Located on the southeastern end of Luzon, Bicol Region comprises six provinces – Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, and Sorsogon. While it is known for its imposing landforms in the name of Mount Mayon and Mount Bulusan, there are several other attractions and activities to look forward to in Bicol. The beautiful beaches, rich marine life, and historical structures make the region even more interesting and attractive to local and foreign tourists alike.
Its cuisine is one of the most popular in the country, too! Known for the sizzling taste due to the abundant use of chili, several Bicolano dishes have become popular all over the country.
This brief guide to Bicol Region will help you plan your trip. It contains information on what to do, eat, and drink as well as the must-see spots and the best hotels.
Best Time to Visit
It’s best to visit the Philippines during the dry season. Dry season in the Philippines spans from November through April. These are the summer months in this country.
Be aware that temperatures and humidity levels are particularly high in April and May.
The best time to be a beach bum and explore the islands is from March to May.
TIP: This guide recommends that booking for Bicol Region summer trips should be done as early as possible, at least a month before your travel dates, since resorts get fully booked early.
The period from June to October is the rainy (wet) season and is best avoided due to the high possibility of typhoons. The typhoons can not only be destructive, but most tours and activities are cancelled under such circumstances. Transportation via plane and boat is also seriously impacted as well. This happens frequently so beware!
This guide recommends traveling to Bicol Region in April-May or in November-December, just before and just after the rainy season. This will likely bring fewer crowds, yet pleasant weather, and is also a great time to score a travel deal.
Plug commonly used is Type A but Types B and C are used as well. Bring A to B adapter(s).
There are many ways to get here depending on your starting point. This guide recommends using the following online tools to identify all the available options and cost for each while in Bicol Region: Rome2Rio and PHBUS. The following are the major ports of entry for this destination.
The following are the modes of transportation available in Bicol Region …
SEE & DO
The following is your guide to places to see and activities to enjoy while in Bicol Region.
1 | Try the adventures around Mount Mayon
Not only is it regarded as sacred in Philippine mythology, the beautiful Mount Mayon with its perfect cone is also a great destination for various activities such as hiking, camping, ATV riding, and tours. It was declared a natural park in 2000 and is one of the protected areas in the region. It is home to hundreds of species of flowers and trees including Nepenthes ventricosa, a near-threatened species of pitcher plant. Mount Mayon is also inhabited by hundreds of fauna including the vulnerable Philippine Brown Deer, Philippine Warty Pig, Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox, Philippine Eagle-owl, Banded Pygmy Tree Frog, the nearly-threatened Luzon Bleeding Heart, and the and critically-endangered Philippine Cockatoo.
Mount Mayon may be one of the most destructive volcanoes in the country but its beauty, mystery, and abundance in flora and fauna keep attracting the attention of tourists.
2 | Revel in the refreshing atmosphere of Quitinday Falls and Underground River
Palawan isn’t the only province in the Philippines with an underground river. You can find one in Albay too! Although only about 150 meters in length, Quitinday Falls and Underground River is beautifully adorned with columns, stalactites, stalagmites, and rock formations. It has a cliff where one can jump off into the gorge and enjoy the refreshing water.
3 | See the attractions in Daraga Town
Cagsawa Ruins is one of the most photographed spots in Albay and is found in the town of Daraga. The ruins are the remnants of the 16th century Franciscan church that was destroyed when Mayon erupted in 1814, its most destructive so far. After the eruption of Mayon, Daraga Church, officially Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church (also Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church), was built to replace the church of Cagsawa. The church is of Churrigueresque architectural style and is mostly made of volcanic rocks. This centuries-old church was declared a National Cultural Treasure in 2007.
Not too far from Daraga Church is Ligñon Hill Nature Park, the second highest point in Albay next to Mayon. It is a prehistoric cinder cone mainly composed of dolerite and basaltic volcanic rocks. The hill offers the panoramic view of Mayon and Legazpi City with its coin-operated telescopes. Restaurants and shops are also found in the park.
