When we think of the Bicol Region maybe what first comes to mind is the near-perfect cone shape of Mayon Volcano, the whale sharks of Sorsogon, the spicy Bicol Express, or perhaps camping in the rapidly getting popular island of Calaguas.
Acting as a bridge between Southern Tagalog and Eastern Visayas, Bicol serves as a major stop when traveling from Luzon to Visayas and all the way down to Mindanao.
Together with thousands of commuters crossing Bicol every day, there are also thousands of tourists who visit the region to see its many wonderful attractions.
But perhaps less than half of these travelers know that there’s an incredible group of islands in Camarines Sur that are also worth exploring. Or even if they knew, in most cases, many would prefer to visit more popular island destinations such as Boracay and Palawan — thinking that these places easily outrank any islands that are relatively close to Manila.
But going to Caramoan Islands entails a different kind of adventure because reaching the place is not as easy as it looks on the map. It may appear like a set of islands just off Bicol’s eastern coast yet the challenging process of getting there is already a memorable journey in itself. This gives Caramoan a sense of seclusion from the busy world, making it an ideal place to unwind and experience nature’s therapeutic beauty.
But first let’s talk about how to get there.
Caramoan is a coastal town located on the eastern seaboard of Camarines Sur in the Bicol Region. Naga, Camsur’s busiest economic center, is the most common jump off point.
There are two options in going to Naga from Manila:
Getting To Caramoan By Land:
Bus companies like Isarog Lines, Peñafrancia, Raymond, Philtranco, and RSL have terminals in Cubao, Pasay, and Sampaloc. I suggest taking an overnight 9-hour ride from Manila to Naga to avoid traffic jams. Bus fare is around ₱800. Take a trip that departs Manila at around 8:30 PM so that your arrival in Naga will be around 5:30 in the morning of the following day.
From Naga City Central Bus Terminal, ride a tricycle to the van terminal in front of SM Naga. Tell the driver you are going to Sabang Port in the town of San Jose. The van ride from Naga to Sabang Port takes about 1.5 hours and costs around ₱100. Van trips to Sabang leave as early as 6:00 AM.
From Sabang Port in the town of San Jose, take the passenger boat that goes to Guijalo Port in the town of Caramoan. The travel time on the boat is around 2 hours and costs around ₱120.
Take note that the last trip of boats from Sabang Port to Guijalo Port is around 11:00 AM, although this may extend until the early afternoon if there are enough passengers. You may also rent a boat to Guijalo from Sabang which should cost you around ₱3,000 one-way.
Getting To Caramoan By Air:
Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific fly daily from Manila to Naga. Be sure to take the earliest flight. From the airport, take a jeepney or bus to Naga City then a tricycle to the van terminal in front of SM Naga. Then follow the same steps indicated above.
Getting To Caramoan From Catanduanes:
If you find the options above stressful and time consuming then this route is for you.
Fly from Manila to Virac, the capital of Catanduanes Province. Flight time is just about an hour. From Virac Aiport hire a tricycle to Codon Port in the town of San Andres (₱300 one-way). At Codon Port, rent a boat to Guijalo Port in Caramoan which should cost between ₱1,500 to ₱2,000 per way. Codon Port to Guijalo Port takes about 40 minutes to an hour by boat.
You may also choose to directly explore the islands of Caramoan using Codon Port in Catanduanes as your base. A full day island hopping tour should cost around ₱3,000 including the trip back to Codon Port in the late afternoon.
Now that you already know how to get yourself to Caramoan, it’s time to go out and explore the islands!
Top Places To Visit In Caramoan
Pitogo IslandCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
One of the islands closest to Catanduanes, Pitogo is off the usual island hopping route. However, including it in your itinerary won’t be a bad decision because the island offers some of the most spectacular views in the whole of Caramoan.
It is also a good spot for lunch especially if you are fronted by this magnificent scenery.
Guinahoan IslandCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
Often overlooked by visitors to Caramoan, Guinahoan is an agrarian island where locals grow crops and raise farm animals. Here you would expect to see cattle grazing along the grassy slopes with the wide open sea as background, a setting reminiscent of Batanes!
A tall, white lighthouse stands on a hill facing the moody waves of the Philippine Sea. It ushers a 360-degree view of Guinahoan including an immaculate stretch of white sand beach, a mangrove forest, and the azure waters embracing the nearby islands.
