If your idea of a great trip is more stimulating than lying on a beach sun-bathing and more challenging than a group package holiday, then read on. Here’s an inspiring destination that may look appealing to you as an independent traveler who has the nerve to escape out from your comfort zone. Try Calaguas Island. The rewards are amazing. :mrgreen:

Not for the faint-hearted, this “pristine” island has a variety to match. Despite rich pockets of natural resources, this paradise does not have electricity but only lights and light fans powered by generators, restaurants, shops, rooms or beds you can sleep on, etc. Away from the normal resort or island escapade, it gives you the perfect chance to do whatever you want to connect to Mother Earth and not to the Internet this time ’round.

How We Got to Calaguas Island

1. On May 24, 2013, Friday, after work, I went home from work to have dinner and take our bags for the trip. Daddy drove Mom and me to Jollibee Farmers Plaza (open 24 hours), Cubao, where we were supposed to meet with our fellow travelers at 11PM.

2. 16 in the group plus the driver, we rode the coaster from Cubao at 12MN and reached Daet, Camarines Sur at around 10AM. There we had late breakfast at RL Eatery.

3. Two hours after, some of us headed to the nearby market to buy food to cook for our meals, while the rest of us waited at Paracale Port to get ready in boarding a passenger boat to Calaguas Island. The wait was exactly an hour.

4. The boat-ride took two hours and we reached Mahabang Buhangin, Calaguas at about 3PM. Thus began our journey…

Our Calaguas Island and Sinagtala Resort Simple Itinerary for 2D1N

May 25, 2013 (Day 1)

Dazzling landscapes welcomed our view, as soon as we reached Calaguas after a very long drive from Cubao. The high altitude, clean waters and broad sunlight took our breaths away, literally. I thought this was an island similar to that in Lost, the American TV series. 😯

Since there’s no proper brick-and-mortar kitchen, no gas stove, oven and electricity, we had to depend on building fire from a portable burner and butane to cook and heat our food. I’m glad that the designated cooks in our group had done their job well.

Being unfamiliar with these methods, I suggested earlier that we bring and eat canned food for all convenience’s sake. But the idea of creating meals from scratch seemed fun [to them] anyway. Experienced campers in our groups set up hammock, roof and tents at the same time.

We had lunch from 4PM and went beach bumming afterwards. Those, like me, who were afraid to get their skin exposed to the harmful sun rays and have tan lines stayed in our rented open cottage until sundown at 6PM. It was a nice place to hang out — the closest we could get to feel like home.

From 6PM to 7:30PM, we went swimming, played Frisbee, took pictures and explored the other parts of the island.

After taking my goggles off, salty water got into my eyes and I could hardly open them. Mom got me a towel rinsed with clean water to wash if off immediately. While it took her some time to come back at me, I was left there on the shore alone with both eyes closed. One could possibly think I was meditating on deep recollections and practicing a yoga pose on the sands. 😛

At 8PM, we had to stop these beach activities and resort to showering then prepare for dinner. Taking a bath at night was extra challenging as we had to pump water and take the filled bucket inside the small shower room – and go back again to refill water if it’s not enough.

In addition, queues on the shower room/changing room and toilet were always long. Only one light bulb outside illuminated the four rooms. We watched how people suffered in the process. So Mom and I bathe ourselves in the water pump area itself and changed clothes there using only a towel as an “instant curtain” draped like that of those in some department stores’ fitting rooms.

As for cooking, we used lamps and flashlights to see the ingredients and tools. Et voila! Though cooking time took two hours, results were nevertheless okay. On the menu were: chicken afritada (from lunch), pork sinigang and grilled pork liempo with ensalada.

I can’t imagine how I can do the same with smashing success; I’m sure I’d be fraught with pitfalls and paved with errors. Easy conclusion: I can’t stay long in an island like this by myself!

Our cottage was at the farthest end of Mahabang Buhangin and so we wondered what was happening on the other far side. There were loud booming music and disco lights that could be heard and seen. When compared, we were like scavengers in the dark. Mom and I walked for 10 minutes to visit the “animated crowd” and discovered that the lively activities were powered by travel agencies for customers who opted for the packaged tour.

Mobile bar attendants gave out free drinks (mixed, as requested) which were enough to call it a day. We tried three kinds and we most especially liked the “black forest” drink for its uniqueness. It consisted of Tanduay Cossack Blue, white cocoa liqueur, Cowhead milk, cherry syrup poured in large ice cubes.

Then we watched fire dancers perform with poi balls, listened to the band onstage and visited a stall selling Calaguas Island souvenir items such as shirts, pins, ref magnets, bookmarks and bag tags.

