You Have to Go Here! Check Out Why Tugawe Cove Resort is the Highest-Ranked Resort in Caramoan

Getting Lost in Caramoan


The Caramoan group of islands, a tropical paradise known to most for being the scenic location for the Survivor series – most famously the US franchise’s Survivor: Caramoan – and the iconic swimsuit photo shoot of Miss World 2014, is pretty much what travel junkies have in mind when daydreaming of the perfect getaway. On photographs and the television, the place is a green gem amidst crystal blue waters, a pristine location filled with natural beauty, and an island getaway that allows complete escape from the stresses of city living.

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Now, I’d like to think of myself as a cool prof. So during the course of the previous semester, a group of students and I casually agreed to go travel before the new term (which is, this current semester) starts. It so happened that one of our companions, Adj Regidor, lived in Naga City, so he recommended the neighboring Caramoan islands.

Checking out Trip Advisor and independent reviews of resorts in Caramoan (we bloggers still have to do our research, no?), Tugawe Cove Resort unequivocally came out on top of the shortlist of recommended places to stay in Caramoan. Schedules got mixed, some were not allowed to go (children!), in the end it was me, Adj, and Fil Garciano (who I asked to co-write this article) going on a Caramoan island tour, taking photos and being taken photos of, and – midair during a jump shot – thinking to ourselves, “This trip is AWESOME!”

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Apparently, Fil did not get the memo for this jump shot.

Going to Caramoan

There are two main routes going to Caramoan, Camarines Sur: first, by plane; second, by bus and boat.

By plane, the closest airport to Caramoan is in Virac, Catanduanes. From there, the resort of your choice can provide boats and/or shuttle vans that can ferry you to and from the airport.

For the more adventurous, those traveling on a budget, or both, there are buses from Metro Manila (Cubao, Alabang, or Pasay) to Naga City. Fil and I decided to take the DLTB bus. Leaving at 7:50 PM, we reached Naga City at dawn, 5:00 AM. Bus fare costs 650 pesos, but deluxe options with lazy boy seats are available at 1,000 pesos.

By the way, make it a point to know whether the bus has Naga City as its final destination or not. Apparently, we were booked for a bus going to Naga en route to Legazpi City. Sleeping through most of the journey, we actually missed the drop-off at the Naga City central station, and we got off the bus only after making a scene and at the boundary of Naga and Pili.

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Nothing like getting lost in your own country. Literally.

From the Naga City bus terminal, ask the locals where the UV Express vans are (the garage is approximately 500 meters from the bus terminal) to take you to Sabang Port. The hour-long ride affords you a scenic view of Mount Isarog to the left as you travel from Naga to Sabang, San Jose.

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Note that the last trip from Sabang to Caramoan is at 2:00 PM, while the last trip back is at 11:00 AM.

From Sabang, a two-hour boat ride across the Pacific Ocean to Guijalo Port costs 120 pesos. Guijalo Port was recently devastated by a typhoon, and with port-side landing unavailable, you need to hop onto one of the smaller paddled boats to bring you to either the port or straight to your resort’s awaiting boat. Tipping the paddle-boat porters 10 to 20 pesos should be ample, so make sure you have change at hand!

All in all, our budget one-way trip to Caramoan costs 870++ pesos.

Where to stay: Tugawe Cove Resort

We booked a 3-day, 2-night stay at Tugawe Cove Resort at 8,800 pesos for two persons, and an additional 1,100 for the third person in our party. This rate is inclusive of full-board assisted buffets, use of the infinity pool, the game room, kayaks, snorkeling gears, and island hopping.

From the boat, our first peak of Tugawe was an awe-inspiring moment.

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We were welcomed to its shores by the resort’s staff with their beaming smiles, providing us with tropical refreshments to settle us in and kick our heels.

“By the way, your butler’s name is Jeramie. She will be with you shortly,” said the receptionist.

Wait, we have a butler!?

“Yes. Guests are assigned one butler per room.”


Rooms are available by the cove, along the hill slope, and on top of the hill, where the resort’s restaurant is also located. If traveling with the elderly, best reserve a villa by the cove or the hilltop to minimize going up and down the hill for meals or activities.

