THE BEAUTIFUL PARADISE OF THE WEST PACIFIC COAST - CARAMOAN, CAMARINES SUR, PHILIPPINES
Updated: Oct 20, 2022
The gleaming white and beige sands on the islands' shoreline, the blue ocean water, and the rolling waves of the Pacific come into one place; Caramoan, Camarines Sur, Philippines. The influence of modern technology has no evident adverse impact natural environment landscape because, until now, its serene and pristine beauty remains unspoiled and unexploited.
I recommend visiting Caramoan and discovering its hidden treasures, aesthetic and unconventional vacation experiences, thrills, and excitement unknown to most people. But take note of all the information I have written in this article so as not to keep you expecting beyond what the place can offer and the people can be of service.
Caramoan could be the Pacific tropical paradise of the Central Eastern Philippines if executions of development plans and programs fit without detriment to its environment and ecological biodiversity safeguard.
While other places are crowded with visitors and holiday goers, Caramoan remains a refuge to castaway enthusiasts, island escapade lovers, and nature adventure fanatics. There are already existing commercial tourism and hospitality entities, but the natural scenery remains, especially the places with no resort operating but open for visits. This setup gives the island and nature escapade fanatics a chance to experience communing with nature in a semi-secluded place, yet not distant to any utility accesses.
Suppose you want to go to a place different from the usual. In that case, Caramoan is a good alternative. However, you should not expect to be as fantastic as the well-known destinations in and outside the Philippines. Still, you will surely experience different thrills doing an adventure here.
Way back in the 80s, Caramoan was still a place that was hard to reach. A town whose only transport option was by sea from the port of Sabang, San Jose, and the land transportation option was still never an option.
Governor Luis R. Villafuerte envisioned Caramoan and the entire Camarines Sur province as becoming a Pacific garden. Because of its strategic location in the central part of the Philippines along the west Pacific coastlines, I remember this gentleman and his visions as he was the one to put Camarines Sur on the Philippine tourism map.
Massive promotion and extensive exposure of Caramoan, through any available media outlets, print, and broadcast, was made, and even the staging of a sports competition, the "Tour of Caramoan," a cycling tournament.
The efforts succeeded because they encouraged other local officials and leaders to take them to promote Caramoan and the nearby places and towns of the Partido Area of Camarines Sur.
After three decades of exerting efforts to push for its tourism development plans and programs, the result is now evident to everyone through the concerted efforts of the different leaders and officials in the province.
There were times when the tug-of-war was cropping up about who should make the moves and take the calls to get the credits because of political affiliation differences. Still, at least there are good and beneficial results now.
Caramoan is easily reachable and accessible any time of the day. Having your car now allows you to go anytime you wish. The province of Camarines Sur is moving its pace to make Caramoan and the rest of the Partido District towns on the bucket list of travelers and vacation goers. Caramoan has been on the bucket list, although it is still lagging behind the Philippines and the world's prime destinations.
The last time I set foot in Caramoan was in 2008. We traveled via sea transport from San Jose. During that period, land transport was a second option to travel provided you are driving or riding your private car and should be during summer only.
2022 I came back filled with excitement to experience a new way of travel; the straight trip from Naga City via land transportation. Also, the development took place during those times when I did not visit the town.
Activities You Can Do
Island Hopping, the typical activities
Scuba Diving – I have not tried this during my visit. I have not even connected with any diving school offering a diving package. But, please try this link: https://www.facebook.com/caramoanscubadivingservices/
Other activities like parasailing, jet ski, water recreation, and adventure are still unavailable here.
Islands & Places To Visit
The well-known islands in Caramoan and most visited are:
In my case, I always go and do different ways, so I visited the island other than the five mentioned above. Now, here are my recommended different islands to visit:
1. Lahuy Island
Manlawi Floating Cottages (please see below the additional information)
Isla Soledad Resort
2. Cotivas Island
3. Basot Island
Liwan Beach Areas
Other islands you may consider visiting on your way to Basot and Lahuy are:
Tabgon Mother of Peace Grotto. Please click the below link: https://www.underratedadventures.com/post/tabgon-caramoan-camarines-sur-philippines
Hanopol Dam HANOPOL LAKE, CARAMOAN, CAMARINES SUR, PHILIPPINES (underratedadventures.com)
How To Start The Island Hopping
If you are traveling in a group, you may request the hotel staff to possibly connect you to the Caramoan Tourism Office to facilitate your trip with a guide. Professional Fee to the tour Guide may be required other than the boat rental.
