It has all the beautiful textured disarray you see in movies, a remarkable food culture that will introduce you to new and unusual combinations of flavors. With the just right amount of English where you still need to struggle to get around and to actually feel that you are traveling.
Should you find yourself wanting to relax on super dazed and chill long stretch of white sand beach in the Philippines and you don’t want to go through the hassle of booking a flight then Calaguas is one of the best bet.
Calaguas is not just one island it is actually a group of islands in the Pacific at the town of Vinzons, Province of Camarines Norte. Just a two (2) hour boat ride from the town will take you to this powder perfect white sand beach, azure blue waters and unspoiled (YET). Although, due to private unregistered booky organizers influx social media it has become one of the go-to beach camp destinations. I will tell a few angles of my experience in the very essence of the beauty of the island.
The Halabang Baybay/Mahabang Buhangin (long sand) by the locals, is a cove located in the Tinaga Island, it is a picture perfect paradise with its long stretch of fine white sand, dotted with volcanic rocks on its both ends, the place is the most frequented camping and swimming site by tourists.
How to Get There:
Daet, the capital of Camarines Norte is the jump-off point to Calaguas Islands if you are going there via Vinzons. From there catch a jeepney to Vinzons and get off at the fish port (Pandawan). There’s a boat going to Barangay Banocboc daily, it departs the fish port at 11 AM, from Banocboc you can hire a boat to take you to Calaguas Islands for as low as 500php (10USD) or even lower depending on your haggling skill. The return trip to Vinzons fish port leaves Banocboc at 6 AM the next day.
Alternatively, you can hire a boat from Vinzons fish port to Calaguas Islands, price depends on the capacity of the boat. For a small boat that can fit four to five people, the lowest rate is at 2,500php (50USD)- 3,00ophp (60USD)
Going to Daet from Manila, you have two options:
- Philtranco, Amihan, DLTB and Superlines buses terminals are in Cubao and Pasay City to Daet. Fare cost ranges from 500php (10USD)-750hph (17USD). Travel time is 7-8 hours.
Recommendation: Superlines has a direct trip to Paracale/Panganiban (515php (10 USD)/pax, one-way Get off at Paracale and make your way to the fish port. Alternatively, you can ride a bus to Daet, get off at Barangay Talobatib in the town of Labo and ride another bus for less than an hour to get to Paracale town and walk to the fish port. Get a boat going to Halabang Baybay (Mahabang Buhangin), Calaguas for as low as 3,000php (60USD) and that is good for five to six persons, overnight.
- Naga in Camarines Sur is the closest airport with regular commercial flights via Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. From Naga, Daet is around two hours drive. There are vans to Daet located in Naga Van Terminal, the earliest departs at 5 AM and the last trip is around 7 PM.
Where to Stay
The beach is popular for beach camping. It was held as a good perfect spot to pitch your tent and enjoy its pristine white sand and perfect sunset. Nowadays there are plenty of cottages and pseudo-resort. A room with A/C will cost you 3,500php (60USD) per night or a fan room for as low as 500php (10USD)
For happy campers like us, the entrance fee per person is 150php (3USD)
2200H: Departure at Superlines Cubao (Cubao to Paracale – P515/person)
0600H: Arrival in Paracale
0500H – 0800H: Arrival in Paracale/Find Boat/Shop for other needed items (ice, meat, fruits, fish, drinking water, etc)
0800H – 1030H: Paracale to Mahabang Buhangin, Tinaga Island, Calaguas by boat
1030H – 1300H: Set-up Camp / Lunch/ Socials
1300H – 1800H: WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO
1800H – 1930H: Dinner Preparation/Wash-up/Fix-up
1930H – 2030H: Dinner, Socials
0600H – 0700H: Breakfast
0700H – 1000H: WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO
1000H – 1100H: Break camp, wash-up
1100H – 1330H: Calaguas to Paracale by boat
1330H – 1500H: Arrival in Paracale/wash-up/fix-up/late lunch
1500H – 1630H: Paracale to Daet by van
1630H – 1730H: Waiting time/snacks/rest
1730H: Departure from Daet to Manila
0230H – Arrival in Manila
Estimated Budget: 2,500php – 3,000php
Beautiful, clean, perfect white sand that doesn’t get too hot even during mid-afternoon. Azure blue waters cascade lightly on its shorelines. You can see on the photo how the colors blue and white marry well together in unison. The water is perfect for swimming and just float lazily or read a good book while waiting for the sunset.
