Traversing Sorsogon One Town at a Time
At the tip of Bicol and the corner of Luzon, Sorsogon is a thin sliver on the Philippine map, easily missed at first glance.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Sorsogon is its topography; landlocked and volcanic in the center, but with different coasts bordering nearly all sides—the Philippine Sea (East), the San Bernardino Strait (South), Ticao and Burias Pass (West).
For this reason, the nature—literally—of a trip to Sorsogon depends largely on which town you find yourself in. Covering the entire province, while possible, would entail dramatic changes of scenery: from sunset at rice fields to hot springs at the fore of a mountainous view, or just the strong blue of the deep ocean. Here’s what you can expect, and where you can stay, in some of the towns.
Donsol resides in the northwest corner of Sorsogon, and for that reason it is one of the most accessible. Many people choose to fly into Sorsogon (as the trip by land is well over ten hours) and the closest airport is Legazpi Airport in Albay. From there, Donsol is an hour’s drive away.
Donsol is one of the province’s most popular destinations for pioneering whale shark tourism in the Philippines, back in 1998.
Donsol remains one of the few sites in the country where whale shark tourism is practiced responsibly. Aside from whale shark tourism, which is the main draw, there is a nighttime firefly tour and diving opportunities; Ticao Pass can be accessed via boat from Donsol beach, as well as the Manta Bowl Shoal for advanced divers.
Truthfully, there is little to do if you aren’t into marine wildlife, but it’s part of the appeal: a vacation focused on the sea and its creatures. We would recommend staying for at least two nights, as whale shark sightings are not guaranteed every day. The season is typically March to June, but you can also call up their tourism centre and ask whether the season for sharks has started.
WHERE TO STAY
Over on the east coast, facing the Pacific Ocean, is Gubat: the surfer’s paradise. White sand beaches, great swells, and plenty of surf hostels. Gubat is comparatively less popular than some of the country’s other surf spots (such as La Union, Siargao, or Baler) which arguably has more to do with its accessibility than the quality of its waters. Waves are reportedly good for beginners, producing 2-5 foot waves from the months of September to May.
There are several budget-friendly surf hostels along the coast, but if you are willing to shell out a little more, check out Siama Surf, a new “luxury” hostel for surfers by designer Milo Naval—Siama Surf is an extension of Milo’s first designer hotel, Siama Hotel, located in Sorsogon City proper. A majority of Siama is made from locally-sourced materially: rattan, abaca, hyacinth, and even shells collected from communities within Sorsogon.
WHERE TO STAY
At the center of Bulusan is Bulusan volcano, the highest peak in Sorsogon. Surrounding the active volcano is a natural park, which also covers Bulusan Lake. Thanks to this volcanic center, Bulusan also houses several sites for springs and waterfalls, which makes it the destination for those looking to be reinvigorated by nature’s energy.
Bulusan was an important site at the time of the Spanish colonization, as it functioned as a trading port. Thanks to its rich history (Bulusan was considered a “well-off” town), to this date, there are houses featuring colonial architecture in its surroundings and stone watchtowers which were built around the mid-1700s. From Bulusan, you can also head to Barcelona Church, in a neighboring town, which was built in the 1870s and features coral stone construction.
WHERE TO STAY
Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm
Purok Bacolod Brgy, Bulusan, 4704 Sorsogon, Philippines
Call +63 2 986 4355
Matnog bookends Sorsogon, keeping it relatively isolated from the rest of the Luzon. It is simultaneously a busy port city, so the town doesn’t feel disconnected from the rest of the country, but it does have a distant quality which lends something extra to its tourism sites: the islands with pink sand (Tikling and Calintaan) or the Juag Lagoon and Fish Sanctuary.
There is something very earthly about Matnog, which makes it great for a quick nature escape with a soft, easy return to the practical world. “Quick” is a key term here, as these sites are realistically not meant for more than a long day trip. If you’re planning a trip to Sorsogon, keep a day free for hitting these sites.