Beyond the howling of Catanduanes’ popular tourist trail are other gems that are worth discovering. We explored the rough and rugged eastern side of the province on my previous blog and this time we discovered what the north western side has to offer. Get ready to be surprised as we explore the softer side of Catanduanes.
After a three-hour journey through the winding roads of Catanduanes in pitch black darkness, our team touched down in Pandan. The town is one of the pre-Spanish settlements in the province and was named after the plant of the same name that grew abundantly in the place. These plants were the first line of defense of locals against moro raids during earlier times. At present, the laidback municipality is the home of some amazing natural attractions that will blow your mind.
Murao Beach, Pandan
An early morning boat ride along the coast of Pandan started our adventure on Catanduanes’ subtle side. Waves still roll on this side of the province and you can see how these waves crash along its shoreline. It actually made me think if surfers have ventured out on these shorelines. The coastline of Pandan is a mix of sandy coves, sloping grasslands, and rocky cliffs which will keep you amused through the 45-minute ride.
Our first stop is the small sandy cove of Murao Beach. This small strip of cream-colored sand is the jump off point to Pandan’s version of rolling hills. The beach strip is pristine and untouched where you can enjoy some solitary moment by the beach.
Cagnipa Rolling Hills / Orland Rolling Hills
Cagnipa and Orland are Pandan’s own version of the rolling hills. The viewing point can be reached after a 30-minute hike along a dirt trail from Murao Beach. The trail is lined with the thorny pandan plant where Pandan got its name. As you break into an open field, you will be amazed by the view of verdant green pastures.
If your back is on the side of Murao Beach, Cagnipa Rolling Hills is on the right side and Orland is on the left. Don’t be surprised if you find carabaos grazing along the hills. The view of Cagnipa are hills rolling inland. It gives you a 180-degree view of the farmlands of Pandan.
Orland Rolling Hills gives you a more dramatic view of the hills, cliffs, beach coves, and the sea. The highest point of Orland Hills gives you a full view of Cagnipa and the cream-colored sand beach cove at the bottom of it. Our guide shares with us that the cove is part of Murao Beach. Orland Rolling Hills is the perfect vantage point to view the cove and the northern seascape of Catanduanes.
The rolling hills and the coves can be accessed two ways, from the sea and by land. We saw a couple of bikers who took the land route to these rolling hills.
Tuwad Tuwadan Lagoon
The place got its name because, during earlier years, one has to bend over or make “tuwad” in climbing down the rocky cliff side to get to the lagoon. The small saltwater lagoon is connected to the sea and only a small rock formation divides it. The lagoon is surrounded by sharp and slippery rock edges which makes maneouvering around it difficult. The landscape nonetheless is dramatic which is a good spot for photos.
The water in its pool is around 10 feet deep that one can safely jump in for a quick swim. Its cool and clear waters was a refreshing respite from the heat of the sun and the short trek.
The lagoon cannot be seen from Orlando Rolling Hills. At present, access to it is easier with the construction of cemented stairs from Orlando down to the lagoon.
Tignob Island is Catanduanes’ hidden gem. The island off the coast of Caramoran is a pristine white sand beach paradise with crystal clear waters. It remains untouched so expect to go bare on this island - no cottages, no restrooms, and no tourist facilities. Visitors of this island would have to find shelter from the heat under the shade of trees along its shoreline. You have got to find your spot if you need to relieve yourself. Expect the basic of the basics.
The beauty of Tignob Island overshadows its ruggedness. Its powdery white sand and its clear turquoise waters are its main draw. A simple lunch under the tree shade as you enjoy the breeze blowing from the sea is a perfect lunch picnic on the island. You can opt to chill out or take a dip in its cool waters after lunch. I opted to lie down to enjoy the view of the clear blue skies while enjoying the warm rays of the sun. Tignob defines “beach chill” perfectly.
On one side of the beach is a small hill that you can climb to get a full view of Tignob’s beauty. The spot offers an amazing top view of its white sand beachfront. The view is just perfect.
The other side of the hill gives you a more dramatic view with its rock formations. The cliffs look like guardians protecting the beauty of Tignob. This spot is good for photo ops with its ruggedness and drama. On a clear day, you can see the islands of Caramoan from a distance.
Tignob Island’s beauty and ruggedness is a perfect beach spot for off-beat travelers.
Not far from Tignob Island is another rustic beach destination - Bitaog Beach. Located within the Palumbanes Group of Islands, this rustic white sand beach spot remains untouched by commercialism despite having local residents living in the island. I guess the island, including Tignob, remain under the radar because of the popularity of the nearby islands in Caramoan. Again, those who want to try the basics of beach chilling will be charmed by the rawness of Bitaog Beach.
We were met by local kids as our boat docked onto the shores of Bitaog Beach. Its clear waters were the kids playground for the day as we marveled on the view of the untouched white sandy shores and turquoise waters. Climbing onto a rock formation gives you a full view of its natural beauty.
As we headed back to Pandan, we made a brief stop in Karanyan for its sandbar. Unfortunately, the tide was still high at the time so the sandbar was nowhere in sight. But the place in itself has its own charm.
Karanyan is a place where mangrove trees abound. The mangrove trees are further inland along an area where sea water is collected on a basin surrounded by land. The inland body of water is connects to the sea during high tide. When the water recedes during low tide, the sandbar landlocks the seawaters inland.
Karanyan and its golden sandy shores.
Karanyan may not be as picturisque as that of Tignob or Bitaog. But the view of its brown sand and mangroves against the mountains of Pandan gives the place its own charm.
Post Travel Notes:
Beyond its howling winds, Catanduanes is a tourism gold mine for local travel. It is an off beat destination that is slowly attracting mainstream tourists because of its promising natural attractions. Its unique combination of rugged and chill-out spots cater to both the adventurous kind of travelers down to the FB type. There is something to offer for every kind of traveler in Catanduanes.
Exploring the spots of Catanduanes was one surprise after another that kept me on the edge of my seat. It was a trip where I came home amazed and excited to share the experience. The province made an impression that whenever people ask me how the trip was, I tell them that it is a trip worth taking and that I would not hesitate on visiting the province again. The amazing and unique mix of rugged cliffs, white sand beaches, and history against the backdrop of the rising sun make Catanduanes a province worth howling for.
Getting there: Virac is accessible by plane and by RORO. One can fly direct from Manila via Cebu Pacific with flights to Virac 3x a week. Alternatively, one can also take a plane to Legazpi City then take a one hour land travel to Tabaco Port where one can take the ferry to Virac or San Andres in Catanduanes. Major bus lines also ply the route of Manila - Tabaco Port or even Virac.
Our Catanduanes trip was organized by the FB travel organizer, Bernation, who mapped out our itinerary, transportation arrangements, and accomodations. Kudos to its head, Bernard, for a very smooth and organized trip. Highly recommended!
Follow Bernation on Facebook to get more information on their upcoming trips.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.