2023 Panglao Dolphin Watching and Island Hopping Tour in Balicasag and Virgin Islands
Island hopping is a popular activity in Panglao, and it is a great way to see some of the best the island offers. The cost is reasonable, and you can tailor your tour to your interests. There are many beautiful islands to see in Panglao, and each has something unique to offer. When island hopping, be sure to let your tour guide/boat guide know that you would like to visit these islands: Balicasag Island, Virgin Island, and Pamilacan Island. Apart from these islands, dolphin watching is also one of the activities during this tour, so you have to leave early in the morning.
Here are some of the activities included in the Panglao Island Hopping tour:
How much does it cost to go island hopping in Panglao?
The cost of island hopping varies depending on the tour company and the number of people in your group. Generally, tours range from 1,500-2,500 pesos per person, and this is usually what hotels and resorts charge. This would cost 6,000-10,000 pesos in total for a group of four people, which can be very expensive, especially if you are traveling with your family or barkada. If you are already traveling with a large group, I suggest booking an entire boat directly with boat owners or tour guides. You'll find tour guides roaming around tourist areas looking for potential customers. They generally offer lower prices than hotels and resorts, and you can still negotiate prices with them. In 2017, the cost of the same tour was only P600 per head, exponentially increasing over time due to inflation and rising gas prices. During our trip, there were 4 of us in the family traveling, and we shared the boat with about 8 other people. Back in the day, the snorkeling gear cost about P150 for the mask and snorkel set and P200 for the complete set with fins. A vest will always be provided for free.
As with other beaches in the Philippines, dolphin-watching tours are often offered as part of several island hopping packages. I've been on different dolphin-watching tours around the country, but this one in Panglao was the best experience of all. This was where I saw the biggest pod of dolphins these eyes could ever see -- something that might not happen again in this lifetime. Good thing I was able to capture this entire experience on video. You can watch the video of the dolphins that we saw during the trip in the YouTube video below:
Where in Panglao will you be doing the dolphin-watching?
The dolphin watching and island hopping tour usually starts in Alona Beach. The travel agency or whoever you arranged it with will inform you where precisely the meeting place will be.
What time is the dolphin-watching in Panglao?
The boats will leave early in the morning to be able to catch the dolphins. During our trip, we left Alona Beach between 6:30 and 7:00 AM. The boat will roam around the area where the dolphins usually are and drive around until you find dolphins. I would say finding dolphins is based on weather and some luck. On a lucky day, you will be presented with big pods, but some days, you won't be able to find any dolphins at all. After about 15-20 minutes of watching dolphins, your boat will head to the next island.
Balicasag Island is surrounded by beautiful and colorful reefs and is ideal for snorkeling and freediving. Towards the deeper part, you will find scuba divers coming from different parts of Bohol and Cebu. Since the island is relatively small, you won't be able to find any resorts, and I am not sure whether camping is allowed. It's quite near Alona Beach, so I don't think you will ever need to stay the night. There are small food stalls and sari-sari stores selling all sorts of drinks and snacks. It's costly, though, compared to what you'll find on the mainland. Mobile phone reception is not a problem on the island since it's only a couple of kilometers away from the mainland. Mobile internet is not fast but still doable, at least for Globe Telecom anyway.
Once you are ready to snorkel, you will be ushered to a small boat that can fit 5-6 people, and it will take you near the drop-off, where you can see a lot of corals and fishes. During our trip, we snorkeled for a good 30-45 minutes until the boatman took us back to the island. We stayed for a couple more minutes to rest and to try the halo-halo being sold in one of the food stalls. It was the stall with the most buyers, so we had to try it out.
Balicasag Island is a small island located in the Bohol Sea, off the coast of Panglao Island, in the Central Visayas Region of the Philippines. The island is approximately 4 square kilometers in size and is surrounded by coral reefs. The island is a popular tourist destination for snorkeling, diving, and swimming with dolphins. Balicasag Island was declared a marine sanctuary in 1974 and is home to a variety of corals and fish species. The island is also known for its turtle population. Green sea turtles come to the island to lay their eggs on the beach. Hawksbill turtles and leatherback turtles also nest on the island. However, don't expect to see sea turtles every time during snorkeling or scuba diving. Like in all other places around the Philippines, turtles still remain elusive and usually comes out into shallow waters to feed very early in the morning.
Visitors can take a boat ride from Panglao Island to Balicasag Island and it is automatically part of the island hopping tour when you partake of it. The boat ride takes about 30 minutes. Once you arrive at Balicasag Island, you can spend the day swimming, snorkeling, and exploring the island.
How much is the entrance fee on Balicasag Island?
