Travel Guide: Marinduque

Marinduque is an island province in the Philippines best known for being the home of the Moriones Festival, one of the oldest religious festivals in the country celebrated during Holy Week. Everywhere you go in the province, you can spot references to the icons of the Moriones, men and women in costumes and masks wearing garb of biblical Roman soldiers.

Marinduque becomes very popular during Holy Week because of the Moriones festival, but locals say it’s pretty quiet the rest of the year. Interestingly, Marinduque is one of the most peaceful provinces in the country due to its low crime rate, which alternately ranks with the province of Batanes yearly.

For riders and cyclists, the island offers an appealing destination. Marinduque has about 150 kms of paved circumferential road known and some very beautiful uncrowded beaches. I’ve been wanting to try bikepacking (backpacking with your bike) for a while and this offered a perfect introduction to what it’s all about. The Marinduque Loop offers a great biking destination, with steady climbs, rewarding downhills and lots of scenic spots. There’s something really satisfying about being able to circle an entire island by bike.

If you’re driving a motorcycle, it will probably take you about 3-4 hours to just circle the entire island if you just speed through, but you can always combine your ride with sightseeing, hiking or camping on the beach. For those based in Manila, you can opt to bring your motorcycles on the RoRo. Compared to riding a bike, you can get to different towns quicker, bring heavier stuff like camping equipment, and have more time to spare for island-hopping or camping on the beaches.

It felt very safe and secure just riding on the empty roads. Locals were really friendly. I wouldn’t be afraid to travel, ride and camp out solo here.

WHERE EXACTLY IS MARINDUQUE:

Marinduque is located in Southwestern Tagalog Region or MIMAROPA, formerly designated as Region IV-B. It lies between Tayabas Bay to the north and Sibuyan Sea to the south. It is west of the Bondoc Peninsula of Quezon province; east of Mindoro Island; and north of the island province of Romblon.

HOW TO GET THERE:

There are no direct flights between Manila and Marinduque. All visitors can only only get to the island through a combination of land & sea travel. Allocate at least eight hours travel time one way coming from Manila.

Ride a bus from Manila to Lucena

  • From Manila, ride a JAC Liner bus going to Dalahican Port in Lucena. They have various pick-up points with main bus terminals in Cubao (Edsa corner Kamias) and Buendia. Hourly trips leaving from Cubao from 2:00 am to 10:00 pm and midnight trips from 11:00 pm and 12:00 midnight. 24 hours operation from Friday to Sunday.
  • Travel time can take 3-5 hrs depending on the traffic getting out of Manila and major cities like Santo Tomas, San Pablo and Lucena. It’s better to leave at midnight or early morning.
  • JAC Liner buses are air-conditioned, have comfortable seats and WiFi.
  • You may have to dismantle your bikes or at least take out the front tires so they can fit in the storage compartment.

Bus Fare:

  • Bus fare: P228.00 per passenger.
  • Bike cargo fee: P50.00 per bike* (we were only charged a cargo fee from Lucena – Cubao since there were a lot of passengers and our bikes took up space, but we were not charged anything on the Cubao – Lucena leg)

Board the RoRo Ferry to Marinduque

  • Board the RoRo from Dalahican Port in Lucena to Balanacan Port in Marinduque. There are numerous ferry trips daily via Montenegro and Starhorse Shipping Lines.
  • Travel time takes 2.5-3 hours depending on the waves, weather conditions and season. It can take longer and waves are rougher during the rainy season.
  • There’s no charge for transporting bicycles. Ask help from porters to secure your bikes while the vehicles are being loaded.
  • You can sit anywhere in the ferry (first-come first-served arrangement). There’s an air-conditioned cabin with bus-like seats you can recline and an open-air section where you can enjoy the view (if you travel during the day). I also saw enclosed cabin section with beds.
  • There’s a snack bar on the ferry that serves chips, drinks and cup noodles but no full meals. Try to eat or bring food before you ride the ferry so you don’t get hungry.

