Dinagat Islands: Caraga’s Mystical Island Province
Places to see and explore in Dinagat Islands
Being one of the youngest provinces in the Philippines, Dinagat Islands is also new to the tourism scene. Since its inception in 2006, the province has slowly been appearing on everyone’s bucket list. As it is one of the smallest provinces, too, in Mindanao composed of only 7 municipalities, the province is full of undiscovered natural wonders waiting to be explored. Without keeping you reading for too long, here are some of the amazing places we have visited during our short stay:
Municipality of Libjo
Hagakhak Rock Formation (Little Hagakhak Island)
The Hagakhak Rock Formations are some of the most interesting tourist spots in Libjo. These idyllic and interestingly carved rock formations are reminiscent of that of Animasola Island in San Pascual, Masbate. It has been carved by waves for centuries past as it faces the open waters of the Surigao Strait. Every spot on the island, I can say, is perfect for the gram and is best visited during weekdays as there are only a few people only touring the island. The environmental fee on the island is ₱ 20.
Punta Buena Suerte Resort
This hidden resort tucked in the lush greens at the tip of Libjo is an attraction that should not be missed when you visit Dinagat Islands. Punta Buena Suerte Resort offers a good 180-degree view of the waters below and it features several picturesque spots within the property as well. We were toured around by their guide, kuya Clifford, and he led us to the different points of interest within the resort. The tour fee at the resort is ₱ 30. As of now this writing, the resort is under renovation because of the onslaught of typhoon Rai (Odette) last December 2021.
If you are in for a more interesting and not-so-known tourist spot in Libjo, the Miracle Pool is the answer. This subterranean pool is found inside a shallow cave with interesting rock formations and the cool freshwater adds to the experience. You can rent a lifevest for only ₱ 50 and enjoy the surrounding waters outside the Miracle Pool. There are also a lot of calcite deposits in the area which the locals call “white diamond.”
Punta Villa Nature Resort
Located just 2 kilometers south of Pangabangan Island, Punta Villa Nature Resort is one of the biggest resorts in the province. The resort is luckily surrounded by islets and clear blue waters which adds value to the place. As of this writing, the resort is also temporarily closed due to renovations and repairs brought about by typhoon Rai (Odette) in December 2021.
AO Beach View Resort, Pangabangan Peak, and Pangabangan Blue Lagoon
What defines the beauty of Dinagat Islands, for me personally, is the Pangabangan Blue Lagoon as seen from Pangabangan Peak. This tidal pool is one of the most beautiful places in Dinagat Islands and the calmness of the place just makes the feeling more surreal. From the peak, too, you can see several islets enveloping the lagoon and it also gives you a glimpse of the neighboring islands in the area. You just need to register at the AO Beach View Resort and pay ₱ 20 entrance fee. The resort is open from 0700 H to 1700 H daily. You can also harvest and eat “lato” or fresh seaweeds while enjoying the natural view of the lagoon and shoreline.
Jelmar’s Islet Resort
Considered one of the most visited resorts in the province, Jelmar’s Islet Resort is an attraction on its own. Its iconic bamboo stilt bridges leading to the main resort are one of the places that are perfect for the gram. It has its own islet and a fish pen where visitors can enjoy viewing. You only need to pay ₱ 20 entrance fee (for excursion guests). They have different prices for guests staying in for the night.
Places you can also visit in Libjo:
– Kisses Islets
Municipality of Basilisa
Bababu Beach (and Lake Bababu)
This natural cove tucked in one of the natural shores of Basilisa is Bababu Beach. The calm coastline of Babas Cove is so welcoming that it feels like you own the whole beach! An added attraction in the area is Lake Bababu which is about 700 meters from the shore. The property is owned by Sir Survic Langit and they only charge ₱ 20 entrance fee.
Cabacongan Cove (Unib Island)
The unlimited fine white sand of the cove and its serene landscape makes Cabacongan Cove one of the more relaxing places to stay in Basilisa. Found in the northern part of Unib Island, the perfect blend of nature here is *chef’s kiss!* It is amazing how the province of Dinagat Islands does not run out of pristine shores combined with peaceful nature surrounding the beautiful landscapes. All I said during the tour was “wow!” They also charge ₱ 20 entrance fee and there is a separate fee for cottage rentals (just ask the owner/caretaker).
Duyos Camping Resort (Unib Island)
Duyos Camping Resort is also one of the more popular destinations in Basilisa. Our guide, kuya Percing told us that people from Surigao City can go straight here if they want to spend a weekend vacation on the island. The fine white sand of the island makes the place more attractive and its location is ideal for a quick getaway. It also overlooks the uninhabited Licoco island. The entrance fee is only ₱ 20 (for day tours) and their cottages are at ₱ 700 and their rooms are at ₱ 1,500 (for overnight guests).
Bitaog Beach (Unib Island)
The small cove of Bitaog Beach is what makes the shoreline more memorable. As the property only consists of a few cottages for rent, you can also explore the beach through its rock formations overlooking the nearby waters. Its simple facade is intimidating but its crystal clear waters would surely be a warm welcome to everyone who visits. They only charge ₱ 20 entrance fee (for day tours) and ₱ 800 (for cottage rentals).
Pagkawasan Beach Resort (Unib Island)
One of the bigger resorts that anyone can visit is the Pagkawasan Beach Resort, also located on Unib island. This resort has a wide array of must-sees and -dos including its upscaled green garden, its white sand beach, and its numerous cottages. Fortunately, when we visited the area, there were no visitors at that time because it is a weekday but the caretaker of the beach resort told us that the property gets full, especially on weekends and holidays. The entrance fee is only ₱ 20 (for day tours), ₱ 500 (for day tours with cottage rental), and ₱ 1,500 (for overnight guests).
