Mindanao is often misunderstood; it is common for travelers to ask about the region’s safety, especially if one moves out of bigger cities. However, despite the bad press that this part of the Philippines gets, it is home to many pristine beaches, fetching landscapes and beautiful waterfalls that will entice anyone to return. (READ: 9 spectacular places to visit in Mindanao)
Not as commercialized as popular destinations like Bohol, Cebu and Boracay, visiting any of these spots may mean that there are only a few tourists there. (IN PHOTOS: Dahilayan Adventure Park, Mindanao’s playground)
Let’s take a look:
Siargao is famous for the cloud 9 waves, but this island has plenty to offer those who don’t surf. Rent a boat for a day to visit three nearby islands namely, Naked, Daku and Guyam. (READ: 14 stunning photos of Siargao, a surfer’s paradise)
Naked Island is just as its name implies; it has nothing on it, no facilities and no shade, just the white sand between your toes and the cerulean waters surrounding it. (READ: German traveler’s PH journey: Going off the beaten path)
Daku Island is the biggest of the three and has its own barangay. The stretch of fine, bone white sand and the swaying coconut trees make for the perfect idyllic getaway. The glass-like waters will entice you to swim and cool off.
Guyam Island may be small, but it is just as beautiful as the other three. Relax and forget about the bustle of city life even just for an hour.
If you cannot get enough of the beach, head to San Isidro to enjoy Pacifico Beach. Lie on the beach, read a book, swim or just relax and enjoy the view.
Bucas Grande is another noteworthy destination; get to see stingless jellyfish, turquoise waters and beautiful rock formations. (READ: The hidden world of Bucas Grande Island)
How to get to Siargao: There are direct flights from Manila to Surigao City via Philippine Airlines. Another option is to book a flight to Butuan then ride a bus or van to Surigao City. Once in the city, there are fast crafts that take you to Siargao for approximately 3 hours for around P250 one-way.
Camiguin is the second smallest province in the country; however, despite its small size, this island has several places to go to for intrepid wanderers.
The Philippines’ is famous for several white sand beaches across the archipelago; Camiguin’s White Island is no exception. (READ: 6 PH beach trips and the breathtaking views)
This long stretch of fine, white sandbar in the middle of the ocean has no permanent establishments, other than a makeshift store selling a few drinks. The waters shift from an emerald tinge to a cool blue while the gentle waves touch the shore.
Visitors can also see Mt. Hibok-hibok during their stay on the beach. The boat rental to go to the island costs P420 and has a P30 entrance fee.
The cool waters of Katibawasan Falls are refreshing, especially after a day under the hot sun while lazing on White Island. There is a small entrance fee of P20 for the waterfalls.
The sunken cemetery is a structure that survived a catastrophic explosion that ravaged the province several years ago.
Other attractions on the island include Sto. Nino Cold Spring, Ardent Hot Spring, Soda Water Pool, the Old Church Ruins and the walkway that depicts the Passion of Christ. (IN PHOTOS: Visit these 10 magical, beautiful lagoons in the Philippines)
How to get to Camiguin: Book a flight bound for Cagayan de Oro City, from the city, ride an air-conditioned bus to Balingoan Port for approximately P148 one-way. From the port, ride a ferry to Camiguin for around P175 one-way.
Asik-Asik Falls in Alamada, North Cotabato is worth the trip because of the wondrous experience of seeing the waters pour out of the mountain. Getting to the waterfalls is part of the adventure; a habal-habal ride through rugged terrain, ascending and descending roads and the raw beauty of the area will make seeing Asik-Asik more rewarding. There is an entrance fee of P30 for the waterfalls.
Just before the short trek to the waterfalls, the cool mountain breeze will invigorate mind, body and soul. The rolling and verdant hills and mountains reveal the rugged beauty of the region, barely touched by mass tourism.
How to get to North Cotabato: There are direct flights from Manila to Cotabato City in Maguindanao. To get to the waterfalls, ride a bus to Midsayap from the city for around P70 one-way. From Midsayap, rent a habal-habal to get to Asik-Asik Falls for around P700 round trip.
Lake Sebu is like Luzon’s Baguio and Tagaytay, because of its cold weather. However, the similarities stop with there, because there is no traffic or mid-rise buildings in this part of South Cotabato. (READ: Perfect for summer: 8 cool-weather PH destinations)
The placid lakes typify the idyllic lifestyle of the locals; time seems to stand still here. The verdant countryside and scenic landscapes all make for an ideal getaway from the traffic and bustle of the city. Lake Sebu is not just about relaxing in a lakeside resort; activities such as trekking and riding one of the longest ziplines in the country are readily available for adventurous wanderers.
