Travel Guide: Camarines Sur Tourist Itinerary
The province of Camarines Sur is fast becoming a prime destination for those urbanites with a taste for adventure. CamSur, the colloquial name given to the place by these young travelers, reasonably has what it takes to be the recent “it” tourist spot. It is the location of the famous CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC) and the stunning Caramoan Peninsula, now known as the location for the French version of the reality TV hit Survivor. And with the local government further improving the province's infrastructure, CamSur might just become the country's top tourist destination.
The quickest way to get to CamSur is by plane. A direct flight from the Manila Domestic Airport to the town of Pili (14 km. South of the provincial capital Naga) will take about 45 minutes. It is also, however, the most expensive mode of transportation as a one-way ticket costs about Php 2600. If convenience and time matter over money, then fly.
Although a little sluggish compared to the plane ride (the trip takes about 8-10 hours), taking the bus is much cheaper, with one-way rates clocking in at just around Php600. There are also comfortable options for those who can spend extra bucks. Isarog and Philtranco bus lines offer deluxe 29 seaters with almost fully reclining seats at around Php750.
A reminder for those who wish to use the bus: Make sure that you get reservations and claim your tickets a few hours before your departure. There is a huge demand for these seats, and the bus companies are not apologetic if you have failed to acquire your tickets on time.
- Philippine Airlines: +63-2-855-8888
- Isarog Bus Co.: +63-2-473-8804
- Peñafrancia Bus Lines: + 63-2-811-1197
- Philtranco: +63-2-811-2541
What to do
CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC)
The first thing one should do upon stepping foot on Camarines Sur is heading straight to the CamSur Watersports Complex, currently the province's most famous attraction. This recently constructed compound draws crowds from different parts of the world, mainly for its internationally adept wakeboarding facilities. There are annual wakeboarding summits celebrated at the CWC, and if you are a fan of the sport you should not miss these.
There's wakeboarding, which should be unmissable in any tourist's list of activities. But for those with serious hydrophobia, the swimming pool is a more promising option. Or maybe the game room, the skate park, or the bike park, alternatives which are really devoid of water.
The wakeboarding rate is currently pegged at Php160 for an hour's rental of equipment, already enough for novices who really just want to try the sport. However, for those serious in learning, whole day use at Php610 is a very good option. All the rates are listed at the CWC site (http://www.camsurwatersportscomplex.com/rates_prices).
There are accommodations on the CWC itself, with prices starting at around Php500 pax overnight. A myriad of options abound, from small but chic converted container vans to spacious pavilion rooms. Check the CWC site for details (http://www.camsurwatersportscomplex.com/accomodations_rooms).
Camarines Sur, also a Catholic province, boasts a string of churches rich with history and culture. Here are some of them that you should pay a visit to.
- Metropolitan Cathedral of Naga. The biggest church in Bicolandia, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Naga is a Spanish Romanesque building that was built by the Franciscans during 1843.
- Our Lady of Peñafrancia Church. This neoclassical-inspired structure is the original home and the center of festivities during the celebration of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. The construction details are not entirely known, but the church is believed to been have built in 1750 by Bishop Isidro Arevalo.
- Bombon Parish and Leaning Bell Tower. This parish, which was initially constructed by Fray dela Torre and finished by Rev. Fr. Jose Ribaya, is notable for its leaning bell tower. It is located in the town of Bombon.
Island-hopping in Caramoan
Now, we are breaking the usual CamSur itinerary by suggesting a trip to lovely Caramoan Peninsula. This lovely wedge of land located about 50km northeast of Naga offers some of the most stunning landscapes and cliffs that can rival those of Palawan. It also calls for a more primal sense of adventure, as travelers have the option to camp out in beautiful islands and be in close contact with marine life.
Going to Caramoan is a bit of a challenge, but still manageable. You just have to really stick to your schedule to avoid delays and budget changes.
The jump-off point would be Naga Terminal, where you can either take an air-con minivan or a jeepney to Sabang Port. The trip takes about two hours, and you'll shed about P100 (The jeepney is cheaper, so if you're in a budget, take it.). The time is a little long, but at least you are treated to a view of Mount Isarog, one of the Philippines' national parks.
Once you've reached Sabang Port, take the boat to Guijalo (P150, two hours). Four boats go each day, with the last one leaving at around 1pm. If you're unlucky to have missed the last boat, you can hire one of the fishing boats to take you to Guijalo, but they are a little pricey (P1300 if you are a good haggler, but it could go much higher), and will get you drenched in seawater. If you're adventurous, why not?
From Guijalo, you take a 10-minute tricycle ride (P10-15) to the Caramoan town proper.
In the near future there will be cabanas on the beachfront available for renting, but for now the accommodations are all situated in the town proper. There are four prominent stay-in places: Sights and Sand Tourist Inn, La Casa Roa, Rex Tourist Inn and Villa Juliana Lodging House.
- Sights and Sand Tourist Inn.The newest in town! Feel the comfort of home at the cozy cabanas which are fully air conditioned, with double beds, television and private bathroom. A PERFECT ABODE FIT FOR YOUR BUDGET AND LIFESTYLE! Prices are at around Php1200. We also offer package tour. Contact number: (smart)+63-929-4721095; (globe): +63-927-6775286. Email: sightsANDsand@yahoo.com.
- La Casa Roa. The largest of the three, with single air-con rooms at around P700 and doubles at P1200. Contact number: +63-54-8115789. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rex Tourist Inn. A very modest place with big enough rooms for singles and pairs. All rooms have air-conditioners, cable TV, and hot showers. Prices are at around P500 pax. Discounts can be requested. Contact number: +63-919-8821879.
- Villa Juliana Lodging House. Best for those with tight budgets but still would not want to compromise certain luxuries. No hot shower. Prices are at around P400 pax. Contact number: +63-921-2261395.
The four hotels' staff are very accommodating and helpful on getting the necessary information about food and travel concerns, so do not hesitate to ask for help.
Boat riding, island-hopping, and beach camping are the three must-dos in Caramoan. You can hire a seven-person fishing boat for an entire day (costs around P1000), and tour around the islands of Matukad, Sabtang, and Sabitang Laya, among others. Gawk at the stunning cliff side views. You can bring your tents with you and camp on the white-sand beaches. Just make sure that you discuss your transportation concerns with the fishermen so someone will pick you up the next day.
Gota Beach, the location for the French edition of the reality television program Survivor, is currently closed to the public for maintenance. But you can still ask your boatman to head close to the beach and take some pictures.