A Travel Guide to 4 of Caraga’s Most Stunning Secrets

The Enchanted River

The Enchanted River

Tinuy-an Falls

Tinuy-an Falls

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Bucas Grande Island

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Located in the northeast section of Mindanao, the Caraga Region is an 18,847-km2 stretch of lush evergreen forests, rugged coastline lapped by sparkling waters, towering waterfalls, limestone karst bedrocks that house many spectacular caves and soil endowed with rich mineral resources. The region is composed of five provinces: Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Dinagat Islands.

A few days ago, my travel buddy Aimee and I braved the stressful bus commute and the seemingly endless habal-habal ride on a dirt road to see four of the region’s most beautiful destinations.

1.) Bucas Grande in Socorro, Surigao del Norte

Our chatter is interspersed with silence as soon as our flat-bottomed boat sails toward Sohoton Cove in Bucas Grande Island. Small jungle-covered hills sprouting out of the placid and clear emerald waters greet us from the half-submerged entrance. I have not seen this much green in my life. As we marvel at the carnivorous and brightly colored Pitcher plants dangling over the water, our silence is punctuated by the cooing of the birds among the Magcono trees (Philippine Ironwood), which is said to yield the hardest timber.

There are many caves among the seven broccoli-shaped islets inside Sohoton Cove, most of them unexplored. After the nerve-racking skin dive at the beautiful Hagukan Sea-cave, our guide Zeewar takes us to Magkukuob Cave. Kuob means to bow. “Be careful, you might injure your head,” he warns. Indeed, one has to bow his head to avoid the pointed stalactites at the cavern’s low ceiling. A short climb through a dark passage, whose adjoining walls exhibit many jaw dropping rock formations, takes us to a wooden platform on a cliff. According to our guide, the easiest way out of the cave is to jump off twenty feet into the clear turquoise water below. Exciting indeed!

Besides the enchanting Sohoton Cove, Bucas Grande is also a home to the stingless jellyfish, many small white-sand beaches, and inland lakes clad in dense wilderness.

How to Get There:

From the Surigao City airport in Surigao del Norte, ride a tricycle to Pier Uno (15 minutes), where you would find a boat going to Socorro town in Bucas Grande Island (3 hours). Make sure to arrive before noon because there is only one trip everyday. In Socorro, hire a bangka (outrigger boat) to Sohoton National Park.

Where To Stay:

Villa Harkrisha Resort

Brgy. Taruc, Socorro, Surigao Del Norte

09102924264

My Expenses (excluding airfare):

Tricycle from the airport to Pier Uno- Php 150

Boat to Socorro- Php 200

Hotel (Php800/night for 2)- Php 400 each

Food- Php 500

Boat Rental to Bucas Grande (Php 2,000 for 2)- Php 1,000 each

Sohoton Cave Tour (Php 1,410 for 2)- Php 705 each

Total- Php 2,955

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the half-submerged entrance to Sohoton Cove

the half-submerged entrance to Sohoton Cove

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a beautiful white-sand beach at the Bucas Grande Island

a beautiful white-sand beach at the Bucas Grande Island

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playtime :)

playtime 🙂

the stingless jellyfish at the Bucas Grande Island

the stingless jellyfish at the Bucas Grande Island

selfie with a stunning background

selfie with a stunning background

2.) Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig City, Surigao Del Sur

Tinuy-an means an intentional act to achieve something. Indeed, one has to deviate from the well-paved main road and endure a bumpy and dusty habal-habal ride to see this four-tiered waterfalls in Burboanan village. Nestled in a rainforest with lofty century-old trees and rich biodiversity, Tinuy-an Falls is said to be the widest in the country. The largest tier has a breathtaking width of 95 meters and its cool clear waters plunge 55 meters into a rocky pool that shelters many freshwater fishes.

Crossing the river on a bamboo raft, we are drawn to the beautiful stair-like rock walls behind the thundering waters. “Beautiful. They look like they’ve been carved by human hands,” says Aimee, her eyes fixed on the flat boulders at the bottom of the waterfalls.

According to Kuya Marco, our driver, Tinuy-an Falls has only been opened to tourists in the late 2000, after the shutdown of a large paper company that operated within the area.

How to Get There:

From Tandag City in Surigao del Sur, where the airport is, ride a bus bound for Bislig (4-5 hours). Tell the driver you will be alighting at the road going to Tinuy-an Falls. From there, ride a habal-habal (motorcycle).

If you are coming from Surigao del Norte, go to the bus terminal and ride a van to Butuan (2 hours). At the Butuan Bus Terminal, ride a van/bus bound for Mangagoy in Bislig City (4 hours). From there, ride a habal-habal (motorcycle) to Tinuy-an Falls.

If you want a hassle-free trip to Tinuy-an Falls, Enchanted River and Britannia Group of Islands, call Kuya Mark Linag at 09489750475. He has affordable packages that include the tours, food, accommodation and entrance fees.

Where to Stay:

Casa De Babano

Bislig City, Surigao del Sur

+63 86 853 1297

My Expenses:

Van fare from Surigao City to Bislig City via Butuan (3 rides)- Php 400

Hotel (1 night)– Php 1,000

Food- Php 500

Habal-habal to both Enchanted and Tinuy-an- Php 1,500

Souvenir-Php 100

Total-Php 3,500

Tinuy-an Falls

Tinuy-an Falls

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3.) Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur

“It looks even more beautiful than in photographs.” I overhear a tourist who is eagerly fumbling for the camera in her duffel bag. I easily agree with her. I have never seen a river as clear and blue as the one before my eyes.

Hidden among the towering rocky mountains, the Enchanted River is clad in mystery because its exact source has never been determined. Palm trees and indigenous ferns surround its sparkling waters, which is a home to some fishes like the Maya-maya, Katambak, Danggit and Kitong.

