I’ll dare say that Tawi-Tawi is one of the best places you can visit in Mindanao! Whether you’re staying here for 2-3 days or longer, here are the best things you can do in the province of Tawi-Tawi.
P.S. Planning a trip to Tawi-Tawi? Read about our Travel Guide to Tawi-Tawi.
1. Explore Baloboc Rock Shelter
The word “baloboc” came from the sound of waves hitting the rocks.
Baloboc Rock Shelter is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. It served as the shelter of early inhabitants from 5000-8000 years ago. As such, it is an evidence of the movement of people from Southwest Pacific to the Pacific region.
Baloboc Rock Shelter is known for a circular arc where you can take a glimpse of a small beach cove. Near the arc, you can explore a cave with fossilized stalactite formations.
Just walking distance from the rock shelter is the Baloboc view point. Here you can swim through an underwater tunnel to get to the ocean, not unlike the one in Carabao Island. The view here is also amazing. There’s a nearby beach and the surrounding water is so clear that you can see the underwater rocks from above.
Rates: Baloboc Rock Shelter entrance fee is P10 per person.
2. Shop in the public market
The Bongao public market is interesting as it can give you a glimpse of the everyday life in Tawi-Tawi.
Here you can find a barter section featuring products from Malaysia such as malong and other clothing. There’s also the fresh market where you can buy the usual goods as well as food stalls selling grilled fish and native delicacies or kakanin.
3. Buy fresh seafood
There’s plenty of fresh seafood in Tawi-Tawi which you can buy for reasonable prices! You can drop by the public market for shopping. For bulk buys, you may also go to Old Chinese Pier, which is the drop-off location for fresh catches or the bodega.
We stopped by the bodega and were amazed at the large pieces of octopus (pugita), shells, crabs and fish. We bought crabs for P200 per kilo, fish for P350 per kilo and shell for P100 per kilo.
4. See mat weaving art in Badjao Village
The Badjao Village is located near the public market. Here you can see traditional mat weaving using dyed pandan leaves, which is one of the products in Bongao.
5. Visit the Capitol and Municipal Hall
While at the town center, don’t forget to drop by the Capitol and Municipal Hall.
The Capitol can be visited during the day, although our guide Kuya Ben told us it’s better to see it at night when the building lights are on. Meanwhile, in the Municipal Hall you can see the Bongao signage where you can take pictures as remembrance of your visit. There’s also a small souvenir store across the street.
6. Watch the sunset at Bud Bongao
Bud Bongao is the highest peak in the municipality of Bongao. It’s also considered a sacred mountain, as locals do pilgrimage here to pray and meditate. The trek to Bud Bongao takes 45 minutes – 1 hour depending on your pace. The summit rewards with a majestic view of the mainland and southern seas.
Bud Bongao can be visited as part of your town tour.
Rates: Entrance fee is P20 per person. Guide fee is P500.
Read about our Trekking Experience to Bud Bongao.
7. Island hopping
One of the things you shouldn’t miss in Tawi-Tawi is island hopping. In a day, you can visit 3 islands: Panampangan Island (considered the longest sand bar in the Philippines), Simunul Island (the birthplace of Islam) and Sangay Siapo Island (a small island ideal for swimming).
Rates: Boat rental for island hopping costs P9000-12,000 a day (good up to 10 people).
Read about our guide on Island Hopping in Tawi-Tawi.
8. Buy goods at the barter in Panglima Sugala
Every Saturday, a barter is held at the port in Panglima Sugala. The badjao people bring seafood and the rest bring land produce such as fruits and vegetables. Visiting the barter is an authentic experience, as you’ll get to see how the locals live and interact with each other.
An interesting aspect of the barter in Panglima Sugala is that the locals still practice the traditional exchange of goods. Cash is also accepted.
This is honestly one of our best experiences in Tawi-Tawi. I loved seeing all kinds of fresh seafood spread out in lines. Fruits and vegetables are also sold in bunches, either in sacks or hand-woven baskets. There are also food stalls selling local kakanin and refreshments such as fruit shakes and halo-halo.
From Bongao, it takes 45 minutes by land to reach Panglima Sugala and about 2 hours by boat.
9. Visit the town of Sitangkai
Sitangkai is another town in Tawi-Tawi, about 4 hours by boat from Bongao. Sitangkai is unique in that the town is built over the water, so major transportation is done via boats. Sitangkai is also called “The Venice of the Philippines”.
10. Taste native delicacies
Tawi-Tawi shares the same local delicacies as its neighboring Bangsamoro provinces. These include kumukunsi, blua, tinadtag, suman, pastil, dudul, daral and bang-bang sug.
This food is served in lots of eateries in Bongao.
11. Scuba diving
Tawi-Tawi is positioned inside the Coral Triangle, which is considered the most biodiverse area in the world. This makes it a great place for scuba divers. There are various dive spots scattered along this island province, including the Kubbung Dive Site and Pahut Plane Wreck Dive Site.
You may contact Tawi-Tawi Diver’s Club for more details.
That’s our list of top things to do in Tawi-Tawi! Do you have questions or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below!