Catanduanes Island is a less traveled destination in Bicol province. However, it does not follow that the island offers less. Get to know more about this hidden gem in Bicol province. Discover the wow factor of the island in this three-day Catanduanes itinerary.
The mention of Bicol Region in the Philippines will spring to mind the perfect coned Mayon Volcano, whale shark spotting in Donsol, Sorsogon and the Survivor-famed beaches of Caramoan Islands. But wait, these aren’t the only worthwhile places to visit in Bicol. Catanduanes Island, offshore of Bicol Peninsula mainland, should be included in your radar of Bicol tourist spots.
Where is Catanduanes Island?
Catanduanes Island is at the eastern edge of Luzon facing the vast Pacific Ocean. Many will remember Catanduanes as the province often mentioned when a typhoon makes a landfall in the Philippines. However, being at the frontier of the great Pacific Ocean does have benefits. The eastern waters of Catanduanes conjure swells ideal for surfing.
Non-surfers will also have something to love in the island. There is something for you whether you’re a fan of mountains or a beach lover. Moreover, Catanduanes Island is not (yet) a mainstream tourism area. Hence, you will have the chance to experience nature at its finest without the crowd.
Our Three Days Catanduanes Itinerary
Day 1: Baras, Catanduanes
Virac to Puraran Beach
We took the early flight from Clark to Virac via Philippine Airlines (PAL). You may also check Cebu Pacific's Manila to Virac flight. Virac is the only airport serving Catanduanes. From Virac, we hired a tricycle to Baras town. It took us about an hour of travel on a paved road passing by refreshing sceneries of rural areas, rugged mountains and farmlands to reach our destination.
Our final destination and home for the day was Puraran Surf Beach Resort. Puraran Beach is probably popular only to avid local and foreign surfers for its Majestic waves. For non-surfers like me who’s only familiar with the word majestic but not in the context of surfing, the Puraran Beach is a perfect place to find peace and quiet in the sound of the waves.
We reserved our lodge at Puraran Surf Beach Resort prior to our arrival. I think you could easily book an accommodation during regular days but if you’re going on a weekend, it’s better to reserve ahead.
While waiting for our much-needed lunch in one of the beachfront cottages, a group of millennials were jamming Original Pinoy Music (OPM) with a guitar accompaniment. Nice, we have free entertainment to while away our hunger.
How can we go to Binurong Point from here? We asked the lady in-charge of Puraran Surf Beach Resort. She then pointed us to a local hanging out by the seaside. That’s Kuya Onyong. After some friendly conversation and getting to know Catanduanes questions, we agreed that he will be our tricycle driver cum guide for the day and the next.
Binurong Point is part of Barangay Guinsaanan, Baras, Catanduanes. It is a 7 km ride from Puraran Surf Beach Resort plus 20-30 minutes hike to the stunning viewpoints. There’s a booth at the jump-off point where you need to pay PHP 25 per head for the entrance fee and PHP 200 per group (5-10 pax per group) for the compulsory guide.
Interestingly, the viewpoints and hiking trail are part of a private property owned by the Sorreta family. The owner, through a memorandum of agreement, is sharing the income with the barangay. The owner provides caretaker for the pasture lands while the local government provides tour guides for the hike.
Our woman tour guide (apparently, most of the guides are women) led us to an initially uphill paved road before we turned left to a dirt path. The trail took us to forested footpaths, which eventually led to an open grassland with grazing cows and fantastic cliff side vistas.
I will not doubt why the Binurong Point has become popularly tagged as “Batanes of the East”. I’m not keen on putting labels to places this way, though, because I believe (in a beauty contest Q&A tone) that to each his own. Batanes is uniquely Batanes while Catanduanes also has a charm of its own.
There are various viewpoints where you can indulge in panoramic views of rolling hills and the mighty sea crashing on the cliff side rocks. The sun was still in full power when we visited, but the good thing is that the windy atmosphere helps ease the effect of the direct sunlight. Right before sunset would an ideal time to visit. Since Binurong Point is also geographically facing the east, a sunrise hike would also be a good time to visit.
Balacay Point is located 15 minutes ride away from Puraran Beach. Like Binurong Point, Balacay Point will reward you with far-reaching views of the Pacific Ocean while on top of rolling hills. From here, you can also see Puraran Beach below, lined with white waves near the shore.
However, unlike Binurong, reaching Balacay Point will not entail much hike uphill. Tricycles, motorcycles and vans can go all the way up to a small parking area. From there, you can walk at the top of the hill. This is where we spent the sunset. The pastel colors of sunset complements the green grassland, the gorgeous sea and the cool sea breeze brushing against my skin. What a great way of ending the day.
