It wasn’t my first time to visit Camarines Norte (CamNorte). When I arrived back in the Philippines, my first trip was this beautiful island called Calaguas. It took my breath away. The powdery white sand and crystal clear waters are just jaw dropping. I still remember telling my friends that with all the trips I had around the world, I can say that it is by far one of the best beaches I have seen.
Fast forward a year later, I was given an opportunity to go back and explore the province along with a handful of lifestyle and travel bloggers (check all their profiles at the end of the blog).
We had a full itinerary consisting of island hopping, attending events, food tasting, zip lining and of course an overnight stay in Calaguas Island.
I’ll be honest, coming from Manila, traveling to CamNorte isn’t the smoothest land travel in the world. You’ll have to endure the 8 to 10 hour journey. Talk about getting a flat butt after (ouch). Aside from that, the road is full of winding streets which at one point can be very tiring (balancing to avoid throwing myself on my seatmate isn’t my strong trait).
You can book a ticket a ticket in either Cubao or Pasay bus terminals (Philtranco, Superlines, DLTB and Amihan)
If you don’t fancy long road trips, one option is to fly. By plane, you can book a 45 minutes flight to Naga, Camarines Sur (Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines). From the airport, you can ride a UV express Van for 2 hours drive to Daet.
WHERE WE WENT AND WHAT TO DO
Located north west of Bicol and south east of Luzon the province can be considered as coastal. There are a lot of beaches and islands to explore. Taking this information, it is a no brainer that the best time you for to visit is during the summer months. As our trip landed during the Philippine’s monsoon season, we got a bit of a wet welcome. There was a storm that hit the Philippines on our first day (storm Jolina was in town). Camarines Norte was declared signal No. 1. Because of the situation, we had to abide with the protocol and be safe (than be foolish). We had to cancel all island trips (for the day) and maximize our day with land trips around the municipalities hoping that the following day will be bright and sunny (at least no rain).
The town of Daet is the capital of CamNorte. This was our home base. All of us stayed in an inn called Jocelle’s which I am not going to recommend because the service was bad (sorry), but don’t fret, there are still many accommodation options around the province.
Being the capital, you can find several familiar establishments and restaurants in the area (JOLLIBEE anyone?!!). This is also where you can get local goods to bring home, just visit the local market and you are good to go (pili nut products, bottled Bicol express and peanut bars are no brainers).
Visit the first Rizal Monument (Bantayog Monument)
Constructed in 1898, 2 years after the National Hero’s execution ( he wasn’t even declared as the country’s national hero yet—how cool is that). The Rizal Monument in Daet, Camarines Norte is known as the oldest surviving monument honoring Jose Rizal in the world. The monument wasn’t that big and it can easily be seen while you are moving around the city (it is located along the street, just a walk from the municipal hall).
Events, Parties and a Beach
The time we were in Daet was the same time when the Motourista event happened. It was an initiative event where motorists around the Philippines tour around 12 towns in Bicol acting like a tourism motorcade (I am not really sure how many participated –but they were many). Imagine Tour de France but with motorbikes.
During this time, we had a chance to go around the starting point which was the Bagasbas Beach.
I was surprised that this beach is a famous surfing spot in the region. There were a number of surf shops offering board rentals and lessons. It is like a mini La Union.
Fun facts: Bagasbas Beach is the first internationally recognized surfing spot in the Philippines which attracts both local and foreign surfers. Currently, it is the 62nd top surfing spot in the world – Camarines Norte Tourism Department
In the evening, as the event concluded, we joined the town’s beach party, it isn’t as crazy as what Boracay can offer, but there were booze, music and locals ready to PARTEY…..so I am good with it.
Paracale is also one of the coastal towns in CamNorte. I was so impressed when we visited their local tourism office. Let’s just say, they know what they are doing in terms of promoting their town.
