Camarines Sur Caramoan

Travel Guide : Getting to Caramoan by Land

Tuesday, April 03, 2012Ryan Mach

So you've heard about Caramoan. That it's being developed to be the next Boracay makes you find out what it has to offer before it gets infested by tourists and vacation-hungry people. But you don't know where it is. Yes, it's in Bicol, where exactly in Bicol, you barely have a clue. You Google it, and you get to this page. Don't worry, you've come to the right place. This is a rough guide on how to get to Caramoan by land and how to survive a very long trip from Manila to the Caramoan Peninsula in Bicol.

For my most recent trip (December 2012) in Caramoan, you may want to check out these links:

1. The long trip starts in Cubao where there's a bus terminal that features a pageant of bus lines (old and new, defective and rabbit-fast, cheap and affordable) all offering to take you to your destination. One way fare to Naga can be as low as P400 depending on how effective your haggling skills are. But don't just go for the cheapest. Try checking the bus as well. Old ones are more likely to encounter tire problems, engine failure and what-not, which will cost you dearly, time-wise. We're told that reliable bus companies are Penafrancia, Cagsawa Tours and Isarog.

The terminal is located at the back of Shopwise, just beside Ali Mall.
2. Bundle up. Even if the bus you're boarding looks a bit rusty and old, it still has an excellent air-conditioning system that will leave you literally chilling for the entire trip down south. It's a long 10-hour ride, add two more hours because of the ongoing road construction in some parts of Quezon and Camarines Sur. If your resistance against cold is bear-like, then fine, don't bother covering yourself up. For ordinary people however, wearing a summer outfit is advised against because you'll just be freezing your ass off. It's like being inside a moving fridge. Not sure if you can ask the driver to lower down the temperature. You can give it a shot, especially if you feel like you're close to getting hypothermia.

3. Don't forget your music, especially if you're the type of person who easily gets bored. Better yet, take an antihistamine or your favorite sleeping pill so you can be lulled into complete oblivion. It's a looong ride. If you're used to getting to your destination by plane, then a long bus trip like this will certainly test your patience.
4. Take the early evening or late afternoon trip. Travel time to Naga is around 10 to 11 hours. Expect some bumps (read: delays, flat tires for instance) on the road. If the bus leaves from Manila at 6pm, you're more likely to arrive in Naga 12 hours later, tops, delays already included in ETA. So at 6am, you'll be taking a van from Naga to Sabang, where there are boats plying to Caramoan.

While in Naga, grab something to eat (there's a panaderia and Dunkin' Donuts near the terminal) and have breakfast on the road. Travel time from Naga to Sabang is 2 hours. Sleep or watch the scenery outside, your choice.
Van Terminal to Sabang near SM Naga
5. Without the travel snafu you dread, you should be in Sabang at 8am, just in time to catch the second boat trip to Guijalo, Caramoan. There is a toilet nearby which you can rent (5.00) if you need to do your morning business. The boat is parked a few meters from the shore. You have the option not to get wet - ask the porters to carry you (on their back, fun experience for sure). They charge for the service, of course. A small raft transports passengers to the boat. A 10-peso fee is collected from each passenger who gets on it. They charge everything in Sabang - for using the toilet (5.00), for getting your bags to the boat (20.00) and for riding on the raft. Boat fare is 120.00. The boat is pretty long but awfully narrow. Not much leg room. For a boat that size, it can surprisingly carry up to 70 people. Don't worry, they have life jackets on board.

Earliest boat schedule from Sabang to Guijalo is 5:30 AM. Latest is normally at 12PM or 1PM.
At Sabang Port, you will see Mt. Mayon 
6. Enjoy the panoramic view of the mountains on your left as the boat winds its way through calm waters (if the weather's fair) or rough current (common affair). Thick-forested, Shire-like - the landscapes are changing. Because the route that the boat traverses is only about a kilometer from the shore, you get a close view of the scenery nearby. You can even make out the small waterfalls dotting the rocky walls. We counted about 4 on our way to Caramoan.
7. Before you leave the port of Guijalo, you are required to pay a 30-peso environmental fee at the terminal. A few meters from the port, you'll see a pockmark dirt road and you'll begin to wonder where the environmental fee is being used for.

8. Book your accommodation ahead so you'll save time looking for one when you get to Guijalo. We didn't find any hotel but they have villas, resorts and affordable homestays, which are located downtown, and far from the beach. Most of these resorts send a motorized padyak to fetch you from the port. It's perhaps wise to choose a resort that includes food and island hopping in their package. The exhausting 16 hour travel time will make you yearn for two things - food and sleep.
9. Caramoan is all about beaches. It is of paramount importance to check the weather before you schedule your trip because you can hardly enjoy the island hopping tour when there is a storm. But then again, the weather in Bicol region is finicky and unpredictable. Sun-dance won't work, maybe prayers will.
10. Another important note - a SPECIAL PROJECT is occasionally held in Caramoan so a few islands are closed to public. There was a beach front in Paniman that is inaccessible to everyone, including the locals. But we were lucky. Since the owner of the resort we stayed at has a resto-bar located inside the camp, we're allowed to enter the site and were able to find out what that SPECIAL PROJECT is.

To sum it up, total travel time from Manila to Caramoan is 16 hours, which is why it's advisable that you plan your trip ahead so you can maximize your stay in Caramoan. Remember that you'll be spending 32 hours on the road. That's a lot of time to be wasted spent on travel. Having said that, it'd be smart to schedule your VL on a weekend.

Better yet, take the plane although there's always a chance of having your flight cancelled. But road trip is fun.

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