What is the best place to snorkel in the Philippines? You will find beautiful coral reefs all around the island nation, but these top 5 snorkeling places in the Philippines really stand out. In each of these you will see and experience something unique and unforgettable underwater.
Read about Philippines’ best snorkeling places below or check their locations on our Philippines map.
1 Moalboal – Snorkel with Millions of Sardines
This is by far the most unique snorkeling experience in the Philippines. Moalboal is most probably the only place in the world where you can snorkel with a permanent school of sardines year-round. And it’s just 20 meters off the beach, so you won’t even need a boat ride.
The school of sardines is huge, even insane, about the size of two football fields. There are millions of those little fish. The phenomenon is also called sardine run.
It’s not just the sardines, though. Corals are good too, and Moalboal is also a great place to learn freediving if you want to take your snorkeling hobby to a new level. Here the ocean floor dives 60 meters deep just some 60 meters from the shore what has made Moalboal one of the world’s hot spots of freediving. No boats are needed here, as depth records can be tried out from the beach by swimming.
Just catch a bus from Cebu City and you are all set!
2 Apo Island – Snorkeling in the Lost World
Apo Island is truly an exceptional place. When you get there, you get the feeling immediately that you have arrived somewhere unique. Call it the Lost World, if you like.
The island stands of like a giant rock just off Dumaguete. It’s little touched by tourism, and you will only find just a handful of places to stay, and even them very basic.
There is a fishing village on the island, nothing else. Not much of a beach either, but the corals surrounding the island are spectacular. And you will see turtles everywhere.
Apo Island is quite well known as a model example of marine conservation. The fishermen were compelled to protect parts of the reefs as a sanctuary, which turned the whole reef system around the island healthy and much more productive than before.
Apo Island is great for diving too, even better than diving. Once you descend to the deeper waters you will see huge schools of fish. The main guesthouse has a dive shop and the price for diving is very cheap, last time we visited just around 20 USD per dive.
From Apo Island you can continue your journey to another nice snorkeling place, Siquijor Island, just off Dumaguete.
3 Balicasag island – Great for Turtles
This little island just off Bohol is one of the best places in the Philippines to snorkel with turtles. The island is surrounded by a vast shallow reef what makes excellent snorkeling right from the shore. Good amount and variety of fish.
The island can get quite busy as it is so close to popular holiday island Bohol. Most come during day-trips but you can also stay overnight in the island at the Balicasag Island Dive Resort.
4 Surigao – Snorkel with Dolphins in the Philippines
Shh, this is still a secret. In Surigao you can swim with dolphins. There’s a resident pod of dolphins living in the Surigao Strait just in front of Surigao Dream Beach Resort. Once you are done with the dolphins you can keep on snorkeling on a beautiful and well preserved fish sanctuary just off the pebble beach.
Surigao is just next to the popular traveler island Siargao in Mindanao.
5 Pintuyan – Best Place to Snorkel with Whale Sharks in the Philippines
This is another secret. Forget Donsol or Oslob, Pintuyan the best place in the Philippines to snorkel with whale sharks. The majestic yet gentle sharks gather to its bay from November to May, and you are pretty guaranteed to see them even if they are not fed here like in Oslob. In Pintuyan you will encounter the whale sharks in their natural environment, but without the crowds of Donsol.
Pintuyan is located on the southern tip of Leyte, just a two-hour ferry trip from Surigao. This part of Leyte is also great for diving.
For most travelers the first touch to Mindanao is Siargao, the surfing island that has become one of the most famous travel destinations in the Philippines. And for many, it’s also the only place they visit in Mindanao. But don’t make the same mistake. Mindanao, the second biggest island in the Philippines, has much more to offer.
Mindanao is the great unknown of Philippine travel. The big and mountainous island gets just a fraction of tourists compared to other areas of the Philippines. And well, what does that mean? Adventure, of course! Once you venture out of Siargao, you will get the feeling that you are entering an unknown territory.
Let us introduce the best places to visit and things to do in Mindanao!
Siargao – the Most Popular Place in Mindanao
The island of Siargao is by far the most popular travel hot spot in Mindanao. Siargao’s fame started about 10 years ago as the best surfing destination in the Philippines and more and more travelers started to travel to the island. Beside the surfing waves they found great island hopping, secret lagoons and a chill-out traveler vibe.
