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This Tropical Paradise in Camarines Norte is Worth the Trip

by Nikki Ignacio

Choosing a favorite Philippine beach is a nearly impossible task, when you have over 7,000 islands brimming with dreamy coastlines.

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If we were to narrow it down to Luzon alone, Bicol holds some of the best beaches due to its rich, volcanic soil that not only yields fertile land throughout the region, but also breathtaking reefs and coastlines. While it’s almost cruel to declare which Bicol beach is the actual best (you’ll be in awe at the number of white sand/blue water beaches that dot the region), here’s an uncontended favorite so far that is worth every butt-numbing transport mode transfer: Calaguas.

Calaguas is a group of islands in Camarines Norte, off the municipalities of Vinzons and Paracale. It’s been dubbed one of the “new Boracay” beaches for obvious reasons: its pristine nature in photos and IRL, and its relative remoteness. One of its major islands, Tinaga, is home to the increasingly popular (but still relatively secluded) Mahabang Buhangin Beach—a literally long stretch of fine, pink-tinged white sand blessed by the Pacific with clear waters that are as cool and clean as their gradient turquoise-blue hues look. The absence of rocks and corals on the first few meters of Mahabang Buhangin Beach makes it the perfect swimming spot. You should still pack your swim shoes and sandals if you plan to hike or explore the rocky parts of Tinaga and the other islands, but for the most part of your trip, your feet will be treated to fine, buttery sand.

Being a 2-hour boat ride from the mainland, it’s a serene paradise for people looking for a memorable beach break that’s gonna be hard to topple off of your “ultimate beach experiences” list. While it may resemble Boracay for the qualities mentioned, it has a unique magic all on its own.

Getting There

By Plane (via Naga Airport)

While there is no direct flight to the islands, you can shorten the land trip by taking a plane to Naga (starts at approx. ₱3,000/roundtrip). From Naga, take a van to Daet, the capital of Camarines Norte for around ₱200/head (travel time: approximately 2 hours). From Daet, you can opt to go to the fish port in either Vinzons (get there via take, approximately 30 minutes travel time) or Paracale (get there via van for around ₱100-200/head, approximately 1 to 2 hours travel time). Both fish ports are docked with boats that can take you to Mahabang Buhangin Beach for for around ₱300 to ₱1000 per head, depending on the number of people you can split the total fare with.

By Land (from Manila)

If you don’t mind the long bus ride, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful scenery—all 8 to 10 hours of it! Bus companies like Superlines, Amihan, Philtranco and DLTB offer regular trips starting from ₱500 per seat from Manila to Daet. Except for the occasional traffic jam here and there, (particularly while passing through Quezon), the road trip adds to the whole experience. Just make sure to take either a super early or super late trip, when the roads are less busy and the trip is bound to be shorter. And don’t forget to keep your bladder empty if your bus doesn’t have a bathroom!

Don’t have the luxury of time or experience to commit to a full-blown adventure? Luckily for you, there are several tour groups that offer packaged tours that can take care of your transport, food, and lodging depending on your budget and needs. Make sure to read reviews and scout around for the best prices.

Accommodations

Camping

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If you want to kick it the way backpackers used to several years before the legit resorts were established, bring a lightweight tent, a portable stove, and lightweight food supplies to add some street cred to your survival skills. You may be charged a minimal pitching fee (₱100-200/tent) depending on which resort oversees the area you choose to set up camp in, and bathroom is shared. Don’t forget to gather all your supplies before leaving Daet!

Individual Budget Breakdown for a 4D/3N Camping Stay:*
Transport (roundtrip): ₱2,500 (including roundtrip to/from Manila)
Accommodation: ₱300
Food: ₱700
Total cost per head: ₱3,500
*exclusive of environmental fee which varies on resort/camp

Resort Lodging

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Can’t be bothered to do too much planning and packing? No sweat—there are a couple of resorts for you to choose from. If you’re feeling fancy, check out the modern Calaguas Island Paradise Resort or the tropical-themed Waling-Waling Eco Resort, which is a mid-budget favorite because of their reasonably priced package offers.

CALAGUAS ISLAND PARADISE RESORT
Approximate individual budget for a 4D/3N Stay:
Transport (roundtrip): ₱4,800 to ₱6,800 (including roundtrip airfare to/from Manila)
Accommodation and food: ₱6,000
Total cost per head: ₱10,800 to ₱12,800

WALING-WALING ECO RESORT
Approximate individual budget for a 4D/3N Stay:
Transport (roundtrip): ₱4,800 to ₱6,800 (including roundtrip airfare to/from Manila)
Accommodation: ₱750
Food: ₱2,950
Total cost per head: ₱8,500 to ₱10,500

Activities

Swim, hike, do watersports

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Once you’ve set foot on the island, you would probably feel the urge to just drop your to-do lists and bake in the sun or swim in the pristine waters. If you’re the type to maximize the trip by checking out every activity available, there’s plenty for you to do: stroll the length of Mahabang Buhangin Beach, trek the hills and take photos of the island from a panoramic vantage point, and ask the locals where the best snorkeling spots are in the island. Certain resorts offer scuba diving packages, ATV rentals, and watersports equipment, so keep an eye out for those if they sound like they’re right up your alley.

Explore the neighboring islands

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If you have an extra day and extra funds to hire a boat for a day-long island hopping sesh, do it! You’ve come all that way, and you might as well make the most of it. Explore the Tangob Cave of Maculabo Island, hike the hills of Balagbag Island and snorkel to your inner thalassophile’s content in any of the islets along the way. Make sure you go with a knowledgeable local so you don’t end up getting lost or stuck in regrettable scenarios.

DG Traveler Tips

  • If you can afford it, aim for at least a 4D/3N stay to make the most out of your Calaguas trip. Trust us, it’s not going to be easy to say goodbye to this paradise.
  • Take note that signal is weak (if not nonexistent) and electricity is only available via generator at night and at the wee hours of dawn, so you’re meant to unplug, leave your work at home, and bring power banks for when you really, really need to recharge your devices.
  • It’s important to respect the cleanliness and pristine state of the environment, so we can keep enjoying this little piece of heaven and keep it that way for more people to experience.
  • Don’t forget to find a nice, dark spot at night so you can take in the breathtaking canopy of stars to cap off your sun- and fun-drenched day.

RELATED: Let Bicol’s Cuisine Take You on a Gastronomical Adventure

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About Nikki
Nikki Ignacio is a writer and communicator. She is currently a full-time Science Writer and a part-time Community Manager/all-around writer. Her favorite travel destinations so far are all found in the Philippines, but she hopes to see more of the country and the rest of the world eventually.

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