Hello! If you do not know Catanduanes yet, it exists on the west side of Legazpi and just an hour away from Manila by plane. The luscious hill of Catanduanes Island will instantly welcome you once you get off the plane. One of my top favorite spots here is the Cagnipa Rolling Hills and Tuwad Tuwadan Lagoon, I will try to go as in-depth as possible to explain this place. Our trip here is very memorable as we get to share our time and the scenery with the local children.
Cagnipa Rolling Hills and Hiyop Hills are a great substitute if you love mountains but cannot tackle them. Like me, I love mountains more than the beach but I am not physically fit as I used to be so the hills here truly gave me great joy.
PRE-TRIP TRAVEL GUIDE
HOW TO GET TO CATANDUANES
The best way is to book a plane from Manila to Virac Airport. It is only a short ride away and do not miss the plane view from below when nearing landing.
I got my plane ticket from Cebu Pacific’s Piso Promo Fare and I stayed at a friend’s house here so my total expenses did not exceed Php5,000. Oh yeah!
HOW TO GET TO CAGNIPA ROLLING HILLS AND THE LAGOON
The hills and the lagoon is located at the northern part of Catanduanes Island called Pandan. You will need to pass by Cagnipa hills before you can get to Tuwad Tuwadan Lagoon.
Via Private Car: Google Maps is your buddy. Seriously, just follow where the all-knowing app tells you to go. Along the road, you will stumble upon the signage of Carangyan Beach Resort. Use this landmark as your guide to know you’re on the right track.
Once you’ve reached the end of the road, you will see some local’s houses. We asked around on how to get to the hills and the lagoon and the kids personally accompanied us! They were so sweet and maybe excited that there are tourists visiting their hills.
Getting to the actual hills require a few minutes of hiking so be sure you’re ready for that.
Via Public Vehicle: You will have to go to the Virac Town Center to get to the bus terminal. Ask around what bus to ride on going to Pandan, the fare will cost around Php150. From Pandan, hire a Habal-habal to take you to Cagnipa Rolling Hills.
Via Travel Agency: For those who want their whole trip to be at the hands of a professional I suggest you book a tour from a travel agency. Sure it will be a breeze but sadly, you cannot take control of the time you want for each spot. If you’ve got the extra budget, do a private tour if possible.
ACTIVITIES TO DO
There may not be a lot to do here aside from swimming in the lagoon and hiking to the hills but it will be worth it. This spot is best for those who want to feel connected, soul-searching, outdoor enthusiasts and the likes.
Hiking: To get to Cagnipa Hills, around 15-25 minutes of hiking is required. For mountain loves who is not physically fit to climb one, the hills in Catanduanes are your best substitute. Atop, the hills will be rewarding you with a seascape as wide as the eye can see.
Swimming: The small lagoon of Tuwad Tuwadan is accessible for swimming for free. Some caution is needed when climbing down the concrete stairs and the rocky slopes. Take note that the slopes here are very smooth so wear appropriate footwear.
Picnic: When the sun is not too harsh, you can have a picnic here while enjoying the breeze and the seascape.
Nothing: Yes, you can just do nothing once you’re on top of the hill. Just stare and feel connected with the world. Every once in a while we need to take a break from the city and the people.
WHAT TO BRING AND WEAR ON YOUR TRIP
Appropriate Footwear: Wear shoes that have the grip even when it is wet. The route going here can be slippery, especially the spot around the lagoon.
Sunglasses: This is an open wide area and the sun can get very harsh on the eyes the longer you’re here.
Water Bottle: Let us reduce plastic waste and bring our own tumblers.
Sunblock: My skin got totally burned here last February, its June now and the zebra marks are still very visible on my skin.
First Aid Kit: I know I am very prone to slipping off rocks so I always bring with me some bandaids. On top of this, I am also weak to prolonged sun exposure so headache medicine is always a must for me.
Scarf or Bandana: Just for some heat protection.
Picnic Food: Bringing food is totally optional and it will depend on your itinerary. Just a note that it’s not fun eating here at noon when the sun is at its highest peak. Early morning or afternoon are the best times.
