I’ve backpacked across the Philippines and nothing compares to the beauty of Mindanao — from its breath-taking nature attractions such as Asik-Asik Falls and Magpupungko Pool to its vibrant towns and cities brimming with unique culture, good food, and even their own dialect. Mindanao is also home to different indigenous tribes in the country so it’s a great destination for cultural immersion and education.
Aside from nature, city, and cultural tours, Mindanao also hosts some of the best local festivals in the country including Kadayawan Festival in Davao and Zamboanga Hermosa Festival in Zamboanga City.
Here we’ve selected the best tourist spots in Mindanao that you should add to your bucket list!
- 1. Cloud 9
- 2. Tinuy-An Falls
- 3. Enchanted River
- 4. Zamboanga City
- 5. Lake Sebu
- 6. White Island
- 7. Cagayan River
- 8. Lake Holon
- 9. Asik-Asik Falls
- 10. Magpupungko Rock Pools
- 11. Sugba Lagoon
- 12. Sohoton Cove
- 13. Mount Apo
- 14. Dahican Beach
- 15. Sunken Cemetery
- 16. Great Sta. Cruz Island
- 17. Malamawi Island
- 18. Bud Bongao
- 19. Jolo
- 20. Tinago Falls
- 21. Aliwagwag Falls
- 22. Mount Hamiguitan
- 23. Philippine Eagle Center
- 24. Eden Nature Park
- 25. Dinagat Islands
1. Cloud 9
Location: Siargao, Surigao del Norte
This surfing haven is visited by tourists from all over the world for its laid-back vibes, gorgeous views, and of course big waves that are ideal for both beginner and professional surfers.
Cloud 9 is located in General Luna, the central tourist hub in Siargao Island. Its landmark is a boardwalk where you can enjoy the scenic ocean view and wait for the sunset. It’s surrounded by resorts, shops, and restaurants and bar, which makes it the best place to stay at in the island.
The best months for surfing start from September to November. There is also an annual surfing competition held every October.
2. Tinuy-An Falls
Location: Bislig, Surigao del Sur
Tinuy-An Falls is one of the most recognizable waterfalls in the Philippines. It’s a wide curtain waterfall measuring 95 meters wide and 180 feet deep. It has three layers, the second one of which is the biggest and where there are bamboo rafts that you can take to get close to the waterfall drop.
Aside from its tourism value, Tinuy-An Falls is also an important part of the local ecosystem as it is home to different flora and fauna, some of which are considered endangered.
3. Enchanted River
Location: Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur
There is truly something magical about the beauty of Enchanted River. Located in the quiet town of Hinatuan in Surigao del Sur, this body of water remains a mystery. Its true depth remains unknown, although divers have attempted (and failed) to explore in the past.
This nature attraction is open to visitors daily. Although the main pool is closed to the public for preservation, there is a designated area just a few meters away. You can swim in the refreshing water and snorkel to see the schools of fishes underneath. It’s also interesting to see the fish feeding done every afternoon.
4. Zamboanga City
Ahhh, the colorful city of Zamboanga City. There are so many places to see and things to do in this city that a few days can go by quickly!
Zamboanga City is the third-largest city in the Philippines and the commercial center in the south. It’s also the gateway to the nearby provinces of Basilan and Tawi-Tawi. Here you can explore local attractions such as Fort Pilar, Yakan Weaving Village, and Paseo del Mar. You can also visit its local food hubs to taste local cuisine rooted from indigenous culture, Malaysian- or Spanish-influenced heritage dishes, and fresh seafood such as the famous curacha with alavar sauce. If you’re itching for a nature trip, you can go on a day trip to the Great Sta. Cruz Island, Merloquet Falls, and Once Islas.
Aside from these, this city also celebrates one of the best festivals in the country — the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival, a month-long festivity done in honor of Our Lady of the Pillar.
5. Lake Sebu
Location: South Cotabato
Lake Sebu is a beautiful community in South Cotabato where a Tboli indigenous tribe resides. It is also called the “Land of the Dreamweavers,” referring to the Tboli’s traditional art of weaving.
There are many things to do in Lake Sebu. One of course is to meet the Tbolis and learn their way of living and their culture, art, and dances. You can also wear their traditional attire and proudly take photos of it while in the community and in a boat over the lake while being surrounded by beautiful lotus blooms. Lastly, you can explore the surrounding areas and trek the nature trails or visit two of the Seven Falls, which is one of the highlights of visiting this province.
6. White Island
Another spot for beach lovers, White Island is a white-sand sandbar surrounded by clear blue waters, located a few minutes from the mainland in Camiguin. It is originally boomerang shaped, but its shape changes along with the tide every year.
White Island is a great place to beach bum, swim, and take pictures. Though there are no establishments here, there are umbrellas you can rent for shade and vendors selling fresh sea urchin and cool drinks for refreshment.
It’s a nice day trip from the town and is often included in tours in Camiguin Island.
