When you mention the province of Camarines Norte, people immediately think of either Calaguas, renowned for its white sand beach or Bagasbas, the surfing destination in the mainland of Daet. But beyond these two beaches, there are lots of other islands and beaches worth discovering in CamNorte.
The quiet fishing town of Mercedes is perfect for backpackers. Visitors can go island-hopping and explore the Siete Pecados or seven islands, each with its own unique features and stunning beaches.
Apuao Grande Island
The most well-known tourist spot here are the Apuao Islands, two adjoining islands with white sandy beach and pine trees connected by a sandbar.
Apuao Grande, the larger of the two, offers basic beach cottages with amenities for rent that make it ideal for overnight camping, family picnics and beach bonfire parties. Visitors can rent equipment for fun water activities, like kayaking and hobie cat sailing. Interestingly, Apuao Grande Island contains the ruins of an old resort that was abandoned in the 1980s. These days, visitors prefer to camp on the beach.
Apuao Pequeña Island
With its thick grove of pine-like Agoho trees, Apuao Pequena is another good spot for camping and just relaxing by the beach. During low tide, you can walk to this smaller island if you’re staying in Apuao Grande. You can also get here via a short boat ride.
Visitors can take a leisurely 15 to 20-minute hike through a Bat Sanctuary. It’s amazing to see huge bats flying overhead in the trees right on the beach. The island also contains a stunning view point shrouded with a grove of trees overlooking the rocky coast known as “Surfer’s Paradise.”
Caringo Island is another of Mercedes’ islands surrounded by a white sandy beach with shells. This island is home to a vibrant community where locals engage in wild seaweed farming.
A unique draw for tourists is the community-based tourism efforts and food. During my visit, we got to feast on unique local specialties prepared by women from the community and got culinary lessons in making binut-ong (rice cakes cooked in gata) and seaweed gulaman.
The island also contains a fish sanctuary nearby. If you want to try snorkeling, you can take a short paddleboat ride to a snorkeling site nearb and see the beautiful corals in the Caringo fish sanctuary.
Inland, you can visit the oldest house in Mercedes, known as “Dakulang Harong” or Big House. Built circa 1920, the house is owned by the heirs of Fortunato and Eufemia Ibasco.