Alona Beach is a very convenient place to stay if you are interested in visiting main attractions of Bohol Island and in diving at famous reefs of Pamilacan and Balicasag Islands.
- How to find a tour on Alona Beach?
- Whale sharks watching at Oslob.
- Diving from Alona Beach.
- Snorkeling near Panglao Island.
- Freediving at Baliсasag Island.
- Dolphin watching.
- Boat safari to three islands.
How to Find a Tour from Alona Beach?
To be honest, there is no need to search for travel agencies at Alona Beach, they will find you themselves. Dive centers, travel agencies, private traders with pictures of attractions and agents offering cars with drivers and motorboats work along Alona Beach Road and along the beach. So it’s very easy to organize an interesting vacation.
For 400 pesos you can go to Bohol bus tour in the group, for the 2000-3000 pesos you can get a personal tour by car with a driver, if you add some more, you can get a travel guide as well, for the 1300-2000 peso you can get a private motorboat for a half-day.
But I say that independent travels are better. It’s pretty easy to do it in Bohol. Read more about 1-day Bohol Island itinerary and about boat trips from Alona Beach in this post.
Whale Sharks in Oslob
Whale sharks watching, as well as diving and snorkeling with sea giants takes place on the coast of Cebu Island near Oslob city. The distance between Cebu and Panglao is rather small, so dive centers and boat owners organize trips to watch whale sharks from Alona Beach. These trips are quite expensive (about 5000 pesos) and it takes 2-3 hours to reach the place. I think that it makes sense only in case you don’t have time to visit Cebu Island, otherwise it’s much better to go to Oslob from some places in Cebu.
Please read also a detailed post about whale sharks in Philippines.
Diving from Alona Beach
Dive sites with departure from Alona Beach is a great choice for macro diving lovers. Philippines are known for the abundance of nudibranchs, frogfishes and shrimps. Baliсasag Island, which is located very close to Alona beach, is considered as one of the best dive sites in the Philippines. Frankly speaking, I have doubts. Of course, there are a lot of small tropical fishes there, but you hardly could find an abundance of corals, turtles and barracudas. But it’s a great place for inexperienced divers. Also the place gives you an opportunity to watch a coral wall very close and excellent conditions for macro photographers and nudibranchs seekers.
Balicasag Island Marine Sanctuary dive sites
“Snake Island” is another famous dive site. I didn’t dive there, but I dived at Gato Island near Malapascua, where I saw beautiful black and white snakes. I can say that the meeting with an underwater snake just can’t leave anyone indifferent. Especially if there are a lot of them around. So this dive site definitely is worthy of consideration. However, don’t forget that these snakes are as dangerous as beautiful.
The price for two dives a day usually is 2200-3500 pesos, depending on a dive center and a dive site.
Read more about choosing of a dive center on Alona Beach here.
Snorkeling at Panglao Island
If you like snorkeling, you definitely need to find time and go to one of many dive sites near Panglao Island with divers. It’s definitely good to go to Baliсasag, but dive sites around Panglao are also worthy of attention. I advice to go with dive centers, because private boats bring you to the worst place of the island, where locals try to get as much money from your pockets as possible. If you can swim and you need a little bit of freedom, then you’ll hate this place. Read about my boat safari experience in more detail below.
Snorkeling from dive boat costs 300-500 pesos per person.
Freediving in Balicasag Island Marine Sanctuary
As for freediving at Baliсasag Island, I can say the same as about snorkeling. Don’t expect that motorboat crew brings you to the right place. If you want to dive with pleasure, then you need to either go with divers and pay for a snorkeling (300-500 pesos per person), or leave your boat team on the coast and go to another side of the island for better places. In any case don’t agree to swim in fenced areas. There is nothing interesting there!
Dolphin watching near Pamilacan Island is one of the most popular entertainments for tourists at Alona Beach. Every morning, from about 6 to 7 am, dolphins rise to the surface and pass through the waters of Panglao. Dozens of boats of all kinds and sizes chase poor animals, to give opportunity for tourists in life jackets to look at dolphins and make selfies. All this action reminds wild boar hunting. Probably some dolphins have died of a heart attack. As for swimming with wild animals, unfortunately, it’s not an option. My friends freedivers tried, but dolphins swam away immediately. I’m not surprised, such stress!
Children and Chinese with self-sticks like it very much, but if you love dolphins – leave them alone. If I knew how everything happens, I would not go.
Sea Safari from Alona Beach to Pamilacan, Balicasag and Virgin Islands
There are a huge options to rent a boat for a trip to neighboring islands. The most popular safari is a half-day trip to three islands. We rented a boat and faced to all problems that you can imagine. In this post I want to share all the difficulties and ways to avoid them.
