Yes, it’s definitely undeniable that the Chocolate Hills in Carmen, Bohol. These thousands of limestone hills that look like chocolates (yum!) during dry season – are ones of the most iconic landmarks that you have to visit in the Philippines. But there’s one advise I should tell you before planning to visit there: Manage your expectations so you won’t end up getting disappointed. Here’s my take.
All about chocolate hills
Dubbed as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, Chocolate Hills are geological limestone formations that are located in Carmen, Bohol. Considered as Bohol’s most iconic natural landmark, there are at least 1,200 hills in a 50-sq km land area. The hills turn brown during dry season that exudes a majestic view. The hills are best viewed at a deck on top of a hill. Aside from Carmen, Bohol, the hills can also be viewed in the municipalities of Batuan and Sagbayan but the one that I went to was the deck in Carmen.
Things you need to know before going there
As with any popular tourist destination, Chocolate Hills has its pros and cons:
1. Chocolate Hills are limestones but they are not “chocolatey” the whole time of the year. In fact, kapag tag-ulan, the hills are covered with grass. They only turn brown during the dry season – summer of March to April. But I must say that rain and typhoons have been quite unpredictable in the Philippines so finding the perfect time can be quite tricky. I went there in March but the hills were not brown as expected.
2. You can’t climb up the hills. Out of the thousands of hills in the area, the best way to witness the majestic view Chocolate Hills Viewpoint in Carmen. Entrance fee is P50. The other view deck is at Sagbayan Peak but I wasn’t able to go there.
3. Got arthritis? Forget it. Get your sunblocks ready as it is quite daunting to go up the viewpoint. You just need to climb 214 steps to get there and pray your make-up stays when you get there. But don’t fret, it’s worth the climb.
4. Are you ready to rumble? Expect a lot of tourists that will compete with you for the best spot for picture taking. If you want to have the place on your own, go there early. The viewpoint is open from 8:30am-5:30pm.
5. Flying drones is prohibited once the viewpoint is open. You may fly your drone before 8am so it was unfortunate for me who isn’t a morning person.
Other activities you can do around Chocolate Hills
If you have time to spare, you can up your Chocolate Hills experience with with biking midair (Bike Zip) or surf zipline (The Wave Runner) at the Chocolate HIlls Adventure Park. You can ride these ziplines while overlooking the scenic view of the hills.
I haven’t done this one but I have seen quite a number of tour agencies around Chocolate HIlls that offer ATV rentals where you can ride these vehicles so you can explore the foot of the hills on your own or an a guided tour.
How to get here
The cheapest option to get to the Chocolate Hills Viewpoint is joining a group tour that includes a one-day tour of Bohol’s other tourist areas like the Tarsier Sanctuary, Bilar Man-made Forest, Sipatan Twin Hanging Bridge, Butterfly Sanctuary and Loboc River Cruise. I paid P1,235 ($22) – most likely, the price would’ve increased for a few hundred pesos by now. Meet-up area is at Panglao Junction. I booked my daytour at I love Travel on Facebook.
Your starting point is in Tagbilaran in Bohol. There are daily flights from the capital, Manila, to Panglao (30 minutes rides to Tagbilaran) via the domestic airlines – Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific or Air Asia. If you want to book in advance, you may check out WayAway for flight deals or WayAway Plus where you can get 10% off from your booking using my voucher.
If you prefer owning your time, you can rent motorbikes in Panglao and drive yourself there. It’s a 1.5 hour-drive to Carmen where the Chocolate Hills are. Rental fee: P300-500 ($6-10),
Where to stay
There are a lot of options for accommodations in Tagbilaran City. As a budget traveler, I booked my dorm hostel at Booking.com. For mid to upper range accommodations, Agoda gives the best deals so you may check it out.
Chocolate HIlls is an iconic Philippine landmark but you don’t have to stay there long because it can really get touristy during the day. Take your photos, be amazed at its natural wonder and explore the other parts of Bohol. Of course, this is coming from me who is still salty about not being able to fly my drone to capture this beauty. Moral lesson: Wake up early!