Dream destinaton—there’s no better way to describe it. Batanes is likely the best biking destination in the Philippines. Bar none.
I thought I’d seen it all. But then I rode my bike up the crest of a steep grass-carpeted hill overlooking the sea. Then I pointed my bike down the hill’s steepest face and let gravity take over, fly me down the slope of a solid wave of green earth. If you like flow, Batanes is overflowing with flow.
There is also this minor thing of a rush of sweet sweet feeling in the blood. Surfers call it “stoked.” Bikers may call it whatever they want to call it as long as they know the feeling. There’s the most fantastic landscape, and there you are riding it.
Why go to Batanes?
My ex-girlfriend had been raving about Batanes after her trip there last January. Kara said it was off the charts. Kara has been through practically all of the most interesting places in the Philippines—from Sagada to Boracay to El Nido to Tawi-Tawi. So, for her to rave about a place means that it must be something exceptionally special.
“Para s’yang Cordillera at Coron,” was how she described it. And looking at the photos she brought back from the trip, some of which showed her on a bike amid fantastic scenery, made me salivate with anticipation for our trip there together in April.
When our plane began its descent to the Basco airport, I kept looking out the window and to see just what sort of place I was getting myself into. Batanes’ landscape did not disappoint—it was like nothing I had seen before.
What is Batanes?
Batanes is the northernmost province of the Philippines. It has a total population of only around 16,000 which means practically everyone there knows everybody else. This makes for a very tightly-knit community, where people care for and help each other.
You can actually feel the community spirit at work here, as our homestead host even went out of her way to find us a place when her own home and lodging house got fully booked because of the Lenten holiday.
The residents of Batanes, who call themselves Ivatans, are one of the most welcoming and honest people in the Philippines. It is the most peaceful and friendly place I’ve ever been to. You may have heard of the Honesty Coffee Shop where no one watches over the customers and patrons are expected to pay for their purchases by depositing the payment in a box.
The whole province of Batanes has also been designated as a Protected Area. This means the environment is very carefully taken care of. This means green hills, forested mountains, crystal clear waters, and cliffs that look like they were ripped right out of a postcard.
I kid you not, this place is special.
I wanted to write just one article about Batanes. But then I realized that I would not be doing the destination a favor if I’d write so briefly about a place that justly deserves many platitudes. So I’ll be writing three more blog posts about this magical group of islands
Anyway, here are some tips on how to get you and your bike to Batanes without umm… breaking the bank.
- Bring your own bike—It’s a bit expensive, but you will scream in frustration when you see just how beautiful the landscape is and you are not on your own beloved bike. Most of the bikes that are for rent aren’t that good. Believe me, riding this place is worth the expense of bringing your own bike there! Here are tips on how you can pack your bike for a plane ride.
Skyjet, which has daily trips to Batanes allows passengers 10 kilos of check-in baggage allowance. If your bike is that light, then congratulations! You don’t need to pay extra. But if it’s more than that, Skyjet charges 150 Php for each extra kilo.
But it’s still all worth it when you consider that guided tours in Batanes cost 1500 Php per person per tour. If you book the North and South Batan tours, and the Sabtang tour, that comes up to 4500 Php already. A 30 pound bike comes to around 14 kilos which means you don’t even need to pay for the cost of one tour.
- Plan ahead—You can bring down the flight cost if you book ahead, and take advantage of promo fares from Skyjet and PAL Express. We got our tickets for half the price because we booked several months in advance. Fares change depending on the season, and since February to June is considered peak season, expect to pay more if you book during those months.
- Bring your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband even if he/she doesn’t bike—They will appreciate the sheer romantic beauty of Batanes, and they will love you even more for it. Also, their extra baggage allowance will help you bring down the cost of transporting your bike there. Our combined baggage allowance totaled 20 kilos, which was enough for my heavy bike. You also need someone to take your pics from afar hehe
- Stay in a homestay—You don’t really need a fancy hotel to enjoy Batanes. You can bunk in a homestay that charges 350 Php per head per night and still feel like a winner. We did, and it was all good.
- Learn to cook—You can further cut down on the expense if you just buy your own canned goods, veggies, meat and rice, and cook it yourself. Some guesthouses and homestays allow you free access to their kitchens. Eating out in Batanes can be a bit expensive, so reserve the money for the special dinners with your significant other, and for beer of course.
- Dont skip Sabtang!—While biking in Batan Island may seem to be worth a lifetime of great memories, Sabtang island is another incredible destination altogether. Watch for my post on it. You’ll kick yourself in the head if you go to Batanes, but never see or bike in Sabtang.
- Stay for 5 days at least—You’ll need 2 days to enjoy Batan island and another 2 days to bike Sabtang. Those 3 days/2 nights tour packages are bitin.
- Come before the rains come—Or else be prepared to stay an extra day or two. The best time to come to Batanes is from January to June. March to May is excellent.
Total Cost. Okay, so how much does it all cost? Daily lodging in a homestay would cost 350 Php per night, while hotels would be even costlier. Meals would cost maybe 100-150 Php each, times 3 equals 300-450 Php per day. But you can actually bring it down further if you just buy de lata and cook it yourself. Red Horse is 70-80 Php per liter. Boat fare to Sabtang is 70 Php one way. Accommodations there range from 150 to 300 Php per day. I’m sure you can do the math and calculate the cost depending on how many days you’ll be spending there.
We stayed at Cita’s Homestay, which you can contact at 0939-9193616. Accommodations here a very basic, but you have a choice of getting an aircon room. You can also try Marfel’s Lodge at 0908-8931475.
Flights however, may be costly. Best check PAL Express and Skyjet for promo fares if you want to save some money. Please stop asking me how much flights cost because the airfare changes depending on the season, sometimes week to week.