Mindanao, the second-largest Philippines primary island after Luzon, encompasses the southernmost part of the archipelago. It's the farthest island region from the capital Manila but you'll find many stunning natural wonders here that will surely be worth the trip.
Mindanao's largest city is Davao, which showcases the conservation area for the Philippine Eagle, the country's national bird. Davao is also home to the colorful Kadayawan Festival, one of the major festivals in the Philippines.
Some of the top breathtaking tourist spots in Mindanao and also some of the best places to visit in the Philippines include the laidback surfing hotspot called Siargao Island, the tropical beaches of Samal Island dubbed the largest resort city, the small but beautiful island of Camiguin that's blessed with white-sand beaches, and the multitude of waterfalls in Iligan. Mindanao is also home to some of the top island hopping in the Philippines. As a mountainous region, Mindanao is also home to Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the country and famous for hiking tours.
Thanks to the geographical features of the Philippines, the most convenient way to go to the islands of Mindanao is by plane. There are regular flights from Manila and select international airports to Davao City's International Airport, Cagayan de Oro's Laguindingan International Airport, Zamboanga's International Airport, and Siargao's Sayak Airport.
Home to the critically endangered bird species, the Philippine Eagle, the Philippine Eagle Centre is an 8-hectare wildlife breeding center in Davao City that shelters the only captive eagles in the country. From massive aviaries to smaller cages for other endemic birds, the world-class park features enclosures and towering aviary duplexes resembling those in Singapore Zoo.
Aside from eagles, this wildlife shelter also shelters macaques and crocodiles. For more than 20 years, the Philippine Eagle Centre has been educating its guests about the importance of preserving the haribon and its habitat. The wildlife center has a free guided tour with lectures about the eagles.
Guests who want to see raptors in action can request a falconry demonstration. The park also offers lectures about its captive breeding program and its current field research about the last remaining eagles in the wild.
Another must-see attraction in Davao is the Aliwagwag Falls Eco Park, one of the most scenic waterfalls in the Philippines. It boasts the highest waterfalls in the Philippines, the 84-tiered Aliwagwag Falls, which stands at 1,110 feet and features over 130 cascades.
Apart from swimming, you can try riding a 680-meter long and 180 feet high zipline across the waterfalls. You may also opt to cross the Monkey Bridge with a view of the falls rushing beneath you.
Aliwagwag Falls provides a source of irrigation for rice fields surrounding the area and renewable hydropower for communities in Davao Oriental. Before the eco-park was developed, the only way to get there was by passing through the Cateel River.
One of the most beautiful waterfalls as told in Philippine history books is the Maria Cristina Falls, also called the Twin Falls. The 320-foot cascade is a sight to behold in Iligan, which is also known as the City of Majestic Waterfalls. According to the legend, Maria and Cristina are beautiful twin sisters who fell in love with the same man.
Maria Cristina Falls supplies 70% of Mindanao’s electricity. It is regulated by the National Power Corporation (NPC), which developed a National Power Nature Park connected to the waterfalls. Guests can try rock climbing and trekking. Swimming is strictly prohibited because of the strong current.
You may also opt to have a picnic by the Agus River. There is even a restaurant and cafe inside the park. If you’re looking for some adrenaline rush, you can ride a zipline. Then, stroll along the Botanical and Zoological Garden to get a close encounter with ostriches, monkeys, and crocodiles.
The Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte, commonly known as Samal Island, is the largest resort city in the Philippines that houses more than 30 resorts with over 1,000 rooms. Teeming with vibrant coral reefs and crystal clear blue waters, Samal Island boasts white-sand beaches like Kaputian Beach, Vanishing Island, and Talikud Island.
During low tide, you can walk over the so-called Vanishing Island. At Talikud Island, you can go scuba diving, snorkeling, or just lounge on its long stretch of powdery white-sand beach. You can also go hiking at Mt. Puting Bato and go spelunking at Baga, Magongawong, and Balete Caves.
Take a dip at Hagimit Falls, featuring 3-feet to 7-feet deep cascades with natural pools. Then, explore Monfort Bat Cave to see thousands of fruit-eating bats.