Now Siargao is one of the most hyped islands in the Philippines, yet it has kept it relaxed and independent traveler vibe. It is still light years away compared to the popularity of Boracay or El Nido.
Nowadays Siargao has good flight connections from Manila, Clark and Cebu, which makes it the perfect place to start your Mindanao adventure.
So what to do and where to stay in Siargao? Read our Siargao Guide (coming) to find out!
Surigao – Next Place to Visit from Siargao
From Siargao your next stop will be quite literally Surigao as that’s where the ferries from Siargao land. Until recently Surigao wasn’t much known for anything, but things are changing.
Surigao is actually a great travel destination on its own right. You can snorkel with dolphins and do a daytrip to see the whale sharks of Pintuyan, Leyte. There are unexplored caves, mountain roads and floating villages. The diving is pretty good too.
And best of all, from Surigao you can do an unforgettable trip to Dinagat Island.
Read our Surigao Guide to find out where to stay and what to do in Surigao.
Dinagat – The Most Beautiful Place in Mindanao
Wow! That is about the first thing that comes to your mind when you arrive to Dinagat. This island is truly special!
Strangely shaped rock formations dot beautiful paradise beaches. Sea is turquoise and crystal clear, sand white as snow.
Dinagat is easiest to visit on an organized camping trip from Surigao. You can also stay in Dinagat, but the accommodation options are rather limited.
Butuan – on the Way to Camiguin
If you continue west from Surigao, in two-and-half-hour you arrive to Butuan, a relatively big city, where you can stop to see the monument celebrating Magellan’s Anchorage. Ferdinand Magellan landed here and made a blood pact with a local chieftain.
Here he was well received. The trouble started later when he landed to Mactan island in Cebu, where a local chieftain Lapu-Lapu killed him in a battle. Magellan’s trip around the world was cut short halfway. One of his ships did make the whole way, though, and Magellan is remembered slightly mistakenly as the first man to travel around the world.
Another two-and-half-hour drive and you will arrive to Balingoan where you can catch a ferry to Camiguin Island.
Camiguin – the Island of Volcanoes
Camiguin is known the Island of Volcanoes and with a good reason. This small, round shaped island has as many as four volcanoes. Must be some kind of a world record for volcanoes, we believe. Has anybody from Camiguin contacted Guinness Book of World Records, yet?
As Camiguin’s volcanoes have not been active for a while, you can safely visit this pleasant island with its fair share of natural beauty.
From Camiguin you can head to the more well-known Visayas Archipelago. Ferries from Camiguin go to Bohol and from there it is only a short ferry ride to Cebu.
Read our Camiguin Guide to find out where to stay and what to do in Camiguin.
Surigao del Sur – Laswitan Lagoon, Britania Islands and the Enchanted River
If the island of volcanoes, doesn’t sound tempting enough, what about the Enchanted River? Instead of heading west towards Camiguin you can also continue your journey from Surigao to the next province, Surigao del Sur, which has several amazing spots to visit.
Your first sight will be Laswitan Lagoon, some 4-hours drive from Surigao. During the rainy season huge waves hit the seaside rocks making the water flow like waterfalls bursting to life. You have to see this to believe it!
Next down to road, some one and half hours drive away, is Cagwait White Beach, popular spot for surfing. Soon after you will reach Britania Beach from where you can catch a boat-trip to the beautiful Britania Islands.
Even more south is Surigao del Sur’s best known sight, the Enchanted River. The jungle river gets its name from its otherworldly beauty, the mesmerizing shade of blue of the water.
Close by is another attraction the Tinuy-an Falls.
Davao and the Philippine Eagle Center
From Surigao del Sur your next destination will be Davao, the biggest city of Mindanao. Davao is best known from it former mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, who earned his fame here before becoming the president of the Philippines.
Just next to the city is the Samal Island with beautiful beaches and leisure feeling.
The most interesting sight in Davao is, however, the Philippine Eagle Center where you can get close to the endangered Philippine eagle, the biggest eagle in the world.
Mount Apo – the Highest Mountain in the Philippines
On the background of Davao rises 2,954 meters high Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines. Hiking up the Mount Apo takes 2 to 3 days depending on the route and itinerary.
Where to Go After Mindanao?
Where to go next after Mindanao? If you are up to more adventures in little visited Philippine islands, you should continue to Leyte, which is just a short 2-hour ferry ride from Surigao. Leyte has whale sharks, beautiful dive spots and more several small paradise islands.
