Visitors to the Philippines are often faced with the tough task of choosing which islands to include in their Philippines itinerary. There’s over 7,000 of them after all. And two islands that often end up going head-to-head are Boracay and Bohol. Both popular destinations, each with their own individual appeal.
But if you’ve only got time to visit one, which do you choose?
In my recent post “Boracay Vs Bohol: Battle of the Philippine Islands Part 1” I began to try and help you decide, looking at which island might be best for you based on factors such as which is easier to get to and around, and which island is best for beaches.
But there’s still far more rounds to go in this battle. So let’s pick up where I left off in Part 1 and look at some other defining factors for choosing Boracay or Bohol, starting with…
Boracay & Bohol – Nightlife
It’s fair to say one person’s idea of a great night out can be very different to another’s. So although it’s no secret Boracay is the nightlife capital of the Philippines, that doesn’t mean Bohol won’t have what you’re after.
BORACAY’S nightlife is all focussed on the ever-popular White Beach. There’s bars, restaurants, clubs and hotels running the length of it.
Station 2 (the middle stretch of White Beach) is mainly where the nightlife is at. Here you’ll find a concentration of bars and clubs right on the beach-front, where the nightlife goes on well into the early hours.
Cocomangas might just be the most famous spot. Epic and Club Paraw are worth a shout out too. All have extended happy hours, get livelier as the night goes on and attract a mixture of holidaying Filipinos and foreigners.
It’s tourist-central around this area, and as such it attracts everything that comes with that, including prostitutes and drunk, scrapping Westerners. Then again, where doesn’t attract them these days?
It’s a lot of fun and on the whole a really friendly atmosphere. Despite witnessing the odd drunken duel it never felt threatening or unsafe. But as with everywhere, common sense rules.
If you prefer your evenings a little more chilled, you can still find that on Boracay too.
Go sip sundowner cocktails at the seriously cool Spider House bar on Diniwid Beach and you could be on a different island entirely. The luxury hotels around Station 1 are also good for evening drinks without the rowdiness that lies just a couple of hundred metres away at Station 2.
The beauty of Boracay is that there’s enough to keep everyone happy, from those looking for all-night partying to those who prefer to rein it in a little.
Over on BOHOL and the majority of the nocturnal action is found on and around Panglao’s Alona Beach, south Bohol. Alona Beach is a little like a White Beach-lite. A smaller, less developed version of its Boracay ‘competitor’.
Like White Beach, bars and restaurants line the beach. But whilst bars may stay open until the last drinkers leave, there’s little in the way of ‘clubs’ here and those last drinkers tend to leave earlier. It’s just a far more relaxed place to be.
Being smaller than White Beach, you’re more likely to get chatting to fellow travellers and the dive bars that line Alona Beach (like Lost Horizon) are good meeting spots for travellers. Right on the beach you’ll find happy hours, cocktails, live music, probably some karaoke too – so there’s plenty going on. And with the right crowd during peak season the place will genuinely get lively.
However, on the whole it’s all just a little more laid-back than Boracay’s White Beach.
The reggae music that’s constantly pumped out of my favourite Bohol night spot, Aliahailey Bar, probably captures the atmosphere best – it’s totally chilled, mon.
Boracay & Bohol – Culture
BORACAY is all about the beauty, the beaches and the nightlife. Being the Philippines’ prime party destination, you don’t come here looking for the ‘real Philippines’.
Yes you can sail on a traditional Banca boat, take a dog-swerving, pot-hole bumping tuk-tuk ride and eat ‘authentic’ Filipino food (nothing to write home about anyway).
But really, pretty much the whole of island life is now geared towards hedonism and tourism. For beach bums and party animals it has it all. For culture vultures, not so much.
BOHOL on the other hand, feels completely different. It’s over 400 times bigger than Boracay and with a population in excess of 1.2 million (compared to Boracay’s 12,000+) it’s got strong agricultural and fishing industries running alongside its tourism too. So it doesn’t function on tourism alone.
There are four universities in its capital, Tagbilaran City and Bohol is also home to numerous old churches dating as far back as the 1700s – the time of the Spanish Colonial Era.
Sadly, in October 2013 many of these historic churches were destroyed or seriously damaged by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit this area of the Philippines. But with many in the process of being restored, hopefully these symbols of the island’s heritage will be back to their former glories again soon.
For all these reasons the culture of Bohol is much more to the fore, giving a much better sense of Filipino life here than on Boracay.
Boracay & Bohol – Things to do
Eat, sleep, rave, repeat isn’t quite the mantra of daily life on BORACAY, but it’s not far off. Surfers, windsurfers and kitesurfers will love Bulabog Beach but apart from that Boracay is all about relaxing and enjoying beautiful beaches by day and bouncing bars by night. And for many, that will sound like absolute heaven.
BOHOL offers somewhat more for those who get a little restless after an hour’s sunbathing.
As a sizeable island there’s more to it than beaches, there’s a whole interior to explore. And top of the ‘things to do’ list in Bohol must be the Chocolate Hills.
Pretty much in the centre of the island, the Chocolate Hills are a collection of more than a thousand perfectly formed conical mounds that rise out of the ground like the island has goosebumps. Named ‘chocolate’ because of the colour brown they turn during the summer, no one knows for sure how these limestone hills were formed. But that just adds to their mysteriousness.
A true wonder of the world, many people travel to Bohol for a sight of the Chocolate Hills alone. Bohol is also home to the Tarsier – one of the world’s smallest primates, now only found on a handful of islands in southeast Asia.
The wide-eyed Tarsiers have become the mascot for Bohol and a visit to the Tarsier Conservation Area is near the top of most visitors’ agendas.
But however undeniably cute the fist-sized creature is, it’s surely not a good thing to be shoving your camera and flash in the face of an endangered nocturnal species as they try to sleep during the day.
If you do go to see them, try and visit the Tarsier Foundation over the more popular Conservation Area, as more work is being done to protect them here.
Elsewhere on Bohol there’s Loboc River with its cruises through lush tropical forests, floating restaurants and thrilling zipline; the mahogony (man-made) forest; Bohol Bee Farm; the island’s historic churches; plus some pretty impressive diving to do. The diving is supposedly better here than off Boracay.
And of course you won’t miss on the much-needed beach-time here, the beaches around Panglao are still well worth visiting, including Alona Beach and Dumaluan Beach.
Overall, Bohol really does have plenty of things to do, beating Boracay hands-down for those looking for a little more action.
So there we go, across Parts 1 and 2 of Boracay Vs Bohol we’ve looked at five significant aspects; getting to and around each island, the beaches, the culture, the nightlife and the things to do. All in the name of helping you decide which island is best for you, if you have to choose between the two.
I’m not going to call out one over the other, as it totally depends on what you’re looking for from your trip. But I hope I’ve helped in some small way with your decision.
Of course if you have time, the best option is to visit them both. But whichever you end up picking, you won’t be disappointed by either of these Philippine island beauties.
Have you visited both Boracay and Bohol? I’d love to know which is your favourite…