Islands and Beaches

Calaguas: Paradise in Camarines Norte

, Camarines Norte

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Renzelle Ann Palma | May 27, 2014

To get to this hidden paradise, I had to travel for nine hours by land to Paracale, Camarines Norte, and another hour and a half of a rough boat ride to the Calaguas group of islands.

Then there it was -- Mahabang Buhangin, a picturesque piece of heaven on earth.

Getting there isn't easy. Driving to the Bicol region from Manila requires a lot of patience. It's a winding road once you get to Camarines Norte, so make sure your car is in a very good condition. A nine-hour drive down south can make you hungry, so bring lots of water and snacks.

There are two points of entry to the Calaguas islands: the towns of Paracale and Vinzons. For this trip, our group traveled to Paracale, a quaint town in the province's northern part.

A fisherman’s boat was ready to take us to paradise, but not with comfort. The hour and a half boat ride literally soaked us wet. Since we were going against the current, splashes of water came right at us with every big wave. The boat ride was an adventure in itself.

Tip: Make sure to bring large plastic bags; in our case, they provided us with big black garbage plastic bags to cover our backpacks, especially our gadgets. No picture taking for this ride, unless if you have an underwater camera. Secure your things because they'll be soaking wet if you don’t look after them.

For a tourist friendly ride, take the Vinzons route. The town's port offers a friendlier boat ride experience. The boats are unlike those in Paracale; the only catch is that the ride from Vinzons is farther.

The Paracale to Calaguas route takes an hour and a half, and because of there are more islands in the area, the waves are much calmer. On the other hand, the route from Vinzons will take more than two hours.

Upon arriving at Mahabang Buhangin, the unspoiled beauty all around me made me forget all the hardships in getting there. Everything was worth it. The 1.2-km stretch of pure white sand with a scenic view of hills and scattered islands is a sight to behold. Mahabang Buhangin has the longest stretch of white sand beach in all of the islands of Calaguas.

And on the island, we got back to the basics. Tents served as our house, a poso (water pump) as our water source, the beach as our playground, the white sand as our bed. Countless stars filled our night sky, and the moon was our light before we closed our eyes.

Note that there was almost no signal (cellphone) activity on the island, which I think adds to the charm of the place.

Tip: There's a spot on the island which the locals call the "phone booth." It's the only spot where, at most, a signal bar can be obtained. The thing is, you'll have to trek up a hill to get the elusive signal, so make sure to settle and call everyone that you have to talk to before making your way to paradise.

Trekking is also one activity you can do on the island. Climb the hills of Calaguas and take in the ocean view from the top. Bring comfortable clothes, shoes, and water for this activity.

With my trips, I try to discover where the heart of the place is. And in this paradise, it took an hour's walk to find it: its barangay (village). Happy smiles and playful children welcomed us. Bahay kubos (nipa huts) with colorful gardens dominated the area.There, I got to socialize and see how the locals lived a simple life.

Fishing is the main source of income, and fresh seawater fish are sold to travelers.

TIP: Mingle with the locals and discover how friendly they are. The kids are quite shy but will always give a smile. Bargain for the freshly caught fish; not only are these delicious but you can also help the livelihood of the locals. There are also freshly picked fruits and vegetables available. The locals have lots of stories to tell.

No amount of superlatives can describe the beauty of Calaguas. The local government even dares to say that their place is very similar to Boracay from 30 years ago. This untapped paradise is a must-see for every Filipino. I just wish that it remains as it is, untouched, unspoiled, 30 years from now.

The best time to enjoy Calaguas is from February to September.

The best way to take the trip is to avail yourself of packages from tourist operators, because boat rides to the island are unpredictable. It's safe to schedule your trip with government-accredited tour operators.

The Calaguas packages include:

Php 2,200 ($52) per person, overnight (minimum of 12)

  • Boat ride from Paracale or Vinzons (back and forth)
  • Tents
  • Three meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
  • Drinking water
  • Assistance, guide, security at the island

Php 3,400 ($79) per person, overnight (minimum of 12)

  • Bus ride from Manila (back and forth)
  • Boat ride from Paracale or Vinzons (back and forth)
  • Tents
  • Three meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
  • Drinking water
  • Assistance, guide, security at the island

To contact:

  • Provincial Tourism Office, Daet, Camarines Norte
  • Call (054)721-3087 for further info about Calaguas Travel
  • Email at [email protected]

To get there:

By bus:

  • From Manila, take the bus to Daet; Philtranco and Superlines run buses to Daet.
  • 8 hours, Php 560 ($13), aircon bus
  • From Daet, take a public van to Paracale or Vinzons

By plane:

  • From Manila, there are regular flights to Naga
  • From Naga, take the 90-minute bus or van ride to Daet, Camarines Norte
  • From Daet, take a public van to Paracale or Vinzons
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