Camarines Sur is the largest province in the Bicol Region. Surrounded by mountains, islands, and huge bodies of water, the province has become popular over the years among tourists because of its water parks and beaches. Known to many as CamSur, the province and its tourism industry continue to thrive, and are expected to attract even more visitors in the years to come.
In recent years, Camarines Sur, has become more and more developed, and at the center of it all is the Camsur Watersports Complex. Located in the capital city of Pili, the six-hectare water park is the premier destination in the Philippines for tourists who are into waterskiing, wakeboarding, and wakeskating. Ever year, it hosts exciting events like water sports tournaments and various parties.
The town of Caramoan is popular worldwide for its beaches where editions of the international TV show Survivor were filmed. One of its pristine beaches is Gota Beach, which has impressed sun seekers and explorers all around the world. Its lovely seascape is a unique combination of rock formations and clean blue waters. Aside from swimming, sunbathing and lazing on the sand to enjoy the tranquility of the shores are great laidback activities. Island hopping to the untouched islands of Matukad, Hunogan, and Lahus is another recommended activity for tourists.
But still considered as the most important highlight of the province happens every September when the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is celebrated. Our Lady of Penafrancia is the patroness of the Bicol Region. Processions are held throughout the city of Naga in Camarines Sur. Thousands of pilgrims and devotees participate in this religious event.
The fastest means of getting to Camarines Sur is by air. Naga Airport, the primary airport serving the province, can be found in the capital city of Pili. It only takes an hour to get there from Metro Manila. Major commercial airlines like Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines offer daily flights to Naga Airport.
Tourists can take an overnight bus to Camarines Sur. Trips via bus companies like Isarog, Peñafrancia, RSL, and Philtranco take about eight hours.
How to Get Around
Jeepneys are available in Camarines Sur and the most affordable and convenient way of getting around.
Tricycles are ideal for short distances. The tricycles in Camarines Sur have bigger sidecars and capable of accommodating up to five passengers.
What to See
Camarines Sur has a rich history, as evident in its bounty of historical sites. Aside from historical and cultural attractions, the province is also blessed with countless natural wonders that will captivate all nature lovers.
Camarines Sur is home to one of Asia's most visited pilgrimage sites. The Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga serves as the home of the holy image of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, which is believed to be miraculous. The Marian image is considered the Patroness of Bicol and fondly called Ina (mother) by the locals. The image was originally enshrined at the Our Lady of Peñafrancia Shrine, a church built during the 18th century.
The Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Grotto in Caramoan is another must-visit site for all tourists, especially Catholic pilgrims. Climb up a total of 524 steps to see the 26-foot-tall image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. You can even enjoy a panoramic view of Caramoan from the top.
On the other hand, Tan-Awan Park in the town of Bula is also visited by the faithful because of its 35-foot statue of the Queen of the Family. It's also a the perfect place to get a good view of the surrounding areas.
The ancient churches of Camarines Sur are also notable landmarks in the province. The Parish of St. John the Evangelist, also known as Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, is the current seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Caceres. Its original foundation was established in the 1590s.
In the town of Calabanga is the Quipayo Church. Built in the 1570s, it is one of the oldest churches in Camarines Sur and features a unique red brick facade.
The Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish Church in the town of Bombon is famous for its leaning bell tower, which is likened to the Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Caramoan is a beach destination that is almost too beautiful to be real. This tropical paradise is home to many virgin islands, some of them even being the setting for many editions of the international reality show Survivor. Some of the must-visit islands incude Matukad Island and Lahos Island, both feature white sand shores and azure waters. The Tayak Lagoon is also a must-visit if you want to swim in emerald waters.
Mt. Isarog National Park is ideal for nature trips. The protected area includes the majestic Mr. Isarog which towers at 2,000 meters above sea level as well as the Malabsay and Nabuntulan Waterfalls.
Lake Buhi in Iriga City is home to the world's smallest species of fish called sinarapan. Just near this enormous lake are the Itbog Twin Falls for those who want to swim in freshwaters. Meanwhile, Lake Bato, located in the town of the same name, is a great spot for bird watching.
The caves in the province are also great for spelunking. Explore the amazing rock formations of the Adiangao Cave in the town of San Jose or the bat inhabitants of the Umang Cave in Caramoan.
Camarines Sur is one of the top spots for adventure in the country. The Camsur Watersports Complex in Pili is a hub for wakeboarding, waterskiing, and many more. Every year, it draws in watersports enthusiasts both local and foreign. Aside from hosting international tournaments, the complex also features other recreational facilities like swimming pools, a skate park, and ATVs.
Naga Ecological Park is a must-visit for nature trips. Located at the foot of Mt. Isarog, the park is home to many nature-related attractions, including a garden maze.
Meanwhile, head to Panicuason Hot Springs Resort if you feel like relaxing in warm waters. The resort has many hot spring pools for a therapeutic swim. It also offers thrilling sports attractions such as bike zip-line.