You may ask the assistance of the hotel staff to refer a person they know operating a small boat that you can rent alone.
Once they give you the name, connect with him and arrange for the rental and itinerary.
Ride the motorbike for hire riders to Bikal, Paniman, or Tabgon Port (depends on where the boat operator docks his boat)
If you need a name of a motorbike rider for hire, please continue reading, and at the end of this article, you will find his name. He was my guide and the guy I hired to bring me to different places of interest on the mainland. I gave him a short briefing on being a rider for hire and, simultaneously, as a guide. Even in the pricing of his services charge, I told him never to take advantage at the expense of the visitors and his guest at the same time.
Your take-off point for visiting these islands is Bikal Port. Paniman & Tabgon are another alternative take-off, especially if your accommodation is in these two others.
On the right side picture shows the take-off points; Paniman (upper photo) and Bikal Port (lower photo)
The most exciting fact about the Manlawi sandbar is that it is a tidal island that surfaces during low and submerges during high tides. This unique characteristic of the island is the one that makes the sandbar unique from all the islands and shoals in this peninsular town of Camarines Sur and draws the curiosity of the visitors. Floating cottages are available here for rental.
If you desire to plunge and immerge from and in the water directly from the cottage, enjoy getting swayed by the waves, sensing the touch of the ocean breeze in the middle of the sea; Manlawi Sandbar is the perfect place to do it on Lahuy Island. Floating cottages are available here for rental. Manlawi sandbar is in Barangay Daraga.
Isla Soledad is an island resort with two different ocean waves mood; tranquil on one side and splashy to rough waves on the other side of the resort.
Here, the guests have the luxury of choosing the sea condition they want to plunge in. On the eastern side, exciting waves rush in calm weather that gets rougher during the windy season or when there is impending nasty weather. At the same time, the western side gives you clear, calm seawater that allows you to see the ocean bed under its crystal-clear water.
Exquisitely dazzling from afar as the green forest and beige fine sands reflect the sunlight; an advent manifestation of why this island draws thousands of crowds every day despite being just an island without any support facilities and utilities. It promises nothing but an enjoyable experience and beautiful sights to see around.
Find out more: COTIVAS ISLAND, PHILIPPINES (underratedadventures.com)
The green mountains and flickering white and beige sugary-fine sands on its shorelines and beach areas are just a few of its unique topographic characteristics that make the island distinctive from the rest. Basot island possesses a profuse potential in the tourism business not just in the municipality or province but in the entire Philippines.
The eastern paradise in the Province of Camarines Sur is on the West Pacific coast. It is among the Caramoan's outer islands east of the mainland and southeast of Lahuy Island and belongs to the barangay Daraga in Lahuy.
Find out more: BASOT ISLAND, PHILIPPINES (underratedadventures.com)
Boat Rental Cost
For the island hopping boat rental, the price for the whole day is P2500.00
- Boat's maximum Capacity is 12 passengers
- But, following the municipal tourism rules for safety, each boat is limited to 8 passengers, excluding the crew.
- More than eight passengers, you need to rent two boats.
- Passengers should all be provided with a life vest by the boat operators
- You can arrange the boat rental at the Bikal port/boat terminal.
Road Networks in Lahuy Island
The road networks in Caramoan from the town proper to the different take-off points are excellent and accessible, especially by motorcycle bike.
Each island has no potable water supply source.
The drinking water supplies are from the mainland; hence, you must bring your drinking water.
No available stores to buy something to eat on most of these islands, so make sure to bring adequate water and food packs for your whole day's adventure.
There are areas with excellent mobile phone and internet signal
But there are areas with poor signal or dead spots.
What To Expect During Island Hopping
During high tide, the sea trip may go well but expect a slower run because of a strong current and waves the boat needs to deal with along the way.
