The Long and Winding Road to Bicol

I’ve gone to Naga City from Manila and back countless times. I lived there growing up and still go back home several times a year. Most times I just hop on an overnight bus without a second thought. I rode the PNR Bicol Express train when it was still running. I’ve gone there by plane. My family and I used to take long car trips there and back several times for holidays.

But last Christmas was different. It was my first time to drive a motorcycle all the way there.

01. motorcycle manila to naga bicol bitukang manok diversion road travelup

For experienced riders who regularly do the North or South Loop, this long ride is probably nothing. There are numerous endurance rides in the country, where people try to clock in more than a thousand KM in 24 hours or less. But I’ve never liked racing and I rarely keep track of how many kilometers I’ve done in a ride. I’ve always measured journeys in terms of meaningful experiences rather than miles.

motorcycle mayon volcano bicol royal enfield

Sidetrip to Mayon Volcano in Albay a few days after our ride to Naga

Unpredictable weather, the heat, and the possibility of getting into an accident are just a few of the reasons why I was hesitant to ride all the way. I was also afraid that my scooter wouldn’t be able to handle the trip. Chocobo, my Yamaha Mio Fino, who has served me well during the past 5 years and was Art’s regular daily commute for a couple of years now hasn’t been in the best condition. It seems like every other weekend, we’ve had to take him to the shop for some kind of repair job.

motorcycle manila to naga coastal road

But riding to Bicol has always been on our bucket lists. Since Art got his Royal Enfield Classic, he was set to go, with or without me. I couldn’t stand to think that he would be riding while I took a bus. And since I learned how to drive a motorcycle, riding pillion for me no longer counts as riding. So, ride on.

Day 1:  Trouble Up the Road

We got a very late start. We planned to leave early in the morning, but had a lot of stuff we needed to secure before we left Manila for the holidays. We were still in the house by noon. Since scooters aren’t allowed on SLEX and to avoid traffic, we planned to take the Marilaque route, passing through Tanay, Mabitac, Luisiana, and head to Lucban for the night. Based on previous car drives, Antipolo, Candelaria and Lucena are major choke points, which we wanted to avoid.

motorcycle royal enfield osprey backpack helmets

Early on in the journey, I was in trouble. It was bright and sunny when we left the house, but as soon as we hit Laguna, the rain started to pour. The carburetor cover we had installed fell off because of its flimsy aluminum connectors, and my engine started acting up. Whenever I tried to speed up, the engine would sputter like it was going to die, only to jump forward again at a slower speed. This made overtaking very difficult. Then, while driving along the highway, the engine just died on me and wouldn’t start. We spent 3 hours in Mabitac, Laguna huddled under a makeshift tarp roof in the rain while a whiz mechanic expertly cleaned out water that had seeped into the engine in between exchanging shots of liquor with his comrades. He contacted a friend who resold carb covers and reinstalled it in no time.motorcycle manila to naga laguna lake

What annoys me the most is how everyone we met on the road would stop to admire Art’s bike, asking questions, like “ilang CC, magkano bili, pwede bang magpa-picture kasama motor” etc. while completely ignoring me. Case in point: the other guys waiting at the shop who pointed out the foolhardiness of me riding to Bicol on a scooter while praising Art’s big bike and its assumed awesome capabilities. I can’t blame them. The Royal Enfield is an incredibly bad-ass bike. If I had the height and physical strength to handle one of those, I would drive one. I really wish they made smaller models.

motorcycle manila to naga bicol bitukang manok royal enfield

Despite being busy with other work when we arrived, the mechanic prioritized my bike and did a hell of a good job. It was starting to get dark when we left, but we decided to proceed to Lucban and resume in the morning.

