Once called the Land of Promise, the island of Mindanao was known for its rich lands and verdant hills and mountains. As the second largest island in the Philippines, it has lived up to its promise of abundance to those who live in it. Come and see what Mindanao has to offer.
1. Be enchanted by the Enchanted River of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur
The Enchanted River is so named because locals believe that it is protected by supernatural spirits. Some also believe that fairies live in the area and they are the ones responsible for the river’s unique shades of blue and green. Diving expeditions have found that the river is in fact part of a vast underwater cave system that has yet to be fully explored. The river is one of the most popular destinations in Surigao del Sur and because of the influx of tourists, the local government closed the river for rehabilitation from January to April 2017. When it re-opened, swimming was no longer allowed in the blue lagoon, and a separate swimming area has been designated away from the lagoon. Guests can still view the blue lagoon from the viewing area.
Hinatuan Enchanted River
Address: Barangay Talisay, Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur
How To Access: From Manila, fly to Butuan City. From Butuan City, ride a bus to Mangagoy and get off at the Hinatuan terminal. The bus ride takes about 4 to 5 hours. From there, hire a motorcycle, locally called a habal-habal to take you to the Enchanted River.
Fees: Admission fee - 0.75 USD (37.50 PHP) per person; Picnic table rental - 2 USD (100 PHP) per table
Contact Information: +63 917 257 6279
2. Enjoy a cup of Monk's Blend at the Monastery of the Transfiguration, Malaybalay, Bukidnon
The Monastery of the Transfiguration is famous for two things: the famed Monk’s Blend coffee and the beautiful architectural gem of a church that was designed by the artist Leandro Locsin. Located about 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the center of Malaybalay, the monastery is ideally situated in an area with a tranquil view of the mountains. The new monastery that was designed by Locsin is unique because it is the only pyramid shaped church in the country. Being a monastery, it is a holy place where Benedictine monks continue to live in prayer. It is also the same place where the monks grow and produce one of the best coffees in the country, Monk’s Blend. Most people who visit this place usually come for peace and quiet in order to reflect on their lives. If you want to go on a spiritual retreat, you can also opt to stay overnight in the guest house.
Monastery of the Transfiguration
Address: Barangay San Jose, Malaybalay, Bukidnon
How To Access: From Manila, fly to Davao City. From the Ecoland Bus Terminal in Davao, take a bus to Malaybalay, Bukidnon. The trip will take around 5 hours. Get off at the monastery gate along the highway in Barangay San Jose. From the gate, you can walk to the monastery which is about 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) away.
Contact Information: +63 88 2212373 / 221-2899
3. Climb the tallest mountain in the country: Mt. Apo in Davao City
Mt. Apo is the tallest mountain in the Philippines. Davao City usually serves as the jump-off point for treks to the mountain, with several tour agencies offering trek packages. The trek to the summit is not for the faint of heart and one must be physically ready to take on this challenge. Guided treks to the summit usually take three days from any of the known trails. Some packages can accommodate a small group of two people but scheduled climbs can accommodate bigger groups.
When you reach the summit of Mt. Apo, you will be rewarded with a magnificent view, especially at sunrise. Some trails also lead to hot springs where you can soothe your tired limbs with a hot soak.
Address: Mt. Apo, Davao
How To Access: From Manila, fly to Davao City. Several commercial flights are available daily.
4. Raft the rapids at Cagayan River
Cagayan River in Cagayan de Oro City straddles the provinces of Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental. Because of its strong currents, it has long been known as the best spot to go whitewater rafting. Several whitewater rafting groups operate in the city and they offer competitive packages that include round-trip transportation from the city, the services of a certified river guide, and safety equipment. The jump off point is an hour jeepney ride from the city center. After receiving a basic orientation about the commands that the guides will be giving in the course of the ride, guests then prepare their safety gear and board the rafts. Different packages are on offer: basic course, advanced, and extreme. Basic or beginner runs usually take about 2 to 3 hours while the more advanced runs might last up to 5 hours.
