This Bohol Restaurant is a Bohemian Dream

Don’t you love it when you arrive at your destination and “discover” a restaurant or café that you haven’t read or heard about? When I say discover, I mean that little adrenaline rush that travelers feel when, for a brief moment of fantasy, they feel like they were the first to enter that shop.

Kate was here.

That’s what I felt when I first laid eyes on La Vara Restaurant in Panglao Island, Bohol. Instead of the busy Alona Beach, my family booked a hotel on the opposite side of Panglao—the quieter Doljo Beach, the northwest tip of Panglao where there are only a few establishments. I was walking along the road across Moadto Strip Mall when I saw an old bus transformed into a restaurant kitchen. Beside it, glamp-style tents.

According to their Facebook page, they named La Vara after the Romanian phrase, “in summer.”

La Vara opened to the public in March 2021. A bamboo-fenced, open-air setup surrounded by coconut trees and the beach a stone’s throw away, the resto gives off a Bali vibe. A vintage baby bus—the type you’ll see in Philippine provinces and not on the streets of Metro Manila—serves as the concierge and kitchen. Yes, you may sit on the wooden stairs to get that influencer shot. For the locals, seeing the painted sign, Panglao Bus II, is a trip down memory lane.

Outdoor dining
La Vara in the daytime

Not to be mistaken for accommodations, the tents have tables and lounge cushions for diners. If you don’t feel like Indian-sitting, there are regular wooden tables and seats.

Unlike other Instagrammable restaurants whose appeal ends there, La Vara’s menu has an good take on Asian fusion dishes.

Check out this baby bus transformed into the restaurant’s concierge and kitchen.

We ordered the Seafood Gochujang, a pasta dish with local seafood stir-fried in Korean red chili paste that’s sweet, savory, and spicy. We also had their Coco-Chic Adobo, a tropical take on the Filipino adobo. Coconut milk (gata) is infused into the marinade, giving it a creamy-peppery punch. You’ll want extra rice with that.

Glamping? Not exactly. The dining area is open from 10am-11:30pm daily.

Their drink list of mostly smoothies, shakes, and lattes—like the mango smoothies we had—felt more like desserts than drinks, so if you’re ordering something savory or spicy, it’s best to pair it with their beers or cocktails instead. If you need a for-the-‘gram treat, ask about the Egg Waffle Mermaid.

Clockwise from bottom: Seafood Gochujang, ₱287, Mango Smoothie, ₱105, Coco-Chick Adobo, ₱283, with white rice, ₱30
Dinner with my mother

The budget traveler may find their price range higher than average, especially if you’re coming from the mainstream beaches of Panglao where there are plenty of affordable choices. But for travelers like myself staying in Modala Beach Resort, where there aren’t many dining options in the area, La Vara is a dreamy escape.

La Vara Restaurant located in Purok 1, Doljo, Panglao, between Modala Resort and Bellevue Resort.