The best part of the day was when we watched the sun set slowly. The entire island turns into Sepia color and will make you make sappy and look for your old 90’s rock-ballad music on your playlist. Find a good spot under a nice branched tree and just wait.
Due to a growing number private organizers who bring in a large number of people to the island, it can get quite crowded most especially during summer season. There’s no problem with a lot of people coming in as it provides the locals good economy, what I am not a fan of are these organizers bringing in mobile bars and large-loud speakers that plays pretty bad eDM music after 9 pm that appears to be a cheap copy of laboracay weekend w/c disrupts the serenity of the place and other campers who went to Calaguas to enjoy nature. Calaguas is known or WAS know as a perfect beach camping destination for people who go there to see its beauty and enjoy a muted night. We’re hoping that those kind of incidents only happened during our stay. Our group had a hard time sleeping well that night due to the rowdy crowd and bad music that we ended up moving our tent away from nearer the shorelines. Nevertheless, we woke up to a perfect beach framed sight and enjoyed our breakfast the next day.
Insights and Recommendations:
- A DIY trip is almost the same cost as when you hire a private group of tour organizers. So it really depends on what you want. I suggest you get yourself a tour group, but if you want to the whole nine-yard experience then do as suggested above. Expected cost 2,500php-3,00php
- Travel time: 8 hours by land + 2 hours by boat
- Boat ride going to Calaguas during September can be a little rough since it is already part of the Pacific ocean.
- Bring plenty of ice, water, and other refreshments. You are going to a virgin island. Hence, limited resources and extra jacked up prizes.
- Bring the arsenals: Powerbanks, sunscreen, wet wipes, dry bags/ziplock, a good playlist.
- NEVER MISS THE SUNSET.
As we always say. Go forth and wander and become your own storyteller.
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The smell of salt and soft coconut oil, waves crashing gently on the shores, sands in between my toes, wind kissing my skin gently telling me that time stand still in a place like Siargao. Time passes crescently taking you thru your whole day.
I’ve emptied my mind and released all expectations I had for this place since a few individuals that I’ve talked to that have been to Siargao cannot put into words how magical the place really is. All they say is that when you return back to your automated life in the city you’ll pause everyday and think about this place over and over again. Daydream for weeks that you’d rather be spending a lazy Tuesday afternoons disconnected with the outside city life.
If you think of Siargao, most will brand it as the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines”, but for someone like me who’s not physically inclined to ride the waves Siargao can cater to anyone who’s in quest to experience what the island has to offer. Beautifully diverse landscapes from mangroves, enchanting forest, rock formations, waterfalls, vast rice fields, cave pools, calm white sand beach, and nearby islands. I’ve been to most beautiful and pristine islands in the Philippines and I thought I have seen it all. Of course, topping my list are El Nido and Coron which are situated in Palawan, but to much surprise, Siargao is authentically in its truest form strikingly, inexplicably and beyond beautiful.
Where is Siargao?
Getting to the island itself is a pretty long haul. If your kick off point is from Manila, Luzon
- FLY DIRECT to Siargao via SkyJet
- FLY CONNECTING Manila-Cebu-Siargao FLIGHT via Cebu Pacific
- FLY to Cebu take a 14-hour ferry ride (overnight) to Surigao City then take a FERRY to Siargao.
- FLY to Surigao City then take a FERRY to Siargao. I recommend riding the Fortune Angel.
- FLY to Butuan then BUS to Surigao City then FERRY to Siargao
I took the Cebu X Surigao City X Siargao Route as I wanted to spend a day in Cebu City first. From Cebu, I went to the pier and bought myself a ferry ticket going to Surigao City. There are options in terms of which type of sleeping area you’d be comfortable and also depends on your budget. I personally chose the Business Class area as it is more private, it has sockets for charging and it’s air-conditioned. A Business classroom will cost you roughly 1,200php ($20). There are mostly foreign nationals in the boat and I was able to some of them and they shared their Siargao stories, why they keep on coming back and how warm the people are. Of course, they went on and on and on how amazing the place is.
Ideally, you will end up staying in General Luna because that place is the main beach town with an interesting variety of shops, restaurants, resorts, and the great thing about it is that it hasn’t been ruined by mass consumerism for tourism.
