The crystal blue water of Enchanted River at sunrise

The river turns aquamarine green in mid-morning  

Surigao del Sur is a Philippine province located almost in the tip of Mindanao peninsula facing the mighty Pacific Ocean. The province, which is generally an agricultural area covered with thick vegetation, is dotted by rivers, pristine beaches, farms and waterfalls.

Only few articles have written about the tourism industry of Surigao del Sur, perhaps due to its isolated location from the rest of Philippine provinces. Local tourism is not also actively pursuing promotions on the prized jewel of the province. However, unknown to some tourists visiting the Philippines, Surigao del Sur  province offers some of the most stunning countryside destinations in Southeast Asia.

Enchanted River in Hinatuan, White Beach in Cagwait, Laswitan Beach in Cortes and Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig are just some of Surigao del Sur's magnificent landmarks worthy to be explored.

These destinations are not yet fully commercialized as these are operated by the local government, so visitors can be fully assured with its pristine, natural features.

So whether you're seeking some thrill of taking an off-the-beaten track adventure or just want to experience the tranquility of nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Surigao del Sur is an ideal treat for a relaxing getaway.

Two of the most beautiful destinations in the province that visitors shouldn't missed out are Enchanted River and Tinuy-an Falls, which I both visited a week ago.

I was born and raised in Surigao del Sur but I haven't set a foot on the other side of the province, so our trip  last October 16, 2011, Sunday (coincided with my mother's birthday), felt like a refreshing experience.

A very special thanks to Ms. Maribeth Galindo, coordinator of the social science division of UIC,  for inviting me. Very grateful also to the social science faculty for a wonderful accommodation. It was truly a fantastic weekend!

Preparing my first dive!
Swimming at the clear blue water 

Surigao del Sur is almost eight hours from Davao City by bus, so to make the most of the time, you need to travel early in the morning. During this trip, we left Davao at 1:30 in the morning and reached Barangay Talisay in Hinatuan at 5:30 am.

Enchanted River opens at 6:00 and the entrance fee is only P10.00 (2011 rate) because it is operated by the local government. Visitors are allowed to bring food and drinks but fresh sea foods are available around the area. Fish vendors accept request to grill fish at a reasonable price. Inside the area, there are several cottages ready for rent.

Hinatuan is one of the two municipalities in Surigao del sur, aside from San Miguel, that situated in the most secluded part of the province, almost located in the middle of the rainforest. Aside from its location, the road leading to Enchanted River is dilapidated and not yet fully developed. But the weariness is worthy as soon as you reach the hidden treasure of Enchanted River. Such a stunning blue lagoon!

The place is endowed with rich natural resources, still left untouched by modernization. The river is shrouded with thick vegetation drew by a narrow passage connecting to the sea. The river forms a long deep water, somewhat a fjord flowing from below the ground, and touted to be 30 meters deep.

Early morning at Enchanted River
Calm environment of Hinatuan river while having our island hopping 

A visit to Enchanted River is not only means enjoying the cold river, it also means island hopping around Hinatuan Sea for two hours. This includes a visit to a turtle sanctuary and Ponta cave.

We took a boat ride at 7:00 in the morning after breakfast (P160.00 per hour with a capacity of 5 persons per boat, so you have to divide the P160.00 each), it was approaching low tide so the sea was quiet and calm:

First stop: Sibadan Fish cage and Pawikan cage. Entrance fee P5.00

Second stop: Pangasinan White sand (yet to be developed) Entrance fee P5.00

Third stop: The Ponta Cave (you cannot go down to the cave unless you request a tour guide--available in the area). Entrance fee P5.00

Pangasinan White Sand on the opposite side of the river

Hinatuan Sea along Enchanted River is not really ruthless as it never produces gigantic waves due to its backdoor location opposite the Pacific Ocean. It looks like a lake more than a sea.

For people who are not used to traveling in a rough, bumpy and punishing road, going to Hinatuan might bring some discomfort as the road seems endless with so many signboard pointing to "enchanted river". But the experience of taking a countryside travel is so rare you'll soon get over the discomfort.

Due to the danger of plunging down to a deep river, travelers who are not good in swimming should wear a life vest. It can  be rented for one hour at P15.00. The bottom of the river forms an elongated shape down to the river bed, which to date hasn't measured accurately by dividing experts so it's not safe to just jump off to the water without a life vest. 

After a few swim, we immediately pulled out from the water as the current gradually getting aggressive. It was as though we were pulled into different directions, approaching the inlet to a dangerous cave. It was nearly 11:00 in the morning. Surprisingly, this river has a salty water because of its connection to the sea.

We took lunch at 11:30 then left Enchanted River at 12:30 for Bislig.

Tinuy-an Falls
Location: Borboanan, Bislig City

The majestic water curtain of the falls. 
This is the highest level of the multi-layered water falls

The fourth level of Tinuy-an falls

Our next stop was at the Tinuy-an Falls!

We reached the area at 2:00 in the afternoon on the same day (October 16). Such a magnificent view of the mountain and the rainforest. The clusters of waterfalls are sights to behold!

Entrance fee is P50.00 (2011 rate) per head, with an additional fee for cottages. In our case we did not rent a cottage, we just gathered in one area (fronting the waterfalls) with big rocks under the trees while taking our mid-afternoon meal.

