view of Halabang Baybay atop a hill we braved
I first heard about the Calaguas Group of Islands from my Dad while he was sharing stories on how he heard it was really beautiful, who owns which island and which one’s for sale. Ironically though, I only read extensively about this gem of a spot from a non-Bicolano: in Lakwatsero’s site. Even awesome friend Gala Pinoy, who has had an article on the islands published in a major broadsheet, has been to this northern paradise years ahead.
Chances are, by now, you’ve been reading a lot of online entries writing nothing but ooohs and aaahs for the most famous beach in the Calaguas. Indeed, Halabang Baybay (as the locals call it) or Mahabang Buhangin has a very long stretch of fine golden white sand, aquamarine waters and interesting rock formations. Located in Barangay Mangcawayan, under the jurisdiction of the town of Vinzons, the beach is a piece of heaven for wanderers wanting a weekend of communing with the barest Mother Nature has to offer. Beach bummers, sun worshippers and stargazers will fall in love with the Calaguas.
Fast becoming a tourist spot, Mahabang Buhangin is now called the Boracay of the North (sorry Pagudpod). Well, at least they say it is going to be the next Boracay.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that it’s not breathtaking, because it REALLY is. It’s just not friendly for plain tourists who are not up for a weekend of serenity, adventure and simplicity.
If you can endure an 8-hour land trip and brave a 2-hour wet and bumpy boat ride in the Pacific with waves getting as high as the boat, then maybe you deserve this virgin beach.
If you can live with no electricity and no mobile signal, then maybe you can give this trip a shot.
If you can understand that there are no resorts, no decent toilets and no running water, then congratulations, you will be a happy camper here with just you, your sleeping bag and a tent.
On a personal note, I think this will not be the next Boracay because it gets isolated during the typhoon season. If the Pacific Ocean’s big waves battered our boat at the height of summer, imagine how it will behave during the rainy season.
But I won’t end on a somber note. I’ll paint you a blissful picture of an ideal weekend in the Calaguas. Clear blue skies. Soft white sands. Turquoise waters. Dramatic rocks. Green fields. Shady trails. Lovely sunset. Smiling moon. Twinkling blanket of stars. And rhythmic crashing of waves.
Anyway, rather than tell you how much I spent, here is an estimated list of expenses for your future trip to the islands:
Php 530.00 one-way aircon bus ticket to Daet, Camarines Norte (check bus terminals in Pasay and Cubao for the schedule)
Php 15.00 tricycle or jeepney ride (per person) to Vinzons’ port
Php 6,000.00 boat ride to and fro the Calaguas Group of Islands (this is actually a big fishing vessel good for 15 to 30 persons; the small boats fetch a rental fee of Php 4,000.00; ensure the boatmen will provide each of you a lifevest)
Php 100.00 overnight camping fee and use of sparse amenities (per person)
If you want to save yourself the trouble of haggling and booking the trip, Daet locals have started offering tour packages. For Php 1,800.00 (minimum of 15 pax), they will arrange everything for you. The rate includes the RT boat ride, camping tents, overnight fees, day 1 buffet-style lunch and dinner, and day 2 buffet-style breakfast and lunch. I can vouch for this guy: Kim Papa and wife (0921-4135391 and 0910-9592038).
You could more or less be guided by the following schedule:
22:00 ETD from Manila to Daet (prepare yourself for a 7 to 8-hour land trip)
05:00 ETA at city proper; board tricycle or jeepney for Vinzons
05:15 ETA at Vinzons; contract boat and shop for food and supplies
07:00 ETD for the Calaguas Group of Islands
09:00 ETA at Mahabang Buhangin; set up camp
09:00 break camp
10:00 ETD from Mahabang Buhangin
12:00 ETA at Vinzons; board tricycle or jeepney for Barangay Bagasbas in Daet (surfing side trip)
12:30 ETA at Bagasbas Beach
13:00 lunch and check-in at one of Bagasbas’ inns for rest and wash-up
15:00 recommended time for surfing
19:00 dinner and check-out
21:00 ETD from Daet
05:00 ETA in Manila