This part of the island has been started to be developed by the same group who developed Waling Waling Boracay Beach Resort. Thus larger and more decent cottages for PHp 3,500 a night are growing in number. Inside is a ceiling fan and mattress surrounded by seating.

Back at our area by 11PM, we saw our camp-mates still having their own discussions on a mat near the water. The others were already asleep. We went inside our big tent and slept without a mattress on. Yes, it was completely uncomfortable!

May 26, 2013 (Day 2)

At 1:30AM when it was mid daylight, I felt an inclination to go to the toilet and urinate. I thought I won’t be lost after going to the toilet many times, but there was a slight change on the path since other people had put their tents that blocked the way.

My eyesight was blurry from sleep and I relied on my instincts to motion to the right direction. Good thing I found the way after two turns. There was no one inside the toilet rooms and I relieved my bladder at once. Getting back was another problem. One of the campers in our group helped me and signaled the right way. 😀 I returned back to Dream Land, still with the horrible back pain.

Wake up call on our agenda was supposedly 6AM. But as soon as bright light shone on our tent, I woke up and began stretching at 5:30AM. In the toilet area, there were no mirrors so I didn’t have any idea on what my hair looked like. Oh I know, it might be so disheveled like Kristen Stewart’s favorite hairdo: the just-got-out-of-the-pool hairstyle.

I called Mom to help me pump water to brush my teeth and wash my face. She was so tired she could not get up. A kind woman passed by and offered help which I accepted of course, else I’d appear as a blind person again – pumping water and then getting water without basin, bowl or pail while eyes closed.

We cooked breakfast at 7AM and ate at 8AM. Food served were: Chinese and American spam, longganisa (Filipino sausages), garlic rice, wheat bread and some leftovers from last night.

The passenger boat was set to bring us back to Paracale Port at 10AM. Having a little faith, I looked at my watch and the beachfront almost every 15 minutes to check if our boat has arrived. Wherever it hasn’t, we continued changing topics in our conversation and even pulled jokes and verbalized our silly reasons for his tardiness. One of us got it right: His passengers for the day from Paracale were late and he could not go without them.

In sum, the boatman’s arrival was delayed for two hours. Tsk tsk. Our planned itinerary was ruined, and I was totally irritated. We were supposed to go to Bagasbas Beach (Daet, Camarines Norte) to surf against baby waves. Instead, our organizer proposed another nearby place for a cool swim.

The option sounded fine. It was another chance to see what Camarines Norte offers, but my mind didn’t quite absorb that. All I knew was that we would be arriving at Cubao later than expected and my body would be missing about four hours of rest. I could not take the risk of fainting or passing out during a presentation on the next day at work.

Add to the unfortunate event was that one of the tires of our coaster got deflated. Several minutes were spent waiting while some men removed the flat tire and replaced it with the spare tire. We had to wait another hour for the vulcanizing shop to inflate the original tire and put it back properly.

Everyone didn’t turn out to be a winner in the terrible saga, and I thought no one is to blame when cascading sets of tricks turn to tragedy. The ghastly outcome was no one’s desire, so okay lah, we had to move on and just accept them.

We had the famous pancit bato for lunch, at 2PM. Cooked with soy sauce, fish sauce and a dash of Knorr liquid seasoning, the noodles were fairly the same as the usual pancit canton except for the seasoning. Each plate of pancit bato was priced at PHp 10 and it was ample to get us moving to the next destination without feeling much hungry.

Sinagtala Resort in Labo, Camarines Norte was about an hour away from Paracale. Quiet ambiance, lush tall trees, roaming insects and sparkling pool water were the highlights.

I was quick to decide that I’d just enjoy the surroundings and document their swimming escapade in the running river.

I was just happy to see my mom enjoying herself and mingling and laughing along the members of our travel group. She surely had an amazingly wonderful time.

A cool respite for the weary, Sinagtala Resort is a favorite of locals for picnics and escape from the searing sun. It’s only open to public until 6PM.

We hit the road at 6:30PM and looked for a restaurant nearby. There wasn’t any that fall into the category of “acceptable.” We drove through dark streets and reached a carenderia at 8:30PM in Gumaca, Quzeon where our organizer was kind to treat us dinner.

We left Quezon by 9:30PM and landed at Farmers Plaza, Cubao at 4AM. Dad and my sister were waiting since before 1AM. I could not hide my excitement when I saw them wave. 🙂

That’s about it. I can’t say much for Sinagtala Resort because we barely stayed for an hour there. I’d share my 25 cents on Calaguas at least:

Key Takeaways from Our Trip to Calaguas Island

I’ve heard it say that Calaguas Island is like Boracay Island 30 years ago when it was not that commercialized and populated. They both have powdery white sands, serene waves and beautiful sunset.

