Catanduanes and our growing fondness for leisure travel

Carangyan Beach, Catanduanes
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It started with our last trip to Panay Island. We had a flexible itinerary and only a rough idea of where to go. We liked it better than having a fixed plan, and so we’d carried this new way of travel when we’d gone to Catanduanes — the Land of the Howling Winds.

Before sharing you the rest about this leisure trip, let me tell you upfront: I fell in love with the province of Catanduanes. It’s now a favorite, along with Sorsogon. In fact, I told Hali we should consider getting a property here.

How do I explain this?

Have you entered a room full of crystals, particularly amethyst? The crystals uplift vibrations, giving the room a certain feeling of lightness. Catanduanes has a similar feel. It looks cheerful and bright, even during our visit, which was semi-cloudy. The kind people we’ve met on our stay here in Catanduanes and the natural landscapes moved it closer to my heart.

Here’s how we spent four laid-back days in this province.

Days 1-2: Barangay Baybay and Palumbanes group of islands (Caramoran)

We’d arrived in Caramoran at about lunch time and headed directly to Ate Letty’s Coco Beach Resort in Barangay Baybay. The resort is ordinary, and it’s the type most backpackers would probably ignore. But I loved how relaxing it was, the loud sounds of sea waves and rustling of the numerous coconut trees in the backyard of the resorts.

We stayed here doing nothing. Hali said, “It’s like we’re on vacation.” I said, “We are!”

Bitaog beach in Parongpong Island, Palumbanes
Bitaog Beach in Parongpong Island, Palumbanes. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Bitaog Beach in Palumbanes islands, Catanduanes
Bitaog beach is a secluded beach lovers’ destination, an hour away from the port in Barangay Baybay. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

The morning after, we’d set out to visit Bitaog Beach in Parongpong Island, part of Palumbanes islands. Bitaog Beach is Caramoran’s hidden gem, located on the other side of the island where the residential community is. We were the only people in the beach.

Bitaog Beach has soft sand and clear light-blue waters. At the end is an inlet, protected by ragged rocks and surrounded by water that is a distinct dark emerald.

Day 3: Tuwad-tuwadan natural pool, Hiyop highlands, Carangyan Beach Resort (Pandan)

After two days, we agreed we should probably get going and then hired a habal-habal driver to tour us in Pandan. We passed by the Cagnipa rolling hills on our way to the natural pool. I asked our driver, Kuya Owen, to stop so we could look around and take pictures. We passed by more hills and a line of cows grazing.

Cagnipa rolling hills view
View from the Cagnipa rolling hills. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

It was so simple, beautiful and raw.

Cagnipa rolling hills in Catanduanes
Cagnipa rolling hills. It’s not a tourist attraction but very well may be. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Cagnipa rolling hills in Catanduanes
Farmland. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Carabaos ni Cargnipa
Carabaos swimming in the mud. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

We stayed shortly at Tuwad-tuwadan pool. It’s smaller compared to the impression we had from photos online. Hali swam and dived, and I stayed on the side. The waves lurching inside the pool were strong, demanding that only prolific swimmers take a dip.

SEE ALSO: Must-See Natural Pools in the Philippines

We then went back to Ate Salvacion’s house, the caretaker, and bought fresh coconuts to refresh ourselves from the midday sun.

Tuwad-tuwadan pool in Catanduanes
Tuwad-tuwadan natural pool. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

We’d visited Hiyop Highlands next, which is a viewdeck with more rolling terrains. Beautiful as well but a bit sad. We heard the familiar story of foreigners buying the prime lots.

We’d decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in Carangyan Beach Resort. Carangyan Beach Resort for me is a great find. I felt kilig when we first had a glimpse of the beach. We were the only guests, though friends would be joining us that night. The beach in the resort has caramel sand and clear, green water. There’s also a raft anchored near the shore.

Carangyan Beach Resort in Catanduanes
Carangyan Beach Resort with its calm beach cove. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

The rooms are a bit expensive for a backpacker but well worth it.

