The eastern island province of Catanduanes is ripe for exploration, a large, rugged, rural island with mile upon mile of majestic coastline. It has still barely felt the impact of tourism, although with eight flights a week from Manila and improvements to the main road around the island this is slowly changing. In fact surfers have known about Catanduanes for quite some time, attracted to the big waves off Puraran Beach on the wild east coast. There are also several good beaches within easy reach of the capital Boac, as well as other attractions like the immense caves in Lictin, while the undeveloped west coast offers the opportunity to blaze a trail into areas few travellers see. Most of all Catanduanes is a friendly, down-to-earth place to hang out for a few days, as long as you are willing to adjust to a slower pace of life and travel.
It isn’t all good news though. Filipinos think mostly of bad weather when they think about Catanduanes, lying as it does on the exposed eastern edge of the archipelago smack in the middle of the “typhoon highway”. Unless you are a surfer the best time to visit is from March to June, when the chances of rainfall are slight and the wind is less wicked. During the wet season (July–Nov) the island can be hit half a dozen times by typhoons, causing extensive damage to crops and homes and sometimes loss of life.Read More
The first decent beaches you reach as you head north along the east coast from Virac are around Baras, a small trading and fishing town where the only visitors are surfers who come occasionally to spend the day. It’s worth stopping to climb the hill to the radar station; it’s a 30-minute scramble to the top, but when you get there you’re rewarded with uninterrupted views of the coast and a vast area of narra trees. At the time of research the radar station, which had been derelict, was undergoing renovation and there were plans to welcome visitors.
However, for many visitors the only stop on the east coast is at beautiful PURARAN BEACH, with a break referred to as Majestic by surfers. Majestic is fickle but it’s generally thought that the best bet is from July to October, when low-pressure areas lurking out in the Pacific help kick up a swell. Of course, these areas can turn into tropical storms and typhoons that batter the coast, making surfing impossible for all but experts and the foolhardy. Prices for board hire (P150/hr shortboard, P200/hr longboard) and lessons (P150/hr) are set by the Department of Tourism, although you may find locals willing to do a deal for longer term hire.
You don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy a few days on a beach as lovely as this one. There are extensive coral gardens just offshore that make for wonderful snorkelling, and swimming is safe inside the line of the reef and away from the rocks – ask for advice at your resort before heading out, as it is not unknown for swimmers to get into trouble.
Puraran is still mercifully undeveloped, with only two basic resorts on the beach as well a slightly more comfortable one (which was up for sale at the time of research) up the hill close to the main road. At Puting Baybay Resort (t0910/314-5482; P500–999) there are simple, clean cottages or concrete rooms with cold water only. Elena’s Majestic Resort (t0919/558-1460; P500–999), is another simple place with a handful of rooms and six small cottages right on the sand, each with its own rickety terrace where you can relax with a cold drink at the end of a day’s surfing. Electricity is often limited to a few hours a day and the nearest internet access is in Virac. These are very laidback resorts, and it is not unusual for visitors to end up staying for a couple of weeks.
There is only one morning jeepney (2hr; P35) direct to Puraran each day from Virac. More vehicles make the trip to Baras, from where it’s a P150 tricycle trip to the beach. When you’re ready to leave the resort owners can arrange a tricycle to Baras, or all the way to Virac for P600 if you’ve missed the last jeepney.