It’s easy to see why Catanduanes is known as the “happy” island, with its rich history, culture, and stunning natural beauty—not to mention the warm and welcoming Catandungan culture. This island province located east of the Bicol peninsula, which consists of 11 municipalities—Virac (the capital town), Bato, San Andres, San Miguel, Bagamanoc, Pandan, Caramoran, Panganiban, Viga, Gigomoto, and Baras—, is one of the Philippines’ fastest-growing tourist frontiers, filled with sun-soaked, water-fueled, and nature-driven activities that will transport you in a one-of-a-kind tourism adventure.

Pack your island-hopping essentials for these nine must-try activities in Catanduanes.

A surfer rides a wave in Puruan. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Ride the surf in Puraran

Located at the municipality of Baras, the champagne-colored Puraran beach provides a safe and consistent surf coupled with “majestic” waves that are some of the fastest and deepest right-handed barrels in the world. This casual surf location has attracted an increasing number of international tourists and has hosted competitions where local and international surfers compete. Experienced surfers will want to hit the waves on September and October when the swells are at their peak. Anyone who wants to warm up and surf more manageable waves may hit Tilod, a neighboring cove that provides smooth, consistent waves all year long.

Soak up to the views of Cagnipa Rolling Hills

Located at the municipality of Pandan, Cagnipa is one of Catanduanes’ answer to Batanes’ mesmerizing topographic rolling hills. This rolling green hills that gaze out into the deep blue ocean and immaculate-white sand beaches will surely catch your gaze and feelings. No matter where you’re walking, you can take in gorgeous vistas. Views of pristine islands, lush hills, seas, and rocky coastlines are some of the most spectacular scenery in the area.

Camping, kite flying, and sunset viewing are just a few of the fantastic activities that Cagnipa Rolling Hills have to offer. The hike down a series of concrete steps leads to a tidal pool called Tuwad-Tuwadan Lagoon, where you may either swim or dive in.

The Maribina Falls’s turquoise waters and surrounding greenery are a sight to behold. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Commune with nature at Maribina Falls

Take a plunge and cool down at the three-tiered Maribina Falls located at Bato.This serene falls with turquoise water is nestled with beautiful greenery. A 15-minute trek will take you from the busy main road to the serenity of the magnificent waterfalls. It is one of the most well-known and most accessible waterfalls on the island. It is about five meters tall with dazzling cascades of crystal-clear water. There are only a few cottages in the area, but you can choose to find a spot close to the waterfalls to relax and have a picnic.

The mysterious scenery and intricate rock formations inside Luyang Cave. Photo by the Catanduanes Tourism Promotion Office, courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Venture inside Luyang Cave

Explore Luyang Cave, a sanctuary used by the locals to escape the Moro invasions in the 1700s. Despite its poignant history, the cave park continues to draw visitors who wish to explore it and visit the clearing located a hundred meters from its exit.

Situated in Barangay Lictin, San Andres, the cave is filled with bats and towering rock formations. Here, visitors may enjoy a number of different activities, including hiking, prayer offering, spelunking, and photography.

Take in the sights of the Happy Island from a weather station

The PAGASA Weather Radar Station is located in Barangay Buenavista, Bato, Catanduanes, on a mountain summit that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Make sure to plan a stopover at this weather station as it offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of the bay and surrounding islets. It’s best to visit around sunset to catch the shifting colors of the sky—from clear blue to vibrant oranges and reds—as well as the sea’s enchanting hues.

While at the station, you can also learn some interesting facts about its Doppler radar, which is used as a warning system for incoming typhoons. Inaugurated in May 2012, it’s the first radar of its kind to be built in the Philippines using new meteorological technology developed in Japan, acquired through a grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to PAGASA. Two other Doppler radars were built in Guiuan, Samar and Aparri, Cagayan.

Bikers who take the Baras-Gigmoto route can stopover and enjoy the clear waters of the Nupa Lagoon. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism

Take a two-wheel tour on the island

Travelers who like the outdoors and prefer exploring on two wheels will enjoy Catanduanes. The happy island’s hilly terrain is steadily becoming a popular destination for bike and motorbike enthusiasts, thanks to flawless road links in all of its 11 towns. If you want to get immersed in the local culture, spend more time interacting with the people, and experience the natural beauty that you would otherwise miss, bring your bike or motorbike along (you can transport these to the island via a RORO ferry) and take it for a spin on Catanduanes’ 360-degree routes. There are 10 to choose from, all of which include stops at the island’s main tourist attractions:

  • Virac-San Andres (16.7km)
  • San Andres-Caramoran (33.4km)
  • Caramoran-Pandan (31.3km)
  • Pandan-Bagamanoc (46km)
  • Bagamanoc-Panganiban-Viga (28.1km),
  • PAVIBA-San Miguel-Bato-Virac (36.6km),
  • Virac-Bato-Baras (33.7km),
  • Baras-Gigmoto (20.7km),
  • Gigmoto-Viga (39.9km),
  • Viga-San Miguel-Virac (51.6km).
A panoramic view of the Museo de Catanduanes which houses the province’s rich history, culture and social heritage. Photo by Wow Catanduanes.