From Leyte you can travel over a bridge to Samar (another little visited island) and cross a short channel to the South-Eastern tip of the main island Luzon.
Is it Safe to Travel to Mindanao?
So why is Mindanao so little visited, you might ask. The reason is the Muslim insurgency in the South-Western part of the island. That leads us to the next question: Is it safe to travel to Mindanao?
Yes, it is. Mindanao is a huge you will find trouble only in a small, distant corner of the island. For letting that distract you from traveling to Mindanao would be the same, that you would not go to Phuket or Krabi in Thailand, because the Southernmost provinces of Thailand like Pattani have their own Muslim insurgency. Which they do. Nobody just talks about it much.
Although the Philippines is an archipelago, you can drive through the country. Pretty curious, isn’t it? The road across the country is called Pan-Philippine Highway (AH26), also known as Maharlika Highway.
It takes only two relatively short ferry rides, and crossing one long bridge, to drive from Luzon to Mindanao via the islands of Samar and Leyte. All in all the drive from Manila to Surigao, Mindanao, is 1000 kilometers long.
Non-stop it would take you 24 hours, but as there are amazing sights on the way, you better book as much time as you have. This is a driving adventure of epic proportions, and definitely the best road trip in the Philippines.
The best thing about driving the Marhalika Highway is that you will get to beautiful, remote places that you probably not otherwise get to. You will find unexplored paradise islands, whale shark watching and even a secret surfers’ haven.
As they say, “It’s more fun in the Pan-Philippine Highway!”
Where does the Pan-Philippine Highway start and end?
The entire length of the Pan-Philippine Highway is even much longer than the Manila–Surigao strip. Officially the highway AH26 starts from the northern tip of Luzon and ends in Zamboanga, the south-western corner of Mindanao. That’s 3500 kilometers in all. But very few would drive the whole way.
That’s why we cover here the most interesting section of the Pan-Philippine highway from Manila to Surigao.
Taal Volcano – the First Stop from Manila
First stop from Manila is the Taal Volcano in Tagaytay, about 2-hour drive away. Taal is probably the most famous volcano of the whole country. It’s also the most active. As recently as in January 2020 Taal sent menacing ash clouds high into the air.
When the volcano is calm, it’s a great spot for sightseeing. And very peculiar too. Taal is like a volcanic version of the Russian Matryoshka doll. The volcano consists of a crater with a lake. Inside that lake is crater island with another lake inside. And there is one more island in the middle of that lake. Sounds confusing, right? Better go and see the whole thing with your own eyes.
Bundok Banahaw – The Sacred Volcano
Soon after Taal the road passes another volcano, Bundok Banahaw, which many Filipinos consider a sacred mountain. If you have time, you can climb up all the way to its 2,170 meters high summit. That would take you on average 5 or 9 hours, depending on the route.
Drive Through the Quezon Protected Landscape
From Bundok Banahaw you arrive to the lush mountains of the Quezon province, part of the Sierra Madre mountain range. Here you can choose between the slightly narrower but more scenic Old Zigzag Road or the newer Diversion Road, which zigzags its fair bit too.
Calagua Island – a Small Piece of Paradise
From here on mountain and coastal landscapes alternate. You can enjoy beautiful blue color from the car windows but there are still not any notably beach spots.
To reach a beach paradise, you have to drive all the way to Daet, Camarines Norte, where you can get a boat to the Calagua Island. The island is famous for its beach Mahabang Buhangin. The beach is wide and white and the sea turquoise.
There are not real resorts to stay overnight, but you can camp on the beach if you have a tent with you. Or you can rent a tent or a cabana on the island.
Boats leave from Paracale (1 to 2-hr boat ride).
Caramoan – the Next El Nido
Two hours from Daet you arrive to Naga. From here you absolutely have to do a 3-hour long detour to the remote Caramoan Peninsula. We promise you, it’s worth the effort! Caramoan Peninsula would be the next great destination, if it wasn’t so remote.
The scenery is like in El Nido, Palawan, but without the crowds. Tourism in Caramoan is still in its infancy even if it has been used as the location for the popular reality TV show Survivor.
As for now there are still only a handful of places to stay, all located in the Paniman village from where you can take boat trips to the small limestone islands.