Day 2 – Baras to Bato to Virac, Catanduanes
We have agreed with Kuya Onyong on Day 1 that he will be taking us on a tricycle tour to Bato, Catanduanes as part of our second day Catanduanes itinerary. We will be heading southwest to Bato then to Virac. We started off early after breakfast eager to see more of the places to visit in Catanduanes Island.
PAG-ASA Weather Radar Station in Bato, Catanduanes
The Philippines is one of the top 10 countries vulnerable to climate change. Being highly susceptible to extreme weather events, there is a need to improve the country’s disaster risk prediction and communication. The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA) Weather Radar Station installation near the border of Baras and Bato is one such advancement to this end.
It was a weekend when we went and there was no attending staff at the station, but we were able to climb the rooftop of the station office. At the top are overlooking views of Baras, Bato and Virac. Kuya Onyong even told us that the magnificent Mt. Mayon can be seen from afar on a clear day. We didn’t see any trace of Mayon but we were happy with the views just the same.
The PAG-ASA Weather Radar Station in Bato reminded me of the agency’s another weather station in North Batan, Batanes. Unfortunately, the Doppler radar was damaged by a strong typhoon in 2016, three months before our visit. Like the one in Bato, North Batan’s had amazing views, as well. See the photos of North Batan weather station plus various other North Batan attractions here.
Next stop was the Bote Lighthouse. In order to get to the lighthouse, you will walk along the shores of Sakahon Beach. An entrance fee of PHP 10 and guide (PHP 200 for each group) is also required.
Like in Binurong Point, most of the guides for Bote Lighthouse are women . Ours was a mid 50-ish year old woman. To be honest, I don’t think that a guide is required because the trail up the Bote Lighthouse is pretty straightforward.
However, this guiding stint provides extra income for the locals and also helps maintain this tourist destination. Having said that, I would not hesitate supporting them.
The hike took about 30 minutes or so. Having easily hiked our way to Binurong Point, I may have underestimated the hike to Bato Lighthouse. The trail is covered with tree canopies but the steep and rocky path made me sweat hard and gasp for air.
Getting at the top of the hill took us to Bote Lighthouse. Visitors can climb up the lighthouse for panoramic views of the southern section of Catanduanes Island. While on top of the lighthouse facing the sea, look to your right and you’ll see a strip of land which locals call “Nakangangang Buwaya” (Gaping Crocodile in English).
We went back down to Sakahon Beach after the hike to rest and eat our lunch in one of the huts by the seaside. Before our trek to Bote Lighthouse, we already ordered lunch from the women at the cottage entrance.
They cooked for us a delicious homemade dish - adobong octopus with coconut milk. Dishes cooked in coconut milk and chili are signature touches of Bicolano way of cooking.
The sun was too hot by this time that walking around the beach isn’t that comfortable. However, this did not stop us from admiring the pristine state of the beach.
The stretch of creamy sand beach, combined with crystal clear water and rock formations are a sight to linger on. During low tide, you will see that the beach is blessed with dense seagrass beds, of which species I’ve never seen before.
While in Bato, Poseidon Rock should definitely be included in your Catanduanes itinerary. Poseidon Rock in Brgy. Carorian, Bato town has amazing rock formations which were naturally chiseled by nature. It resembles a layer of rolled bread or otap, a famous delicacy in Cebu.
Poseidon Rock can be reached by outrigger boat from Sakahon Beach. You can arrange for the boat tour at the entrance, where you paid for the Bote Lighthouse fee. They offer boat tours covering visits to Patag Islet, Carorian Japanese Kaidan, seaside waterfall, Pinta Beach and Poseidon’s Rock.
Due to limited time, we chose to visit just the Poseidon Rock at PHP 2,000 per boat ride. This is a bit expensive for a single destination but seeing how astounding Poseidon Rock is makes the trip worth it.
It is not advisable to swim the waters around Poseidon Rock because the sea can be rough but worry not if you wish to have a dip because there are two saltwater lagoons coved within where you can cool off.
Batalay Mangrove Ecopark
The Batalay Mangrove Ecopark was established by the government in an effort to restore the mangrove forest in Bato. Mangroves are important breeding grounds for aquatic animals, and habitat for waterfowls.
Likewise, mangroves act as protective barriers against erosion from strong waves and winds. Notice the mangrove’s extensive root system? They act as filters protecting coral reefs and seagrass beds from sediment choking.
