Exploring Caramoan: Camarines Sur’s Island Jewels

EXCITED! I was so looking forward to exploring Caramoan even before we started our BIcol adventure. This is definitely one of the places I’ve been yearning to visit!
EXCITED! I was so looking forward to exploring Caramoan even before we started our BIcol adventure. This is definitely one of the places I’ve been yearning to visit!

Ever since the US TV show, Survivor, has filmed in Caramoan, a group of islands off the eastern coast of Camarines Sur, and shown it worldwide in early 2013, many people― both locals and foreigners― have flocked to see it for themselves. Five years since, Caramoan remains a popular travel destination despite the long travel that it takes to go here. In this blog post, though, I’m going to show you how you can go in Caramoan without traveling for too long.

I have discussed in my previous blog post how to explore Catanduanes, the easternmost province in Luzon. Not many people know that once you visit Catanduanes, you can do a side trip to Caramoan, which would just require a few hours from Virac, the capital of Catanduanes. Read along to learn how you can explore some of the best beaches in the Philippines without spending so much time traveling.

Camarines Sur

The largest province in the Bicol Region, Camarines Sur is home to a variety of beautiful tourist attractions: Mount Isarog and Mount Asog, two potentially active volcanoes that are open for hiking and exploring; Our Lady of Penafrancia Church and other beautiful man-made structures such as the 19th century churches in Goa; Lake Buhi, popular for the smallest commercially harvested fish called sinarapan (Mistichthys luzonensis); and of course, Caramoan, which is what this blog post is about.

As you already know, one of the most popular island destinations in the Philippines is Caramoan, which is actually a group of islands found in the easternmost portion of Camarines Sur, located on the northwest side part of Catanduanes. Going here is a bit tough when you’re coming from Manila. My friends who were already able to go here a few years ago said it took about 17 hours before they could finally enjoy Caramoan! Meanwhile, it took us only about 45 minutes of boat ride from Codon Port to reach the first island destination that we went to here in Caramoan!

HOW TO GO TO CARAMOAN FROM CATANDUANES:

Hire a tricycle in Virac and travel to Codon Port in San Andres. In the port, look for boatmen that offer day trip to the islands of Caramoan. In our case, since we already have a tour guide/ driver in Catanduanes, we asked for his services for our trip to Caramoan. He agreed.

Kuya Mumu, our tour guide/ driver traveled with us during the whole day of our trip to Caramoan, starting from  Virac where he fetched us in our inn with his tricycle. We traveled for about 2 hours going to Codon Port in San Andres, where the boatmen he contacted were waiting for us. He was also with us during the island-hopping tour until we went back to Virac.

WHAT TO EXPLORE IN CARAMOAN

MATUKAD ISLAND

HELLO, CARAMOAN!
HELLO, CARAMOAN! Look at this island. It has waves hovering two sides of the beach!
ROCK FORMATIONS.
ROCK FORMATIONS. Matukad Island has these rock formations that are perfect for taking pictures with!

Limestone rock formations and bluish and greenish waters were the things that welcomed us even before reaching the first island for our Caramoan trip: Matukad Island.

THAT BLISSFUL FACE!
THAT FACE! Just look at how happy I was upon finally setting foot in Caramoan!

It was in this island that I first witnessed the beauty of Caramoan; its crystal clear waters and fine, white and soft sand are comparable only to a few that I have ever experienced. It was only us when we went here (until the time we were about to leave when several foreigners arrived) and what can I say, it’s definitely paradise in here!

LAHOS ISLAND

OH, SUCH BEAUTY!
OH, SUCH BEAUTY! Look how beautiful Lahos Island is!

Featuring white and soft sands and awesome rock formations, Lahos Island is a must when going to Caramoan. In my opinion, it has the finest sands among the islands that we went to!

SUCH CLEAR WATERS!
SUCH CLEAR WATERS! Look at how my friend, Will (IG: @willianism09), is enjoying the clear waters of the island!

It was here in Lahos Island where we ate our hearty lunch for the day. Kuya Mumu and our boatmen prepared for it, as they cooked rice, vegetables and the fish that we bought back at the market of San Andres. After eating loads, I could honestly say that grilled fish is one of the best-tasting dishes ever!

HEARTY LUNCHEON
HEARTY LUNCHEON. We feasted on seafood and vegetables while on the island. Here’s a picture of grilled surahan, laing (bought by our fishermen), grilled eggplant , banana and cups of rice. Tara, kain!

SECRET LAGOON OF CARAMOAN

THE MYSTICAL LAGOON.
THE MYSTICAL LAGOON. Here’s a snapshot of the lagoon in Lahos Island, where a mystical pair of milkfish can be found.