During low tide, the trip may go faster. Still, the skippers would take extra precautions to ensure that the boat would not skid to the ocean floors because there are plenty of shallow areas.
Traveling at a low tide would allow you to see the ocean floors with corals and seaweeds and the sudden drop in the water depth of the underwater escarpment.
During high tide, waves may be big and strong that could give you thrills and rock your nerves, but you will not be traveling on a distant far from each of the islands.
Click the arrow tab to see the other images of Caramoan:
HOW TO GET TO CARAMOAN
Book a trip to Naga City from Manila or anywhere in the Philippines
It would help if you were in Naga City at least a day or a night before your trip to Caramoan. If you arrive a day before, you can also have the chance to roam around the city and pay homage to Our Lady of Penafrancia Basilica (for Catholic travelers). So, I recommend booking a hotel in Naga City for one night.
On arrival, proceed to SM Naga City and look for the vans traveling to Caramoan. (I cannot give you as of writing because they have no permanent parking location there. But they are standing by in SM Naga.) Upon knowing the site, you can proceed with your brief city tour.
Once you find the location, discuss with the driver your trip for the next day. They can help you connect with the possible driver scheduled to drive the trip. They can even fetch at the hotel you are staying.
If you arrive in Naga City in the evening, proceed immediately early in the morning to SM Naga to look for the vans plying to Caramoan.
Much better if you book a hotel close to SM Naga. There are three hotels nearby within walking distance only. Please check in Google.
4. Tell the driver to drop you at the hotel you reserved for your trip on your trip. They will
do it for you. You can even arrange to pick yourself up at the hotel for your journey
back to Naga City.
5. Aircon van trip will take you 3 hours travel time only. Please bring with you something
to eat and drinks during the journey.
Author's Impression To Caramoan
Places of Interest
Charming beaches with sugary-fine sands.
Fascinating islands and rock formations
Uncrowded resorts and places of attraction – Visitors could have the chance to experience being castaway for a day, alone or away from the noisy beach goers.
Unspoiled forest and green mountains – Biodiversity in the ecosystem remains as manifested by the dense forest areas and the presence of wild animals.
Be ready for the loud sound of cicadas hissing altogether inside the forest. It is perhaps deafening, but I find it cool.
6. Tourist-friendly residents
The availability of transport services going to the different places of the peninsular mainland (motorbike riders for hire) is never a problem. There are riders for hire, ready and willing to bring you.
Availability of motorboats for hire going to the different islands for the islands hopping adventure.
A direct trip via land transport from Naga City to Caramoan is now possible. It has become the primary option of the transportation system.
There are buses and aircon vans for hire plying the route.
Hotels, tourist inns, and lodging houses are available; on beach sides or inside the mainland. (standard class only, no 5-star rated)
Eateries to dine in are available but do not expect a classy type.
Mobile phone and internet signals are available in most parts of the town. There are areas with low to no signals, though.
The overcrowded ordinary bus trip from Naga City to Caramoan
Riding a common bus takes 4-6 hours from Naga City to Caramoan.
I don't recommend traveling to Caramoan via ordinary bus, because it gives you all the inconveniences you can imagine in taking a long trip to remote places. In my experience, the journey from Naga City to Caramoan took us 6 hours.
From Naga City to Goa – It was perfect.
From Goa to Caramoan – Horrible. I paid for two seats so that I would have a space for my backpack beside me. I eventually gave it to one passenger because the bus was overcrowded. It is unsafe for a passenger vehicle cruising steep climbs, sharp curves with ravines, and road rolling down the hill.
I recommend traveling via an air-conditioned van. It is convenient and safer than the ordinary bus.
Hotel rates are higher than the rates in Manila. But the facilities and amenities are lower than the standard hotels in Manila.
I am describing this based on my personal experience. I booked a single standard room in one of the tourist inns with the room rate of P1,500.00 plus taxes per night. But to my disappointment:
The room size was just half of the floor area of the standard hotel in Manila with the same rate of P1,500.00.
The small bathroom is triangular and has no mirror (like a monastery, no mirror available).
No chair is available inside.
