Echoserang Travel Guide: Calaguas, Camarines Norte

The Calaguas you saw and you heard about a few years ago is slowly withering away. Or it might have already gone kaput as I am writing this blog post. With the rate it is going, Calaguas may soon follow the ranks of some of our exploited islands and beaches like Boracay and Puerto Galera (Which, by some incomprehensible intergalactic joke, numerous international publications still consider as some of the best islands and beaches in the whole planet). Mind you though, it is still beautiful. You just have to look beyond that murky surface to see that Calaguas still has that beauty. But for sure, it is not the same as it was before. If you still want to see Calaguas even after knowing how it is now, here’s a travel guide that will (Hopefully!) help you do just that.

Calag-what?
Contrary to popular belief, Calaguas is not a single island. It is actually a group of different Pacific islands that are under the administrative jurisdiction of the municipalities of Vinzons and Paracale in the province of Camarines Norte. Calguas is famous for its stretch of white sand beach and pristine, turquoise waters. The place is frequented by tourists mainly for camping and water-related activities. Touted back then as Camarines Norte’s Hidden Gem, trust me, there is nothing hidden anymore about Calaguas, thanks to the recent influx of visitors.
Even with the signs of an impending development, Calaguas is still pretty, I tell you.
So why in the effin’ hell should you still go to the Calaguas Group of Islands?
Because in spite of the impending developments and commercialization, Calaguas is still very pretty; it is still very much post card-perfect like many who have been there previously will say, though a tad less peaceful and tranquil, to be frank. But brace yourself. At night, Calaguas horrifically transforms into something that resembles chaotic pubs in Manila, especially if it’s a weekend. You have been warned.
How to bring your ass to Calaguas
The Calaguas Group of Islands is accessible via two ports – Vinzons’ and Paracale’s. Your entry point will depend where the boatman you hired is located. Since ours, Mang Boy, lives in Paracale, we obviously had to bring our asses over there. Going to Calaguas via Vinzons is not included in this travel guide, as I have not experienced doing that route yet. But you can check out this very helpful blog post by Angel Juarez of Lakwatsero, if you plan on going to Calaguas via Vinzons.
Inside a Superlines bus. Yay! They have free Wi-Fi! I’m a happy passenger.
Going to Calaguas via Paracale
From Manila take a Philtranco or Superlines bus bound for Daet, Camarines Norte. Instruct the bus conductor to drop you off at Talobatib Junction. The bus ride takes around 8 to 9 hours or it can just take 7 hours if your driver suddenly decides to commune with the goddess of death. From Talobatib Junction you can either take a non-aircon bus or a tricycle going to Paracale’s port. The bus will cost you around 25 pesos while the price of the tricycle ride will depend on how manipulative you are and how well you know the art of mind games.
You won’t have any problems looking for boats once you arrive at the Paracale port because locals know that tourists use the municipality as an entry point to Calaguas. Ask around and compare prices. Again, depending on how villainous your haggling skills are, you can snag a boat for as low as 2000 pesos that is good for five to six persons. But if you want to save time, I highly recommend that you contact Mang Boy Camano (0908-546-0683) in advance so he can arrange a boat for you and your companions before you arrive in Paracale. He’s got quite the reputation among Calaguas-goers and we were very,very happy with his services.
Where to stay in Calaguas
Considering that there are already fire dancers, mobile bars, and firecrackers in Calaguas, it is quite baffling that there are still no accommodations there. So yeah, you have to rough it up and camp out. But that’s one experience for the books so shush your overly complaining mouth. Bring those tents but weather-permitting, you can just lay out a blanket by the beach and sleep under the night sky. That works, too.
Gurl, even if you search very far, there are no accommodations in this island. Amsaree to say.
If, unfortunately, you suddenly have an imbecilic moment and you forget to bring tents even after I’ve told you to do so, fret not. Tents can be rented out from the locals at 350 pesos per night. The tent is good for 4 to 5 people. But that really depends on how you and your friends took your summer dieting seriously. There’s also a camping fee, by the way. It can range from 75 pesos to 170 pesos. Mahabang Buhangin is owned by three different homo erectuses. They blatantly can’t decide on a standardized island fee.
