Bicol is a region that I’ve been to before and wouldn’t mind returning to in the future. It has beautiful beaches, spectacular views, delicious food, and historic attractions that provide a glimpse into the Philippines’ past. I’ve been to both Albay and Sorsogon; these provinces are noteworthy destinations for travelers who want to see a bit of everything. Albay is home to Mt. Mayon while Sorsogon is a nature lover’s paradise.
Getting into Bicol
It’s easy to enter Albay or Sorsogon from Metro Manila. You have the option to go by plane or take the bus.
The closest airport is in Legazpi. There are regular flights from Manila to Legazpi operated by Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. Book tickets months in advance to get the lowest price for your trip.
If your trip is spontaneous or you’re unsure of your plans, you could always take the bus from Metro Manila. This takes much longer than flying; however, prices are usually fixed even if you book on the same day. Traveling overnight also saves you money you might’ve spent on accommodation because you’ll arrive early in the morning.
DLTB is a bus company that I’ve tried for trips to Southern Luzon. The buses are comfortable enough for sleeping. Fare varies from around P800 to P1,100+++ one way depending on point of origin within Metro Manila, type of bus, and if you’ll be alighting at Legazpi or Sorsogon.
This itinerary will begin at Legazpi, Albay and assumes you have one full day.
Leave your accommodation after breakfast and stop at Daraga Church. The latter is a Baroque-inspired Catholic church that dates to the 1770s. It’s a popular tourist spot because of its white façade and the views of Mt. Mayon on a clear day. It’s also on the list of National Cultural Treasures.
After a quick stop at the church, proceed to another popular destination, the Cagsawa Ruins. Mt. Mayon’s eruption in the 1810s buried the town and church and killed thousands of people. What you see during your visit is the remnants of the church built more than a century ago. Take as many photos as you want with the ruins and Mayon in the background.
After Cagsawa, make your way to Sumlang Lake. The area is scenic and serene, which makes it a perfect place for photo ops and a meal or snack. You’ll get beautiful views of Mayon Volcano during your stay here. Nearby Socorro’s Lakeside Restaurant and Grill is a great place to try local food. Your Brother also offers tours for around P3,500 for two people to see Daraga Church, Cagsawa Ruins and Sumlang Lake.
Fees for Sumlang Lake:
- Entrance fee: P100 adults, P60 children
- Environmental fee: P20
- Parking fee: P20 for four wheeled vehicles, P10 for two and three wheeled vehicles
- Balsa ride: P80/person for 30 minutes
- Kayak: P100/person for 30 minutes
- Aqua bike: P100/person for 30 minutes
After lunch and resting, explore the area around Mt. Mayon on an ATV. The length of the activity depends on the package you get; shorter rides are cheaper while the longer ones are more expensive but provide you with more things to see. Our group went as far as the black lava wall with spectacular views of Mt. Mayon in the distance.
ATV rental for a single seater costs:
- P299 for the budget trail, 20-30 minutes
- P1,480 for the black lava trail, 2.5 hours
You can book a tour with Your Brother through:
Cap your day off at the mall or in one of the restaurants lining Embarcadero.
Check out and eat breakfast before proceeding to the bus station to catch a ride bound for Sorsogon. Once in Sorsogon check in or leave your stuff at your chosen accommodation.
If you like museums, you can check out the Museo Sorsogon. The latter used to be a provincial jail; now it’s home to exhibits and displays about the history, culture, and prominent people of the province.
After the museum visit, make your way to the jeep or bus terminal and board either one bound for Juban. The latter is a sleepy town that has some traditional bahay na bato. These old houses are reminiscent of the Spanish period with their mix of wood and concrete floors, sliding windows, and wooden balustrades. The houses are easy to find once you alight at Juban, they’re along the main road. After checking out the houses, make your way back to Sorsogon.
Depart your accommodation in Sorsogon early for a trip to Lake Bulusan. Make your way to the terminal and board a jeep or van bound for Gubat. Alight at Gubat and board a jeep bound for Bulusan. Fare for both trips one way is around P60-P70. Once in Bulusan town, hire a tricycle for the day to Bulusan Lake and Zoe’s Resort. A fair price to pay would be around P800-P1,000 because the driver will wait for you at each stop.
Bulusan Volcano Natural Park has been developed to cater to tourists. There are now shuttles that take you directly to the lake. Enjoy the views or just hang out. Visitors can rent kayaks or go on a boat ride during their stay. For more adventurous visitors, you can hike and camp in Bulusan.