Lecture aside, the Batalay Mangrove Ecopark was developed as a Bicol tourist spot for kayaking, boat ride and possibly dive sites. There’s a bamboo stilt boardwalk where you can get close to the thick mangrove forest. In order to reach the boardwalk, you need to take a ride on a paddle boat from the other side. The cost for the paddle boat ride is PHP 20 per person.
The spot doesn’t seem to be visited frequently. We were offered a paddle boat ride to get to the bamboo bridge but other than that, we didn’t have anything much to do aside from walk from end to end and appreciate the mangroves.
I have no idea how the local government plans to develop the area. Batalay Mangrove Ecopark is a great avenue for creating mangrove protection awareness and for involving the locals in a community-based tourism.
What comes to my mind is the Suyac Island Mangrove Ecopark in Sagay, Negros Occidental. Batalay’s mangrove ecopark may use Sagay’s as a model, where the local government fully supports sustainable tourism, with locals heavily involved in its operation and maintenance.
Bato Church is a Spanish-era church built in 1852 and the oldest existing church in the province. It is made of mortar and coral limestone and designed to withstand harsh winds and storm, which are regular visitors of Catanduanes especially during monsoon season.
The church is situated along the main highway and stands tall at a relatively higher ground, overlooking Bato River. We went in April 2019 when restoration of the historic church was on-going.
The restoration was apparently initiated by Father Roberto Sanchez while doing his masters thesis. The church’s structure is under threat of damage due to its constant exposure to extreme weather conditions. Thanks to Fr. Sanchez who spearheaded this project and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines who is funding this endeavor.
Hoping not to suffer the same fate as the old stone houses and other structures in the 2019 earthquake in Itbayat Island in Batanes, Bato Church’s restoration is a good move to preserve the integrity and history of the church. It could be noted that Batanes houses are made of thick slabs of coral limestones, as well. It may be resistant to strong typhoons but the soft limestone will be at high risk to earthquake.
Looking at the photos of the old Bato Church before the restoration, I would say I like better the charm of the unrestored church with shrubs sprouting from the roof top section. However, if reinforcement would entail this new look in exchange of a preserved cultural heritage, then who am I to oppose such undertaking?
Bato Church to Virac
From Bato Church, it is only around 11 km to Virac. Kuya Onyong happily dropped us off at Casa Remedios Bed and Breakfast. We arrived about 4 PM, which gave is enough time to rest, freshen up and head to Virac Town Center for dinner.
Day 3 – Virac, Catanduanes
Our last day was dedicated to exploring the beaches of Virac and its other attractions. We rented a tricycle for a day tour with the help of our home stay’s owner. Here are what we’ve covered for a tricycle day tour in Virac.
I am glad we had a heavy breakfast at Casa Remedios because heading off to our first stop, Hicming Falls. There’s a ticket booth near a sign indicating the start of the trail, where we were asked to register and pay PHP 15 per head. I don’t know whether a guide is obligatory but a guide was already waiting at the booth when we arrived. We asked how much is the guide rate but she said that it’s up to us what amount we will provide. Yet again, we had a local female guide.
Hicming Falls has two levels. The path to the first level is not uphill but it entails crossing a shallow but rocky river. Hence, wear water shoes or sandals/ slippers with good traction. It’s a short hike to the first level but you wouldn’t want to slip in the rocky terrain, so be careful.
At 10 feet drop, the first level of Hicming Falls isn’t that spectacular. However, I would imagine that locals, especially children would love to make this spot their hidden playground.
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The second part of the trek involves a short uphill hike through the forest. It seems as though not many people frequent the trail because the paths are literally off beaten. We arrived at the second level falls and found no other visitors there. We lingered for a while admiring the beauty of the two-tiered waterfalls.
Luyang Cave Park
Luyang Cave in Brgy. Bictin can be reached through a winding road in a mountainous landscape. Watch out for a little arc on the side of the road indicating that you’ve arrived at the Luyang Cave Park. Our tricycle pulled over at the edge of the road and we alighted to descend a stairs leading to the cave.
As soon as I walked at the mouth of the cave, a breeze of cool damp air brushed against me, as if calling my attention to come closer. There’s a cemented stair taking you further down, but you have to wait for your eyes to adjust to the darkness for you to reckon what’s inside. I can see a flat path inside the high ceiling cave. However, walking a bit further, it’s already pitch black. Our cellphone flashlights were too weak to let us venture deeper into the cave.
