My solo trip to Surigao Del Sur is one of the most memorable experience that I will never forget in my life. It is like the story that I will keep on telling my kids and my grand kids. It is because of two things, my first solo trip (wuhoo) and the bomb and terrorist threats in Mindanao. A day before my flight going to Butuan, a group of terrorists bombed Davao City as a response to the President’s declaration of an all-out war against them. And during my trip, another bomb was reported in a nearby city.
Anyway, let’s focus on the trip itself since based on my experience Mindanao is not really a hostile place to go. Like Luzon or any other places on Earth, those are just isolated cases and sadly the whole Mindanao has just been associated with it.
Places to Visit
Britania Group of Islands
First on my itinerary is the Britania Group of Islands located at the Municipality of San Agustin. There are more than 20 islands to hop on but, with the standard island hopping tour, you can only visit 4: Hiyor-hiyoran, Naked, Hagonoy, and Boslon Island.
Among the 4 islands, I consider Hagonoy to be the best to stay longer. It has the finest sand and clearest water plus it feels more serene and peaceful. At the middle of the islet is a grove of coconut trees where you can rest under its shade. However, as per the bangkero, you can only stay for about 15 minutes during the peak season to give way to other tourists.
The very reason why I wanted to go to Surigao Del Sur is because of the Enchanted River. It is known for several myths and legends−one is about a diwata protecting the river. But with its clear water that varies in different hues of blue, you don’t need the myths to call it enchanting.
The best time to go to the Enchanted river is in the morning because influx of tourist will start on 11:00am onwards. By 12:00pm, people will be asked to get off of the water for the fish feeding while playing a Hinatuan hymn.
You can also go for an Island hopping from the Enchanted River. Just follow the signages or simply ask the locals where the outrigger boats are located. With just P150 per hour that can accommodate up to 5 passengers, the tour consists of different destinations: Sibadan Fish Cage, Margaret Peak Resort, Pacific View Resort, Sand and Pebble Beaded Vanishing Island, and Tinago River. Value for money, right?
Another hidden gem of Surigao Del Sur is the Tinuy-an Falls. It is considered as the Niagara Falls of the Philippines since it spans at 95 meters wide and 55 meters tall. The grandeur of the falls is complemented with tall trees and lush of vegetation. A bamboo raft is available for Php150 per person if you want to get closer and go right under the falls.
You can make your way up to its second and third level during the dry season. And since there are only few tourist in this section of the falls, you can go on an uninterrupted dip in its cold water.
When you are in Surigao Del Sur, you may also consider going on a sidetrip to other tourist destinations within the area: Cagwait White Beach, named as the Boracay of CARAGA region; Barobo for island and cold spring hopping; and International Doll House and Ocean View Park.
How to get There
There are four airports in Mindanao that can serve as your gateway to Surigao del Sur: Surigao Airport (Surigao City), Bancasi Airport (Butuan City), Tandag Airport (Tandag City), and Francisco Bangoy International Airport (Davao City). You can also enter from Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan De Oro City but I think this is already the farthest among the airports.
I booked a 7:40am flight to Butuan via Cebu Pacific for my solo travel. From Butuan Airport, there are vans and buses that you can ride going to Surigao Del Sur. I took a van just outside the airport as it can take me directly to Brgy. Salvacion for Britania Group of Islands and because it is safer and less hassle.
Ride a Habal Habal for the Experience
When you are in Surigao Del Sur, you can find transportation arrangement offered by the habal habal drivers. It is usually P1500 for Enchanted River and Tinuy-an Falls and higher rate when Britania is part of the itinerary. The tour rate is exclusive of entrance fees, environmental fees and boat rents. The habal habal can accommodate a maximum of 3 passengers. So paying for at least Php500 per person is not bad at all plus the convenience of not waiting for a van or bus for hours.
But if you travel solo, like what I did, Php1500 is way expensive. However, I am telling you, rent a habal habal if you have an extra money because it is half of the entire Surigao Del Sur experience!
3 Days and 2 Nights Itinerary and Budget
Day 1: Britania Group of Islands = 2,262
Day 2: Enchanted River / Tinuy an Falls = 2145
Day 3: Butuan City = 1854
Total Expenses: 6,261
15% Contingency: 939.15
Total Budget: 7,200
Click here for the complete budget and itinerary of my solo trip in Surigao Del Sur.
- There is no ATM near the tourist spots in Surigao Del Sur so make sure to withdraw from Butuan town proper (if you came from Bancasi Airport) or just be prepared with an extra money.
- Prepare for a language barrier. Locals speak Cebuano and most of them do not speak Tagalog or English. But they are one of nicest people I met, so you’ll get by for sure.
- Use your best haggling skills for the transportation arrangement offered by habal habals. They might ask not just for an arm but also a leg when it comes to cost. When they offer a package with Britania Group of Islands in the itinerary, make it clear if the boat rental is inclusive in the cost of the tour.
- Mode of transportation is very hard in this part of the country. It’s either you ride a habal habal or wait for cheaper vans and buses.