Among all the towns we visited, Paracale’s municipal hall looks more developed. We instantly got the impression that this is the richest town (in terms of finances) in the whole of Camarines Norte. Thanks to its gold mining industry. We didn’t really dwell so much about this (nowadays) controversial industry but one thing that the tourism officer told us is that they are trying their best to regulate it and also, making tourism as an alternative resource for its residents.
Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria
One of the oldest churches in the province or maybe even the region, this 405 year old church still stand at the heart of the rich municipality. Being famous for its gold, you can find their patron saint, the Senora de Candelaria wearing a full gold dress. Also, when you visit, try to go to the church bell tower to see the oldest bell in the province.
Pulang Daga Beach
I know, I know…the name is misleading to Tagalog speakers. But, in Bicolano, ‘daga’ means land/soil and not rat. The name itself describes the beach clearly, the sand at the Pulang Daga Beach is RED (pula). We spent the whole afternoon here. Our first beach experience for this trip! Good thing the weather participated (we even had a good view of the sunset).
Being on the move for 4 consecutive days in the province, it was so hard to keep up the places we visited, but the Binuang Falls in Labo is the one that I remember the most in all our in-land trips.
Binuang falls is a 3-tier waterfall located in the municipality of Labo. What I like about this waterfall is its distance from the car drop off to the lowest tier of the falls. Within a walk of 5 -10 min from the main road, you are there already. YEY. You can rent cottages and also bring food for picnic. If you fancy to check out the 2 top tier, although the pathway can be dangerous and steep, it is still doable to non hikers.
SAN LORENZO RUIZ
With all the swimming/sand lounging and bathing in our itinerary, the town of San Lorenzo Ruiz provided a unique experience during our CamNorte Trip. We went ZIP LINING!
When I saw in our things to do (list) that we will have an opportunity to zipline in the town of Macatong, I couldn’t resist to grab it. We had two choices, one is to just sit down, and the other is a little bit extreme, doing a Superman position. I of course, tried being Superman for the day, well at least for the whole experience.
The view was amazing! You can see the whole forest from below with a line of water flowing in the ravines. BEAUTIFUL. I paid 350 php for the experience and to be honest is was worth it.
Fun Fact: The Zipline at Matacong, San Lorenzo Ruiz is the longest zipline in the Bicol region.
Probably the most hospitable municipality that visited. They were the ones who adopted us when all our island trips were cancelled on the first day. We had a few land trips around the municipality including visiting the Mayor’s Ranch.
When the ocean cleared out for us to hop on a boat, they were the first ones to offer us a trip in one of their beautiful island getaways, and we were so happy they did.
One of the islands we wanted to see is the Parola Island. If we’ll not be able to go to Calaguas Island (yheap the waters going to Calaguas can be very tricky, especially during monsoon season) our next bet will be checking out the pink beach of Camarines Norte.
When you realized that Camarines Norte is more than just Calaguas Island. The past few days, we visited beautiful beaches and islands around the province. YEY! My skin and heart are happily sunkissed again. #doublethefuninjosepanganiban #cometocamnorte #katoogacam #itsmorefuninthephilippines #philippines #camnorte #cabinzero
We arrived in the island and I immediately searched for the pink sand hues, unfortunately my exception to have Komodo Island moment was shattered. During our visit, that pink shade sand were very shy. It was more of white and orange at some parts (but from some angle you can see some pink hues).
Taking away the pink sand expectation, Parola Island still has its charm. There is only one cottage in the whole island, so you have to get in touch with the local tourism office to arrange your visit to make sure that no one will be occupying it when you arrive.
There is still a sense of remoteness in the island and the lush vegetation also makes your island experience instagram worthy (I have to say this).
The island was so aptly name because if its light house (parola). The pathway to the lighthouse will make you feel that you are en route to one of Survivor’s (the TV show) tribal council area. The plants were properly aligned creating a perfect alley way. Although I am sure that it can be very scary in the evening (think of Leo’s The Beach).
