CATANDUANES: Happy Island Ultimate Travel Guide

Catanduanes  also known as the “Happy Island” is located in the Bicol Region and its the 12th largest island in the Philippines. The island is surrounded by Maqueda Channel in the west, Lagonoy Gulf in the south and Philippine Sea in the north and east.  The province’s capital Virac is situated in the east of Camarines Sur.

This island is a former sub-province of Ambos Camarines in the early 1900s and later of Albay but gained provincial autonomy when Congressman Francisco Perfecto filled House Bill No. 301 which separated the province from Albay. Isla de Cobos was the first name given by the Spaniards as many several tribes called cobos living in the area. Then later on called “Catanduanes” a hispanized term derived from the word tandu, a native beetle and the samdong tree, which were both found in abundance throughout the island. Common reference to katanduan or kasamdongan, meaning a place where the tandu or the samdong tree thrives in abundance. 

According to some scholars this beautiful province has a high chance to be declared as UNESCO Geopark Reserve for its rich geologic history.

Catanduanes is a haven for tourists who loves nature tripping for it has beaches, islands, lagoons, caves, waterfalls and rolling hills. This island has a lot for offer, it’s like a one stop destination for it has variety of attractions that every traveller is looking for. I got the chance to explore this island for 6 days but I think I need to go back to explore more.


Easiest Way To Get To Catanduanes:

The easiest way to get to Catanduanes in by plane, there are flights from Manila to Virac or Clark to Virac via Philippine Airlines.  Avoid the hassle of going to Manila for your flight by booking via Clark International Airport. Travel time is approximately 1 hour. There are other options but the easiest and most convenient way to get to this paradise is by plane. You can book your flight at www.philippineairlines.com. You can also check other mode of transportation at: Mode of Transportation Going To Catanduanes.

Exploring the Happy Island

You can explore the nearby attractions by riding a tricycle fare is 8-12 pesos per person within Virac town proper. Jeepneys and vans are also available if you want to travel other towns but I recommend that you should hire a van via accredited tour operators.


As you arrived at Virac Airport, I strongly suggest that you should visit Museo De Catanduanes, the town museum is situated at the 2nd floor of Old Capitol Building in Barangay Sta. Elena, Virac, Catanduanes which is few minutes away from the airport. The Tourism Office is also in that building, you can ask their friendly staff to help you with your tour or you can call or connect with them prior to  your trip as to have hassle free tour in the island. They will definitely happy to see you and arrange your trip to fully enjoy the Happy Island.

Here’s the map of attractions in the island. There are a lot of places to explore but you should be mindful of the length of your stay as to maximize your time and visit most of them.

Attractions in Virac and nearby places

Virac

A little history about this town. The spaniards found a tribe under the leadership of one Datu Lumibao, scion of Datu Dumaguil who came to the Philippines with the 13 Malay datus and his wife Melbigan and son Macaco who settled near Vidak spring and founded the first civilized settlement with a score of servant followers and their wives. Some say Virac is a derivation of the word “Vidac” while others claim it is a contraction of the Spanish version of the word burac, meaning flower.

If you have limited time, you should explore Virac first and nearby attractions, if you have ample time like staying for 5 day you can travel right away to Pandan then spend the last 2 days in Virac and nearby areas. Here are must visit places are: Museo De Catanduanes, Virac Cathedral, Mamangal Beach, Marilima Beach, Batag Beach, Talisoy Beach, Twin Rock Beach Resort and Hicming Falls, Maribina Waterfalls.

Museo De Catanduanes
Virac City View
Maribina Falls
Talisoy Beach/Cove Jesus Face
Twin Rock Beach Resort

Bagamanoc

If you have enough time you can go to Bagamanoc, here are the must visit attractions: Fertility Island(Boto ni Kurakog), Paday Falls, Pusgo Island, Palestina Rolling Hills, Costa Marina, Loran Beach and Loran Ruins.

Palestina Rolling Hills

 

Fertility Island

Paday Falls

Pandan

If you are fan of rolling hills, waterfalls and whitesand beaches, you can travel 2-3 hours from Virac going to Pandan. You will not notice the travel time for the road going there is scenic enough to take your breathe away. It’s highly recommended to go to Pandan if you have 5 days or more to explore Catanduanes. Some of the many attractions in Pandan are: Palumbanes Island, TuwadTuwadan Lagoon, Cagnipa Rolling Hills, Hiyop Highlands, Parway Falls.

Cagnipa Rolling Hills
Hiyop Rolling Hills

Carangyan Beach Resort.

Every time I travel I make sure I try something new. Do what locals do as they say so I tried to carry 30 kilos abaca. It’s heavy! lol. A salute to all abaca farmers. Catanduanes is the country’s top producer of abaca. Abaca is used in making textiles, handicrafts, papers, currency notes and fashion products.

After trying to be an abaca farmer, I take a plunge in their fresh water pool and eat some of the freshly picked organic fruits. This farm is a must visit place in Pandan Catanduanes if you want to detox and relax your body. Experience the farm life at Delicia’s Farm.

Baras

This surfers paradise is situated  in the island eastern part. The Pacific waves make it a great place for surfing specifically in Puraran Beach. For non surfers, it’s fine cream-colored sand and seaside rock formations are scenic enough while enjoying a refreshing swim. Other main attractions are Binurong Point and Balacay Point. 