To me, Boracay wins ten times over by these points: accessibility, more water and land activities, restaurants and hotels.

If one argues that Calaguas’ winning factor that it’s an “unspoiled” beach, I can argue back saying that it’s an invalid point. At one glance, you can see that there have already been lots of tourists and people who had left their mark and some damage to the place. Also because there’s no proper administrator who manages the cleanliness of the island, we have seen garbage and loose leaves around that smell strongly awful (more in the toilet area).

It’s good to go to Calaguas and challenge yourself once, if you can make it through without electricity, without network signal (no texting and calling using Sun, Smart and Globe except when you struggle to reach the top of a hill when cell site can be located), and without everything that nearly matches the comforts of your home.

For those who cannot afford to lose luxuries and experience this kind of living, I won’t be pushy either. Calaguas may not be your “cup of tea” even in a million years of Sundays. But who knows, unless you try! Go on and bring some vibrant color to your rather dry world.

Things to Bring:

• Sleeping bag and tent or hammock
• Clothes: Fleece Jacket/Down Jacket/Shell, Rain Gear (Rain Jacket/ Poncho or makeshift, like a garbage bag), Bonnet/Head Gear/Scarf/Malong, Rash Guard (if you are surfing)
• Toiletries: Tissue paper, personal medications, first aid kit, shampoo, soap, conditioner, towels, alcohol and sun-block lotion
• Food: Rice, snacks and pickas
• Water bottle to refill water to
• Cooking materials and mess kit (plates, bowls, utensils, frying pan, casserole, griller, knife, mugs, etc.)
• Large garbage bags (at least two pieces)
• Flashlights and headlamp (plus extra batteries)
• Camera
• Plastic bags (for water proofing your bags, clothes, cameras and other items)

How to Get to Daet, Camarines Norte:

By plane:

Book a flight with SeAir and other similar smaller airlines that have direct flights from Manila to Daet, Camarines Norte. If you cannot find tickets, you may choose to take a flight via Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines. But the latter choice will give more hassle as the airport in Naga City in Camarines Sur where you’ll land is about two hours away to Daet by land.

By land (public transportation):

Head to EDSA Cubao, Quezon City and buy a bus ticket from Philtranco. Their buses for long drives have reclining seats and comfortable legroom. Less attractive choices but with cheaper fares are Superlines and Amihan. Expect travel time of 7-8 hours.

By land (private transportation):

Drive to SLEX from Makati and take the exit to Batangas straight to Maharlika highway going to Lucena City. Check Google Maps to know the rest of the directions. ^_^ Or check Calaguas Islands’ blog for more detailed directions.

This tour was arranged by SOLE (Society Of Lost Explorers). Budget per person is PHp 3,000.

To more travels and fun, cheers! 😉

About 

Digital marketing strategist. Health and technology freak. Food and lifestyle blogger with a large appetite for food and travel.

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33 Responses

  1. Aldous

    What an adventure. I have never tasted a drink consisting of Cowhead milk and Tanduay. I wonder how that tasted

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Haha it tasted like black forest cake of Red Ribbon. The cake also has cherry flavor and some amount of liquor, right? There you go. I hope you can imagine it. 😉

      Reply
  2. deo trinidad

    thanks to this wonderful write up.. anyway, there is no flight from manila to daet (vice versa) for about 30 years already. we have a nice airport here in bagasbas, pero walang sumasakay na pasahero kayat hindi viable ang business ng eroplano dito. i’ll share your story para malaman ng mga stakeholder ang mga kakulangan para maisaayos at hindi masira ang paraisong ito..maraming salamat.

    Reply
  3. Franc Ramon

    That was one quite adventure. Some things didn’t go as plan like flat tires but the experience of camping and surviving with limited resources and without the comfort must be satisfying. I think this is what some people want in this place as they can be detached withe technology and the busyness of the city life.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Yup, this place is the one to go to when you want to challenge yourself to live a day or two without technology. My mom and some people would favor this. But as a “city girl,” I really can’t stand long in this island. I would rather to just go to any mall and leave my phone at home.

      Reply
  4. Orly Ballesteros

    I miss my Calaguas Experience to think I was just last December 2012. Anyways thanks for reminding me of this paradise. It is a must visit indeed to all Filipinos!

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Calaguas is not as busy as other commercialized resorts but to me it’s not a perfect paradise either. There are garbage around the perimeter and along the shoreline and even in the water so you can feel that something’s awry while swimming, unfortunately.

