In the Bicol region, Naga is considered an urbanite’s dream, a lively city crammed with coffee shops and restaurants that have never stopped expanding. Unknown to many tourists, Naga, the thriving independent city geographically situated in Camarines Sur was founded sometime in 1575, making it the third Spanish Royal City in the Spanish East Indies, after Cebu and Manila.
Dubbed as the “Pilgrim City of the Philippines” by virtue of a Presidential Proclamation, it summons millions of pilgrims every September during the feast of the Blessed Virgin of Peñafrancia. A solemn procession to the city’s Marian churches is a perfect way for the devotees to understand, appreciate and celebrate the unique bond between the miraculous Patroness and her devotees.
Although rightfully known for its historical and religious edifices, there is more to this city for the tourists to discover. The range of diverse outdoor adventures in and around Naga is perhaps one of the country’s best-kept secrets.
Just 15 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Naga downtown, visitors are transported to a world of breath-snatching sceneries at Mt. Isarog National Park. According to Naga X (Naga Tourism), about 4,500 diverse species of flora and fauna flourish in this 2,000 meter high mountain, considered as one of the oldest and best-preserved natural forest parks in the country as well as Southeast Asia. Interestingly, Mt. Isarog is the highest forested peak in Southern Luzon known to climbers because of its difficult moss and cloud-covered trails.
For those who are not keen to climb this stunning mountain, don’t fret as a walk around the sprawling natural park will reward you with pristine waterfalls! A few minutes hike from the registration booth of the park will lead you to Malabsay Falls, an impressive 40 foot drop to a deep emerald green pool draped by verdurous jungle. About 15-30 minutes trek away are six more waterfalls out of 40 dappled around in this bountiful park. One of them is Nabuntulan Waterfall, getting here though is quite an adventure because one needs to climb massive boulders and wade in knee-deep streams to reach its picturesque cascade that echoes in the quiet forest.
After chasing waterfalls, do make time to visit Consocep Mountain Resort which is sitting on the eastern portion of Mt. Isarog. Here, you can immerse in local culture and experience first-hand traditional customs such as nganga (betel nut chewing) as well as getting up close with numerous deer.
Another worthy stop-over is Panicuason Hot Spring Resort blissfully hidden at one of the rivers in Naga’s East Highland Tourism Zone. It is a local favorite for picnics because of its several natural pools sprinkled around with temperatures ranging from 20 to 30 degree Celsius. But personally, my favorite activity here is the bike zipline. Visitors can try this activity for Php 250 per person where one gets to pedal a modified bicycle on a cable-wire suspended about 100 feet from the ground.
Unlike the usual zipline where you will be zipped by gravity, this one requires you to pedal the bike across the wire at your own pace. You need not worry as you don’t have to balance the bicycle because its extended metal frames are fixed to overhead cable wires. But it can still be thrilling as at times you’ll feel like falling especially when the wind blows against our face. Or if you have a fear of heights, you’ll feel distracted, but the trick is to fix your gaze on the wire. A new attraction is also offered here – the Tarzan Swing! Excited to try this on my next visit!
Meanwhile, the range of outdoor pursuits offered in Haciendas de Naga is just as exciting. Choose your own adventure, from rappelling, zip lining, wall climbing, fishing, horseback riding, golfing and swimming or surfing in its 2,000 square meter wave pool that offers a neck-swiveling view of the city. And while you are at it, don’t miss the pili nut picking and de-shelling here.
And if you still have enough energy, make time to visit the famed Camsur Watersports Complex, one of the best cable parks in the world, located in the neighboring municipality of Pili, the capital of Camarines Sur. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, you will surely enjoy your visit here. So get ready to get your feet strapped to that board as you are pulled around a watercourse on a cable. And if you think this doesn’t excite you, wait till you see the pro-wakeboarders do their challenging tricks on obstacles scattered around the lake. You can even go boating in a man-made lake here. For those who want to just chill, a huge swimming pool will warmly welcome you.
Indeed, nothing can encompass nature’s magical prowess, and Naga is an impeccable testament to that. Discover the under-the-radar tourist destinations in this surprising city.
How to get to Naga City
Philippines Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air fly between Manila and Naga City in Camarines Sur. At Naga City,
From Manila (Cubao, Pasay, Alabang) take a bus bound for Naga City. Buses leave at around 6-8 PM (I’ll update this again when I get a hold of the bus schedules and fare). Travel time is around 8 hours (night trip) – 10 hours (day trip). Fare is around Php 700- 800 (air-conditioned bus) or Pp 500 (ordinary bus) one-way.
How to get to Malabsay Falls
From Naga city center, head to Panicuasan bound jeep terminal near P.Caceres Street/Padian Street before Metrobank. Alight at the Girl Scout of the Philippines in Panicuasan. You can ride a habal-habal (motorcycle) going to Mt.Isarog National Park’s entrance. Get the mobile number of the driver so he can fetch you after exploring Malabsay.
How to get to Panicuason Hot Spring Resort
Look for the terminal going to Panicuason at Naga City Market (Naga City People’s Mall) near P.Caceres Street/Padian Street.
Panicuason Hot Spring Entrance Fee
Adults: Php 200
Student/Senior: Php 160
Children: Php 100
Overnight Fee: Php 250
Where to Stay in Naga City
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DISCLOSURE: Our Naga adventure was made possible by NagaX (Naga Tourism).
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