I was hoping there was a local guide who can let us use a bigger lamp and lead us inside but there was none. I wasn’t willing to go in further because aside from fear of the unknown amidst the darkness, the cool blowing wind is literally and figuratively giving me the shivers.
Knowing the cave’s tragic story will give you the chills even more. Apparently, a lot of locals died inside the cave when the Moro (or Muslim) raiders discovered their hideout. The villagers burned the dried twigs which they used to cover the cave entrance, thinking it would prevent the Moros from getting in. However, story has it that the wind blew inwards the cave and smothered the villagers inside.
We shortly stopped over a carinderia for lunch. After that, our Virac itinerary became a Catanduanes beach hopping activity. Catanduanes is the 12th largest of more than 7,600 islands in the Philippines. It is blessed with expansive shoreline, placing beaches at the top of the list of Catanduanes tourist spots.
Mamangal Beach in Virac has a long stretch of powdery white sand beach that could rival that of Boracay. We came on a Sunday and the cottages along the seaside were almost full, mostly of local visitors. We walked further to one end of the beach where there are no cottages. Thanks to the tree canopies by the seaside, we found a free shade to stay at.
Though a lot of locals were out and about having their family day by the beach, the long stretch of white sand has provided us with more than enough space and tranquility. On one hand, I actually enjoyed watching the kids playing at the beach who did not mind having a sun-kissed skin at mid-afternoon.
Batag Beach is popular for the natural arch formation at one end of the beach. The tide was low when we went which meant that swimming is not possible near the shore. The low tide was nonetheless a great opportunity for children to run around the long stretch of beach.
We walked our way into the natural arch albeit the rocky seabed. After a few photos, we walked back to shore and decided to stroll the other side of the beach. The houses of the fisher folks are just a few meters away from the beach. It was the hottest part of the day at that time so we decided to head to the next beach and see if we can find a shade there somewhere.
Unlike the earlier beaches we visited, Talisoy Beach is a small cove. Being there on a Sunday, the beach was quite packed with locals. However, we did found a shaded spot at one side of the beach. We took advantage of the sea breeze to lie down and take a nap.
What’s special about this beach is the rock formation resembling the face of Jesus with a crown of thorns. Facing the sea, you will see this formation at the right side. Just walk or swim a little away from the coast to see this. The tides are starting to get high by that time so I just took a few quick snaps before securing my camera (and myself) back to the shore.
We were having a little discussion that involves deciding whether we should get back to Virac town proper because our stomach is already complaining. It seems as though our stomach’s prayer was answered when a lady passed by selling a basket of turon.
Learn more about other island destinations in the Philippines:
How to Get to Catanduanes Island
Manila to Catanduanes by air
From Manila, you can get to Catanduanes by air via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines (PAL).
- Cebu Pacific – Manila to Virac
- Philippine Airlines - Clark to Virac (Note: Clark is 2.5 hours away from Manila by land. Check bus schedules from Trinoma to Clark here.)
Manila to Catanduanes by air and sea
You can also book a flight from Manila to Legazpi. From Legazpi airport, go to the Legazpi City Integrated Bus Terminal and walk to the van terminal bound to Tabaco Port. Ride the ferry to Virac Port.
Manila to Catanduanes by land and sea
There are buses plying directly to Virac from Manila via Bicol Isarog in Cubao or RSL bus in Cubao or Pasay. Bus trip is about 10 hours. When you take this route, the bus ticket will include the RoRo (Roll On Roll Off) or fastcraft ride from Tabaco to Virac. You may also take a bus from Manila to Tabaco then transfer to a ferry going to Virac port.
For your convenience, you may also book online through 12Go Asia:
Where to Stay in Catanduanes
Puraran Surf Beach Resort (Baras)
The resort is perfect for surfers who wish to surf the Majestic and non-surfers wanting to have a beach getaway. It is located 35 kilometers from Virac airport. They offer basic accommodation and serves food as well.
Casa Remedios Bed and Breakfast (Virac)
Casa Remedios Bed and Breakfast is quite modern yet homey. The two sisters and their staff are very friendly and warm people. Don’t forget to check out the rooftop if you happen to be here during sunset.
When is the Best Time to Visit Catanduanes?
For experienced surfers, the best time to go is July to October. March to June is ideal for beginner surfers. If you don’t surf and want to enjoy the beach and rolling hills, the best time to visit is during summer or March to May.
Catanduanes is a big island with lots of hidden gems that 3 days is not enough to explore the entire island. This itinerary covers only the southeast to southwest sections of the island, but I think is good enough for first timers in Catanduanes.
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