7. Cagayan River
Location: Cagayan de Oro
One of the best outdoor adventures you can do in Mindanao is white water rafting. For this, head to Cagayan de Oro where you can find outfitters that will take you to the Cagayan River for white water rafting.
Choose between the beginner and advanced courses and spend an afternoon navigating the river and the wild rapids. You can also ask for a boodle fight arrangement along the river for a complete experience.
For beginners, the best time to go is from February to May when the river is calm. Those who want a little more challenge can go during the rainy months of July to December.
8. Lake Holon
Location: South Cotabato
Also known as the Crown Jewel of the South, Lake Holon is a beautiful crater lake in Mount Parker, South Cotabato. It is also home to the Tboli Tribe, an indigenous local tribe in Mindanao.
Unlike your usual tourist attractions, it’s challenging to visit Lake Holon. You need to trek in the mountains to reach the view deck and then climb down to the lakeside, where there is a community and camping site for visitors. Here you can mingle with the locals to get to know more about their lifestyle, swim and kayak at the lake, and enjoy stargazing at the clear night sky.
9. Asik-Asik Falls
Location: North Cotabato
Asik-Asik Falls is a stunning sight to behold — streams of water running down a verdant mountain cliff, looking straight out of a storybook. This is definitely one of the top tourist spots in Mindanao that you should see for yourself!
This waterfall derived its name from the Hiligaynon word asik-asik (“sprinkle sprinkle”). It was already known by the locals but was only discovered by the public when a photo of it was submitted in a national geography contest in 2012. Since then, it has been one of the best tourist attractions in North Cotabato.
There is no water basin in Asik-Asik Falls, but you can sit in a boulder under the streams for a waterfall shower or swim in the river that runs beneath it.
10. Magpupungko Rock Pools
Location: Siargao, Surigao del Norte
Magpupungko Rock Pools was a popular swimming hole for locals. Over the years, it has risen to become one of the top attractions in Siargao.
Here you can find gorgeous natural pools surrounded by interesting rock formations. The water is so clear and refreshing that you’ll immediately want to dive in!
Magpupungko Rock Pools is located inside a resort. It has a modest in-house restaurant where you can buy food and drinks. Make sure to time your visit here because the tidal pool is only visible during low tide.
11. Sugba Lagoon
Location: Siargao, Surigao del Norte
To be honest, everything in Siargao is a must-visit and so it is not a surprise that another spot makes it on this list.
Sugba Lagoon is a beautiful lagoon with a floating cottage and restaurant, a diving board where you can jump directly to the water, and watersport rental facilities including kayak and paddleboard. It’s a great place for a swim, a kayaking tour, and generally a place to rest and enjoy the beauty of the island.
12. Sohoton Cove
Location: Bucas Grande, Surigao del Norte
Sohoton Cove National Park is an otherworldly maze of lush islets and caves. It’s only an hour away from Siargao by boat, making it easily accessible as a day or overnight trip.
Here you can kayak in the Blue Lagoon with its clear blue water, venture deep in Crystal Cave or dive underwater to get inside Hagukan Cave, or take a dinghy into the stingless jellyfish lake. Don’t forget to visit the floating restaurant for delicious seafood and Filipino meals to replenish yourself during your adventure.
13. Mount Apo
Location: Davao del Sur and North Cotabato
Rising over 2965 MASL, Mount Apo is considered the highest mountain in the Philippines. It spans across the provinces of Davao del Sur and North Cotabato.
Mount Apo features different landscapes, from streams and swamps to mossy forests and rocky terrains. Only experienced mountain climbers are advised to go here, as it is considered a major climb with a difficulty of 7/9. The climb from the trailhead to the summit and back usually takes 3 days.
14. Dahican Beach
Location: Davao Oriental
The Philippines features countless beautiful beaches, and one of them is Dahican Beach in Davao. It features a crescent-shaped shoreline and big waves that make it popular among surfers and skimboarders. It’s also a nice option for people who just want to beach bum or get away from the noise of the city for a while.
15. Sunken Cemetery
The Sunken Cemetery is one of the top tourist attractions in Camiguin Island. Here you can see a giant cross rising atop the sea, which is said to mark the resting place of the island’s first settles who were buried alive during the eruption of Mount Vulcan in the 1870s.
You can take a boat to reach the Sunken Cemetery or watch at the shore for its sunset views. You can also swim and snorkel around the area, where you can find colorful corals and fishes.
16. Great Sta. Cruz Island
Location: Zamboanga City
The Great Sta. Cruz Island, also known as the Pink Beach of Zamboanga, is a must-visit for beach lovers around the world. It has a pinkish-sand shore which is due to the presence of crushed red corals mixed in the sands.
This island is a great day trip destination from the city. It’s easy to get to, since it only requires a 15- to 20-minute boat ride from the port. Once at the island, feel free to take a break with the scenic view, take pictures of the colorful vintas (traditional boats), or swim at the crystal-clear beach. There is also a nearby mangrove area where you can kayak and an underwater snorkel spot open for snorkeling and diving.
