The summer heat seems to be crazy these days. Everyone’s thoughts turn to beaches, waterfalls, swimming pools or any body of water to just escape the heat and cool down. While Batangas and La Union are probably the closest you can get to a beach fix from Manila, if you’re willing to travel a little further, then Camarines Norte (or Cam Norte) in the Bicol region, roughly 343 km southeast of Manila might be an ideal spot for you.
Since much has been written about the historical side of the province, here are my picks of some of the fun water-based adventures you can do to cool down in Cam Norte:
hidden paradise of the Calaguas group of islands is pristine and breathtakingly beautiful. With powdery-fine and white sand, clean water and unspoiled surroundings (during the time of my visit), it’s hard not to fall in love with this island.
Unlike more developed islands, the main island of Calaguas known as Mahabang Buhangin (Long Beach) has no resorts or establishments. The thrill (including the two-hour boat ride through the Pacific ocean) is that guests camp out overnight under the stars in tents and dine on freshly caught seafood during their stay (ala Survivor). Since boat trips can not be made during rough weather, it’s best to visit Calaguas between the months of February to September.
2) Go surfing on Bagasbas Beach
With its long and wide expanse of gray sand and soft sandy seabed, generally uncrowded shores, and consistent waves, Bagasbas Beach in Daet, has become a top destination for beginner and pro surfers because of its consistent waves throughout the year It currently ranks as the 62nd top surfing spot in the world. Since Daet is accessible by land trip from Manila (6-7 hours by bus), it’s also cheaper to get there compared to other surfing spots in the Philippines that require air travel.
Kayak surfing (also known as surf kayaking) is a water sport similar where you surf against the waves while aboard a kayak. Instead of keeping your balance on a surfboard with your body, you use paddles to maneuver the watercraft. If you’ve never tried surfing, this could be a good introduction to it, as you learn how to maneuver the kayak properly against the waves and keep your balance so you don’t wipe out. While it can be quite intimidating at first to see a wall of waves rushing towards you, the adrenaline will soon take over and you’ll find yourself wanting to keep kayaking further and catching bigger waves.
The town of Mercedes is home to Siete Pecados or seven islands, each with its own unique features. These are Apuao Grande, Apuao Pequeña, Caringo, Canton, Canimog, Quinapaguian and Malasugui.
The Apuao Islands are two adjoining islands with white sandy beach and pine trees connected by a sandbar. Apuao Grande offers beach cottages with amenities for rent that make it ideal for overnight camping, family picnics and beach bonfire parties.
The island itself is lovely, with a sandbar and rows of agoho trees that provide shade. The island has basic amenities that allow groups to camp overnight or do day tours. The island is poised to be an alternative island day tour destination for those who don’t have time to go to Calaguas. You can even kayak from the main shore to the island and back.
5) Try Kiteboarding or paragliding over the water
If you’re an expert at surfing, why not up the ante and try another extreme sport – kite surfing or kiteboarding? This sport combines the skills of surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding and wakeboarding through the water along with flying a kite. The shores of Bagasbas beach become a playground for athletes every December with colorful kiteboards taking to the sea and sky since Daet hosts the International Kiteboarding Competition to promote the province as a sports tourism destination.
If watching is not enough, you can try it out yourself with kiteboarding lessons offered by Mike’s Kiteboarding Resort along Bagasbas beach. Ideal months for kitesurfing fall during the northeast monsoon season from November to March. I haven’t tried it yet, but paragliding over the water is another extreme sport you can do on the beach.
6) Take a dip in Mampurog River
During weekends especially during the summer months, locals like to head to the Mampurog River in the town of San Lorenzo Ruiz. Here, the rocky riverbed and clean waters offer a relaxing hydrotherapy alternative to beaches and pools.
The river is a popular spot for picnics and summer outings. Locals bring packed food or meals and chow down at the nipa huts for rent on the shores of the riverbed before cooling down for a dip in the river amidst lush, natural surroundings.
7) Hike to Malatap Waterfalls
Camarines Norte has a number of waterfalls, clear rivers and creeks that offer soothing spots to cool down in. Nature lovers can enjoy adventure-filled hikes to several waterfalls in the province. One of the most accessible is Malatap Wateralls in the town of Labo, a short hike roughly 100 meters away from the main road and Malatap Bridge. The multi-tiered cascades have provided locals and students with a natural swimming spot. On any given weekend, you can join locals picnicking and cooling down at the basin of the falls and watch the kids jumping off the rocks into the deeper parts of the water.
8) Relax at a poolside resort
If you prefer swimming pools to beaches and are staying a few nights in Cam Norte, you can check in to one of the resorts which have their own swimming pools. The family-friendly Pineapple Island Resort in the town of Calasagan, Daet, is one spot where you can enjoy swimming all day long. The resort has a huge 720- square meter swimming pool with water slides and a 200- square meter kiddie pool with a turtle slide and play station for kids. The resort also has a greenhouse, butterfly garden, bamboo huts, various fishing and boating lagoons, and villas for rent for those who want to stay overnight.
If you want a place closer to the beach, Bagasbas Lighthouse Hotel Resort offers guests a choice between cozy container van rooms or plush deluxe rooms which come with their own TV, mini-bar, bathtub, and wifi access. You can enjoy an surfing lessons and swimming in Bagasbas Beach, then relax at the hotel’s small but cozy swimming pool after.
NOTE: This blogpost was adapted from my article “It’s more fun in the water in Cam Norte” which was first published in Sunday Inquirer Magazine (July 14, 2012)