SCHEDULE OF RORO:

RoRo Daily Schedule 
STARHORSE
LUCENA - MARINDUQUE
2:30 am
10:30 am
3:30 pm
11:30 pm
MARINDUQUE - LUCENA
6:30 am
11:30 am
2:30 pm
7:30 pm
MONTENEGRO SHIPPING
LUCENA - MARINDUQUE
1:00 am
3:00 am
10:00 am
12:00 nn
3:00 pm
7:00 pm
10:00 pm
11:00 pm
MARINDUQUE - LUCENA
6:00 am
8:00 am
11:00 am
2:00 pm
5:00 pm
7:00 pm
11:00 pm

RoRo Fare:

  • Regular: P260.00
  • Student (w/ ID): P221.00
  • Senior (w/ ID): P186.00
  • Half (3-7 yo): P130.00

Terminal Fee:

  • Regular: P30.00
  • Senior citizen, student with ID, 3 yrs old & below: 24.60

Cargo fees for vehicles:

  • Bicycles: FREE!!!
  • Motorcycle – Php 936.00
  • Car, Van, L300 – Php 2,340.00
  • Jeepney – Php 2,700.00
  • Ten Wheeler Truck – Php 4,500.00

Contact Information:

  • Starhorse Hotline: +63948-548-0767
    Starhorse Main Office: (042) 710-7403
  • Lucena Port Terminal Office and Marinduque Port Terminal Office
  • Nodel Noblezala, Lucena Port Manager: +63999-864-2221
  • Jaymark Fontamillas, Marinduque Port Manager:  +63928-302-8977

Manila to Marinduque (direct bus + ferry combo)

JAC Liner also has daily trips from Cubao to Marinduque, that cost P880, with the fare covering the bus ride, ferry and terminal fee at the port. Trips leave at 5:30 pm from Cubao to Marinduque and leave at 2:00 pm from Marinduque to Cubao. Seat reservations are required beforehand.

Drive to Lucena Port and ride the ferry

If you’re in a group with a private vehicle like a pick-up, it might be more convenient to just drive to the Dalahican port in Lucena with all the bikes on board. You can park your vehicles at the Lucena Port or bring it on the RoRo going to Marinduque, so you have a support vehicle there. Motorcycle riders can just drive straight to Lucena too and board the ferry.

  • Drive south from Manila via South Luzon Expressway
  • Exit at Santo Tomas, Batangas
  • Continue driving to San Pablo, Laguna and then to Tiaong, Candeleria, Sariaya and up to Lucena, all in Quezon province.
  • In Lucena, turn right to the Dalahican Port and board the Ro-Ro boats to Balanacan Port in Mogpog or Cawit in Boac.

ROUTE MAP:

Our road trip biking tour covers a total of 146 kms passing Marinduque’s 6 municipalities: Mogpog, Boac, Gasan, Buenavista, Torrijos and Santa Cruz.

  • Day 0: Bus to Lucena + RoRo to Marinduque
  • Day 1: Balanacan Port – Mogpog – Boac – Gasan – Buenavista – Torrijos (83 km)
  • Day 2: Torrijos – Santa Cruz (23.6 kms) + Boat to Maniwaya Island
  • Day 3: Boat to Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz – Mogpog – Balanacan Port (37 kms) + RoRo to Lucena + Bus to Cubao

TOP SIGHTS TO VISIT IN MARINDUQUE:

  • Boac Cathedral – Century-old brick church in Boac
  • Poctoy White Beach – Beach area on the mainland in Torrijos
  • Maniwaya Island – Island with white sand beach resorts (you will need to go island-hopping from here to visit Palad sandbar & Ungab Rock Formation)
  • Bagombongan Cave – 1.9 km. long cave in Santa Cruz
  • Luzon Datum of 1911 – Geodethic Center of the Philippines
  • Malbog Hot Spring – A Sulfur Spring in Buenavista
  • Bellaroca Island – luxury island resort (now closed) viewable from Buenavista
  • Mt. Malindig – the highest peak in Marinduque

