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DIY Trip to Camarines Norte: Guide to the Towns of Vinzons (including Calaguas) and Capalonga

Camarines Norte, Philippines

Months ago, I shared a blog post about TRAVEL GUIDE TO CAMARINES NORTE: WHERE TO GO AND WHERE TO STAY chronicling my first- time visit to this province in the Bicol region.  I have said this over and over again, Camarines Norte is like going back home. Well, at least half-way because I was born and raised in the same region which is Bicol particularly in the province of Sorsogon. While I can't always go to my hometown to see my family anytime I want because it is a 15-hour bus ride, Camarines Norte somehow fills that longing. This province is the gateway to Bicolandia, as they say. Only 7-8 hours away from Manila, Camarines Norte is one great Philippine destination.  Having seen half of the Philippine provinces, I can say Camarines Norte has not reached the point of being exploited in terms of tourism yet so for those who are looking for off-the-beaten-path kind of getaway, put this in your list of Philippine provinces to explore this 2018. On our first trip to Camarines Norte we went to  San Lorenzo Ruiz, Jose Panganiban, Mercedes, Paracale and Labo. Just last weekend, we did a 2D1N trip back covering the towns of Vinzons and Capalonga this time.   

The ideal land travel arrangement from Manila to Camarines Norte is departing at night via bus or van at around 8 or 9 pm. You can sleep while commuting and save one night's cost of accommodation. That's what exactly we did. We arrived at five in the morning then checked in early at Prime Suite Hotel in Daet. It surpassed my expectation compared to the one we stayed at before. I highly recommend this one for those looking for affordable hotel in Camarines Norte. Rooms are big, amenities are working and location-wise is perfect. 

Discovering Vinzons, an eco-heritage town in Bicol region

Background and history of Vinzons
Our first day was spent in the town of Vinzons. It is where the famous Calaguas islands are located. The very first name of this town was Tacboan then later changed to Indan, a kind of tree that's very abundant in this place. Later on, it was renamed to "Vinzons" in honor of Wenceslao Q. Vinzons, former Governor of the province. He was a guerilla leader killed by Japanese soldiers during World War II. He is so talented and patriotic that one of the halls in UP Diliman was named after him as well, the Vinzons Hall.

What to see and things to do in Vizons

1) Visit the 400+ year old Parroquia de San Pedro Apostol church
Parroquia de San Pedro Apostol in Vinzons Camarines Norte
Parish of  Parroquia de San Pedro Apostol 

Let's admit it, millennials. Visiting churches while on vacation could be boring especially to those who are not religious enough or for those who travel just to hunt Instagrammable spots. Good news, in Vinzons there's an old church that looks so vintage and nostalgic. It's made of coral stone walls including the rafter and roofing. Seriously, if ever I get married, I will choose this as the place where I can walk to "forever". The retablo is made of Italian granite, stained glass windows are purely adorned by geometric figures and its ceilings are made of centuries-old wood. This church was rebuilt based exactly from the archival research of how it originally looks like. I personally love the large paintings hanging on each of the walls. The artsy floor of the church is made of Machuca tiles, the oldest tile manufacturing business in the Philippines.  

2) See  heritage/old/ancestral houses

old houses in bicol - vinzons camarines norte
House of Don Ramon Pajarillo clan 

The town of Vinzons in Camarines Norte reminds me of Vigan in Ilocos actually. I couldn't help but gush over those old houses I saw as we pass by from one road to another. I am a sucker for ancestral houses with windows made of capiz shells and/ or those called "bahay na bato". Actually, when the time comes that I am able to build my dream house, it will look like one during the colonial times, I swear!  The photo above is the house of Don Ramon Pajarillo that's more than 100 years old already. We were able to get inside and it's like we were transported back in the times of Jose Rizal. The la mesas, muebles and escaparates are all made of wood!

3) Savor the best-tasting Bicolano delicacies and dishes 

bicolano dishes and food
Bicolano dishes
Where to eat in Vinzons, Camarines Norte - Estela's Garden. I am not a foodie nor I can be a full-bloodied food blogger but I have come to realize that eating local food while traveling is a nice way to get to know the place much deeper than just sightseeing. So now I always make it a point to taste as much as local delicacies I can. Our lunch prepared for us by Estela's Garden is exactly the ones I was praying while we are in our van to get here. So happy that two of Camarines Norte's signature dishe cooked in coconut milk: sinantol ( cottonfruit and laing (dried taro leaves) were served to us. The laing didn't impress me though or maybe because my most favorite food in the world is in front of me, the ginataang santol or sinantol.

Here's a list of other Bicolano dishes ( clockwise in the photo) in Camarines Norte I ate for the first time and loved it!

  • Angko - It's colored white, circular in shape and looks like "tikoy", it's made of sticky rice as well but instead of coconut jam/sweets, the filling is made of pili and/or peanuts
  • Hinalo - It looks exactly a regular suman wrapped in banana leaves. This one, instead of glutinous rice, is made mainly of coconut, pili/peanuts and coconut jam
  • Pandecillo - A small bread that somehow tastes like pan de sal. It has a filling of pili/peanuts plus milk. It tastes like yema to me - very sweet! 


