Saturday, January 18, 2014

Caramoan Travel Guide

Part 6 of the Caramoan Series
How to get there and things to do.

The Caramoan Peninsula is the northernmost part of the province of Camarines Sur in the Bicol Region. It is one of the famous tourist destinations in the Philippines which is noted by its several islands that are an escape from the urban lifestyle as it is far away from the buzzing city. The islands are located at the edge of the Pacific Ocean and each of the island has its own beauty and characteristic which would surely amaze beach bums, island hoppers, and even trekkers. This article features great things to do in the Caramoan and how to get to this town.




The Caramoan peninsula is mountainous while the Caramoan town is only a small portion of the peninsula itself that is located on a valley between these mountains. North of the town are 10 major islets that make the town a center of tourism as the islands are noted for its serenity and far from urbanization.

How to get there

Coming from Manila, you need to ride a bus on Cubao. Penafrancia and Raymond Bus lines have direct buses to Sabang Port, the major port for tourists going to Caramoan and they leave around 7PM in the evening. If you could not get a bus to Sabang, a bus bound to Naga City is sufficient and you need to drop off at the van terminal beside the Jesse Robredo Coliseum (coordinates 13.62128N 123.18888E) where vans are available going to Sabang port.

Van terminal at Naga City


It is about an hour and a half ride from Naga to Sabang and the cost is Php 100


Caramoan primarily can be accessed via a boat ride on three ports, namely Nato port, Sabang Port, and Codon Port.

Nato port is a larger port located at Sagnay, Camarines Sur and is the farthest jump-off port to the Caramoan. However, this port is a major port where Roros (roll on-roll off) boats are located so it can transport larger cargo and vehicles to the peninsula.

The Codon port is a port on the southwestern edge of the large island of Catanduanes. This is only useful if you will be coming from Catanduanes to cross it to go to Caramoan. According to the locals, the sea that needs to be crossed is mostly violent if not summer season and most of the small boats do not cross to Catanduanes when waves are high.

The Sabang Port (coordinates 13.72360N 123.58352E) is located at San Jose, Camarines Sur and is the usual port for tourists to the Caramoan Peninsula. The port has two sides. The northern side where it is the dock being used whenever it is high tide as it is protected from the strong waves of the Tiwi Gulf. However, it can only accommodate a few boats. During low tide, the best dock to use is its southern side as it is facing the large Tiwi Gulf to which it an accommodate large number of boats. It is important to note that to be able to get to the boats on this dock, you need to cross a mobile make-shift bridge that is made to float by large plastic drums to where it is being controlled by porters pushing the bridge to get you near the boats.

Take note that you need to enlist yourself in the manifest so look for the person who handles it before you can ride the boat. Do not directly deal with porters because they do not hold the manifest. No manifest means you could not get on the boat.

If you will be using the makeshift bridge, the cost is Php 10. And the boat from Sabang port to Guijalo port of Caramoan costs Php 120.

The boat ride from Sabang port to Guijalo port is about 2 hours.

Sabang Port Transfer


Travel by land from Goa, Camarines Sur is also possible however it is not yet advisable and the transportation is irregular. Most of the roads are still unpaved and goes at the edge of ravines; and being excavated. It is about a 2 and a half hour ride via a heavy duty "Maria Estrella" jeepney owned by a certain Danny Huit from Caramoan.

Once you reach Guijalo port (coordinates 13.7350N 123.8703E), you need to pay Php 30 of environmental fee to the small structure labeled as Caramoan Feeder Port and find yourself a tricycle to send you off to the main Caramoan town to get to the hotel of your choice. You can also arrange a ride with your hotel so they can pick you up from Guijalo. The cost of the tricycle to the Caramoan town (Barangay Tawog) is Php 300 per ride no matter how many you are in the group as long as you can fit inside the transport.

The ride from Guijalo to the main town is about 30 minutes.

Guijalo Port



The main town has everything. From bars, grills, bed and breakfast, restaurants and small carinderia, as well as general merchandise stores and markets. Fish is only available during the fishing season from February to May. If it is off-peak, fish is not available and so you may settle for pork or beef dishes. Food costs around an average of Php 60/meal. We tried Anacleto Grill and its sizzling cuisine are great.