ITINERARY:

Day 0: Manila –> Dalahican Port, Lucena –> Balanacan Port, Marinduque (TRANSIT)

  • 10:30 pm – Arrival at JAC Liner, Cubao Station
  • 11:00 pm – Departure Manila
  • 2:00 am – Arrival at Dalahican Port, Lucena
  • 3:30 am – Departure via Starhorse Shipping Line
  • 6:30AM – Arrival at Balanacan Port, Marinduque

Day 1: Balanacan Port – Mogpog – Boac – Gasan – Buenavista – Torrijos (83 kms)

  • 7:00 am – Leave Balanacan Port
  • 7:30 am – Bike towards Boac

  • 8:30 am – Boac Cathedral
  • 9:00 am – Breakfast in Boac

WHERE TO EAT IN BOAC:

Kusina sa Plaza in Boac is very near the Boac Cathedral. Their specialty is gourmet pizza (P50-P100 for solo size) but also have all-day breakfast meals for as low as P65+. Nice ambiance & decent restrooms. Boac is about 15 km from Balanacan Port.

I also spotted Goodchow near the plaza, which serves burgers, spaghetti, pizza and other snacks.

  • 9:30 am – Bike to Gasan
  • 10:30 am – Gasan Sea View & Hanging Bridge, Stop at Laylay Port
  • 11:00 am – Bike to Buenavista
  • 1:30 pm – Lunch in Buenavista

WHERE TO EAT IN BUENAVISTA: 

Curba Bar & Grill, Buenavista has nice ambiance and serves budget meals for as low as P49! Sisig w/ rice & Breaded pork chop w/ rice cost P95 each. Cold beer served here! This is 30 kms away from Boac where we had breakfast..

  • 2:30 pm – Start riding through Buenvasita-Lipata-Dampulan-Tigwi Road
  • 4:00 pm onwards – Points of interest include Elefante Island (Bellaroca), Mt. Malindig and the coastal road in Dampulan

  • 5:00 pm – Merienda at sari-sari store along the way
  • 7:00 pm – Arrival in Torrijos
  • 7:30 pm – Check in at chosen resort or set up camp along Poctoy White Beach
  • 8:00 pm – Dinner in Torrijos

WHERE TO STAY & EAT IN TORRIJOS:

Rendezvous Inn Resort is a pleasant beach resort with friendly service located in Poctoy White Beach. The place offers secure parking and has several AC rooms with their own CR and TV. They have a generator in case of brownouts. Rates: P1,500 (good for 2), P2,500, P3,500, Extra bed costs P300 per head.

Rendezvous Bar right next to the resort offers pretty good meals and fresh seafood like shrimps, fish, crabs, sinigang grilled liempo, etc. Breakfast meals cost P100 – P125, while seafood meals good for 2 cost roughly P300.

Day 2: Torrijos – Santa Cruz (23.6 kms)

  • 8:00 am – Breakfast at Poctoy White Beach Resort
  • 9:30 am – Start biking to Santa Cruz
  • 11:00 am – Arrival at Buyabod Port, Santa Cruz

Day 2: Maniwaya Island (SIDE TRIP)

  • 11:30 am – Ride passenger boat to Maniwaya Island
  • 12:30 pm – Arrival in Maniwaya Island

How to get to Maniwaya Island:

  • Regular passenger boats only travel from Buyabod Port to Maniwaya Island twice a day, 7:00 am and 11:30 am and return from Maniwaya Island to Buyabod Port once a day at 6:30 am.
  • Regular boat fare: P70 per passenger
  • We originally planned to leave our bikes at the port since I read there was a place that offered an overnight bike storage fee for P300. But the guards on duty suggested that we just take the bikes with us so we could use it on the island.
  • Bike cargo fee on boat: P50 each on the way there, but only P30 each on the way back.
  • Maniwaya is a tiny island, with small paths passable only by bicycle or motorcycle. If you’re staying at the far end of the beach, it’s helpful to have bikes because you may have to ride a habal-habal (P20/ride) or walk at least 20 mins. going to and from the port to your chosen resort.