Capalonga, a coastal town in Camarines Norte 

Background and history of Capalonga
From Vinzons, we went to Capalonga, a remote coastal town in Camarines Norte.  Capalonga is that one remote place that's guaranteed to let you experience the slower pace of life especially the coastal way of living. It has no stellar tourist spots if we are going to talk about the standards in the travel industry. What you'll find here are affordable seafood, underdeveloped beaches, a place that you'll hardly brush shoulders with other tourists. When in Capalonga, feel free to leave your camera behind. Here, it's just you and the view alone. I have seen Capalonga was named after the palong plant that looks like a red cockscomb which is so abundant in this place before.

1) Sabang beach and Tagpucao beach

sabang beach capalonga camarines norte

Sabang beach is your ordinary brown-colored sand. There was no single tourist we saw when we went there so this is flocked by locals alone so far. I have seen small children swimming naked, moms washing clothes in one corner and dads fishing on the boat. 
Tagpucao beach used to be a dump site. The previous mayor proposed a project to fill the thrash and convert it into a public resort. I cannot speak for the cleanliness and for any hygienic purposes for this beach. I see lots of locals swimming here so I don't think there's something to be worried about it.

2) Catch the sunrise and sunset at Capalonga Baywalk

capalonga baywalk camarines norte

There's nothing much more perfect to watch sunset and sunrise than the Baywalk of Capalonga.  Facing the sea from the baywalk, you'll see some interesting sights such as. mangroves growing in the far right and dancing waves that splash each other in the center. If you don't mind getting wet, there's a bamboo raft free of use. Just be careful because the sea current could be unpredictable.

3) Mangrove hunting

capalonga camarines norte travel guide

Mangroves are everywhere in the town of Capalonga because it is a place that is located near the sea. I don't know with others but the photographer in me loved taking photos of people and objects having a backdrop of these mangroves.

4) Visit the shrine of Jesus the Black Nazarene (currently under construction) of Capalonga 

Proposed Shrine of Jesus the Black Nazarene of Capalonga camarines norte
Credit to I Love the Beautiful Town of Capalonga

We all know that Quiapo has its own miraculous Black Nazarene feast. In Capalonga, they have exactly the same holy image that is said to be very generous to give blessings to its devotees.  The provincial diocese is building a shrine slash church sitting on top of a hill that's just 10 - 15 minutes away from the sea. In the next 5 years, pilgrimage and devotees of the Black Nazarene will no longer have so much inconvenience just to reach the town of Capalonga.  

Where to eat in Capalonga, Camarines Norte - Mommy Terry's Bulalohan.  What's a visit to a coastal community in Bicol region without tasting its delicious and very affordable seafood? We're so lucky to have eaten at this roadside carinderia called Mommy Terr's Bulalohan. We had sinigang made of big shrimps, tuna steak, crabs cooked in coconut milk, pork barbecue, chopsuey, and a lot more of Bicolano dishes. Special mention to the crabs of Capalonga, they got more meats and much tastier. They say it's because they are found from the brackish water particularly.

where to eat in camarines norte - capalonga

Beach bumming in Calaguas
Ok, Calaguas actually is not part of our original itinerary. Why? Because technically, Calaguas does not need much of promotion because it is well-known as one of the best beaches in the Philippines already. Our plan for the second day, our group composed of 10 bloggers will be split to half. First group is going to do some trekking, see a waterfall, drop by a dragonfruit farm or visit Balu river instead. The other group will do the Matacong zipline in San Lorenzo Ruiz, trek to Nacali Waterfalls then visit a pineapple plantation. Because the weather is not cooperating, these ones I just said were canceled. The management suddenly surprised us early next day to go to Calaguas instead which for me is a good news because I have never been here. 

DIY guide travel to calaguas island camarines norte

They're right. Calaguas is Boracay 20 years ago.  Though it's partly developed with several resorts to cater the growing number of tourists. I wish and pray it will not be exploited in the coming years. The shining, shimmering emerald waters surely captivated me.  The white (not as white as Boracay) fine sand is so soft under my feet. It reminds me of some of the islands in Caramoan I visited way, way, back as well.

How to go to Calaguas
There are two ways to go to Calaguas via Vinzons and Paracale. From Manila, you can take the route in Paracale which is 30 - 45 minutes shorter in travel time. We did the Vinzons because this is the one closest to the hotel we checked in. Ideally, it only take two hours to reach the islands of Calaguas. 

Aside from swimming and island hopping, what else to do in Calaguas islands

calaguas island travel guide

Trekking to two nearby hills! It's a great way to see the surroundings of Calaguas. You can choose whether you want the Mababa, there's a fee of Php 20 to get there or the Mataas which has a total of Php 60 entrance fees to the landowners whom you'll pass by to get to the hill.

Related article: Camarines Norte: 10 Things To Do in Capalonga and Vinzons by Allan Bough Gokongwei of the Filipino Rambler



More tourist spots in Camarines Norte below:

Note: The suggested itinerary and directions to get to these towns will be added soon. Will also do separate blog posts for each town. Just waiting from the respective tourism offices of these towns the details we need to do a much detailed and more informative feature.

Thanks and Local Government Unit of Camarines Norte Tourism Office for having me in this trip. 

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