Legazpi City and Mount Mayon
From Caramoan it’s almost 5-hour drive to Legazpi City, which sits on the foothills of Mount Mayon.
Mount Mayon is a perfectly cone-shaped volcano, like Philippine version of the Mt Fuji in Japan. The most famous view to the volcano opens up from the Cagsawa ruins of and old bell tower.
Stay overnight in Legazpi or drive to Donsol, one and half hours, if it is the whale shark season from November to June.
Whale Shark Watching in Donsol
Donsol was the first spot in the Philippines that become famous for its whale sharks or butanding. The whale shark watching is organized with the help of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) so it’s done in a very ecologic way.
Sightings of the huge but harmless sharks is not guaranteed, so stay at least for a night or two to maximize your chances. The whale sharks are best spotted in early mornings.
Or you can skip Donsol altogether as you will find even a better place so swim with the gentle giants in Southern Leyte during this road trip.
Ferry to Samar
Two-and-a-half-hour drive from Donsol you will finally arrive at the Port of Matnog, where the ferries to Samar depart. Bye-bye Luzon!
In Samar, you have arrived at the wild country, to the untamed wild east of the Philippines. Mountainous, jungle-covered Samar is the third largest island in the Philippines yet very little visited. It is rugged and majestic.
Third of the whole island is protected as a national park, making it the biggest primary forest area in the Philippines. This is one of the prime natural habitats of the Philippine eagle, the largest eagle in the world by wingspan, and diminutive Philippine tarsier. Few people come to see them here, though.
The highway follows the east coast of the island. There are not much sights or traffic on the way. Play Born to be Fee on the stereos and just enjoy the beautiful seaside scenery.
It’s about 5-hour drive to the San Juanico Bridge, that connects Samar to Leyte.
If you want to cut the drive with a little sightseeing, you can stop by the beautiful Tarangban Falls or Lulugayan Falls.
Sohoton Caves and Natural Bridge Park
Close to the San Juanico Bridge is the only famous attraction in Samar, the Sohoton Caves and Natural Bridge Park, and even that is quite unknown outside Samar. The limestone caves can be visited on a boat or kayaking trip along the river.
Surfing at Calicoan Island
If you are not shy of another long detour (this time 150 kilometers each way), you can drive from the Sohoton Caves and Natural Bridge Park to Calicoan Island, which is connected to Samar by a bridge.
The island’s ABCD Beach which is slowly emerging as a surfing destination. Great waves and relaxed, low-key surfer vibe.
San Juanico Bridge – from Samar to Leyte
The 2-kilometer long San Juanico Bridge is the longest bridge in the Philippines and connects Samar to Leyte, another big island. The bridge has a lane for walkers too, so you can park your car and have a short walk along for some photo opportunities.
Almost on the other site of the bridge, is Tacloban, the biggest city in Leyte.
Tacloban – on the Footsteps of Imelda Marcos
Leyte’s biggest city is infamous for the havoc of Typhoon Haiyan that hit the city on November 2013. A 4-meter high storm surge run over the city and killed over 6000 inhabitants. In January 2015 Pope Francis visited the city to hold a mass with the survivors.
Since then Tacloban has luckily recovered from the destruction. There’s not that much to see in the city itself, except the colonial style Santo Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum, established by the Marcos family. Late president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos built the mansion for his wife Imelda Marcos who spent her youth in Tacloban. Inside you will see grand ballroom, antiques and fancy furniture.
MacArthur Landing Memorial Park
A few kilometers south of Tacloban is the MacArthur Landing Memorial Park, arguable the most famous landmark in Leyte. The statue commemorates the moment when General Douglas MacArthur made a landing in Leyte Gulf on 20 October 1944 and started the campaign to liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation.
What followed was The Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 23–26, 1944), one of the largest naval battles in the history. Japanese naval might was destroyed in the battle, so the memorial symbolizes the beginning of the end of Word War II.
South to Pintuyan
From the Memorial Park the Pan-Philippine Highway follows the east coast of Leyte to to Pintuayn, a 3-hour drive away. This is the best place in the Philippines to swim with whale sharks. During the whale shark season from November to May you are pretty much guaranteed to see whale sharks here, and best of all, without the crowds and hassle of more famous locations like Donsol or Oslob. Spend at least one night here!
