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Solo Travel Guide to Surigao Del Sur: River, Falls and the Sea!

Surigao Del Sur

Finally! #ItstimeforMindanao and It’s time for Surigao Del Sur. This is my most awaited travel this year not only because I did it solo again but because it’s my first time to visit Mindanao; the second largest, southernmost island and the most culturally diverse island in the Philippines. Mindanao is the home of the most hispanize city in Asia, the land of promise, and one of the most populous islands in the world.

My first stop in discovering Mindanao is Butuan. Based on my research, the cheapest way to reach Surigao Del Sur from Manila is through Butuan City. Admittedly, though, this route does not offer the fastest option to Surigao. The province is situated on the eastern coast of Mindanao facing the Philippine Sea. But if you are on a budget and you have a lot of patience, I recommend that you take this way because this is where you will find the world famous Enchanted River of Hinatuan.

 

How to Get There?

Butuan to Hinatuan (Enchanted River)

You have two transport options to reach Hinatuan from Butuan Airport; a bus or a van. Most bus vehicles are non-air conditioned but they are spacious and cheaper. Travel time is longer though due to several stopovers along the way. The van option, on the other hand, is faster as it takes fewer passengers and stopovers. Because I needed to be in Hinatuan early, I opted to take the van and paid for 300Php. Travel time is approximately 3.5 hours.

Outside Butuan Airport take the van that goes to Mangagoy. You will hear barkers shouting “Mangagoy” so don’t worry about finding the van vehicles. When you take the van ride, inform your driver to drop you at Hinatuan Bus Terminal. From there you may take a pedicab to reach your hostel for only 5Php.

 

Where to Stay in Hinatuan?

There are growing numbers of hostel-type accommodation in Hinatuan near the Enchanted River and the one that I would recommend for backpackers is the Marky’s Hostel. It is located at Barangay Maharlika and it is approximately 20-30 minutes away from the Enchanted River. You can either walk your way from Hinatuan Bus terminal to Marky’s or ride a pedicab.

They offer different room types depending on the number of your group and your budget. You may contact Marky’s Hotel in this mobile number, (63) 928-4397785.

  • Fan Room – Good for 2 pax, 500Php
  • Air-conditioned Double-bed room – Good for 7pax, 1500Php
  • Air-conditioned Matrimonial-Bed Room – Good for 6pax, 1500Php
  • Budget Fan Room – Good for 10pax, 1500Php

 

Markys Hostel

 

The hostel is very basic with a shared bathroom and a kitchen for all their guests. But what really made this place special is the hospitality of its owners, Nanay Lumen, and Tatay Toto. Their kindness made this experience far beyond my previous hostel experiences. They will make you feel like you are part of their family, so much so that you will hardly miss home. They were very helpful even when I was still on the road, traveling my way to Hinatuan. They guided me on how I could get to their hostel via call and text. During my stay, they recommend a good habal-habal driver for my Enchanted River tour, advised me to always take care wherever I go, always checked up on me even I was out touring, and even introduced me to a contact of theirs so I could get discounts for my Britania Islands tour. They also kept in touch with me until I arrived back in Manila just to make sure I’m safe. I always remember this couple with fondness, especially my long and lovely conversations with Nanay Lumen.

They are very appreciative of all the bloggers who stayed with them. They still remember them and even have great stories to share about their guests. In fact, when we browsed through the blog sites of these bloggers, the couple can still identify each one who stayed with them.

 

What to Do in Hinatuan?

There is nothing fancy to expect in the town; no fast food chains, no malls, and no nightlife. A rotational power outage is also a regular thing in this place. Surprisingly, though, the network signal is strong in the town, in fact, it’s even faster than in Manila. Also, you may enjoy eating in the eateries or carinderia in Hinatuan because they serve delicious food.

 

  • Enchanted River

Enchanted river

 

The best thing to do in this majestic river is to swim and dive. Travel time from Hinatuan town proper is about 20-30 minutes via a Habal-Habal, unfortunately, the travel is far from being smooth. It’s what I would describe as butt-breaking (if there is such a thing) and what we Pinoys call, buwis buhay. Habal-Habal rate is 300Php, round trip.

 

Some tips:

    • If you are taking the Habal-Habal, bring a face mask and wear a dark-colored shirt because the road is rough and dusty.
    • There is an entrance fee of 30Php so bring some cash.
    • I advise that you go there before 12 noon to witness the fish-feeding. Special fish feeding is prohibited.

