Known for adrenaline-pumping activities from wakeboarding to cliff jumping, Camarines Sur had been given the title “Sports and Adventure Capital of the Philippines.”
But CamSur is more than just adventure travel. It is home to Naga, the site of one of the largest Marian pilgrimages in the world. It is also a student city where Bicol’s oldest university is located, along with a bevy of cafés, bars, and malls.
So whether you’re craving a thrilling vacation or a few days of soul-searching, you may want to consider CamSur for your next out-of-town trip.
Here’s a proposed itinerary of what to do!
Day 1: Passage to Paradise
Upon arrival at Pili or Naga airport from Manila, have lunch at Chef Doy’s Gourmet Restaurant, one of the region’s most popular.
Order a comforting bowl of Kinalas (Php170), Naga’s answer to Iloilo’s La Paz Batchoy. The restaurant’s take on Bicolano favorites such as Kinunot na Pating (Php320), Laing Embotido (Php340), and Pancit Bato (Php340) are worth trying, too.
After lunch, you can then embark on your trip to Caramoan via Talisay which takes two hours by land. From the port, the boat ride takes approximately 1.5 hours to Tugawe Beach. Proceed to check in at Tugawe Cove Resort.
After the long journey, you can just spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the beach. Hike up to the nearby lighthouse for an unobstructed view of the sunset before heading back to the resort.
Day 2: Island Hopping in Caramoan
This group of 10 mountainous and remote islands is famous for being the setting of not one, not two, but five iterations of the reality show “Survivor.” This comes as no surprise given the peninsula’s white sand beaches, secluded coves, and towering limestone cliffs.
It makes sense then for you to spend your entire stay in Caramoan hopping from one island to the next. Don’t forget to clad yourself in swimwear and make sure to bring a snorkel.
You can start your adventures from Tugawe Beach to Katanawan. From there, climb up the viewpoint for a sweeping view of the island and the surrounding waters of a deep aquamarine.
Hop on back to your boat and glide toward Cagbalinad Island, a popular spot for snorkeling and diving. The waters are so clear that it wouldn’t take much effort to spot schools of fish and even sea snakes—be careful not to get too close to them!
After marveling at the rich underwater world of Caramoan, you can proceed to Hunongan Cove where the staff of the Survivor series resided during production. The cove is located at the bottom of karst cliffs similar to those in El Nido and Coron.
Sightseeing and water activities, enjoyable as they are, must be exhausting. Take a quick breather and have your fill of seafood for lunch at the cove.
Your next stop, Matukad, one of Caramoan’s smallest islands, is only a short boat ride away. Scale the rugged cliffs and you’ll be rewarded with a pleasant surprise: a hidden lagoon, accessible only by swimming under rocks.
While away what’s left of the afternoon on tranquil Lahos. The small island has two limestone cliffs connected by a sandbar. At low tide, you can sunbathe to your heart’s content on the short stretch of powdery white sand.
Have some energy to spare? Pass by Tayak Lake on Malarad Island, another of Caramoan’s secret treasures. The emerald green lagoon makes for a sweet ending to a day of island hopping.
Day 3: Heritage Tour of Bicol’s Queen City
Your third day in Camarines Sur sees you back on dry land, in the province’s cultural heart, Naga. From your accommodation, take the same route back to the mainland via Talisay Port.
Grab a hearty lunch at Biggs, a 36-year-old fast casual chain well loved in Bicol for their comfort food and huge portions.
Must try are their Baby Back Ribs (Php285), Extreme Supreme Burger (Php171), and Two-piece Cajun Chicken (Php179).
Once you’ve had your tummy satisfied, you can start your Heritage Tour of Naga. The city, once called Nueva Caceres, has been the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in southern Luzon for more than 400 years.
Make sure you tick off the city’s three most important religious sites: Peñafrancia Basilica Minore, Our Lady of Peñafrancia Shrine, and the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.
Other heritage stops include the University of Nueva Caceres Museum, Universidad de Santa Isabel, Holy Rosary Minor Seminary, and Plazas Real and Quince Martires.
After an afternoon touring Naga’s historical treasures, head to Bob Marlin’s for dinner. The family restaurant prides itself in its Crispy Pata (Php539-Php639), considered among the country’s best by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and several leading publications.
Check in and get a good night’s sleep at Avenue Plaza Hotel.
Day 4: Watersports for Beginners or Pros
After checking out of your hotel, proceed to CWC, a state-of-the-art outdoor cable-ski water sports complex where you’ll also be spending the night.