From Pintuyan it’s just a stone’s throw to San Ricardo Port from where you can catch a ferry to Surigao, Mindanao.
Surigao – Welcome to Mindanao!
Finally, you have arrived at Mindanao! The adventure doesn’t stop here, though. In Surigao you can swim with dolphins and explore the secret paradise islands of Dinagat. And take a boat to the famous Siargao Island.
If you are still hungry for more driving, you can continue the Pan-Philippine Highway from Surigao through Mindanao to Davao and all the way up to Zamboanga. But that is another story.
In Surigao you should relax at least a few days in our beautiful Surigao Dream Resort.
How to Get Back from Mindanao?
Your next question would probably be, now will you get back to Manila from Mindanao with your vehicle? No worries, you won’t need to drive all the way back the same way.
Our recommendation is, that instead of following the AH26 in Leyte, on the return journey you drive up the western coast of Leyte and explore the beautiful but little visited paradise islands there.
From Leyte’s northern tip you can by-pass Samar altogether by catching a ferry to the intriguing Masbate Island on your way back to Luzon.
An alternative route would be to catch a ferry from Mindanao’s Bayan ng Balingoan to Camiguin and continue from there via Bohol to Cebu, from where it’s a 22 hours ferry trip to Manila.
Tips for Driving the Pan-Philippine Highway
Bear in mind that despite the name, size-wise this is not a highway at all. The road has mostly only one lane on each side and even they can get quite narrow in places. Villages on the way will slow you down.
The drive is most rewarding when taken on a motorbike but driving by car is fun too. Just remember to have a lot of time at your hand and not to worry about getting to your destination fast. On road trips the journey is more important than the destination!
Camiguin is known as the Island of Volcanoes, or even more poetically, Island Born of Fire. This small, round shaped island has as many as four volcanoes. Must be some kind of a world record for such a small place, we believe. Has anybody from Camiguin contacted Guinness Book of World Records, yet?
You can climb up some of the volcanoes, but most people just settle to the more relaxing way of enjoying the island’s volcanic origins by bathing on its hot water springs.
You will enjoy lush and green mountainous interiors, plunge to the refreshing pools under waterfalls and do day-trips to even smaller islands with shiny white sand and turquoise water.
It’s not only the volcanoes that make this island so intriguing. Soon after arriving to Camiguin you might just start getting the feeling, that there’s something special in this place. The island seems somewhat more organized and tidier than most other little places in the Philippines. Villages are blooming with flowers, and you won’t find much trash on sight. The overall feeling is very neat and even salubrious.
There is a reason for that. Already long ago, during the colonial times, the Spanish clergy took a liking on the place and priests settled here in large numbers. To have something to do, they established schools which exist until today. As a result, the standard of education is higher on the island than almost any other place of similar size in the Philippines.
The island is quite small – the circumferential road going around the island is only 65 kilometers long, so you can easily drive on a motorcycle around the island in one day and make several stops on the way. As there are less than 100 000 inhabitants in the island, the vibe is quiet and relaxed.
Despite the island’s rather diminutive size, there are surprisingly many things to see and do to keep you occupied for several days.
Here are the best things to do in Camiguin.
The White Island – the Best Beach in Camiguin
This beautiful little sandbar island is by far the most famous beach in Camiguin. Here you find perfect white sand and turquoise water whereas the beaches in the main island are mostly formed of volcanic black sand, thanks to the volcanoes.
Here you will also get the best look at the volcanoes of Camiguin. Mount Hibok-Hibok and smaller Mount Vulcan rise spectacularly in front of your eyes.
Boats to White Island leave from a quay just opposite the island in the village of Yumbing. Just next to the quay is Paras Beach Resort, one of the swankier places to stay in the island.
Mantigue Island Nature Park – Best Place to See Turtles in Camiguin
This is another beautiful day-trip destination from Camiguin. The white sand island is located a few kilometers off the eastern side of Camiguin and surrounded by protected coral reefs. A great place to see turtles, they are really abundant here. Remember to take your snorkeling gear with you! Or book a diving trip from one of the island’s dive shops.
Boats to Mantigue Island leave close to the village of San Roque.
The Sunken Cemetery – The Most Famous Diving Site in Camiguin
The most famous dive site in the island is, however, The Sunken Cemetery. The name sound pretty exciting, doesn’t it?