  • You can also charter a private boat for P1,500 (good for 10-20 pax) to take you island hopping and fetch you the next day if you don’t catch the regular boats. It’s cheaper to hire a boat from Buyabod Port rather than hire one from Maniwaya Island.

WHERE TO STAY & EAT IN MANIWAYA ISLAND:

Wawie’s Beach Resort is one of the best places to stay in Maniwaya Island. They offer spacious camping grounds for tents and have native fan rooms, open cabanas and aircon rooms. We stayed in their native fan room hut good for 2 pax, which cost P1200. We just walked in without any reservations (stayed on a Friday night) and got a room and practically the whole beach to ourselves. But if you’re traveling on a long weekend, holiday or during Holy Week, make sure to reserve rooms beforehand. I heard they can get fully booked during those times.

Electricity only runs from 3:00 pm to midnight in Maniwaya Island, so be sure to charge your gadgets before that time. The resort has a generator, but if there are only a few guests, they don’t turn it on because it’s very expensive, so just opt for the non-AC rooms or tent. There are public shared restrooms outside.

Rates:

  • P500 – tent rental 3-4pax (per night)
  • P300 – tent pitching fee if you have your own tent (per night)
  • P1200 – native room good for 2 pax
  • P1500 – native room good for 4-5pax
  • P3500 – AC room good for 6 pax with own CR.
  • P500 – day tour open cottage (per day) good for 10pax
  • P1000 – cabana (day tour only) good for 6pax
  • P2000 – cabana (day tour plus overnyt) good for 6pax
  • P150 – Hammock (bring your own)

Photo above grabbed from Wawie’s Beach Resort FB Page (peak season) 

You can also order food at Wawie’s Beach Resort, but you have to inform staff of meals required beforehand because food supplies on the island are very limited especially during low season and need to be brought in from the mainland. Meals cost P100 for breakfast and P180/for lunch and dinner. You can also bring food supplies and fresh seafood to have it cooked or cook it yourself. Red Horse Beer costs P100 per 1L bottle.

Wawie’s Beach Contact Info: 09213695359/09773314872

NOTE: Wawie’s Beach Resort offers hassle-free tour packages for 2D/1N with island hopping and 5 meals starting at Php 2,399/head. They have their own boat that leaves to and from Maniwaya Island to Gen Luna Port in Quezon. Travel time by land from Gen. Luna to Manila is 7-8 hours.

Day 3: Boat to Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz – Mogpog – Balanacan Port (37 kms) 

  • 7:00 am – Ride boat from Maniwaya back to Buyabod port
  • 8:00 am – Arrival in Buyabod Port; proceed to Santa Cruz

  • 10:00 am – Late breakfast at Santa Cruz
  • 1:00 pm – Arrival at Rizal Street intersection, ride to Balanacan Port road
  • 2:00 pm – Balanacan Port View Deck

WHERE TO EAT IN SANTA CRUZ:

We ate in Romulo’s Restaurant, a carinderia which was recommended to us,  that serves basic meals like nilaga, fried chicken, liempo and halo-halo. Rico’s Inn Restaurant in the Santa Cruz poblacion also looks like it serves good food. It’s very near the town plaza with an interesting landmark statue.

NOTE: It rained on our way back to Mogpog so we weren’t able to take a lot of photos, but there are some nice scenic spots along the way. We encountered a group of friendly local bikers on the way back. The downhill going back is just great and really long! That stretch is one of the most challenging if you’re going clockwise.

Day 4: RoRo to Lucena + Bus to Cubao (TRANSIT)

  • 2:30 pm – Ride RoRo to Lucena
  • 5:00 pm – Arrival in Lucena
  • 5:30 pm – Ride bus from Lucena to Manila
  • 10:00 pm – Arrival in Kamias (QC).
  • 10:30 pm – Home sweet home. End of tour.

