Alona Beach; the most famous beach on Panglao Island, Bohol, Philippines
Alona, most popular beach in Panglao & Bohol, with most beachfront resorts
The reason Alona is the most popular beach on Panglao Island, and in Bohol, is simple. Both of these islands are lined by craggy rock shores that generally drop five or ten metres to water. Beaches make only a tiny portion of Bohol's coastline, and they are mostly short patches of sand collected in little bays. But here at Alona Beach, however, we find a somewhat rare strip of soft white sand that is 800 metres long, quite wide and has a coco palm backdrop. Alona is quite beautiful. As our two beach maps of Alona show, much of the beach is now lined with beachfront hotels – but not all. Expect the empty land to sprout hotels in the coming years, for Alona is at the very heart of Bohol's new tourism boom.
This corner of Panglao Island is sparsely populated, and the only urban area here is the new shops that have sprung up behind the beach to catch the thriving tourist trade. It's interesting to note that Dumaluan Beach, five kilometres up the coast from here, attracted the first beach resorts to service local Filipino business many years ago – yet that beach is not nearly as attractive as Alona.
sand, water & trees on Alona Beach make this a pretty, tropical beach
The white sand and clear water of Alona Beach sparkle among the rocky shores of Bohol – it is an attractive, tropical beach indeed. However, if compared against the best in the country, like Boracay's White Beach, the great majority of Bohol's beaches look rather mediocre. There are beautiful exceptions, of course.
Alona has nice sand running down to the delightfully clear water that surrounds most islands in the Philippines. However, the water is quite shallow for a good distance off the beach, and the bottom is not always sandy. Making swimming yet more difficult, a little way offshore obstructions are everywhere; boats, bouys and ropes. The water is good for playing by the shore, but not great for swimming. The snorkelling is good out at the edge of the reef.
The best part of Alona Beach starts at the top, where the sand ends. Here shady trees form a distinct, green strip for most of the length of the beach, and the beachfront resorts have been set back. This leaves space for a convenient beach walkway that has opened the beach to all, allowing people to move up and down quickly without struggling through the soft sand.
Alone Beach; shade & space = good lifestyle at top of the beach
As we see on many hot, tropical beaches, the trees at the top of the sand can be life-savers. Or in this case, life-givers too. During the scorching heat of midday the shade of the trees allows visitors to remain on the beach, without having to retreat indoors as is necessary in many places. Umbrellas just can't do the same job as big trees.
And here on Alona the shade of the trees has given life to a whole little ecosystem of beachfront bars, restaurants and shady lounges. During the afternoons the focus of life in Alona is here, in this shady zone between open sands and resorts. Visitors who have had enough sun retreat to the tables here for lunch, with many simply staying on, hanging about for the rest of the day sipping cool beers or hot coffees in the shade.
This is Alona's social zone, a place that is relaxing, outdoors, tropical, and friendly. It's in the restaurants and beach cafes that Alona's lifestyle really comes to the fore, for no matter how hot the day, guests can always be found here. Thank the trees that so many people go home with good memories of Alona Beach.
Alona Beach; widest choice of beachfront hotels resorts in Bohol
The dozen beachfront resorts that this Club has qualified along Alona Beach includes top end places with 4-star luxury, a whole variety of different places in the mid ranges and a few budget places. Then there are a couple of specialist dive resorts, and even an Australian beach-bar with rooms out back for those who can't stagger home in the late hours.
The three establishments on our Alona East map occupy the top end, with the only true 4-star standards here. Amorita Resort is the queen of this group, with a stunning location on the little headland that gives a great view right down the beach from its infinity pool. Alona Tropical Resort has hidden itself in the lushest tropical garden in Alona. Henann Resort sits back behind a delightful coconut garden that leaves green, natural space between its rooms and the beach.
Four small but atmospheric and pleasant resorts occupy the central sector of beach. Oasis Resort, Alona Pyramid, Hayahay Resort and Alona Vida all offer comfortable, 3-star rooms and the basic facilities, and all enjoy a pretty part of the beach with both walkway and restaurants on the sand in front.
Alona Kew is one of the larger resorts here, with its entrance well back up the beach access road.
Where road meets the beach a group of shops has sprung up, with more resorts just south of those. Two here specialise in diving, with Bohol Divers' Resort having lots of space at the beachfront and elevation where its rooms run up the hillside. Isis Bungalows is small but well managed.
The real budget place on this beach is one of the more interesting ones; Playa Blanca Compound. This is a plot of family land on which 5 separate groups of rooms are run by four members of the same family – in a kind of cooperative competition. The fifth one is run the Australian with Bird Watchers Bar. Each of the family members ran about five or six rooms. You'll have to phone or turn up in person to get a room here, though. And there was no sign out front indicating what belonged to who in 2013.
diving, snorkelling, massage, relaxation – easy to find on Alona Beach
If you ever wonder why Alona has so many dive boats coming and going, just look at the satellite image below our map of Panglao Island. The huge coral reef running along the south and west of the island is extraordinary large, and hugely prominent. The varying shades of light and dark blue indicate many shallow areas along with the edges where it plummets rapidly into the ocean depths, creating exciting drop-off and wall dives. This, Panglao Reef, is famed for its dramatic dive sites. Also, nine kilometres offshore, there is beautiful Balicasag Island that offers both divers and snorkelers another range of excellent underwater environments and experiences.
While Alona has just two specialist dive resorts, virtually all other accommodations either have their own dive operation or are linked to a nearby one. Signing up for a learn-to-dive course, or a diving day-trip, is dead easy anywhere on the beach.
Beyond the beach Alona has few attractions, little local community and little to do or see on land. Thus Alona's strong focus on waterborne activities, including kayaks, sailing, boat tours etc. Beach catamarans can be rented near the south end of the beach.
In the shade at the top of the sand masseuses are always found with beds and mats, waiting to knead, pummel and unwind stiff, foreign bodies.
by John Everingham