You won’t see any graves underwater, tough. Just a huge white cross above the water reminds about the cemetery that was washed to the sea after the next-door Mt. Vulcan erupted in 1871. The eruption wiped away the island’s former capital Catarman and its cemetery to the sea.
Contrary to what the name might suggest, The Sunken Cemetary is pretty ordinary dive site as the corals have covered the remains of the tombs. No zombies or other more Thriller-like creatures in sight.
This underwater site is rather shallow so you can also explore it easily by snorkeling.
Old Church Ruins – Remainders of Volcanic Eruption
Just a short drive south of the Sunken Cemetery, on the main circumferential road, lie the ruins of an old Spanish church. Not exactly a world class sight, but a worth a short visit, nonetheless. The ruins are another remainder of the devastating eruption of the Mount Vulcan in the 1871.
Ardent Hot Springs – Time to Relax the Body
Ardent Hot Springs is a popular place to soak in hot, volcanic waters. The location is pretty central on the foothills of Hibok-Hibok volcano, just a short drive from the traveler areas of Yumbing and Agoho.
Hibok-Hibok – Climb Camiguin’s Most Famous Volcano
Camiguin’s highest volcano is Mt. Timpoong, which rises 1,614 meters above the sea level right in the middle of the island.
However, the most famous volcano is Mt. Hibok-Hibok (1250 meters) which last erupted in 1952. It is also the only one that is still considered active.
You can hike all the way up to Hibok-Hibok and its crater. Don’t expect to meet otherworldly moonscape though. The crater has been taken over by green foliage and a small lake. Pretty it is, still. From the top you will see the White Island and all the way to Bohol to the north and Siquijor to the west.
Hiking starts usually at the Ardent Hot Spings and it takes 3 to 5 hours to reach the summit. It’s best done with a guide as hiking the volcano requires a permit from the Department of Environment in Mambajao.
The forests around Hibok-Hibok and Timpoong are a protected landscape that has been declared an ASEAN Heritage Park. The forest is the last refuge for the island’s endemic species like Camiguin hanging parrot, Camiguin hawk-owl, and Camiguin forest mouse. You read it right, this island even has its own endemic inhabitants!
Katibawasan Falls – The Highest Waterfall in Camiguin
Katibawasan is the highest and most popular waterfall in the island. The waters fall down impressive 76 meters to a pool where you can have a refreshing dip.
Tuasan Falls and the Road Across the Island
Not that long ago you had to literally drive around the island to get from one side to another, but nowadays you can also cut the drive short by driving across the island through a newish mountain road that snakes between the two main volcanoes.
This is a cool drive even just for the scenery, and you can stop halfway by the beautiful Tuasan Falls.
Refresh Yourself at the Santo Nino Cold Spring
Somewhat curiously Camiguin does not only have hot springs but cold springs as well. When driving around the island you can cool down in Santo Nino Cold Spring on the western part of the island between Sunken Cemetery and Sagay Village.
Another option for a cool dip is the Bura Soda Water Swimming Pool close-by.
Sagay – Visit the Heritage Village
Sagay is a quaint little village on the northern side of the island. It is one of the oldest settlements in Camiguin, and Sagay was briefly even the capital of Camiguin after the 1871 earthquake destroyed Catarman. Eventually Sagay lost importance to Mambajao on the northern side of the island.
In Sagay you will find some old and pretty heritage houses to admire and an old historical church, Holy Rosary Parish.
This is probably the quietest spot amongst the island’s waterfalls due to the distant location on the northern part of the island quite high up the majestic volcano Mt. Timpoong. Road to the waterfall starts from Sagay.
Giant Clam Sanctuary & White Beach
In the south-eastern corner of the island you find one more small and intriguing sight, the Giant Clams Sanctuary. For a small entrance fee, you can snorkel to the protected sanctuary which is dedicated to the endangered giant clams. You will see more than a hundred of them in neat rows.
Next to the sanctuary there are also small stretches of white sand beach.
Visit Mambajao the Capital of Camiguin
Camiguin’s capital is Mambajao on the north-eastern side of the island. This is also the main transport hub of the island as the airport and the ferry terminal to Bohol are on the opposing ends of the town.
Soak up the local atmosphere and have a look from outside the Borromeo Residence, a prime example of a traditional colonial style house of the Philippines. The house is just around the corner from the small Municipal Hall.