No locker for your clothes and stuff.
The room is fit for single bed size. The only space remaining was a space for you to stand beside the bed.
The flooring when I walked was bouncing.
The receptionists and other staffs of the hotel I stayed at were all friendly and accommodating. But I was disappointed when I raised the issue; all they could do was apologize to me for the situation.
No souvenir items locally made from the town are available, except the items for sale at the hotel, usually t-shirts.
I tried looking at the town proper for a product from the town, but all I could find was the exact product sold in Naga City, except "Walis Tambo."
To The Travelers
For solo travelers, here are my suggestions of things to do before traveling to Caramoan:
Scout a hotel, tourist inn, or any lodging facility that will cater to your needs according to what you intend to do during your stay in Caramoan.
If you want beachside accommodation, you need to verify with the hotel if they are on the beachside or not.
Ask the hotel to recommend a boat to rent for your island hopping—also a land transport service for your tour around the mainland of Caramoan.
Naga City is the take-off point to Caramoan, so ride the aircon van vehicles. Never try riding the ordinary bus; otherwise, be ready to suffer all the inconveniences to experience beyond your imagination. An aircon van will take you 3 hours ride from Naga City, which is convenient and enjoyable. While ordinary will end up 6 hours ride, like what I had experienced, it would make you never feel about returning to Caramoan.
The aircon vans to Caramoan are standing by at SM Naga City.
Tell the aircon van driver to drop you at the hotel you booked as a guest. They will bring you there.
On your arrival at the hotel, discuss with the hotel staff your plans. Ask them to recommend the people they know are safe to ride with and responsible.
Somehow, they can help you join with another group staying in the same hotel; you can give your share for the rental if ever, and it will save you from spending the higher rental cost.
Anticipate that the accommodation rates in Caramoan make no difference and sometimes, to some extent, are higher than the hotel rates in Manila (standard hotel). My rate comparison is based on the room size, facilities, and amenities. I booked a standard room in one of the tourist inns for P1500.00 per night plus taxes. But I was surprised because the room was almost half the size of a standard hotel in Manila I stay in whenever I travel to Manila and need accommodation at the same rate. A small room just enough to fit a single bed, small bathroom, and without even a mirror and a shelf to put your stuff. Not all the hotels maybe are in the same terrible condition, but I am putting this on note based on my experience in that hotel.
Some buses travel directly from Manila to Caramoan. But I don't recommend doing it; however, on your personal decision, you may inquire from them at the booking office in PITX, Pasay. Raymond Bus Company is the company that has a direct trip.
Buses from Naga to Caramoan are at the Naga City Bus Terminal.
To LGU & Other Concerned Government Agencies
Transportation Safety & Convenience
Intense Regulation of the Public Transport To Caramoan. Prohibit the overcrowding and overloading of ordinary buses. The danger posed to the travelers riding the overloaded buses while cruising the steep curves and ravines on the mountain road.
Periodic inspection of the engine condition should not be treated in a lax manner. The need to determine whether the bus unit is still fit for carrying passengers on the high-altitude mountain roads. Once found to have been unfit for a passenger trip – do not allow them.
I got my nerve rocked while the bus was climbing in Maligaya point from Presentacion. The engine sounds make no difference to a person fighting for his last breath.
LGU & Tourism Stakeholders
To sustain and increase the visitor influx, Caramoan needs to create, introduce and offer more tourism products. This way will continuously attract new visitors and encourage them to come back.
During my visit, the only products available besides swimming are island hopping and sightseeing. Sadly, I didn't know, and not known publicly, should there be other products available, so I wasn't able to try it.
Improve the accommodation facility. While the other accommodation facilities may be offering at least the standard quality and class, my experience at the hotel where I stayed was a turn-off impression to the visitors from another place. I would not have wondered if the accommodation was a home-stay or adopt-a-visitor type. I can stand staying in a small room and small bathroom. However, a small bathroom with no mirror in a Tourist Inn? ….. That's Ooooohsome!
Special thanks to the motor rider who was my guide and my driver, Mr. Roger, aka "Bisaya." In case you need his service, you may connect with him at +63950 148 8714