Calaguas is not your usual beach destination so it requires more preparation than your ordinary trip for a quick beach fix. If you’re up for an adventure that requires you to take a two-hour boat ride on top of a 7-8 hour bus ride, sleep on a tent, rinse from a water pump, and then relax with nature’s grandeur in sight, head to Calaguas now.
Arm yourself with the information that will make your Calaguas trip as easy as a breeze.
YOUR DESTINATION: Mahabang Buhangin (Long Beach). This long stretch of fine white sand is actually just one part of Tinaga Island, one of the many islands that comprise the Calaguas Group of Islands in Camarines Norte, north of Bicol region. Three barangays are situated in the island and there is one at the back where Mahabang Buhangin is, some 30-45 minute walk from the beach.
HOW TO GET TO CALAGUAS: Endure a 7-8 hour bus ride from Manila and another 2-hour boat ride from any of these jump-off points: Daet, Panganiban, and Paracale.
- Take any of the Philtranco or Superlines buses that ply the route.
- Philtranco buses from Pasay to Daet leave at 8am, 1pm, 8pm, and 9:30pm while buses from their Cubao station leave at 7am and 8:30pm. All of these are air-conditioned trips, fare is PhP580. Philtranco also has ordinary trips from Pasay to Paracale and Panganiban at 7am and 6:30pm, fare is PhP456.
- Superlines, in Cubao, has ordinary trips to Daet that leave every hour from 3am to 12 midnight. Air-conditioned buses leave at 7:45am and 9:30am, and 1:30pm, 4:30pm, 9pm, and 9:30pm. There is also an air-conditioned bus that leaves for Panganiban and Paracale at 7:45pm while ordinary trips to these towns leave at 5:30am and 5:30pm. Fares to all of these destinations are PhP515 and PhP400 for air-conditioned and ordinary buses, respectively.
- Travel time is 7-8 hours if you take the air-conditioned trips and more if you ride one of the ordinary buses.
- Consequently, you can fly from Manila to Naga or Legazpi but traveling from Naga to Daet, Panganiban, and Paracale will take you another 3-4 hours on the road (5-6 hours if you’re coming from Legazpi).
JUANDERTIP: Should you want a ride that shall get you in any of these jump-off points in time for the sunrise, take the 9:30pm Philtranco trip from Pasay. You can arrange for a boat ride from Daet to Tinaga Island but the word is that the ride is rough from Daet. If this information intimidates you, you can opt to take the boat from Paracale or Panganiban, where the waves are “calmer.” As it maybe, get off at the Talobatib Junction (fare is still PhP580), some 30-minute ride before Daet. From Talobatib, you can wait for the buses from Daet going to Paracale and Panganiban or you can arrange for a tricycle ride for at least PhP200. You can pay less if your haggling skill is magnificent. Travel time from Talobatib to Panganiban is 20-30 minutes, while Talobatib to Paracale is 30-45 minutes.
- Once at the fishing ports of these two towns, you can make arrangements with the boatmen. Depending on your dealings (these deals usually involve these considerations: whether the boat should just drop you off in Mahabang Buhangin and then fetch you on a different schedule or the boat should wait for your group) and the size of boat that your group is going to take, expect to shell out from PhP2,000 to PhP5,000.
- When in Panganiban, contact Engr. Dan Galvan at +639178383566 for better deals especially if you’re traveling as a big group. In Paracale, you can ask around for Mang Boy Camara, one of the more-experienced boatmen who charge reasonably.
INSIDER’S TIP: Lourdes Clarissa Donatilla Cu, a lawyer from Daet, says: “Daet (as a jump-off point to Calaguas) is out of the question for me because Bagasbas beach has ‘surf waves’ and boat ride will take longer than two hours. I have only tried two jump-off points: Mercedes port and Vinzons port.The boat ride from Vinzons is faster than Mercedes to Calaguas. The boat ride is good, even less than two hours in very fine weather. So all in all, I think Vinzons is the shortest and easiest way to Calaguas.”