Join the Lanzones Festival
Culinary Camiguin is best known for its lanzones fruits, which grow here sweeter than anywhere else in the Philippines due to the rich, volcanic soil.
The fruits are celebrated every year in the third week of October during the Lanzones Festival. Expect colorful parades and a lot of fruits to indulge.
Yumbing and Agoho – Where to Stay in Camiguin
Camiguin’s main traveler hot spots are Agoho and Yumbing, which are located next to each other at the northern side of the island.
In Agoho you will find the widest black sand beach on the island and two of our favorite places to stay in Camiguin, the fancy Balai sa Baibai or more down-to-earth stylish SomeWhere Else Boutique Resort.
Main draw to Yumbing is its location just opposite The White Island.
How to Get to Camiguin
The island has a small airport, Camiguin Airport (CGM), which operates flights mainly to Cebu, but some flights to Manila too. Even having an airport in such a small mountainous island is quite a feat. The airport is next to the island’s capital Mambajao on the northern side of the island, a short ride to traveler villages Yumbing and Agoho.
You can get to Camiguin also with a ferry. Ferries to and from Bohol use the Balbagon Ferry Terminal.
On the north-eastern side of the island is Benoni Ferry Terminal, which operates the ferries in and out from Mindanao. These ferries cross the narrow channel to Balingoan Ferry Terminal from here you can continue your journey in Mindanao towards fascinating Surigao (5 hours by bus) and the famed Siargao Island (2 hours by boat from Surigao).
Surigao is one of those hidden gems of the Philippines that just waits to be discovered. In Surigao you can experience all the best experiences Philippines has to offer in one place.
You can swim with the dolphins, snorkel with whale sharks, and dive to a lagoon full of harmless jellyfish. You find beautiful coral reefs, caves and waterfalls. And best of all, you can explore hidden paradise islands.
And yet very few have even heard about the place.
Where is Surigao?
Surigao is a small town in Northern Mindanao, located just off the popular Siargao island. You can easily catch a ferry between the two destinations or fly directly to Surigao from Cebu.
Together they make a great destination. In Siargao you will find exciting traveler vibe and in Surigao more authentic and untouched feel.
Surigao Dream – Your Dream Guesthouse
The main reason for Surigao is becoming such an exciting destination is Surigao Dream Beach Resort, which will open in late 2020.
The cozy 6-bungalow resort is located on its own pebble beach, some twenty-minutes-drive from downtown Surigao (the resort will pick you up). All the bungalows have their own terraces facing the turquoise sea. Right next door is an excellent coral reef great for snorkeling and diving.
The resort organizes swimming with dolphins, whale shark snorkeling, and trips to the secret paradise islands of Dinagat.
Before the resort owners fell in love with the area, nobody even new how many fantastic sights and activities Surigao has to offer.
Swim with the Dolphins in Surigao
In front of Surigao is the marine life rich Strait of Surigao, home to large flocks of dolphins all year round. Melon-head whales can also be seen regularly. Whale sharks swim through the strait, too.
Dolphins are spotted by traditional banca boats. Once the dolphins have been found and become familiar with the boat, it is possible to go to the sea and swim with them.
At first, dolphins may swim shyly away, but after getting more confident with the visitors, the dolphins take an interest in you and come to swim right beside. A good trick is to dive a little – it attracts dolphins to come closer to watch what the heck is going on.
The experience is staggering: the dolphins swim all around you and you can hear their knocking speech in the water.
As of now only few people in Surigao even know about the wonderful experience at their footsteps, and the easiest way to swim with the dolphins is to organize the excursion through beach resort Surigao Dream.
Whale Sharks of Southern Leyte
Just a boat ride away from Surigao is the Southernmost tip of Leyte Island, the locality of Pintuyan, the best place in the Philippines to see and swim with the whale sharks.
What makes Pintuyan truly special is that you can spot the whale sharks in totally peaceful and natural environment. Pintuyan has stayed off the main traveler circuit and there will be hardly any other boats in the waters.
You are almost certain to see the whale sharks during the months of February, March and April.
From the beach resort Surigao Dream you can get there in half-an-hour by speedboat or in an hour and a half by traditional Banca boat.
Fantastic Paradise Islands of Dinagat
Dolphins? Whale sharks? What else can you ask for? Well, the real gem of Surigao is the neighboring island of Dinagat, where you will find an archipelago of picture-perfect small paradise islands with fantastic limestone formations, glistening white sand, and turquoise sea.
