Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mindanao Roundup (Surigao del Sur): Hinatuan Enchanted River and Bislig City’s Tinuy-an Falls

I keep a list of "Must-Visit Places in Mindanao" since I started my 80 before 30 challenge, but I decided to put off exploring this region until Luzon and Visayas provinces are all done. Now that I'm on my final leg of the backpacking challenge, it's such an amazing feeling to be finally ticking off some of my dream destinations in Mindanao, one beautiful place at a time.

The province of Surigao del Sur has recently been included in the tourist trail because of the natural wonders that are lying still and almost hidden in its off-the-beaten mountains. Two remarkable sights that Anchi and I have seen lately are Hinatuan's Enchanted River and Bislig City's Tinuy-an Falls.

Stunning hues of Enchanted River

When a Facebook friend posted a picture of a "river" with a disclaimer that he didn't photoshop or post-process the result, I was like "Are you kidding me?! The colors are so vibrant to be true!" I did my own research, and found the results all the same. Indeed, the hues are stunning. Then I decided that I should see that place myself, at all cost!

And we finally met last June. It was a short, but still a magical encounter. I was literally river-struck. :)

We arrived at Enchanted River after an agonizing five hour ride from Davao City to Surigao del Sur ( The depressing van ride deserves another blog post, but I'll not get into details here to not spoil anything).

From Mangagoy, Bislig City, Surigao del Sur, we hired a habal-habal (good for 3) to take us to Enchanted River and Tinuy-an falls. The driver asked for P1,000, which I thought at first was a rip off but not up until I realized how far the destinations were. It was already late in the afternoon so we decided to cave in. Later I realized the fare was fair enough.

Our first stop was Enchanted River.

Definitely not post-processed 

My river-struck smile

The river that looks more like a sea in the middle of a forest

I've wondered how the river came to be called “Enchanted,” and I found some interesting details online. Local stories have it that there are spirits guarding the place so swimming after dark is being restricted.  There was also an article I stumbled upon that says Modesto Farolan, a prewar manager of the Madrigal-owned Port Lamon Lumber Co., wrote a poem entitled "Rio Encantado" and gave it to his local sweetheart. Then eventually, the locals adopted the title.

On a different note, I also learned that the rich blue color of the water is because of the mixture of fresh and saltwater from Hinatuan Bay. So that somehow debunks those local legends about fairies and elves guarding the river.

From Mangagoy, it took almost 45 minutes before we reached Hinatuan. From the highway junction, we took a 15-minute bumpy ride along a dirt road leading to Barangay Talisay (bordering Barangay Cambatong), where Enchanted River is located.

Since it was a holiday, I wasn't very surprised to see the place packed with tourists. From the main entrance, we walked a few meters going to the swimming area. And lo and behold, the river was how I imagined it to be. It looks more like a sea in the middle of a forest.

There were a few people enjoying the clear blue river when we arrived. Those who were not so brave to swim its 80-meter deep water had to wear a life jacket and some opted to stay in the shallow part. At first it looks enticing for me, but the thought of its unfathomable depth is too much for me so I opted to just enjoy the scene and let the beauty all in.

From the concrete viewing area close to the river, we could see variety of colorful fishes. Yes, it was that clear, you don't need to scuba dive to see the fishes! There was a signage that says tourists can arrange to feed the fishes between 12 noon to 1 p.m. and a special feeding is also allowed at 3 p.m.

The blue-tinted river

Tourists enjoying a refreshing afternoon swim

The cottages near the river

We realized we'd be late on the road so we decided not to swim. The sight of the clear and water-tinted blue river was good enough for us. After taking a few photos, we moved on to our next destination -- to the magestic Tinuy-an Falls.

Magestic Tinuy-an Falls

It was almost sundown and our habal-habal driver, Roger, was pressing hard on the motorcycle. We were speeding off very fast that I almost fell off my seat. After about an hour, we reached Tinuy-an Falls. 

The three-tiered cascading waterfalls are about 95 m wide and 55 metres (180 ft) high. Tinuy-an is also called the Niagara Falls of the Philippines, and is said to be one of the widest waterfalls in the country.

We arrived past 5p.m. and we were the only visitors in the area. After paying the entrance fee, we walked the wooden view deck and closer to the second cascade which stands mightily in front of us. 

Standing tall in the presence of the widest waterfalls in the Philippines

The white water curtain in the lowest tier

the wooden boardwalk that also serves as a viewing deck

serene and green

Just the refreshing view of its water curtain and the calming constant sound of the plunge was a good way to end our long and tiring day discovering an enchanting river and chasing beautiful waterfalls.

Travel Guide:

1. How to get to Bislig City, Surigao del Sur (Courtesy: www.bislig.gov.ph)

Air Travel:

From Manila or Cebu to Davao City as transit point, Philippines Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines ply the Manila-Davao-Manila (Aprox. 1-1/2 hours travel time) and Cebu-Davao-Cebu (Approx. 45 minutes travel time) several trips daily.  From Davao airport, take a taxi to the Ecoland Bus Terminal where air-conditioned vans may be hired for a 5-hour trip to Bislig City at reasonable rates.  Regular trips of Bachelor Express aircon and non-aircon buses also ply the Davao-Bislig route as early as 2:00 a.m. daily.

Vans going to Mangagoy (Bislig City) are also available at Gaisano Mall, P300.

From Manila or Cebu to Butuan City as transit point.  Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific ply these routes three times a week.  From the airport, take a cab to the City Bus Terminal where air conditioned vans may be hired for a 3-hour trip to Bislig City at reasonable rates.  Regular trips of Bachelor Express air-con and non-aircon buses also ply the Butuan route as early as 2:00 a.m. daily.

