Lying southeast of Manila, the provinces that make up Southern Luzon are home to some of the country’s most popular tourist destinations – both active and natural. As well as snorkelling with whale sharks, trekking up active volcanoes and surfing waves whipped up by typhoons, Southern Luzon also offers a number of glorious white sand beaches and some lovely islands.
The National Highway south from Manila takes you down to Quezon province, home to Mount Banahaw, a revered dormant volcano that presents one of the most rewarding climbs in the country. Quezon is linked by ferry to the beautiful, heart-shaped island province of Marinduque, still largely untouched by mass tourism and best known for its Easter festival, the Moriones. Beyond Quezon is the Bicol region, a narrow finger of land studded with volcanoes including Mount Bulusan and Mount Mayon. The coastline is often stunning, too, with some great beaches and island-hopping opportunities particularly around Legazpi and Sorsogon City. Best of all, though, is the Caramoan Peninsula where tourism is developing apace but where it’s still possible to find little deserted hideaways. There are also attractions offshore and although it can’t rival the Visayas for scuba diving, Bicol does have an ace up its sleeve in the form of Donsol, home to huge whale sharks. Other water-based activities in Bicol include surfing in Daet and wakeboarding at CamSur Watersports Complex. Two island provinces add further variety: Masbate is the Philippines’ wild east, where cattle are raised and the biggest tourist draw is the annual rodeo in May. Known as the “Land of the Howling Winds”, Catanduanes is infamous for its exposure to passing typhoons, but this extreme weather is, however, what attracts surfers to its beaches.