As we all know, Mindanao is the second largest of the three (3) major Philippine Islands. It is approximately 97,530 sq. km and is home to 25% of the entire nation’s population. Mindanao is the farthest island region from the capital Metro Manila, this is the reason why sometimes it is outshined by its siblings Luzon and Visayas in the tourism industry.
However, make no mistake! Because through the years, Mindanao is becoming more and more popular not only in the country but also in the whole world. A lot of tourists are discovering hidden gems in the entire region that are worthy of international attention. Mindanao has an enormous set of preserved natural wonders from mountains, forests, rivers, waterfalls, and everything that you can imagine!
The proud island of Mindanao is also being recognized in the whole world! Firstly, it has long been known as the home of the Philippines’ tallest mountain, Mt. Apo. It’s also the breeding grounds of the largest eagle in the world in terms of length and wingspan! Yes, I’m talking about no other than our very own Philippine Eagle. Aside from these natural wonders, several personalities in our current society proudly represent Mindanao! First of all, the current Philippine president, Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte traces his roots from the major city of Davao itself. Also, our first Filipino Olympic Gold Medalist, Hidilyn Diaz also comes from Mindanao!
With the current rise of Mindanao to the spotlight of Philippine tourism, I won’t be surprised if it becomes the tourism capital of the country in no time! How do I prove it? Well, tune in because, in this article, we’re going to discover the fifteen top tourist destinations in Mindanao!
1. Cloud 9 in Siargao
First up! Ah, I think there’s no better way to start this phenomenal list than mentioning the surfers’ haven itself, Siargao Island. Siargao is considered to be the Surfing Capital of the Philippines. You don’t know how to surf yet? Well, don’t worry! There are several surfing lessons offered around the island so you’ll learn in no time. Another thing so good about Siargao is that it’s beautifully preserved. The place isn’t crowded like the other islands in the country so tourists have the perfect chance to appreciate its beauty.
Siargao Island’s Cloud 9 was among the world’s best-surfing spots according to international broadcasting giant, CNN. Be prepared to witness a tropical paradise with Cloud 9’s white-sand beaches, pristine and sky blue waters, tide pools, caves, coves, corals, and many more!
2. Hinatuan Enchanted River
Next up is a truly magical place to be on the island of Mindanao. The Hinatuan Enchanted River or sometimes called the Hinatuan Sacred River baffles the minds of everyone who visits it and at the same time makes them all fall in love with its very own natural beauty.
Hidden somewhere in the jungles of Surigao del Sur, is a deep spring river exuding a miraculous clear blue water. Technically, it can’t be considered a river because of two (2) reasons. Firstly, it is a saltwater river. It flows into the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean. And secondly, it is relatively short to be considered a river. Nevertheless, all those doubts are answered by the name of the river itself because it truly is enchanting.
The best part? The Hinatuan Enchanted River isn’t only for sightseeing. Aside from taking remarkable photos, visitors are allowed to dive and swim on the river! Of course, keep in mind that this tourist spot is a beautiful creation of nature. Let’s do our part and preserve it so future generations can still have a chance to witness it.
3. Tinuy-An Falls
This curtain-like waterfall is hailed as “The Little Niagara Falls of the Philippines”. The stream of water cascades into three (3) separate tiers so tourists have a wide area to explore! In the largest tier of the falls, they also let you ride a bamboo raft to wander nearer to the water drop itself.
Aside from fun activities like swimming, diving, and hiking, the Tinuy-An Falls is also home to an abundant ecosystem consisting of hundreds of different animal and plant species. What a beautiful way to bring us closer to nature, right?
4. Malamawi Island
Malamawi Island is also known as the Hidden Paradise of Basilan for a reason. It is a tropical paradise with a long stretch of white sand beaches filled with turquoise waters and plenty of marine life! It is indeed one of the most beautiful beaches ever in the Philippines.
Unlike other established beaches and islands in the country, Malamawi Island is not that crowded yet. However, several resorts are already starting to develop the island for many years now so you can expect that lots of rooms and cottages are already available by the time of your visit!
The best part about visiting Malamawi Island is that you seemingly have the entire island just for yourself. You can hear the waves crashing, the leaves rustling, and the birds chirping loudly and clearly. Nothing beats a day or two of peace and serenity before you go back to the hustle and bustle of the city, right?
5. Panampangan Island
Who would’ve imagined that the Philippines’ longest sandbar is located at the farthest islands of the country? That’s right, Panampangan Island is a 3,128-kilometer sandbar situated in the province of Tawi-Tawi.
From here, you can clearly see the white sands with the pristine waters of the island. Sometimes during the low tide, the sandbar even connects Panampangan and Basibuli! How beautiful is that?
Tourists love Panampangan Island because of the exclusive ambiance it provides. Yes! It would seem like you’re the only ones on the island, so go ahead and flaunt that sexy body of yours with extreme confidence! The locals there are also some of the most friendly ever, so you’re perfectly safe and secured.
6. Asik-Asik Falls
Nestled in the jungles of Cotabato is one of the natural wonders of nature. The Asik-Asik Falls are found in the mountains of Mount Ragang. What the tourists love about this majestic waterfall is its unique appearance. Instead of having the system of a regular waterfall where the stream of water stems from a river, the water comes from a wall of solid rock filled with lush greeneries and moss!
That’s right. The wall is approximately 140 meters wide and about 60 meters tall. At a sight, the Asik-Asik Falls looks like a green curtain with water flowing from the spots of rocks. That view itself earns the respect of many photographers all over the country, so be sure to try it!
