Caramoan: Discover the Paradise
What inspired me to visit the Philippines was an American reality show Survivor. The beautiful shots featured on Survivor: Philippines and Survivor: Caramoan a few years back got me obsessed with Caramoan. I knew that this obsession wouldn’t let go until I give in and visit Caramoan myself. I wanted to find out if it really was the same as they showed it on television. And that’s how I fell in love with this secluded, breathtaking place at the end of the world.
How do I make my dream come true?
I was searching for cheap flights (like a travel blogger does regardless of whether he is planning a holiday or not – I wasn’t) and I stumbled upon a great deal on flights from London to Manila. All I thought when I saw the price was “I can finally go to Caramoan!”. I treated it as a sign. I had to do it. So I made it happen.
I’m often hesitant about going to places I see on tv or read about. I’m scared they’re overrated. So I planned my trip to the Philippines only so that I could visit Caramoan and make my dream come true.
I double checked my finances and after consideration, I decided to extend the trip to the Philippines with a visit to Vietnam and Cambodia (I mean, if I’m already in the Philippines, why not visit a few other countries on the way, right?). Here you can read my 5 Useful Tips for Saving Money to Make Travel Dreams Come True.
Finally, I booked my flights and asked my manager for the time off (in that order). My plan was falling into place.
Caramoan turned out to be the most amazing place I’ve ever visited, but let’s go into the details. By the end of this post I want you to be looking for flights to Manila!
Where is Caramoan?
Caramoan is a municipality in Camarines Sur province of Bicol region in the Philippines. It’s located on the tip of Caramoan Peninsula, where you can get either by bus or boat.
As much as the local area is extremely beautiful and full of exquisite nature, it’s not the peninsula that interests us as much as Caramoan Islands located nearby.
First, find yourself a reliable accommodation on the peninsula. Preferably one that provides tour services and can hook you up with an English speaking guide and a boat. We recommend The Central Discovery Hotel – you can find more details about this place below.
Once you’re settled in your accommodation, you can start island hopping around the area of the National Park. And there’s a lot to see, so make sure you have enough time in Caramoan!
Island Hopping in Paradise:
Discover Caramoan Islands
Discovering the Secret Lagoon: Matukad Island, Caramoan
Matukad Island is one of the main points of interest of any tourists visiting Caramoan. A visit to this island is usually included in most island hopping tours starting from Paniman Port.
As you approach it, the beautiful limestone cliffs and pristine powdery white sand beaches will take your breath away.
While there, you can enjoy the sun, relax in the crystal clear water or spend this time actively. You can climb the limestone cliffs to reach a secret lagoon on the other side of the cliffs. You can’t go all the way to the bottom of the lagoon, but the views are spectacular! Make sure you have comfortable shoes, because the rocks can be slippery and sharp. Only experienced climbers and local guides should go barefoot.
Also, during the day, local coconut vendors sell coconuts just by the beach. If you want, you can even learn how to open coconuts with a machete! Just be careful, you don’t want to leave any fingers on the island!
After rock climbing, make sure to enjoy the landscapes, hide in the shade and sip on your fresh coconut. It’s a blissful place!
A Perfect Beach Getaway: Lahos Island, Caramoan
Next up is Lahos Island which looks like two rock formations connected with a path of sand. Our guide told us it looks from a distance like a whale, and if you’re imaginative enough, it really does!
You can stay on one side of the beach and enjoy the peaceful view of the ocean, or you can turn around and you’ll see limestone cliffs and tropical forests covering the caramoan peninsula.
Waves hitting the rocks, wind blowing through the palm trees – it’s one of the views you can’t get enough of. Take lots of photos! You’ll appreciate them when you get back home!
Survivor-style Photos: Cagbalinad Island, Caramoan
With a massive rock in the middle of the beach, this island makes an great spot to take some epic photos. Climb it and make your companion take a Survivor-style photo of you. Your friends will scream when they see it on your Facebook profile and you will feel like a badass, looking down at the sea and the white sand. Don’t forget your Survivor buff!
A Little Climbing Spot: Minalahos Island, Caramoan
The island located just a few minutes away from the Paniman Port has a hidden pathway to another small rock climbing trail.
The trail will take you to a spot where you can take a look at the other side of Minalahos. Again, make sure you’re careful while climbing, because the rocks are even sharper on this one! Ask your guide to lead you up to the viewpoint.