The Rubenian Farm was once a vast property of a cooperative that produces local crops within the province of the Dinagat Islands. The farm offers a 180-degree view of the towns of Basilisa and San Jose below, together with the province’s outlying islands. Its breathtaking landscape reminds me of home because the mountainous terrain leading to the farm is an adventure on its own.
Places you can also visit in Basilisa:
– Banuyo Beach
– Lake Bababu
Municipality of San Jose
Dinagat Islands Provincial Capitol
The Dinagat Islands Provincial Capitol is the seat of government of the whole island. Strategically situated up the hill, it overlooks the municipality capital of San Jose. It is one of the smallest provincial capitols I have seen and unfortunately, when I visited, the capitol building has not yet recovered from the wrath of typhoon Rai and damaged infrastructure can still be seen. Hopefully, they get to fix it and return the grandeur of the place.
Built within the stark contrast of shanties and the shorelines of San Jose, the Islander’s Castle was built by the prominent Ecleo family in Dinagat Islands. Though the property cannot be visited by the public inside, it can still be viewed from its gates from a distance. It is the residence of Governor Glenda Ecleo, the widow of Ruben Ecleo, Sr. who founded the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA). It is also locally known as the “White Castle.”
PBMA Shrine and Guitar Pool
The PBMA Shrine (Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association) is the headquarters of the religious organization, founded by Ruben Ecleo, Sr. (the “Divine Master”) in Barangay Aurelio, San Jose. Known to its believers as the “Holy Land,” this religious group has over 150,000 followers locally and internationally. There is also a dress code observed within the premises of the shrine: for males – pants and a shirt, and for females – skirts, enclosed shoes, and no sleeveless shirts. Its manicured gardens tell the believers’ devotion to the Divine Master and its view from above overlooking the town below is also breathtaking.
Port of San Jose
The Port of San Jose is one of the major ports in the province of Dinagat Islands. This small port services a few shipping lines going to and from Surigao City and other neighboring towns. Fortunately, when we were Surigao-bound, only a few people rode the boat that’s why we seated quite comfortably inside.
Places you can also visit in San Jose:
– Santa Cruz Beach
– Llamera Beach
– Sidewalk Refreshments
*For our land tour in Dinagat Islands, we recommend kuya Jun Lauron and his bao-bao and you can contact him at +63 956 740 2023. For our island hopping tour, we got the services of Kuya Percing and you can contact him at +63 948 545 4730 / +63 915 725 6641 / +63 946 587 7825.
Where to eat in Dinagat Islands
Since there are limited restaurants in Dinagat islands, eateries and makeshift stalls are more common here. But nonetheless, their food selections here are just as good:
Rey Goto King Mami and Eatery
This eatery in Poblacion, San Jose is one of the best eateries in the area. This is where we bought our food (from breakfast to dinner) and their viands are tasty as hell. We enjoyed their lutong-bahay menu and their food choices are just tasty. We got a hefty 4-viand meal with rice at only ₱ 150 each!
Tito Roy’s Inasal Cafe
Mabuhay Dina Gat Restaurant
Jeri’s Restaurant and Pizzeria
Torresco Grill and Restaurant
Twindales Food House
Joy’s Food Corner
Tri-Jane Food House and Catering
Ludean’s Food House
Brodie’s Resto and Cafe
Where to stay in Dinagat Islands
There are also numerous accommodations found in Dinagat Islands, mostly concentrated in the town of San Jose:
JBN Seaside Inn
This unassuming accommodation in San Jose is one of the quaint and simple accommodation options in Dinagat Islands. Though the entrance to the Inn is quite unexpected (as it is located behind a hardware store), the rooms are well-appointed and cleaned and you get to live with the family of the owner, too (who are very welcoming by the way). This is one of the more recommended inns in San Jose whenever tourists visit because of its cheap price.
Along D’ Road Homestay
Pink House Hotel
JMalls Island Tourist Inn
3RJ Pension House
JVL Lodging Inn
Sample Dinagat Islands Itinerary
|0600 – 0700 H||Surigao Boulevard Port – San Jose Port|
|0700 – 0800 H||Check-in at accommodation / Freshen up|
|0800||Start of Island Hopping Tour / Buy Brunch|
|0830 – 0930 H||Hagakhak Rock Formations|
|1000 – 1100 H||Punta Buena Suerte Resort / Eat Brunch|
|1130 – 1230 H||Miracle Pool|
|1300 – 1330 H||Punta Villa Nature Resort|
|1400 – 1500 H||Pangabangan Blue Lagoon / View Deck (AO Beach View Deck Resort)|
|1515 – 1630 H||Jelmar’s Islet resort|
|1730 H||ETA Don Ruben Port / Buy Dinner|
|1830 – 2000 H||Dinner / Freshen Up|
|0500 – 0600 H||Freshen Up / Buy Breakfast|
|0630 – 0730 H||Bababu Beach (optional: Bababu Lake)|
|0800 – 0830 H||Cabacongan Cove / Eat Breakfast|
|0900 – 0930 H||Duyos Camping Resort|
|1000 – 1030 H||Bitaog Beach|
|1100 – 1130 H||Pagkawasan Beach Resort|
|1200 – 1230 H||Freshen Up / Check out at accommodation / Start of Land Tour|
|1230 – 1330 H||Rubenian Farm / View Deck|
|1400 – 1500 H||Islander’s Castle + PBMA Shrine|
|1515 – 1600 H||Dinagat Islands Provincial Capitol|
|1615 – 1715 H||San Jose Port – Surigao Boulevard Port|
*Note that prices indicated and status of establishments in this blog may change without prior notice. If you notice some changes, you can e-mail me here so I can dish things out! Thank you!*
We’re born to travel!