4 | Do the Legazpi City tour
Legazpi is the capital city of Albay and the business center not only of the province of Albay but the whole Bicol Region. Aside from several restaurants, hotels, malls, and commercial centers like in most cities in the country, Legazpi offers other tourist activities like ATV rides around Mayon, ziplining, skydiving, and water sports.
5 | Have fun at the beaches in Calaguas Island
Province: Camarines Norte
Calaguas Island has beautiful beaches that are sometimes likened to Boracay minus the crowd and all those businesses along the coastline. Travel time from Manila may look like an effort but this mesmerizing island is definitely worth it.
6 | See all the natural attractions in Caramoan Island
Province: Camarines Sur
Dubbed as the Emerging Paradise of the Pacific, Caramoan Island has been attracting the attention of tourists with its unspoilt natural attractions such as white and pink sand beaches, lakes, caves, coves, lagoons, and limestone forests blessed with rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. Several editions of the reality show Survivor have even taken place in Caramoan therefore pushing the island to popularity even outside the country.
7 | Enjoy Naga City
Province: Camarines Sur
Naga City is located in the center of Bicol Peninsula thus the nickname the Heart of Bicol. Apart from being a business district, it is also a medical, educational, cultural, and religious center. It is also nicknamed as the Pilgrim City due to a number of churches and other religious institutions in the city.
Due to its proximity to Mount Isarog and other natural attractions around it such as falls and springs, Naga City is also a gateway to several exciting activities like ATV rides and hiking.
8 | Get an adrenaline rush at CamSur Watersports Complex
Province: Camarines Sur
CamSur Watersports Complex has world-class standards and top-of-the-line facilities to provide epic experience in various water sports particularly wakeboarding, wakeskating, and water skating.
9 | Hike to Binurong Point
Fancy the rolling hills just like in Batanes? Well, you can see it in Catanduanes. Hiking to the top takes between 20 to 30 minutes through a forested trail. Some parts of the trail can be muddy and slippery but Binurong Point offers scenic views of the sea, the greenery around, and the magnificent sunrise when you hike early in the morning.
10 | Relax at the beaches in Virac
Virac is blessed with pristine beaches ideal for relaxing and spending time with family and friends. Amenia Beach is calm and perfect for kids who want to swim and play in the water. Mamangal Beach is a good choice for those who want to see life underwater. Beaches perfect for lounging are Balite, Batag, and Marilima as they are usually peaceful.
11 | Swim with whale sharks in Donsol
Apart from Oslob in Cebu, the other place to swim with whale sharks in the Philippines is Donsol, Sorsogon. What’s great about swimming with whale sharks in Donsol is the effort the people put in to protect these gentle giants from over-tourism and from being hurt or altering their natural tendencies.
12 | Visit the top attractions in Matnog
Matnog is a coastal town in the southernmost part of Luzon Island. Facing Northern Samar, its sea port is one of the busiest in the region. It is blessed with stunning natural attractions such as Subic Beach and Tikling Island with their pink sand and pristine waters. Subic Beach has cottages to accommodate tourists but Tikling Island is unspoilt and free of any type of accommodation. Not too far away from Subic Beach is Juag Fish Sanctuary where you can snorkel and see the aquatic creatures in a protected environment.
13 | Explore Mount Bulusan
At 1565 MASL, Mount Bulusan is home to several hot springs, lakes, and a diverse range of flora and fauna. Day hike is possible but staying the night to explore makes for a more rewarding trip given the breathtaking views of the area early in the morning.
14 | Marvel at the natural beauty of Masbate
Consisting of three major islands namely Masbate, Ticao, and Burias, the province of Masbate is blessed with natural attractions such as white sand beaches, unspoilt islands, and pristine waters inhabited by a diversity of marine species. Palani White Beach and Porta Vega Beach are popular for their white sand and coast lined with palm trees. To see marine life, don’t miss Halea Nature Park, Buntod Sandbar and Reef Marine Sanctuary, and Manta Bowl. Other attractions you shouldn’t miss are Animasola Island, Pawa Mangrove Park, Tinalisayan Island, and Sombrero Island.
