Panglao, Philippines: A Big Party on a Tiny Island

We left Boracay on such a high – but also – the travel day was a bit rough. My birthday was the day before our departure so even though we said we’d “take it easy” that day…it didn’t happen. So waking up at 5am to take a boat to the main island, then a tricycle to the airport, followed by 2 planes to reach our next destination? Yeah that was a bit brutal. But totally worth it.

Arriving in Bohol/Panglao

Our next stop was an island called Panglao which is “technically” associated/part of a bigger island called Bohol. Bohol is the main island and Panglao is a teeny tiny island just south – they’re connected by a bridge.

The airport is located on Bohol in a city called Tagbilaran. Flying anywhere in the Philippines is such a treat because there’s so many gorgeous islands to see as you’re 30,000 feet above. Once we reached Bohol, we flew over the Chocolate Hills which was incredible and an amazingly unique view of the bizarre formations (more on this in the next post.)

We were in a “normal” plane…like a 737 type – but we were seriously taken aback that this was the case when we saw the size of the airport we were landing in. It was so small! It didn’t even have actual gates. It’s the kind where the only option to deboard the plane is using the stairs that put you outside. There’s one baggage claim and not much else. Thank god there was an ample amount of runway for our plane (as mentioned before – clearly, I’m completely terrified of flying.)

img_0459
Tagbilaran City Airport

A driver was waiting for us with a sign and drove us down to the small island of Panglao. We were staying at an Airbnb (duh) on the non-touristy side of the island at a place called Momovillage on Momo Beach. Our host, named Ana, greeted us with a fresh mango shake – we met her two adorable kids (Hilario and Miguel) and her super chill dog named Choi Choi (maybe Choy Choy?) which apparently means handsome. And he was.

Ana lived in a separate building than the Airbnb we were staying in. She offered a kitchen for us to use and a dining area for us to have breakfast (delicious). But our place was a really unique 5 story watchtower type of building with a spiral staircase up the side. The rooftop was a sunning deck with a view above the jungle canopy. It was literally the tallest building for miles. You could see the ocean on one side, the jungle on the other and be a witness to some belittling thunderstorms. By far the most unique place we’d stayed in so far.

Momovillage, Momo Beach, Panglao
Our building – 3rd story was ours
American Breakfast, Momovillage, Momo Beach, Panglao
Breakfast cooked by Ana every morning
Momovillage, Momo Beach, Panglao, Philippines
View from the top of the watchtower

The Beaches of Panglao & Our Surrounding Neighborhood

Okay – so – we’re officially spoiled and completed ruined after going to Boracay (or even a beach like Tulum.) Those beaches were perfection. Our standards now are ridiculously high when it comes to what a “nice beach” actually means. The beaches in Panglao were really nice but didn’t check off all the boxes on our “perfect beach” checklist.

Our closest beach was Momo Beach – about 300 meters down the way from our Airbnb. When we first walked down to check it out, it was low tide – and it was kinda gross. Lots of seaweed and not a lot of sand in the water, mostly seaweed and sea grass. We came back later and were happily surprised at high tide. The water was nicer and there was more room to swim although it was still very shallow. It was a bit rocky to step in and there’s starfish and urchins in the water so it’s a bit sketchy to walk around in with bare feet. Other than that – it was still really beautiful.

Momo Beach, Panglao, Philippines
Momo Beach at high tide
Momo Beach, Panglao, Philippines
Momo beach – just a bit of sand before you hit a lot of seaweed.

We rented a scooter for our 2 week stay and explored our area and some other beaches on the island. Heading south from our Airbnb you reach a bit of a main town with a gorgeous church and some restaurants, some convenience stores that are all very much family run and some local eateries that serve homemade dishes from pots off the side of the road.

St. Augustine, Panglao, Philippines
St. Augustine Parish on Panglao

Near this town center you could find another gorgeous beach called Doljo Beach. Again – it’s all about going there with the timing of the tides. During low tide – it’s not that exciting. But during high tide it’s really quite nice. The colors are gorgeous and the temperature is pleasant (although bordering on too warm) but it’s still extremely shallow. For us – we love to actually swim and play in the waves. But if you want to fully submerge yourself here – you’ll have to just sit down. Not complaining one bit – that’s just how it is. The beauty of this beach was still out of this world.

Doljo Beach, Panglao, Philippines
Doljo at low tide – the water was actually almost hot.
Doljo Beach, Panglao, Philippines
Doljo at high tide.

The main touristy beach is called Alona – it’s just as nice as all of these other beaches but with more people. We didn’t hang there too much but we did party there quite a bit with our new friends. More to come on those fun times below.

Being Tourists on Panglao

There were a few things we wanted to do while staying on Panglao that were on the typical tourist path. One of them was visiting Hinagdanan Cave which was just under 10km (I’m using kilometers now, who am I?!) from our Airbnb. We read on blogs that there was a small entrance fee and you could swim for free. We read on other blogs that there was an entrance fee but you weren’t allowed to swim. Turns out there’s a parking fee, an entrance fee and an extra fee to swim. This wasn’t a surprise to us really as nothing has turned out to be free in the Philippines.

