Catanduanes is the easternmost province of the Bicol Region. Consisting of the Catanduanes (or Virac) Island, its major land mass, together with a few smaller island groups and islets, it lies directly facing the Pacific Ocean. Dubbed as “The Land of the Howling Winds”, it is one of the most typhoon stricken provinces in the Philippines. Precipitation within the region is distributed throughout the year and intensifies from the late fourth quarter to early first quarter.
Despite the wet climate, Catanduanes boasts its raw and unspoiled beauty yet to be taken over by the ever growing commercialism in the country. From the luscious green forest of its mountainous surface, to the deep blue open ocean that surrounds it, it offers some pretty breathtaking views that will leave any of its beholder in awe.
I just returned from a three-day, three-night vacation in Catanduanes. Although my stay was relatively short, I was blessed to witness the magnificence of this province. With its pristine beaches, crystal clear river system, jaw dropping view of the sea and a culture of warmth and hospitality, it is really hard not to fall in love with this place.
This is the first part of my Catanduanes series. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing our experience as we explore this paradise island in Bicolandia.
How to Get to Catanduanes
- By Air – The most convenient way to get to Catanduanes is by plane. Cebu Pacific offers flights from Manila to its capital city of Virac (Travel time is one hour).
- By Land and Sea – There are bus lines like Isarog and Penafrancia that has trips from Manila to Legazpi (Travel time : 8-10 hours, Fare : ~P1100). In Legazpi, ride a jeepney going to Tabacco City, Albay. Once there, you can take a ferry going to Virac or San Andres ports of Catanduanes (Travel time : 2.5 to 3.5 hours, Fare is around P200)
Catanduanes Sights and Scenes
Catanduanes is a perfect epitome of the phrase, Simplicity is beauty. There are no crowded beaches, loud bars, fancy restaurants nor any of the bright lights of the big city. The streets other than in the provincial capital is almost traffic free. Everthing seems calm and peaceful.
We arrived at Virac Airport at around eight in the morning. Except from our booked accomodation in Baras, we didn’t have much on our itinerary. We headed straight to the Catanduanes tourism booth to sort out our plans for the next three days. Here, we were handed a map of the province, where most of its tourist destinations are marked. Finally, a plan.
Transportation within the island is very limited. Affordable mass transports like vans and jeepneys are only available in the morning. Last trips leave just before 12 noon, if you’re lucky that it’s not yet full. After that, you’ll need to hire a tricycle to get where you’re going, which could range from P300 to P500 depending on how far your destination is.
Breakfast at Sea Breeze Restaurant (City of Virac)
Our first priority was to secure our transportation going to the resort we booked. Most transport terminals are located near the Virac Port, which is five to ten minutes away from the airport by tricycle. Right away, we reserved our seats on a Gigmoto-bound van which passes by the town of Baras.
Since the van would leave at 8:30 and we had more than an hour to spare, we decided to have our breakfast at the Sea Breeze Restaurant.
Located just within the harbor, the Sea Breeze Restaurant is among the popular places to dine in Catanduanes. It offers authentic Filipino dish for value-for-money prices. Their cabanas sitting right beside the Virac coastline, gives its diners a scenic view of the sea.
We had the typical silog breakfast for P70 matched with brewed coffee for P50. Nice way to jumpstart our day.
Puraran Beach (Town of Baras)
Catanduanes has a mountainous geography, so long winding roads are to be expected. From Virac, the usual travel time to Baras is about an hour.
At around 9:30 am, we were dropped off at Brgy. Puraran, where our home for the next few days is located, The Majestic Puraran Beach Resort.
The Puraran coastline is one of the hidden gems of Catanduanes. Though it may not be as popular as with the mainstream beaches like Boracay or Pagudpud, it is easily among the best you’ll ever see in the country.
Cream to white sand shoreline, unique rock formation kissing the pacific waves, and an ambiance of solitude – this is what the Puraran Beach is all about.
PAGASA Radar Station (Town of Bato)
The day was still young so we decided to tour around some of the nearby Catanduanes’ known landmarks. Since it was already past noon, moving around by public transport was already difficult. We opt to hire a tricycle to help us get around the different towns.
Our first stop was the PAGASA Radar Station.
In 2012, PAGASA’s doppler radar station in Catanduanes was inaugurated by Pres Aquino. It is one of the only three of its kind in the country. This facility is used for weather monitoring and analyzing atmospheric data.
Sitting on top of the Bato hills, it offers overlooking view of the eastern part of the island. Visitors are welcome to give this weather center a visit. There are no entrance fee, just be sure to surrender you ID at the main gate.
After a quick tour within the compound, we headed further south to a historical legacy located at the town of Bato.
St. John the Baptist Church a.k.a. Bato Church (Town of Bato)
On the site where the first cross of Catanduanes was erected, sits a century-old church that stood the test of time, the St. John the Baptist Church. More commonly known as Bato Church, it is the oldest one in the province, built in 1830 and finished in 1883.
Bato Church is the second largest church in the Bicol region. Made out of mortar and coral stone, its simple classical architecture stands out from the churches we see today.
Within the church tower are the historical bells that were used during WWII to warn people of incoming Japanese forces. These can be accessed by going up the narrow staircase near the main entrance.
The Bato Church is still operational today, and regular masses are held every week.
Maribina Falls (Town of Bato)
There are numerous waterfalls scattered within the island of Catanduanes. And just before we head back to Puraran, we made our last stop to one of their popular freshwater wonders.
The Maribina falls in the municipality of Bato is named after the neighboring barangays of Marinawa and Binanwahan. Located just a few hundred meters from the main road, this is the most accessible waterfalls of the province.
Maribina falls prides its crystal clear water and relaxing green landscape, making it a favorite weekend getaway spot among the locals and tourists.
The place is a good venue to have lunch or picnic with family and friends. Cottages are available around the waterfalls with enough space to accommodate a group of 10. Entrance fee is P20 per head.
Because of its accessibility, the Maribina Falls can get crowded on weekends. I would suggest to visit it during weekdays, if you prefer a more intimate setting.
There’s more about Catanduanes!
If you enjoyed reading this, you might want to check the other articles of this Catanduanes Series.
- Alternate Gateway to Caramoan Islands
- The Cascading Nahulugan Falls, Gigmoto
- Puraran Beach and the Majestic Town of Baras
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