Bicol Region is comprised of 6 provinces namely Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes, and Masbate with the first four featuring promising tourist attractions. Camarines Norte is home to at least two distinctly gorgeous beaches. Camarines Sur has equally stunning and rugged beaches, volcanoes, waterfalls, caves and a well-known wakeboarding complex. Albay’s pride and glory is the world’s most perfectly-shaped cone of a volcano, luxury beach resort, ruins and a zip line over a hilly nature park. Sorsogon offers a rustic retreat to nature – swim with butandings, watch fireflies or take a dip in lakes of a volcano. This destination is ideal for couples looking for mild and easy adventures, landscape photographers, mountaineers and food enthusiasts most of all. Bicol is known across the Philippines for its yummy spicy cuisines typically flavored with coconut milk.
Explore Famous Beaches
Going to Bicol without experiencing Calaguas, Caramoan or Misibis Bay is just as good as not going at all. Calaguas boasts of an extensive shore ruled by fine white sand that can rival Boracay’s. It has turquoise blue waters perfect for swimming. Calaguas is popular with campers as the destination is blissfully undeveloped.
Caramoan is a town surrounded by impressive islands and beaches, one of which is where the Survivor TV Series filmed its 26th season. Here, you will enjoy powdery white sand, caves, lagoons, limestone karsts and bountiful marine life. Tourists typically camp in one of the islands overnight since accommodations are only available on the mainland and the nice ones can get quite pricey. Kayaking and night fishing are also favorite activities amongst tourists.
Misibis Bay is a luxury island getaway featuring world-class amenities in native accents and a private beach. It has a first-rate spa, modern fitness center, breathtaking infinity pools and an indoor activity center for both adults and kids to enjoy. A cheaper alternative to Misibis Bay are Tikling and Calintaan Islands, well-known for their pinkish white sands.
Explore Local National Parks
Mt. Mayon is renowned as the most perfectly-formed volcano in the planet because of its nearly symmetrical cone. It is also the most active in the country yet it is open to hikers when no immediate danger of eruption is monitored. The hike to the summit takes 3 days and difficulty is 7 out of 9. Cagsawa Church ruins at the foot of Mayon were brought about by the eruption of the volcano in 1814 and are frequented by tourists.
Like Mt. Mayon, Mt. Isarog is a protected natural park. Climbing to the summit will require at least 2 days, with a difficulty of 5 out of 9. Along the climb, hikers have the opportunity to see the rich ecology and breathtaking views Isarog has to offer including 2 waterfalls. The volcano is habitat to countless species of mammals, birds, insects and plants.
Another protected national park is Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon. It scopes more than 3600 hectares in land area. Apart from the active volcano, the natural park features a diverse flora and fauna, 2 lakes, 2 other mountains, waterfalls, caves and hot springs. The hike to the Bulusan’s summit takes 1-2 days with a difficulty of 6 out of 9.
CamSur Watersports Complex
CamSur Watersports Complex can arguably be the most popular watersport destination in the Philippines with its huge land area and state-of-the-art facilities. Also a venue for international events such as triathlons and featured in ESPN and several sports and lifestyle magazines, visitors may also enjoy basking in the sun and play beach volleyball. The complex has an extensive range of accommodations from budget-friendly to high-class selections
Swimming with the whale sharks in Donsol
Swimming with the whale sharks in Donsol has also become quite an attraction in Bicol as this experience is quite scarce throughout the world. Donsol butandings are typically 4 to 12 meters long and are very friendly to humans. November thru June is the best time of the year to snorkel or dive with these endangered creatures. Another attraction nearby is the spectacular Manta Bowl. Dive and witness the majestic yet harmless manta rays “fly” underwater for an unforgettable experience
How to get to Bicol
Bicol is reached via air or land. You may also travel by train but as of this writing, the train operations are suspended indefinitely due to repairs being made. There are 4 airports in Bicol Region – Naga, Legazpi, Virac and Masbate. All four have regular flights coming from Manila with Legazpi Airport catering to flights from Cebu a few times a week. With the option to fly in, the trip takes less than an hour. Traveling by land from Manila is also possible. The bus trip will take somewhere between 8 to 13 hours depending on which town you hop off. Note that not all buses bound for Bicol will pass by all the towns. The Manila-Masbate bus is rolled on a ferry upon arriving to Sorsogon then rolled off at Masbate port, thus the name RoRo.
How to get around Bicol
To get around town, rickshaws, jeepneys and taxis are easily accessible when going to nearby places. If you’re heading further out, hiring a private car would be your best option for convenience and time flexibility. Even better, you can avail of tourist attraction packages readily available from local agencies which already include transportation, food, fees, equipments, etc. It would save you a lot of time and energy and given the Filipino hospitality, it would almost guarantee you of a stress-free trip.
While chili and coconut milk together may not sound appetizing, the locals have found a way to make it work – and that’s an understatement. Bicol dishes are largely popular throughout the country and for good reason. They are delectable! When in Bicol, do not miss out on Bicol Express, laing or pinangat, kinunot, labong, sinanglay, and tilmok to go with rice. Try their pancit bato with rice or hot pandesal, the staple bread of the locals. For snacks, indulge in pili nuts or sinapot, a local banana delicacy. For those with an adventurous palate, give chili ice cream a try.
- Reserve bus tickets in advance especially when coming from Manila as the number of passengers burgeon during long weekends and holidays
- If you wish to stay in Gota Beach in Caramoan, inquire months ahead for availability. The Survivor series has it reserved for decades and will not be open to guests when the crew is filming there.
- Make sure to book your accommodation well in advance when going to popular destinations like Caramoan and CamSur Watersports Complex during summer and Christmas season. There are not a lot of hotels in Bicol. You can always rent camping equipment though should you run out of options.
- If you’re going to caves or camping overnight in the islands, make sure to apply insect repellent.
- Do not touch the whale sharks or go very near them as they may hit you when they turn.
- It is advisable to have your boatman stay with you on your overnight trip to the islands to take care of any emergencies that may arise.
- When trekking the mountains, bring enough water and hand gloves for sharp-edged grasses and apply a liberal amount of sunscreen from time to time.