      Reply
  5. Dust

    Now, I realized that I never went to a beach recently. I think my summer lacked something. Thanks for reminding! Hahaha! Oh, well. I’ll reward myself nalang soon. 🙂

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Reward yourself by eating food! 🙂 That’s the best I know hehe. This is the only beach I visited this summer. Anyway, you still can go to a lot more beaches this June!

      Reply
  6. Francis Balgos

    Well I wanted to do exactly the same as you did.. Camping in Calaguas in our own.
    But its only me and my travel buddy.
    It had been a fun experience, I signed with Lakwatserong Kusinero for my trips.
    It’s a shame though that I am in training to be an outdoorsman.. Camping here would definitely be worth it, especially bringing friends along.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Yeah for this type of trip, it’s more ideal to tag your friends along instead of your family. You won’t want your family to worry about everything but just enjoy the comforts of being in a hotel and being offered service by the staff. Camping is only suitable for the outdoorsy types, in my opinion.

      Reply
  7. Cheryl Zamora

    Camping and surviving! That’s cool. The beach made me jealous. I realized that I went out this summer only once and maybe missed all the fun. Anyway, it’s almost always summer here so I still have all the chance for an adventure.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Whether summer or rainy reason, you can still go to the beach and have fun! Just don’t pick a day when there are large storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and other horrifying elements of a disaster. 😛

      Reply
  8. Tess

    Great experience. I miss those days outing with friends and cook our meal from scratch. Calaguas Islnd is really one of the place to visit.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Haha I say at least I’ve got one experience cooking meals from scratch in a place where decent cooking equipment is not available. I think I would never want to go back to such again! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Dianne

    OMG! The sand looks super fine and powdery. There are so many white beaches in the Philippines. Camping, what a nice idea! I can’t imagine how can I survive with that kind of set up. But well, as long as I am with my loved people, I will! And thanks to the guide. I’m from Cubao! I want to go their soon too.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      You’re welcome, Dianne! 😀 You can stay in Calaguas overnight and explore some more places in Bicol like we did. If you have gone camping in your childhood days, then this experience will be a wonderful way to bond with your friends and loved ones in a beautiful, natural environment while taking a trip to memory lane. 😀

      Reply
  10. jane

    its been a long time since i had camping!! Though i might in asutralia this year!! Also would love to have some Barbeque perfect for camping with friends too!

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Oh, I haven’t heard of great beaches in Australia as I don’t recall it as a tropical zone. If you have recommendations, please feel free to share here. 😀 Thanks, Jane!

      Reply
  11. Rejj Sibayan

    OMG!!! I really want to visit this place. Seeing your post made me very jealous and I don’t want to end my summer anymore. 🙂

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      I think swimming and exposing your skin under the sun is better when it’s not summer or during the last stretch of summer. 🙂 When the sea is at high tide, it can be rough at times so it’s always sensible to exercise caution.

      Reply
  12. papaleng

    I may say, its a weird but fun experience you have there. I also took notice doon sa comment mo about the place. Para tuloy nagdadalawang isip ako if it would be nice to go there.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Haha di ko lang talaga pala type ganitong lugar. But if you’re into peaceful beachfronts and picturing great views along coastal walking trails and sandy stretches, you might not regret going to Calaguas like I did! 😉

      Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Oh Ephraim, Calaguas is hard to get to in the coming rainy days so if you want to go to this island, better book sooner else you’ll meet an entire tidal wave of disaster while on a boat. 😛 Hihi.

      Reply
  13. Tutubi

    nice, a recent visit to the island. How does it compare to calaguas five years ago? heard there’s now a resort there and noisy videoke 🙁

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Haha I’ve not been to Calaguas before so I can’t make that comparison. But you’re correct — the place is noisy at night with disco lights and sound system that can be heard all over the island.

      Reply
  14. mike

    Just wanted to share our experience during our Calaguas trip this Febuary 2015, this is after heavy rain in so waves are really rough and my heart is about to jump. Good thing our tour guide Noly is really helpful to us and comfort us during that time.
    When we reach the island, it was majestic and pristine as it could be. We had 4 meals a day (heavy meals) and when we go back to Vinzons, Noly asked us to eat at their house (no additional charge) before we head out to Manila. It was an experience for a lifetime, not just because of the beautiful beach. But our tour guide is really helpful and hostpitable.
    You can contact him Noly – 09179595985 / 09206611018 or http://www.calaguasislands.com/ (not affiliated in any way, just a happy traveler)

    Reply

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