I had no mechanical problems driving from Laguna to Lucban, Quezon. But there were some points where I was just driving on pure fear. Twisties, wet roads and traffic are a horrible combination at night. Then you see an overturned bus on the cliffside.

motorcycle tiwi sangay road bicol ocean

View from Tiwi-Sangay Road. Sidetrip a few days after our long ride to Naga

“I’m on the Highway to Hell” I kept thinking over and over again during one dark stretch with no houses or street lights for miles and miles. But instead of rock ‘n roll music, the lyrics were playing in my mind to the tune of horror music. The only establishment we came across was a large community gated with a patchwork of GI Sheets that looked like some kind of zombie apocalypse fort.motorcycle manila to naga bicol helmets room batis aramin lucban

I breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of a large gas station at an intersection. We finally got to Lucban. Good call to reserve a room at Batis Aramin, a resort situated at the foothills of Mount Banahaw. We got the cheapest non-aircon attic room. But with the rain and cold, I didn’t even want to turn the electric fan on. After a quick dinner, I was ready to crash for the night.

batis aramin lucban quezon hotel

I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of steady rainfall on the roof and a sickening feeling in my stomach. It was most likely a stomach flu. I felt like I was burning up yet felt so cold at the same time. motorcycle manila to naga batis aramin lucban quezon

Day 2: Another Day, Another Mile, Another Highway

When will this town ever end? While driving from Manila to Naga City in Bicol, time seemed to just drag on. Miles felt like hours. The highway just seemed to stretched on and on. Boredom set it.

motorcycle manila to naga bicol coastal road

I normally love riding, especially in new places or when the scenery is good. But it seemed like I had to fight a lot of things during this ride to Bicol. Hulking trucks and buses ate up the whole lane and slowed down our pace, potholes just appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the road. Searing heat, sudden rain, hunger, traffic, sleepiness and boredom.

motorcycle manila to naga bicol diversion road sign

The highlight of our second day was driving through Bitukang Manok in Quezon. This old road that passes through the Quezon National Forest Park is named after chicken intestines because of the way it zigzags through the mountains in the towns of Atimonan, Pagbilao, and Padre Burgos. With its sharp turns and elbows, this road is considered to be a test of one’s driving skills.motorcycle naga to manila bicol bitukang manok selfiemotorcycle manila to naga bitukang manok travelup outsideslacker

This is also where you can find people on the road known as “Hagis-Barya”. They direct traffic and signal you to drive forward. In exchange, you’re supposed to toss loose change or coins to them as you drive by.

The stretches of Atimonan and Gumaca were pretty scenic too. The sight of water and the open sea is always refreshing even in the heat of high noon.

motorcycle manila to naga gumaca marker fish sea

motorcycle manila to naga bicol gumaca coastal road

But after that, the scenery started to look all the same to me, as if we were looping through one portion of the matrix. Rice fields, trees, small town centers where we’d encounter bad traffic, more trees, more rice fields, more traffic. I would rejoice every time we’d cross some kind of welcome arch, but some towns like Calauag and Tagkawayan just seemed to stretch on forever.

motorcycle manila to naga bicol welcome arch osprey backpack

We stopped for lunch in some roadside eatery but I just didn’t have an appetite for carinderia food so I settled on Skyflakes and Gatorade instead. I think the heat and rain got to me, and I didn’t feel that well while driving. I just wanted to curl up somewhere on the side of the road to sleep. But we had to make the most of the daylight, so we drove on.

motorcycle manila to naga welcome arch bicolandia camarines norte

Welcome arch in Camarines Norte (too tired to stop at arch in Naga City)

Some random realizations came to mind while on the road. Why am I doing this again? I will never be an endurance rider. I could have just slept on a bus.

But despite feeling sick and all the hassles on the road, there was still that feeling of being alive and in control of your own fate. I pushed on and made it! 400 plus kilometers later, we finally crossed the arch to Naga City, my hometown. There’s really something different about just being a passenger in a vehicle shuttled from one destination to the next to being the one driving. Normally, this journey from Manila to Naga would be a non-event before reaching my destination. But I felt like I earned something from that ride.

