The group of islands of Calaguas is so far the best beach getaway for those who prefer a serene beach in Camarines Norte - having a powdery white sand and remotely far from the mainland. Currently, the condition of the the island is rapidly changing due to commercialization. Schadow1 Expeditions has prepared this travel guide to give an unbiased account of our experience to our readers and how to be able to get to Calaguas in the most efficient and comfortable way possible.
Calaguas Group of Islands is located 28 to 34 kilometers away from the shores of Camarines Norte. It is composed of seventeen islands and islets. All but one of the islands are within jurisdiction of the town of Vinzons. One island, Maculabo, is under the jurisdiction of the town of Paracale. The most notable of all the islands is Tinaga because of its long white beach called as Mahabang Buhangin.
Commuting via Air
You may book for a flight bound to Daet to which the air travel lasts to about 45 minutes; and from the airport, ride a jeepney/bus to Vinzons or Paracale to arrange a boat ride.
Commuting via Land
Calaguas can be reached via Paracale or Vinzons. Whether you will be using Paracale or Vinzons as the jump-off, you need to ride a bus bound to Daet, Camarines Norte if you will be coming from Manila. Superlines, Amihan, Philtranco and DLTB buses have hourly buses going to Daet starting 5PM to 9PM. The travel time to Daet is about 9 hours.
From Manila, you may ride a bus to Daet and ride a jeepney to Vinzons from the terminal which only costs Php 12. There are two fish ports in Vinzons that provide boat ride to Calaguas. One is at Doongan fish port (coordinates 14.17743N 122.90583E) and Hagdang Bato first port (coordinates 14.18192N 122.90747E). You may use either ports and they charge Php2500 to Php 3000 for a group of up to 6 people to get to Calaguas. There are also those who offer as low as Php 200 per pax on a bigger boat. Just simply ask around.
(coordinates 14.28180N 122.79085E)
If you plan to use Paracale as the jump-off port to Calaguas, you may ride a bus bound to Daet, Panganiban or direct to Paracale (which is not that often). If riding a Panganiban-bound bus, you may drop off to Talobatib Junction (coordinates 14.18265N 122.78443E), which is about 45-minutes away from Daet, and ride a tricycle worth Php 200 for a special trip to Paracale port or to Paracale-bound mini-buses for Php25 where you still need to ride a tricycle from Paracale town to the port for only Php 8. Earliest trip of these mini-buses is at 5:30AM which arrives at an interval of 2 hours. You may also drop-off at Batobalani junction (coordinates 14.2358N 122.7412E) which is nearer to Paracale and you may ride the same mini-buses and tricycle from there. If you are in a Daet-bound bus, you can only drop-off at Talobatib.
Paracale port was once the choice of backpackers to get the cheapest and shortest ride to Calaguas as compared to using the ports in Vinzons as this town is a more laid-back town and is only 28 kilometers away from Calaguas. Before, you can hitch a boat ride to locals going to Paracale for only Php75 to Php100 per person. But as of April 2014, the locals have already put up a cooperative which strictly standardized the rates and had their own queuing system, thus those who have had independently called on their personal boatman contacts would be blocked from the port and will be forced to stay in line and pay the standard price. Although this new policy would supposedly give equal opportunities to boatmen in Paracale due to impartiality and standardized rates, their organization is still young and is currently unorganized and causing impediments to travelers.
They have also sharply increased their rates higher than those in Vinzons and even in Caramoan. In fact, even higher in Coron, Palawan. As of May 2014, the cheapest boat ride you can get is Php 3,000 for a group of 4 and is only inclusive for a direct trip to Mahabang Buhangin. If you plan to go island hopping to Maculabo or other islands in Calaguas, you would need to pay an extra. This price range even exceeded the price at Caramoan which is only Php 1500 to Php 2500 for up to 6 people and already includes island hopping to up to 7 islands. Even exceeded the Calumbuyan Island tour in Coron which costs Php 3500 for up to 6 people that lets you visit 3 island destinations.
Aside from the boat tour, you would also need to pay an environmental fee for Paracale worth Php 25 even if Paracale port itself has no amenities, a residential area and with a dirty shoreline.
Aside from the extravagant boat fees and unnecessary environmental fee, probably we were just unlucky, but the boatman we hired even got drunk ahead when we stayed in the island and has been bugging us to do an island hopping tour for an extra price. Good thing other tour operators and boatmen from Vinzons on Mahabang Buhangin was there to convince the boatman to get off.
All of these concerns were escalated to their cooperative, Paracale Tourist Boat Operator Association PTBOA (coordinates 14.28128N 122.78946E), and I was able to talk to Butch. He promised that they will hold a meeting about the incident and re-think about their prices. However as of this point, Paracale is not advisable as a jump-off port to Calaguas unless they improve on their services that correspond to the extravagant price they recently offer.