WHAT TO BRING:

The whole island is paved and is suitable for mountain, road bikes and folding bikes. Since you’re carrying everything while biking, it’s best to pack light. I’m not sure if mountain bike rentals are available on the island itself, but we spotted lots of bike shops for repairs and parts. We borrowed some bikepacking bags from hardcore biker Dru Kalakas of MTBikeViews. It’s very useful to have a handlebar bag, which I used to carry clothes in a dry bag. I also brought a hydration bag with snacks, a raincoat, spare bike parts, tools etc.

The bulk of our gear was the photo and video equipment. We did not bring an SLR for this trip and just relied on our smart phone cams but the drone, GoPro, accessories and all the chargers and spare batteries already made up one whole backpack. It can be pretty tiring carrying a backpack while biking the whole time. It’s much better if you can securely mount stuff on the bike instead. We really need to invest in proper bikepacking gear soon.

You can bring tents if you plan to camp, but you don’t have to since it will be additional weight. There are a lot of secure beach resorts and camping areas you can stay overnight, some of which offer tent rentals. You can buy food, water and supplies or just eat in the eateries in the different towns there. I suggest you bring a water bottle and refill it every time you stop for a meal to reduce plastic wastage. Bring enough cash, especially small bills.

BIKING OPTIONS: (Choose your own adventure!)

Should you ride the island clockwise or counter-clockwise?

  • Counter-clockwise: Easier and more relaxing route with gradual uphills and rewarding downhills. You get the bulk of the distance over with on the first day and have more time for R & R on the last 2 days. Better for beginners.
  • Clockwise route: More challenging because of the longer uphills and steeper elevation. Recommended for advanced riders.

How many days do you need for the trip?

Depending on how long your biking visa is your options include:

  • 3 Day biking trip – If you want a relaxed introduction to bikepacking, I suggest you allot 3D/2N for the tour taking into account the travel time from Manila and bus/boat schedules. Go counter clockwise and you can stay in Poctoy White Beach in Torrijos the first night and then Maniwaya Island the second night. (Day 1: 83 kms, Day 2: 27 kms, Day 3: 34 kms)
  • 2 Day biking trip – If you only have a weekend to spare, it’s still possible to do a 2D/1N bike tour, but you will have to skip Maniwaya Island. You can go either clockwise or counter-clockwise and then stay in Poctoy White Beach in Torrijos overnight (about 60-80 kms a day)
  • 1 Day biking trip – For hardcore bikers who don’t care about sightseeing, relaxing at the beach, and stopping to take photos at every overlooking view point and random rice field like me, it’s possible to loop the whole island in a day. You can also get extra miles by opting to pass Luzon Datum.

Cross-country or coastal road at Buenavista?

  • Cross-country: The Boac-Gasan-Torrijos road cutting through mountains is shorter in terms of distance but has a steeper elevation and can be very challenging for bikers. Locals say this route doesn’t offer “much to see” in terms of scenery and has some pretty steep ascents. This is also where most cars and vans pass, so you will have to contend with more vehicles on the road.
  • Coastal road: The Buenvasita-Lipata-Dampulan-Tigwi road is longer but offers more scenic rewarding views. From here, you can see Bellaroca (Elephant Island) up close and you will have the roads all to yourself. This is a beautifully lonely and scenic road with views of mountains and the sea. Riding through here was one of the highlights of the ride for me.