02. motorcycle manila to naga bicol bitukang manok travelup

Yes, I could have taken the bus, but no good story ever starts with riding a bus, right?


motorcycle manila to naga route map


  • From Quezon City in Manila to Canaman in Camarines Sur, Bicol, it’s 424 KM (one way) based on the route we took on Googlemaps.
  • It’s possible to do this ride in just one day if weather is good and you leave really early in the morning. Some riders can do it for 7-8 hours. 1.5 – 2 days is recommended for a more relaxed pace.
  • If you want to stay overnight along the road, the best towns (where you can reserve accommodations ahead of time)  would be Lucban, Lucena or Tayabas.
  • There are also a few inns and resorts along the road in Pagbilao, Atimonan, Plaridel and Gumaca.
  • In Lucban, we stayed in Batis Aramin Resort & Hotel. The Attic-fan room (1 Queen sized bed, with common CR) cost P1,500 (good for 2 pax, with free breakfast). The resort has secure parking for all types of vehicles. Facebook: Batis Aramin Resort & Hotel. Website:
  • There are lots of gas stations along the road. I stopped to load a full tank twice. Total cost of gas for my scooter (one-way) was less than P400.
  • There are vulcanizing and mechanical shops along the way in major towns, but it’s better if you have tools and extra gear with you just in case of emergencies.
  • Be extra careful while driving through the twisties and tricky corners.
  • The weather can change very quickly as you cross one town to the next. Waterproof your bags. Bring plastic bags for your gadgets in case it rains. Rain gear would also be helpful.
  • For safety purposes, it’s better to have a companion when doing this ride.
  • Ride safe!

motorcycle bicol mayon volcano shadow selfie ligao

Shadow selfie at Mayon Volcano in Albay. Side trip before heading back to Manila

NOTE: All photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy S6 powered by Sun Cellular. For Sun promos and postpaid plans, visit #ChooseBetter

48 thoughts on “The Long and Winding Road to Bicol

  1. Pingback: Tugawe Cove Resort, Caramoan | Travel Up

  2. nice ride, thumbs up for you and positive info.. for those rider who do their 1st long ride.. i also ride that stretch manila bikol vice versa when i do my vacation in pinas..sipocot cam sur my hometown…

  3. Whew…that was an awesome ride Ms. Kara…

    Wish I can do the same…Sayang lang at ayaw ni misis na bumili ako ng motor…Baka daw kung saan-saan ako makarating…Hahaha…

    I was born in Tagkawayan where most of my relatives from my father’s side live…My mother and her relatives are from Albay so braving the road via motorbike is on my bucketlist…Hope it doesn’t stay in the bucket though…Dami ko pang gustong gawin 🙁

  4. Galing… that was a pretty long ride.. Just halfway to destination, I ran out of music on my favorite playlist. Always wanted to do that trip on a motorcycle or scooter. I’ve seen those potholes, and pretty dangerous for small sized rims. specially travelling at night.. (nakaka bulaga) .. Base from the pictures, your scoot seems had undergone a minor alteration.. During my previous trips, I’ve spoken to some group riders on fuel stops suggested using a ride that is in stock form, bring some quality spare tube. And check nuts and bolt tightness, specially on small displacement engine, where they usually ran on 1/2 to full throttle… Full throttle? 🙂 Maybe they were pertaining to the long empty straight road arriving Naga City..

    • Thank you. I prefer not to drive at night too, which is why we decided to stay overnight. Too dangerous with road conditions. Yes, my scooter has some minor alterations. There was a long last stretch to Naga. Thanks for the tips 🙂

  5. Thrilling and inspiring, what an experience, by the way what kind of scooter is this?
    I ride a scooter (172cc right now) for more than 30 years and never thought of it as a long rider.

  6. Nice ride Ms Kara. You and your travelogue is my inspiration to do my own first and second time solo ride. My first ride was from Quezon City to Daet, Camarines Norte were my sister lives. My second solo ride was from Montalban, Rizal going to Tolosa, Leyte were my wife is from. I did this with my Racal TS 125 motorcycle. It was all faith and fun – no fear. True, that the weather is unpredictable especially in the Bicol region. Too bad I was not able to take pictures during my second ride because I lost my phone a day before. But what was most important on that experience was enjoying how beautiful the Philippines is. I am proud of my steel horse. Thank you once again for the inspiration.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Rigoberto. I’m glad that you found inspiration in what I wrote. Sorry to hear about your phone but you’re right about the experience being more important. A lot of times, I find myself torn between enjoying an experience or stopping to take photos for the sake of sharing it with others. I’m glad to say that a lot of memorable moments are the ones that go undocumented. Happy travels and ride safe!

