Beach-Hopping at Virac, Catanduanes

Since 1988 Catanduanes has been known as a surfer’s haven but not having surfed at any point in our lives we kept the island province out of our bucket list for a long time. Three years ago, however, more of the island province’s attractions beyond surfing spots began to show up on the tourism radar. The beaches were always there, of course, but there were also rolling hills, breathtaking cliffs with majestic coastal views, caves, rock formations and pristine waterfalls. Last week we finally got the chance to visit the “Land of Howling Winds.”

sunset scene at the dive pool of Twin Rock Beach Resort, Igang Beach

Sunset scene at the dive pool of Twin Rock Beach Resort, Igang Beach

After our plane landed in the capital town of Virac we were off to our resort and were soon headed for the jeepney terminal. The town of Baras and its attractions were first on our list but we belatedly learned that there are no returning jeepney rides in the afternoon (this happens only on Sundays). We had also started somewhat late meaning it would be too hot to tour Binurong Point so we had to quickly change our itinerary. We ended up touring the beaches of Virac instead on a tricycle.

clouds over Amenia Beach, San Andres

Clouds over a sea of sand: Amenia Beach, San Andres

Amenia Beach

Amenia Beach in Virac, Catanduanes

Beach curves, Amenia Beach

A long line of cream-colored sandy beaches line the southwestern coast of Virac. The first beach on our list, Amenia Beach, lies just outside the boundaries of Virac and is actually part of San Andres town. After paying the P40 entrance fee at Amenia Beach Resort we were soon walking on the now-barren sand of the beach.

sand ripples at Amenia Beach

Golden sand ripples at Amenia Beach

Low tide had already exposed a wide swath of golden sand ripples not unlike the landscape we had encountered at Cagbalete Island. A number of egrets and herons were having their breakfast on water pools left by the low tide.

Mamangal Beach

a canopy of trees at Mamangal Beach

Clean and green Mamangal Beach

Less than 3 kilometers southeast from Amenia was our second beach for the day: Mamangal Beach. Maybe because of its P10 entrance fee or its long beachfront, this beach seems to be the one most favored by the locals. It was a Sunday and we were half-expecting a huge crowd to show up at Mamangal but while the number of people on this day was sizable it wasn’t really large.

Mamangal Beach at low tide

Mamangal Beach at low tide

Low tide revealed an interesting collection of marine inhabitants on the beach including different kinds of sea grass. Dead and living sea grass filled up the troughs between the sand ripples, creating interesting sand patterns. Kids were playfully running all over the sand ripples and posing for our camera.

sand ripples and sea grass at Mamangal Beach

Patterns of sand ripples accentuated by sea grass

local children playing at Mamangal Beach

Kids playing at the beach

Trying to find some solitude at Mamangal, we ventured to the beach’s northwestern end to observe some rocks nestled among a grove of trees. With a beach this long it was easy to walk away from the crowd and find a good spot under the shade of the trees. We could easily spend one whole day here but there were other beaches to explore. Balite Beach, almost similar to Mamangal but much smaller, was nearby but our trike driver decided to skip that and move on to the next.

rocks on the northwestern end of Mamangal Beach

Rocks on the northwestern end of Mamangal Beach

Batag Beach

Our trike driver seemed lost for a while trying to find Batag Beach but we reached it after a short drive of about 3 kilometers. Surprisingly the roads we passed – even the minor ones – were all paved, even if the beaches were already a good distance away from the national highway. The way to Batag Beach is inside a resort that charged us P20 per person, still a good price considering the magnificent views we were taking in.

Batag Beach

Batag Beach

With its cream-colored sand, clear waters and rock formations, Batag is for us the most beautiful of all the beaches in Virac, with the possible exception of the next beach on this list. Low tide had again made swimming not practical here; move farther out from the shoreline and you encounter the strong surf that made Catanduanes such a popular surfing destination.

low tide at Batag Beach

Low tide at Batad Beach reveals several depressions on the sea floor which sometimes trap small fishes and other marine creatures

But the low tide had also exposed several marine creatures, some of them trapped in small pools created by depressions on the sea floor. During high tide this area would have been covered in aquamarine and turquoise waters – which is a common sight in the white-sand beaches we often visit – but this low tide phenomenon is a welcome variation.

the western end of Batag Beach

Rocks at the western end of Batag Beach

Marilima Beach

It was almost lunch by the time we left Batag Beach but since there was no dining place in the area we decided to move on to the next beach on the list and just have lunch at our resort. Marilima Beach is almost adjacent to Batag Beach but is longer. Other visitors say it is the most beautiful beach in Virac. There are no entrance fees here.

children at play, Marilima Beach, Virac

Marilima Beach

Marilima Beach

Sand patterns, Marilima Beach

Marilima actually combines the interesting features of Batag and Mamangal Beaches. It has easily visible sand ripples and clear waters that expose underwater marine life congregating around depressions on the sea floor.

cream-colored sand and clear waters at Marilima Beach

Marilima’s golden sand and crystal-clear waters

Like the other beaches in Virac (and probably in the rest of Catanduanes) its sand is of the creamy white (some say golden) variety. On closer inspection, the sand is actually composed of off-white and orange particles resulting in a creamy or golden color. Some of these particles usually come from crushed corals of similar color.

exposed sea bed at low tide, Marilima Beach

Underwater life at Marilima Beach

After a brief tour of Marilima’s eastern end and its collection of yellow-colored outrigger boats it was time to say good-bye and return to our resort. There are actually two other beaches almost adjacent to Mailima: Magnesia del Norte and Magnesia del Sur (where Bosdak Beach Resort is located). We skipped these too; it was well past noon and we were too hungry at this point.

boats at Marilima Beach

Boats at Marilima Beach

Igang Beach

Our last stop was actually our resort: Twin Rock Beach Resort at Igang Beach. Igang Beach is often referred to as Twin Rock Beach after the resort’s name. It is the most developed of all the beaches in Virac but has remained relatively clean.

As the name suggests, there are huge rock formations located on both ends of the beach. Twin Rock probably refers to the two huge rock outcrops located well off the shoreline at Igang Beach’s southern end.

rock formations at the southern end of Igang Beach

The southern end of Igang Beach with its rock formations

There is another group of smaller rock formations on this beach’s northern end which became our favorite for taking sunset shots. Beside the rock formations is a deep pool which have become popular as a diving spot; the resort even added a diving board here.

sunset scenery at Twin Rock Beach Resort, Igang Beach, Virac

Sunset at Igang Bach with the twin rocks in the background left

With so many natural spots to see in Virac it was not surprising that we hardly had any time to tour the town center which was almost 10 kilometers away from our resort. (We were supposed to visit Hicming Falls also but ran out of time.) We did find time to go there during our last day in Catanduanes, venturing to the city center for lunch – and to try to get stronger phone signals for surfing.

TIP: If you’re visiting Virac make sure to drop by Virac Town Center, head up to Blue Café and try their laing pasta. It’s a unique and surprisingly delicious dish.

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