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The cabanas by the cove…

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The climb…

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…And the garden and villas on top of the hill.

We stayed in one of the cabanas at the slope of the hill.

We stayed in one of the cabanas at the slope of the hill.

We reached Tugawe around noontime, so we dropped our bags and went straight to the restaurant. We settled by the alfresco area with a view of the lighthouse and the islands across the bay; adjacent to it are lounges that let guests take it all in.

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The hilltop restaurant…

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…And our view whenever we eat. Seriously.

Throughout our stay, Tugawe made sure we had a superb diet of fish, vegetables, and local cuisine. Since Caramoan is surrounded by water, the locally sourced seafood is delightfully fresh, delicious whichever manner they were prepared. If you’re not a fan of fish, don’t worry, authentic Bicolano dishes are a staple in the buffet menu as well.

Right beside the restaurant is the game room, complete with a billiard table, foosball, air hockey, books and games of all sorts, and two guitars any guest can borrow and bring down to their rooms and to the beach. Facing the beach side of the island, a few steps down from the restaurant, an infinity pool affords guests a scenic view of Caramoan while wading in clear pool waters.

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Normally, I find pools within beach resorts redundant. This one is an exception.

In the afternoon, we went to the beach and rowed around in kayaks. Crystal clear waters allow you to see the rich oceanic biosphere just a few meters away from the shore – a plethora of corals, colorful fish, and not a sign of trash wherever you look.

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Adj and Fil raced five times, with Adj losing five out of five. He does, however, make it up with a poster-worthy photo op (one of many).

We lazily lounged by the beach as the sun went down on our first day in Tugawe.

We lazily lounged by the beach as the sun went down on our first day in Tugawe.

What to do: Island Hopping

For our second day, Jeramie informed us that we were to depart for our island hopping tour at 9 AM. Visiting several islands, we have to say that our favorite was Lahos Island, with its sand running from one side of the island to the other. We also snorkeled every opportunity we could whilst traveling from one island to another. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit the Manlawi Sandbar due to the tides, so it’s something to look forward to should we return to Caramoan.

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Off we go…

Our boy band cover shoot at Catanhawan Island care of Jeramie.

Our boy band cover shoot at Catanhawan Island care of Jeramie.

Washing up after our half-day island tour, we trekked to the lighthouse to watch the sunset. The majestic Mayon Volcano could be seen on the way up; the real spectacle, however, is the lovely splash of yellow, orange, then red as the sun goes down.

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A view of Mayon Volcano from the lighthouse. #iamnikon

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Waiting for the sunset. (Fantastic photography skills, Jeramie!)

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The last rays of light as the sun hides behind the mountains. #iamnikon

Returning from our trek and having partaken of dinner, with bottles of cerveza on hand we listened to the in-house acoustic duo play a few songs at the restaurant as we talked about school and business and love and dreams and everything else that seemed relevant at the time.

What made our trip to Caramoan memorable?

First, everything about the islands. The landscape is absolutely breathtaking. The virgin, unspoiled beauty of the beaches, forests, and the ocean is inspiring. No wonder Survivor chose to lease a number of the islands for their show!

Second, the service. This was the first time that I had a butler personally attend to all of our group’s needs. Personally attending to us whenever we call the concierge, Jeramie (and I’m sure the rest of Tugawe’s staff) literally does everything from answering all our questions about Caramoan to serving refreshments to being our tour guide to taking amazing photos! The VIP treatment sets Tugawe apart from all of the other hotels and resorts I have visited.

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We’ll definitely request for Jeramie when we return to Tugawe.

And on the flip side, the travel. While going to Caramoan by bus and boats was an adventure, I think I’ll opt for Virac by air the next time I visit Caramoan. It’s not that bad. But the long ride can be unkind to your buns, and time well spent is gold indeed. I’d rather spend more time in the islands than going to the islands, you know?

The Caramoan islands, you have to go here!

Check out Tugawe Cove Resort via their website and Facebook page. They’re currently on sale; grab the opportunity to visit one of the most scenic destinations in the Philippines. Perfect timing for those planning to travel during the sem break or during the APEC Summit holidays!