Events and Festivals
The city and town fiestas in Camarines Sur are must-see activites, like the Tinagba Festival of Iriga City and the Bow-Bowaan Festival of Nabua.
The Peñafrancia Festival of Naga, however, takes the spotlight as the grandest of all the festivals in the province. The feast is held every third Saturday of September in honor of the patroness Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Locals engage in all sorts of religious activities throughout the feast, with the fluvial procession of the image of the "Ina" being one of the main highlights. Every year, millions of people visit Naga to join the festivities.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
Jollibee, McDonald's, KFC and other popular fast food chains also have branches in some places in Camarines Sur. But if you want to enjoy the best that the province has to offer when it comes to fast food, then head to any of the many branches of Bigg's Diner. Indulge in American food like burgers and pizzas or local dishes like bicol express or pinangat.
If you want to have a taste of authentic Bicolano dishes, head to any of these restaurants: Geewan, Graceland, Naga Garden Restaurant, and Red Platter.
Kinalas, or Bicol's version of the mami, is best enjoyed in the carinderias. Head to Aling Cely's and Cordova in Naga and enjoy its hot broth, which is made from boiling a pig's head until tender.
There are many street food stalls in Camarines Sur where you can enjoy some bulastog or the province's version of tokneneng, which is a hard-boiled chicken or duck egg dipped in batter and deep fried in oil.
Where to Shop
Naga City has numerous if you want to go on a shopping spree: SM City Naga, Nagaland E-Mall, and LCC Central Mall. Tourists will be delighted with the number of options for shopping, dining, and entertainment.
People's Mall is the go-to pasalubong hub in Naga. You can buy anything from souvenirs like T-shirts to food products made from pili nuts.
ATMs and Money Changers
There are many banks and ATMs in Camarines Sur should you need to withdraw some cash for your expenses.
Fare: PHP 630.00 to PHP 1,000.00 (Bus fare); PHP 3,000.00++ (Airfare)
The bus fare differs, depending on the bus model. Some bus lines with luxury coaches and sleeper beds and built-in comfort rooms are offered at a higher rate.
Meanwhile, airfare for a one-way trip from Manila to Naga Airport starts at PHP 3,000.00. If you want to save more on your plane ticket, make sure to look out for airline promo sales.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 300.00
You can enjoy a delicious meal at a carinderia for as low as PHP 50.00. Meanwhile, restaurant meals will cost you around PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00 on average.
Shopping: PHP 100.00++
Food products made from pili nuts such as candied pili and pili bars cost from PHP 30.00 to PHP 100.00. On the other hand, small trinkets such as keychains and mini wallets are around PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00. The price for souvenir shirts range from PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00, depending on the design.
Accommodation: PHP 500.00 to PHP 3,000.00
A stay at a budget hotel or inn ranges from PHP 500.00 to PHP 800.00 per night. Meanwhile, high-class hotels charge PHP. 1,200.00 to PHP 3,000.00 for an overnight stay.
Activities: PHP 100.00++
There is a PHP 100.00 entrance fee when you visit Mt. Isarog National Park. For wakeboarding at Camsur Watersports Complex, a one-hour session costs PHP 165.00. Lastly, the boat rental for island hopping tours in Caramoan start at PHP 1,500.00, which is already good for six persons.
Day 1 (Naga Itinerary)
||Arrive at Naga Airport in Pili.
||See the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia at the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Offer a prayer of thanks for your safe arrival.
||Have breakfast at Bigg's Diner.
||Try wakeboarding at Camsur Watersports Complex.
||Feast on Bicolano dishes at Graceland.
||Explore Mt. Isarog National Park. Have fun getting lost at the maze at Naga Ecological Park.
||Trek to Malabsay Falls. Once there, take a refreshing dip in its refreshing waters.
||Head back to the city proper.
||Visit the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.
||Enjoy a sumptuous dinner at Red Platter.
Day 2 (Caramoan Itinerary)
||Arrive in Guijalo Port. Ride a tricycle to Caramoan town proper.
||Have breakfast at a carinderia.
||Check in at your chosen accommodation.
||Ride a tricycle to Barangay Paniman then hire a boat at Bikal Port for your island hopping tour.
||Start your island hopping tour. See amazing islands and beaches where you can go swimming and snorkeling like Matukad Island, Lahos Island, Cagbanilad Island, Sabitang Island, and many others.
||Enjoy your lunch. Some tour agencies already include lunch in their island hopping package.
||Continue with island hopping tour.
||After island hopping, head back to your accommodation.
||Arrive at your accommodation. Freshen up before dinner.
||Have dinner at one of the restaurants along the shores.
A sunny and calm weather is a must if you want to enjoy Camarines Sur. Take note of the dry season in the Philippines which runs from December until May.
If you're finding difficulty when it comes to getting around, don't be shy to ask for help from the locals.
Safety and Security
Make sure to practice constant vigilance whenever you're visiting a new place. Observe your surroundings and keep your valuables in a safe place.