    • Boss anung rota dinaanan nyo from manila to leyte plan ko din this summer..manila to leyte with my sz…dko alam ang rota from manila. Bawal kasi sa slex…

      Good job miss kara, sana maka join ako next trip nyo lol…


  7. salute to you Miss Kara.. ang loopet 🙂

    sa friday we will also try this TRIP..
    with my MC Yamaha Soul I 115c.. almost same with your MC..

    But Im planning to have 5mins break every 1hour of driving
    since AT motors easily over heat…

    By the way.. Im from Cavite.. it will be 385km of ride sabi ni
    google map…

    Sana maging ok ang lahat..

    salmat nga pla for you Post.. we will used this as reference…

  8. Nice story Miss Kara

    I’m amazed that a woman can ride that long too rare we are planning for a long ride going south this time since we usually travel northloop including the atok highest point going down to halsema hiway alsno known as the besang pass.

    So thanks to my officemate that send me this blog and will help me a lot on planning stage.

    Travel date is on Setp.27,2016 if god permits.

    Don’t forget to wear more riding gear for your safety

    Ride safe and godbless.

    • Hi Klein, yes I know I should invest in better riding gear for long rides like this. Thanks for the concern and good luck on your ride to Bicol in September. Naga City will be celebrating the Penafrancia Festival earlier in the month 🙂

  9. Pingback: Baguio by Big Bike: Ride Along Motorcycle Tours | Travel Up

  10. Hi Ms Kara. Kudos to your journeys! Just wondering if it would be a good idea to leave Paranaque around 2 AM via car going to Naga? Scheduled to leave this Friday early morning. Im anticipating the heavy volume of people/motorists going down south for the long weekend. Also, is it advisable to take the LIPA exit on star avoiding San Pablo town proper? Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Mike, sorry for the late reply. Just got back from a trip. The traffic will probably be bad any time you leave because of the long Weekend. We usually take the LIPA exit when travelling by car. By motorcycle, we pass the backdoor through Bugarin which emerges in Lucban, Quezon.

  11. Hi Nice places, we already took that long way before and it is really amazing though we have some trouble along the way like we been encounter accidents and few “semplangs” but it is really awesome.. It is nice to see people appreciating the beauty of our nature. Godbless and more power.

  12. Thumbs up to you ms kara! i couldnt imagine how tough you are driving a scooter
    for a relatively long and winding route.

    Im planning my trip to samar. thanks for the tips, really helpful.

  13. Hi! May i ask, is the road too steep that new drivers cant drive it? I badly need your response, :)) salamat po!

  14. Hi Maam Kara! Thanks po sa reply! Sorry i didnt mention, van po yung idadrive instead of motorbike. You think kaya pa rin ng beginner? Sorry ive been researching about this since last week. I really needed views po sana from people na nakadaan na sa mga kalsada going bicol. Thanks maam!

    • Naka-drive na din ako ng kotse dito. Medyo nakakatakot, pero may mga nag-didirect ng traffic diyan. Kelangan medyo bagalan lang ang pag-drive. Yan lang naman yung exciting na part. The rest of the drive is medyo long and boring. Possibleng antukin yung driver. Kung naka drive around naman sa Manila traffic, kaya naman siguro pero please be extra careful. Gaano ba ka-beginner yung mag-dridrive sa inyo? Marami talaga accidents diyan, di lang motor, pati bus at kotse.

  15. Actually akoo ang magdadrive hehe. Ive been an AT driver for 4 years. We recently bought manual na van sa manila. We need to bring it in Davao and gusto sana namin magroad trip po. Nakapagdrive na ako ng manual pero city driving lang.

    Ah so meaning from manila tp bicol, itong daan lang po sa quezon ang challenging? Gaano po kahaba ang road na to maam?

    • Manila to the port of Matnog in Sorsogon is about 605 kilometers or roughly over 13 hours of straight driving (not considering traffic). You can check the route on Googlemaps. The Old Zigzag road in Quezon is not that long pero delikado especially kung maulan o gabi. For the rest of the road, medyo basic naman except for biglaang potholes sa gitna ng daan. Last time I drove, may areas na one way kasi ginagawa kalsada. Good luck!

