Surigao del Sur is called Shangri-La by the Pacific, but the loveliness of this province in Caraga Region is far from imaginary. It has so many natural attractions like beaches, caves, and falls as well as mineral resources. But the most important God-given gift of this province is the abundance of seafood. When you’re there, you should have fresh fish sutokil: sugba (grill), tola (soup), and kilaw (local ceviche).
Enchanted River in Hinatuan
Speaking of fish, the local lore that no one has ever caught fish in Hinatuan Enchanted River Underwater Cave System (HERUCS) adds to the magic and mystery of this ecotourism treasure in Mindanao. Fish can be seen swimming in the unbelievably clear water. And much to the delight of visitors, they ‘put on a show’ during feeding time.
There was a time when visitors could dive and swim with the fish in the lagoon. Now, the area is off limits, which is just right to protect the cave system. This is only one of the changes that the local government unit made. The swimming area is improved too and it’s friendlier. Life vests are still required. For me, I can stay the whole day in Enchanted River.
The Enchanted River is located in Barangay Talisay, Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. Entrance fee is Php40 per person. To learn about updates in the tourist attraction, you can visit its Facebook page. As announced on September 8, Enchanted River welcomes visitors again from the province except those who are from areas with COVID-19 local transmission.
Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig City
Most tourists who do a DIY trip for a day in Surigao del Sur choose to go to Enchanted River and Tinuy-an Falls because of their proximity to each other. Tinuy-an is a multi-tiered waterfalls that is considered to be the widest in the country with its width of 95 meters. It is located in Borboanan, Bislig City, Surigao del Sur. Entrance fee to the site is Php50 per person.
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There’s a bridge where you can have a panoramic view of the area. If you want to take a shower under the waterfalls, you can rent a raft for Php170. Don’t forget to wear a life vest as it is better to swim in the deeper part of the pool. The other amenities in Tinuy-an are a playground, function hall, picnic ground, and camping site for visitors who bring their own tents.
Tinuy-an is enclosed by a thick rain forest with centuries-old giant trees, ferns, and vines. Sightings of the Philippine eagle have been recorded in Bislig, which is considered as part of the preserved habitat of the country’s national bird. There are other birds endemic in the Philippines that are also found in Bislig. Get more information about Tinuy-an through the attraction’s Facebook page or website.
Most residents of Agusan del Sur usually go to Surigao del Sur for a beach trip because Agusan del Sur is landlocked. Back in the day, there was no fascination yet with white beaches, sandbars, and island hopping; or ‘discovering’ new destinations. A picnic in Pugad Beach in Lianga, Surigao del Sur was good enough.
More people have preferred to visit Britania Islands in San Agustin in recent years for the whiter and finer sand and bluer, clearer water. There is no entrance fee. You can rent a table with umbrella for Php100 and a vest for Php20. Water activities that can be done on the island include snorkeling and riding a banana boat.
Tourists can book an island-hopping tour for Php1,500 but price varies depending on the package. The islands in the Britania Group of Islands are Boslon, Panlangagan, Bonbon, Hagonoy, Isla Verde, Naked Island, Panas, Minasingin, Malingin, Litik, Kang Jose, Kanlota, Taguan, San Pablo, and Hiyor-Hiyoran. The usual destinations for the tour are Hagonoy, Boslon, Hiyor-Hiyoran, and Naked Islands.
The Laswitan Lagoon in Cortes offers a different experience. When huge waves hit the rocks, they form a laswit or splash, and then a shower for the people. November to February are said to be the best months to visit Laswitan, when the waves are high. Extra caution needs to be observed though when swimming, especially when the water is very rough.
Cagwait White Beach
Charles Lindbergh, an American pilot who went to the Philippines for a wildlife campaign concerning the sanctuary of Philippine eagles, discovered the white sand beach of Cagwait while on his plane. He compared it to Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. It’s also called Little Boracay of Caraga. The beach is the venue for the Kaliguan Festival, which was founded in 1996.
There are 4 islands in Cantilan that you can also explore. These are Huyamao Island, Ayoke Island, Inijakan or Bills’ Sanctuary, and Isla Encantadia. According to most people Huyamao Island best represents Cantilan with its lush vegetation and white sand beach. The waves in Ayoke are surfing-worthy while Inijakan is a good place to learn marine biodiversity.
Siargao is the most popular surfing destination in Caraga Region, if not the whole country. But the municipality of Lanuza in Surigao del Sur is a surfer haven too. Another tourist attraction you can find in the town is the Lanuza Marine Park and Sanctuary, which is a protected habitat of various aquatic animals. And a few walks away from the park is the Magkawas Falls.
Caves and More
Sure thing, there are still more beaches, springs, and falls that are waiting to be visited in Surigao del Sur. You can even stop by a cave along the highway where people can swim for free, and do their laundry too. The color of the water there is pretty much like that of the Enchanted River.
How to Go to Surigao del Sur
You can take a flight bound to either Butuan or Davao City. There are direct buses from the terminal to Mangagoy, Bislig City. From Bislig, you can ride jeeps going to other places in the province like Hinatuan, which is around an hour away from Bislig. You can also take a bus from San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. Or if you want to have a convenient trip, you can rent a car.