Festivals in Bicol: Magayon Festival (Albay) – May | Ibalong Festival (Albay) – October | Bantayog Festival (Camarines Norte) – April | Kaogma Festival (Camarines Sur) – May 24-31 | Peñafrancia Festival (Camarines Sur) – Third week of September | Catandungan Festival (Catanduanes) – October 24-26 | Kasanggayahan Festival (Sorsogon) – Last week of October | Rodeo Festival (Masbate) – March 18
EAT & DRINK
The following is your guide to the flavorful food to enjoy and restaurants to try while in Bicol Region.
1 | BARacuda
Located in the town of Donsol in Sorsogon, BARacuda is the top restaurant in Bicol based on customer reviews. It’s the perfect spot to satisfy your seafood craving as they offer dishes based on the freshest catch of the day. It stands along the beach and is a great site to watch the sunset over cold beer and cocktails.
2 | Bob Marlin Restaurant and Grill
Bob Marlin Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Naga City specializing in Bicolano cuisine. It is most known for its crispy pata which has been recognized as one of the in the Philippines based on the poll conducted by the Department of Tourism. Located in the business district of Naga City, the restaurant has a homey ambience and laid back vibes perfect for spending time with family and friends over good food. Other dishes to try are dinuguang baka, kare kare, laing, pinanga, and Bicol express.
3 | 1st Colonial Grill
Originating from Albay, 1st Colonial Grill serves Filipino cuisine, particularly Bicolano dishes. It claims to be the home of the first sili (chili pepper) ice cream in the country. Additionally, the restaurant has come up with other ice cream flavors representing the region such as pili, latik, pineapple, cacao, carmelado, and tinutungan na bigas (toasted rice). Aside from ice cream, dishes to try include tinapa fried rice, buko chopsuey, and pork sisig.
4 | Geewan
Geewan is a carinderia-style restaurant where you can point (turo-turo style) the dish you want among the dishes being displayed. It specializes in Bicolano cuisine although it serves other Filipino dishes as well. The restaurant is affordably-priced which is perfect for students, budget travellers, and those who are with a large group. Don’t miss their kare kare, pinangat, lechon kawali, and lechon paksiw.
5 | Red Platter
Red Platter is a semi-fine dining restaurant located in Naga City’s most popular dining destination. It serves an array of cuisines including Asia and Western in addition to Bicolano. Customers review about their kare kare but their halo halo, buko pandan, cakes, and other sweet treats are equally good.
6 | Sibid-Sibid
A quaint restaurant in Legazpi City, Sibid-Sibid serves Filipino cuisine and is the perfect place to go to for your seafood cravings. Its bamboo and wood interiors complete its provincial vibe. Their bestsellers include Tuna Bicol Express and Seafood Mix however you have to try their chicken dishes too since they only use native and free range chicken.
7 | Small Talk Cafe
The top restaurant in Legazpi City based on customer reviews, Small Talk Cafe boasts of its Bicol-fusion cooking that attracts many tourists including VIPs and celebrities in Philippine government and entertainment. It’s been featured in print, TV, and online. From laing pasta, their arsenal of fusion dishes increased over the years to include Mayon Stuffed Pizza, Pasta Pinangat, and Pizza Bicolana among others. The food is reasonably-priced and with their nice ambience and good service, Small Talk Cafe is truly one of the dining spots you shouldn’t miss while in the city.
8 | Waway’s
Not only does it have a cozy and nice ambience, the food is affordable too. With a buffet dining for less than P300 ($6 USD), you can eat Bicolano dishes to your heart’s content albeit the choices are limited. Nevertheless, the taste makes up for the limited choices. Their bestsellers include Crispy Shrimp and Bicol Express.