The scenery is like in Little El Nido, except there is no congestion of boats here. You can explore the islands and islets on your own peace.
Dinagat has remained a secret because it is ruled by a peculiar religious sect, and it took years before it was considered appropriate to go to the island. Today, believers cordially welcome guests by preaching a message of love.
Dinagat can also be reached by ferry from Surigao or you can let the Beach Resort Surigao Dream to organize you a two-day excursion. The night will be spent on a tent on a deserted sandbar island, under millions of stars.
Bucas Grade – Explore the Sohoton Cave and Jellyfish Lake
One of the wonders of Surigao is Bucas Grande Island. During the visit you will explore a fantastic blue lagoon, explore sea caves and swim in a lake full of harmless jellyfish.
Bucas Grande and Sohoton Cave can be easily explored on a day trip from Surigao or Surigao Beach Resort. First you travel an hour and a half by land followed by 30 minutes by boat.
Basul – The Deserted Island
Easy half-day excursion from Surigao is the small and beautiful Basul Island just a half-hour boat ride from the town.
You can snorkel off the island, although the corals have suffered a bit. It is still exciting to spot a wide variety of interesting little creatures just off the beach.
Adventurous Silop Cave and Day-Asan Floating Village
Another adventurous excursion is the magnificent Silop Cave with large chambers and plenty of bats. You can spot also huge spiders of the depths and even large snakes. Walking through the cave is quite easy; you don’t have to crawl into small cavities here. The cave can be explored with the help of a local guide.
As one experienced world traveler said: “Silop Cave goes easily to the top three of all the caves in the world which I have visited. Absolutely awesome place!”
Visit to the cave can be combined to a boat trip to the nearby “floating village” of Day-Asan, built on poles above the water amidst a mangrove forest. Here you will see authentic village life and some monster-size lobsters the villagers raise for their livelihood.
Diving and Snorkeling in Surigao
There are several well preserved coral reefs next to the pebble beaches of Surigao, good for snorkeling and diving. One reef is just next to the beach resort Surigao Dream, another is near the port of Lipata.
Diving trips can also be organized to Leyte’s famous dive sites.
The Downtown Surigao City
Surigao City is a small local hub of about 100 000 inhabitants. The center is small and modest. If you want to stay in the city, the best place is the Tavern Hotel (about 3,500 pesos), which also serves as the center of the city’s social life. In the evenings, the restaurant bar is often filled with a festive atmosphere with live bands playing. Next to the hotel is the harbor, from where you can catch a boat to Siargao.
The only sight in the city is a small museum dedicated to the battle of Surigao Strait, fought on October 25, 1944. It was the (so far) last great warship battle in history. The U.S. Navy crushed the Japanese, whose warships sank in deep waters off Surigao.
The museum is located at the downtown park. Ask the staff of the next-door tourist office to open the doors.
Surigao’s best restaurant is Bugsay Seafood located by the sea just a little off the city center.
There is really nothing else to do in the city itself, but there are some fantastic deserted pebble beaches just outside the city. In one of them you will find Beach Resort Surigao Dream, the best place to explore what Surigao has to offer.
Best time to travel to Surigao
The best time to travel to Surigao lasts from March to May, when the climate is perfect, and you are almost guaranteed to see whale sharks on trips to Leyte. February is the shoulder season, which means that with bad luck you can catch some rain, but for the most part the weather is excellent.
In June and July the weather gets hotter, but otherwise they are very fine months too.
August and September are windy months and high waves might prevent dolphin watching trips. Excursions can still be made to the sheltered side of Surigao to the magnificent Sohoton Cave. This time is perfect for holidaymakers who want to mostly just chill out and enjoy the resort facilities.
The rainy season is in November, December and January, as in much of the Philippines. Of course, it should not stop you from traveling if a few random rainy days don’t bother you. Rainfall does not usually last more than a couple of hours.
How to Get to Surigao
Until a few years ago, people would travel to Siargao via Surigao, but since then the roles have turned upside down: Siargao has more flights than Surigao.
While there is only one daily flight from Cebu to Surigao, Siargao has several daily flights from Cebu, Manila and Clark.
There are daily ferry connections between Siargao and Surigao. Boats leave the harbor in front of the Tavern Hotel.