Change of Clothes: You’ll literally sweat buckets so bring a change of clothes but of course this is totally optional.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Any time except the rainy days. The roads going to the best destinations here is next to mountains which can be prone to landslides. I find November to February as the best months when the temperature can still be chilly.
For surfers, the months of July to October and March to June are the best.
CAGNIPA ROLLING HILLS
I remember being so excited to go here ever since seeing pictures of the place online. And truth be told, it was only a bit off-putting when the hike comes marching in. It was surprising when we were told we need to hike as it was noon that time.
Despite the unexpected, the view will just blow you away! Sadly I don’t have enough good pictures to show it but do a search for it online.
My most favorite and best shot from Cagnipa Hills is this clouds that seem to be sitting on the hills. It just makes you wonder how small you are in the world. The breeze will just make you smell the breath of the wild (there are no carabao poops here so I’m not pertaining to that, lol).
Palumbanes group of islands from afar
Across the sea, you can see Palumbanes group of islands. It was supposed to be part of the itinerary but we didn’t get more information about the places from the locals and so we scrapped the idea. I hope I get to visit here next time though to complete my Catanduanes tour.
On the way back, it was enviable how the kids are playing around. As you get older, you just reminisce how carefree you were on the days gone. A little bonding time with some strangers during a trip can be so much worth it.
TUWAD TUWADAN LAGOON
On the far edge of Cagnipa Hills, you will see concrete stairs leading down. This may be hard for those with acrophobia. There’s not much rail support so be very careful going down as the other side is a cliff. Wearing proper footwear here is also a must as slipping is not an option especially when you get wet from swimming.
Once we got down, frowns were felt on our faces. The area is pretty but not taken care of properly. A bunch of trash was just thrown away on the rocky slopes. To make matters worse, the lagoon is connected to the sea as you can see on the picture taken below.
This makes all the trash blown away directly in the sea. I wouldn’t want to see this shade of blue change to gray when I get old.
Another big issue here, the spot is not yet a major tourist attraction and it is already at this state. Just how much garbage will this place accumulate when a number of tourists in the future will keep popping in?
As a person, take only pictures, do not leave garbage. Leave nothing but footprints.
TIPS TO CONSIDER
≡ You should opt to rent a private vehicle, either a car or a motorcycle when you travel in Catanduanes. Getting to places here is easy but going back can be a bit difficult riding public transportations. You can also maximize your time when you have your own vehicle.
≡ Heads up that Catanduanes is a budding island to both travelers and tourists, expect getting around certain areas to be a bit tricky.
≡ Leave nothing but footprints. Leaving garbage is one major issue in the Philippines already and most people just can’t grasp the concept of cleanliness. So don’t add to them no matter how small a trash you want to try to throw away. It only and will always come back to us.
≡ Expect the harsh heat. Feel the effect of global warming guys!
THINGS TO KNOW
The best and shortest way is by plane. Book a plane ticket, Catanduanes’ airport is called Virac and it‘s an hour away from Manila. Use skyscanner.com to find the cheapest tickets. To get the real deal, fight for a Piso Promo fare ticket from Cebu Pacific.
If you’re a foreigner, make sure if your nationality requires a visa prior landing to the Philippines
Filipinos can mostly speak English fluently so no worries about language barrier here.
Our currency is called the Philippine Peso. Just make sure you don’t convert your cash in the airport. They have expensive rates and this is based on my experience.
Getting around in Catanduanes outside the city is quite tricky unless you have a private car or have friends in the area who can guide you. Luckily, I have a friend here so touring was a breeze. In the city Habal-habal is the most common mode of transportation and if going on a far distance, a jeepney is your option.
HILLS, BEACHES, LAGOONS
Ever heard of Catanduanes?
I surely did not know this island exists. But once I got here it gave the same vibes as Batanes. I don’t want to compare the two since I haven’t been to Batanes yet BUT either of the two, I am sure one will not regret going here. Named as the happy Island, this one lives up to its title. I feel everyone can be happy here what with the God-given treasures of the island.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The name’s Fiorucci (pronounced as Fee-yoh-ru-chi), I’m not Italian but I can eat pasta for a whole week…or a month…or more. Hop on my story as I travel the world ‘one destination at a time’ while juggling with my full-time work, freelancing and building my own business to gain freedom from this monotonous corporate society.