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You Need to Experience the Underrated Wonders of Caramoan

by Mimi Tiu
May 31, 2019

Dreaming of communing with nature amidst crystal clear waters, powder fine white sand beaches, and jagged rock formations? Then you’ll want to make your way to the Caramoan Peninsula in Bicol, where paradisal elements and natural marvels surprisingly abound.

Situated at the easternmost tip of Camarines Sur, Caramoan is blessed with an abundance of sublime island beaches, hilly terrains, deep gorges, secluded lagoons, quaint waterfalls, stalactite-rich caves, and diverse flora and fauna. The place is reminiscent of Palawan due to the dominance of limestone formations, but its native attractions are just as impressive. Home to the Caramoan National Park and the green racket-tail parrot, the area first rose to international fame after the reality TV show Survivor secured the rights to film on the islands.

If you’re thinking of heading somewhere relatively unknown, Caramoan will help you earn bragging rights for discovering a “new” place with your circle. The pure, beguiling setting will soothe the soul and recharge the senses.


How to Get to Caramoan

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The Caramoan Peninsula could be a bit of a challenge to get to, but the sights are definitely worth all the effort you’ll put in.

You can opt for the faster and more convenient choice by taking a plane ride from Manila to Naga (via Cebu Pacific) or Clark to Naga (via Philippine Airlines), or you can go the more affordable yet more challenging route by taking an eight to nine-hour bus ride from Manila to Camarines Sur. (DG Tip: Take the bus in the wee hours of the morning, so you don’t get stuck in unnecessary traffic within the various towns.) The bus will take you directly to Sabang Port.

Coming from the Naga airport, ride a jeep, van, or bus bound for Sabang Port—travel time is around two hours. At the port, ride a public outrigger pump boat (the first trip leaves at 7 am, while the last trip leaves at 11 am) or hire a private boat and ride along the coast headed for Caramoan Guijalo Port for another two hours.

A lesser known but more convenient way to reach Caramoan would be to fly to Virac, Catanduanes via Cebu Pacific. From the airport, travel by land to Codon Port (about 45 minutes to one hour) then by sea (about 30 to 45 minutes) to reach Caramoan.


Where to Stay in Caramoan

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If seclusion amidst nature is what you’re aiming for, then Tugawe Cove Resort hits the spot with its remote location and modern amenities infused with Filipino touches. A peaceful cove embraced by lush green vegetation and calm blue waters, the resort offers 35 cabanas and hotel rooms with a stunning hilltop, hillside, or lakeside view and a personal butler to boot!

Ma. Cecilia M. Magtuto, co-owner and general manager of Tugawe Cove Resort, reveals how the tropical destination got its name. She says, “When my husband and I bought the property, the members of the barangay already called it Tugawe. We discovered it was named after a hardwood tree that used to grow there. The tree is very rare now, but there are still some on the property.” Since the resort opened its doors to the public eight years ago, the Magtuto family has been working hard to preserve the cove’s ecological balance—propagating and planting Tugawe tree seedlings as they build new structures to accommodate more visitors.

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Guests are welcome to explore every inch of the resort at their own leisure. From the four exclusive beachfronts to the two Instagram-worthy infinity pools, there are many secret nooks to discover without coming across fellow tourists. Young and old will have a grand time fishing at the lake (you can have your fresh catch cooked!), scouting for endemic birds perched on leafy branches, developing core strength on a stand up paddleboard, hiking up the trail to catch the sunset overlooking Colongcogong Lighthouse, and exchanging stories in front of a beach bonfire.

Tugawe Cove Resort is located at Brgy. Colongcogong, Caramoan Peninsula, Camarines Sur. Call (0918) 965 7885, (0917) 650 7845, or (02) 541 9089, or email reservations@tugawecoveresort.com.


What to Do in Caramoan

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Caramoan is all about experiencing nature up close, whether you’re a certified water baby, a full-on land lover, or a dauntless hybrid. There are countless undiscovered islets to dock on, vast reefs to marvel at, long stretches of pristine sand to walk on, and mountainous paths to traverse. Swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and stand up paddleboarding are must-dos in its crystalline sea, while cliff diving (do it from 23 feet high at Langkipaw Cliff), bouldering (climbing on small rock formations without the use of safety equipment), slacklining (walking on a suspended rope tied over two points), and rappelling (descending a limestone cliff) are more daring pursuits that should be done with caution. Spelunking is also gaining popularity, with tourists passing through tight crevices and climbing sharp stones just to see the icicle-shaped mineral formations inside Umang Cave, Manipis Cave, and Culapnit Cave.

