Exploring Northeastern Mindanao for 12 Days

My visit to Northeastern Mindanao was one of those trips that always gets me excited whenever I get reminded of the places that I’ve visited in the 12 days that I’ve spent in this part of Southern Philippines. I can’t get enough of it! Every time I review my photos or read about it online, it never fails to revive my love for travel. My trip to Northeastern Mindanao was my last major travel for the year (kind of a “last hurrah” thing) and my third time visit to Mindanao. I wanted to see as many places as I can in a relatively short time. I actually think I pushed myself (and budget) a bit too far in this particular trip … I just couldn’t resist the wanderlust. For 12 days, I was able to visit different places (almost all for the first time) spread across the vast northeastern corner of Mindanao Island: from Iligan City, Cagayan de Oro City (Misamis Oriental), Camiguin Island, over to Butuan City, Bislig City (Surigao del Sur), Surigao City, and finally the islands of Bucas Grande and Siargao in Surigao del Norte.

Day 1: Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig City (Surigao del Sur)

My journey started with a connecting flight to Butuan City via Cebu. I wanted to head first to Bislig City (Surigao del Sur) on my first day, since it’s the destination that was the farthest from my planned route. I was curious to see the Tinuy-an Falls, the widest waterfalls in the Philippines at 95 meters from end to end. Its no Niagara but it’s very beautiful nonetheless.


Connecting flight via Mactan-Cebu International Airport


Arrival in Butuan City Airport


Grand view of Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig City


Self-portrait at Tinuy-an Falls


Display of Durian and Marang fruits

Day 2: Butuan City (Agusan del Norte) Overnight Stop-over


The long van ride back to Butuan City


Gaisano Mall in Butuan City

Day 3: Camiguin Island Circuit Tour

Camiguin was very hard to pass off. I spent 3 days and two nights to visit a couple of sights around the island. Literally “around the island,” since I was able to encircle the entire length of its circumferential road by habal-habal (single motorcycle). At first, my experience in Camiguin started to feel like an overrated tourist trap. Thank goodness my visit to Tuason Falls and the Giant Clam Sanctuary saved the day. I was also ecstatic to have met like-minded travelers during my stay at Enigmata Treehouse. The early morning visit to white island with new found friends was very memorable.


Early morning pass-by of Butuan Cathderal (St. Joseph Parish)


Awaiting the arrival of the Camiguin-bound ferry at Balingo-an Port, Miamis Oriental


Relaxed vibes at Enigmata Tree House in Mambajao, Camiguin


Katibawasan Falls, the flow wasn’t as strong as what I’ve seen in pictures


Pool area of Ardent Hot Spring


Hike up the lime green paths of the Old Volcano Walkway.


Ruins of the Old Church in Guiob, Catarman

Day 4: Habal-habal tour around Camiguin Island


Giant Cross of the sunken cemetery in Catarman

 
Communing with nature at Tuason Falls


Coastal Highway along the southern coast of Camiguin Island


Giant Clam Sanctuary in Cantaan, Guinsilban


Forcing myself to be content with only being able to see Mantigue Island from afar. Found the boat rentals to be overpriced.

Day 5


Early morning visit to Camiguin’s famed White Island


Photo-ops with new travel buddies at White Island


Ferry ride back to the mainland. I spent the afternoon on the road enroute to Malaybalay City, Bukidnon

Day 6: Malaybalay City and Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon

I was actually planning to visit Bukidnon because I was curious to taste its infamous pineapple-fed cattle. I ended up making a worthwhile tour of Malaybalay City also.


Cool climate and green views of the Kaamulan (Bukidnon Provincial Capitol) Grounds in Malaybalay City


“Foundation Day” Monument at Plaza Rizal


Monastery of Transfiguration, masterfully designed by nat’l artist, Leandro Locsin


Fulfilling lunch of “pineapple-fed cattle” steak at the Del Monte Country Club in Manolo Fortich

Cagayan de Oro, Mismis Oriental

My second time in Cagayan de Oro. Spent the night in the city while taking a day tour of Iligan, the city of majestic waterfalls.

Divisoria (Weekend) Night Market in Cagayan de Oro City

Day 7: Iligan City


Great view of the majestic Maria Cristina Falls in Iligan City


Self-portrait at Maria Cristina Falls


Butterfly garden at the NPC Nature Park (near the Maria Cristina Falls viewdeck)


Enchanting Tinago Falls


View from the cable car ride at the Mimbalot Falls


Sunset view of Iligan City

Day 8: Surigao City (Surigao del Norte)


Afternoon arrival in Surigao City port. Had to spend the night in the city since I missed the ferry to Siargao Island.