You can see the sense of community on the island where locals and foreigners all co-exist. Most establishments are owned by foreigners who sought asylum from their western countries and built their homes and lives in Siargao. There are a number of restaurants, coffee shops, smoothie places scattered around General Luna
Where to Stay:
Note: Ideally you stay in General Luna area.
My friends and I stayed over at Eddie’s Beach Resort. It is reasonably priced and you get to stay beach front. Our room that is good for 4 people costs us only 2,200php ($40)
** all links are clickable to check availability, rates, and bookings.
- Paglaom Hostel (click for rates)
- Harana Surf Resort
- Point 303 Resort
- Kermit Surf Resort
- Siargao Inn
- Dedon Island
Where to Eat and Drink
- Pan De Surf (A MUST TRY)
- Coconut Pie
- Spicy Spider Shells
- Cafe Loka: Tourism Rd, General Luna, Surigao del Norte
- Kermit’s (A MUST TRY!)
- Shaka: General Luna, Surigao del Norte
- Miguel’s Taqueria: General Luna, Surigao del Norte
- Barrel Bar: Purok 5, General Luna, Surigao del Norte
- CFC: Cloud 9, Surigao del Norte
- NAH. Don’t.
For the best brick oven pizza try Kermit’s Dive and a Surf resort. They flew in folks from Italy to transfer crafting knowledge in making fresh pasta and making awesome pizza. This was probably one of the best pizza that you can get here in the Philippines. I asked for Parma ham, mozzarella, dill pizza.
Go to General Luna’s public market where you can get the freshest and cheap seafood. A whole yellowfin tuna that weighs 2 kilograms is only 200php ($4). What we did was we bought fresh seafood from the market and asked our resort’s restaurant to cook for us with a very minimal cooking charge. I must admit I haven’t gone around to random restaurants mainly because I was enjoying so much fresh seafoods from the market and my friends and I was happy to have it every day served fresh from Eddie’s Beach Resort.
It is a place where the land is rich and the sea is generous. You can live frugally yet get the best of what nature has to offer. The abundance of the island prohibits the locals to be greedy to its visitors.
What to do?
Surfing lessons will cost you only 500php ($10-$11) per hour comes with one: one instructor and board rental. For beginners, it is best to start surfing early in the morning at 7am-8am white the tide is high to avoid shore rocks. For experienced surfers, you can rent boats going to surf spots near neighboring islands.
- Daku Island
- Naked Island
- Guyam Island
- Explore General Luna Lagoon via stand up board or paddle board. Crystalline blue water and appreciate beautiful seascape
- The Magpupungko Beach and Tidal Pool
The Magpupungko Beach and Tidal Pool is located in Pilar, about 45mins to an hour drive from General Luna. Rent a motorbike for PHP350 per day (US$8) and explore it yourself. You can also hire a tricycle / habal-habal for PHP800 – 1,000/day (US$20). There is an entrance fee of PHP50 (US$1) per person.
- Surf in the morning in Cloud 9. Start before 7 am.
- Rent a bike and get lost. LTE is very fast on the island both Globe and Smart so just use Google maps or Waze
- Relax, lounge, sleep
I am still hung over for weeks now after my trip from Siargao. I am sitting right now in my office and everything and everyone around me were in a time-lapse. I want to pause. I want to be able to not wear a watch and forget time.
I want more of Siargao, I want to settle there and get a dog.
So what are you waiting for? Go and wander.
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In a city of over 9 million people of over 20 different nationalities from all over the world. They have the biggest Middle Eastern population, Chinese population, and even Hispanic population. True enough to its history, New York has served as an entry point to immigrants since the early 1600’s. Today, here I stand at the point of entry. Millions of others have gone before me, to experience the vast wonder that is New York City.
Once I cross the threshold that is Lincoln tunnel, I brace myself on how to comprehend the upcoming view. The looming building overshadowing most of the view, you feel that you have just entered a bubble of an alternate reality, and the world outside does not exist anymore.
How can I begin to describe New York City? Cosmopolitan, Trendy, Majestic, Grand, Traditional and Complicated. You have buildings that use classic designs from Art Deco to Neoclassical to Gothic, and to Beaux-art. It’s a place where food, art, and culture collide.
I love how even with the overabundance of buildings there are still several parks scattered all over the city. It’s a mix of greens, blues, and concrete. I’ve been to New York three times, and it never loses its appeal. She’s like your outspoken friend who’s always inviting you to all the cool secret places. There are so many things to do and discover in New York. It’s one of the best places to get lost in and immerse yourself in the city.