- Protected area: P50 adults, P25 students (must show valid ID)
- Environmental fee: P10
- Shuttle: P35 round trip
- Eco-guides: P150/hour
- Kayak: P100/30 minutes
- Boating: P600/5 persons
- Fishing: P20
- Stand up paddling: P200/30 minutes
- Motorcycle: P20
- Tricycle: P30
- SUV/Cars: P50
- Coaster/Jeep: P60
- Bus: P150
After Bulusan Lake, make your way to Zoe’s Resort. This destination is home to Kambal Busay and Hidden Falls. You can easily reach the former after descending the stone steps. Hidden Falls is not much further with a short walk on the other side of Kambal Busay. It’s easy to find. Take a dip in the cool pool or take a “shower” under the cascade of Kambal Busay. The resort has its own store where you can buy food and drinks.
- P150 for adults, P100 for children
Freshen up and return to Bulusan town proper to catch a jeep to Gubat then another jeep bound for Sorsogon.
Start early for a trip to Matnog. Bring some food and drinks with you for the journey and island hopping. Make your way to the terminal and catch a jeep bound for Matnog. Fare is approximately P90. After alighting at Matnog, head over to the port to rent a boat for island hopping. The day trip costs around P1,800 for up to 10 people. Places you’ll visit include Subic Beach (known for its pinkish and powdery sand), Juag Lagoon, and Tikling Island.
The highlight for me was Subic Beach. There are more people now compared to the first time I visited several years ago. However, this didn’t detract from the beauty of the beach. You can buy feed for the fishes during your stop at Juag Lagoon.
- P70 environmental fee for Filipinos and P320 for foreigners
- P1800 island hopping for day trips and P2,000 for overnight trips, up to 10 people
- P200 Juag Lagoon
- P500 cottage for Subic Beach
Be back at the port at around 3 pm so that you can catch a ride back to Sorsogon from Matnog. Last trips are usually around 4 pm.
Check out of your accommodation and make your way back to Legazpi for your flight. Alternatively, you can also take a bus departing for Metro Manila from Sorsogon or Legazpi.
It’s possible to end your trip sooner or add another day to see the whale sharks in Donsol. Going to Donsol doesn’t guarantee you’ll see a whale shark. You could spend hours on a boat or diving into the water without seeing one. The fee for whale shark watching is P5,000 including guide, spotter, and boat rental. It’s better to join a group if you’re alone or a group of less than five. You can arrange a tour through email@example.com. You could mix and match the itineraries based on how long your trip is. You could do it over the weekend or a longer holiday.
Tips for exploring Bicol
- If you’re taking public transportation, you have to plan your trip around the schedule of buses and jeeps. The last trip back to Sorsogon, Legazpi, or other towns is around 4 pm. Try to be back early at the terminal or stop.
- I used Sorsogon as the base for day trips to other parts of the province. I would recommend doing the same because you’ll have more dining and accommodation options. Legazpi Airport is just around an hour away if you’re flying in and out of this part of Bicol. You’re also in a transportation hub which makes it easier to visit other places. You reduce your travel time by around an hour if you plan to visit the destinations in the province compared to coming all the way from Legazpi.
- Booking a tour through an agency is a convenient option because you share the expenses with others. You could arrange your accommodation on your own and book tours to places you want to visit. This is a possible alternative for groups of at least 2-3 people.
- You could visit more places in the region if you rent a tricycle or car for the day. However, this is an option worth taking if traveling with a group or at least with one other person. The tricycle is an affordable option for day trips if you’re traveling alone.
How much will you spend?
A variety of factors will affect your budget when you travel to both Legazpi and Sorsogon, such as if you’re traveling alone because you’ll have no one to share expenses with, booking a tricycle or hiring a car, renting a boat for island hopping, where you eat, where you stay, and the activities you plan to do.
You can find accommodation in Legazpi City for around P500 to P1,000 a night for a shared or single room. In Sorsogon rooms are around P1,000+++ a night. These prices are listed online through booking sites. However, in my experience, once in the city you could always find cheaper accommodation that isn’t listed online. But if you don’t want the hassle of looking for a place to stay and wasting time, you can just book online. Your biggest expenses are for activities (renting a tricycle or boat, ATV ride and booking a tour package).
A mid-range budget of P10,500 each for 5 days and 4 nights covers accommodation, food, activities, transportation, and fees shared with at least one other person. With this budget you could go to Bulusan Lake, go on an ATV ride to the black lava wall, charter a private vehicle (car or tricycle), see some of Legazpi’s famous sites, island hop in Matnog, and others.
You could spend much less by removing some activities or choosing their budget alternative, going with a large group, and reducing the length of your stay. This doesn’t include the cost of your flight or bus ride into and out of the region. – Rappler.com
Joshua Berida is a writer who loves to travel. He blogs at www.thewanderingjuan.net.