If you’re headed to the Visayas region of the Philippines, chances are you’re planning to make a stop at the Chocolate Hills. On paper this group of hills may not sound like much, but once you see them in person you quickly realize why they are one of the country’s top destinations. With over 1,500 almost symmetrical hills covering more than 50 square kilometers, they give the image of a seemingly endless valley of hilltops.
Adding to their mystique are the legends surrounding their formations (my favorite is the story of the giant who shed tears, for an unrequited love, which dried into the Chocolate Hills). They’ve earned their name from the chocolate brown color they turn during dry season, but if you happen to visit them during the wet season you’ll still marvel at the lush green that engulfs the landscape. To get the most out of your visit here’s our Chocolate Hills Travel Guide.
Where To Stay
The Chocolate Hills are accessible from almost anywhere in Bohol. Even if you’re staying on the coast at Anda Beach or in Panglao Island, there’s a plethora of tour agencies who will take you, commonly on a day tour including the Tarsier Sanctuary, Manmade Forest, Loboc River and more. If you’re in a hurry this trip could be a good option to hit up everything in a few hours.
As usual though, we recommend taking your time. Sure, you could hop in a tourist van, zip up to the viewing site, jump out, snap a selfie and be on your way. Believe us, we saw plenty of people doing this. But if the Chocolate Hills are one of your main reasons for coming to Bohol, then you may as well take your time.
If you’d like to spend the day around the Chocolate Hills area you can sleep in Loboc and grab a ride or rent a motorbike (350-450P per day) for the half hour drive. If you want to be really close to the action though, grab a room in Carmen. From town the closest viewing area is only a couple minute drive. Plus there are a couple of interesting spots to see around town including the church destroyed by the 2013 earthquake, which is now overgrown by vines and plants.
When To Go
Although the Chocolate Hills get their name from their color in the dry season, they were spectacular when we saw them in the rainy season. The lush green grass gave them more of a mint chocolate look.
The best time of day to visit the Chocolate Hills is debatable. If you’re staying in Carmen, it’s easier to visit for sunrise and/or sunset, both of which are supposed to be beautiful. We visited midmorning and again in the afternoon. The clearer the skies, the more even lighting you’ll get in the photo, so avoid clouds if you can. You’ll also avoid the crowds if you stay away from the midday hordes of tourist buses that shuttle in and out.
Where To See Them
Once you get into the interior of Bohol you’ll notice that the hills are really everywhere. Riding along the main road you can probably look to your left and right and spot some. To get a good view, however, head to one of the viewing platforms. The first is the official government “Chocolate Hills Complex” in Carmen. Entrance is 50 pesos and there’s a short set of stairs up to the viewpoint. Next to the parking lot is an area where a group of children perform songs on ukuleles and do dances. Keep an eye out for the young boy who does a great speech about the legend of the Chocolate Hills and the super cute little girl dancers in hula skirts.
The other viewing point, the Sagbayan Peak, is more like a Chocolate Hills amusement park. It’s located about 18 k from Carmen and also 50 pesos, but you could argue you get more bang for your buck. The view is a bit more spread out than the previous one, but also produces some nice shots. Jules preferred this view, while I preferred the previous one, so it’s just a personal preference. This complex also includes a Kid’s Zone with a self-monitored free “zip line,” statues of super heroes and animals and playhouses for children. There’s also a restaurant on site, although we were pretty disappointed by the food. I’m sure this place picks up a little more in the high-season. They also tell you that the ticket includes entrance to their Tarsier “Sanctuary.” This round enclosure was only a few meters wide and held two tarsiers. Although the sign out front said to remain silent, the hut is right by the ticket office and quite loud. The attendant woke the tarsiers up by feeding them, which made us uncomfortable because they are extremely sensitive nocturnal animals. They also ask for a donation inside the hut. I would highly recommend NOT entering the “sanctuary.” We regretted going in. This does not seem like proper care for the tarsiers. Instead check out the official Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella.
Whether you only have time for a quick trip or can leisurely enjoy the hills from different viewpoints at different times of day, the Chocolate Hills are one of the highlights from our Philippines trip. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!