If there were any spot on Bohol’s Panglao Island that could help propel it to be the Philippines’ next Boracay, Alona Beach is it – a mile-long stretch of fine white sand fronting the Bohol Sea, with a lively complement of beach resorts, beachfront bars and restaurants, and dive shops.
The scene on Alona Beach is lively, with a good mix of locals and foreigners taking advantage of the picturesque beach and the dive spots nearby. At night, partygoers flock to Alona’s bars and dining spots, either the establishments right on the beach or at the streetside location known as “Rona’s Corner”.
How Alona Beach got its name
Alona Beach is located in Barangay Tawala in Panglao, and may have been known as Tawala Beach before the Filipino movie Esteban started shooting on location on that very shore. Its female lead Alona Alegre lit up the beach, drawing male onlookers and scandalizing the local women by wearing a bikini (unthinkable in 1970s Bohol).
Afterwards, when the first few intrepid tourists began checking the area out, they were told by locals to look for “Alona’s beach”. The name stuck, and “Alona Beach” it is to this day.
Transportation To Alona Beach
Alona Beach is a 30-minute, 12-mile drive from Bohol’s capital Tagbilaran – the route takes you across a short causeway to Panglao Island’s Barangay Tawala at the island’s southwest.
The city of Tagbilaran is the main entry point to Bohol from all points abroad; Bohol’s main airport is located in the capital, as is the seaport that accommodates ferry transport from the nearby city of Cebu.
From Tagbilaran, you can take a taxi or a tricycle to take you right to the doorstep of your Alona Beach resort, at a cost of about PHP 300 ($7.50). Tricycles cost the same way going back to Tagbilaran from Alona Beach; you can split the cost with friends traveling the same way. Tricycles can accommodate a maximum of four passengers without baggage.
Resorts along Alona Beach
Alona Beach is currently going through a building boom – a number of posh resorts are altering the skyline of Panglao, but the budget resorts aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
There are about 30 resorts in the neighborhood, including the non-beachfront digs along the nearby roads. The eastern end of Alona Beach is monopolized by Amorita Resort (compare rates), a posh four-star establishment on a cliff with 18 villas and a number of deluxe rooms.
Many resorts along Alona Beach have their own dive shop (or are dive shops with accommodations to spare).
Diving and Other Activities along Alona Beach
Along Alona Beach, about a dozen or so dive shops stand ready to cater to divers of any level of experience. You can rent equipment, hire boats and instructors, and take dive tours of the spectacular sites within an hour’s commute from the shore.
Even non-divers will find plenty to enjoy in the waters near Alona Beach. The Bohol Sea is home to several thousand spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris), and boats regularly troop to the dolphins’ feeding grounds to watch the aquatic mammals frolic in the water.
A few islands rise out of the shallow waters to the west of Panglao Island, and some of them are well worth a look.
- Pongtod Island (popularly known as “Virgin Island” by locals, as a netting system around the isle makes it “difficult to enter”) has a long, picturesque sandbar that attracts beachgoers during low tide.
- Balicasag Island is a round island with a coarse white beach and excellent prospects for snorkeling and diving in the surrounding waters.
Pump boats – large motorized 20-seaters with outriggers – can be hired through your resort, or can be hired direct if you can find a trustworthy boat owner. Direct bookings with the boat owners will cost about PHP 1,200-1,600 ($30-40) per two-way trip; booking through the resort will cost about 20 to 25 percent more.