Things to do in Calaguas
Beach bum. Even with the crowd, Calaguas is still a decent place to unwind and detach yourself from your daily, monotonous routines. Sleep. Eat. Swim. Sleep. Eat. Swim. Sleep. Eat. Swim. And then curse those love handles once you go back to Manila.
Claire and Jherson bumming it up in Calaguas. Nyahaha.
Island hop. We didn’t do this one since most of my companions were hampaslupases and we were working on a limited time and budget. If you can insert this one on your itinerary, that’d be nice. We’ve heard that some of the islands in Calaguas have yet to be tapped by tourism and commercialism. In short, some of them are still unspoiled beauties.
Calaguas is not all about the beach. Dance in the fields (Wow! Teleserye?) or trek the mountains. And die. *Evil laugh*
Trek the hills. If you’re a mountaineer, a mountaineer-wannabe, or if you just have a simple death wish, Calaguas has beautiful hills you can climb and where you can do cliff diving. But personally, I’d pass up on this one. I already live on top of a mountain. Why would I want to climb elevated landscapes? That is so redundant. Plus, I have fully embraced the sedentary lifestyle.
Random Tips and Tidbits about Calaguas
Bring your own water, food, and other supplies. Calaguas’ islands are far away from civilization. Though there are local stores in Mahabang Buhangin, they might not be selling some of the things you’ll need and their mark-up will certainly be higher than usual. Buy your groceries before leaving for Calaguas.
A huge thanks to Ate Vita, one of Calaguas’ locals, for cooking our rice. Otherwise we’d all die from starvation.
Bring cooking pots, pans, and other kitchen utensils. Though Mang Boy will be very kind enough to lend you a pot, a grill, and an ice box, you’d still need kitchen utensils like peelers, knives, chopping boards, and extra food containers. And don’t dare do what Ate Endette of My Purple Backpack did: bring a key chain-sized cleaver. While it was cute and didn’t weigh much inside her backpack, I had a hard time skinning and chopping those bloody sayotes. But if you truly want to embrace the beach bum life, you can pay the locals to cook your food. But that can be very expensive.
Bring trash bags. It makes you look like a responsible tourist even though, let’s admit it, you truly aren’t. It can also act as a water-proof bag in case one of your companions enrages Poseidon on your way to the islands.
No insect repellants? That’s okay. You can always cover yourself up. Like what Ate Endette did. Sort of.
Bring insect repellants. You are still in a tropical country, so there will always be the risk of DHF (Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever) and Malaria. But if you’re a Filipino, you shouldn’t worry that much. It’s highly probable that your bloodstream already contains dormant plasmodium species. See, there are advantages to being a third world traveler.
Projected Budget and Expenses
1 We took Philtranco’s night trip to Daet, Camarines Norte. Book the tickets in advance. You have to go there personally as they don’t allow reservations by phone.
2 We arrived at Talobatib Junction past five in the morning. There was no bus in sight so we had to take the more expensive option – ride a tricycle.
3 Mang Boy bunked us with another group, so we didn’t have to pay too much for the boat fee.
4 The weather was great when we visited Calaguas so we didn’t see the point of renting another tent since most of us slept by the beach, in the open.
5 I say questionable because we, and even the locals themselves, do not know whose pocket that environmental fee goes to.
6 Yeah, we were lazy to cook some of our meals. Whatever.
7 Since we stayed on the left side of Mahabang Buhangin (if you’re facing the ocean), we had to pay for each bucket of water as opposed to those on the right side who had unlimited water to themselves. The bitches.
8 The non-aircon bus was a cheaper option but we went with the van. The temperature was on roasting levels and the van had aircon. No brainer.
9 On our way home we took a Superlines bus because it was the earliest trip we could find. We liked it. Thanks to the free Wi-Fi inside the bus.
10 The locals’ halo-halos were to-die-for. You will literally die from diabetes because they overload it with excessive sweets like candies and chocolates. I have never seen a halo-halo that colorful and that dangerous.
11 Considering that one of our companions went MIA *ahem* we still managed to stay within the budget. Sort of. Well, my travel buddies posed a 2000 pesos challenge upon themselves, so they obviously failed. But I was just happy not to be overspending.