Negotiate the Price and Get What You Agreed for
My husband and I arrived to Alona beach at night. So one day before, we asked our friends to book a private boat to Pamilacan, Balicasag and Virgin islands. I must say that they had found a very good offer – 1300 pesos for 4 adults and 2 children. The agenda was to watch dolphins early in the morning, then freedive at Balicasag Island, then walk on a sandbar of Virgin Island. They gave a deposit of 300 pesos, took a receipt and agreed to meet at 5.40 am Alona Beach Road to departure at 6 am.
At 5.30 am we met our friend and waited until 6.00 am. Nobody from boat team came. Finally we’ve found one of them on the beach. He said that the boat was not at Alona, it was at Danao beach. So we needed a motorbike to get the place. Also he asked money for gas and told us that there was one more person who would like to join us. Well, it was too much “news” from the very beginning.
It seems like these guys had fun yesterday, spent all the money we gave them, didn’t bought any gas and didn’t move a boat to the right beach. Well, we gave them 500 pesos more, declined to add another tourist, and went to the boat. My husband and me came with this agent on his motorbike, our friends had to use their own motorcycle.
We knew that the dolphins are visible between 6 am and 7 am, so we were a bit nervous. We still waited for gas. Finally about 6.30 am we departured. After a few minutes a boat propeller fell off. It’s pretty much usual situation for Filipinos, but the time was coming.
After all at 7 am we arrived to watch the very last dolphin moving away. But if you read the post above, we didn’t lose much.
At the end of the trip we said that we would like to pay the remaining money only after we arrived back to Alona beach, because we didn’t want to pay for transfer. After my words our Filipino agent went in for dramatics. I just froze! He squealed like a girl of fifteen, he cried that we refused to pay. In fact he had to give these money to a captain of the boat, and he didn’t want to go to Alona and back for it. At the end, I just was uncomfortable in front of our friends and their children. We agreed that we gave money, but his friend transferred us to Alona for free. By the way, this guy asked 100 pesos when we arrived, despite the agreement, but we didn’t want to pay even a peso more. The whole day was spoiled.
Arriving at Baliсasag Island we figured out that “paradise island” is not as gorgeous as it supposes to be.
This beach is equipped with tightly stocked motorboats on one side and a fenced place near coral wall on the other side. They say that motorboats can’t go to this fenced place; also it’s not allowed to swim there yourself, so the only way to get to the place is to go by boat for 250 pesos. I asked if we could go to other place in Balicasag Island Marine Sanctuary. No way. All the boats go to this “paradise” for Chinese tourists in life jackets.
Of course we didn’t rent a small boat for 250 pesos. We swam ourselves, nobody asked anything. As for the place, it’s even worse than a reef at Panagsama beach. It’s not WOW at all. If you can swim, it’s nothing to do in this place for you. I would recommend to go for snorkeling and freediving with divers or just find some places on other sides of the island.
Also boat crew ask for marine sanctuary fee. There is a fee 50 pesos for snorkeling and 100 pesos for diving. But I never saw that this money came to some place except a boat. So it look like they just charge money, but never give them to the government.
Purity of Virgin Island
A few minutes after we got out of the water, our captain told us that there is a storm coming and we have to go further. Storm really started. Wind and heavy rain. During a half an hour way we got a sousing and cold to shiver. And suddenly everything became well. Virgin Island (officially Pondot Island) greeted us with a bright sun, white sand going beyond the horizon, a deserted beach and well-groomed gardens. A pacify cleanliness of the island smoothed an impression of a completely unsuccessful morning.
The whole island is a museum of a preacher. That’s why there are number of unusual rules here, for example, pets, strollers, and even kisses are not allowed.
There are no shops and hotels on the island, but you can find “walking” trees and angels on tree branches. I must say that visit to Virgin island was more pleasant for me than diving at Balicasag.
How to avoid troubles with trips from Alona Beach?
- Do not pay for motorboat in advance. There are a lot of boat and agents on the beach at 6 am, so you definitely could find something for you.
- Before you pay, it’s better to look at a boat and a captain. Make sure that the boat is at a beach near you hotel.
- It’s better to specify how many people will be on the boat. Rent a whole boat, so a crew can’t add someone else suddenly.
- There is no point to go for dolphin watching after 6 am. They run away at 7 am.
- Do not pay more than 50 pesos per person for snorkeling at Balicasag Island Marine Sanctuary. Also it’s better to pay directly to a ticket office in the island than to boatmen.
- You don’t really need a boat to swim to the reef wall at Balicasag. Any person who can swim can do it itself. And don’t believe that it’s forbidden, we experienced it first-hand.
- If you are looking for pleasant impressions from Balicasag Island, go there with divers or find your own place on the other side of the island.
- Go to Virgin Island for a peaceful and quiet place.
- Place: Alona Beach, Panglao Island
- Nearest town: Tagbilaran, Bohol, Philippines
- Date of the trip: 21 Dec, 2014
Read here how to get to Alona Beach.