The Town of Baras
Along the eastern coast of the island province of Catanduanes lies the town of Baras. Once unfamiliar, this laid-back community is now at the top of many travelers' Catanduanes itinerary. Its claim to fame is without a doubt its world-class breaks. Consistent winds stir up the sea off its coast and brew some of the best waves that draw spirited surfers from all over the world. It also helps, ironically, to be in the typhoon belt. Baras, or the whole province of Catanduanes for that matter, bears the brunt of storms coming in from the Pacific all year round, producing heavy swells much to pro surfers' delight.
Although a surfer's haven, Baras actually has something more to offer. Look beyond its shores to see that there's more to Baras than just its waves. Hike up one of its headlands to get a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. Gape at the sight of undulating hills and lush mountains. Do all these as you listen to the sound of waves lapping against rocky cliffs and folding over the reefs.
Read on to find more about this humble town. Instructions are also provided in getting to each of Baras' attractions, usually from the capital town of Virac.
People wanting to get stoked need not look further than Puraran Beach. This spot is endowed with epic reef breaks and powerful barrels fittingly called the Majestics. No wonder, it is acclaimed as one of the Philippines’ top surfing destinations.
Hardcore surfers congregate from September to October of each year, considered the peak season, to ride waves with heights that can reach over six feet. Smaller swells roll in from March to August, giving novices a window to also hit the surf. Surfing lessons are popular during this time, with resorts around the area offering instructor-guided classes to beginners and surfer wannabes.
The fun never runs out in Puraran. Throughout the rest of the year, when onshore winds prevail and the high surf dies down, a different type of travelers – collectively called the non-surfers – takes over the place to have their own kind of fun. The beachgoers find enjoyment in simply laying down mats in Puraran’s cream sand and basking in the sun. The sightseers, meanwhile, feast their eyes on Puraran’s dramatic landscape and seascape. For them, the scenic rocks jutting out of the sea and the beach’s backdrop of lush greenery are a sight to behold.
How to get there: Baras can be reached by public utility vans or jeeps coming from the port in Virac, the capital of Catanduanes province. A 45-minute trip will take you to Baras town proper from where you can ride a tricycle going to Puraran Beach. Puraran is just around 5 kilometers from the town proper.
You could very well start and end each day in Baras by simply soaking up the sights at Puraran Beach. But another spot in this rustic town gives you a great reason to break the monotony. For a change, welcome a new day atop Balacay Point, an elevated piece of land sticking out into the Pacific from the coastline of Benticayan village. Every clear morning here offers a jaw-dropping scene as the sun peeks over the horizon and bathes the whole surrounding in warm orange light.
Balacay Island as viewed from Balacay Point
The silhouette of the landscape becomes clearer and turns into a panoramic perspective as the sun takes over the sky. The east is unobstructed with only the great Pacific Ocean in sight. In the north and down below the point is the small Balacay Island. Mountains and hills can be found in the west while Puraran Beach rests visibly in the south.
The rolling hills at Balacay Point
But you don't need to look at a distance to witness a splendid view. The immediate surrounding of Balacay Point is in itself a stunner. The grass-covered slopes of the rolling hills are more than enough to make you swoon. The sward of green is also perfect to enjoy a picnic. Throw down a blanket and have an alfresco breakfast right after sunrise.
How to get there: Choose between two ways to get to Balacay Point. If you’re longing for some active pursuits, take the long way by trekking through Puraran Beach and climbing up into a low-canopy forest for about an hour. But if you want to spare no sweat and no labor for the climb, ride a motor vehicle from either Puraran Beach or Baras town proper for a 20-minute trip to Balacay Point. Getting directly to Balacay is now possible, thanks to the concrete road constructed by the provincial government. Set off before first light if you don't want to miss the sunrise in Balacay Point.
Where to next?
Another great vantage point to see Baras' awe-inspiring scenery is Binurong Point in Guinsaanan village. A quick motorcycle ride from the town proper plus half-an-hour-trek will lead you to this vast expanse of green rolling hills fringed by rocky cliffs. After conquering Binurong, ride south to the next town named Bato to get a peek at the province's oldest church and marvel at Maribina Falls' beautiful cascade. Then, go back to the capital and stroll around Virac's numerous beaches. Read my Catanduanes Travel Guide with Estimated Budget and Suggested Itinerary for more information. For other related places and/or content, jump to the Related section below.
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