Featuring unique pink sand, the Santa Cruz Island of Zamboanga City boasts its own Pink Beach. As the name implies, the sand gets its pinkish color from the crushed red organ pipe coral washed ashore. Santa Cruz Island also features a small inland lagoon surrounded by century-old mangrove trees.
Teeming with vibrant marine life and calm blue waters, the Pink Beach serves as an ideal scuba diving and snorkeling site. The City Tourism Office provides dive guides for guests who seek prior dive registration. Camping is not allowed on the beach, and there is no accommodation available on the island.
To get to the famed Pink Beach, you have to take a 15 to 20-minute boat ride from Paseo Del Mar, which is only 5.2KM away from Santa Cruz Island. Upon arrival, you can lounge on the beach, take some photos, and swim in the crystal clear waters. If it’s low tide, you can pass by the small sandbar on the island.
Photo by Department of Tourism
Up next is an agri-tourism resort in Davao City, the Malagos Garden Resort. It is a 12-hectare lush greenery resort that makes you feel closer to nature. What makes it one of the leading recreational resorts in Davao is its exciting multitude of activities like skating, horseback riding, animal feeding, and vegetable harvesting.
Malagos Garden Resort caters to couples, barkadas (group of friends), and families who want to unwind and break free from the ordinary. Kids and adults young at heart can explore the resort’s signature attractions: Chocolate Museum, Chocolate Laboratory, Chocolate Park, Museo De Mariposa, Butterfly Sanctuary, Bird Feeding Dome, Petting Zoo, and Treeline Birdwatching Deck.
The Chocolate Museum, which was opened in 2017, lets you have a glimpse of the history behind the world-class homegrown cacao chocolate bar. You may also try decorating your own chocolate bars at the Chocolate Laboratory. Then, you can strike a pose behind life-size statues of chocolates and cupcakes at the Chocolate Park.
Photo by Eden Nature Park
Nestled at the southern end of Davao City, Eden Nature Park is a 40-hectare mountain resort sitting at 3,000 feet above sea level. One of the best tourist spots in Davao, it is a great spot to unwind, try recreational activities, and capture spectacular views. The mountain resort has different types of accommodation, ranging from garden/mountain villas to log cabins.
Eden Nature Park boasts 11 attractions: Amphitheater, Birdwalk, Deer Park, Flower Garden, Hiking Trail, Lola’s Garden, Hydroponics, Playground, Butterfly Garden, Tinubdan, Bamboo Maze. Enjoy taking photos while trying out some exciting activities like the skyrider, skycycle, sky swing, horseback riding.
The resort also provides an array of dining options. At the Fishing Village, you can catch fish and have it cooked at the restaurant. You may also opt for an enchanting dinner at the Vista Restaurant. Other cafes and dining spots at the resort include the Cafe Vista, Fisher’s Grill, and Skyview Cafe.
Another underrated yet must-visit place in the northeast of Mindanao is the Dinagat Islands. This emerging attraction in Surigao del Norte features secluded beaches, waterfalls, caves, and panoramic mountain views.
One of the must-see spots you wouldn’t want to miss in Dinagat Islands is its mystical Lake Bababu. It is a meromictic lake, which contains both saltwater and freshwater. Another interesting thing about the lake is its 650-meter long and 2,200-feet deep underwater cave, the longest one in the Philippines. It connects scuba divers from the lake to the open sea.
After your lake exploration, you can lounge on the pristine white sand of Bitaog Beach. Then, you can go island-hopping to the nearby islets. Up next is Cabacungan Cove, which boasts turquoise-colored waters surrounded by towering coconut trees and limestone cliffs.
Another majestic attraction is the Pangabangan Island, which boasts a Tidal Pool and Blue Lagoon that is often compared to El Nido, Palawan. Meanwhile, Hagakhak Island features impressive rock formations.
Boasting the Philippines’ longest sandbar at 3KM, Panampangan Island in Tawi-Tawi is a 12-hectare white sand dotting the Celebes Sea. It is a secluded paradise with clear blue waters and powdery sand, which seemingly invites you to walk barefoot.
