The commute to Caramoan takes at least four hours from Naga City, Camarines Sur. Two hours land trip from Naga City to Sabang Beach and another two hour ferry (pumpboat) ride going to Guijalo Port in Caramoan. After quick morning tour of Naga City, I took a tricycle to the FILCAB terminal located across SM City Naga. The (L300) van left Naga City at 8:15am and arrived in Barrio Sabang, San Jose, Camarines Sur by 10am. Sabang Beach was just a couple of steps from where the van dropped us off. Looking around the long grey sand beach, it was easy to find the makeshift ferry waiting area since many of the passengers were already huddled together in that section of the beach.
Toploading the ferry pupmboat to Caramoan in CamSur
Naga City to Barrio Sabang, San Jose, Camarines Sur
FILCAB terminal located across SM City Naga
L300 van drop-off in Sitio Sabang, San Jose, CamSur
Sitio Sabang, San Jose, Camarines Sur
Sabang Beach in San Jose, Cam Sur
River ferry terminal behind Sabang Beach
Ferry from Sabang Beach to Guijalo Port, Caramoan
I waited for another 45 minutes until the ferry boat arrived in Sabang. The beach went into chaos as the arriving passengers were about to disembark. Several porters went into a frenzy as they rushed to the side of the boat and boisterously tried to catch the attention of the alighting passengers. As soon as the first passenger got off, I realized what was happening. Since the boat was still a couple of meters from the beach (in waist deep waters), the passengers had to be carried atop the shoulder of the porters in order to avoid getting wet. Oh Shit! It meant we also had to do it to get on the boat.
Special boarding procedures at Sabang Beach enroute to Caramoan, Camarines Sur
I was anxiously standing at the shoreline not sure how to go about the porter selection process. Apparently, one of the porters had already chosen me and signaled that he had to load my backpack on the boat first. On the off chance that he’d get out balanced, I’d have all of my stuff wet including a few electronic devices. Seeing him carrying my bag above his head and wading through the wait-deep waters was excruciating enough, now, I’d have to undergo the ordeal myself. I wasn’t really afraid to get wet … it was my camera, which I carry on my sling bag, I was worried about. It’s like … the most expensive thing I own, and I’d saved up months for it. Anyways, when the porter got infront of me, he turned the other way and bent on one knee (kinda like the typical position during an engagement proposal … only backwards). I positioned both of my legs over his shoulders with his head, you know, between my thighs. The porter then stood up and struggled a bit to keep balance. It was so awkward to be carried by some random dude like that. The experience was quite emasculating :(
Ferry leaving Sabang Beach
Approaching Aguirangan Island
Beautiful hills of Caramoan Peninsula at the left side of the boat
Local fishing boat
Taking a spot at the top of the boat. I had to go down after a couple of minutes since it started to rain
Arrival in Guijalo Port, Caramoan, Camarines Sur
Guijalo is still a tricycle ride away from the Centro
Finding a place to stay in Caramoan
Most tourists stay at the town center or “centro” of Caramoan. It’s in an inconvenient location for most since it’s landlocked and requires a tricycle/single motorcycle ride to get to Bikal Beach and Paniman Beach, the main jump-off points to the Caramoan Islands. I stayed at Rex Tourist Inn after reading a lot of positive online reviews. They have single rooms rented out for P300 per night (fan-cooled; shared TB). I loved my stay at Rex Tourist Inn since they had free WiFi. I wanted to visit Lake Bulusan on my last day in Bicol … it was a last minute decision and I didn’t know how to get there. Having internet access helped a lot :D
I also had my laundry done there for P80 (my clothes were well under 1 kilo, so I guess it’s their minimum rate). I give Rex Tourist Inn my “highly recommended for budget travelers” stamp!
Rex Tourist Inn in Caramoan Centro
Around Caramoan Centro
I had (late) lunch at a carinderia (local eatery) named Lutong Bahay located near Rex Tourist Inn. It ate there the whole time I was in Caramoan since it was cheap. A meal costs only around P50. Their Bicol Express was my daily staple :) It was nice to be able to eat the more authentic version of Bicol Express …. oh wait! Of course it has to be authentic, I was still in Bicol. Their Bicol Express was kinda different from the ones I tasted in Legazpi and Naga though.
Since I arrived in Caramoan late in the afternoon and didn’t notice any tourist groups during the ferry ride, it seemed unlikely that I would find a group, who’d be willing to let me join their island hopping tour of the islands. I walked around town hoping to find other tourists but didn’t find any … probably because I went to Caramoan during low season (on a weekday) and the tourists that arrived that day were probably already off in the islands.
Main street in Caramoan Centro
Caramoan Church / St. Micheal de Archangel Parish
Small chapel beside the main Caramoan Church
Booking an Island Hopping Tour of Caramoan Islands
I eventually inquired at one of the souvenir shops in town about the island hopping tours. They told me they could arrange the tour for me since the shop owner’s father owns a boat at Paniman Beach. There are two main island groups in Caramoan. I’m not sure what their formal names are but they’re known as the “Matukad Island Group” and the “Manlawi/Sabitang Laya Island Group.” Both are located at a considerable distance from each other (probably 30 minutes by boat). Bikal Beach, situated at the mainland is the main jump-off point to Manlawi/Sabitang Laya Island Group. While Paniman Beach is the main jump-off point to Matukad Island Group.
I was quoted a rate of P1,500 to visit the “Matukad group of islands,” P2,000 for “Sabitang Laya/Manlawi island group,” and P3,000 to visit 9 islands covering both island groups. My gosh, so expensive considering I’d have to pay for everything myself. Of course, I couldn’t leave Caramoan without going to any of its famed islands. I hope I still have enough cash to get back to the city … there aren’t any ATMs in Caramoan if I spent too much.
It was already mid-afternoon, too late to go island hopping. Spent two nights in Caramoan so I’d have a full day for the island hopping the next day.
Caramoan Municipal Hall
Golden Hub Tourist Inn
La Casa Roa Hostel
Villa Juliana Inn
DIY trip to Camarines Sur Tips
- Naga City to Sabang Beach, San Jose, Camarines Sur Van (2 hours) – P90 per person
- Sabang to Guijalo, Caramoan Ferry (2 hours) – P120 per person; Caramoan Ferry Schedule: hourly from 5AM to 11AM only
- Tip for the porter “shoulder back ride” – P25 per person(no set rate, tip as you please)
- Guijalo Port to Caramoan Centro Tricycle – P50 per person(not sure how much the actual fare was but I think I saw the locals paying P20/P30 only)
- Rex Tourist Inn (Caramoan Centro)
- Single fan room with shared TB – P300 per night (x2 nights = P600)
- Laundry – P80 (minumum)
- Lutong Bahay Carinderia (eatery)
- Bicol Express + 2 rice – P40
- Pork Steak + 1 rice + coke - P40
- Fried Chicken + 1 rice (packed lunch for island hopping tour) – P60 (x2 incase I get too hungry, haha = P120)
- Caramoan souvenir t-shirt – P170
- Whole day Caramoan island hopping tour – P1,500 (Matukad group of islands)
- Roundtrip single motorcycle (habal-habal) ride to Paniman Beach from Caramoan Centro – P200
- Read more about Caramoan Islands in Camarines Sur, Philippines