The establishments closes early at about 8PM and so if you are planning to eat dinner, make it earlier. Transportation from within the main town (hotel to barangay Tawog) is only Php 10/passenger in a 7-seater tricycle.




Accommodations

Most of the accommodations are available at the main barangay of Tawog and these are just hostels. There are posh resorts that are also available such as the Gota Beach Resort and Hunongan Cove Resort which are available for a hefty price.

As for us, we stayed at Rex Tourist Inn Centro (Caramoan Garden) at Barangay Bikal which is only a few meters away from the main jump-off for the island hopping itinerary.

We have sought the help of Glenda +63 (939) 2043692 from Rex Tourist inn for reservation and they have reserved us a room with 4 queen-sized beds which costs us Php 1500 per night. Quite a good deal for the five of us who stayed there for two nights.

The Rex Tourist Inn have several branches but their Caramoan Garden branch is the largest with a big garden and a swimming pool. The location is beside the mangroves of Bikal river which can also be used as a jump-off for the island hopping itinerary on high tide.

Rex Tourist Inn Centro (Caramoan Garden)





Island Hopping Itinerary

You can coordinate with your hotel for the island hopping itinerary which costs either Php 1500 or Php 2500 using a 6-person capacity boat excluding the 2 boatmen.

The Php 1500 island itinerary is for the nearer islands including Matukad, Cagbanilad, Sabitang Laya and Tagbon.

The Php 2500 island itinerary is for the farther islands including Cotivas, Guinahuan, Lahuy, Manlawi Sandbar and the Ocata Island.

You can choose to visit all the islands for Php 4000. These rates are standard rates for Caramoan.


Food for the island hopping

You can choose to buy food from your hotel or buy from the main barangay of Tawog for cooked food or ingredients and have them cook later by your boatman.

If you will be choosing to go to the more northern islands (the Php 2500 itinerary), you can buy fresh fish from the fishing village at Guinahuan Island and have your boatman cook it for your while you are at the cottages of Cotivas Island.



Island Destinations

The nearer islands that can be reached for Php 1500 are the islands of Matukad, Lajos, Tagbon, and Sabitang Laya.

Matukad island is right in front of the Gota Beach resort and has the enchanted lagoon and some caves that you can do some spelunking. However we failed to reach this island because of bus-height waves due to the Amihan. The best time to get here would be during the summer months of March to May.

The Lajos Island is right in front of Hunongan cove and is noted by its golden beach and granite rocks and is also inaccessible from Barangay Bikal during Amihan because of the waves but might still be accessible coming from Hunongan Cove if you happen to book your accommodation to that resort.

Sabitang Laya  (coordinates 13.8643E 123.8610N) is considered by the locals as the best island stop for the Caramoan as it possesses a campground, golden beach, shallow turquoise waters and the best island to stay and bum at.

Sabitang Laya

More info on Sabitang Laya beach in our article Sabitang Laya - the best island beach getaway of the Caramoan 


Tagbon is one of the most western towns of Caramoan and is part of the mainland peninsula but can be accessed via the boat of your island hopping itinerary. Once docked, you can climb the 524 stair steps up towards the grotto and enjoy the view of Caramoan from above.

The farther islands that are part of the Php 2500 itinerary are Cotivas, Guinahuan, Lahuy, Manlawi Sandbar and Ocata.


The Guinahuan island (coordinates 13.9544N 123.8674E) is the second to the largest island of the Caramoan Islands and has  rolling hills which you can trek up to the lighthouse and enjoy the view of Caramoan up above. You can also traverse the hill and reach Liwan Beach. Your boat will dock at this island's fishing village where you can buy seaweeds and fish for your lunch later at Cotivas Island.

Guinahuan Island and Liwan Beach view from the lighthouse
More info on Guinahuan Island in our article The Scenic Guinahuan Island and Liwan Beach of the Caramoan 


Cotivas Island (coordinates 13.95005N 123.85274E) is a small island between the larger islands of Lahuy and Guinahuan which has a beach and cottages for you to stay and eat your lunch. Cottage rental costs Php 100.

