At last count, over 1,200 hills make up the "Chocolate Hills" of Bohol in the Philippines, distributed over 18 square miles in the towns of Butuan, Sagbayan, Bilar, Sierra Bollones, Valencia, and Carmen.
They're an amazing sight - giant grass-covered dome-shaped mounds, many as high as 150 feet high, as far as the eye can see. "Grass-covered limestone" doesn't begin to explain the reality of these thousands of huge mounds looming before you, in stark contrast to the flat rice paddy lands around them.
The grass that covers each hill turns chocolate-brown during the summer season, giving the Chocolate Hills their name.
Geologists haven't reached a conclusive agreement as to what caused the Chocolate Hills to form, but the most popular theory suggests that the hills were lifted up from the seafloor by geological processes and weathered over millions of years into their present form.
The locals have their own "theory": once upon a time, a giant fell in love with a village girl. The giant kidnapped the girl, but she died en route. The giant's tears solidified into the Chocolate Hills. The end.
- Bohol To-Do: visiting the Chocolate Hills is just one of a number of things to do in Bohol, Philippines.
What to See, Where to Stay Around the Chocolate Hills
A restaurant, resort, and view deck have been built on two of the area's highest hills, all the better to serve the area's tourists. This complex is located in Carmen town.
On the higher of the two hills, 214 steps up from ground level, the observation deck offers a great view that is particularly spectacular during sunset. The complex also includes an airconditioned restaurant, souvenir shop, and hotel. Admission to the deck costs PHP50, or about US$1.20; it's open from 6am-9pm daily.
- Address of Chocolate Hills Observation Deck: Carmen, Bohol, Philippines
- Location: 9.7985, 124.16774 (Google Maps)
- Site: carmen-bohol.gov.ph/chocolate-hills
11 miles away, the Sagbayan Peak resort in neighboring Sagbayan town also offers a great view of the Hills from its viewing deck, not to mention a glimpse of the sea between Bohol and Cebu. The resort also has a restaurant, a tarsier sanctuary, a butterfly dome, and a children's park.
Most visitors prefer to stay at Tagbilaran City, making a day trip of their visit to the Chocolate Hills. Our list of hotels and resorts in Bohol lists a fair selection of accommodations, from three-star to backpacker-budget.
ATVing Around the Chocolate Hills
Viewing the Chocolate Hills from the observation deck may be interesting for a while, but for a more energetic activity around the location, nothing beats zipping on trails between the hills on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).
G1 Island ATV Rental obliges by renting out one- and two-passenger ATVs in 30-minute and 1-hour increments. Packages include a guide, who will lead you through one of a number of suggested trails. Before you'll be allowed to venture forth, you'll be asked to ride your ATV of choice on their test track to judge your ability to handle their vehicle.
ATV rentals at G1 Island ATV cost PHP450 per half-hour/PHP800 per hour on their 1-seaters, and PHP800 per half-hour/PHP1,300 per hour on their 2-seater ATVs.
- Address of G1 Island ATV: Brgy. Buenos Aires, Carmen, Bohol
- Location: 9.778237,124.147001 (Google Maps)
- Phone: +63 908 2684660, +63 921 210 6440
How to get to the Chocolate Hills
Bohol is accessible via air and sea links from Manila and nearby Cebu. (For specific travel methods to the Philippines and Bohol, read this article on Transportation To Bohol, Philippines.)
When in the island capital of Tagbilaran, go to the Integrated Bus Terminal in Dao and ride a bus or jeepney headed for Carmen. The Chocolate Hills observation deck is 30 miles away from Tagbilaran. Tell the driver to stop at the Chocolate Hills complex, then walk ten minutes up the winding road to the viewing deck.
To get back to Tagbilaran, go back the way you came and ride a bus to Tagbilaran, If you miss the last bus at 4 p.m., you might want to risk hiring the "habal-habal" (motorcycle taxis) going back to the city.
If you prefer to see the Chocolate Hills from Sagbayan Peak, hire a Sagbayan-bound taxi, bus or "v-hire" (van for rent) at Tagbilaran City and ask to be dropped off at Sagbayan Peak.
- Trail to the Chocolate Hills: For more information on transportation to the Chocolate Hills or other sites around the island, read our article on getting around Bohol, Philippines.