Instead of speedboats, overhead cables tow boarders around the purpose-built water park. The course is complete with jumps, rails, and slides where you can try different water sports from wakeboarding to wakeskating.
Hourly rate is at Php180 while a whole day sets you back Php975. Equipment rate inclusive of a helmet and life vest is at Php40 per hour, Php90 for half a day, and Php140 for a whole day.
If you’re not keen on getting yourself wet, watching experienced riders perform tricks is enough to keep you entertained.
CWC also has a swimming pool, a lagoon, skate park, basketball court, among other amenities.
Spend the evening at the complex’s in-house accommodation Villa del Rey.
Day 5: Side Trip to Albay
It’s hard to imagine a trip to Bicol without seeing the Mayon Volcano, so we suggest a day trip to neighboring Albay.
On the way, drop by Bidi-Bidi to buy some souvenirs. The social enterprise owned by artist Bernadette de los Santos is renowned for its vibrant and unique designs partly inspired by Frida Kahlo.
Her whimsical bags cost anywhere between Php300 for sling pouches to Php3,500 for the intricate Divergent line.
You can have breakfast or snacks at Bidi-Bidi Café which is adjacent to the showroom. A cup of coffee costs Php50 while an iced latte is at Php75.
You can pair your drinks up with an order of Banana Blossom Burger (Php100), Camote Fries (Php60), or any of the café’s pasta dishes (Php125+).
Proceed to Sumlang Lake for lunch amid some of the best views of Mount Mayon. The 14-hectare lake was once a hangout of community carabaos and was overrun with waterlilies until it was transformed to a tourist spot in 2014.
Devote the rest of the day in Daraga. Take Instagrammable shots by the Cagsawa Ruins with Mayon as the backdrop. You can also buy souvenirs from the many stalls in the area.
A quick stop at the imposing Daraga Church with its distinct Baroque architecture is recommended.
Cap off the day with dinner at 1st Colonial Grill where you must try their signature Sili Ice Cream (Php95/cup; Php325/pint; Php790/half gallon).
The restaurant is also known for serving representative dishes from Bicol’s six provinces like Ginataang Santol of Camarines Norte (Php265) and Tinutungang Manok of Albay (Php345).
Check in at Casa Simeon in the town of Bacacay, a 100-year-old ancestral home turned specialty lodging and restaurant.
Day 6: ATV Adventure and Flight Back to Manila
Check out of Casa Simeon and proceed to Your Brother Mayon Volcano ATV Adventure. Get on an ATV and take the relatively easy Black Lava Trail.
It takes about 40 to 45 minutes to reach the lava wall which was formed during the 2006 Mayon eruption. The trail takes you through winding rocky paths and shallow rivers.
At the end is the entrance to Black Lava Park where it takes a short trek to reach the wall.
ATV rental costs anywhere from Php599 for a small 15cc ride to Php2500 for the biggest Can-Am double seater option.
You can choose from four different trails categorized according to difficulty and length: ATV Challenge (easiest and shortest course), Lava Front, Advanced Trail, and ATV Summit.
Head to the city center for lunch. Legazpi has a bustling food scene and a good place for your last meal in Bicolandia is Small Talk Cafe.
Popular among the locals, the café serves international favorites with a Bicolano twist. Must-try are their Pizzettes with four different dips including Pinangat (Php140), Pili Basil Pasta (Php155/solo), and Mayon Stuffed Pizza (Php450).
After lunch, get on your afternoon flight back to Manila from Bicol International Airport in Daraga.
There are two ways you can get from Manila to Camarines Sur. Local airlines travel daily to Naga Airport from Manila. Flight time takes about 45 minutes.
If you prefer traveling by bus, there are several bus companies in Cubao and Pasay that have regular daily trips to the province. Fares and travel times depend on the bus line of your choice.
Outsource the Planning
For a seamless trip, you may leave the planning to DOT’s accredited tour operators in Bicol. Click on this link for a comprehensive list of agencies.
Explore Camarines Sur responsibly by making sure that you comply with the province’s health and safety protocols, such as wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
Ensure that you have acquired travel authority at https://s-pass.ph/ prior trip. Bring a copy or screenshot of this along with your vaccination card and valid ID upon arrival.
For the latest travel information about Camarines Sur, you may visit their official website or Facebook page. You may also review updated safety protocols and requirements on Philippine destinations at www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel