Situated in the easternmost part of Luzon, Catanduanes is 12th largest island in the Philippines. Known as "The Land of the Howling Winds," the province is often in the path of typhoons and cyclones that visit the country every year. But most days of the year in Catanduanes are vibrant with surfers enjoying the huge waves, beach lovers exploring the pristine white sand beaches, and tourists flocking to its other natural wonders.
Because of the strong winds from the ocean, Catanduanes is a popular destination for surfers and bodyboarders. Described as "Majestic" in the June 1988 issue of Surfer Magazine in the US, Puraran Beach has attracted tourists all over the world because of its huge and powerful waves that can reach more than six feet. Its gorgeous beaches are also perfect for those who wish to stroll along the ocean.
Another major attraction in Catanduanes is the Maribina Falls. Located in a secluded area in the municipality of Bato, the three-layer waterfall is five meters high. The body of water is visited by tourists who wish to swim in the cool and clear pool at the bottom of the falls. Enjoying a picnic with the spectacular view of the falls is also popular.
For spelunkers, the Luyang Cave in the municipality of San Andres has wonderful rock formations inhabited by fruit bats. According to legend, numerous locals died in the cave after being suffocated while hiding from Moro invaders. A mass is held every year to remember the said event.
Cebu Pacific has four flights every week from Manila to Virac, the provincial capital of Catanduanes. Travel time is only a quick one hour.
You can also travel by land from Manila to either San Andres or Virac. Land travel takes about 10 to 12 hours to Tabaco, Albay, where you have to take a RORO ferry to get to Catanduanes. Sea travel will take about two and a half hours if going to San Andres and about three and a half hours if going to Virac.
How to Get Around
Tricycles and Pedicabs
When going around Catanduanes, tricycles and pedicabs are your modes of transportation.
Jeeps and Buses
Jeeps and buses are also available especially if you want to move from one town to the other.
What to See
When the Spaniards arrived in Catanduanes in the late 16th century and introduced Catholicism, they built Saint John the Baptist Church, which served as the center of faith in the town of Bato. The church, which is also known as the Bato Church, was originally made of wood but in the later years, it was rebuilt using coral stones to withstand calamities better. The church still stands strong today and is considered the oldest in all of Catanduanes.
The Holy Cross Shrine of Batalay is the spot where a cross was first planted on the island of Catanduanes. The said cross is said to be placed over the grave of Fray Diego de Herrera, one of the first Augustinian friars on the island.
And in the heart of the town of Virac lies the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, also known as the Virac Cathedral. Its architecture is highlighted by pretty stained glass windows. This impressive church also serves as the seat of Roman Catholic Dioceses of Virac.
Located in the town of Baras, about an hour’s ride away from Virac, is a haven for surfers—Puraran Beach. It directly faces the Pacific Ocean where the waves are guaranteed to be strong and powerful. The beach is also known for its powdery white sands and crystal clear waters that beach lovers will absolutely adore.
Aside from swimming ibn Puraran Beach, you can also take a plunge into the refreshing waters falling from the three-tiered Maribina Falls. Located about seven kilometers away from the provincial capital, Maribina Falls is set amidst lush vegetation where will surely feel relaxed and well rested on your visit to this stunning natural attraction.
Luyang Cave is as stunning as it is mysterious. Filled with stunning rock formations, the cave was used by the locals to hide from invading Moros during the 18th century. They were killed, however, when the Moros discovered the cave. A grotto was built inside to remember the lives of the locals who died during the event.
When in Catanduanes, you can also consider going on a side trip to the amazing Caramoan Islands, located off the coast of the province of Camarines Sur. Caramoan is known for its picturesque beaches and rich marine biodiversity. From Virac, the island is accessible via boat from Codon Port. Caramoan is only one hour ride away.
Located in the old capitol building in Sta Elena, Virac, Museo de Catanduanes is home to various artifacts and memorabilia where you can learn more about the history of the province. More artworks are displayed at Juan M. Alberto Memorial Building and Theater which showcases the creativity of the locals.
Also in Virac is Imelda Boulevard, their version of the Roxas Boulevard found in Manila. Imelda Boulevard is a lovely esplanade where people can take a stroll and admire the romantic sunset at the end of the day.
