Paradise Escape: A Journey through Caraga's Hidden Gems and Surigao's Spectacular Wonders

August 05, 2015 Travel

I Spent 7 Days in Caraga Swimming with Jellyfish, Island Hopping & More

Stunning beaches, disappearing islands, unique marine life, and big waves await you in Caraga. 

This blog post traces my recent 7-day CARAGA adventure. IT WAS AMAZING!!! It was not the first time I visited some of the places mentioned here, but I loved them the first time I laid eyes (or feet) on them, so when I was invited to go back, I grabbed the chance. Glad I did! Anyway, here is a summary of our trip:

Day 1: Travel from Butuan City to Bislig City

Day 2: Enchanted River, Tinuy-an Falls, Brgy. Britania

Day 3: Britania Islands hopping, travel to Surigao City

Day 4: Bucas Grande, Naked Island, Siargao Island

Day 5: Magpupungko Beach, Cloud 9

Day 6: Back to Surigao City, Rest; and, finally

Day 7: Travel back to Butuan City, Butuan Hung Adlaw Festival, flight back to Manila

Our route

We decided to work our way down from the farthest point, which was Bislig City, where Tinuy-an Falls is; then to Hinatuan for Enchanted River; down to Britania; then finally to Surigao City, the jump-off for both Bucas Grande and Siargao. 

From the airport, we rode a van that took us straight to Barangay Mangagoy, Bislig City. The van ride took almost five hours, as it had mandatory stops at all bus stations. The fare was ₱350. It would have been cheaper if we had ridden from the Butuan City Bus Terminal, but we decided to just go for the ones parked at the airport to save time. Not sure if we saved time, though. 

In Bislig City, we stayed at Casa de Babano, recommended by most tricycle drivers we talked to. We also considered Sleep Inn, recommended by different travel blogs, but the room offered to us at Casa de Babano looked cleaner. We paid ₱600 for a stay with a common CR, but it was okay since we were the only registered guests that night. 

By the way, do not leave Mangagoy without trying its famed Mutya ng Bislig, a cream-based soup with crabs, fish, shrimps, and other seafood. We got ours at Gail’s Resto and coffee shop for ₱600.

Tinuy-an Falls
Borboanan, Bislig City, Bislig, Surigao del Sur
Our first stop was Tinuy-an Falls, our little Niagara Falls in the Philippines. 

We started our day really early, at 5:30 AM. Paw (09293041339), our habal-habal driver, picked us up at our hotel. It was a scenic, almost an hour trip from our hotel to the falls, passing by 77 Lakes. The falls are located 15 kilometers from the highway. We contracted Paw for both our Tinuy-an Falls and Enchanted River visits. We negotiated the rate, and he brought it down from ₱1,500 to ₱1,100. 

The Tinuy-an Falls entrance fee is ₱50 per head. Too bad there was not enough rain in the previous days, so it was not as majestic as we expected. The rainbow, which was supposed to come out every morning, was also a no-show. But it was still a beautiful sight to see, and there was a lot to appreciate, including the cool morning motorcycle ride, the lush greens surrounding the falls, and the falls itself, which is truly a beauty. 

Tinuy-an is a 100-meter-wide and 26-meter-tall falls, with three layers. Tourists can swim in the water and picnic at the edge. There are huts available, and food is sold just outside the compound. 

By the way, the locals at Tinuy-an Falls are imposing a new rule. Tourists must be brought down to the highway, not Mangagoy, by their own motorcycles. We found it unfair for our habal-habal driver and a total waste of fuel. We argued, and they exempted us.

Enchanted River
Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur

The Hinatuan Enchanted River is a lagoon-river that quickly became a tourism sensation because of its mesmerizing colors and unexplored depths. Its water shade ranges from aquamarine to dark blue. Dark means that the water is really deep.

The river flows into the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean at Barangay Talisay, Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. However, the source of the water remains unknown. Regardless, the water is incredibly crystal-clear, and visiting the Enchanted River without being lured to swim in it is nearly impossible.

The most magical time occurs at 12NN when all guests are asked to exit the waters for the fish feeding. The enchanting moment is accompanied by the "Hymn of Hinatuan."

The best time to swim is immediately after the fish feeding when most tourists take their lunch. The entrance fee is ₱30 per head, and we secured a table for ₱100 rental. Food stalls operate in a paluto style, so it's advisable to order in advance, especially during lunchtime when orders tend to pile up.

Britania Islands
Britania, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur

Our quest for Vitamin SEA led us to spend our next night in Barangay Britania. Paw took us to the bus station, where we hailed a van to San Francisco. After alighting in Barobo, we switched vans to Tandag City. We asked the driver to drop us off at Barangay Salvacion (₱80.00 total for both van rides), where we hired another habal-habal to reach Barangay Britania.

En route, we stopped by the tourism office for registration, paying a fee of ₱25 each. We compensated our habal-habal drivers ₱30 each as we explored different resorts before settling on MacArthur’s Place. Despite the strict rule that we could only use their banca for the island tour, it was worth it for the stunning view, immediately alleviating our momentary stress.

The following day, during our island hopping adventure, we witnessed what made the resort owners truly proud. If I had those 24 islands and islets scattered in my backyard, I might also adopt that "take it or leave it" attitude. Well, actually... NO! NEVER! 
Anyway, our tour led us to four beautiful islands, each untouched and uninhabited—two words that travelers like me love to hear. Our first stop was Hagonoy Island, named after a weed that grows on it.

The greens and rock formations actually occupy only a small patch on the island. It is mostly white sand.

The next one we visited is Naked Island, truly a sandbar that stretches or shrinks with the tide but never vanishes. How cool!

Buslon, the next island we visited, is my favorite. It is the nearest and the most picturesque.

It boasts the best sand quality and has two subsidiary islets that are accessible on foot during low tides. The twin rocks are both named Panlangagan.

The last island on our tour was Hiyur Hiyuran. It boasts the most vegetation and, also, the cutest.

We engaged Romnick (09293041339) for this tour, highly recommended in many blogs. We negotiated a rate of ₱1,000 for the two of us. Of course if your group is larger, please consider paying more.

From Britania, we took another habal-habal ride (₱20.00). Although we initially planned a shorter route to Surigao City via Tandag, we were concerned about missing the last trip at 3:00 PM. So, we opted for a van to Butuan City, then changed vans at Ampayon. The journey took almost 8 hours, including waiting time, with a total fare of ₱330. From the Surigao City bus station, we took a Multicab to The Annex Hotel, where we stayed for the night.

Bucas Grande
Socorro, Surigao del Norte

This was the highlight of the trip for me. Our group expanded from two to fifteen! Our friend Jon, a Surigao City local, took care of us for the rest of the trip. We rented a big boat for 25 passengers for three days, covering our Bucas Grande and Siargao Islands trip. Jon also arranged our first Surigao City/Bucas Grande/Siargao adventure. 

Bucas Grande Island is an island municipality with 14 barangays, popularly known as Socorro. Sohoton Cove is the gem of Bucas Grande Island.

The name Sohoton comes from the word suhot, meaning ‘to enter,’ as explorers need to pass through a half-submerged entrance—the only entrance and exit point in the blue lagoon. Before entering paradise, guests must register at the Sohoton Cove Tourist Center, pay fees, and get guides. We transferred to smaller bancas provided by the tourist center before exploring Sohoton Cove.

Prior to exploring Sohoton Cove, we decided to visit Crystal Cave first. It was a short banca ride, and while waiting for the caretaker, we had time to admire the view. This is Tiktikan Lake.

From there, we ascended more than a hundred steps to reach Crystal Cave.

Crystal Cave derives its name from the crystal-like stone formations inside. It is part of a twin cave, the other being Bolitas, named after the small marble stones abundant within.

After Crystal Cave, we had lunch and then proceeded to Sohoton Cove.

From the entrance of Sohoton Cove, our first destination was Hagukan Sea Cave, which features a half-submerged, small entrance.

I adore this cave for the captivating reflection of sunlight on the water, making us appear to glow.

Next was the part where I had to sit down and watch—spelunking and cliff diving at Magkukuob Cavern. I did a 5-meter jump during my first visit, and fearing it might affect my leg implant, I designated myself as the official photographer.

After Sohoton Cove, came the most awaited part—swimming with jellyfish. We were expecting more, but we were happy with the few that joined our party.

The sail to the jellyfish sanctuary required us to transfer to a small paddle boat because motorized boats are prohibited in the lagoon. They also advise everyone not to use sunblock.

We paid ₱326 each for our Sohoton Tour, plus an additional ₱800 split into 15 for the boat rental to Crystal Cave. Cave entrance was ₱30 each. 

By the way, Human Nature has a reef-friendly sunblock.

Naked Island
Siargao, Surigao del Norte

It was already late afternoon when we arrived at Naked Island. We only had time for a 15-minute swim and some picture-taking. It was perfect, actually, with the blending of the blues with the greying sands and the quietness of the surroundings.

Magpupungko Beach and Tidal Pool
Pilar, Surigao del Norte

The first time we visited, it was teeming with people, mostly locals, so it was hard to appreciate this wonder wholly. So glad, this time around, we almost had it all to ourselves. Magpupungko is about an hour's drive from General Luna to Pilar. God must have spent a little more time here. After a long stretch of cream-colored sand beach, marvelous rock formations and tidal pools emerge.

These tidal pools are hardly discernible during high tide, but during low tide, these cavities form nice pools to snorkel and swim in. The placid water is an amazing contrast to the Pacific waves crashing against the rocks.

Cloud 9
Socorro, Surigao del Norte

Of course! Not dropping by Cloud 9 is like going to Rome and not seeing the Vatican. This island is a surfing mecca, and Cloud 9 is where it all happens.

Of course, I paid a bit more homage by walking the wooden pathway to watch the adrenaline junkies play with the waves. After that, while they surfed, I slurped.

We stayed for two nights at Jadestar Resort. Our room, good for 7, cost ₱1,200 per night. They also prepared all our meals, and we rented our van and motorcycles from them. The transportation, including trips to Magpupungko, Cloud 9, and Dapa Port, cost ₱5,200.

After that, I slowed down a bit and relaxed at The Annex Hotel in Surigao City. I didn’t want a vacation that needed another vacation immediately after. That was another trip that ended too soon, and I hope to be back to see more of this region. I still want to see Tinuy-an Falls in its full glory, stay at Club Tara Resort in Bucas Grande, and explore Laswitan and Ayoke Island. God willing.

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