New York is so tolerant of all these different cultures and all these different traditions. You can find any kind of cuisine from the city, perhaps this is one of the reasons it’s called home by so many immigrants. By day New York is very busy, you see businessmen in suits crossing the road headed to wall street, you see the dog walker in central park with 5 different breeds of dog, the socialite in her heels, headed to Bloomingdale’s, the tour headed to Times Square, and your regular Joe ready for another day of work. It’s hard not to feel like part of the exhibit when every corner seems so picturesque.
By contrast, the city is different depending on what neighborhood you’re in. They have a numerous number of bars where you can listen to your local indie artists or the famous singers in concert at the Madison Square Garden. Regardless of where you are in the city, the shimmering lights from across the countless looming buildings shine on you, and you stand in awe of the beauty of the night lights.
There are 4 ways to get around the city:
- Ride Sharing (i.e Uber)
Click to enlarge map below with schedules;
The best way is to take the subway and walk around to reach your destination. It is both cost and time efficient at the same time. There are plenty of taxis, but they’re pretty expensive.
In New York, you can walk everywhere and you’ll be surprised at what the streets have to offer.
Now, if you want to just hit all the tourist spots, the most convenient way to get around would be to purchase a hop on and hop off the ticket, you can get down to all the tourist attractions you want to visit then just hop on the next bus to the next spot.
We use the Flexiroam X ultra-thin microchip, you just add a thin film strip to your SIM and enjoy data roaming in over 100 countries. Hassle free of not renting out any wifi devices in the airports and making cash deposits. You don’t have to change your SIM or subscribe to any local telco or have an open line phone when you are traveling. Easy, convenient and cheaper way to get data.
There are many choices for accommodations in the city. You can choose to get a bed in Airbnb that can cost you 10USD per night or opt for a hotel that could be as low as 60 USD to 300 USD per night. Click HERE to see the best deals and prices available.
Don’t be afraid to try the corner cafe’s, the hot dog stalls, and the hole in the wall restaurants and delis.
They are best known for their Banana Cream Pie. However, what I found most delicious was their dark chocolate fudge brownie.
Address: 200 Colombus Ave. NY; 401 Bleeker St, NY; Rockefeller Center, NY
Once I got into 53rd street, I could already smell the strong fragrant of the Halal Guys food cart. The scent will draw you in. Try their Gyro over rice, it’s around 8 USD, the flavors are stronger and more pronounced than the one in Manila. And their sauce is unlimited, you can help yourself to how much you want. This is worth lining up over, it’s filling, tasty, and affordable.
Address: W 53rd St. and 6th Ave, NY
The Plaza Hotel, one of the most celebrated hotels in America, is one place you shouldn’t miss. It was originally built in 1907 and housed countless world leaders, Kings, and Hollywood stars. Their food hall on the lower floor features different kinds of fine food, from various cuisines from all over the world.
When you visit the Plaza Hotel Food Hall, make sure to try the Lobster Roll from Luke’s. You can taste the fresh lobster and the richness of the butter combined in perfect symphony. I had to stop myself from getting a second roll. Definitely one of my favorite things I’ve had in New York.
For dessert, head over to Lady M’s and try their handcrafted cakes and pastries. I tried the signature Mille crepe cake.
Address: The Plaza Hotel, 5th Avenue and Central Park, NY
One of the things I wanted to check off my list was Shake Shack. Which was really the best burger chain in America? In N Out? Five Guys? Or Shake Shack? For me, once I took my first bite of my Double Shack Burger it was clear, this was the winner. The rich meaty taste of the patty and their potato buns topped with cheese was an explosion of flavors in my mouth. Don’t leave New York without trying this.
Address: 691 8th Avenue, NY; Grand Central Terminal, NY; 200 Broadway, NY
Aside from being a popular place because of those who loved the movie, they also serve delicious food and desserts. Try the Bleu Cheese Burger and their Frozen Hot Chocolate. Make sure to make reservations, as they always have a long queue.
Address: 225 East 60th Street, NY
The milk bar is the award-winning chef and owner Christina Tosi. They are famous for their crack pies, and compost cookies. You also need to try their cereal milk soft serve ice cream with cereal bits. It’s really really good!
