There’s a sense of fascination the province of Dinagat Islands exudes. This small remote province in Caraga region is both old and new. An old community that believed in gods and goddesses existed way back the pre-colonial area. At the same time, Dinagat island is young and recently established in 2006. Nevertheless, the island province is still under the radar of many travelers who prefer the nearby provinces like Siargao. For those looking for raw, un-commercialized and roughing it out destination, this place would be appealing. It’s not for those looking to party, food binge on restaurants or shop as there aren’t many commercial establishments here yet.
Due to COVID-19 Pandemic, logistics may change or differ at the time of writing. Make sure to check with Local Government Units on updates regarding restrictions and requirements when entering destinations.
Where is Dinagat Islands
The small province of Dinagat Islands is located northeast of Surigao del Norte. Bounded by Surigao strait at the west and Dinagat Sound at the east. Awasan Bay separates the nearby islands Hidkop and Nonoc Island down south.
Hot to Get to Dinagat Islands
Surigao city is the easiest jump-off point to Dinagat Islands. From Surigao Boulevard and Surigao City Port there are RORO, pump-boats and fastcraft plying both routes. Fare starts at P120. Travel time is 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Surigao City to San Jose, Dinagat Islands from 4:30 AM to 8:00 PM
- San Jose, Dinagat Islands (San Jose or Kamagong Port) to Surigao City from 6:00 AM to 5:30 PM
The closest airport is at Surigao City Airport. The next entry point by air is at the Bancasi Airport in Butuan, from Butuan, there are vans heading to Surigao City for P200.
The entry point in Dinagat Islands usually at San Jose, the current capital of the province. The most common form of transport in the area are the bao-bao tricycles. Bao-bao which resembles half a coconut shell. I actually kind of like this form of tricycle as it is more comfortable to sit on than the traditional ones.
Passengers can hail them and join along with with others for a minimum fare of P10. They can also be hired for special trips.
For touring around, habal-habal can also be hired from P1000 to 2000 per day depending on the area. Tour boats can be rented for P3,000 a day. Since there are still no standard prices here, it’s good to haggle for best value of service.
For boat tours you may contact Tatay Ric 09301393172.
Things to do
To visit Dinagat Islands is to enjoy the natural attractions in the province. Most visitors come here for Island Hopping in Basilisa and Libjo. They stay either in town or in one of the islands. On the mainland, there are numerous beaches and resorts to cater to visitors.
There are hikes and climbs in the province. Mt Redondo in Loreto is popular among climbers as a Bonsai Forest, a 600-hectare protected landscape, is located in the area. .
It’s interesting to mingle with the people here. Hear their stories and learn more about their culture. Learn more about the predominant religion on the island like the Philippine Benevolent Missionary Association (PBMA) and its branches. One keyword here is “Respect” other people’s belief.
Where to go
Seven municipalities makes up the whole province and each of them features unique attractions. I only stayed there for a few days and were only able to visit a a few attractions. Less than ideal weather conditions also limited my movement. I listed the attractions and ones with links are entries to some of the places I visited.
- Loreto Landing Market
- Campitac Beach
- Kamangon Cave
- Linao Spring Resort
- Mt Redondo Bonsai Forest
- Hinuphopan Cave
- Buenas Diaz Cave
- Dahican Beach
- Mt Palhi (Babaeng Bukid)
- Talisay Beach
- Galeto Ancestral House
- Bangkaw Falls Resort
- Paragamac Beach
- Paragamac Seven Tier Waterfalls
- Bat Sanctuary
- Mt Palhi (Babaeng Bukid)
- Pangabangan Beach and Tidal Pool (Blue Lagoon)
- Kisses Islets
- Beloved Beach Resort
- Punta Buena Suerte
- Gaas Inlet
- Jelma’s Islet Resort
- Lalaking Bukid
- Lake Bababu and Basbas Cove
- Biray-Biray Islet
- Kalaw Sanctuary
- Madiza Resort
- Duyos Camping Resort
- Sundayo Beach
- Bitaog Beach
- Islander Castle
- PBMA Founder’s Shrine
- RRR Swimming Pool
- Stingray Islet
- Khass Tasil Farm Resort
- Sta Cruz Beach
- Islander Beach
- Immaculate Concepcion Church
- Divine Master’s Monument
- Bijasong Beach
- Sayaw Islet
- Mayatoy River and Falls
- Dako Falls
- Tagbirayan Beach
- Man-made Dam Lake
- Hinabyan Beach
- Mangrove Tour and Nursery
Where to Eat
San Jose is where most of the good eateries can be found. There are no specialty restaurants or franchises here. Mostly some nice grill stands, burgers, pizza places and ready meals.
- I’ve tried Sidewalk Refreshments near the pier is quite fancy and serves blended beverages, milk teas, pasta, burgers and snacks. I haven’t tried yet but their halo-halo seems to be a favorite. I did enjoy their lomi.
Where to Stay
San Jose is where the bulk of stay options are available. Mostly basic homestay and inn types with both aircon or fan rooms available. There are also options on staying on the islands.
For my trip here, I stayed at JBN Seaside Homestay in San Jose. It’s well-kept, cared and maintained by a friendly family. Nice location in San Jose with the stilted house extending over the shore. So there’s a nice sound of waves lapping under the floor. Soothing view of the sea. They can also help you book tours in the island.
What to Buy
Dinagat islands doesn’t have a signature product yet to take home as souvenirs. Once could try their local snacks though like this macaroni-shaped chicharon or inipit.
Travel Tips & Info
- There are Globe and Smart data on the island but mostly good for messaging and calls. There are some areas with good signal for data.
- Bring enough cash. ATMs are available but cash is not always guaranteed.
- Establishments closes early. So better buy essentials or other supplies by sundown.
- If you like snorkelling or free diving, it is better to bring your own gear (snorkel and fins)
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.