17. Malamawi Island
If you’re dreaming of visiting Basilan, one of the spots you should visit is Malamawi Island. This resort features a white-sand beach, baby-blue water, and a long boardwalk where you can take pictures.
You can go here for a day trip and visit another one of Basilan’s hidden gems: Lampinigan Island. Or you can stay overnight in the resort’s rooms and cottages.
18. Bud Bongao
Bud Bongao is a sacred mountain located in the coastal province of Tawi-Tawi. It’s a must-visit destination for hikers and those interested in culture and history — it is said that two followers of an Arabic merchant who taught Islam are buried in the shrines in this mountain, and today it is visited by locals who wish to pray and meditate.
It takes an hour to reach the summit of Bud Bongao. A scenic view of the town including the bridge connecting two islands can be seen from above. It’s also a great place to view sunsets.
Jolo is the capital of Sulu Province, one of the most underrated destinations in the Philippines. The main charm of this coastal town is in its unique food, culture, and architecture.
Here you can taste its local delicacies (such as the bangbang, a set of Tausug pastries), stroll along the local market, and visit the capitol and church. You can also take a boat trip to discover the islands in Panglima Tahil, which are some of the most beautiful and pristine islands in the country. There are also white-sand beach destinations nearby that can easily rival the kinds of Boracay.
Take note that visits in Sulu should be coordinated with the local tourism office first.
20. Tinago Falls
Location: Iligan City, Lanao del Norte
Tinago Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls you can find in the Philippines. Don’t be deceived by its name though — Tinago Falls (Hidden Falls) is far from being a secret. In fact, it’s one of the most famous attractions in Illigan City in Mindanao, visited by locals who want to witness its magnificence.
This waterfall is about 420 feet high, with a wide basin filled with deep-cold water where you can swim to your heart’s content. Around the waterfall are food stalls and tables where you can rest and eat while appreciating the waterfall view. There are also rafts that can take you to the stream itself, so you can experience bathing underneath the falls.
21. Aliwagwag Falls
Location: Davao Oriental
Aliwagwag Falls is a sight to behold. It stands at about 1100 feet with over 80 tiers, making it the highest waterfall in the Philippines.
This is a great place to swim and enjoy the nature. For more adventure, you can ride the 680-meter long zipline across the waterfall and cross the monkey bridge where you can view the rushing waterfalls below.
Aside from being a tourist attraction in Davao, this waterfall also provides water for irrigation to the surrounding rice fields and renewable hydropower to local communities.
22. Mount Hamiguitan
Location: Davao Oriental
Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is a UNESCO World Heritage Site found in San Isidro, Davao Oriental. It features interesting landscapes, including a pygmy forest — one of the few existing in the world. It’s also home to various flora and fauna, some of which is endemic to the area, as well as the Philippine Eagle, Philippine Cockatoo, and more.
Reaching the summit and back requires a 3-day trek. If the activity is not for you, you can instead visit the Mount Hamiguitan Natural Science Museum instead or arrange for a day trip to the waterfalls and natural pools in the surrounding forest.
23. Philippine Eagle Center
Location: Davao City
The Philippine Eagle Center is a wildlife breeding center located at the foothills of Mount Apo in Davao City. Spanning 8.4 hectares, it aims to provide shelter to the Philippine Eagle, which is considered an endangered species. It’s also home to other birds, macaques, and crocodiles.
The center offers a free guided tour to the facilities. You can also ask for a falconry demonstration to see the birds in flight or schedule a Keeper Talk to know more about the center, their work, and the eagles.
24. Eden Nature Park
Location: Davao City
The Eden Nature Park is a recreational park located at the southern end of Davao City. It’s a place for families or friends to relax and unwind, enjoy the mountain views, and of course engage in various outdoor activities.
The park features 11 attractions: Amphitheater, Birdwalk, Deer Park, Flower Garden, Hiking Trail, Lola’s Garden, Hydroponics, Playground, Butterfly Garden, Tinubdan, and Bamboo Maze. It also has several dining options, such as the Fishing Village where you can catch your own fish for cooking and the Vista Restaurant where you can enjoy food with a view.
You can visit Eden Nature Park as a day trip while staying in Davao City. Better yet, book one of their overnight accommodations to experience everything that it offers.
25. Dinagat Islands
Location: Dinagat Island
Dinagat Islands is another underrated destination in Mindanao. It features pristine beach coves, lakes, and lagoons. Tourists who’ve explored the area often liken it to a raw version of El Nido in Palawan.
Some of the places you can visit here is Lake Bababu, Pangabangan Tidal Pool, and several beaches including Bitaog Beach, Cabacungan Cove, and Hagakhak Island.
There are a few resorts where you can stay at for your island hopping trip in Dinagat Islands. Make room for your calendar because the recommended stay to explore its best spots is 3 days at least.
That ends our list of the best tourist spots in Mindanao! Do you have other places to add? Let us know in the comments section below!
Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).