Day 4: Bote lighthouse (Bato), Binurong Point (Baras) and Kemji Resort (Virac)

We traveled a bit late back to Virac and then hired a private tricycle. This is probably the part where we should’ve gotten up much earlier so we could have more time to explore Bato and Baras.

Bote lighthouse in Bato, Catanduanes
View at the top of Bote lighthouse. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

We stopped at Bato and then made a half-an-hour trek to the Bote lighthouse. The trek was arduous and the trail was steep, mostly ascending. The view at the top of the lighthouse was delightful, though the lighthouse itself seems to be in danger of being consumed with too many vandals.

Later, we’d caught the sunset in Binurong Point. Binurong Point is an area composed of pastoral cliffs, laid out with grassy carpet. I felt like the whole Catanduanes is full of hills and mountainous landscapes that Binurong Point didn’t leave a great impression. Meanwhile, Hali liked it here that he wished we had more time to stay.

Binurong Point in Catanduanes
Binurong Point, an area consisting of picturesque cliffs. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Binurong Point in Catanduanes
Jump shot before going home. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

We arrived back in Virac in time for dinner. Our tricycle driver suggested Kemji Resort, which is another good find. It has nice rooms, with outdoor pools and other amenities, we were surprised it didn’t cost more than regular inn rates. Oh, it’s also about 5 minutes away from the airport.

Catanduanes: Afterthoughts

We spent four days in Catanduanes, taking our time. We’ve visited only select places. No regrets there. Even just riding across the mountain side, we saw beautiful seaside views, bulbous terrains filled with greeneries that we didn’t really feel like we missed a lot.

I think the places we’ve visited are just the tip of Catanduanes’ many attractions. Catanduanes is one of the provinces in the Philippines that is yet to be exhaustively mapped in the tourism world, and even locals we’ve talked to were not fully knowledgeable about nearby attractions in their areas. Currently, the local government is pushing more efforts to boost tourism in Catanduanes, and it seems to be working.

I won’t be surprised at all if in the next years it will be one of the top attractions in Bicol.

What I’m sure of is that it opened the door for us, albeit slightly, to slower-paced traveling.

 

P.S. You might also be interested in these:

Here’s a complete travel guide to Catanduanes province. Here are other posts we’ve written about our trip:

 

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4 Comments

  1. Hello! I really enjoyed reading your blog specifically that of my top favorite islands in the Philippines: Calayan and Catanduanes. I love the way you narrate your travels. 🙂 Like you, my preferred locations are solitary and off-beaten paths because it’s difficult for most people to get to. Haha. I sound selfish, and maybe I am. It’s just that most travellers who visit far flung destinations are more responsible tourists and I feel protective over my favorite islands even if I’m not native to them–I’d like it that those who visit my favorite islands are people who care enough to be respectful of the community they visit.

    For Catanduanes, my favorite place is LORAN Station/Beach in Bagamanoc. Went there 5 years ago and I loved that it was only me and my friends who were in the island (aside from locals). Went swimming and snorkelling and had lunch there and just chilled around. We rented a hut by the beach for P20.00. Our snorkelling is DIY, my friends have gears with them so we just took turns. It used to be a US navigation station during World War II so it has an abandoned feel to it. Also, watch out for box jellyfish! My explorer friends had to scout areas of water to make sure that it’s a jellyfish- free area before we can wade or swim. I think that added to the fun and adventure. Hope you can visit LORAN someday. 🙂

  2. Wow. How beautiful! I’m really loving your photos and I’ve actually heard so much about Catanduanes. Might suggest this place for my family’s next roadtrip adventure! 😀

  3. Just by looking at the photos I can already understand why you fell in love with Catanduanes. Even my friends who went there swear by it too. They say it’s too beautiful for words. Thankfully it is not yet as popular as the other tourist destinations and if ever it becomes famous, I hope the locals would be able to preserve its beauty.

    1. I hope so, too. I guess with Filipino travelers that’s one of our main concerns when we discover “untouched” places in the country. Don’t want another case of Boracay, or so they say. 🙂

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