When people think about the Philippines, what often comes to mind are well-known tourist spots such as El Nido, Palawan, or the party beach island of Boracay. However, locals who want to enjoy diverse scenery, engage in exciting city life, and taste delicious food know that they can have all that and so much more by going to the Bicol region. Located at the southern part of Luzon, which is the largest and most populous island of the country, Bicol has everything from unspoiled white sand beaches, active volcanoes, and historic attractions. It’s no wonder why more people are drawn to this underrated part of the Philippines.
In 2022, Naga City, which is one of Bicol’s main cities, saw a 260% rise in tourist arrivals, with a total of more than 2.1 million domestic and foreign tourists recorded to have visited the destination. While some of them have flown in from Manila, others opted to take a long drive to experience the best of the region through a road trip. Here’s how to plan the best road trip in the Bicol region.
Map Out Your Route
If you’re coming from Metro Manila, expect that it’ll take you at least 8 hours on the road to reach Naga City. However, if you want to save your energy for the actual road trip, you can take a plane instead, and the plane ride lasts only about 40 minutes. Once you’re in Naga, you can rent a car from any of the car rental companies in the area. While there are lots of gas powered vehicle models available, you can also opt for an electric car to save on fuel costs. The differences between a gas car and EV go beyond that though as drivers attest to having a smoother driving experience with an electric car, making it perfect for a road trip.
Once you’ve secured your ride, map out your route for your road trip. The best way to do this is to plan your activities around your road trip so you can do different things while staying on a certain route. For instance, on the first day, consider going around the city proper and its neighboring towns, such as Pili and Carolina, to get used to the feeling of driving around in a new place. On the second day, plan on driving all the way to Sorsogon for an amazing beach day. Then on the next day, make plans to drive to Albay to see the famous Mayon Volcano. Planning your route this way enables you to make the most of your road trip and avoid feeling burnt out while on the road.
Day 1 of your road trip is all about discovering the beauty of Naga City and sampling the best of the region’s local cuisine and delicacies. Start by having a bowl of hot kinalas, a noodle dish with a rich garlic-laced broth topped with thin slivers of tender beef, at any of the kinalas eateries in Barangay Tinago. Next, drive around the city and get a glimpse of the Naga Cathedral, which was built in 1808, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Penafrancia, which is one of the largest Marian Pilgrimage sites in Asia. Then, head on to Pili and stop by the CamSur Watersports Complex, where you can rent a cabana and go wake boarding and swimming. Don’t forget to order some of their special treats, such as the Laing Pizza. For dinner, drive along Magsaysay Avenue, and choose where to get a meal from any of the restaurants, cafes, and bars in the area.
No Philippine road trip is complete without a drive to the beach, so make the 3-hour drive to Sorsogon and visit Subic Beach in Matnog. It’s famous for its pinkish-white sand, and there are air conditioned cottages that you can rent if you want to stay for the night. You may also try whale watching at Donsol to see the gentle whale sharks, but keep in mind that they tend to reveal themselves to people only between November to June.
Albay is a place that you shouldn’t miss if you’re visiting the Bicol Region. It’s a 2-hour drive from Sorsogon, and it takes roughly the same amount of time to travel from Naga to Albay, so don’t forget to fuel up or charge your car. Once you’re there, visit the Cagsawa Ruins, where you’ll see the cone-shaped Mayon Volcano in all its glory. Go on a Mayon ATV tour if you want to get closer to the volcano, or head to Lignon Hill Nature Park for a short hike. Don’t forget to buy some candied pili nuts, salted pili, or pili pastries to take home to your loved ones.
Discover the beauty of Bicol by going on a road trip across the region. Make sure to plan your route, and enjoy your trip with your loved ones.