KNOWN FOR: Bicol Express and Laing
WHERE TO STAY
There are many different types of accommodations available in this destination ranging from hostels to luxurious resorts. The following is your guide to our top choices for each range in Bicol Region.
1 | Balay de la Rama (Budget)
2 | Vitton & Woodland Beach Resorts (Mid-Range)
3 | Misibis Bay Resort (Luxury | Resort)
This guide recommends using the following sites to conduct research online of where to stay in Bicol Region or for a specific destination:
Book your room with these trusted online booking sites. Booking online in the Philippines almost always guarantees the best price and a room when you arrive. We use these sites frequently to get the best prices and enjoy convenient bookings. Click each of the buttons below to find the best place for you at the lowest rates:
TIP: Vitton & Woodland Beach Resorts is the best property to experience this destination.
Use the chart below to get an idea of how much to budget daily. Actual amounts will depend on YOUR travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages … some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less. Prices are in USD.
A bed in a hostel dorm costs from 350 PHP ($7 USD), but smaller dorms can cost from 500 PHP ($10 USD). For a private double, prices start around 700 PHP ($14 USD).
Most budget hotels begin at 700 PHP ($14 USD) per night for a double room and usually include free wifi and breakfast. For a three-star hotel, prices begin around 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night. AirBnB is also widespread throughout the country, with private rooms starting from as little as 500 PHP ($10 USD) per night. For entire apartments, expect to pay at least 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night.
Resorts and luxury accommodations vary greatly from 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) to 5,000+ PHP ($100+ USD). However, there are some really nice resorts and luxury accommodations which are surprisingly affordable.
Local food is extremely cheap, with street food costing under 50 PHP ($1USD). For an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant, prices start around 100 PHP ($2 USD). For a meal at a mid-range restaurant with drinks and table service, expect to pay from 200 PHP ($4 USD). Knowing that their target customers are primarily tourists, Western food venues can be pricey compared to Filipino food. Also, some of the ingredients need to be imported, which contributes to the higher cost. Western food (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) is much more expensive but is still relatively affordable at around 200 PHP ($4 USD) for a meal and drink.
Fast food like McDonalds will cost around 200 PHP ($4 USD). A beer at the bar will cost around 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD).
A week’s worth of groceries will cost between 300-600 PHP ($6-12 USD) per person. However, food in this country is so inexpensive, and kitchens & refrigerators are hard to come by, I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss!
There are many modes of transportation available in the Philippines and each varies greatly.
Public Transportation is cheap. Bus services on the islands are inexpensive. Local buses (called jeepneys) are the most common type of transportation in towns and cities. The fare is usually between 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD).
On islands without a bus system, a taxi or tricycle is the only form of transport with fares starting at 50-500 PHP ($1-$10) USD for short trips.
Taxis are everywhere, and they’re very cheap. Most fares shouldn’t cost you more than 500 PHP ($10 USD) around town.
To get between islands, you’ll need to take a boat or to fly. There are ferries that connect the island together since they aren’t too far apart but, generally speaking, flights are the most realistic option.
Flights between islands usually cost about 2,000-3500 PHP ($40-70 USD). However, this isn’t the cheapest way to travel. It’s only recommended if you have limited time.
Attractions & Activities
Most attractions and activities in the Philippines are pretty cheap. Most attractions throughout the area are FREE to enter, though some of the more well known and popular ones cost 5-100 PHP ($.10-$2 USD) to enter.
Depending on the activity, most day tours only cost around 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD), oftentimes less. You have more bargaining power if you go with a group. If you are expecting to do some climbing, remember to pack some warm layers. It gets cold at the top!
Other activities such as Island Hopping, scuba diving, helmet diving, swimming with whale sharks, jungle trekking, canyoning, ATVs, jet skis, wakeboarding, cruises, parasailing, horseback riding, cultural experiences, and tours can cost as much as 1,250-5,000+ PHP ($25-100+ USD).
The Philippines is one of the least expensive places to learn how to scuba dive. Learning to scuba dive usually costs about 15,000-20,000 PHP ($300-400 USD), but often includes FREE accommodation for the duration of the course, which lasts three or four days.