Cagayan River Whitewater Rafting
Address: Cagayan River, Cagayan de Oro City
Access: Book a tour from any of several whitewater rafting operators: Great White Rafting CDO or Eco Extreme Rafting Adventure
Admission Fees: Basic or Beginner Courses start at about 14 to 18 USD (700 to 900 PHP) per person; a minimum of six people is needed per course; Advanced courses - 20 USD (1,000 PHP) per person; Extreme courses - 40 USD (2,000 PHP) per person.
Website: Whitewater Rafting
5. Chase a mighty waterfall: Maria Cristina Falls, Iligan City
In the city of Iligan in northern Mindanao, a very powerful and mighty waterfall can be found. The Maria Cristina Falls is a waterfall on the Agus River and because of the river’s strong currents, it is being used to power several hydroelectric power plants. One of these plants is located near Maria Cristina. The falls is also called Twin Falls because it splits into two smaller flows at the top. The falls is managed by the National Power Corporation and a minimal admission fee and registration are required for all visitors. To get to Maria Cristina, you can take a jeepney to Barangay Buru-un and ask the driver to drop you off at the entrance gate of Maria Cristina. You need to take a 10-minute walk up to the main gate. This is also the point where the shuttle to the viewing deck will pick you up.
Maria Cristina Falls
Address: Barangay Buru-un, Iligan City
Operating Hours: 9 am to 4 pm daily
How To Access: From Manila, fly to Laguindingan Airport. Take the Super 5 shuttle bus that will take you to the main highway where you can board a Super 5 bus to Iligan.
Admission Fee: Entrance fee 0.75 USD (37.50 PHP) per adult; 0.50 USD (25 PHP) per child; round trip shuttle about 0.20 USD (10 PHP)
6. Chill by Lake Sebu, Cotabato
Lake Sebu, the municipality, features an ecotourism destination in this part of Mindanao. The town itself is situated 1,000 meters (over 3,000 feet) above sea level in between the Roxas-Matulas and the Daguma Mountain Ranges. It is known as the home of the T'boli, Severa, and other indigenous groups, as well as endowed with three majestic lakes and an equally majestic ecosystem. There are many activities you can do in Lake Sebu, but the most popular are the trek to Seven Falls and boating in any one of area’s three lakes. Also notable is the T'boli Museum, which showcases the culture of the tribe. Resorts offer tour packages for Seven Falls, the three lakes, and other activities.
Address: Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
How To Access: From Manila, fly to General Santos City. At the city’s Bulaong Terminal, take a non-stop bus or van to Marbel. Travel time is up to 1 hour and 30 minutes. From Marbel, take a bus to the municipality of Surallah. Travel time is 30 minutes. From Surallah’s Integrated Transport Terminal, you can either take a van or jeepney to Lake Sebu, which leaves when full or you can hire a motorcycle to take you to your accommodation in Lake Sebu. This will take another 30 minutes.
Website: Lake Sebu
Samal Island is officially called the Island Garden City of Samal. Its proximity to Davao City makes it a part of Metro Davao, being only two kilometers (1.2 mi) away. The island city is home to more than 30 beach resorts, owing to its fine white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. The most famous and prestigious resort on the island is the Pearl Farm Resort, which features well-appointed beach cottages on stilts. If you want to do more than just laze around on the beach, there are island hopping tours you can take, or you can go inland and explore the many caves on the island. To reach Samal Island, take a short ferry ride from Davao City’s Sasa Wharf or Sta. Ana Wharf.
Pearl Farm Beach Resort
Address: Adecor Kaputian District, Island Garden City of Samal
8. Ride the waves in Siargao Island (from 45 USD (2,247.52 PHP) per night for a double occupancy room)
Located off the coast of Surigao del Norte, Siargao is also known by its other name, the Surfing Capital of the Philippines. There are several resorts on the island, offering a good place to spend the night after a day of surfing. However, surfing is not the only thing you can do here. The island’s natural attractions, such as its mangrove forest (the largest one in Mindanao) and its coral reefs teeming with rich marine life, also draw visitors. You can also choose to be a beach bum for a day or two, and catch the annual surfing competition, the Siargao Cup. There are direct flights to the island via Cebu, so you have to fly to Cebu from Manila and catch any of the daily flights to the island. You can also fly to Surigao City from Manila, and from the city, take a ferry to Siargao Island.
