Panglao Island Philippines – A Great Spot in SE Asia to Retire

Andrew Leeson


Pangloa Island Philippines

Panglao Island Philippines – A Nice Spot to Retire

Panglao Island is being marketed by the Philippine Tourism Authority as ‘The Other Beach Destination’.

Each to their own of course, but every now and again traveling through the countryside of SE Asia I come across a gem of a place that suits my personality and lifestyle ambitions. One such spot was Panglao Island, off the South-West tip of Bohol Island.

For me, Panglao Island is a tropical paradise offering a laidback lifestyle in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. It offers the prerequisite white sandy beaches, clear aqua blue waters and an abundance of coral reefs and sea life. It is far enough away from the larger cities to truly feel that you are on a tropical island without a traffic light in site, but still retains great accessibility to those cities when needed.

Panglao Island is growing……fast

The island is a popular tourist destination for local Filipinos. Currently over 550,000 people visit Panglao Island each year, with only about a third being foreign visitors. This figure is increasing due to the opening of the international airport on the island in 2018. However, as far as I can gather the only international destination currently is to South Korea, with two destinations for 4 flights each day. The South Koreans love the place. In far second place for foreign tourists are the Taiwanese then closely followed by United States.

The airport has made it extremely easy to get to Manila with 11-12 flights each day, and Palawan (1 flight) and Davao down south (1-2 flights).

As it’s a tourist destination you will find all the amenities that a tourist destination has to offer. Such as cafes, restaurants, bars, shopping, markets, leisure activities and so forth. And it has that tropical island not a care in the world feel, where you’d almost expect a Rastafarian to amble past you on the beach at any moment. 

Beach life – one of many on Panglao

Recently Bohol itself (the main island of Bohol is across the bridge from Panglao) has become the Philippines first UNESCO Global Geopark. If you like the great outdoors, it’s worth checking out this area as it has some unique geography, fauna, and flora.

chocolate hills philippines
I forget what they’re otherwise known as….

Original wildlife

Feels like a million miles away

Island hopping the Philippines anyone?
On top of the flights, there is a plethora of ferries running to Cebu, Dumaguete, Siquijor and many more destinations if you want to get away and hop around some neighboring islands when your own island’s palm trees start to look too familiar.

In fact, island hoping around the Philippines is a must do and Panglao island is a great base to do just that. My words cannot do justice to the feel of aimlessly meandering through the islands of this country. You feel like you are a million miles away from any stress that you may have in life. People are laid back and kind, and the views are spectacular. The beaches are white and the water clear and refreshing. If you love the tropics and like ‘getting away’ then this is a must.

A scenic way to get around

How long can Panglao Island stay pristine?
I’m hoping for quite a while longer. It is an area that I am considering putting down roots someday. The developers have started to move in though. A simple Google search will tell you of the amount of condo developments going on now. There’s plenty of room, it’s not a small island, nor a large island, but I do prey it doesn’t get over developed like so many more idyllic paradises that gets ‘found’ by the international tourist market.

What is has got going for it is that it’s a little harder to get to for most of us. If you are not Korean, then you will need to either fly into Manilla, then on to Bohol/Panglao, or fly into Cebu then usually a short ferry down to Panglao Island. Adding that extra step should see the huge hordes of international tourists staying away for a little longer. It worked for Boracay………for a while.

In comes tourists……up goes modern facilities

Cost of Living on Panglao Island

Don’t get me wrong here, I still and always will love Thailand and Bali (but not the high tourist areas of Bali), but I have seen the cost of these long-time tourist favorites rise over time. In saying that yes, it’s still inexpensive compared to back home and will be for a long time to come. But when it comes to the islands of the Philippines, It’s like being back in Thailand or Bali 15-20 years ago for value for money.

As a general guide below are some figures I’ve plucked from Numbeo, undoubtably the world’s largest online cost comparison website. The figures seem right to me: 

Meal, inexpensive restaurant3.154.802.91
Meal, 2 people, mid-range restaurant, 3 courses12.4318.9411.49
Domestic beer (500ml)1.071.620.98
Cigarettes 20 pack (Marlboro)*2.664.062.46
Rice 1kg white0.881.330.81
Chicken fillets 1kg4.236.453.91
Utilities monthly 85 sq/m condo (electricity, water, garbage)70.07106.7564.76
1 pair jeans Levis 501 or similar35.5054.1032.82
1 bedroom rent close centre (monthly)**355.06541.10328.16
1 bedroom rent outside centre (monthly)**230.79351.73213.30
*Give up it’s bad for you. **Discounts can be had for longer term leases such as 1 year

Want to purchase a property?
As with most other SE Asia destinations foreigners cannot own land. If you wish for a villa or house etc very long term, then you will need to negotiate a long-term lease. Leases can go up to 50 years, with a further 25 years extension at its maximum term. You can structure such an agreement so that this asset can then be on sold by you, and even passed down to your estate on death.

Foreigners can own units and condos freehold. As stated previously, Panglao island is growing, and the developers have moved in. I won’t provide prices here for you as this can be easily obtained by Googling condo sales on Panglao island. There are hundreds for sale right now. Seemingly a huge amount on projects that have not been completed yet.

The prices seem way cheap to me, but then again, I live in Sydney, Australia now so everything seems cheap to me when I look elsewhere.

It’s hard to say, but as supply of condos seem to be robust and building, I’m not sure I would be personally interested in buying for investment purposes only.

If I chose to make Panglao Island my home in future, only then I would consider buying. If I am to live somewhere for an extended period I would personally prefer to own. In saying that, the robust supply of condos may keep the long-term rental market inline for some time to come.

If it’s good enough for Jesus……

Panglao Island – At the very least visit

Panglao Island may not be your cup of ‘Hala-Halo’. It’s suited for people that wants to lessen their pace in life and enjoy the great outdoors. You will not be bored if you like sports of all types, and of course the water and a few beers when the sun goes down. As it’s a tourist area there will be a small amount of nightlife even with live music. But don’t expect the big buzz of larger, more established tourism hotspots.

It is only one island of about 7,000 Philippine islands, so you may be forgiven for not dropping by. Even if this is not your idea of retirement, should you be in the Philippines, or are considering a trip to the Philippines, then this area should be on your list of possible places to visit.


If you’d like more information or have any questions, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email in**@re**********.au and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.

Andrew Leeson

Andrew Leeson

Over 20 years of experience helping people live a better life in SE Asia. Having worked in financial services in Asia I understand the challenges when moving to and living in a new country. I have travelled extensively throughout the region and experienced what SE Asia has to offer to retirees.

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