Zip through the air while getting a bird’s eye view of some of the seven waterfalls Lake Sebu is famous for. For outdoorsy visitors, trek through forested areas to get to see the waterfalls up close. (READ: Add these 4 stunning destinations to your PH travel bucket list)
Lake Sebu also has cultural treasures to see and experience during your trip. Get to see the T’bolis weave intricate patterns for various items such as bags, wallets and others.
How to get to Lake Sebu: Your first stop is General Santos City; you have many flight options via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. From the city, ride a bus bound for Marbel (Koronadal) the fare is around P75. From Marbel, ride a van bound for Lake Sebu.
Another option is to catch a bus bound for Surallah the fare is around P25, and then transfer to a jeep at the terminal heading to Lake Sebu for approximately P35.
Iligan is also known as the City of Majestic Waterfalls because of more than 20 waterfalls around it. (READ: Hit the road: Cool off at these 5 PH waterfalls)
Tinago Falls is everything I thought it would be; hidden behind a mountain, its beauty will elicit oohs and ahhhs from anyone who will see it for the first time. The blue, cool waters refresh the body after a short walk. Visitors can ride a raft and get a “massage” from the waterfalls.
I only saw Maria Cristina Falls in textbooks back in grade school, now that I visited Iligan; I got to see it in person. This is one of the main sources of energy in the region.
How to get to Iligan City: There are direct flights to Cagayan de Oro City; from Laguindingan Airport, ride a bus bound for Iligan City for approximately P135 one-way.
Chances are you have yet to hear about Dinagat Islands, but this tropical destination has a handful of destinations that are worth a look. (READ: From Davao City, make the trip to these 8 beautiful beaches)
Nearby destinations in the province include beaches that you can have to yourself. Feel the bone, white sand of Bita-og, Cab-ilan and Biray-biray beach between your toes. (READ: 8 beautiful white PH beaches perfect for barefoot walking)
The cerulean, glass-like waters of the beaches are enticing and refreshing, especially on a hot summer day. The teardrop-like limestone emerging out of the waters may remind you of Palawan’s landscape.
How to get to Dinagat Islands: There are direct flights to Surigao City or the alternate stop in Butuan City. From Surigao City’s port, ride a ferry bound for Dinagat Islands. The ride to San Jose, Dinagat Islands is around P100 one-way.
Surigao del Sur
Surigao del Sur is a beautiful province with many destinations to offer. For those who do not have much time to explore, Tinuy-an Falls and the Enchanted River in Bislig and Hinatuan are trips you can take.
Tinuy-an Falls is 95m wide and 55m high; the curtain like waterfalls is a major attraction in the region, with many locals visiting from nearby provinces, other than tourists coming from Manila. The curtain-like waterfalls has three levels; visitors may also ride a raft to get a massage as the water cascades on them. There is a fee of P50 to enter the waterfalls.
The Enchanted River gets its moniker because of the mystery and folklore surrounding it. Its deep blue or sometimes emerald color makes it a huge draw. (READ: The enchanting blue river of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur)
The river’s clear quality creates an illusion that the water is shallow, but once you jump in, it appears endless. There is a fee of P30 to enter the river premises.
How to get to the waterfalls and river: There are direct flights to Butuan City, your first stop. From the city, ride a non-air con bus bound for Bislig for approximately P250 one-way.
Make sure to tell the conductor you want to alight at Mangagoy, the jump-off point to Enchanted River and Tinuy-an Falls. From Bislig, you can rent a habal-habal for around P350 round trip to visit the waterfalls.
To get to the river, ride a bus bound for Hinatuan for P55 one-way from Mangagoy; at the station, you can rent a motorbike with driver for around P300 round trip.
Mindanao has a diverse landscape, from the highest peak of Mt. Apo to the rolling hills surrounding Maguindanao and the cascading waterfalls of Asik-Asik to the placid waters of Lake Sebu.
The beauty of the region is veiled by the perceived fear of people who have never been there. A trip to the island’s many provinces will inspire a sense of wonder and discovery for those willing to go on an adventure. – Rappler.com
Joshua Berida is a full time writer, part-time wanderer with insatiable wanderlust. He plans his next trip during a current one. He plans on exploring the Philippines and beyond. Read about his adventures on thewanderingjuan.net