Cotivas Island and the huts

More info on Cotivas Island in our article The Cotivas Island - the perfect beach spot of the Caramoan 


The Manlawi sandbar (coordinates 13.93907N 123.83626E) is a few meters off the largest island of the Caramoan islands and is as wide as about a kilometer. It has about 8 huts to where you can stay which costs Php 100 too. At hightide, the sandbar becomes submerged by sea water and the huts float but are still harnessed. You can climb the huts and dive to the sea freely. The huts are free for use during high tide.

Manlawi Sandbar and floating cottages on high tide

More info on Manlawi Sandbar in our article Manlawi Sandbar - The floating cottages of the Caramoan


We took the full island itinerary except that we were not able to reach Matukad, Cagbanilad and Lajos due to the waves and it took us the whole day for the island hopping tour. Starting at 8AM and ending it before sunset at 5:15PM


Budget Travel

For a customized 3D2N stay at Caramoan, the following are cost divided individually from a group of 5 people.


  • Bus ride Cubao to Naga City (10 hours) - Php 450 (ordinary)
  • Van Naga City to Sabang Port (2 hours) - Php 100
  • Boat Sabang to Guijalo Port (2 hours) - Php 120
  • Van Guijalo port to Hotel (30 minutes) - Php 60
  • Island Hopping - Php 800*
  • Food (for brunch and dinner) Php 60 x 6
  • Tricycle Hotel to Guijalo - Php 60
  • Boat Guijalo to Sabang Port - Php 120
  • Sabang Port to Naga City - Php 100
  • Naga City to Manila - Php 680 (air-conditioned deluxe)


Total expenses: Php 2,850 (unbelievable for a 3D2N at Caramoan?)


* The Php 800 island hopping expense was even made cheaper as the boatman gave us a good deal for our mapping advocacy. You may try and contact him for possible negotiations as he was courteous and very helpful. Jonald Cordez at mobile +63 (929) 1112131. Just try to mention my name (Ervin) and my blog so he can remember.

Our boatman



This tour is part of our mapping expedition of the Caramoan last December 26-30, 2013 in our advocacy to assure that a Filipino must not be a stranger to his own motherland.


Map 
Google Maps (link)
Schadow1 Expeditions Contributions (link)

How to use for your Navigation System (link)




For a more detailed account of Schadow1 Expeditions on its Caramoan Mapping Expedition, check on the links below:



11 comments:

  1. There's only one thing that turns me off and that is the transportation mode. I hope there's an available flight to go to this place. Staying inside the bus for very long hours is tiring. Nice photos. :D

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful pictures and the ocean looks incredible in the video.It must be an amazing place to visit. I hope I can go there one day!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Caramoan was the location for Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites right? The Philippines should also promote these beautiful islands. I wish I could go visit here soon.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Caramoan is one of my dream location and I hope I can visit the place soon. This is a nice narration of your Caramoan adventure from every point.

    ReplyDelete
  5. caramoan is one of my favorite place! super pretty ng place! even the ocean! it's incredibly awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I so love this place! Very refreshing and relaxing as well

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good post friend. I like your travel Picture. Thanks for your nice sharing. I also like to visit in beautiful places around the world so i want to visit for this purpose niagara tour.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Very informative blog! Rex Tourist Inn Centro (Caramoan Garden) sounds a nice place to stay and relax in Luzon, Philippines. I must want to enjoy their services in my upcoming Philippines tour and want to visit all the attractions mentioned above. I am planning to go there after my niagara falls bus tours from boston.

    ReplyDelete
  9. 2,850?

    magkano yung accomodation nyo sa hotel? and usually magkano ba yun tour? like if 2 persons?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Well, your article is very interesting and informative. Your information on Caramoan is very useful. Thanks for sharing all these information on Caramoan travel. To avail best India tour packages visit http://www.indiabydriverandcar.com

    ReplyDelete

About the Blogger