Seven Astonishing Surigao Del Sur and Beyond Experiences

Would you like to visit one of the world's most undiscovered regions? How about swimming in an enchanted river? Do you want to island-hop between some pristine tropical islands? What about visiting a unique fish farm where you can swim with stingrays? Does eating seafood several times a day sound good to you? Is diving into a turquoise, cold water spring appealing at all? How about staying in a local village on a Robinson Crusoe-style remote island? All this and more is possible in Surigao Del Sur and beyond, so read our list of seven unmissable experiences to enjoy there and book a flight to Tandag, Butuan or Surigao City soon!

Although very few western tourists venture into Mindanao, the attractions around Tandag should not be underestimated. A growing number of domestic tourists have already discovered the awe-inspiring Enchanted River and Tinuy-An Falls. And it will only be a matter of time before the area opens up to wide scale international tourism. Go there now before the crowds!

1. Take a dip in the beautiful Enchanted River

If you're anywhere in northeastern Mindanao, don't miss the chance to paddle or swim in one of the regions most sought after attractions: the Enchanted River. Situated around 10 kilometres north of Hinatuan town, it's an absolutely delightful place to get wet, watch the wardens feed the fish (midday every day) and revel in the ambiance and beauty of the place. While Philippine tourism have sanitized the place with concrete pathways in recent years, it's still a must-see. Probably better to come on a weekday unless you don't mind sharing the place with hundreds of weekend visitors.

2. Swim with Stingrays at Sibadan Fish Farm

Once you get to Enchanted River, it's simple to arrange a pump boat to Sibadan Fish Farm. Just walk to the far right of the river and you'll find a simple ticket desk and a bunch of pump boat operators more than willing to cruise you out to sea. It'll only take about 15-20 minutes to reach the wooden platform drop off point for Sibadan, from where you can either take your lunch mid-ocean or, more excitingly, swim with huge fish and friendly stingrays in the central swimming area. While the sea food is a little expensive, it's super fresh and tastes even better in such a lovely setting. 

3. Island-hop around the stunning Britania Islands

Although island-hopping is an extremely popular pursuit in El Nido, Coron and Siargao Island, tourism remains pretty low key in Surigao Del Sur and both prices and crowds are very reasonable at Britania. Of course, plenty of locals visit the islands during Philippine summer holidays and weekends, but weekdays outside March to May remain surprisingly quiet. To island-hop around four of the Britania Islands costs P1500 ($30) per boat or P2000 ($40) for all of them. And what will you find when you reach your destination of choice? Some of the prettiest powdery white sand beaches in the whole of the Philippines just perfect for sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling or just enjoying time with friends.

4. Wander along Cagwait's wonderful White Beach

Described as a Philippine version of Waikiki Beach by the famous pilor Charles Lindburg, Cagwait's wonderful C-shaped white-sand beach is an anomaly in a region dominated by black-sand beaches. Stay at one of numerous affordable guest houses situated right on the beach and wake up to the sound of crashing waves. Spend your days swimming, bodysurfing the waves or simply sunbathing on the sand. Although Cagwait doesn't have any amazing restaurants, you can find a great, cheap carinderia on the bridge just outside of town run by fabulously friendly locals. Its only downside is the existence of several karaoke machines - choose your resort carefully if you want to get some sleep!

5. Unplug from civilisation on Ayoke Island

Lying about 45 minutes away by pump boat ride from the bustling town of Cantilan is Ayoke Island, where all your Robinson Crusoe-style dreams can come true. Live amongst the locals in a basic homestay and put your devices away - there's no electricity anyway and only an intermittent supply of solar power. This definitely isn't the place for you if you're looking for cocktails, activities and entertainment - it's a remote island where you can choose between lazing on one its many pristine beaches, relaxing inside rock pools on the west side or hiking to the highest point on the island for amazing views. Day trips and longer stays are possible (see below for more information about how to follow in our footsteps and visit Ayoke).

6. Jump straight into Bogac Coldwater Spring, Barabo

This remarkable coldwater spring is situated surprisingly close to the rustic town of Barabo, Surigao Del Sur. Just ask any tricycle driver to take you there for P20. Development is currently limited to the entrance area where locals bathe in a concrete sided pool, but the real magic is about 200 metres to the right where an incredibly deep turquoise water pool surrounded by palm trees makes for a biblical-like oasis setting. It's an unmissable spot that'll only take about one-hour of your time for the swim of a lifetime!

7. Revel in the majesty of Bega Falls, Agusan Del Sur

While Bega Falls is technically in neighbouring Agusan Del Sur, it's situated just a stone's throw from the border with Surigao Del Sur so it's easy to slot a visit in during a two or three-day tour of Del Sur's more famous attractions. While the walk up the various layers of the falls is quite exhausting, you definitely won't regret making the effort to reach the very top layer where the falls are at their most spectacular. The city of Prosperidad is the best option for something to eat in this area or pack up a lunch before you set off.

Follow in our footsteps

– Standard international travel insurance products exclude any country the government advise against all or all but essential travel. The UKFO and US state department currently advise against all but essential travel to all Mindanao (excluding Siargao Island). Therefore, find a specialist travel insurer or be prepared to pay as you go for any medical requirements.

– In order to tour Surigao Del Sur's astonishing sights you'll need to arrange a van from either Tandag, Surigao City or Butuan. Sadly, we don't have any recommendations as our friend sorted out all our transportation from Prosperidad. Expect to pay P3000 to P5000 per day for van hire including the driver. Remember to feed your driver (he's hungry too!) and give him a tip if he does a fine job.

– If you want to say on Ayoke Island for a few nights, ask directions for the Bou family's house on arrival and they will accommodate you. They provide basic food and a room. Make sure you are generous when deciding what to pay because they'll let you decide how much. Alternatively, if you're looking for something a bit larger, ask to speak to Erwin Bou who rents a large house on west side of the island.

– Go to Cantilan riverside pier to arrange a boat to Ayoke. Expect to pay at least P1500 for the 45-60 minute pumpboat trip to the island. Remember, the best weather is from April - October. Expect a stormy boat crossing and lots of rain during the NE monsoon from November to March.

– Stop at San Agustin pier to arrange a boat to the Britania Islands. The price is non-negotiable at P2000 for all the islands, less if you want to visit a few of them. 

– Check booking.com, agoda.com and Airbnb for places to stay in Tandag, Cagwait and Surigao City. We'd recommend the seafront Tavern Hotel if you decide to spend a night or two in Surigao. If rustic towns are more your thing, ask a tricycle driver in Barabo to take you to a guest house or home stay. Usually, you don't need to book ahead for accommodation in this region unless you happen to visit during a town or city fiesta.

– Avoid weekends if you want to enjoy Del Sur's attractions without local tourist crowds. 

– For the best weather you need to visit the area between April and October, but avoid the Philippine school holidays from mid-March to early-June for a less crowded experience.

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