The entrance fee to Balicasag Island is PHP 200 per person. The island is a popular destination due to its beautiful beaches and fantastic snorkeling and diving opportunities. Visitors can also swim with dolphins in the shallow waters around the island.
Right after Balicasag, you will be taken to Virgin Island. I had such high expectations of this island as it looked gorgeous in the photos. It looked like a mini-Kalanggaman Island from posts I have seen on Google and Instagram. When we got there, it was nothing like the photos. Instead, it was a long stretch of an island filled with hawkers and food stalls. We also got there during high tide, so the sand was not above water. We still enjoyed our time, though -- we bought coconuts and ate miryenda while sitting on the shallow waters. I even had my husband (boyfriend at that time) and my cousin try out tuyom (black urchin) meat. It was sold for P50 per piece (this was in 2017), which was extravagant given that I was used to just getting tuyom from the seabed right in front of our house in Maribojoc. We did not mind, as this was how the local community earned a living. We only had a few, and the Manileños did not like it as much as I did.
The Virgin Island in Bohol is called that because it is an uninhabited island. The name comes from the fact that no people live on the island, and thus it is considered virginal. The island is known for its beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, making it a popular tourist destination.
How do you get to the Virgin Islands in Bohol?
Balicasag and Virgin Islands are two of the most popular tourist destinations in Bohol. Visitors can take a boat tour from Panglao Island to get to these islands. The boat tour will take them past Balicasag Island, where they can see the beautiful coral reefs, and then to the Virgin Islands. Here, visitors can swim with dolphins and enjoy the white sand beaches.
What is the best time to visit Virgin Island in Bohol?
The best time to visit Virgin Island in Bohol is during the summer months of March to May. The summer weather is warm and sunny, making it ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying the beautiful scenery. The water is also clear and calm, making it perfect for snorkeling and exploring colorful marine life. You can also visit from October to December when there are not many tourists visiting the beach. These months are known for typhoons, but if you are in luck and there is no typhoon during your visit, these months can give you the perfect beach weather. January to February are also options if you prefer cooler and cloudy weather.
Pamilacan Island is located farther away from the main tourist islands in Panglao. It would cost you extra if you would like to include this in your tour, but it should be worth it! Pamilacan Island is a beautiful place to explore by snorkeling. The island has many kinds of fish and coral that you can see while snorkeling. You can also find turtles swimming around the island. Pamilacan Island is a great place to explore the underwater world. Check with the local tour guides and boat guides how much the cost will be and if you still have enough time to get this included in your tour. Make sure to check this first before you head for the tour.
Where is Pamilacan Island located?
Pamilacan Island is located in the Bohol Sea, about 35 kilometers north of Bohol Island. It is one of the many islands that make up the municipality of Baclayon. Pamilacan Island is a popular tourist destination because of its beautiful beaches and rich marine life. The island is home to a vast population of dolphins, and visitors can often see these playful creatures swimming and surfing in the waves. Pamilacan Island is also excellent for snorkeling and diving, as there are many colorful coral reefs to explore.
There are a few ways to get to Pamilacan Island. The first way is by taking a boat from Panglao Island, and this can be included in the island hopping tour that will take you to Balicasag and Virgin islands and include snorkeling and dolphin watching. Another way to get to Pamilacan Island is by taking a boat from Baclayon Town. However, this option does not include any snorkeling or dolphin-watching activities. Daily boat schedules are going to and from the island, and the fare is only PHP 300 per person.
How do I book my Panglao Island Hopping Tour?
There are several ways to book your island hopping and dolphin watching tour in Panglao:
VIA YOUR RESORT. Your resort can arrange the tour for you. The rate would depend on the hotel and is expected to be relatively more expensive than independent tour operators. If your resort is high end, the dolphin watching and island hopping tour is expectedly more expensive than those being offered by mid-range resorts. Note however that not all resorts offer this service. Some would simply point you to places in Panglao where you can arrange for this tour.
VIA INDEPENDENT BOAT OPERATORS. When you go around the beach, there will be several boat operators who will approach you and offer island hopping tours. The prices will be more or less standard but you can negotiate. We got ours for P600 per pax exclusive of lunch but inclusive of snorkeling in Balicasag. This price was back in 2017 so this might have changed already.
VIA INDEPENDENT TRAVEL AGENCIES ON FACEBOOK. You can also book in advance via independent travel agencies on Facebook. Some travel agencies have their own Facebook pages or you can go to this Facebook group named DIY Travel Philippines and scout from there. You should be able to get several ones so feel free to ask everyone you find and compare their offers. I found Ate Nancy from this group and she offered the tour at P600 per head as well. Prices may have changed so you can contact her at +639227366640 to confirm.