Take a nostalgic trip at the Museo de Catanduanes

Those interested in learning about Catanduanes’ history, culture, and social heritage should visit Museo de Catanduanes, as it offers some of the most fascinating historical knowledge about the island.

On display are traditional art, local fashion and clothing, religious artifacts, old Catandunganon family heirlooms, photographs of important provincial milestones, and a variety of other keepsakes from the province’s colorful past.

The museum also provides local artists and photographers with an opportunity to display their abilities and creative skills through exhibitions, often located in the main foyer, before visitors enter the main museum. Their works showcase the finest things Catanduanes has to offer for tourists, helping the local tourism of the island grow. The museum is located on the second floor of the Old Capitol Building in Barangay of Sta. Elena, Virac.

As one of the oldest churches in the island, St. John the Baptist Church stands magnificently despite experiencing numerous typhoons. Photo by the Catanduanes Tourism Promotions Office.

See the spectacular Bato Church

St. John the Baptist Church, commonly known as the “Bato Church,” is the province’s oldest church. Notable for its beautiful Spanish-era structure, this architectural wonder stands proudly in the center of town. The church was constructed using mortar and coral limestones to resist strong typhoons, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. Get in touch with the church’s fascinating history by visiting for a quiet moment to reflect and explore. Bato Church is located on Del Rosario Street in Bato town.

Tilmok is a local delicacy made of steamed shellfish and coconut meat. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Experience the culinary delights of Catanduanes

Catanduanes is not only filled with scenic environments and thrilling aquatic experiences. It is also an oasis of local delicacies and vast culinary offerings that are fascinatingly varied, rich in taste, and history. Some must-try delicacies are tilmok (steamed shellfish with coconut meat), sinalpungan (fried carabeef tripe), and ginataang tabagwang (river snails combined with malunggay leaves or pako in creamy coconut extract). You should also sample their signature sweet treats, such as dawa (made from​​ small-grained, warm-weather cereals), kaluko (made with shredded taro and young coconut flesh cooked in coconut milk), and barisungsong (made from ground rice, coconut milk, sugar, and coconut).

How to get to Catanduanes

By Air: Flights to Virac Airport from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila will take about one hour and 15 minutes. Before the pandemic, Cebu Pacific operated four flights each week. At present, however, the volume of flights has been reduced based on the number of passengers allowed and required by airlines.

By Land: You may also take a 10-hour bus ride or a private car from Manila to Tabaco City in Albay, then take a three-hour RORO ferry to Catanduanes. There are three ferries available. Two of them, the MB Regina Calixta and MV Star Ferry, both depart three times daily: at 7 a.m., 10 a.m., and 1 p.m. from Tabaco City and 6 a.m., 8 a.m., and 1 p.m. from San Andres, Catanduanes. Meanwhile, the MV Silangan V departs Tabaco City at 1 p.m and Virac, Catanduanes, at 7 a.m.

Where to stay in Catanduanes

You won’t find five-star hotels in Catanduanes, but you shouldn’t have trouble finding some excellent places to stay. A wide range of affordable accommodations are available on the island, including hostels, pension homes, and inns. These include DOT-accredited establishments like Angeles Homestay in Panganiban, Amenia Beach Resort in San Andres, and Casa Remedios Bed and Breakfast, E. Crown Hotel and Resort, and Villa Tolledo Tourist Inn in Virac.

Getting your essentials won’t be a problem, too, as Virac, the province’s capital, offers a plethora of retail options. There are two major malls: Center Mall and the Virac Town Center, a recently built commercial complex. Other Catandunganon shopping malls include, but are not limited to, Island Savers, Bazaar Supermarket, Virac Fortune Enterprises, Citizen, Century Family Mall, and VMart, all of which offer a variety of goods at affordable prices. There are also several public marketplaces and wet markets.

Several banks like BDO, China Bank, East West Bank, PNB, and Land Bank of the Philippines, among others, also operate on the island, so you don’t have to worry about your financing and banking needs. Regular banking hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Health and safety protocols

Visitors to Catanduanes must follow stringent safety procedures until their arrival. Some important requirements include wearing face masks properly, maintaining appropriate social distance, and regularly washing hands. Travel restrictions to and from the province and within its towns, however, are subject to change depending on a variety of factors including lockdown regulations and point of origin. Some locales may require a Travel Coordination Permit or S-Pass to allow entry. Visitors are advised to check the S-Pass website for requirements prior to their trip.

You can also visit the official Facebook pages of the Provincial Local Government of Catanduanes and Catanduanes Tourism Promotion for the most up-to-date information about re-opened local destinations as well as the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location.

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