Always book your tours and activities when you arrive. Stick to travel agents who are selling on the ground. If a travel agent won’t negotiate with you, move on to the next until you find one that will. Booking tours online is almost always more expensive.
Typical Costs in Bicol Region in 2021:
- Hostel Dorm Bed: 250-350 PHP ($5–7 USD) night
- Budget Hotel: 700 PHP ($14 USD) night
- Mid-Range Hotel: 1500 PHP ($31 USD) night
- Street Food: 50-150 PHP ($1–3 USD) meal
- Restaurant Meals: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) meal
- Local Beer: 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD) bottle
- 1.5L Bottle of Water: 38 PHP ($.75 USD) bottle
- Jeepney Ride: 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD) ride
- Tricycle Ride: 20-100 PHP ($.5-2 USD) ride
- Taxi: 75-500 PHP ($1.50-10 USD) ride – use GrabTaxi app
- Long-Distance Bus Ride: 400-500 PHP ($8–10 USD) ride
- Public Ferry Ride: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) ride
- Domestic Flight: 2,000-3,500 PHP ($40–70 USD) flight
- Island-Hopping: 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD) trip
- Diving with Whale Sharks: 1,250 PHP ($25 USD) trip
The following is some of our best advice on traveling to Bicol Region. Learn what you need to know BEFORE you go!
Tips & Hacks
he following are our Top 10 Tips when visiting this destination in the Philippines:
- Be aware that a tourist VISA is only 30 days. You can extend it upon arrival, or within the first 30 days, for an additional 30 days for a fee of approximately 3,000 pesos.
- Don’t buy into the fear factor. The Philippines has an unjustified reputation of being a dangerous place. It’s true there are security guards everywhere, but that is to deter theft.
- Manila is NOT the Philippines. Get outside of the cities to see the real Philippines.
- Don’t over plan. Boats, buses, and even airplane schedules are notoriously unreliable. Be flexible.
- Check the weather. The weather varies greatly throughout the Philippines daily.
- Typhoons can have a huge impact on your plans. Account for this when planning your trip.
- It’s not cool to raise your voice or show outward frustration in public.
- Be polite at all times. Realize that your country’s sense of humor may be different from Filipino humor and take this into account when interacting with Filipinos and while in public places.
- Things move at a slower pace. Accept it … don’t get frustrated … but do account for it.
- Don’t drink the tap water… but stay hydrated! Save money by buying large bottles (6-10 liters) of water and using it to fill your water bottle or hydration bladder in your backpack.
For a complete list of our travel tips & hacks, check out the following guide and be sure to download a FREE copy for yourself.
The Philippines has its own currency called the Philippine Peso. Banks, ATMs, and money-changers can be found on the island. If you are exploring the neighboring islands or provinces, make sure to bring enough cash that will last until the next time you get to an ATM or bank since most tours, transportation, and budget accommodations only accept cash.
Health & Safety
While overall the Philippines is a safe country to visit, as is Bicol Region, you need to use common sense just as you would in any country, especially when traveling, and in a city, town, or area you are unfamiliar with.
Consult your hotel or resort front desk as they are more likely to give you reliable information than a random stranger on the street. Be careful when approaching strangers and selective about who you approach. Always pay attention to your gut feeling and follow it.
There are many things to consider when traveling in order to stay safe … things that we may not be accustomed to during our normal everyday lives. The following are articles about tips on how to stay safe while traveling in the Philippines:
- 6 Common Accidents to Avoid
- How to Beat the Heat in the Philippines
- Taxi Safety Tips: Dos and Don’ts
- Motorbike Safety Tips
- Beach & Ocean Safety Tips
- Sun Safety Tips
Staying fit & healthy can be challenging when traveling in the Philippines.
The tropical Philippines climate requires you to prepare for illnesses that you may not normally be accustomed to.
