MANILA, Philippines – With travel restrictions slowly easing, hopping from one place to another is a lot easier. The question is, where to go? Allow me to give you a virtual tour of Bicol’s finest attractions, perfect for all the beach lovers out there!
Expect to feel that unique probinsya vibe with crystalline waters, friendly locals, affordable rates, delicious food, and a laid-back day-to-day.
Caramoan, Camarines Sur
First on the list is Caramoan, a national park and protected area in Camarines Sur. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Caramoan is the place to be.
Located in the Caramoan Peninsula, the park has caves, limestone formations, beaches, islets, and waterfalls.
Gota Beach is the most popular attraction just a few kilometers away from the town proper. The beach’s white sand compares to that of Boracay. You can swim, dive, and snorkel in its clear waters. Tourists can also go camping, rock climbing, kayaking, and island hopping.
Its beauty has even caught the attention of the reality TV show Survivor several times, serving as the setting for American, Israeli, and European seasons.
Only about a 20-minute boat ride from Gota Beach, off the coast of the Caramoan Peninsula, is Matukad Island, where a hidden lagoon lies. A legendary milkfish (bangus) is said to be guarding its waters. Residents of the place often tell the tale of two giant milk fishes that “magically” appeared when a tidal wave filled the limestone formation with water. Some time ago, a man was said to have discovered the place and caught one of the fishes, but his whole family died upon eating it. Since then, no one has dared to catch the other fish, let alone eat it.
The lagoon can be viewed after a steep climb up the rocks, but the 360° view makes the struggle worth it. Here’s the catch: the enchanting milkfishes – yes, another milkfish strangely appeared after that incident – don’t always show up. Consider yourself blessed if you get to see them during your visit.
You can reach the province of Camarines Sur by plane to Naga City or by land with aircon and non-aircon buses traveling daily. From Naga, ride a jeepney or van towards Sabang Port/Talisay Port in San Jose, and catch a motorboat to Caramoan. The locals are friendly, so you can always ask them for instructions on how to get to your destination.
Subic Beach, Sorsogon
Subic Beach in Matnog, Sorsogon is another dream destination for beach bums out there. Its pinkish-white sand makes it unique and popular with tourists.
Subic is located in Calintaan Island, and is divided into two: Subic Laki (Subic Big Beach) and Subic Liit (Subic Small Beach). The two segments are adjacent but hidden from each other. Subic Laki is more developed than its counterpart, with air-conditioned cottages available for tourists. Subic Liit is quieter and more pristine, with only a few huts in the area for accommodation.
You can also try whale watching at the Donsol Whale Shark Interaction Center in Donsol, Sorsogon, where a gentle giant, the whale shark or butanding, reveals itself from November to June each year.
Finally, complete the adventure by surfing at Lola Sayong Surf Camp in Gubat. Managed by a close-knit local community, the surfing spot offers accommodation to travelers and surf enthusiasts. Don’t worry, because the waves are friendly for both beginners and advanced surfers.
You can ride a bus from Manila directly to Matnog or travel by plane and land at Bicol International Airport in Daraga, Albay. Go to Legazpi and from there, take a bus to Sorsogon City and ride a jeepney to Matnog. Then rent a boat towards your destination.
Misibis Bay, Albay
Home to the perfect cone-shaped Mayon Volcano, Albay is a gem to both locals and tourists. If you want a luxurious experience with nature, Misibis Bay is a private getaway tucked into the southern part of Cagraray Island in Bacacay, Albay.
Aside from the long stretch of golden-sand beach, it offers accommodation to guests looking for that exclusive, tropical vibe. With 37 luxurious, Asian-inspired villas with direct access to the pool or a secret path to the beach, Misibis is the right balance of adventure and staycation.
Guests can try land and water activities, such as the ATV, jet ski, kayak, Hobie cat, windsurfing, stand-up paddle, wakeboarding, etc.
You also get to see Mayon Volcano from a distance, enjoy the stars at night, and get a taste of Bicol’s native dishes.
Whether for overnight accommodation or day travel, Misibis can be reached from Manila via a 50-minute flight to Legazpi, followed by either a road ride, private helicopter, or fast watercraft to the private resort.
Calaguas Islands, Camarines Norte
The Calaguas Islands is a group of islands in Vinzons, Camarines Norte. It takes two hours from the mainland to reach its powdery white sand and blue-green waters.
Halabang Baybay/Mahabang Buhangin (Long Beach) is one of the finer attractions located in Tinaga Island. Tourists who enjoy the quiet go camping and swimming in the area. But it doesn’t fall short of other water activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, and island hopping.
Best to go during summer and dry months; tourists can pitch a tent or stay in cottages and resort rooms on the islands.
For DIY travelers, catch a plane from Manila to Naga in Camarines Sur, and get on a two-hour ride to Daet, Camarines Norte. Daet is the jump-off point to Calaguas Islands. Ride a jeepney to Vinzons and get off at the fish port to ride a boat to Barangay Banocboc. From there, hire a boat to take you to the islands.
Binurong Point, Catanduanes
Binurong Point is among the newest attractions in the east of Catanduanes, located in Guinsaanan, Baras. This Batanes-like spot offers a scenic view of the ocean and the mountain ranges surrounding Catanduanes. The best part? It doesn’t cost much!
Binurong is a Bicolano word meaning “healed.” True enough, you might not get to swim in the waters, but the experience is enough to heal your tired spirits. Prepare yourself for an adventure as you go trekking, hiking, and camping, with an almost 360° view of the area.
The best time to go is at dawn to catch the sunrise, after a short trek of about 15-20 minutes from Guinsaanan Proper in Baras. The sun’s rays hitting the sea, the grasslands, and the rock formations are a sight for sore eyes. If you’re feeling lost on your first time, the locals are friendly, and you can ask for official personnel to guide you.
It is not recommended to visit from 9 am to 3 pm unless you want to be burned by the sun’s scorching heat. Tip: bring your umbrella and apply sunscreen.
The start-off point in Baras is one hour away from Virac Downtown, the capital municipality of Catanduanes. Aside from a private car, a motorcycle is the recommended mode of transportation towards Binurong Point.
Here’s a little trivia: locals call the place “Binurong” because they often “buro” or preserve their fishes in the site either by salting or soaking in vinegar.
Halea Nature Park, Masbate
The Halea Nature Park, located in the town of Monreal in Ticao Island, Masbate, is home to a rich underwater ecosystem – giant manta rays, corals, and other diverse aquatic wildlife.
Situated at San Miguel Island, just north of Mababoy and at the extreme northern end of Ticao, this raw, unspoiled wonder has a white sandy beach and turquoise waters, surrounded by lush greens and rock formations. Perfect for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, and chilling, Halea Nature Park is the dream!
There are a few cottages for day and overnight stay, but there are no stores, so bring everything you need for hassle-free travel.
Get to Legazpi City via plane or bus to start your Masbate adventure from Manila. Then take a tricycle to the Legazpi Bus Terminal for a van to Pilar town in Sorsogon. From there, take a ferry to Monreal port.
If you have plans to go to the park, visit the Masbate City Tourism office so they can guide you on your ocean adventure on Ticao Island.
Don’t worry about travel restrictions because the following areas are on Alert Level 2 until March 31, 2022: Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Masbate, and Sorsogon; while Naga City and Catanduanes are on Alert Level 1 until the end of the month.
Check out this Bicol Travel Advisory for the tourist entry rules and requirements per province.
What are you waiting for? Add these enchanting wonders to your bucket list and experience paradise! – Rappler.com
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Euna Regaspi is a Rappler intern under the Life & Style and Entertainment section.