Tinuy-an falls form in clusters of water falls beautifully cascading from the mountain, its white curtain water have five levels, but the highest level, on the second layer, was the strongest. In fact, you cannot take photos at close range because the splashing of the water will make it hard to capture the subject.

Dubbed as the Niagara Falls of the Philippines, Tinuy-an so far is one of the best waterfalls in the Philippines due to its wide water curtains. It majestically sets at the foothills, beautifully covered with rain forest and tropical trees.

The view of the water curtain is so stunning I find it hard to refuse its inviting offer to take a dip. Though I was extremely tired due to long hours in the road, I didn't hesitate to join colleagues enjoying the cold waterfalls.

The breathtaking scenery of nature calms tired senses much more if the drop of the water feels like a body massage. At Tinuy-an, the stream of the water curtains felt like hands performing some therapeutic massage at your back.

This can be experienced at the second tier of the waterfalls. You can reach this area through a bamboo raft with a fee of Php130.00, the guide allows you to stay beneath the falls for 30 minutes.

At the top most part of the falls, enjoying the cascading water which looks like snowdrops 

Trekking the upper part of the falls with a picture-perfect view of the relaxing mountain 

What to Expect at Tinuy-an Falls? 

Located at the foothills in the rainforest of Borboanan, Bislig City, the second layer of the waterfalls is the most exciting area because of its strong current. Visitors need to ride in a bamboo raft to get closer to the falls, and feel the relaxing experience of being "massaged"  by the water!

This layer, according to the Tinuy-an waterfalls geography, plunges 180 feet high from the top of the multi-tiered cascading waterfalls and 95 meters wide. 

The water falls look like drops of Snow

How to Get There?

The easiest way and the most comfortable ride is to hire a van. If you're traveling from Metro Manila or Anywhere outside Mindanao, book a for, either Butuan City or Davao City. 

Go to van terminal. I'll discourage you to choose bus since Enchanted River is very far from the national road. Hiring a van is the most practical choice. Negotiate transportation with the driver, usually they will agree into a certain package deal.

Instruct the driver to follow the road to San Francisco, Agusan del Sur to reach the municipality of Hinatuan. Travel time is between five to six hours. Hinatuan to Borboanan, Bislig is only an hour drive. From Bislig, you may follow the route from Mangagoy to Cuevas near Trento, Agusan del sur, for a shorter trip going back to Davao or Butuan.

How much is the budget? 

Depending on the package offer by most of the hired vehicles from Davao City, usually drivers offer Php10,000.00 per head for 12 people. This is a day tour rate, one day travel. Granting you can negotiate with this kind of rate and you're 12 persons traveling, per head expenses  in Philippine peso will be as follow:

1. Transportation from Davao City and vice versa (round trip) - 830.00
2. Breakfast - 100.00
3. Lunch - 100.00
4. Snacks - 100.00
5. Entrance fee (Enchanted River) - 10.00
6. Island hopping in Hinatuan - 55.00
7. Life vest rental - 25.00
8. Entrance fee (Tinuy-an) - 50.00
9. Bamboo raft fee - 130.00

Total expenses: Php 1,590.00

Such a beautiful feeling of being "at home" once again. And because it is my home province, everything is very familiar. The scenic view of the environment, natural beauty of the mother earth, the serenity of the surrounding, thick vegetation, the soothing scent of wild plants, everything reminded me of my home town and I just can't wait to return home this holiday season! 



Jay Cergas said…
I have created travel blog and it is also about Enchanted River. Your article is good.
corpsjames said…
Hi! very nice article. Clarification lang po, 300.00 per head ba yung entrance fee sa Tinuy-an Falls? Then, magkano ba yung van rental nyo from Davao to Hinatuan/Bislig? Salamat.
kaissah SaL said…
Hi. Thanks for your blog, very nice and inviting. I would just like to know if there are nearby hotels in enchanted river or tinuy-an?
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Joyce Lamela said…
Hi Kaissah,

I did not see any hotels near Tinuy-ann falls, I think you need to go to Mangagoy or Bislig to look for tourist inns, it's just few minutes drive from Tinuy-ann.
Loyeen Bell said…
Hey, is there an air-conditioned room in the near place ? where we could stay ?
Joyce Lamela said…
Hi Jay! Thanks for your comment sorry for the late reply hehe! I'll blogwalk in your travel site too!
Joyce Lamela said…

I'm sorry for my late reply, I wasn't able to check my comments inbox..sorry for the error in my blog, the entrance fee at Tinuy-an Falls is only Php50.00, the Php300 I mentioned was actually for the rent of the big cottage hehe! The van rental from Davao City is around Php8,000 but the capacity of the van is 14 persons so you can divide the amount among yourselves.
Joyce Lamela said…
I'm not sure if there are hotels near Enchanted River because we did not stay overnight there, but there are lodging houses in the Hinatuan proper, you may ask the staff of Enchanted river for more accurate information. Are you travelling there soon?
Joyce Lamela said…
Hello Loyeen?

Are you referring to Enchanted river?I am not sure if there are available airconditioned rooms now near the area because it's very far from the Hinatuan proper but in Tinuy-an Falls there are airconditioned hotel rooms near the area at affordable prices.
Hi do you have the contact # of the driver for the van? Thanks!:)
Joyce Lamela said…

I'm sorry but I have no contact with the driver of the van we used during our trip because that was more than 2 years ago and I already resigned from the university. I am living now in manila :-)