Surigao City seaside boulevard and ferry terminal


Surigao del Norte Provincial Capitol


Surigao City Cathedral (San Nicolas De Tolentino Parish)

Day 9: Sea travel to Bucas Grande Island

Spent the entire day just for the sea travel to Socorro town in Bucas Grande Island. The inland salt-water lagoon and caves (Sohoton Cave particularly) of Bucas Grande Island was actually my main destination. I’ve seen photos of it online and I knew I just had to go there! It’s accessible from General Luna (famous for Cloud9 surf spot) in Siargao Island but boat rentals from there were very steep. I decided to push my luck at spending the night at Socorro in Bucas Grande Island itself since it’s nearer (and cheaper to get) to the Sohoton Caves National Park from there. From Surigao City, I took the 3-hour ferry to Dapa Port, Siargao and another 1.5-hour ferry to Socorro. There was a power outage when I arrived (actually during my WHOLE stay in the islands). I was alone in an already sleepy and unfamiliar remote island. It was one of my scariest travel experiences. Thankfully, I lived through it and was able to take a morning tour of Sohoton Caves the day after.


Three hour ferry to Dapa Port, Siargao from Surigao City


Early evening arrival in Socorro town, Bucas Grande Island

Day 10: Sohoton Caves and Siargao Island


Early morning view from Soccoro Port


View of iron rich mountain of Claver in mainland Surigao del Norte


Finally! Going past the Sohoton Cave in Bucas Grande Island

Along with El Nido Palawan, Sohoton Caves National Park in Bucas Grande Island is the most beautiful place I’ve been in the Philippines! Getting there is so worth the effort. It seems so mysterious since you have to pass through a cave to get to the lagoon. Upon entering I was awed by the magnificent view of the super clear emerald green waters and lush hills surrounding the lagoon. The scene is so exotic and beautiful! There’s even a colorful bed of corals at the seafloor and the steep “cliff-like” walls bordering the hills. The boatmen took me to Hagupan and Magkuku-ob cave, which were also interesting places to visit. I wasn’t able to spend enough time to fully appreciate the hidden lagoons, which is why I’m still craving to come back. I also wasn’t able to see the famed non-sting jellyfish since they weren’t in season, another big reason to return!


Inland salt-water lagoons at Bucas Grande Island


Horse-shoe Rock Formation. Looks more like an Elephant’s trunk to me.


White Rock Cliff


Steep sea wall


Scenic Stilt house at the seaside


Crystal Cave


Bulitas Cave. Getting to this particular spot is not worth the effort, trust me. It was the only hitch during my otherwise perfect sightseeing tour.


Tiktikan (freshwater) Lake


Club Tara’s exclusive villas near Sohoton Caves National Park

Day 10: Cloud9, Siargao Island


Ferry ride back to Dapa Port in Siargao Island

When I arrived in Cloud9, I was disappointed to find out the power outage also persisted there. Some of the more budget-friendly resorts closed down because of it. All of the cheaper rooms at the resorts that were still open were fully occupied. I was in trouble since I had already spent a hefty portion of my budget for the Sohoton Caves tour. The cheapest place I found was Jungle Reef Resort at the far end of Cloud 9.


Beachfront area of Cloud 9 beach in General Luna, Siargao


Gorgeous sunset view at Cloud9


Early evening long exposures

Day 11: General Luna Poblacion Walking Tour

During my second day in Siargao, I spent my time going around the town proper or poblacion of General Luna. The town has one of the most beautiful poblacion settings I’ve seen. It totally embodies what I imagine a typical tropical coastal townside would look like.


View of Guyam Island from the seaside boulevard of General Luna


Self-portrait at the wooden pier


Beautiful beachfront within walking distance from the town proper

Cloud9 was filled with surfers when I returned. I was looking forward to try out Surfing for the first time. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough money left for the surfboard rental and lessons (thanks to the unexpected expenses that I’ve made so far). Total bummer!


Surfers on their way to ripping Cloud9’s famous tubes


Drool!


Another beautiful sunset from the wooden viewdeck/boardwalk at Cloud9


Self-portrait with the beautiful dusk twilight in Cloud9

Day 12: Flight layover in Cebu via Surigao Airport

I spent my last day for the connecting flight back home from Surigao Airport.


Surigao City Airport


Nice view overlooking Surigao City and nearby islands.


Somewhere in Leyte


Bohol Islets


Heart-shared land/sea formation near Cebu


Olango Island, Mactan, and Cebu mainland

I had around 5 hours between flights, which I spent on a quick tour of Cebu. I’ve always wanted to experience riding the ferry from Mactan Island to Cebu City. It isn’t popular for tourists since the two bridges connecting both islands have long been in existence. Locals frequent this transport alternative to avoid to heavy traffic on the Old Mactan-Cebu Bridge (the ferries used to be the only means of crossing the Mactan Channel). It’s also faster to go by this route if coming from Cebu Downtown and going to Lapu-lapu City center. For me, taking the ferry was an interesting way to get a nice panoramic view of Cebu City’s growing skyline.


Old Muelle Osmeña Port of Lapu-lapu City in Mactan Island, Cebu


View of Cebu City’s skyline from the fery


Font San Pedro in Downtown Cebu


Old Cebu Aduana “customs house” building / now Malacañang sa Sugbo


Evening flight back to Iloilo

Can’t wait to return to Northeastern Mindanao again. There are so many places that I still want to visit in the area and places that I want to re-visit!