A glance at the river takes me back to my childhood when my nanny would tell me stories about the engkantos and their beautiful abode. According to some residents, they grew up listening to stories about fairies and mermaids who guard the river and give it its strange bluish color.

The river glints silver under the afternoon sun, as if enticing us to explore its unfathomable depth. Our guide says the a group of divers once attempted to explore its abysses but were only able to reach 150 feet after consuming several tanks of oxygen. The current underneath is also said to be very strong, making it impossible to dive deeper, thus making some people believe that the river is indeed enchanted.

How to Get There:

From Tandag City in Surigao del Sur, where the airport is, ride a bus to the town of Hinatuan. Tell the driver you will be alighting at the road going to the Enchanted River. From there, ride a habal-habal (motorcycle).

If you want a hassle-free trip to Tinuy-an Falls, Enchanted River and Britannia Group of Islands, call Kuya Mark Linag at 09489750475. He has affordable packages that include the tours, food, accommodation and entrance fees.

Where to Stay:

Casa De Babano

Bislig City, Surigao del Sur

+63 86 853 1297

My Expenses:

Please see #2 (under Tinuy-an Falls)

The Enchanted River

The Enchanted River

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4.) The Britania Group of Islands in San Agustin, Surigao del Sur

“Only six among the 25 Britania Islands are open for tourists, but it doesn’t mean you’d go home feeling shortchanged,” says Manong Isko, our friendly boatman. I understand what he means when we reach Hagonoy Island, our first stop. As we sink our feet into the soft sugar-colored sand, we are greeted by the breathtaking view of the forest-covered islets rising up from the sea. We find it difficult to resist the clear turquoise water crashing gently on the shore, so despite the intense midday heat, we frolic in the shallows with abandon.

Still devoid of massive tourism, the Britania islands are the perfect conclusion to an exhausting Caraga adventure.

How To Get There:

From Tandag City in Surigao del Sur, where the airport is, ride a bus to San Agustin. Tell the driver you will be alighting at the road going to the Britania Group of Islands. From there, ride a habal-habal (motorcycle).

If you want a hassle-free trip to Tinuy-an Falls, Enchanted River and Britannia Group of Islands, call Kuya Mark Linag at 09489750475. He has affordable packages that include the tours, food, accommodation and entrance fees.

Where to Stay:

Mac Arthur’s Place

Britania, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur

09999910845, 09399163745, 09328823460, 09258221481, 09165850171

Expenses:

Habal-habal ride from Bislig to San Agustin (Php 1,000 for 2)- Php 500 each (this is not the recommended mode of transportation because both towns are far from each other, but since the regular commute takes a longer time, we rode a habal-habal instead)

Food- Php 500

Hotel(Php 1,000 per night)- Php 500 each

Island Hopping (Php 1,200/2 persons) – Php 600 each

Fare from the highway to the port and back- Php 100

Total php 2,200

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Our 5D4N Surigao del Norte/Surigao del Sur Itinerary

Day 1

9:30am- ETA from Cebu to Surigao City Airport via Cebu Pac

10am- depart to Pier Uno, early lunch etc.

12nn- boat departs from Surigao City to Soccoro town

3pm onwards- boat arrives in Socorro, hotel check-in, explore the town, dinner

Day 2

6am to 11am- hotel check-out, start of island hopping to Bucas Grande, quick lunch

12 nn- arrive at Hayanggabon Port via same boat for island hopping, depart to the   town of Badas where we’d find vans for Butuan

1pm- ride a Butuan-bound van at the Badas Terminal

3pm- arrive in Butuan Terminal, ride a bus bound for Mangagoy, Bislig

8pm- arrive in Bislig, hotel check-in, dinner, rest

Day 3

8am to 4pm – explore Tinuy-an Falls and Enchanted River

Day 4

5am- hotel check-out, depart to San Agustin for the Britania island hopping

8am- arrive in Britania port

8:30 am- start the tour to the Britania Group of Islands

12nn- end of tour, lunch

1pm– ride a van to Tandag City***

2pm- arrive in Tandag, ride a bus bound for Surigao City

8pm- arrive in Surigao City, hotel check-in, rest

Day 5

7am- explore Surigao City (public market, museums, churches etc.)

1pm- flight back to Cebu via Cebu Pac

 

*** Tandag City in Surigao del Sur has an airport but there are no flights on weekends so we decided to just go back to our starting point, which, by the way, is very exhausting. If you want to explore these 4 destinations in 5 days, make sure you arrive at the Surigao del Norte airport and depart at the Surigao del Sur airport to avoid the long travel time.

Villa Harkrisha Resort in Socorro, Bucas Grande

Villa Harkrisha Resort in Socorro, Bucas Grande

Villa Harkrisha Resort in Socorro, Bucas Grande

Villa Harkrisha Resort in Socorro, Bucas Grande

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7 Comments

  1. mae ds

    Fantastic scenery! Travel is truly more fun (and more magical) in the Philippines! Where to next?

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  3. Love everything! Istaring na naman!hahaha Playtime lovin…gorgeous kaduro im mga photos. Perfect, surreal, the best!!! As i was reading, dik nka help pagtinawa kan kuya habal habal…aniiiii. Gusto ko la ghp hya ig morder!hihihi

    Worth it and memorable escapade!!! Thank you million times!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😉

  4. Hello Mark,

    Hope all is well. I was wondering if I can quickly chat with you about Tinuyan Waterfalls. Looking for a place to do a video shoot. Im sure you can help me. I left my email on this comment section. Let me know.

    Best regards,
    Chris

  5. Hi there, just wanted to say, I loved this post. It was inspiring.
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  7. Very neat article post. Fantastic.

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