 

Hinatuan to Bislig City (Tinuy-an Falls)

From Hinatuan Bus terminal you can take a jeep or bus going to Mangagoy, the ride is about 1 hour. Inform the driver to drop you off at Tinuy-an Falls crossing. From the crossing take a Habal-Habal to get you to the falls, travel may take another 30 minutes. Riding a tricycle is NOT recommended. Jeepney fare is less than 50Php.

 

Some tips:

  • Habal-Habal fare is 300Php round trip (learn how to haggle).
  • If you are taking the Habal-Habal, bring a face mask and wear the dark-colored shirt because the road is rough and dusty.
  • Bring money, the entrance fee is 50Php.

 

Where to stay in Bislig?

I never had a chance to stay in Bislig but given an opportunity. I’ll recommend setting up a tent near the falls for only 400Php for an overnight stay. Also, there is an air-conditioned room type in the area for 800Php.

What to do in Bislig?

Dare to take a plunge at the 180 feet tall and 95 feet wide, Tinuy-An falls. Sounds scary right? I actually have regrets that I didn’t do it. If only I saw someone who dove that time, I would have done it too. I was too struck by the beauty of the falls that I forgot to ask the locals if it’s possible and safe to do cliff diving.

Anyway, you may enjoy riding a balsa here or go swimming. You may even take that balsa all the way to the falls. When I was there, the water current was too weak I never had a chance to witness its curtain-like view. Even so, Tinuy-An falls didn’t fail to WOW me.

 

Tinuy-An Falls

 

You may also visit the International Doll House and Ocean View Park to see thousands of doll collection in Bislig.

Hinatuan to Britania Islands

From Hinatuan Bus Terminal, take a bus going to Butuan and take off at Barobo Bus Terminal. From there, take another bus or multi-cab to get to Tandag and inform the driver to drop you off at Barangay Salvacion. Take a Habal-Habal at Salvacion to reach the place where you are staying in. Total travel time is 2 hours. Bus fare from Hinatuan Bus terminal to Barobo is less than 150Php while the multi-cab fare is less than 50Php.

 

Where to Stay in Britania Islands?

Accommodation here is mostly offered for a group, in fact, I never found a resort that is the best fit for a solo traveler. The cheapest room that I got is t La Entrada Beach Resort, a standard air conditioned loft type room with 1 bed and 3 mattresses. Room rate here starts at 1200Php/night.

The best thing about this place is it’s surrounded by Mangrove trees. Also, their view deck is a perfect spot to unwind, drink, and see some nearby islets.

 

La Entrada Beach Resort

What to do in Britania Islands?

 

Island Hopping!

I started my Island hopping early in the morning and contacted my guide who was referred to me by Nanay Lumen. Standard island hopping rate is 1500Php but due to the discount, I was able to get it for a lower price. The boat, I believe, can accommodate 10 to 15 people.

Britania Group of Islands is composed of 24 islands and islets scattered all over Lianga Bay. Compared with other island hopping spots in the Philippines, this tour is shorter due to the fact that the islands sit close to each other. In fact, you can visit 4 nearby islands out of the 24 islands and islets.

 

  • Naked Island

 

naked island

 

Don’t expect to see naked people swimming in this island okay. I believe it is called naked because you don’t see anything on this island. No trees, no nipa huts, no vendors, nothing but fine white sand and some small rocks. It’s like an elevated sand bar where you can run and let go of all your stress and worries in life, which I did. I also enjoyed swimming here because there were fewer people on the island when I arrived.

 

  • Hagonoy Island

 

Hagonoy Island

 

Hagonoy is like a wider version of Naked Island where some coconut trees are growing on just one side of the island. There you can see some vendors selling souvenirs. This is my favorite island because of its glamor in simplicity. The sand here is comparable to some best beaches here in the country. I hope that the local government will keep this island pristine forever.

 

  • Boslon Island

 

Boslon Island

 

Once you arrive you will instantly compare this island with Boracay not only because it also has a Grotto but also because of the quality of the sand. I will go so far as say that is comparable with the sand of Station 1 in Boracay. It is also, the most crowded out of the four islands that I visited. Everything is here; snacks, souvenirs, trees, big rocks, powdery white sand, and clear and crystal water. This is where most people stay longer probably because this is the best place to swim.

 

  • Hiyor Hiyoran Island

 

Hiyor Hiyoran Island

 

All good things must come to an end. The final stop of my island hopping is the Hiyor Hiyoran Island. It is, in my opinion the most picturesque among all the islands. The view of this island from afar alone will make your jaw drop. Although not ideal for swimming because of some rocks underneath the water, it is so beautiful, this is how paradise must look like.