Puraran Beach

Binurong Point is one the main attractions in the Happy Island. Binurong is often refer as the small Batanes of Catanduanes because of its amazing vistas. You can reach it by hiking 30 minutes, the trail is already established so it’s easier even for beginners. To fully enjoy the view, hike as early as 5am to catch the golden sky brought by the sunrise.

Bato

In the late 16th century, Spaniards came to the country, they have introduced Catholicism to the natives, established parishes and built churches, St. John the Baptist Church also known as the “Bato Church” is one of them, this old majestic landmark was built beside the highway parallel to the extensive Bato River. During our visit it’s under restoration as to preserve the beauty of this amazing landmark.

Poseidon Rock and Seaside Falls in Carorian Bato

Carorian Seaside Waterfalls in Bato, Catanduanes l Photo by: Ryan Jay Chua

Solong Falls, San Miguel

Other Tourist Attractions

Luyang Cave San Andres, Our Lady of Sorrows Shrine, Batalay Mangrove Ecopark and Nahulugan Falls, Gigmoto

Some tourist attractions are not yet listed  for some are being developed. There’s a lot to watch out for in Catanduanes. I will definitely update you on that. I will be explore more the island in my next visit.

Where To Stay

During our trip we stayed at Rakdell Inn and Lucky Hotel. I recommend both hotel for they are in the heart of Virac Catanduanes accessible and near the airport.

Recommended Hotels

Radkell Inn Hotel

This hotel is simple yet homey. Love the feeling of staying in a hotel but you feel you are just in the comfort of your home. The location is perfect for it’s accessible to major establishments and just 5 minutes away from the airport. Check my full review of this hotel: Catanduanes Accommodation & Hotels: Rakdell Inn Lodging Virac

Lucky Hotel

Relatively new hotel with basic amenities and facilities.  It’s a good choice if you are looking for a cozy hotel in Virac. The rooms are comfortable and clean and I love the food in this hotel.

You can also check other hotels and accommodation at: List of Hotels and Accommodation in Catanduanes


Where To Eat

Recommended: Fernando’s Asian Cuisine l 2/F Virac Town Center, Gogon Sirangan, Virac

One of the highly recommended restaurants in the island. The food is good!

Other Restaurants:

Blossoms Restaurant l Salvacion, Virac, Catanduanes l 0932 710 0576 / 0922 950 4346

Sea Breeze Restaurant l Pier Site, Salvacion, Virac Catanduanes l 0947 866 6880

Ariane’s Eatery l G/F Rakdell Inn, Virac, Catanduanes l 0938 758 8257

ARDCI Cafe l San Roque, Virac, Catanduanes l 0988 988 2476

Blue Cafe l 2/F Virac Town Center, Gogon Sirangan, Virac l 0915 4208 434

Cafe de Au l Salvacion, Virac, Catanduanes l 811 4261 / 0939 1581 749

Aside from these fancy restaurants, you can also eat in some of the carinderia wherein they can offer different seafood dishes at an affordable price. I got the chance to try their paksiw na isda, laing and cras in coconut sauce. It’s good! 🙂

Paksiw na Isda sa Dahon ng Gabi
Laing with Baby Shrimps
Crabs with Coconut Sauce


Where To Shop For Pasalubong

Catanduanes is known to be the top producer of abaca in the Philippines, so you can buy products made with abaca. For food items you can buy pili nuts as pasalubong or buy some local delicacies such as latik(sticky rice with creamy coconut sauce, balisungsong(cassava) and other delectable products that can be bought in the public market.

Latik(Sticky Rice with Creamy Coconut Sauce)
Balisungsong(Cassava with Coconut)

Recommended Pasalubong Shops

Catanduanes Pasalubong Center l Salvacion, Virac, Catanduanes

Veerak Native Products l Salvacion, Virac, Catanduanes

Virac Town Center l Gogon Sirangan, Virac, Catanduanes

Virac Public Market l San Juan Virac, Catanduanes

Balisungsong(Taro with Coconut)

Other Shops

Antares Commercial l Concepcion, Virac, Catanduanes

Catanduanes Bazaar and Supermarket l San Juan, Virac, Catanduanes

Century Mall l Sta. Cruz, Virac, Catanduanes

 Century Family Mall l Sta. Elena, Virac, Catanduanes

Island Savers l San Roque, Virac, Catanduanes

Virac Fortune Enterprises l Sta. Cruz, Virac, Catanduanes

Virac Lucky Supermarket l San Juan, Virac, Catanduanes

Catanduanes is such a beautiful island and my 6 days tour is not enough to explore every beautiful spots. The happy island has a unique charm that will definitely captivate any kind of traveller. It’s amazing waterfalls, rolling hills, beaches, caves and the genuine hospitality of the people are truly remarkable.  This all in one island will definitely be on the top tourist destinations in the country. I will definitely go back to explore more! That’s for sure! Watch out for my next adventure! 🙂
Provincial Tourism Office 
2nd Floor Old Capitol Bldg.
Sta. Elena Virac, Catanduanes
09475130578
Facebook Page : www.facebook.com/catanduanestourismpromotions
The Provincial Tourism Office currently headed by: Ms. Carmel Bonifacio Garcia
Philippine Airlines

Island Escape Travel and Tours 

A Virac-based DOT accredited travel agency that offers package tours around Catanduanes including island-hopping to Caramoan. Facebook: Island Escape Travel & Tours. Email: islandescape_traveltours@yahoo.com.ph Contact: 0949-4622641

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