Three Days & Two Nights in Calaguas Islands of Camarines Norte
Inviting all travelers, adventurers, and wanderlusts are the natural beauty and man-made grandeur that decorates Luzon’s southernmost region, Bicol. Sights, sounds, and 100% guaranteed satisfaction wrapped the entire region from the iconic natural wonder, Mayon Volcano to the rich flora and fauna of Mount Isarog, from the extreme gaming hub of CWC to board riding junkie’s in Bagasbas Beach , Sorsogon’s enormous whale shark locally known as Butanding to the smallest commercial fish named Pandaka Pygmea of Lake Buhi , and a beach dominating my bucket list of beach destinations in the Luzon, Mahabang Buhangin of Calaguas Island.
Year 2009 was the birth of my Bicol adventures and from then on the Mahabang Buhangin Beach became my epitome of a tranquil, pristine, and isolated paradise. Finally, after 3 years, I just can’t wait to set my sights on the island’s beauty, walk barefooted in its powdery white sand, and soak my body in its crystal clear water. With two of my Biyahe Lokal buddies, we arranged the entire group’s (our friends) land and sea transportations, prepared our supplies, and organized the whole trip to Camarines Norte’s best kept secret.
Expecting a long road trip ahead of us, we hit the streets an hour past twelve, cruised the South Luzon Expressway, and passed several towns in Laguna under a clear night sky. Half way across Quezon Province, the group decided on a breakfast stopover. Across the road was a wonderful view of the beautiful rising sun in the coastal town of Gumaca.
Inside the van on our way to Camarines Norte.
Stopover in Lolo Ompo.
A roadside view of Lamon Bay across Lolo Ompo.
Fish wrapped with banana leaves?
Native ambiance inside Lolo Ompo’s dining area (except for the killer whale floating overhead).
Among the long row of roadside restaurants and stopovers in Gumaca, we parked in front of Kainan Ni Lolo Ompo. Back then I remembered, the seaside eatery served unlimited brown rice upon ordering delicious home cooked dishes but now they stick to the regular rice per cup serving, nonetheless, “Lolo Ompo” still serves good food, has a cozy ambiance and clean restrooms.
Four hours onto our journey through zigzagging and nausea inducing mountainside roads from Gumaca, we finally reached the last stop and the entry point to Calaguas Island, Vinzons Port, where we rendezvoused with Mang Putong, our assigned boatman. The port also serves as a marketplace where freshly caught salt water fishes are sold by the fishermen or from the fishermen to the vendors. Nearby are sari-sari stores and small groceries selling all kinds of goods from canned goods, snacks, drinks, etc. Ice is on our necessity list to preserve our meals good thing there is an ice plant at the port area. Expect price increase in the island, therefore, Vinzons would be the best place for last minute buying.
Outrigger boats docked at Vinzons Port.
A small grocery store beside the port.
Comfort rooms in Vinzons Port (ask for a key).
Crew of our boat sits on the bow watching out for shallow areas of the river.
Ready to embark on a two hour sea voyage ahead, both outrigger boats were packed and loaded. As Mang Putong slowly paddled off the port, adrenalin rapidly pumped and got me fired up for our 3 day pursuit of a perfect weekend getaway.
Mang Putong carefully maneuvered the boat from the murky river which is surrounded by thick mangrove forests to the deep blue sea of Lamon Bay. The agonizing 11 hour trip was now starting to take its toll and fatigue started to settle in. But when we spotted our destination from the horizon, the exhaustion turned to excitement as the deep blue sea slowly turned to a clear shade of cyan until the bow touched the sand. Welcome to Mahabang Buhangin Beach of Calaguas Island.
Our destination straight at the horizon.
Pointing at the beach on our approach to Mahabang Buhangin Beach.
Calaguas is a a group of islands and islets under the jurisdiction, most but not all, of Vinzons. Two of its major islands are Guintinua and Tinaga where Mahabang Buhangin Beach is located under Baranggay Mangcawayan. On Mahabang Buhangin’s fine white sands and under the shade of small trees we pitched our tents which will be our temporary residence for the next three days. The island offers no hotels, resorts and inns but camp sites, native open huts, and an unforgettable outdoor experiences waiting for you.
Our humble campsite lies on the southern part of the beach far from our previous which is now (according to what I’ve heard) the “popular” within the area. With its popularity came the increase of camping fees, fortunately, our tents stood on a cheaper area having similar amenities like open huts, a comfort room, a store, and a hand pitcher pump.
Native open huts at the beach front.
The boys in our temporary settlement.
Everyone was still tired and exhausted by the long haul from the big city, Manila, to the remote paradise of Calaguas Island. Our laid back afternoon was spent sitting by the beach, having ice cold drinks, and watched the sun went down painting bright hues in the clear afternoon sky.
Afternoon nap on a hammock.
A beautiful sunset view in Mahabang Buhangin.
My slumbering soul was forced to get me up being assigned to wash dishes and cook breakfast with fellow Biyahe Lokal organizer, Yani. With my eyes half open, I was pumping water with one hand and holding a cup of coffee with the other. Dishes were squeaky clean and after a short while breakfast was served.
The sun greeted Mahabang Buhangin a good morning. Deep blue skies dominated the heavens. Luscious green were painted on wind-swept hills. Snow white sand brighten the one kilometer beach. Water was as clear as crystal. Surreal as it may seem, but it was heaven on earth.
Volleyball poles standing on Mahabang Buhangin’s white sands.
I took a morning dip and kept my self afloat as my ears submerged and my eyes wide open. I watched sky and the feathery white clouds move with wind. I heard nothing. The world looked so calm and peaceful.
The definition of a clear water.
