Top 6 places to visit in Caramoan Philippines

Are you an adventurous person when it comes to traveling? Some people can be quite precious when it comes to “toughing it out”. However, as I often say, it’s the journey, not the destination that matters. So many people miss the opportunity to enjoy more new experiences as part of the journey. This is because they are too focused on comfort and how dirty they are getting along the way.

I personally feel that if one lowers their expectations about the journey it makes the upside (the destination) much more enjoyable. It’s like winning a battle or conquering a major obstacle. If you have lower expectations for the journey, then you won’t be disappointed. Everything after that is pure upside.

One of the more difficult places I have been to is Caramoan in Bicol. I first saw this place in a PAL magazine while flying one day. I was immediately infatuated by the crystal clear waters, the white sand beaches, the swaying palm trees and the resort village, Gota Village. This truly looked like one of the best places in the Philippines I had ever seen.

Paradise found!

Upon further research, I discovered that while Caramoan was one of the least known Philippines destinations, and not crowded with tourists, it did actually have international acclaim as a result of several international Survivor Series television programs. Having seen some of the photos on the internet, it made sense that a location like this would be challenging to test out the survival skills.

I did some more research on accommodation options and surprisingly there weren’t too many options, at least in the area I was looking at. Among the limited choices, there was Gota Village.  This place looked sensational, with little log-style cabins strewn at the foothills of Caramoan National Park.

Surrounded by limestone cliffs, and with views out across the Philippine Sea, this was a little slice of true paradise. The beach had its own consistent shore breaks that provided plenty of entertainment for the kids. As I stood there looking at the limestone mounds rising out of the water, sipping my cocktail, I couldn’t believe that aside from the fact survivor series had been hosted here, where were the no other tourists.

The pic on the left is an aerial view at the top of the mountain right next to Gota Village resort, and the photo on the right is at ground level. From whichever angle, it’s still epic.

Let the adventure begin

When we went it was early November so it was approaching the end of the wet season. The weather was just about perfect. Anyways, I wasn’t too bogged down with thoughts of where others were. It was time to rip the shirt off and get into the water with my daughters who were extremely eager to get amongst the shore breaks. Minahalos Island stands in the mouth of the cove. This offers some protection from the elements, as well as providing some eye candy. I was so excited to do some island hopping over the following few days. However, for now, it was time to relax after the long travel involved to get to this paradise.

The next two days were some of the most memorable of my life as we got to explore some of the most magical beaches, lagoons and underground rivers you could ever wish to see. It was so good, I feel totally compelled to share this with the world. Here is a place that is a serious rival for Palawan, yet hardly anyone has heard of it! I fully recommend visiting Caramoan, the travel is definitely worth it!

So here we go with the top 6 places to visit in Caramoan – get out there now!

1). Cotivas Island

Cotivas Island is just off the island of Luhay. This is one of the most amazing islands I have ever seen. This is a completely deserted island with no sign of life at all aside from a few vendors selling drinks and snacks. The water around this island is some of the clearest, bluest water I have seen in the Philippines. There is a sandbar at one end of the island faces east towards Catanduanes and the Philippines Sea, and beyond that is the Pacific Ocean. The water actually hits the tip of the sandbar from two different directions. Absolutely amazing. This island was used in one of the Survivor Series seasons that was held in Caramoan. There’s no doubt it would be a challenge to survive on this island that is bereft of anything to survive on.

The water at Cotivas Island is the clearest I have seen in the country. You can see here with these photos that its hard to tell where the water finishes when it washes up onto the sand.

2). Tayak Beach and Lagoon

Tayak beach is a magnificent white sand beach surrounded by huge limestone hills and cliffs. We only went to the main beach so why I’m not exactly sure if the island is inhabited or not.  However, what I do know is that the scenery of this epic beach could easily rival anything in El Nido or Coron in Palawan. A short walk from the beach, behind the limestone cliffs, you will find an incredible lagoon sitting in silence.  This stunning lagoon is surrounded by limestone karsts and looks like something out of a movie like Castaway. This really is a hidden oasis that time has forgotten. Truly magical.

