It’s More Fun in the Philippines … with SpiceRoads!

The Philippines is an archipelago made up of more than 7,000 islands. The exact number is elusive, as Filipinos will quickly tell you that it changes at any given moment depending on the tides! Looking down from a plane window puts things into perspective. Some islands are tiny green specks seemingly floating on the ocean, while others appear as craggy, jungle-clad clusters encircled by vibrant coral reefs. And then there’s vast land masses where rice fields are etched into the mountainsides and bustling cities sprawl along the coastlines. As rich as this mosaic of islands is the tapestry of life which unfolds within and around them. Beneath the azure waters thrives a wonderland of marine life - a place where the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, glides from reef to reef. Above the land surfaces, lush rainforests are awash with tropical plants, birds, reptiles and mammals – a place where the world’s smallest primate, the tarsier, leaps from tree to tree. No less diverse is the human population of more than one hundred million people that call the Philippines home. Every island has its own unique mix of deep-rooted indigenous cultures, traditions and languages. Add to that a legacy of 400 years of Spanish colonialism, which gave the archipelago not only its name (in honor of the 16th-century Spanish King, Philip II) but also introduced Roman Catholicism, which remains the nation’s predominant faith. At the turn of the 20th century the Americans also started to have a strong influence in the Philippines, most noticeable in the proliferation of English which is now an official language. Impressively, a lot of Filipinos can speak at least three languages: the two official languages of Tagalog and English as well as one or more of the great diversity of local island vernaculars. Combine all of that together and you have got a multicultural and multilingual social fabric unlike anywhere else in Southeast Asia.

The Philippines is, in a word, a fascinating hodgepodge of landscapes, wildlife, cultures, histories, and languages. As a traveler, where does one even begin to plan a holiday that captures the essence of this multifaceted island nation? At SpiceRoads we have an answer in the form of our 13-day Island Hopping the Philippines' bicycle tour. Last month, Product Manager Sid joined the adventure and is here to give you a virtual taste of what the experience is all about.

From a bird's eye perspective, you can fully appreciate the mosaic of islands that make up the Philippines. Always try to get yourself a window seat when flying in the country!

Island Hopping the Philippines

13 days, 3 islands, and 550 km of cycling! Behind these numbers lies an incredible cycling adventure à la Spice Roads in the Central Visayas Region of the Philippines. Rather than going through the itinerary day by day (which you can see in detail on our website here) let’s take a look at each of the three islands and highlight some of the tour’s standout moments.

Bohol Island

After a first day of getting acclimated in Cebu City, the adventure kicks off with a two-hour cruise to the neighboring island of Bohol. Here we spend 7 days cycling through the island’s verdant, hilly interior and along the picturesque coastline. Here are 5 things to look forward to on Bohol Island:

1. Tarsiers

On the tour’s first cycling day we break up the ride with a visit to a Tarsier Sanctuary. Tarsiers are the world’s smallest, and arguably most adorable, primates. Native to Bohol, these nocturnal creatures can be spotted taking their daytime siestas in the jungle foliage.

Each morning, sanctuary rangers locate where the tarsiers have chosen to rest for the day. Any visitors trickling through during the day are then afforded with a unique opportunity for a close-up encounter.

2. Chocolate Hills

On day 3 of the tour we enjoy views over the Chocolate Hills, an enchanting landscape blanketed by 1,200 symmetrical brown-earth hued mounds. Local legend has it that the hills were formed by quarreling giants hurling boulders at each other. There’s also a geological explanation, but that’s a little more technical!

The Chocolate Hills are a unique sight to behold. While the landscape has been left almost entirely in its natural state, one hill has been turned into a viewing area to appreciate the scene.

3. Sierra Bullones

The Sierra Bullones highlands showcase off-the-beaten path, rural Bohol at its finest. The landscape unfolds in a tapestry of lush jungle and emerald rice terraces with scenes of wallowing buffaloes and farmers tending to their fields. This is the most challenging riding day of the tour with a 15 km climb to conquer, but accompanied by great views and a subsequent, winding descent to the coast makes it a worthwhile effort.

Day 4’s climb into the highlands of Sierra Bullones isn’t easy but the views over terraced rice fields are stunning.

4. Anda

Halfway through our traverse of Bohol we treat ourselves to two nights at Blue Star Dive Resort, a cozy boutique hotel perched on a rocky headland overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean. Day 5 is a free day and if you’re able to be tempted out of the resort, then just a few kilometers away lies the white-sand Anda beach, ideal for a day of lounging. You can also opt for snorkeling or scuba diving amongst coral reefs.

On your free day in Anda you have the option to go snorkeling amongst the coral reefs which are accessible by a quick boat ride from the resort.