Viento del Mar
Address: Purok 5, Tourism Road, General Luna, Siargao, 8419 General Luna, Philippines (see map)
Price: from 45 USD (2,247.52 PHP) per night for a double occupancy room
9. Try the durian fruit in Davao City
Durian is a popular fruit in Davao City, mainly because it thrives here. During durian season, which is usually from August to September, heaps of the fruit can be found on display in the numerous fruit stands in the city. It is also during this time that you can buy a kilogram (2.2 lbs) of the fruit for only 0.50 USD (25 PHP). The fruit emits a pungent smell, which can be very strong for most people, but the taste of the fruit is likened to a sweet custard. When in season, you can taste durian in any of the fruit stands along Magsaysay Street or at Bangkerohan Market. If you cannot stand the smell, you can opt to get durian candies or try the local durian coffee in Blugre Cafe, a local coffee shop.
10. Be a beach bum in pink at the Pink Beach in Sta. Cruz, Zamboanga
The Great Sta. Cruz Island in Zamboanga offers quite a unique beach experience because its sand is not white or gray, but pink! This is mainly due to the abundance of red organ pipe coral in the surrounding reefs, which when pulverized and mixed with white sand, makes beautiful pink sand. It is said to be the only one of its kind in the country. This area is part of a marine protected area so trips to the island are regulated and no overnight accommodations are available. Aside from swimming and snorkeling, birdwatching is also recommended, especially in the lagoon.
Great Sta. Cruz Island
Address: Basilan Strait, Zamboanga City
How To Access: From Manila, fly to Zamboanga City. In the city, proceed to the City Tourism Office at Paseo del Mar and pay for the entrance fee and terminal fee. A boat fee will also paid to take you to the island.
Fees: Entrance fee - 2 USD (100 PHP) per person; Terminal fee - 0.10 USD (5 PHP); Boat fee - 20 USD (1,000 PHP) for a boat accommodating 10 people; Cottages start at 2 USD (100 PHP) per cottage.
11. Seven Seas Waterpark and Resort
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Looking for a fun day for the family? The Seven Seas Waterpark and Resort should fit the bill. The pirate-themed waterpark offers so much fun with different pools and slides you’ll easily spend the day there. Your entry fee allows for a full eight hours in the waterpark. The huge wave pool is a favorite feature and the little kids enjoy their own pool.
Food and refreshments are available with multiple choices. They don’t allow you to take your own food, so you need to budget for that. While you’re enjoying the lazy river, slides, and sunshine, you can rest easy knowing any valuables are safely stored in the locker. Before you leave, remember to call in at Pirates Market to pick up some mementos of your vacation.
Seven Seas Waterpark and Resort
Address: Cagayan de Oro, Mindanao 9000, Philippines
Website: Seven Seas Waterpark and Resort
12. Butuan National Museum
The Butuan National Museum in Butuan, Mindanao, has two main exhibition galleries. These are the Archaeological Hall and the Ethnological Hall Specimens. The Archaeological exhibits cover old stone craft, pottery, tool-making, and goldsmithing. You will also come across some ancient burial coffins. At the Ethnological Hall, they focus more on the cultural history of the people.
Enjoy learning about the different animals, the landscape, and the scientific exploration of the place. It highlights the tradition and culture. There’s even an interesting boat from the 3rd-century. The exhibits are small, but carefully designed, so it’s worth a visit. The museum is surrounded by shady trees and you may take along a picnic if you wish.
Butuan National Museum
Address: Jose Rosales Street, Butuan, Mindanao, Philippines
Website: Butuan National Museum
The Land of Promise awaits
Mindanao, then and now, indeed promises those who come to its shores abundance — from its natural resources, to its rich cultural heritage. Plan your trip now so you don’t miss out on what this island has to offer.
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