- When taking the Vinzons route to Calaguas, take any of the Philtranco and Superlines buses that travel to Daet and ask the driver to drop you off in Vinzons. It is a short tricycle ride to the town’s fishing port, where you take the boat ride to Mahabang Buhangin.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE ISLAND: There is still no accommodation and electricity on the beach. The village at the back of Mahabang Buhangin only enjoys electricity from 6pm to 10pm. Three different people own the beachfront lot, each has its own caretaker. Thus, the beachfront is “divided” into three lots.
The middle lot has more open cottages than the other two, and entrance fee is PhP150. The cost includes the use of a comfort room and an “open shower!” Look for Kuya Rolly Ebuenga. The lot at the far right corner of the beach (if you’re facing the lots) has the cheapest entrance free at PhP75. Although there is no “open shower,” one can use the bathroom or rinse from the water pump by the shrubs. Look for Kuya Arnol Arandia. There are open cottages that can be rented for PhP150 (day-use) and PhP300 (overnight-use) but these are not really “sleep-friendly.” Expect these fees to increase during summer.
WHAT TO BRING: Since there is still no accommodation and electricity on the beach and you plan to spend the night there, it’s best to bring your camping gears with you: tent, sleeping mattress if you must, flashlight, swiss knife, and the likes.
Although you can buy fish from one of the fishermen in the area, bring some canned goods as well. Fish are sold early in the morning and later in the afternoon, so when you get to the island at 10am, there’s a big chance that you are not going to get any of this harvest anymore. In this case, you’ll have to rely on your canned goods or if it’s seafood that you fancy, you can buy them at the fishing port before you leave for Calaguas.
Do not forget to bring rice as well. If you do not have some camping cooking utensils with you, don’t worry. You can ask the caretakers to cook them for your group, you just have to pay extra. Bring lots of drinking water. It can get really hot in Calaguas when it’s summer, so it’s a must that you arm yourself with tons and tons of drinking water.
Of course, Mahabang Buhangin being “the” beach destination this summer, you’re bound to bask under the sun, so make sure to bring some arsenal for your skin: sunblock, sunscreen lotion, lip balm, sunburn spray, you know the drill. Also, bring a mosquito repellent lotion. You might need them when you hit the bed at night.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO: It is safe to go to Calaguas from March until July, the locals say, but it’s because they are used to the sea. What can be a manageable ride for them on a June morning can be scary enough for someone who is not used to riding the boat. The waves going to Calaguas can get really big and scary at times so always refer to the weather. The weather being overly-weird these days, do not plan a June trip to Calaguas when monsoons start to enter the country. I remember seeing it in the news that four fishermen went missing on board a motorized banca off Calaguas after it was swept away by huge waves on July 2010. Plan your trip accordingly.
Calaguas is getting more popular these days, so go on a slow weekday to have the place all to yourself. Tuesdays until Fridays are your best bet. The crowd can get bigger during summer, especially on weekends and holidays.
JUANDERTIP: Calaguas is a picturesque destination so I understand when your camera runs out of batteries after four hours of taking photographs non-stop. If you do not have an extra battery with you, never fret. You can ask your caretakers or any of the little island boys and girls around to have your batteries charged for the night and they will gladly do it, for a very minimal fee. They can take the batteries with them when they go home to the village and you can also request that they bring your batteries back early in the morning if you want to take photographs of the sunrise.
The finest sand on the beach is found on the far right corner (when you’re facing the water) where the beach bends. Also, when it is low-tide, you can explore the other side of the island by walking through the rock formations here. You will be lead to another beach which exudes a different aura than Mahabang Buhangin: rock formations, rougher waves and sand.
Befriend a local and ask if you can borrow their paddle boat. They oblige to simple requests like this. Or if you want, ask them to take you to the nearby islands where you can climb the rolling hills or the bigger rock formations. They make for a very interesting backdrop for your photographs.
During summer, there is a “rolling store” that sells halo-halo (yay!). You can have them at your favorite corner on the beach. Enjoy Calaguas!
Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust! 😀
- Except for the last photograph on this post, all photos taken with a Canon 550d. Last photograph taken with a Nikon d300, courtesy of M. Aficial. All photographs taken on March 2012.