Introducing Camarines Sur

Many are still looking for a one-stop travel destination where they can get closer to nature, enjoy the sun, soak into the water, do some exercises, try extreme sports, or relax at a world-class hotel. Search no more; for you need not go any farther than Camarines Sur to squeeze all of the above-mentioned activities in one memorable vacation.

Camarines Sur, the largest among the six provinces in Bicol Region, has cemented its place in the list of top travel destinations in the Philippines, thanks to the growing number of people hooked to extreme water sports. The province was not included in most Philippine travel guides until the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex opened its doors to the public in May 2006. Since then, the six-hectare active park, which has facilities for wakeboarding, wakeskating, kneeboarding, and waterskiing, has buoyed the local tourism industry.

Politically subdivided into 35 municipalities and two cities, Camarines Sur is also a haven for beach bummers. One of the famous natural attractions in the province is the beaches of Caramoan, a second-class municipality perfectly made for island hopping. Its fine white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters are ideal for kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Other interesting activities popular for tourists are rock climbing, caving, camping, trekking, and mountain biking.

Camarines Sur, which is about eight to ten hours drive from Manila or 45 minutes by plane, is also a magnet for Catholic faithfuls. The province is home to Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga City. Come September, religious enthusiasts flock to the city for a religious festival wherein the image of the Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia is paraded on a float. Old churches are also a staple fare in the province. Some of them are the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, Quipayo Church, and Nabua Ladrillo Church.

Like any province in the archipelago, Camarines Sur also has its own share of colorful events and festivals. In San Jose town, local talents and young artists take center stage for the Harana Festival. The February 11-15 event aims to promote cultural awareness through singing and other forms of arts. Other popular occasions in Camarines Sur include Iriga City's Tinagba Festival, Bato's Karanowan Festival, Minabalac's Tumatarok Festival, and Nabua's Boa-Boahan Festival.

The province, which accounted for 55.2% of the1.3 million people who set foot on Bicol last year, has also something to offer to hikers and sightseers. Two potentially active volcanoes- Mt. Isarog and Mt. Iriga - are home to exotic flora and fauna. Along the climb, don't forget to check out Nabuntulan Falls and Malabsay Falls. Meanwhile, the recommended destinations for spelunkers are Kalupnitan Caves in Ilibmanan and Adiangao Cave in Presentacion.

Tourists can choose from various accommodations ranging from the very simple to the luxurious. As a travel tip, place your reservations in advance to avoid any inconvenience. There are hotels and resorts offering affordable vacation packages for the budget-conscious travelers. The crunchy pili nuts and the spicy Bicol Express are must-tries for first-time and repeat visitors.

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Allan Leandro Merin has been writing for a living since 2008. After leaving a career at a daily electronic newspaper, he joined a web development outsourcing company and linked up with Local Philippines, the most comprehensive online directory of Philippine destinations, events, and attractions.