To this day I still remember all the beautiful memories that I collected from Surigao del Sur, from the beautiful sceneries to the warm and kind-hearted people, I conclude that Mindanao is one of the best places you could ever visit in the country. And this is just the prelude. I have every intention to explore more of Mindanao in my future travel. How about you, have you been to Surigao del Sur?

50 comments

  • Jumping off the falls is not allowed, even the locals and guides have not done that. 🙂

  • Wow! I was wondering how you do it solo but I will try it to. You did not include your total expenses in your blog post.

  • Hi,
    Thanks for sharing your experienced. Im planning to visit Enchanted river and Tinuy-An falls alone since its near in our province in Bayugan City. I dont know if I need to contact some travel agency or I’ll just do it in my own. I dont know which one is more affordable.
    Your blog helps a lot for those solo travelers like me..
    Thanks

    • Hi Kaye,

      I did it Solo and it was my first time in Mindanao. I believe you can do it too. I appreciate your comment 🙂 Balitaan mo ko huh!

  • island hopping is 1,500 / head ?

  • Great post, thanks for including the actual costs. Looks like you had fun!

  • I love naked island!

    And you looloo! 😀 Kiko G. here 😀

  • Paradise! Whew. You are brave enough to travel alone. And in Mindanao? If i would do that, ill be a little scared. That’s a lot of miles from Manila. I admire travellers like you!

  • Those bodies of water look beautiful! I wanna check it out myself. I’m also amazed you can travel solo. Such courage!

  • How very brave of you to travel solo! I can never do that because I’m paranoid like that. Lol! 😛

    Mindanao is indeed gorgeous! Definitely on my list if places to visit someday. 🙂

  • Oh, wow, this is such an amazing trip! Every place you’ve visited looks great, and the Tinuy-An waterfall is stunningly beautiful!

  • I didn’t know that Mindanao was the most culturally diverse island in the Phillippines! The Enchanted River kind of reminds me of Tulum in Mexico but absolutely beautiful nonetheless. Would love to visit!

  • Great photos and descriptions! Thanks for including actual prices, it helps with planning much better than simply saying something was cheap or expensive (that is all relative anyway).

  • Looks like a truly magical place. I’ve snorkeled and dived in open sea a couple of times (although I’m a terrible swimmer), but I’ve never heard of diving in rivers. Sounds like fun 🙂

  • Hiyor Hiyoran Island IS stunning, I’d love it there! To be fair though, I like naked island too – it makes me think it’s a baby island, trying soooo hard to be like the paradise of its neighbors 🙂

  • Philippines has been on my mind for far too long now.. your blog post was really inspiring– I’ve saved it so I can come back to it when I make my trip a reality!!

  • God the Philippines seems amazing. Calling that river the Enchanted River was a great marketing decisions; who WOULDN’T want to visit something called “enchanted”?

  • The more I read abut the Philippines on your blog the more I want to be there. Naked Island seems to be really nice place, but I like Boslon Island too. Wonderful country, no words for it!

  • Whoa! That is some post on Philippines! Saving this for my future travels.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  • I stayed in the Philippines for two months and I really wanted to explore Mindanao and of course visit the Enchanted River, but … I was strongly advised to avoid it due to safety reasons. At least I can enjoy this island by reading your review and imagine I could be in those pics lol ))))

    http://www.siniciliya.com

  • I so wanna go right now to Boslon Island!!!
    Thank you so much – I don’t need a guide if I have your blog post that’s for sure. I love the way you write and thanks to you my bucket list gets bigger and bigger

  • Beautiful photos! Thank you for including the prices of things, in places like this I always wonder what things really cost (reality versus expectation).

  • I definitely need to go back to the Philippines =) So many wonderful places to visit! Thank you for sharing.

  • The Philippines looks INCREDIBLE! I’m happy that you got to get to know the hostel owner. I think it’s so cool to meet locals and create new friendships. I’ve always wanted to visit the islands but had no clue how to get around. Island hopping looks so fun!

  • This place looks like a paradise and I wish that I had those blue skies now!

  • The Hagonoy island the tinuy-An Falls look like where I would want to spend my time. I applaud you for being able to travel solo, that is something I think would be too hard for me to do. 🙂

  • OMG! You make me want to plan a trip to Philippines soon! Thanks for sharing such a detail post with all the cost! It helps me in my planning! Awesome!

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