It is every Filipino traveler’s goal to hop to as many islands as possible, checking out what each one has to offer. If you’re looking for this kind of back-to-back adventure, Surigao City, dubbed as “The City of Island Adventures”, is where you need to be heading to. Surigao boasts of 17 islands and islets along with 21 villages, which means there are a ton of beaches, coves, and caves to explore!
But first, a quick geography lesson. Surigao City is far from the iconic Enchanted River in Hinatuan and Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig, which are both of which are in Surigao del Sur province. Surigao City is also different from the famed surfing island of Siargao, although they belong to the same parent province–Surigao del Norte. Surigao City is the capital of Surigao del Norte and is the gateway to the many islands nearby.
1. Pebble and Rock Beaches
The city’s most accessible, most photographed and cheapest getaways, these beaches are situated in the coastal barangays of Looc and Mabua-Ipil, both peppered with smooth, multi-sized pebbles and rocks. They are dissected by a low cliff which you can climb for a sweeping view of the sea, the hills and the two beaches.
2. Day-Asan Floating Village
Surrounded by a 550-hectare mangrove forest, Day-Asan is a village on stilts. You can enjoy the sceneries it has to offer by going on a two-hour pump boat cruise which will let you discover concealed pockets of fine beaches, areas for kayaking and stand-up paddling, and aquaculture farms that raise premium lobster.
3. Buenavista Cave
Some 30 minutes away from Surigao City by boat is Hikdop Island where you’ll find Buenavista Cave. Living up to its name (which means “good view” in Spanish), it has impressive stalagmites, stalactites, and the gleaming “King’s Throne” (a formation that looks like a chair) for spelunkers to feast their eyes on.
4. Pagkawasan Beach
Located in the adjacent cove, Pagkawasan Beach is where tourists from Buenavista Cave laze around, eat lunch and snorkel in the coral gardens just a few meters away. The shore is just about 75 meters long, but its powdery sand and secluded location will take you away to a different time and space.
5. Punta Bilar
Plunge into this scuba diving spot and be amazed by the lush marine sanctuary that lies beneath, teeming with dense coral reefs, nudibranchs, notably the “Spanish dancer”, juvenile bamboo sharks, moray eels, cuttlefishes, and octopuses. If you are not a certified diver yet, you can simply snorkel and be similarly amazed by the aquatic life.
6. Silop Caves
This cave system, 20 minutes away from the city proper, is a terrestrial wonder with 12 chambers and awesome limestone formations that are fit even for beginners. A few years back, Silop Caves was the host venue for the annual congress of the Philippine Speleological Society, the archipelago’s federation of cavers.
7. Museo nan Surigao Heritage Center
Sitting at the far end of Surigao Boulevard, Museo nan Surigao gives you a glimpse of the city’s past. It also showcases the archaeological, geological and mineral treasures of the city, (it was “Asia’s nickel capital” at one point in time), as well as that of the Surigao provinces.
8. Battle of Surigao Strait Museum
Standing at the Luneta Park, Battle of Surigao Strait Museum chronicles World War II’s last major naval encounter where US forces routed the Japanese Navy in 1944 after Douglas MacArthur’s return. It has a collection of vintage photos, scale models of warships, and excavated war material which take you back to the historic battle.
9. Mamanwa Tribal Village
While this is not your usual scenic tourist spot, this settlement in Brgy. Mat-i will give you an understanding of the indigenous way of life of the Mamanwa tribe, the aboriginal settlers of the Surigao and Agusan provinces.
10. Bonok-Bonok Maradjaw Karadjaw Festival
Surigao’s rich culture is showcased in this cultural event, a ritual dance that originated from the Mamanwa tribe. Bonok-Bonok means heavy downpour, while Maradjaw Karadjaw means all the very best, based on folk belief that heavy rains bring a bountiful harvest. It is usually held on September 9, rain or shine, a day before the city’s patronal feast of San Nicolas Tolentino on September 10.
Where to Stay:
Budget travelers can settle in at Le Chard Place which is just a few steps away from the airport and the bus terminal. While those who want a more luxurious experience can stay at Philippine Gateway Hotel, The Grande Suites, or Hotel Tavern Surigao which has a live band. For a beach setting in the outskirts, Almont Beach Resort and Fiesta Resort Surigao are your best bets.
Surigao City, Surigao del Norte
+63 86 826 1283
Surigao City, Surigao del Norte
+63 86 826 6396
Where to Eat:
Indulge in the city’s array of dining outlets offering kinilaw (raw seafood dish) and grilled seafood. Ocean Bounties Seafood Market is the hands-down choice for fresh and succulent harvest from the sea. Other affordable options are Same Place, Islands Seafood Restaurant, Bugsay Seafood Restaurant, and Bastie Coffeeshop.
Surigao can be reached by air from Cebu via Cebu Pacific or Pal Express, or by sea via Cokaliong Shipping Lines. You can also fly to Butuan City and then take a 3-hour van ride from the airport to Surigao.