Cotivas IslandCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
With small huts providing shade from the sun, Cotivas is a preferred stop for lunch. A small fee is collected to ensure the upkeep of these meek shelters. The place is also ideal for swimming prior to enjoying the sumptuous meal prepared by your boat operator.
Bugtong BeachCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
Bugtong Beach offers some of the nicest swimming spots in Caramoan. With the spotless clear turquoise water gracing its shores, the place is surrounded by what seems to be a giant pool specifically designed for shallow dips.
Dark coralline limestone outcrops decorate the land closest to the beach, with some portions touching the sparkling sea.
Manlawi SandbarCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
When it’s low tide, Manlawi Sandbar turns into a vast expanse of powdery white sand which extends through the horizon. And as the waters rise, the sea begins to paint the colors of turquoise, green, and blue; all smoothly moving away from the coast.
Once the tide reaches its peak, the place instantly transforms into an olympic-size shallow pool, or maybe even more than a dozen of it combined.
Sabitang Laya IslandCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
Triangular in shape with a broad stretch of white sand beach enveloping the two sides, Sabitang Laya with its rather massive size is a common hangout for many island hoppers. Its white sand beach is of great caliber in that it allows the surrounding water to effortlessly glimmer in clarity.
Matukad IslandCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
Easily accessible by a 15-minute boat ride from Caramoan mainland, Matukad has become one of the most visited islands in town. Owing to its generous stretch of white sandy beach complemented by the inviting waters that adorn its shores, it’s a place where many tourists spend a huge chunk of their time. The island is also host to a lagoon where a big solitary fish draws attention from visitors.
Lahos IslandCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
Fronting Matukad, Lahos Island is famous for its two-sided beach which seems to divide the sea in halves; each side providing a breathtaking view of the surrounding islands.
Tayak BeachCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
Attached to mainland Caramoan, Tayak Beach is characterized by a magnificent expanse of white sand contained on both sides by partly vegetated limestone cliffs. These high walls stretch out into the sea shaping an inlet which creates an excellent spot for swimming.
Tayak LakeCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
A short hike through the woods behind Tayak Beach brings one to Tayak Lake, a calm body of water barely separated from the sea. Encircling the tranquil lake are towering rocks hosting greeneries hanging on the cliff sides; a perfect place to meditate and feel nature’s healing vibe.
Hunongan CoveCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
The beach beside Hunongan Cove serves as home to the more private cottages of Gota Beach Resort, meaning their prices are also way above the average. However if you are a guest of the main resort, you are also given exclusive access to the place. It functions as an amazing bumming spot for those who want to avoid the crowd especially during summer.
Kagbalinad IslandCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
Also facing Hunongan Cove, the waters encircling Kagbalinad host some of Caramoan’s best snorkeling sites. From branching, to brain type, to table corals — there’s no way you’ll run out of incredible reefs to explore.
Minalahos IslandCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
The island that lies closest to Gota Village, it offers a nice view of the resort and all the soaring limestone cliffs that surround it.
Caramoan ChurchCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
Located at the town center of Caramoan, Caramoan Church or formally known as St. Michael the Archangel Parish is a brick church established by Franciscan missionaries in 1619. The facade and the side walls gleam to brownish red during a clear sunny day, dramatically highlighting the green vines and moss which naturally thrive in-between the church’s bricks.
Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy RosaryCaramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines
Caglago Mountain in Brgy. Tabgon is the site of Our Lady of Holy Rosary Shrine. Reachable by climbing a 524-step concrete staircase, the 26-foot high Marian statue is said to be the tallest of its kind in the country. And if you’re searching for a magical sunset complete with a panoramic view of the islands, the shrine definitely offers a wonderful spot to end the day.
Where To Stay
If you’re aiming for a private accommodation beside the beach, I highly recommend Gota Village Resort. Although a bit pricey compared to other hotels in town, its wooden cabanas equipped with pampering amenities will surely make your stay in Caramoan unforgettable. The resort also offers island hopping tours as well as adventure activities like rock climbing, cliff diving and spelunking. You may call them at +63 920 967 2942 or visit their website via caramoanislands.com.
For the budget conscious or if you simply want an accommodation near the town proper, you may opt to stay at Rex Tourist Inn (+63 919 882 1879) or Breeze and Waves Cottages (+63 908 291 1072). Both arrange island hopping tours at ₱1,500 to ₱3,000 depending on the distance of the islands.