7. Cape of San Agustin
Probably one of the most unique adventures you’re ever gonna try during your visit to Mindanao is climbing atop the lighthouse of the Cape of San Agustin. The view above is just mind-blowing. A 360-degree view of the vast waters of the sea and the mountains of Davao will literally take your breath away. I mean literally because climbing on top of the lighthouse isn’t an easy task, and the wind up there is no joke! However, it’ll all be worth it. I’m sure you will share this story with the next generations in the many years to come.
If you’re not up to climbing the lighthouse, you can still enjoy the raw beauty of the Cape of San Agustin. Take your time and breathe in the freshest air of Mindanao before you get back to the hustle and bustle of the city.
8. The Sunken Cemetery
The Sunken Cemetery is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Mindanao. This magnificent yet intriguing destination is located just off the coast of Cagayan de Oro. The reason? It’s a cemetery. The story of the place and picturesque view of the Sunken Cemetery itself deserves all the attention it gets.
It is said that the place was formed as a resting place for the first settlers of Camiguin who were buried alive during the eruption of Mt. Vulcan. The place is so popular that more tourists are said to be visiting the graves than the relatives of the dead themselves. It is also mentioned that upon entering the area, some people experience a sudden feeling of emptiness and loneliness. So, aside from taking pictures and admiring the view, please offer a prayer to all the lost souls of Camiguin.
9. Lake Sebu
Up next! Aside from being one of the Philippines’ most important watersheds and major irrigation providers, Lake Sebu has also become an integral part of Mindanao’s tourism industry.
The lake itself is a one-stop-shop for a wide variety of fun activities that everyone can enjoy! Waterfall zip lines, multiple falls, lily fields, resort and restaurants, view decks, hiking, and many more are waiting for you. So, go ahead and appreciate nature at its peak!
10. Tinago Falls
Well, yet another magnificent natural attraction can be found in Mindanao! The Tinago Falls is a hidden gem found in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte. In fact, the name “Tinago” itself literally means “to be hidden” which truly speaks for the enchanting and majestic beauty of the falls.
Tinago Falls is 240 feet tall and can only be reached by hiking down some 500 steps below the Agus River. Tourists are often astonished by the pristine beauty of Tinago Falls because the basin full of a greenish-blue pool of water is similar to those famous postcard-worthy spots in Palawan! The cold pool is perfect for swimming and diving aside from taking memorable photos.
Oh, and while you’re at it. Grab the chance to hit two birds with one stone because the ever-famous Maria Cristina Falls is also in Iligan City! Yup, the largest waterfalls in the Philippines, itself.
11. Zamboanga City
Indeed, the entire city of Zamboanga is a huge tourist destination already by itself. Zamboanga is dubbed as “Asia’s Latin City” because the Spanish Influence is evident in every corner of the city. In fact, Spanish has been the official language of the city for a while!
Zamboanga is the third-largest city in the country and is basically the center of industrial and commercial businesses in the south. Having said that, tourists can expect a wide array of shops and businesses like restaurants, malls, and entertainment establishments. However, aside from all those things, Zamboanga is also home to some of the country’s best natural tourist attractions!
Places like the Merloquet Falls, Paseo del Mar, Fort Pilar, and Little Santa Cruz Island are just a few of the more iconic spots that you can find in Zamboanga!
READ: Once Islas in Zamboanga
12. Dahican Beach
Conveniently located within the vicinity of Mati, Davao Oriental is the spectacular Dahican Beach!
Enjoy a 7 kilometer stretch of clean sandy beaches, pristine waters, and tall coconut trees when you stay at this tropical paradise in Mindanao. Aside from engaging in watersports activities like surfing and skimboarding, the beach is also a protected area as it is a breeding ground for pawikans or sea turtles. The name of the beach itself is associated with pawikans because the name “Dahican” comes from the word “Dahik” which describes the act of the sea turtles coming from the sea and to their nests to lay eggs.
READ: Dahican Beach in Davao Oriental
13. Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary
Mount Hamiguitan serves as a sanctuary for some of the globally endangered species of animals and plants. In fact, some of those can only be found specifically on Mount Hamiguitan itself.
Mount Hamiguitan is recognized by the whole world as it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the first-ever World Heritage Site of the Philippines that’s a mountain and comes from Mindanao. Tourists are attracted to this sanctuary because they get to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience of getting closer in touch with our country’s pride, the Philippine Eagle, and other species like the Philippine Cockatoo and other endangered plants and animals.
14. Island Garden City of Samal
Ah, the Island Garden City of Samal. Welcome home to the Philippines’ largest resort city which is home to a total of 30 different resorts featuring an astonishing amount of 1,000 rooms for accommodation!
If you’re planning to visit Mindanao, you’ve gotta get Samal Islands on your list because you will surely have the best time of your life here. Endless engaging activities, a wide variety of cuisines and traditional delights, the best nightlife parties, and tons of festivals are waiting for you! Yes, the Samal Islands are not dubbed as the Island of Festivals for no reason! All year-round, the islands are hosting different traditional festivals such as Kabasan, Hugyaw Madayaw, and Caracoles Festivals!
READ: Samal Island Experience
15. Aliwagwag Falls
Last but definitely not least is another wonder of nature located in Mindanao. What is regarded as the Tallest Waterfall in the Philippines with 84 tiers and towering at approximately 1,110 feet is the spectacular Aliwagwag Falls!
This beautiful spectacle of nature is truly a gift of God. In fact, based on the Mandaya Tribe of Cateel, Aliwagwag falls is a gift from the gods to the townspeople. So, once you’re here, don’t forget to take quality pictures because it would surely seem that you’re in a stairway towards a magical world of an all-new dimension!