Events and Festivals
Catandungan Festival is celebrated every third week of October and is one of the highly anticipated events in Catanduanes. The festival celebrates the founding anniversary of the province and to honor its founders. It has numerous activities as part of the festivities, especially Pantomina Catanduanes, a colorful street dance competition.
Another yearly festival in Catanduanes is the Abaca Festival. It is celebrated every May to recognize the important role of the abaca fiber in boosting the economy of the province. Fashion shows, sports competitions, dance offs, and beauty pageants are some of the festivities. The most anticipated is the grand and colorful Abaca Festival Parade.
Where to Eat
Sea Breeze Restaurant treats its guests to a refreshing al fresco dining experience by the beach. The restaurant has a wide variety of seafood dishes that are guaranteed fresh and delicious. Go for their grilled tanguigue and adobong pusit.
Sunday Blossoms Restaurant, also in Virac, serves Filipino and Asian dishes. Their main courses are excellent such as the blue marlin steak. For dessert, their halo-halo is highly recommended.
For coffeeholics, while there is no Starbucks in the province, there is certainly the homegrown Café de Au. This quaint coffee shop is located along Salvacion Street and serves steaming or iced coffee made with locally sourced beans. They also have WiFi so you can go online while enjoying your coffee.
Fare: PHP 4,500.00++
Roundtrip airfares from Manila to Virac cost roughly PHP 4,500.00, but you can get better deals during seat sales, so watch out for them.
Meanwhile, the one-way bus fare to Catanduanes costs PHP 550.00 for regular and PHP 800.00 for executive buses.
When going around the province, the base fare for a jeep ride is PHP 7.00, while a 10-minute tricycle ride start at around PHP 10.00
Food: PHP 100.00 to PHP 300.00
A budget of PHP 100.00 to PHP 300.00 for dining will already go a long way. Mains at Sunday Blossom are usually priced at PHP 150.00 and already good for sharing. A cup of coffee from Café de Au costs only about PHP 60.00 to PHP 70.00!
Shopping: PHP 20.00 to PHP 250.00
Key chains and ref magnets retail for only PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 apiece. You can also purchase souvenir shirts, which cost around PHP 200.00 to PHP 250.00.
Accommodations: PHP 800.00 to PHP 3,000.00
Cozy rooms that come with complete amenities and services are available for as much as PHP 3,000.00 for an overnight stay. However, for the budget travelers and the backpackers, hostel rooms and inns are also available for PHP 800.00 a night at the minimum.
Activities: PHP 50.00 to PHP 150.00
The entrance to Puraran Beach costs only PHP 10.00. If you wish to go kayaking, the fee is PHP 150.00. For a trip to Maribina Falls, there is a small entrance fee of PHP 20.00.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
A service charge is almost always included in the bill when dining, so tipping is no longer necessary. But you can still tip if you wish. A small amount of PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 should be just fine.
||ETA in Virac
||Have breakfast at Café de Au.
||Visit Museo de Catanduanes.
||Have lunch at Sunday Blossom.
||Visit Virac Cathedral.
||Visit Bato Church.
||Hike up Maribina Falls.
||Have dinner at Sea Breeze Restaurant.
||Have breakfast at your accommodation.
||Explore Luyang Cave.
||Have lunch at one of the eateries in the town on San Andres.
||Depart San Andres for Puraran Beach in Baras.
||ETA in Puraran Beach
||Depart Baras for Virac.
||Have dinner at Sunday Blossom or Sea Breeze.
||Head back to your accommodation.
||ETA at Virac Airport
||Depart Virac for Manila.
||ETA in Manila
Rain can be frequent in Catanduanes. After all, it is known as the “Land of the Howling Winds” because of the number of typhoons and storms in the province. Rain is common during the first and last quarters of the year. Make sure to bring an umbrella with you when going to the province.
There are hospitals in Catanduanes in case you need medical assistance. The town of Virac has three: Dr. Antonio B. Zantua Memorial Hospital, Eastern Bicol Medical Center, and Immaculate Heart of Mary Hospital.
And while pharmacies and drug stores are also available, it is highly recommended that you bring your own medicine, especially if you have certain medical conditions.
Catanduanes is often battered by harsh storms, so always keep yourself updated with the latest weather forecast and advisories in the province.
Other than the usual rough weather conditions, Catanduanes is generally a safe place to visit and explore. But like all tourist destinations, it wouldn’t hurt to practice vigilance. Be aware of your surroundings and never leave your valuables unattended.