Stunning Manlawi Sandbar: Lahuy Island, Caramoan
Manlawi Sandbar is probably the most unique place we’ve seen in Caramoan.
It’s also the widest sandbar in Caramoan just by the shore of Lahuy Island, the biggest island in the area. As you’re dropped off by your boat, you have to walk towards bamboo huts floating on the water. While there, you can rent one of the huts for a small fee, buy coconuts from the local vendors and enjoy the most stunning view on what seems to be a never-ending beach.
Watch out for starfish floating underwater and, again, take lots of incredible pictures. It’s one of the most picturesque places in Caramoan!
The friendly vendors also sell other goods, such as locally manufactured, coconut-wood water goggles that will make a great souvenir.
Weaving Palm Fronds: Cotivas Island, Caramoan
Our time in Cotivas was another wonderful experience during our stay. Since it’s an island located nearby Manlawi Sandbar on the eastern side of Lahuy Island, you’d probably visit both of them on the same day.
Here as well you can set yourself up in one of the bamboo huts located just by the sea. Resting in the shadow, enjoy the pleasant breeze and the blue sky.
During our visit to Cotivas, one of the locals was building another bamboo hut on the beach. We approached him and he kindly showed us together with our guide how to weave palm fronds! It truly felt like a Survivor experience. I mean, look at us! How excited we are!
Rock Climbing Challenge: Bagieng Island, Caramoan
Now this is another Survivor island. It’s where Immunity Challenges took place during Survivor: Caramoan and Survivor: Philippines – and I actually confirmed that rewatching both seasons after our visit to Caramoan.
It’s a beautiful triangular island with two white sand beaches spreading towards limestone cliffs.
In addition, there is some rock climbing available as well, if you’re up for a challenge. We got there only for about half an hour and it was just before the sunset. The area looked spectacular and we couldn’t stop taking photos. We were in awe.
It was the last island of this region that we visited during our stay, but as you can see, even though there were so many of them, I remember each of them clearly. It is the most amazing remote beach location I have ever seen.
Getting back to Paniman Port took our breath away as our boat took us through a mangrove forest upon sunset.
Visiting a Local Household
Dark orange sky was turning dark with every minute we moved across the mangroves and then, unexpectedly, our guide Glenn took us to a local household in the area where one of our boatmen’s family lived.
It was because we mentioned something to our guide about sugarcane earlier in the day, which he kindly remembered and decided to get us fresh sugarcane from his friend’s household.
When we arrived at the little beach they lived by, we saw how they were getting ready for fishing. Chickens were running around in the sand and a few little fires were fuming to keep mosquitos away from their home.
It was a very humbling experience and it finished our day off perfectly. We were getting back to our resort and watching the most stunning landscape from the boat, nibbling on fresh sugarcane.
Done with island hopping?
There’s more to do in Caramoan!
If you thought that all Caramoan has to offer is the island hopping (even though it would have been worth it regardless!), keep reading. You’re about to find out there’s many more reasons to visit this gorgeous place!
Spread the Angel Wings: Baliguian Falls
To access this waterfall, you can take a boat from Guijalo Port on the southern side of the Caramoan Peninsula. It takes about half an hour to get to Baliguian, located in Presentacion municipality.
The path to the waterfall goes through a Filipino village. Surely, people will take interest in your visit as it doesn’t seem a lot of people visit this waterfall. And to our surprise, because Baliguian Falls was massive for an under-the-radar waterfall.
If you want you can have a swim in a bigger pond towards the bottom of the waterfall, or you can jump into the waterfall as you get to the top part of it.
There’s also a great place for taking cool photos as the waterfall can spread around you as you stand in front of it, which looks, as our guide told us, Angel’s wings. And I agree, it does look epic.
Our whole group had a lot of fun at the waterfall, swimming and jumping into the water. We had a great time, and there was nobody else there during our visit! A friendly local climbed a coconut tree and got us fresh coconuts while we were there as well. What an amazing place!
Explore Guijalo: Kalagikhik and Hurandayan Beach
Just to the east from Guijalo Port is a couple of beaches you can visit either taking a boat there or going through a local village on the hill by the port.
The first one is where most fishermen boats are at. A lot of households located just by the beach and dozens of friendly kids running after you and asking where you’re from.
Right next to it is another nice beach, a bit more secluded and uninhabited. Our guide told is it was a public beach, however, our group was there alone at the time. Beautiful sunset! But a word of advice – Glenn warned us that after sunset vicious bugs come out, so this beach wouldn’t be a good place for an overnight camping.
