Discovering the Lesser-Known Wonders of Camarines Norte in 3 Days

March 19, 2024 Travel

The Philippines has always been my playground, and despite exploring it countless times, I still stumble upon new treasures. 

My recent journey to Camarines Norte, as part of the Tourism Promotion Board of the Philippines' Domestic Tourism Invitational Program, reaffirms this notion.

During this 3-day trip, we had the chance to explore lesser-known destinations in Bicolandia's northern gateway. We also savored delightful culinary experiences, glimpsed into its rich culture, and, most importantly, were welcomed with genuine warmth and hospitality.

We explored some waterfalls in Sta. Elena and Labo, then enjoyed the beach and visited a church in Paracale. We spent the night in Jose Panganiban, experienced island-hopping in Mercedes, attended mass at Vinzons church, stayed overnight, and enjoyed the morning at the surf beach in Daet. We concluded our journey with a visit to the church, an exploration of the sandbar, and an overnight stay in Capalonga.

Camarines Norte is home to an astounding 58 waterfalls, ranging from secluded spots to easily accessible ones for tourists—Busay Falls in Sta. Elena and Malatap Falls in Labo are among those that are ready for tourists.

Busay Falls is just a 15-minute hike from the highway and welcomes visitors with its refreshing, crystal-clear waters. The falls also have swimming pools for alternative baths and huts that excursionists can rent.

Malatap Falls is more accessible, just a few meters away from the main road, and a hike isn't necessary. It is a multi-tiered waterfall with water dramatically cascading over a wide but low rock formation into a spacious basin.


Both falls are maintained by local communities, ensuring these sites remain pristine. A nominal entrance fee contributes to conservation efforts.

In Paracale, we started exploring with a delicious boodle feast lunch at ALM Pabirik Resort, one of the best destinations along the Gumaus stretch.


Our tour was centered on the town's gold—literal gold. We met a man who pans gold at Gumaus Beach. Mang Ardo explained the process and gave us a glimpse of his life as a small-scale miner. Afterward, we went to Paracale's gold museum inside the municipal building. Later, we paid homage to Inay Candi, or Our Lady of Candelaria, who was said to protect the town's gold.

It is believed that Inay Candi came down from the altar when Moros tried to invade the town. Thus, her image bore a sword.


We spent the night in the equally gold-rich town of Jose Panganiban. Students performed cultural dances during our dinner, including a performance from the town's indigenous group.

We stayed at Mabulao Pacific Resort, a beachfront resort popular among locals as an events destination. Function rooms surround its infinity pool, which has an overlooking view.

We spent our second day island-hopping in Mercedes' Siete Pecados, east of Camarines Norte. The seven islands—Apuao Grande, Quinapaguian, Malasugui, Apuao Pequeña, Canton, Caringo, and Canimog—are among the most significant tourist draws of Camarines Norte. They are favorites among backpackers, campers, and tourists who like off-the-beaten-path travel. 

During a previous visit, I had already seen the islands of Quinapaguian and Apuao Grande. This time, I saw a different side of Quinapaguian as we explored a newly established resort. I also saw the adjoining island of Apuao Grande, which is Apuao Pequena.


A sandbar connects Apuao Grande and Apuao Pequena. Apuao Pequena also caught my attention with its grove of pine-like Agoho trees. It is so beautiful and perfect for hammock camping.


After our island hopping, we went to Vinzons to visit St. Peter the Apostle Church, the oldest church in Camarines Norte. It is also one of the three quadricentennial churches in the province.

While I heard mass, the others went to the two-story ancestral house of Wenceslao Q. Vinzons, which the National Historical Institute declared a National Historic Landmark in 1991.

We spent our night at Bagasbas Lighthouse Hotel Resort in Daet. The hotel is rundown, but the food is excellent and has a good location—opposite Bagasbas Beach.

Bagasbas Beach is one of the sites I frequent in Daet, but this is my first time meeting members of the local surf club, a community-based group that teaches surfing and takes care of the beach.

After our brief meeting with Bagasbas Surf Club, we drove to Capalonga.

We met our local hosts at the tourism office. After having our photos taken at the "Sibol Capalonga" sign, we headed to The Shrine of Jesus, Black Nazarene of Capalonga.

The shrine is this sleepy town's most famous tourist spot. All roads lead to it every May 13, its feast day. Devotees and pilgrims of different nationalities flock to pay homage to the miraculous image, which was believed to have been carved in Mexico and brought to the Philippines in the 1600s.

After visiting the shrine and enjoying a feast of crabs, we headed to Pulong Guijanlo Island, the longest sandbar in the province of Camarines Norte. We spent our time leisurely walking, capturing moments in photographs, and simply enjoying each other's company.

We spent our last night in Camarines Norte at Selfie Beach Resort, a modern and stylish beachfront resort. The tourism staff of Camarines Norte bid us farewell with a beautiful evening of cultural performances.

Other Good Travels