Tinaga was the only island among the many in Calaguas that I’ve been and seen. Visible from the Mahabang Buhangin is an island which got us wondering what secret lies behind those rolling hills and greenery. To feed our curiosity, our kind boatman offered us a boat ride to a beach on nearby island in Baranggay Banocboc . Not all of us went to
Underwater life visible from the surface.
The thriving marine life was visible from the surface as the boat’s bow sliced through the glass-like water.. On our small boat were tons of excitement and a lot of merry making as we went on with our trip. On board complementary drink was a gallon of lambanog, or rice wine, care of the generous Mang Putong.
Calm seas on our boat ride to other islands.
Azure water turned turquoise and not long after, the boat touched the beach wrapped with powdery white sand and small corals. Water was similarly clear to Mahabang Buhangin’s but this beach in Banocboc was teeming with marine life which is an ideal spot for snorkeling. A few meters from the beach were, not coconut trees, but shrubs and small trees about 2 meters in height. Surrounding the beach were luscious green hills where a herd of goats graze. A single native hut stood on the island but no one was around during that time.
Everyone eager to see the beach on other islands.
View of the beach from the top of the hill.
Small corals, shells, and rocks lie on soft white sand.
Small trees a few meters from the beach.
In search of a signal.
Spear fishers who sell their fresh catch.
On a cruising pace back to Mahabang Buhangin, we hung on the boat’s outriggers while our heads submerged to see the thriving marine life. We bumped into these spear fishermen and bought their catch for a very low price. The fishes were big, fresh and it will be served for lunch. It was an hour before midday when we got back to our temporary settlement and we instantly prepared the fishes and other food to be served for lunch.
It was a scorching sunny afternoon so after lunch we seek refuge under the cool shade of open huts. Others preferred to lie down under the large tarpaulin tied to trees and rest on the locally weaved mats that we brought with us.
Biyahe Lokal preparing the fish to be cooked.
The enormous “isdang bato” for lunch.
Fried chicken with pineapple sauce prepared by Chef Rus.
Under the hut we seek refuge from the scorching heat.
Mang Putong (second from the left) and the boys cool down with their drinks.
Twenty minutes on foot from Mahabang Buhangin is the Baranggay Mangcawayan’s “barrio” which is situated on the other side of the island facing the Pacific. Baranggay Mangcawayan’s small community have sari sari stores and small markets called talipapa where you can purchase goods to replenish your supplies. Prices here are also cheaper compared to stores at Mahabang Buhangin.
From the beach, a trail leads to the barrio passing by a vast plains with cows grazing on grass, hills on the background, a small cemetery, and cemented bridge. Paved and narrow roads welcome visitors in the small barrio. It’s easy to get around and the locals are very nice.
In search of a cheap place to buy seafood, a kind local assisted us to find Mang Lito. We went deeper into town and passed by a school facing the beach. After a few meters, we reached his small store and bought some goods. While we were purchasing supplies, the rest went a little farther to an open plain which was said to have a signal but to their dismay, not one bar pop in their high end gadgets.
On our way to the barrio.
Passing by the school.
Puppy drinks on puddle of water. That’s the store in the background.
Behind those trees is an open grassland which sometimes obtain a phone signal according to locals.
The sun was almost out when we got back to camp. Everyone gathered inside the hut, has a task on their own, and together we prepared dinner which was more like a feast in forf our last night in the island. Activities filled the entire day and but not one was tired. Every one wanted to maximize their stay on the island.
The night was as clear as day. Moon shone so bright the hills from afar are still visible. As we sat on the mats, we lit our bonfire and roasted smores while singing beach tunes and having cold beers all under the flickering stars winking down on us. It was good way to end a good day.
Almost everyone on the dining area.
Biyahe Lokal boys.
Jett roasting smores.
Followed by a short entertainment of a sea voyager.
I just got back from Boracay two weeks prior to this trip. Calaguas Island have always been compared with Boracay as it was said to be the next potential tourist destination that will rival everything in Boracay. But I know that many would agree the Mahabang Buhangin and the rest of Calaguas Island remain with its purity, cleanliness, isolation, and serenity in tact.
Now, here are some fast facts that may help you on the trip:
1. Camarines Norte is about a 9-hour drive on a cruising pace. Be extra careful in Bitukang Manok in Quezon and the winding roads of Camarines Norte.
2. There is a wide array of restaurants in Gumaca that you could choose from. There might be other diners also serving good food.
3. Vinzons Port would be the best place for last minute shopping.
4. Boats cost around a reasonable P3,500-P4,500 depending on the number of passengers and size of the boat
4. Mang Putong is a kind and humble boatman who would be glad to assist travelers on their trip to Calaguas. Contact him through his cellphone 0920 566 6985. Ask about the weather in Camarines Norte before going to your trip. The “Ber” months are not advisable to travel to Calaguas according to local boatmen.
5. Fees on the island
P50.00/person – camping fee
P20.00/person – baranggay fee
P150.00 – small hut rental
P200.00 – big hut rental
6. Don’t expect phone signal in the islands but you’d be lucky to catch one.
7. Barrio is 20 minutes away from Mahabang Buhangin.
8. Bonfire is STRICTLY PROHIBITED at the beach front.
9. Be mindful of trash and garbage.
10. More photos in Biyaherong Barat Multiplyand Jed Rosell’s Facebook.
11. Visit Harry’s website: Man Vs. Himself
12.Please LIKE BIYAHERONG BARAT on Facebook
13. Follow @BiyaherongBarat on Twitter
14. Be safe and enjoy your trip.
15. For a complete and cheap travel package to Calaguas Island, SEE BIYAHE LOKAL PACKAGES.
Watch “Calaguas Island in Bicol” by Harry Santos. Visit his website: Man Vs. Himself