Sea Travel:

Inter-island vessels like the Super-Ferry and Sulpicio Line ply the Manila-Butuan or Cebu-Butuan routes on regular schedules with Nasipit Port as transit point.  Air-con vans are available at the wharf or take a jeepney to the city terminal for the regular bus trips to Bislig.

From Bislig, you can rent a habal-habal going to Tinuy-an Falls and Enchanted River.

2. Entrance Fee

Enchanted River - P30- adult,  P5- kids 4ft below.
Tinuy-An Falls - P50 - adult, FREE - children aging 7 and below. 

3. Schedule

Enchanted River - open - 6 a.m., close -5 p.m.
Tinuy-an Falls - open whole day. 

4. Facilities

Enchanted River - there are tables and cottages available for rent within the area.
Tinuy-an Falls- cottages for rent (P300-P1000), life jacket, tables with tents and chairs, rubber raft are available.

5. Accommodation at Bislig City (Courtesy: www.bislig.gov.ph)

Contact Person
Name of Establishment
Rooms / Rate per rooms
Without Aircon
Dolores G. Marcojos
Fax (086)853-4144
Paper Country Inn
4 suite     P1,750
4 deluxe  P1,100
Standard  P  900
Economy  P 600
Gail Eleazar
La Salle
Twinbed aircon w/ hot and cold shower
3 non-aircon
1 single
2 double
Riza Sabino
Tel. (086) 628-2105
4 twinbed, 4 triple beds, 5 quadruple sharing 2 duplex/apartelle P1,000 each
Wilfredo Babano
Tel. (086)853-1297
Casa Babano
2 std. double P700, 1 std. Triple P900
8 single bed with common CR
Eufemia Melasa
Tel. (086)853-2016
St. Francis
Pension House
Lodging Pension
1 standard family room P1,000,
4 economy P500
9 single P200
2 double 200
Anne Tajale
Tel. (086)853-1510
Sheilah’s Pension House
2 family P550
3 double P450,
2 single P350,
1 apartelle P1,000
7 double P200
7 single P200
Fritzie Lee T. Sia
Sleep Inn
3 single and 12 double P150/pax
Jesica Gomilao
Yolanda Inn
3 double bed
2 double P250-P300
Lucy A. Ramacula
Cell# (086) 628-2369
Violy’s Pension House and Restaurant
2 single bed w/ CR-P350
1 double bed w/
CR, hot & Cold
Shower & TV-
1 twin bed w/ CR, Hot or Cold shower & TV –
3 single bed w/
1 double bed w/

NOTE: Please keep these two amazing places clean at all times! Thank you! :)

*The photos used in this blog were taken from my iPhone. Hence, the quality. :)*


  1. See you soon amazing Hinatuan Enchanted River and Tinuy-an Falls! :)

    1. Weeee, when na nga kamo maduman? Hope the guide helps. hehe

    2. October ata or November :)

    3. October Cha!hehe!excited na me! =)

    4. Good luck to the long habal-habal trip. :-)

    5. Ooohh.. Malapit na rin! Exciting! :D

    6. Enjoy, ladies! and tama si Anchi, good luck sa habal-habal. try niyo maupo sa side seats habang nakacross legs. parang princesa sa gitna ng gubat. hehe

  2. ohhh.. we missed the enchanted river during our visit.

  3. oh yeah! we'll see you all soon! =))

    thanks sa mga tips Che! good job! =)

  4. I will definitely explore these places myself, soon! The Enchanted River is so blue. Seeing it, I remember a cave in Bukidnon which they call the blue-water cave.. :0

    1. blue river cave? sounds interesting, eph! Yep, you have to see these two. :)

  5. Replies
    1. Don't miss pagnapunta ka sa Surigao del Sur. Good luck, Katherine! :)

  6. hi guys! been there last march. and may nakilala kami van driver nag nagdala samin sa enchanted and tinuy-an.. 4 kami sa group and 2k binayad namin sa kanya. una kala namin mahal pero after namin makita yung daan and layo nung dalawang lugar okey na din.. Here's his number 09079842796 (kuya mariel) tell him you got his number dun sa girl na hinatid nya sa hinatuan at naligo sa Bus Stop ng Bislig before umuwi :D

    - jelly

    1. HI Jelly! 2K for a whole day rent? That seems like a reasonable rate for 4 pax. :)

    2. 8-3pm kami ata nun.. after kase nun hinatid na nya kami sa Van terminal going to Davao.

    3. Wow, thanks for Jelly sharing his number. We might contact Kuya Mariel on our visit there on October. :)

    4. No prob Cha! ask him also about BRITANNIA GROUP OF ISLANDS. maganda din daw dun.. havent been there kase kulang na sa oras.. pero nung tinagnan ko mga posts about it.. "reason to comeback sya" sa surigao. ^_^ safe travels everyone!

  7. bookmarked :) will be there this Nov...excited.

  8. Nice one Che ^^,,, someday mapupuntahan ko rin to ^^

  9. hi mam che, thank you for featuring hinatuan enchanted river and tinuy-an falls (of surigao sur) in your blog,we really appreciate it much, i was able to see you at unang hirit this morning, kaya ko po nalaman ang backpacking pilipinas, if you wish to come back for britania group of islands pls let us know so that we can assist you...by the way my name is michelle pareja and im connected with the provincial tourism office of surigao del sur and you can contact us with this number (086) 211-3947 and 09465476575. God bless!

    1. hi can i get your email add.? mgppa quote sana kami ng tour if may available kayo

  10. hi were planning to go there in june first time gsto sna namin is cheap lng any tips? like sa barko my mura ba? thanks

  11. if u need a habal habal plz. contact these nos. 09090674937, 09477116129....

  12. Hi, how far is Enchanted river to Tinuy-an Falls? Thank you!:)


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