San Miguel – even though it is their ‘Happy Hour’. Always ask first.
Bars and their prices come and go year by year so, below, is only an indication of what you should be able to find…
Trudis: They have an all-day Happy Hour. A small San Miguel is PHP40. A 1 litre San Miguel is PHP90. It is the best priced Happy Hour on the beachfront. The food is mid-range.
One or two other bars on the beachfront do Happy Hour small San Miguels for PHP50. Most of these Happy Hours finish at 7:00pm.
Unnamed: Half way up the Alona Beach road near the Trike Terminal, you will find a small open-air cocktail bar. They have a 2-for-1 cocktail happy hour until 9:00pm. Something like a 2-for-1 Tequila Sunrise is PHP100 and something like a 2-for-1 Long Island Tea is PHP125. Their beers are not included but are well priced at PHP45.
YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe in Panglao (IMHO).
But there is, obviously, some theft going on.
Be sensible. Don’t flash your wealth nor leave things unattended.
Panglao gets power outages. Not every day but now and again. Bring a torch.
Read my posting on Where To Stay to get more detail about the beaches around the island.
In summary, most beaches are poor to average with poor to average swimming.
Many of the beaches are stony.
And, there are stones and rocks underfoot when you enter the water.
Many of the beaches are not well kept by the locals and are ‘untidy’ with debris and seaweed at the waterline.
It is a fairly small beach only a few 100m long.
There are patches of sand underfoot in the water but mostly scattered stones and rocks. You can also get sea urchins. Bring water shoes.
DUMALUAN / WHITE / LIBAONG WHITE BEACHES:
They are found 4-5 kms north of Alona Beach. So, you should pay PHP50 to get there each way on a Trike from Alona Beach. This string of beaches stretches 2-3 kms.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
If you are like me, you will like walking the beach at sunset. I usually don my swimming shorts, plug by earbuds in, and walk to the end of the beach and back (listening to my favourite music whilst watching the sun go down).
Alas, you cannot do this on Alona Beach: the beach is too small and you are on the east coast of the island.
But, it can still be very scenic at sunset.
Settle in for a couple of Happy Hour beers or cocktails as you watch dusk fall and the stars come out. Then, home for an SSSS (Shit, Shower, Shave, and Shampoo) before heading out for Dinner.
There are many tour operators around and many touts approaching you for Island Hopping trips and tours to Bohol.
If you walk up to the Circumferential Road and walk 100-200 metres in either direction, you can find the same tours for as low as PHP250.
There are said to be good SCUBA Dive sites around Panglao. There are many SCUBA Dive shops to choose from.
Their ‘discounted’ rates are PHP1,000 / dive including all gear (but no food). Most day trips include 2 or 3 dives.
In The Philippines you should target PHP800 / dive. I have talked to several experienced divers who have been in The Philippines a lot; this is what they say we should pay.
Negotiate hard and stand your ground.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
There are ATMs at the top of Alona Beach road near the junction with the Circumferential road.
Unlike some places in The Philippines, they are NOT limited to PHP10,000 … they are limit to what you set up with your home bank. I was able to withdraw PHP15,000 (just under my home bank’s NZ$500 per transaction limit).
Outside of your hotels (who charge premium rates) you will find 3-4 laundries. They charge PHP30 / kilo for 2-day service and PHP50 / kilo for next day service. There is a minimum of 3 kilos charged.
One had pickup at 9pm at night … regardless of when you dropped off the laundry.
The most popular one is a kiosk on the Circumferential road at the top of the Alona Beach road. But, be careful with this one as they have ‘rigged’ their scales. I have a travel scale (so that I can check the weight of my luggage before flying). I put together 2.9kg of laundry … the kiosk weighed it in at 3.5kg. I corrected them and paid the 3kg minimum. She did not argue … she knew that her scales were ‘rigged’.
There is another about 50m north which might be worth a try.
- 6.6L bottle of water PHP80
- 1Kg bananas PHP60
Petrol / Gasoline PHP38 in a petrol station and PHP50 out of a bottle on the roadside.
I made my own way from Panglao to Cebu City. Door-to-door, the journey took 5 hours.
Once again, Panglao was disappointing. It was better than El Nido … yet, still over-priced with a poor beach. But, at least in Panglao, you have several nice restaurants with tables on the beach to enjoy your evening meal.
Quite frankly, when it comes to the ‘popular tourist destinations’, Boracay was better (and, in many cases cheaper!).
If you choose the White Beach area (the better beach) you will be isolated.
There are better places to go to.
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