A week on Alona Beach, Bohol, Philippines

Anybody who knows me knows that I’m all about beaches. And Alona Beach is one to remember.
Most people who have been to or thought of visiting the Philippines have heard of the Chocolate Hills on Bohol. The typical deal is for people to find their way to Cebu Island, then take the Supercat boat over to Tagbilaran City, Bohol. They spend 2 nights, with one day doing the Chocolate Hills tour. That’s one way to do it.Personally, I don’t like losing holiday time just getting from point A to point B, so I chose to skip Cebu entirely and spend all 7 nights on Bohol. I flew directly from Manila to Tagbilaran, then hired a taxi for 500 pesos (about $10) for the 40 minute drive to Alona Beach on Panglao Island, which is connected by a short bridge to Bohol.

 

 

The beach is beautiful, with powder-like white sand and coconut trees leaning out toward the blue-green waters. Although I’m usually not a fan of beaches crowded with boats, I love the outrigger style white and blue boats they use in the Philippines, so to me, it just added to that tropical feeling. And the sunsets. Wow!

 

Life’s a Beach
As much as I love being at the beach, I rarely spend any time just sitting in the sun. In fact, one of my goals in visiting the beach was to get some work done, so I spent a lot of time just sitting in the restaurant working on my laptop.

 

This was not, however, always an easy thing to do. The Philippines is a decidedly friendly place, and people, both Filipino and foreign alike, will stop by for a chat. In most cases, people just stopped to ask about how I was getting a wireless connection (I wasn’t), or about the size of my super small “Toughbook” laptop. At least two times, that resulted in an afternoon of chatting over beers with some very interesting travellers. And one time, as I was sitting there working, I was approached by a group of Tourism students from Mindanao, in the south of the Philippines. We talked for ages, and finally took a few pics together. Not that I needed any to remember: experiences like that are the ones that I always remember.

 

Tourism students from Mindanao

But I must confess. There was really only one reason I didn’t get as much work done as I would have liked:

 

Accommodation
Due to the last minute nature of this trip, I had difficulty finding a place to stay. Indeed, I actually found a place by calling places listed in Lonely Planet as I drove in the taxi to the airport in Manila. As is typically the case on beach resorts here, every place is fully booked when you call. This is entirely due to budget travellers who walk up the beach looking to save an extra 200 pesos a night on a room, leaving a long line of reserved “just in case” rooms in their wake. The best option is to just book one night in advance anywhere you can, then spend your first day doing research up the beach seeing what’s out there.

On this trip, I spent my first two nights at the Alona Kew White Beach Resort. Although it is well landscaped (see the bungalow pic above), it is a CRAP place to stay. It is way overpriced — 4,000pesos a night for a room that is falling apart. They couldn’t even bother to put in a holder for the shower, which had fallen out long before. Basically, they took a budget bungalow, put in an air conditioner and a hot-water system, and raised the price by 500%. I don’t have a good thing to say about the place.

For the next 5 nights, however, I DID have a great place to stay. I was lucky to find the Lost Horizon resort, (http://www.losthorizonresort.net/about-us) just a minute walk down the beach. The owners, Duane from the US and Mennie from the Philippines, are fantastic people and they have raised the bar in terms of service and quality on that beach. The room I had was spacious, clean, everything worked, and the walk-in shower was a treat, as they are one of only 2 places on the beach with fresh, hot-water showers (most places use a semi-salty kind of water). The bar was great, the food was good (try the baby-back ribs), and the tables by the beach made working a pleasure.

 

Lost Horizon Resort. Cheap & good management!

 

In a nutshell, accommodation on Alona tends to be way over priced for the quality given. At one place, the Alona Tropical Beach Resort, above the Bohol Diver’s Paradise, you didn’t even get a hot water shower unless you were in the $110/night suite rooms. Ouch!

But there are some good places. As I wrote above, Lost Horizon is great. Other good places based on reports from people I met there were the Isis Resort, and the Alona Vida resort. In fact, I usually ate and had beers at the Alona Vida every night. The owners, Thomas and Brenda from Switzerland are VERY cool, and the head barman, June, runs the bar with a professionalism you rarely see. All of the waitresses were so friendly and nice, it was hard to say goodbye. Definitely worth a visit there, even if you can’t get a room (it’s usually fully booked).

Alona is definitely one of the more expensive beaches in the Philippines. And if you’re going to the Philippines for the nightlife, then Alona is not what you’re after. But if you want a few days in beautiful surroundings, Alona should be on your travel plan. It has one of the best beaches in the area, the best infrastructure, and some great places to chill by the beach. I highly recommend it.
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