Tawi-Tawi is the southernmost province in the Philippines located in the southwestern Sulu archipelago between the Celebes Sea and the Sulu Sea. It is considered as one of the most off-beaten spots destinations in the country. Among all of its tourist spots, Panampangan Island is undeniably its most stunning attraction.
Not only is it surrounded by turquoise waters, but it is also teeming with lush greenery and towering coconut trees that provide adequate shade. During low tide, the sandbar extends far out to its neighboring islet, known as Basibuli.
Dubbed as the first-ever pink mosque in the Philippines, Masjid Dimaukom or The Pink Mosque is a Maguindanao centerpiece constructed in 2013 to become the new image and representation of the province. The sacred building is the initiative of Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of the Datu Saudi Ampatuan town who happens to have chosen pink as his favorite color.
Pink represents peace, harmony, and love. Likewise, the people of Datu Saudi Ampatuan believe that the mosque will bring them unity and brotherhood. Inspired by the mosque’s color and design, the town’s municipal hall, police stations, and public market are also set to be repainted pink. When you enter the town, you will also be greeted by the pink flags lined on the sidewalks.
Mosques serve as a place for worship for Muslims around the world. Its magnificent interiors also draw tourists to countries like the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Turkey. The Pink Mosque is a perfect example of a mosque that turned into an attraction.
Emerged from the shifting tides off the coast of Mambajao, Camiguin is a powdery white sandbar known as White Island. It is also called the Naked Temptress due to its immaculate white sands and crystal clear blue waters. Although the sandbar is originally boomerang-shaped, it changes its form every year depending on the tides.
Camiguin Island is also known as the Island Born of Fire due to its volcanic origin. At White Island, you will see the panoramic view of one out of seven volcanoes in Camiguin. Mount Hibok-Hibok is an active stratovolcano alongside a smaller volcano known as Mount Vulcan or the island’s last-formed volcano.
White Island’s clear waters are also ideal snorkeling sites. It is teeming with colorful reefs and vibrant marine life. Aside from swimming, you can also lounge and sunbathe on its pristine sandbar.
Photo by Department of Tourism
Towering over Southern Mindanao, Mount Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines located in the Durian Capital of the country, Davao. It rises over 2,956 MASL and covers the provinces of Davao del Sur and North Cotabato.
Mount Apo features mossy forests, swamps, and volcanic structures. It possesses an array of lush landscapes that mountaineers can pass through by following the Kidapawan-Magpet Trail. When hiking Mount Apo, you must consider its difficulty level of 7/9 that requires a major climb.
You will cross the Lake Agko and Mabel River before reaching the first campsite at the Mainit Hot Springs. It has a small pool where you can take a soothing dip. Up next is Lake Venado, featuring a serene swamp with pine trees. After hours of trekking, you will reach the rocky summit, where you can find wild berries and temperate plants.
Often described as the Little Niagara of the Philippines, Tinuy-an Falls is a curtain-like waterfall that stretches around 95-meters wide and 180-feet deep in Bislig, Surigao del Sur. This 3-tiered cascade features natural pools perfect for taking a plunge. The biggest and tallest of the three layers is wide enough to accommodate bamboo rafts for guests who want to get closer to the waterfall drop.
In 2018, Tinuy-an Falls is proclaimed as one of the three protected areas of the Caraga region. It is home to 91 species of animals, including amphibians, birds, reptiles, freshwater fish, and more. There are also 144 species of flora and 33 of which are nearing extinction.
Situated in South Cotabato or the Land of the Dreamweavers, Lake Sebu is a major watershed recognized as a UNESCO cultural landscape in Mindanao. It irrigates the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato. There are three lakes in the area: Lake Sebu, Lake Seloton, and Lake Lahit. What makes each of them stunning are the floating pink lotus flowers.
With its picturesque view, tourists will find themselves drawn to its beauty and charm. Apart from the lake itself, there are other attractions in Lake Sebu, including The Seven Fall with a total of 7 waterfalls and the Punta Isla Lake Resort, featuring the lake’s panoramic view.
