Centered on the city of Legazpi, the Bicol region of the Philippine island of Luzon comprises the Bicol peninsula, home to four provinces, and the island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate. While most travelers visit for the whale sharks of Donsol or volcanoes such as Mt. Mayon, the area is home to dazzling beaches and quirky festivals.
Many visitors to Bicol are independent travelers on longer journeys that permit leisurely travel, and dedicated Bicol tours are relatively rare. Popular activities include admiring the perfect cone of Mt. Mayon volcano from Legazpi City, snorkeling with whale sharks and manta rays in Donsol, lounging on a pink-sand beach in Subic, and island-hopping around Catanduanes and Masbate. Many private guides are based out of Legazpi City and can help create custom tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Bicol takes time to get around: bring a Kindle or a good book for long bus journeys.
- Filipinos love Bicol’s spicy food. Consider booking a food tour.
- Limited transport infrastructure makes Bicol a highly challenging destination for travelers with disabilities.
How to Get There
The Bicol region is situated in southeastern Luzon, and many journeys start from the administrative capital, Legazpi City. Legazpi City takes at least 12 hours to reach by bus from Manila, or a little over an hour by plane. Both Masbate and Catanduanes islands have their own airports and regular ferry connections.
When to Get There
As with elsewhere in the Philippines, travel is almost impossible in Bicol around Christmas and Easter due to mass movement of the locals. June to September is typhoon season, which can make travel challenging; December to April is dry season, when the weather is most pleasant. Whale shark season in Donsol typically runs from February to June, peaking in April and May, but it can start as early as November.
Underwater Bicol: the Whale Sharks of Donsol
The whale sharks of Donsol are increasingly overshadowed by the whale sharks at Oslob, on Cebu, but there are good reasons to visit the sustainably managed grounds at Donsol over Oslob. In Oslob, the sharks are artificially fed, changing their natural behaviors, and subjected to as many as 30 human contacts in an hour, which can lead to injury and infection. At Donsol, whale sharks feed on plankton and follow their natural schedule.