The following are our Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy while Traveling in the Philippines:
- Maintain a Balanced Diet
- Stay Hydrated but Only Drink Bottled Water
- Get Plenty of Rest
- Allow Your Body Time to Adjust
- Keep Active
- Sanitize Often
- Be Aware of Food Safety Concerns
- Take Your Vitamins
- Practice Safe Sex
- Be Prepared Should You Get Sick
You need to have a local-based SIM card in order to stay connected when in the Philippines. Network giants such as Globe and Smart have SIM cards you can use to make calls, send text messages, and also to connect to the Internet. A SIM card costs around 50 PHP ($1 USD) and usually comes with a FREE load worth 50 PHP ($1 USD). You can buy a card containing a code you can enter on your phone to replenish your load or buy an electronic load that is available almost anywhere in the city.
While you may not have problems with signal strength when in the city, it is not always the case when on islands or in remote areas of a province. So when arranging for transportation pick up, say when renting a boat to take you to and pick you up from the island, it would be best that you make it clear what time you need to be picked up before the boatman leaves.
Recommended Travel Apps
Apps for smartphones and tablets can be useful both before you leave and while you’re traveling. Most are available for iPhones and Android phones.
- Grab (taxis/ride shares)
- Angkas (motorbike ride-hailing)
- WhatsApp (phone calls)
- Skyscanner (flights)
- Rome2Rio (transportation)
- Agoda (accomodations)
- Booking.com (accomodations)
- AirBnB (accomodations)
- Traveloka (flights, accomodations, activities)
- Klook (attractions & activities )
Be certain to download and set up apps BEFORE leaving on your trip to make certain each is installed and working properly.
For our complete list of travel apps that we use and recommend while traveling in the Philippines, checkout our checklist below. Download a FREE copy for yourself as a PDF.
Trying to decide what to do when traveling to a destination for the first time can be a bit overwhelming given your lack of familiarity with the place along with all of the available options.
We’ve created the following itinerary to help simplify the process and ensure that you get the most out of your trip. Although we provide a 7 day itinerary for this destination, it can always be adjusted to fit the length of your trip.
The secret to a successful and stress-free trip is to start by using a packing list. This will reduce anxiety from the start and ensure that nothing important is forgotten when packing. To make this process easy for you, we’ve created a detailed packing list. Click the link below to download it for FREE now.
Carrying your checklist with you during your travels can be useful when repacking, by helping to ensure that you do not leave anything behind.
Things to Remember
This guide recommends to take note of the following while traveling in Bicol Region or in the Philippines in general.
There is a nationwide ban which prohibits smoking in public places including indoors, the streets, on sidewalks, in restaurants , and on public transportation, requiring smokers to use designated smoking areas. Selling tobacco to and purchasing from or for minors is also prohibited. Violators are subject to fines (up to 5,000 PHP | $100 USD) and even 4 months in prison.
The minimum legal drinking age is 18. Alcohol such as beer and hard drinks can easily be bought in grocery and convenience stores. The most common alcoholic beverage is beer, generally served cold. Local alcoholic drinks include tuba (coconut wine which is usually very strong) and potent moonshine-like clear liquors made from sugar or fruit. Imported beer, wine, and name brand hard alcohol are available but expensive.
Drugs are illegal in the Philippines. Don’t use, buy, or sell any non-prescription drugs while in the Philippines … not even marijuana. It is considered an especially heinous crime to buy from, for, or sell drugs to children. The penalties are severe … up to and including death.
Public nudity is illegal in the Philippines and is not tolerated. Most locals consider it offensive. There are laws which prohibit provocative and erotic clothing and swimwear, therefore carefully consider your clothings and swimwear choices to make certain they are not too revealing.
Foreigners & Expats
If you are not a Filipino citizen, remember that you are a guest when visiting this country … be certain to act accordingly. Respect the people, their customs, and the environment and wlidlife. You can be deported and banned … so behave … but have fun and enjoy all that this wonderful destination has to offer.
Don’t Forget …
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