  16. Thanks Maam Kara for the insight! This is a big help po! Were planning to stay in legazpi muna. Then early morning going to matnog. Thanks again maam!

  17. i dont know how i came here but it was interesting. i have been in Philippines three times. Although i am riding royal enfields since my teenage & Higher CC motorcycles are very common in my country but never seen such passion, love for scooters & mopeds anywhere else in the world what i have seen in Philippines, indeed Philippinos enjoys every part of life. Nice journey though

    • Hi Kuldeep. I guess because of the traffic in the big cities and unpaved rural roads in the provinces, smaller displacement bikes are still more practical and affordable for the general public in the Philippines. These are also easier to transport on smaller boats when crossing to different islands. But I can’t deny that the Royal Enfield is an awesome bike for riding on highways. 🙂 Thanks for passing by!

  18. hi po pwd po b malahingi ng route from albay to dasmarinas cavite. im using mg suzuki smash ung wala pong toll gates at more advice pa in travelling papunta po dun salamat po

  19. Just came across this article Kara, all I can say is WOW ! what a great adventure you and your husband experienced riding to Naga city. I’m considering going to Bicol sometime in Oct (via bus) and can only wish I had enough riding experience to try it on a motorcycle (only been riding a couple of months so far)
    really nice article which was well written with great pictures. take care and definitely always ride with safety gear on and I’d like to suggest adding one of those bright fluorescent colored ones !
    Robert H.

  20. You’re an inspiration for many women even for a man like me! I’m planning to see Mt. Mayon this December when I had my one month vacation. I will be traveling by car from Calumpit, Bulacan with my family and relatives but I am worried about safety especially in very remote areas in Camarines. I’ve done already several local tours and the most challenging was our tour in Baler, Aurora Province last year. I’ve researched that it may take 10 hours from Calumpit to Legazpi if I drive without stop-over. So, my concern now is, is it safe to drive at night while searching for a hotel to stay? I maybe traveling with my foreign national friend but he’s worried about he’s safety.

    • Thanks, Rolly. I appreciate the comment. Camarines Sur is my home province and I can say that it’s generally safe driving from Manila to Legazpi on the highway. That’s really a major route of buses and cars traveling to and from Bicol. I don’t recommend driving at night though because that’s when a lot of overspeeding buses travel and accidents can happen. It’s better if you leave early in the morning (like 3 or 4am) so you can get to Legazpi by night if you don’t want to have any stopovers. Hope that helps!

  21. Hi Ms. Kara..We would appreciate much if you could suggest must-see tourist spots along the way from Manila to Naga City. We would prefer tourist spots situated before bicolandia and those which are located near the highway that we are no longer required to detour for so long. Thanks much..

  22. Thumbs up for this Ms. kara 🙂 me and my wife are also planning to take on a ride to Camarines Sur this coming November, also via motorbike. Your blog is a great help for newbies like me in a long distance ride.

  23. Hi Kara,
    Nice travelogue, well written. I used to drive our family van when my wife still works in Makati and it takes me 6-8 hours along with my 12-year old son. Me and wife are travelling to Naga this March 2018 for Holy Week and visit the family. We are coming from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. We have two options; take my brother’s van from Manila or take Cebu Pacific as PAL has no more available seats as of today.

    Do you recommend a land trip for 8 hours or more or take a convenient 30 minutes plane ride. The last time we took a land trip was horrendous with the traffic, rain and people just walking on the streets.Will it be better this time within this Holy Week on the horizon. We will be leaving Manila by 9 pm.

    Ato (Renato)

    • Hi Renato. I’ll be honest with you. Holy Week is peak travel season in the country as most people leave the metro to go to their home provinces including Bicol. It’s like the Exodus. I like staying in Manila at that time because there’s no one there. You will probably be spending way more time on the road and may not find the drive that enjoyable. I suggest you just fly. Even then, expect the airport to be crowded. You could also take a night bus on Bicol Isarog to Naga. You don’t feel the long travel time if you just sleep the whole time. They have comfy seats and even sleeper bed options.

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