However, your Caramoan adventure isn’t complete without making your way around the peninsula on a pump boat. Magtuto encourages vacationers to stay for three days and two nights in Caramoan, devoting one whole day to island hopping around four to six islands. The number of stops will depend on the distance between the islands and the direction of the water current.

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While island hopping, you can hike Mt. Caglago in Barangay Tabgon to get a bird’s eye view of the peninsula. Make your way up Caramoan’s tallest mountain through a concrete stairway consisting of 530 steps. Aside from being rewarded with a fantastic panorama of the town and its verdant landscapes, you’ll also get to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Mother of Peace. The biggest Marian statue in the country, the 26-foot ivory sculpture with arms outstretched appears to welcome both tourists and devotees.

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People interested in seeing religious and historical buildings should also make a pit stop at St. Michael the Archangel Church before they leave Caramoan. A quaint, red brick church constructed by Franciscan missionaries in 1619, this adobe, stone, and clay structure took almost 200 years to build and has miraculously survived the ravages of war and natural calamities.

Magtuto also suggests two unique activities that can only be enjoyed by Tugawe Cove Resort guests: bioluminescent plankton watching and coral reef planting. Witnessing the glowing plankton ideally takes place at night, when the moon is hidden and the water is still. Meanwhile, the coral reef planting activity is done in partnership with the Caramoan Coral Reef Project and involves planting calcium carbonate on a steel structure emerged in water by the shore. The activity must be requested in advance, with the participants paying for the materials to be used.


What to See in Caramoan

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You’re in for a treat as every imaginable shade of blue unfolds right before your very eyes, from the aquamarine waters to the azure sky. And if you’re extremely lucky, you can even come across a sea turtle or a pod of dolphins as you cruise around the 347-hectare national park.

Some of Magtuto’s favorite island-hopping destinations include Katanhawan Island (one of the filming locations for Survivor, which consists of a big and a small island), Tinago Cove (a lagoon that’s concealed by two limestone mountains and can only be accessed through a narrow passageway), Lantangan Beach on Pitogo Bay (known for its unusual shoreline which is dominated by flat, smooth pebbles that create an unlikely melody), and Tayak Lake (a large emerald lagoon with placid seawater trapped by limestone rocks). If you have an extra day to spare at Caramoan, Magtuto also suggests far-flung spots such as Lahuy Island (a dog bone-shaped, 10 kilometer-long island with peaceful coves), Cotivas Island (popular for its golden sand, coconut trees, and calm waves), and Manlawi Beach (a low-tide sandbar) which can be explored between five to six hours from Tugawe Cove Resort.

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Depending on the tide, you can also drop by Lahos Island, a tiny immaculate strip that sits between two ominous limestone clusters and disappears during high tide. Next to it lies the highly recommended diving and snorkeling spot called Matukad Island—the small, idyllic beach has incredibly soft white sand that’s comparable to Boracay’s shore. Find a relaxing spot under the protective shade of the rustling trees, then lounge on the fine sand as you indulge in a feast consisting of grilled meats, seafood, and fruits. But more than its coastline, the island is known for its tropical lagoon that can only be reached by scaling steep karst formations. Locals claim that the freshwater lake was once home to a pair of mystical milkfish. One was caught and eaten by a family, and afterwards, they unexplainably passed away. Since then, no one has dared to catch the other fish.


What to Eat in Caramoan

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Don’t expect anything fancy from the earnest restaurants that have popped up in Caramoan. Instead, be ready to fill your belly with home-cooked dishes that their region is known for. Spicy, coconut milk-based concoctions Laing and Bicol Express are meal must-tries, while Pancit Bato, Chakoy, and Tabog-Tabog are tasty snack options. Caramo-tan Grill and RestoBar, Bay Sand Food Stop, and Wowoy’s Seafood Island are three dining establishments worth checking out.


Ready to discover this hidden gem? Check out Deal Grocer’s exclusive Tugawe Cove Resort deals here.

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About Mimi
A freelance editor based in Manila, Mimi Tiu finds pleasure in coming up with meticulously detailed travel itineraries, wearing layers in autumn, and chronicling her ice cream discoveries on Instagram at @nicetomitiu.

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