Tayak beach and lagoon are surrounded by limestone karsts that rival anything that Palawan can offer.

3). Matukad Island

As you pull into this island on your boat, you could be forgiven for mistaking this as Palawan. Matukad Island has a fantastic set of rock formations that act as a backdrop to the beautiful white sand that straddles the front of the island. There are more tourists on this island but that doesn’t take away from the natural beauty. When we were there, there was the opportunity to sit on some portable outdoor furniture under an umbrella and have photos taken and some drinks – for a price. A truly magical scene. This island really had it all because it was so compact. It was probably the most diverse of all the islands we visited in Caramoan.

Matakud Island has some amazing rock formations and a sensational open white beach. This was the busiest island we went to and it’s easy to see why.

4). Kagbalinad Island

This island doesn’t have quite as much beachfront as Matukad Island, therefore, doesn’t get quite as busy. There are two smaller beaches rather than one long one, with the limestone rock formations separating the two beaches. As a result, you do get a little more privacy. It is just as spectacular as Matukad Island with some amazing limestone karsts surrounding the beach with postcard-perfect views. The white sand glows in the sun from quite a distance adding to the natural beauty and aura of the island.

Kagbalinad Island has a beach similar to Matakud Island but it is split into two by a limestone blob. As you can see, there aren’t as many people on this beach but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as spectacular.

5). Hunongan Cove

Hunongan Cove is only a short distance away from Gota Village where we were staying. There is a resort there that is fairly ritzy with amazing views looking out across Kagbalinad Island. It has a private white sand beach across the front of the resort. At each end of the beach, there are the customary spikey limestone karsts protruding out of the ground, acting like bookends to this peaceful beach. I don’t know how much it would cost to stay at Hunongan Beach Resort, but I’m sure it would cost more than Gota Village where we stayed! Either way, you are permitted to visit the beach if you are island hopping in the area and can even use the bar and restaurant.

Hunongan Cove is set between limestone karst bookends at each end of the beach, which make it a very unique location. This is on the mainland and isn’t an island, but still offers some amazing eye candy.

6). Bulanbogang Underground River 

We had no idea about this underground river and as a matter of fact, if you look for it on google, you will only find it due to my write up! It’s not even on google maps! We were informed about this place through the resort we were staying at and I’m glad we went. This is a totally undeveloped, local style, tourist attraction. You are given life jackets and you have inflated tire tubes to hold on to, in which you are towed along by your guide. The guide also has a torch which comes in handy as once you enter the cave, it’s complete darkness! The journey takes you about 20-30 metres into the cave and gets more narrow the further you get. After that, you simply turn back and after 5-10 minutes, literally get to see the light at the end of the tunnel or in this case, the start of the tunnel. A unique experience and well worth the effort.

This very unassuming underground river really is a must-see for the adventure lover. There is nothing gruelling or over the top about it, but it is fairly unique. It has a bit of a spooky ambience and keeps you guessing.

Fast Facts

The first step of this epic trip is to fly from Manila to Naga City. Philippine Airlines (PAL) fly to Naga City from Manila twice daily and the flight is only about 40 minutes.

You can then take a van from Naga City Central Bus terminal to Sabang Port, which is just over 60kms and takes about one hour and fifteen minutes, for about P150.

From Sabang Port, you take a boat to Caramoan Guijalo Port, which takes about one hour and forty-five minutes, for about P120.

From there, it’s about 10km (about 30 minutes) ride to Caramoan town central via van or jeepney, for about P100. You can take a tricycle to wherever it is that you are going/staying.

If you’re not feeling very adventurous, you can bypass the boat and take a bus directly from Naga to Caramoan town central. This takes about 5 hours which is a little longer, and costs P200.

We used a tour organiser for our trip, including the resort and all the connections by air, land, and sea (excluding island hopping). Considering it is such a long journey, and with a couple of young kids in tow, it was a real comfort having someone waiting for us at each port with instructions of what to do next. It’s not essential, but I would recommend it for this type of trip. If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to make comments below and share with friends and family.

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