Speaking of evening, just like Calaguas Island, you can bring your tent if you fancy staying overnight in the island and gaze at the stars.
If you are to choose a municipality to stay for a few days, I think Mercedes can be the perfect place for you. There are numerous things to do in this municipality and their tourism office is very equip to help you plan your stay (complete with beautifully laid out brochures—-yheap they had me with BROCHURES).
Mercedes is a fish port town. The port can be very busy in the morning. You can see the freshest catch of the day along with locals and brokers haggling at each other. There are also a nearby carinderias (food stalls) where you can get freshly grilled seafood delight!
Siete Pecados (Mercedes Group of Islands)
From the port, you can hop on a boat and visit Mercedes’ famous seven islands. With our current luck, when we decided to visit the 7 islands, rain started pouring out and we got held up at the port.
We still got a go signal to sail but due to the weather, we can only visit 3 of the 7 islands. The seven islands are the following: Canimog, Apuao Pequeña, Apuao Grande, Canton, Caringo, Malasugui and Quinapaguian. For our trip, we visited Canimog, Apuao Pequeña and Apuao Canimog.
It was cloudy (and rainy) when we planned to visit the 7 islands of Mercedes. We were so happy that midday, the sky cleared out, giving us this perfect view. Oh Philippines if only we can set aside all politcal (and LTFRB) issues, you are hands down the best place in the world. #cometocamnorte #katoogacam #camnorte #camarinesnorte #Philippines #magalkosimercedes #itsmorefuninthephilippines #whenwithfilipinos
Canimog Island is the biggest among the seven. It is also known as the Crocodile Island because of its shape. Unfortunately we were not able to go down and experience the island due to the strong waves. From a far, the island looks something you’ll find up north of the Philippines (Batanes). A big chunk of the island is filled with grass and hilly terrains.
Apuao Pequeña Island is an island filled with pine trees. At one point you’ll forget that you are actually in a tropical island until you’ll have a glance of the ocean.
Apuao Grande Island was the place were we stayed the longest. We had our lunch here. The island offers overnight stay for their visitors (either you’ll use your own tent or book a room in the island camp). A normal route if you plan to stay overnight will be, go to Apuao Grande and stay for the day, swim…enjoy the island life, then on your way back to the mainland, you can visit the rest of the islands (for a stop over).
CALAGUAS ISLAND (VINZONS)
Although we were not able to visit Calaguas Island during this trip, I got to see this famous island a year ago. I still believe that this island is the gem of the province. With powdery white sand and crystal clear water, truly a paradise worth visiting.
Being compared to 20 years ago Boracay Island, you can imagine already how pristine the island looks. The only hurdle (and I think it’s a good thing) in visiting the island is the rough current. The waves going to Calaguas are not for the faint hearted making a visit to the island challenging and limited on certain seasons.
Camarines Norte offers a very scenic retreat to those who dare to endure the 10 hour journey going to the province. Will I go back? Yes of course. I want to experience more of what the other towns can offer and maybe this time around, I’ll be able to visit all the Islands of Mercedes.
As what their slogan says: Come to CamNorte, come with a purpose: conquer your fears, wash away your blues, embrace mother Earth, discover the past, celebrate life, uplift your spirit, indulge in gastronomic delight, nourish your body and connect with amazing people.
Have you been to Camarines Norte? What are your most memorable experience in the province?
OFFICIAL PROVINCIAL CONTACT INFORMATION
Provincial Tourism Office:
Tourism Office of Jose Panganiban:
Ruth Marie P. Forteza- firstname.lastname@example.org
Tourism Office of Mercedes:
Nanette N. Ibasco- email@example.com
VAN FOR HIRE
Northlink Events and Travel Services:
0917-554 or (54) 731-0525
This post was in partnership with the Camarines Norte Provincial Tourism Office and Katooga.ph .Check out all social media posts at #KatoogaCam and #ComeToCamNorte