TOTAL EXPENSES: (for 2)

P456 (228 x 2) = Bus fare (we weren’t charged for bikes)
P520 (260 x 2) = Ferry fare
P60 (30 x 2) = Dalahican Terminal fee
P180 = Breakfast for 2 at Kusina sa Plaza
P250 = Lunch & drinks for 2 at Curba Grill
P635  = Dinner for 2 (shrimps) + beer, water, etc.
P1500 = AC room for 2 at Rendezvous Beach Inn

P235 = Breakfast, coffee, drinks at Rendezvous Bar
P140 (70 x 2 ) = Passenger boat to Maniwaya
P100 (50 x 2) = bike cargo fee
P180 = Lunch at Wawie’s
P1200 = Fan room for 2 on the beach
P180 = Dinner at Wawie’s
P200 = 2 litros of Red Horse Beer

P140 (70 x 2) = Passenger boat to Maniwaya
P60 (30 x 2) = bike cargo fee
P180 = lunch at Romulo’s Restaurant

P520 (260 x 2) = Ferry
P44 (22 x 2) = Balanacan Terminal fee
P560 (280 x 2) = Bus
P100 (P50 x 2) = Bike cargo fee

============
TOTAL: P7,440 (or P3,720 per person)

BUDGET: You can cut down your expenses if you camp out in a tent or find cheaper rooms instead of staying in a resort, eat in carinderias instead of the nicer restaurants and if you don’t drink beer. Refill your water bottles when you eat in restaurants so you don’t have to keep buying bottled water. For a 3D/2N trip, I think a budget of P3,500 per person will be enough.

TRAVEL TIPS & USEFUL INFO:

  • Don’t expect the ferry and bus schedules to be strictly followed. Delays can be expected depending on the traffic, weather conditions, waves, season and many other factors. Adjust your IT to fit the time you have.
  • Bring a jacket or cloth and inflatable pillow for the bus and Roro. It can get cold and the pillow will allow you to get a more relaxed sleeping position.
  • We traveled during low season on a weekday and didn’t have any reservations anywhere. We just asked around for recommendations and walked in. It’s different if you’re planning to go on Holy Week, long weekends and holidays.
  • It can get hot in Marinduque during summer months starting February.
  • The weather was very pleasant during our visit in January. December to Feb before Holy Week is a good time to visit, since it’s not so crowded.
  • The food supply on Maniwaya Island is limited if you go during lean season. Boat trips are only 1x a day and resorts here only stock or buy fresh food for cooking from market if they have sure guests. It’s better if you bring our own food supply for cooking.

6 thoughts on “Travel Guide: Marinduque

  1. Hi Kara,
    In Marinduque you can find the midpoint marker of the Philippines or the Datum Station Marker. It is a boulder of a rock marker located in the mountain top of what is locally called Mataas na Bundok near Balanacan harbor was apparently still intact. It is located where the boarders of Brgy. Silangan, Brgy. Argao and Brgy. Hinanggayon nearly meet. A hole appeared to have been drilled in a cubic meter of diorite rock marker, accompanied by a boulder of another rock some 10 feet away that as a reference marker.

    You can try to visit it. I was able to see it and the view is breath taking.

    • Hi Rogel, thanks for the info. Some local bikers also recommended we visit Luzon Datum. It sounds really fascinating. But we got back to the Balanacan Port just in time for the ferry back to Manila. Maybe we can visit the spot next time 🙂 But I heard the road going up there is really challenging to get to by bike.

  2. Yes Kara the road there is going to Barangay Hinanggayon in Mogpog is very challenging because of the bumpy and rough roads, when you reach Barangay Hinanggayon I advise you to go their Barangay Hall to register because all visitors are required to log-in. From there you can either trek going to the top the datum or you can bike it until you reach the concrete steps going to Luzon Datum. From there you can carry your bike for about 15 to 20 minutes until you reach Luzon Datum. It was very tiring trek but its worth it when you go there.

  3. Hi Kara hope you can visit this place in the future since you reach Batanes and Tawi Tawi it is very interesting that you also reach the center of the Philippines. From the top you can see what is considered as Marinduque’s version of Sleeping Dinosaur. Hope I can read your experience in trekking this famous landmark in the future. Happy trekking. God bless.

  4. Ang maganda sa Marinduque yung mga tao mababait and they are willing to help you specially pag naliligaw ka. Then nag oofer din sila ng bahay nila kung sakali wala kang matulugan.

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