Anyway, aside from the great island vibe Lahos gives, another good reason to go here is to witness a lagoon that bears a mystical pair of milkfish. The locals said it’s a wonder how the fishes came to be in the lagoon, and it’s a bigger wonder how these fishes seem to be mystical. There was a story about a fisherman who dared to catch one of the pair of milkfishes in the lagoon. He was successful in catching it. He went home to cook it for his family. However, a very strange thing happened: those who ate the fish met death immediately after. Stories had it that they turned blackish upon eating the fish. You’ve been warned: don’t dare to eat the milkfish in the lagoon!

MYSITCAL PAIR.
MYSITCAL PAIR. Here’s a picture of the mystical pair of milkfish in the secret lagoon. Can you see them?

MANLAWI FLOATING COTTAGES

FLOATING COTTAGES.
FLOATING COTTAGES. Here are the floating collages of Manlawi in Caramoan!

It took us about an hour going here from Lahos Island. Note that we had to pay additional P2,000 to go here, as this was not originally a part of our itinerary. Was the additional P2,000 worth it? It was, considering the distance our boat covered just to go here and experience its amazing sand bars.

SHALLOW WATERS.
SHALLOW WATERS. Come mid-afternoon, the waters in Manlawi have become shallow, indicating low tide. This is a picture of how far the sandbar is from the cottages.

We had to rent a cottage while we were here. It was still high tide when we reached Manlawi, but we already could walk from our cottage towards the first sand bar that’s visible that time. Do you want to know the highlight of our experience here? We had the sand bar all to ourselves!!!

BLAZED IN CARAMOAN.
BLAZED IN CARAMOAN. Because we have the Manlawi Sandbar all to ourselves, we did our job of taking pictures of each other! Haha. My friend, Gary (IG: @dudeinorange), took a very Instagrammable shot of me. Haha.
ALL TO OURSELVES.
ALL TO OURSELVES. As I have mentioned, we have the sandbar all to ourselves. And look what that brought us to doing. Haha.
ENJOYING.
ENJOYING. Just how good was my Caramoan experience? I was very happy to say the least!

By the way, you can buy fresh coconut juice, crabs and other food items here in Manlawi. Vendors go here by riding their boats. Go buy from them and help the local community!

BUKO JUICE, ANYONE?
BUKO JUICE, ANYONE? Just when we were about to leave, we bought coconut and got refreshed from its juice!

It took us another hour to go to our next stop after Manlawi. The boat ride was not that treacherous, but we were soaked all over!

PITOGO ISLAND

TRANQUILITY.
TRANQUILITY. This island has the atmosphere of peace and tranquility. It was a nice ending to our Caramoan island-hopping.

Our last stop for our Caramoan island-hopping adventure is Pitogo Island, a paradise consisting of a wide stretch of pebble beach, hills with rocks and vegetation, and turquoise waters that emanate serenity. It was so peaceful here that anyone who seeks calmness and solace will find this place perfect.

COLORFUL STONES.
COLORFUL STONES. The island’s beach is laden with these colorful stones. Interesting, eh?

The smooth-edged pebbles along the beach are interesting. Despite the fact that they replace the usual sand in this beach part of Pitago Island, they also have these interesting, eye-catching colors that are delightful to see.

CALMING.
CALMING. How calming is this island? Very calming.

EXPENSES DURING THE CARAMOAN ADVENTURE:

This is the list of what our group of 3 had spent during our trip here in Caramoan. Each entry is divided into 3, unless indicated otherwise.

P1,000 – Kuya Mumu’s service (fetching from the inn going to Codon Port where the boat to be used for Caramoan Islands would be used, accompanying us in our Caramoan tour, going back to the inn)

P100 – rice for lunch in Caramoan

P100 – Tour guide in “Bangus lagoon”

P4,500 – Boat rental (P3,000 is the original price for the boat but Kuya Mumu was able to haggle and turn it to P2,500. The additional P2,000 is for the boat ride going to and from the Manlawi Floating Cottages.)

P200 – Cottage in Manlawi Floating Cottages (you need to rent one while you are here)

P100 (P25 each) – Buko juice in Manlawi (for us, three, plus Kuya Mumu)

P465 – Dinner at Café de Au (back in Virac)

TOTAL: P2,088

***

It should be noted that this is Day 2 of our Bicol adventure, which started in Catanduanes and ended in Sorsogon. If you’re interested to learn on how we were able to do this trip, please refer to my separate blogs about Catanduanes and Sorsogon. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post, guys!

ONE WITH THE GREENS.
ONE WITH THE GREENS. This is just one of those fun things that we did in Caramoan: Instagramming among the leaves. Haha.
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