Standard prices at Paracale as of May 2014:
- Php 3000 - 4 persons below
- Php 4000 - 5-7 passengers
- Php 6000 - 8-10 passengers
- Php 8000 - 11-15 passengers
- Php 12,000 - 16-20 passengers
- Php 15,000 - 21 passengers
- Php 20 - environmental fee per pax
Calaguas is very different now as it was three years ago. From a remote and serene island, it has been a noisy island especially on weekends when tour operators started bringing in generators to supply electricity for sound systems and strobe lights for parties which lasts until 2:00AM. More people are coming to the island especially on weekends. Some sort of accommodations are also available when they started putting up cottages at the center of the long beach. Although the beach remains to be pristine and clean, if not controlled, sooner or later the island may be filled with garbage if not properly collected or taken by the tourists as they leave the island. Some groups have already taken advantage of the situation; and one example is the exorbitant fees Paracale has started to implement recently on their transportation.
For those who are expecting Calaguas to be a serene beach, the best time to get here would be now before it transforms to be a beach party hub.
Although the northernmost side of the Mahabang Buhangin Beach already has a cottage and tent accommodation (Kagedama-Agri Beach Resort), it is still advisable to bring your own tents or hammocks as it easily becomes crowded especially on weekends.
A toilet with fresh water supply that you need to pump from the deep well is available at the resort. There are toilets on other parts of the beach.
Barangay Mangkawayan which is at the other side of Tinaga Island has variety stores where you can buy supplies at a hefty price. It is suggested that you instead bring in your personal supplies such as potable water and food before you get to the island.
There are various tour operators offering packages to the island. There are those that bring people there for beach parties and these are the tour operators I personally discourage as they destroy the serene image of the island. There are also those that simply provide basic necessities such as tents and food; and those that also offer more such as a tour around the island and nearby islets plus other activities.
If you are the DIY type of traveler just like me, it doesn't work efficiently on Calaguas as of this time due to the incident in Paracale. To save cost, it would be more efficient to join in groups or acquire the services of tour operators to which the standard rate ranges from Php 2,000 to 2,500 per pax all in. Calaguas Atbp., a tour operator in the island based in Daet has been very helpful to us in the island. Although we have not acquired their services (but it happened that we stayed near their area), the organizers have been very helpful to us and even shared with us the delicious Bicolano food they cooked. They offer additional services such as kayaking, snorkeling, hiking guidance and a short tour to Balagbag Islands. For info on their tour services, you may contact Jerome at +63 (946) 7087445 or Annie at +63 (912) 3829007.
Things to do
Calaguas Group of Islands is comprised of 17 islands and islets, thus, island hopping is one of the activities in Calaguas. Ask your boat operator if they offer this service. The best islands to visit would be Tinaga, which is the main island where Mahabang Buhangin (coordinates 14.4766N 122.9392E) is located. Other islands would be the Balagbag Islands (which is very near Tinaga), Guintinua, Cagbalasay and Maculabo. All of those mentioned have white beaches similar to those that are in Tinaga.
Tinaga Island is an island of rolling hills. Aside from the long beach of Mahabang Buhangin, you can trek to the hills (coordinates 14.48330N 122.94090E) which are primarily grasslands, and enjoy the view of the turquoise sea and the beach below.
Snorkeling near the small rock formation of the northernmost part of the beach is one of the great things to do here as small fishes gets trapped during low tide. Additionally, as the beach faces west, you can watch in amazement due to its stunning sunset.
You may also visit the natural unlimited pool (as tour operators call it); and is located between the rocky shores of Balagbag.
This is our personal breakdown of costs per pax on a 2D1N stay at Calaguas when we used Paracale as the jump-off port which we discourage as of the meantime. You may be able to save more if you use the boat ports in Vinzons.
- Non-airconditioned Bus from Pasay to Talobatib Junction - Php 433
- Talobatib to Paracale (special tricycle ride) - Php 100
- Paracale boat to Tinaga Island and back (for a group of 4, per pax breakdown) - Php750
- Paracale's "environmental fee" - Php 25
- Tinaga Island environmental fee - Php 25
- Overnight stay fee on Tinaga's Kagedama-Agri Resort - Php 150/night
- Tent pitching fee on Tinaga's Kagedama-Agri Resort - Php 100
- UV Express ride from Paracale to Daet - Php 60
- Airconditioned Bus from Daet to Pasay - Php 501
- Food supplies - Php 150
Total expenses: Php 2,294
8:00PM - bus leaves at Pasay terminal
5:00AM - arrive Talobatib
5:30AM - arrive Paracale
7:30AM - arrive Tinaga Island. Enjoy the island, trek to the hills
2:00PM - leave Tinaga Island
4:00PM - arrive Paracale
4:45PM - arrive Daet then have a small food trip around the city.
7:00PM - catch a bus back to Manila
5:00AM - arrive Manila
This travel guide has been a result of our mapping expedition to Calaguas and the towns of Paracale, Vinzons and Daet. All in Camarines Norte. The mapping data has been contributed to +OpenStreetMap Philippines. A map based from Openstreetmap data is being generated by Schadow1 Expeditions in a regular basis which can be used with your GPS navigation devices to guide you on your travels. This is so a Filipino would not be a stranger to his own motherland. The map is downloadable for free at our #mapPHL page.
Google Maps (link)
Schadow1 Expeditions Contributions (link)
How to use for your Navigation System (link)
For other information on our Calaguas, Paracale, Vinzons and Daet, Camarines Norte mapping expeditions, you may read on our related articles below.
- Discovering Calaguas - a mapping expedition
- Travel Guide to Calaguas Islands
- Experiencing Paradise through Calaguas Atbp