5. Baclayon Church

Bohol has an important place in Philippine history. It is here where the Spanish, after their galleys first made landfall in 1565, established their presence and began spreading Christianity. Baclayon Church is one of the country’s earliest churches built by the Spanish and we visit as part of our route on Day 7 of the tour.

Baclayon Church’s weathered yet well preserved façade provides a tangible connection to the country’s Spanish colonial past and enduring Christian faith.

Siquijor Island

After Bohol we take a two-hour ferry ride to the second island of the tour: Siquijor. Siquijor is an island of natural beauty and mysticism, characterized by palm-tree fringed beaches and shores, jungle-clad hills,, and a cultural heritage steeped in esoteric knowledge connected to the bounty of the land. To some, Siquijor also has a reputation for sorcery and dark magic, though it is hard to get that impression from the welcoming locals and inviting beach resorts! Here are 4 things to look forward to on Siquijor Island:

1. COCO Cove Beach Resort

A highlight of our stay in Siquijor is the hotel we use: COCO Cove Beach Resort. We spend three nights here, providing a launchpad for cycling around the island as well as being a sanctuary of beach bliss, oceanfront dining and pool relaxation (there’s three pools - one with a bar!).

Sunset from COCO Cove’s beachfront.

2. Siquijor Island Loop

On the second day in Siquijor we circumnavigate the entire island on its well paved 86 km long coastal road. Along the way we visit a legendary tree harboring a natural fish spa, explore the Philippine's oldest Catholic Convent at Lazi, and enjoy views of the ocean as we cycle from one scenic bay to another.

Day 9 of the tour offers a long and fulfilling day of cycling around Siquijor with plenty of chances to admire ocean views.

3. Bulu-Bulu

Siquijor is well known amongst Filipinos for its natural healers that use age-old, esoteric methods to remedy illnesses. One such method ,known as “bulu-bulu”, involves the healer using a bamboo tube to blow into a glass of water containing a stone while encircling the patient and applying pressure to specific parts of their body. The process is repeated until the water appears clear. Whether or not you believe in such methods, it no doubt makes for a unique cultural experience! While we stay in Siquijor, the well-connected SpiceRoads team will try to arrange a visit to a healer’s house.

Visiting a natural healer’s house on Siquijor to experience bulu-bulu.

4. Cambugahay Waterfall

One of the most captivating natural wonders on Siquijor, the Cambugahay Waterfall is renowned for its multi-tiered levels, vibrant blue waters, and surrounding lush rainforest. We stop by here on our second full day on the island, right after a fun downhill descent from Mount Bandilaan National Park.

Cambugahay Waterfall's waters invite us for a refreshing dip - the perfect way to cool off and beat the tropical heat!

Cebu Island

The last two days of the tour are dedicated to Cebu Island which, besides its bustling capital city of the same name, also boasts picturesque coastlines, vibrant marine life, and ruralized highlands. And we get a taste of all of that. Here are 3 things to look forward to on Cebu Island:

1. Three-Island Hop

It is not often in life that you can say “before lunchtime I was on three islands and two boats”, but that’s what happens on Day 11 as we undertake a three-island hop from Siquijor to Negros and then to Cebu! These boat rides not only afford delightful sea views but also a glimpse into the hustle and bustle of inter-island mobility in the Philippines.

On this tour our bikes get shuttled around in various forms of transport, including boats and tuk-tuks, as we hop from one island to the next.

2. The West Coast

On Day 11, after reaching the port in southern Cebu, we hop on our bikes and start riding north along Cebu's west coast for 70 km. We cycle from one rugged headland to the next, repeating a pattern of up-down-straight until we reach the seaside town of Moalboal! This is coastal Cebu at its finest, passing through fishing villages and historic towns pressed against the backdrop of a stunningly blue ocean.

Day 11’s 70 km ride up the western shore of Cebu island threads along well-paved roads with little traffic and expansive views over the ocean.

3. Sardine Run

Based in Moalboal on Day 12, you have the opportunity to witness a remarkable underwater spectacle: the “Moalboal Sardine Run”. Head to the nearby beach, rent some snorkels and wade out into the ocean where you can swim above the mesmerizing sight of massive schools of sardines moving together in synchronized patterns. Other marine creatures, including turtles, that inhabit the coast and coral reef can be seen as well.

A scene like this is available just around the corner from the tour resort in Moalboal. Optional but highly recommended, get up early on Day 12, rent some snorkels, and dive into the sardine run! Image Credit

13 days, 3 islands, and 550 km of cycling! These are just the numbers, but as we’ve now seen, behind them lies an incredible story. Above all, the tour is just great fun. In fact, one of the country’s popular tourism slogans states “it’s more fun in the Philippines”. We dare to say that it’s even more fun by bike! Join us one one of our 10 scheduled departures in 2024, and we’re sure you’ll agree. Click here to find out all the details and sign up for your preferred date.

Believe us, it’s more fun in the Philippines by bike with SpiceRoads!