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Discovering the Dinagat Islands

The alarm wakes me up at three in the morning. It’s time to get up and catch the 3:30 bus for Surigao City from Butuan City. By 7, the early morning breeze kisses me as I sit in a motorized boat. Today, I am crossing the Pacific Ocean through Surigao Strait. I’m on my way to explore the mythical group of islands in Caraga Region in the Southeastern part of the Philippines.

Dinagat Islands Surigao Philippines Travel Blog
Pangabangan Beach / Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte (Philippines).

The Dinagat Islands

They say that traveling to this place must be done early in the morning to avoid big waves. I’ve heard a lot of stories on how beautiful Dinagat is – unpolluted air, crystal oceans, and white beaches. I was intrigued by all the adjectives my friends used to describe this place – and I can’t wait to see it myself. They told me, too, that there’s an abundance of seafood – and I’m planning to devour as much as I could.

Our first stop was at San Jose, the island’s capital and center of commerce and trade. If you are planning to discover the entire island or go island hopping, you should buy the things you need from here.

Things to do in Dinagat Islands

Visit the Divine Master’s Shrine

Majority of the residents here are members of the religious group called Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association, Inc., (PBMA) founded by Ruben Ecleo, Sr in the ’60s. His family is well-respected in the island, and their names are all over public spaces. Devotees of this fraternal organization frequent this place for their prayers.

Pick sea grapes at Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte (Philippines).
The upper photo is the Blue Lagoon in Dinagat Islands (Philippines).

As the name implies, this tidal pool is just a few feet away from the beach, a hidden paradise on the island of Libjo. Others call this, Pangabangan Tidal Pool because it is in Pangabangan Beach. The beauty of this lagoon surprised me – it is deep blue. I went into its center by rowing a handmade bamboo raft, and it scared me to death. What lurks underneath? That is the question I could never answer unless I’d risk my life diving in there. 😀 Surrounding the lagoon is a crystal clear water teeming with ocean ecology. This is the only place in Dinagat where you can get the freshest sea grapes for free. All you need to do is dive and pick them up for yourself. Hopefully, you are a savvy traveler who packed a bottle of vinegar wherever you go. 😉

Go far from the madding crowd at Kabacungan Beach

I have been to Thailand’s Phi Phi Island, made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie, The Beach, but Kabacungan Beach is impeccably more stunning. Unspoiled and away from the madding crowd, this beach is owned and inhabited by a charming couple in their 60’s. They are very helpful in sharing information on what to do in and around the area. You won’t expect a crowd here, and in most days, you practically own the beach. Bring a tent or food if you want to stay here for a night. I loved basking in the white sands here while sipping on some freshly-harvested tuba (coconut wine). It was just me, the mountains, the white beach, the calm ocean, the coconut trees, and occasional gentle wind. I’ve never enjoyed solitude more than ever, but here. If this is not paradise, I don’t know what this is.

Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte (Philippines). Travel Blog
Top photo: Babalu Beach / Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte (Philippines).

Island Hopping – How much will it cost you?

Bear in mind that these islands are located quite far from each other. So it’s advisable to charter a boat for island hopping if you’re a big group. Or, join a group tour if you are a solo traveler.

Prices for group tours range from ₱2,000-₱2,500, depending on its starting point. This will cover the lite accommodation and food of a 2-day tour. Chartering an outrigger boat can vary from ₱5,000-₱7,000 depending on its size. After a long day of travel, we docked here.

Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte (Philippines).
Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte (Philippines).

Bababu Beach

Nature at its best in this location. It is one of my favorite places here in Dinagat. Only the owner and some family members occupy this beach. The water is so clear, and you can’t get enough taking selfies in it. If you’re the adventurous type, you can trek to Bababu Lake, considered as the longest underwater cave in the Philippines that measures approximately 650 meters and goes out into the open sea. No gears to dive? No problem. You can swim in the brackish water while enjoying the scenic beauty around. Just remember, it is an uphill climb – so it’s not for the faint-hearted traveler.

Duyos Beach

The fantastic Duyos Beach Resort is 45 minutes from Kabacungan Beach. You will never get enough of the massive sandbar in front of the beach itself. It is a great place to relax and unwind after a long day of island hopping. All you need is a cold beer, some fresh seafood – and you feel like a King. On a moonlit night, guests and locals gather at the sandbar, sharing stories on local legends and anything under the moon. If you travel alone, this is a great place to mingle with the rest of the wanderlusters. The accommodation here is pretty basic, but the views will take your breath away. Who needs an aircon when you can enjoy a good night’s sleep with the cold and gentle sea breeze? It is island life like no other.

How to reach the Dinagat Islands

Island-Hopping in Surigao del Norte (Philippines). Travel Blog
Duyos Beach / Dinagat, Surigao del Norte (Philippines).

If you are coming from Cebu City or Manila, daily flights are available to Surigao City. From the airport, take a tricycle that will take you to the pier. If you are on a budget, the Surigao Bus Terminal is just a few steps away. From here, take a jeepney to the dock for ₱9.

Take a ferry to San Jose, Dinagat Islands. Fare is ₱170 for Roro and ₱255 for fast crafts. If you are from Davao or Cagayan de Oro, there is a bus daily that travels to Butuan City. From Butuan, transfer to another bus bound for Surigao City which costs you around ₱230. Then from the terminal, catch a jeepney ( there is only one route so no worries) and tell the driver to drop you off at the pier.

Where to Stay in Dinagat Islands

There are many places to choose from beach houses to hotels. You can book these accommodations via Booking, TripAdvisor, HostelWorld, and Expedia.

Wanna be my guest travel blogger?

Thanks to Joey for this informative travel guest post. This is his second contribution to the blog. If you missed his first article on Camiguin Island, you can read it here. If you have itchy feet, like us, with travel information/photos to share, you are welcome to be my guest blogger.

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