The last beach in the area there was the prettiest one we visited on the peninsula, but unfortunately it was a private beach. A family living there welcomed us and we had a lovely time just walking around and admiring the views. They let us into their outside bamboo hut where they shared with us some grilled cassava and fried some fish we brought with us.
The Spirit of Tribal Council: Gota Village Resort
Gota Beaches are all located by the Gota Village Resort. This is the place where the crew of Survivor stays during production. Gota Beach 1 is located just at the resort and it’s a nice small beach hidden among massive limestone cliffs. Gota 2 is usually used during production as the location of Tribal Council.
This is a great spot for the production as they use beaches in close proximity to Gota Village as the tribe camps.
At Gota Beach 1 you can climb up to a viewpoint in the middle of the two beaches. Did I mention spectacular views? Right. Let’s move on.
Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Viewpoint
The statue of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary and a shrine are located at a viewpoint near Tabgon Boat Terminal.
From there you can enjoy the most amazing view at Lahuy and other islands nearby.
It can make a nice activity if you need a break during your island hopping tour.
Adrenaline Boost: Bulang Bugang Underwater Cave
This underwater cave was a scary experience to me, but if you’re into that kind of stuff, you’ll surely enjoy it.
It’s pitch black, so you will need to get a waterproof torch to keep on your head. As you get through the cave you need to be careful not to hurt yourself. The water level is quite high and the few times you can actually reach the bottom, it’s covered in nasty mud.
It’s a huge adrenaline kick and overall it makes for a very chilling experience.
More reasons to visit Caramoan:
In addition, if you need more reasons to visit Caramoan, here’s another few:
– more rock climbing
– kayaking with your friends through a mangrove forest
– cooking class, if you want to learn to cook rice in a bamboo
– ask your guide to teach you survival skills
If you’re into camping, it’s possible to stay overnight at Cotivas Island or Matukad Island.
Just make sure you go with your guide and that he will arrange transport and food for you while you’re there.
It can surely make an incredible memory that you’ll remember your whole life.
Accommodation in Caramoan
There isn’t much to choose from in terms of accommodation in Caramoan. It is still a very undeveloped area in terms of tourism.
Of course, you have options from one or two budget inns to some mid-range resorts, to a few very expensive ones where producers of the American Survivor stayed during the production of their series. Therefore, it’s all up to you, your expectations and your budget.
Low budget hostels are located in Caramoan town further away from the seafront. No wifi, no hot water, probably about P700-1000 per night for a double room.
Places like Gota Village Resort are much more expensive, and if you’d like to check prices for the days you’re interested in, I’d recommend checking Agoda prices prior to arrival.
Disclaimer: You need to remember to find out if there is an ongoing production of Survivor on the dates you’re interested in visiting Caramoan. If they’re working on the series, you won’t be able to access quite a lot of islands, so it would be better to come another time!
Caramoan Central Discovery Hotel
Our group stayed at Caramoan Discovery Hotel after a warm recommendation from a dear friend.
It’s located near the center of Caramoan town, but getting to the beach is only a question of a 20 peso tricycle ride.
The most important factor to us was that the hotel was also organizing tours around Caramoan at a very attractive price. The setting of the hotel is in a beautiful rural area surrounded by rice fields and wandering water buffalos. There is also a weak wifi connection in the lobby/restaurant area of the resort, a hot shower and air-con in all rooms.
The restaurant on the ground floor serves food and drinks at decent prices and every evening about 6 pm starts a videoke session. It ends around 11 pm, so you don’t need to worry about sleepless nights.
The staff is fantastic, especially our amazing tour guide Glenn and the manageress of the hotel, Nora. Unfortunately, the rest of staff didn’t speak much English, but they were all very welcoming!
All bookings go through Mr. Harold, the manager of the hotel whose telephone number you can find on the hotel’s website.
Room prices at Caramoan Central Discovery Hotel per night (mid-2016):
2 Guests – 1 Queen Bed + 1 Sofa Bed – P1,200
4 Guests – 2 Queen Beds + 1 Sofa Bed – P1,500
6 Guests – 3 Queen Beds + 1 Sofa Bed – P2,000
8 Guests – 4 Queen Beds + 1 Sofa Bed – P2,500
10 Guests – 4 Queen Beds + 2 Sofa Beds – P3,000
Sample prices at the Caramoan Central Discovery Hotel Restaurant:
P15 – plain rice
P25 – garlic rice
P50-70 – traditional Filipino breakfast (rice + egg + meat)
P80 – grilled fish
P85 – french fries
P60-80 – sandwiches
P70-80 – fried noodle dishes 1 portion
Here you can check out recent rates and more photos of the hotel on Agoda.
