Travel guide: 6 must-see beaches and tourist spots in Catanduanes
"Buoyed by Pasternak's observation of the waves, I see with renewed vigor why 'everything wears their succession.'" But there is more to learn from wave-watching, said editor John Liddy in his poem. And we couldn't agree more.
Thanks to our tour guide, Onyong Pamplona, we were able to see sites in Catanduanes besides the famous surfing site Puraran beach, where we watched the waves high above the ground and at eye-level.
Secluded and natural, you can have this green pool at the edge of Biong beach all to yourselves. Not all tour guides know how to get there – solo traveler we met at Puraran told us he had gotten lost with his local guide.
In summer, the Blue Lagoon is visible opposite the lagoon. A boat ride is possible during that time too. During our visit, we trekked down a slightly steep plain, crossed the Biong shoreline, and climbed the rocky trails to the lagoon.
The last part of the trail offers a close-up view of small, barrel-like waves. Try to pause and be amazed. Climb those front rock walls, too, and see how waves crash off the cliffs. Enjoy with caution.
This vast, hilly landscape has changed roles over time. Our tour guide told us that fish used to be abundant there, that fisherfolks would preserve fresh catches with salt (buro) before they brought them to the mainland. They needed well-preserved food like binurong fish, as the area is prone to typhoons.
It was once a pasture, too: "Itong trails na nilalakaran natin, gawa ito ng mga kalabaw (Carabaos made the trails that we are walking on)," said Kuya Onyong, adding that animals used those natural pools as dipping pools.
Today, it is a favorite spot for catching the sunrise, the sunset, and for watching the waves.
There is a P200 fee for one guide and a P25 entrance fee per person.
Balacay Point is higher but smaller than Binurong Point. Thus, these diverse views: the Pacific on the horizon, Balacay Island on the left, and Benticayan Island on the right. Further, in the northeast, are mountain ranges beyond Baras. Try to spot Puraran beach, too.
There's a P10 entrance fee per person, perhaps for road maintenance. Yes, visitors can now drive up to the hilltop.
Pronounced as Purar-an, this isolated cove in Baras town is famous for surfing. With swells from the Pacific, this is one of the top surfing destinations in the country.
It is also where tourists stay, with several accommodations built beachfront.
Nahulugan Falls and Dororian Falls in Gigmoto are pristine cascades tucked in the island's luscious forest, but are reachable via a bumpy habal-habal or tricycle ride. Nahulugan Falls rarely gets crowded since it is the furthest among 3 waterfalls, while Maribina Falls in Bato is the most accessible.
Based on the map above, there are a lot of these in this province. What you can visit and how many depends on length of stay, vehicle, budget, and the driver's familiarity with those places.
During our experience, our tour guide in Virac was a tricycle driver – Sherwin Vargas (09122602123). We could save time had we toured around via habal-habal, he told us. While he gave us a reasonable deal, he didn't know how to get to some places we wanted to visit (e.g. Mamangal Beach).
But it was all right given the long distance drives we would have had to make from one place to another. So when Kuya Onyong couldn't help it, he tried to kid around with us by asking: "You two can drive? Go replace me here, and I'll be at the back, riding."
Still, he was all smiles.
Things to take note
- There are no standard rates for travel tours in the province, including via tricycle and habal-habal. Try to ask locals how far your destinations are and how much it would cost to get there.
- The local tourism office is at the second floor of the Old Capitol Building in Barangay Santa Elena, Virac.
- Summer is the best time to visit. The waves allow for island hopping and sailing at this time of the year.
- Solybel Traveler's Lodge is a budget-friendly place to stay in Virac. A P160 per night rate includes a single-bedroom, table, small TV, and fan with common toilets and bathrooms.
- Sample the export-quality latik (rice cake with coconut syrup) sold at the market early in the morning. Add biko (sweetened rice cake) and binut-ong (glutinous rice with coconut cream) if you like. Save them for snacks after trekking.
- Museuo de Catanduanes houses heritage and culture-related items. Its location is at the second floor of Old Capitol Building in Barangay Santa Elena, Virac.
- The PAGASA-DOST Weather Radar Station in Buenavista, Bato also provides a panoramic view of Catanduanes.
- There are two ports in Catanduanes: Virac (4 to 5 hours Ro-Ro trip) and San Andres (3 to 4 hours). If by airplane, one airline company flies to Virac from Manila daily (as of April 2017).
- Baras is about a one-hour road trip from Virac. To get there, look for UVs bound for Gigmoto outside the Virac port. Contact for reservation: 09305836544
- Kuya Onyong is also a certified surfing instructor and first-aider. He's also a caretaker of a two-story beachfront house in Puraran which can accommodate 6 to 7 persons, complete with kitchen and bathrooms. You can contact him through the number 09164653676.
Salve and her husband Rey Cabal, locals who reside across Solybel Traveler's Lodge, helped us find a tricycle driver with a better deal. The first tricycle driver we asked offered a one-way tour for P600. Our P500-roundtrip rate included the following:
- Amenia Beach Resort
- Twin Rocks Beach Resort
- Mamangal Beach (if the driver is familiar with the route)
- Virac Town Center for dinner
- City tour