The scorching summer heat has officially arrived in the Philippines, making it an ideal time to start planning those beach trips. But instead of booking the usual Boracay trip for your dose of vitamin sea, why not check out the less-trodden, but equally spectacular beaches in Bicol?
Aside from its picturesque scenery and pristine waters, beaches also offer several health benefits. Many studies have shown how a visit to the beach can improve our mental and physical well-being. Plus it’s an ideal time to soak up on Vitamin D. Responsibly, of course!
A sanctuary for virgin white-sand beaches, the Bicol region is located in the southeastern tip of Luzon. It’s also accessible by both bus and boat, so you’ll save on airfare not to mention take in the region’s scenic routes along the way. While Bicol has much to offer tourists, we zeroed in on its beaches in Bicol where you can soak up some sun, sand, and surf:
Puraran Beach (Catanduanes)
Considered the ultimate beach bum’s paradise in Catanduanes, Puraran Beach has played host to all types of surfers from newbies to professionals, including Aussie pro Matthew Pitts. Unlike many other popular local surf destinations, Puraran is relatively unknown and less crowded, giving beginners a chance to learn how to ride the waves and experience the mystical “stoke” without being bothered by other surfers in overcrowded waters.
Puraran Beach also has marvelous rock formations just along the coastline, which you can climb. During high tide, small lagoons form inside the rock formations.
For beginners, the best time to visit Puraran is between March and August, when the swells are not very intimidating. Seasoned surfers looking for barrel-like waves usually find September and October a good time to visit. Time to take out those paddleboards and surfboards and drive to Puraran! Surf’s up!
Contact: Puraran Surf Camp – Call +63 977 182 7537 or email info[at]puraransurf[dot]com
Subic Beach, Calintaan Island in Matnog (Sorsogon)
Perhaps Sorsogon’s claim to fame is the famous butandings or whale sharks in Donsol, which even inspired a film of the same name in 2006.
But there is so much more to Sorsogon! It offers everything from manta ray diving (yes, it’s been dubbed the manta ray capital of the Philippines) to exploring underwater caves to taking refreshing dips in the crystal clear waters.
As the southernmost province of Luzon, the province cradles white and pink-sand islands like Calintaan, where you can find the breathtaking Subic Beach.
The beach is divided into two segments, which the locals call Subic Laki (meaning the bigger one) and Subic Liit (smaller). Both areas already have huts and cottages available for use.
Please note, however, that all visitors are required to register at Matnog’s Municipal Tourism Office and pay fees to ensure their safety. The waves can be quite turbulent at times, so it is necessary to coordinate with the office and book the services of their accredited boat operators.
Contact: Olive Gumba/RomidaNaag/Arnel Gallenito of the Tourism Office at 0998 273 1005; Beach Bliss Travel and Tours on Facebook or call 0905 569 3565
Burias Island (Masbate)
Due to the intense political rivalry that has beleaguered the province, people seem to forget that Masbate is also a traveler’s paradise.
Although it’s relatively tough to access, visitors will be rewarded by Masbate’s picture perfect beaches and aquamarine waters.
Burias Island, one of the major islands in the Masbate province, isn’t a typical tourist hotspot. It’s not commercialized and luxurious facilities aren’t available. Perhaps the main attraction is the coastal town of San Pascual in Burias Island, where you can soak in the sun and relax upon the white sand beaches of Sombrero Island, Animasola Island, and Tinalisayan Sandbar.
With Sombrero Island as an exception, there are no hotels or inns in the area, so if you’re planning on camping to catch the beautiful sunrise and sunset in any of the islands, make sure to bring your own tents and food. Burias also houses one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, St. Paschal Baylon Parish Church, and the century-old municipal house. Please be sure to register at the local tourism office of San Pascual before heading out for your safety.
Contact: LGU-San Pascual Tourism Office – Call 0909 498 8530
The municipality of Rapu-rapu is comprised of three islands: Rapu-rapu Island, Batan Island, and Guinanayan Island. Both Rapu-rapu and Batan lie on the eastern part of Luzon along with the island of Cagraray, where the famous and ritzy resort Misibis Bay can be found.
If you’re on a budget, the powdery white sand beaches of Rapu-rapu that can rival the shores of Boracay is the place to go. Aside from that, Rapu-rapu is much less commercialized and crowded so you get to meditate and enjoy that much-needed alone time, while taking in sights of the magnificent Mount Mayon.
There are already resthouses in the area that offer food and accommodation. But if you’re planning to stay in the islands for only a short while, it’s best to bring your own food and water to save money.
Contact: Gov. Joey Salceda Office 09162938743 or message on Facebook Maria Ana Banadera; The Beach House, Bogtong Beach – email bogtongbeach[at]gmail[dot]com for resthouse amenities and rates
Poro Beach in Bahao, Libmanan (Camarines Sur)
Apart from Naga City and CWC, Camarines Sur is also home to many tourist spots such as the mighty Mount Isarog, Caramoan Islands, and now Poro Beach in Bahao, Libmanan, which is steadily gaining tourists from the region and beyond. It got its name because it’s situated at the northeastern “tip” of Camarines Sur, which translates to “poro” in Bikolano. However, locals also call it Calabanig and Tres Marias because of the three islands located there.
Poro Beach is quite unknown even to many Bicolanos, so if you appreciate nature and solitude–this is the place to go. Visitors can enjoy island hopping during the day and check out the rock formations in one of the islands. While on the boat, you can also see the coral gardens underneath the crystal clear waters. At night, campers are treated to a clear, smog-less night sky which is perfect for stargazing.
ProTip: Before you head to Poro Beach, bring your own food, water, and tent, as backup. Since it’s relatively new, there are no food establishments yet and very few cottages.
Contact: LGU-Libmanan on Facebook or email cs.libmanan[dot]yahoo[dot]com[dot]ph
Mercedes Group of Islands (Camarines Norte)
Words cannot begin to describe the paradise that is Camarines Norte. Aside from being home to Calaguas and Bagasbas Beach, the more popular destinations for extreme sports enthusiasts and backpackers, the province is a treasure trove of hidden gems like the Mercedes Group of Islands. It is a town composed of 7 small islands surrounded by white sand and pine trees–a very rare sight in the Bicol region, and in the Philippines as a whole. The locals, especially the women, are very active in preserving the marine ecosystems in around the Mercedes Group of Islands.
Composed of Caringo, Canimog, Apuao Grande, Apuao Pequeña, Canton, Quinapaguian and Malasugui, Mercedes offers travellers a different experience on each island. In Canimog, for example, there’s an old lighthouse built in 1927 with a 104-step stairway, a good place to check out if you want to have 360-degree view of the whole island. The lighthouse operates on solar power which makes it a must-visit. Canton Island also has massive rock formations and caves, perfect for active individuals looking to stretch those muscles via spelunking and rock climbing. In other islands, travellers can explore the fish and coral sanctuary by boating, kayaking, and snorkelling.
Visitors who wish to stay the night can avail of homestay accommodations and cottages at Caringo and Apuao Grande respectively.
Contact: Mercedes Tourism – email discovermercedes[at]yahoo[dot]com or call (54) 4441261/(54) 4441151