Philippine tourism

Bicol beach trip! Your guide to vacationing in Catanduanes and Caramoan

Joshua Berida

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Bicol beach trip! Your guide to vacationing in Catanduanes and Caramoan
One of the reasons Caramoan became a prominent tourist spot is because it was one of the shooting locations of the hit reality TV show 'Survivor'!

If you’re planning to visit two municipalities in one trip, consider Catanduanes and Caramoan. It’s possible to do a day trip to Caramoan from Catanduanes.

Catanduanes got its nickname “Land of the Howling Winds” because of its location along the path of typhoons. This municipality in Bicol doesn’t get as much attention as it should. It’s home to great biodiversity, old churches, beautiful beaches (perfect for relaxing and/or surfing), and stunning landscapes. 

One of the reasons Caramoan became a prominent tourist spot is because it was one of the shooting locations of the hit reality TV show Survivor. In my opinion, Caramoan deserves the attention even if it didn’t become a location for a TV show. The group of islands has many beautiful beaches and lagoons worth visiting.

Getting into Catanduanes 

By air

The simplest and most convenient way to reach Catanduanes is by airplane. Cebu Pacific has regular flights from Manila to Virac. Book your tickets during their promotions to get the lowest possible prices.

By land and sea

If you’re up for a long trip, you have the option to take the bus to Tabaco. Buses for this route depart from Alabang, Pasay or Cubao. The fare for the bus is around P840+++ depending on the type and company. You also have the option to take a non-air-conditioned bus, which is cheaper. From Tabaco, make your way to the port. The ferry to Virac costs around P240 to P320 and you also must pay a terminal fee of around P30. The trip takes around four hours. 

Best time to visit

The best time to visit depends on whether you like to surf or just relax on the beach. The peak summer season from March to May is ideal for beachgoers while August to October is the best time for surfing. For this itinerary, summer season is the best time to visit because you’ll be riding a boat to Caramoan from Catanduanes.

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Getting around 

There are jeeps, vans, and tricycles that can take you around the city, or you can rent your own vehicle if you want a convenient way to explore on your own. Taking public transportation is an affordable option. The fare is up to P100 depending on the destination and the type of vehicle. However, the schedule is erratic because they only leave when they’re full. Even if you take public transportation to your chosen destination, you’ll have a difficult time getting to other places because of the erratic schedule. You can rent a van for around P3,000. This is an ideal option for large groups who want to save money and maximize their time. If you know how to ride a motorcycle, you can rent one for around P650 a day. Another option is to hire a tricycle for around P500 to P1,500. The price for hiring a tricycle varies depending on your itinerary.


You have several beaches, churches, waterfalls, and viewpoints to choose from during your trip to both Catanduanes and Caramoan.

This itinerary assumes you start with one full day.

Day 1

Pristine Mamangal Beach. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

If you planned your trip in advance, chances are you’ll arrive early in the morning by airplane from Manila. Head straight to your accommodation and leave your bag/s for a day of beach-hopping to locations near Virac. The beaches in Catanduanes are pristine and underrated. Regardless of your mode of transportation, your itinerary may include beaches such as Mamangal, Marilima, Balite, and Twin Rock. Twin Rock has a resort where you can spend the night if you didn’t book a place to stay in Virac and would rather stay near the beach. It got its name from the two rock formations you’ll see jutting out from the waters. Mamangal, Marilima, and Balite all have gold-tinged shores and clear waters to swim in. I personally liked Mamangal Beach during my visit. The water was glass-like and the sand powdery. Take as much time as you want relaxing, swimming, beach-bumming, reading a book, have a picnic (leave no trace behind), sunbathing, etc.

Twin Rock Beach. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

*You can bring your own food for your day trip to the beaches or eat brunch before leaving. 

Day 2

Centuries-old Bato Church. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Spend your second day exploring Bato and its nearby attractions. Bato Church is one of the oldest churches in the province. The parish and the original structure dates to the 16th century but the stone church only dates to the 1830s. Take a dip in Maribina Falls after your short visit to the church, then make your way to Sakahon Beach. Hang out by the beach and/or make your way up Bote Lighthouse for overlooking views of the coast. If you have the time and budget, you can add Puraran Beach and Binurong Point in Baras. Puraran is famous as a surfing destination while Binurong Point provides visitors with spectacular views.

Day 3

If you’re lucky, your group might be the only people on Katanhawan Island. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

It’s possible to do a day trip to Caramoan from Catanduanes. Try to leave as early as possible to make the most out of the day. If you’re staying somewhere in Virac, make your way to Codon Port. You can rent an entire tricycle for around P300 to P400 for up to four people. At the port, you can negotiate a rate with the boatmen you meet. Prices normally start at around P3,000+++ depending on the size of the boat, the number of your group, and the islands you’d like to visit. During my excursion, my friend and I managed to visit Matukad Island, Lahos Island, Tayak Island, Katanhawan Island, and Pitogo Island. 

Matukad Island lagoon. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

The views you’ll see as you approach the group of islands are similar to those you’ll see in Palawan, with towering limestone formations rising out of the water. Matukad Island’s main draw is the lagoon, which you’ll only see by climbing up the rocks. Tayak Island has a lake where you can swim in. The other islands boast of pristine shores and stunning beach views. The guide will also show you some spots where the contestants of Survivor camped out during the show’s filming. 

Tayak Island. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

*Bring your own drinks and food but take your trash with you when you leave the islands. 

Tayak Island. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Day 4

The flight back to Manila is early; get ready the day before and buy souvenirs (if you want to) early. Check out and make your way to the airport. If you’re taking the ferry back to mainland Luzon, you’ll have a few hours to spend before it leaves. 

How much will you spend?

Marilima Beach’s alluring waters. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Your projected budget for visiting some places in Catanduanes and Caramoan is around P8,500 per person with at least two people traveling together. This covers accommodation in Virac, renting a tricycle to visit attractions, some entrance and parking fees, food and drinks, and boat rental for island hopping in Caramoan. This excludes flight or bus and ferry tickets to reach Virac. You could spend less depending on where you decide to stay, eat, or how you get around. You’ll save money if you know how to ride a motorcycle. You have some options on where to eat during your visit. There are local eateries, small restaurants, cafes, bakeries, grocery stores, and yes, there’s a Jollibee in Virac. –

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