Lake Sebu is also home to various indigenous tribes, including the Tirurays, Ubos, Manobos, and T’bolis. If you like to learn about the T’bolis rich culture, you can visit the T’boli Museum and School of Living Tradition (SLT). Then, see their special weaved fabrics at the Grand Dulay T’nalak Weaving Center.
One of the majestic sights in the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, Siargao Island, is the Magpupungko Rock Pools. It has a stunning tidal rock pool with crystal clear emerald waters surrounded by striking rock formations. This crown jewel is only accessible during the low tide and is not visible when the tides are high.
Magpupungko Rock Pools is only a 45-minute drive away or 35KM away from the center of General Luna. The best way to enjoy the tide pools is to go cliff diving into its 3-meter deep refreshing blue waters. It is situated near Magpupungko Beach with towering coconut trees that offer adequate shade.
There are nearby restaurants along Magpupungko Beach. You may also drop by the nearby Sugba Lagoon, a gorgeous emerald lagoon with verdant mangroves in Del Carmen.
Photo by Department of Tourism
Cagayan De Oro (CDO) is known as the whitewater rafting capital of the Philippines. Among the many extreme sports in CDO, whitewater rafting is the most popular one for adrenaline junkies. It takes place along the Cagayan River, which spans up to 48 kilometers with over 59 rapids. The best time to try this sport is from July to December when the water current is strong.
Whitewater rafting usually takes around 5 hours, and you need a lot of arm strength to paddle and face the turbulent waves. This wet and wild ride will take you through huge rock formations between lush mangrove forests. Throughout the ride, a professional river guide will accompany you.
The ride gets tougher as you paddle along the rapids. At the end of the exhilarating ride, you will go down the calmer part of the river where a verdant surrounding awaits you.
There is probably no other river in the country that will surpass the blueness of the famous Enchanted River, another mystic gem nestled in Hinatuan town in Surigao del Sur. It is 290 meters long, but its depth remains a mystery for many divers.
There were diving expeditions made in the past, yet there is no clear picture of what lies at the bottommost part of the mystical river. With water flowing to the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the Hinatuan Enchanted River opens up to an estuary where salt water mixes with the river’s spring water.
The famous blue river is only a small portion of it. Divers even found an opening of an underwater cave at the river’s deepest portion. To preserve its beauty, visitors are not allowed to swim in the main pool. There is a designated area for swimming, which is only 10 meters away from the main pool.
Cloud 9 is one of the best spots to learn and practice surfing in the Philippines. This famous surfing destination is located on the laidback island of Siargao. Local and international travelers love going back to this place to witness its white-sand beaches, blue-green waters, and scenic islands.
Cloud 9 is recognized as one of the world’s best surfing destinations. It is even ranked as one of the top ten waves worldwide, where international surfing competitions are often held. Beginners can watch the pros showcase their skills and limits.
The ideal time to go to Siargao is from September to November. Surfers can ride waves as high as 8 feet up to 12 feet. There are also surf schools around the area that offer beginner, intermediate, and advanced surf courses. Surf camps in Siargao usually last a week, which already include surf rental equipment and instruction. Read our guide to surfing in Siargao to learn more.
Discover Mindanao’s Top Tourist Spots
If you’ve already been to several destinations in the Philippines, you may want to consider traveling further to the southernmost part of the country. For those of you wondering where to go next, Mindanao is the place to be! Whether you like to explore iconic attractions or gaze at natural wonders, there are various parks and historical spots in Mindanao.
You can visit numerous islands and beaches in the Philippines nestled in the southernmost part of the archipelago. Other than white-sand beaches, Mindanao also boasts some of the highest and most scenic waterfalls in the Philippines.
Start planning your trip to Mindanao! Discover the top Mindanao tourist spots when you book the best Mindanao Philippines tour packages and stay at one of the luxury resorts in the Philippines or try glamping in the Philippines.. Don’t miss out on the chance to lounge on its paradise-like beaches and be in awe of its majestic landscapes.