We were forced to take a guide with us into the cave which was quite small. It was really pretty and had some great stalagmites and stalactites going on – but it was a bit crowded with other tourists. Our tour guide had us pose in cheesy poses along the way and finally we were allowed to jump in the water – by far the best part. It was so much cooler than the ocean and extremely refreshing.

Hinagdanan Cave, Panglao, Philippines
Cheesy pose in the cave
Hinagdanan Cave, Panglao, Philippines
Super cheese.
Panglao, Philippines
Creepy statues on our way to and out of the cave

One thing Kile and I don’t do is overindulge. We’ve mentioned it time and time again throughout our posts that this isn’t a “vacation.” We’re simply just traveling and experiencing as much as possible – we’re not staying at resorts, we’re not doing tours or excursions and we try to eat like the locals do for the most part. But sometimes? You just have to splurge.

There was a restaurant a little south of Momo Beach called Linaw (on Danao beach) that offered a seafood platter that needed to be ordered in advance. They offered it at a price around 650 pesos which is about $13 USD. We knew we had to do it. It was a platter with crab, shrimp, mussels, scallops, prawns, squid and oysters. HELLO! Turns out it was 1300 pesos because 650 was the “per person” price and it’s a minimum of 2 people (typical.) But still! For $26 USD we totally gorged ourselves on an amazing dinner with salads and two sides – not to mention an epic sunset.

Lenaw, Danao Beach, Panglao, Philippines
Our insanely delicious seafood platter
Danao Beach, Panglao, Philippines
Sunset on Danao Beach at Linaw Resort & Restaurant

It was all about the PEOPLE.

By far- bar none – the best thing about Panglao was the people. Not only the local people but also the other travelers we met staying at our Airbnb and while out and about. Since we’ve been in the Philippines we’ve been blown away at how genuine people were and the amount of hospitality given to us.

After a few days of staying in Momo Beach, along with another American couple and a German couple, our Airbnb host offered to take us out on the town to Alona Beach (again, the touristy part of the island.) These are the moments that we can’t turn down and of course we had to join. We’re so glad we did.

Our evening was spent having drinks, conversations and laughs with our new found friends. Singing along to the live band. And creating bonds that will last with us forever. We actually ended up connecting with the German couple, Francesca and Stefan, really easily. They were so nice, super outgoing and very sweet. We hope to visit them in Germany down the road! We also ended up meeting some guys from the U.K. and Austria named David and Jonas that got in on the fun as well. It was nice seeing Ana outside of her “hostess” element. All in all – it was just a fantastic night. The kind of night that makes us feel so happy and grateful that we’re doing what we’re doing.

Helmut's Place, Alona Beach, Panglao, Philippines
The Airbnb gang – (from left) – Erin (U.S.), Francesca (Germany), Stefan (Germany), Ana (Filipina, our Airbnb host), Kinan (U.S.) and me! Kile’s taking the pic. 😦
Alona Beach, Panglao, Philippines
A super sweet Korean girl, me and Francesca having a bonding moment.
Alona Beach, Panglao, Philippines
Singing our hearts out to the local cover band

Another really crazy and cool thing that happened while being on this island was that I was finally able to meet a co-worker that I’ve been working with for over a year. I am a content writer and social media manager for a few businesses/websites and have been working with one client solidly for about 13 months. During this whole time – there was was one other writer/social media manager working with me named Farrah. She’s a traveler as well but is from the Philippines. We just happened to be in the same area at the same time and were finally able to meet in person!

It was so cool meeting someone that you already felt a connection with and felt like you “knew” but…of course, not really. Turns out – she’s awesome. We had a blast going out to eat, karaoke-ing and exploring the island together. She pushed us to try some foods we never thought we’d try (like pig’s blood stew and balut) and showed us some amazing waterfalls (more to come in the next post.) And surprisingly – we only talked about work for just a few minutes out of the hours we were together.

Alona Beach, Panglao, Philippines
Farrah, her awesome friend Ludwig, me and Kile (yup…same bar as the earlier night!)

All in all – UNFORGETTABLE

Panglao was another island, in the thousands that make up the Philippines, that made us fall in love with this country. We made some lifelong friendships, had some unforgettable moments and ate some extremely fattening and…odd food. The Philippines keeps blowing our minds with the friendliness and hospitality. It’s a shame it’s portrayed so horribly via the American media. We couldn’t have better things to say about our experiences.

Our very last night on Panglao happened to be a party night for the next door neighbors which apparently entails renting a karaoke machine and singing at an extreme volume for 9 hours straight. This almost made me want to tear my hair out – but then the next morning we’re greeted by our lovely and hilarious host (who was partaking the night before) with such hospitality – you can’t stay mad for too long.

More to come with our adventures on the big island of Bohol!

 

 

 

 

 

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