Three Days in Paradise: Our Caramoan Tour
Our group chose a 3 day tour in Caramoan. The prices per person depend on the size of the group you’re traveling with.
For the six of us, the price of the whole tour including accommodation, boat rentals, and an English speaking guide was P3000 per person.
In addition, available at the resort are also food packages of meals for a whole group. However, since we were a group of fussy individuals, we decided not to take the food package. Instead, we ordered food ourselves individually which allowed some of us to have the dishes that wouldn’t be included in the food package and others to eat meals at a lower price and save money.
On the other hand, we did see the food other groups received within their food package and if you’re a big group that want to try local dishes and delicacies, we would definitely recommend it. It looked like quite a feast!
The staff warmly welcomed us straight after we arrived at Guijalo Port. Glenn picked us up and took us to the resort. At the reception, there was a tray with six glasses of juice waiting for us before we even checked in. They also set up a table waiting for us in the restaurant for lunch.
You can take a look at our itinerary below and see what our island hopping tour included.
Our Caramoan Itinerary:
Caramoan Tour Day 1 – Matukad, Lahos, Cagbalinad and Minalahos Islands
Caramoan Tour Day 2 – Manlawi sandbar, Lahuy, Cotivas and Bagieng Islands
Caramoan Tour Day 3 – Baliguian Falls, Bulang Bugang Underwater Cave and Guijalo beaches
We stayed in Caramoan for a couple more days afterwards. That was when we tried kayaking, visited Gota Village and explored a few more places around the area.
Remember to be safe and carry a first aid kit with you wherever you go!
Getting to Caramoan
My issue with Filipino transport has begun the moment I landed at Legazpi Airport. In the Philippines, you will often have to travel back and forth between little towns in order to catch a connecting jeepney, bus or a minivan to your destination. Even if when you look at the map, it doesn’t really make sense.
Buses to Caramoan
First of all, you need to get to Naga in Bicol. The easiest way to do it is to take an hour long flight from Manila. You can also fly to Legazpi if the flight is cheaper than to Naga – it’s only 100 km away from there.
If you’re on a budget and don’t mind the hassle, you can take a bus from Manila to Naga. It’s about a 12-hour drive, but it’s half the price of the flight. Just don’t expect any luxury or comfort no matter what bus company you choose.
Once in Naga, you can catch a bus from the SM Bus Terminal going straight to Caramoan town. You don’t need to book it in advance, you can just show up and go. The ride takes about 4-5 hours (and costs about P250). From what we’ve heard is not particularly pleasant due to the mountainy terrain in Caramoan. The roads are not in good condition, so you go up and down, left and right all throughout the journey.
Boats to Caramoan
You can also take a boat from Sabang Port near Naga.
From Naga Bula jeep terminal, catch a minivan going to Sabang Port. It will most likely cost P100 and take about 1,5 hours to get to Sabang. Then catch a boat called Harry at the Sabang Port going to Guijalo Port.
Again, no need to book ahead as you pay the fee on the boat towards the end of the journey. It costs P120 and takes another 2,5 hours to get to Guijalo. The views are spectacular and definitely worth it. I would recommend going by boat over the bus anytime.
At Guijalo Port you have to pay a tourist fee of P30. In order to get to Caramoan town, you will have to catch a tricycle or make sure someone from your hotel picks you up. Tricycle from Guijalo port to Caramoan town is P20 per head or P150 for the whole tricycle.
The Harry boats between Sabang Port and Guijalo Port start at 6 am and the last one leaves Sabang at 1pm. The last one leaving Guijalo for Sabang every morning is at 11 am.
Add Caramoan to your travel bucket list!
In conclusion, I have never seen anything like this in my life. The beauty of Caramoan is unique and humbling.
During our tour we met great people, we had an amazing guide with whom we are friends up to this day and if you’re thinking about going to the Philippines and you want to experience something else than every other traveler going to Boracay and Palawan, it’s the right place for you.
See it yourself and appreciate it before it becomes another touristy attraction. The ultimate paradise at the end of the world!
Watch the first day of the Caramoan Discovery Tour on our YouTube channel – give us a thumbs up, subscribe and let us know if you have any more questions about the tour or Caramoan Peninsula.
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