Address: 251 East 13 St. NYC
More recommended spots;
- Katz Deli – Katz Deli goes way back since 1888, try their pastrami and corned beef sandwiches. Find them at 205 E Houston St, New York, NY
- Gray’s Papaya– Try their famous hotdog sandwiches. Find them at 2090 Broadway, New York, NY
- Peter Luger Steakhouse – Peter Luger is synonymous to the steak in New York. Established in 1887, they still serve the best steak today. Make a reservation at +1 718-387-7400, and find them here 178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY
- Dominique Ansel Bakery – Try the original Cronut and cookie shot glasses. Find them here 189 Spring St, New York, NY
- Smorgasburg – This is a weekend foodie market featured 100 vendors from all over NYC and across the region. They’re open on Saturdays at Williamsburg and Sundays at Prospect Park. Disclaimer: They are only open on weekends of April till October.
There are a lot of things you can go to in New York but these are some that I think you shouldn’t miss. It might be cliche to some of you to go to these spots but they’re also classic. I’ve divided them into the different areas of the city
- Upper East Side – Take a stroll down central park before heading to Serendipity for lunch. There are also many museums in this area like Guggenheim, Frick Museum, and the Jewish Musem.
- Upper West Side – Check out the Museum of Natural History before heading to the Lincoln Center and catch a show at the New York City Ballet.
- Mid Town – There are several sites to visit it Midtown. Go up to the Empire State Building roof deck, Take a train from Grand Central Terminal, say a prayer in St.Patrick’s Cathedral, take all the pictures of Times Square, and watch a musical.
- Chelsea – NYC’s gay hub, with the trendiest clubs and restaurants
- Financial District – Take a stroll on Wall Street, and take a picture with the golden bull.
- East Village – Check out St. Marks Place, this neighborhood has a very diverse food/arts scene. Aside from vintage shops and hidden clubs, you can find the likes of Momofuku Noodle Bar and Eddie Huang’s BaoHaus in the area.
- Greenwich Village – If you’re a fan of friends head over to the Greenwich Village to check out their building. You can also visit the Washington Square Park.
- Tribeca – Check out the Brandy Library and the Mysterious Bookshop where you can find new, classic and even rare titles.
- Soho – One of New York’s prime shopping district, and art district. Visit the Film Forum, to watch classic and foreign films and art house features in this place.
- Williamsburg – Channel your inner Dan Humphrey and go to the Brooklyn Bridge, and check out Williamsburg where you can take a peek at the thriving art scene.
While there are countless of things to do in New York, I listed down the top 10 things you should do while you’re in the city.
- Take a stroll in Central Park, then take a pause and people watch.
- Visit the museum: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Natural History, Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art
- Get a ticket to watch Hamilton, Wicked or Lion King on Broadway.
- Visit Times Square and get a picture of the Naked Cowboy or Spiderman
- Go to the top of the Empire State building and see the New York skyline from their roof deck. Feel free to channel your inner Meg Ryan.
- Take the ferry to Staten Island and Ellis Island and see the Lady Liberty up close.
- Cross the Brooklyn Bridge into Williamsburg, and watch a free concert in Prospect Park(They have free concerts every Saturday during summer time). Check out Sofar’s and check the gigs across the city.
- Visit Coney Island and ride the Cyclone while munching on Nathan’s hotdog.
- Watch the Yankees play in the Yankees Stadium or the Knicks in Madison Square Garden.
- Check the weather, dress the occasion.
- Be ready with extra cash, everything in New York is taxed 8.875%, on top of that you also leave a 15% tip, especially when eating in restaurants.
- Be firm, don’t be afraid to say no to those pesky vendors on the side of the road.
- When visiting the museums, remember that you don’t need to pay the full entrance fee usually amounting to 15-30 USD and can opt to give a donation instead that can amount to 5 USD.
- Go to the restroom before leaving your hotel/Airbnb there are not a lot of free toilets around and would usually require you to buy an item, then be given a password you need to enter in a locked door to open the toilet.
- Download the offline version of NYC in Google Maps. It will make it much easier to get around, and it already shows you what bus/subway/street to take to your destination.
- Watch out for Wifi and charging stations. They have this for free all around the city.
- Keep your bag close to your body, while it’s a safe place, sometimes you can’t avoid pickpocket
New York is for everybody. Whether you’re a historian, a geek, a foodie, an artist, a model, or a businessman, you will find something to do. The city will welcome you into its open arms, drowns you in moonshine and sends you on your way. The fleeting feeling of New York is something I’ll always go back to. In this city of millions, I know it’s also a city for me.
As we always say. Explore and wander! And become a storyteller when you return home.
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