Camarines Sur or Camsur is located at the southern part of Luzon, meaning it’s still fairly easy to travel by land except for Caramoan Islands. Since I didn’t have enough time to explore Camsur when I visited Caramoan, I went back again in December when I went home to the Philippines for the holidays. I started my adventure in the town of Naga for two reasons: to see my cousins who were living there and also because it’s an excellent first stop to explore the region.
(Oh the things I do for free travel- work at my cousins’ backyard in Naga. #MajorFail!)
How To Get to Naga
There are direct flights from Manila to Naga but if you’d like to do it by land like I did, it’s also fairly easy from Metro Manila. You could either get a bus from Pasay or Cubao. I took an overnight bus from Cubao since I was staying closer there and it was an 8 hour trip. I highly recommend taking Penafrancia bus lines as they have very comfortable sleeper seats and toilet inside. Note that there are other bus classes which are cheaper. It cost me P1000 ($22) for a first class sleeper seat.
What to Do
Naga is a small city in the province of CamSur. I went here because I was visiting cousins who lived here and it’s also a good drop off point to get to other provinces in the region such as Albay, Legazpi and Sorsogon. If you’re going to do the city tour, it can be done in half a day. Here are some of the places I recommend:
1. Visit Old Churches
(Our Lady of Penafrancia Shrine)
The city of Naga is filled with old churches dating back to the Spanish colonial period. During September, there is a Penafrancia Festival, in honor of the city’s patron saint. You’ll see parades in the streets and crowds of people.
2. Visit Mount Isarog
(Mount Isarog on a not so clear day)
If you happen to fly to Naga, the first thing you’ll notice is the big Mount Isarog. Mount Isarog is one of the active volcanoes in Camarines Sur. Some people trek and climb here. I didn’t trek here but I went to the Isarog hot springs, where most trekkers usually end their trip. It’s actually one of the best hot springs I’ve ever been to. Highly recommend it!
3. Try Out Green Earth Café
Green Earth Café is hands down my favorite restaurant in the country. The Philippines is a meat loving country and I can only count vegetarian restaurants in the country that I know with one hand. Among the South East Asian countries I visited, the Philippines is the hardest one to be a vegetarian traveler. This place is cozy and has a its own garden where they grow organic vegetables and herbs. The tofu dishes, vegetable rolls and the pesto pasta are my favorites. I don’t really fancy their bread because it somehow tastes like cardboard but the vegetables are really amazing!
4. Wakeboarding at Camsur Water Sports Complex
Out of all the activities I’ve done in Camsur, this is absolutely my favorite.
Before coming here, I didn’t know how to wakeboard so I started at the beginners wakeboarding park. The park is open from 8:00am- 9:00pm and costs P230 ($5), inclusive of helmet and life vest for a half day training at Winch park for beginners. Since I stayed here overnight, I went for the early morning practice and it was a breeze! If you’re also a beginner, it’s best to start early because crowds come in around 10-12 and it takes a while for your turn. I was terrified in the beginning but once you learn how to do it, it’s so much fun! It was so fun that I played here for two days even if my body was so sore the day after.
Where to Stay
There are a lot of guesthouses and boutique hotels along Magsaysay avenue where all the restaurants and “nightlife” are. I have relatives in Naga so that’s where I stayed. But I also stayed for a night at CWC and I really loved it!
(The wood cabins in CWC)
If you’re a backpacker, your best bet is to stay at the Tiki Huts, which is the cheapest of all the room categories and are also relatively nice. They have shared bathrooms which are also clean. I stayed at the wood cabins free after working the backhoe at my cousin’s house. CWC has so many accommodation types and they’re all beautiful. I highly recommend staying here so you can come early to the park or leave late at night. After half a day of wakeboarding, you could get really sore and tired. So it’s best to stay within the complex. They have restaurants, pool and spa. It’s not close close to downtown Naga the complex has transfers available to guests. They also provide transfers to and from the airport.
In summary, you could do a half day tour of the town or a day max. There’s not much going on but if you’re looking for nightlife and great foods or want to stay close to town, it is best to stay within Magsaysay Avenue, the major street in Naga City. But if you’re like me and wants more adventure, go head to CWC! It’s quite an experience.