Alona Beach, on the southwestern bend of Panglao Island (at about the 7 o’clock position) is about as far West from Tagbilaran City as you can get. That is really great when you’re trying to escape the city, but when it is time to leave, getting back can sometimes be a bit of a challenge!
There are no taxis on Panglao Island, there is no Uber or Grab, just a handful of tricycles, some private vans, and an irregular schedule of local jeepneys.
Like in most provincial areas of the Philippines, all you have to do to catch a jeepney is wait at the side of the main road (Panglao only has one main circumferential road) and flag one down. The locals say that they come every thirty (30) minutes, but that timing is questionable. Nonetheless, the entire jeep ride will cost you only 25 Pesos (50 cents USD) to take you all the way into Tagbilaran. The often overlooked downside of taking a local jeepney is that the frequent stops extend this trip to over an about an hour and a half. That is longer than most people have the patience for.
If you’ve got the time and the patience, go for it! But with so few trips to places not named Cebu from Tagbilaran’s fast craft port, this option may not be the best for you.
above: The likely route you will travel to return to Tagbilaran
The next best option to get back to Tagbilaran from Alona Beach is a trike. Any of the drivers along the main road will be glad to make a “special trip”. Some tikes are even labeled with a sign saying exactly that, this is just the local colloquialism that means “For Hire”.
That also means that they won’t pick anyone else for the private hire, so it speeds the trip up for sure. This ride will cost you anywhere from 200 - 300 Pesos and should take 25 minutes or so.
Now, keep in mind, this is a tricycle, so large groups with multiple bags could raise the costs quickly if you cannot pack everyone in your party into one fare.
The last option to get back to Tagbilaran from Alona Beach is a little bit trickier, but it is certainly worth the effort, and also requires a little bit of luck.
Vans leaving the jetty port and dropping tourists off at their hotels in Alona Beach still have to get back to Tagbilaran, and they rather not go back empty handed. Most would be willing to take you back for 200 Pesos, even if you have a group of people. It depends on your negotiation skills.
This is one case where you definitely have the advantage, the van drivers would much rather take very little money from you than none at all!
Waiting along the main road and flagging down vans is not the most reliable method, but it will get you back quickly and conveniently once you are able to hop on.
One important thing to keep in mind is the ferry schedule. There will be no vans going back unless they are dropping tourists off first. This means that early morning van trips back to Tagbilaran trips are not likely.
On a return trip to the city, there is also a possibility that there will be some random drivers pulling over to offer you a ride. Hitchhiking is potentially very dangerous, so this is not advisable, no matter how tempting. While this may seem extremely dangerous in most western cultures, this is a practice that is more common in the Philippines. It is still not advisable for foreigners and specially those that do not speak Tagalog very well. There are no rules or laws to protect you if you chose to do this.
The difference with hopping on vans is that they are, like tricycles, licensed operators.
The best time to catch a van is around mid-day when they are most active, so plan accordingly. You can even try and get a phone number of the van driver that dropped you off. Pictured below is the only paved intersection in Alona Beach and is the busiest part of town. You won’t have much luck catching a ride back to Tagbilaran at night, but it will be much easier in the day time.
You can also ask ahead at your hotel if they are able to arrange a transfer for you. If they do not already have a regular driver that they contract with, they usually do not mind playing the fixer role to find you a ride.
Enjoy your trip to Alona beach and be safe!