The Enchanted River in the Philippines

The enchanted river - Rivière enchantée - Philippines

A magnificent river on Mindanao Island

The Enchanted River was my last stopover on the island of Mindanao, in the Philippines. And what a stop! I really wanted to visit this magical place after seeing a few photos on Google. And of course, in real life, it’s much more impressive than on the internet. And I have to admit that being able to say « I was there » makes me a little proud of this adventure. The Enchanted River is located in the Surigao del Sur region of eastern Mindanao.

The enchanted river - Rivière enchantée - Philippines

Strangely enough, The Enchanted River isn’t all that touristy. I must have met 2 Westerners on the spot and absolutely none in Hinatuan, the nearest town to The Enchanted River. So it’s well worth the trip, especially with several people. Going alone is a bit more disappointing, as it’s really a place for memories and sharing. I’d love to be able to say to someone 10 years from now: « Do you remember when we were there? ». But hey, that’s part of being a solitary nomad, and you have to accept it.

The enchanted river - Rivière enchantée - Philippines The enchanted river - Rivière enchantée - Philippines

Speaking of the place, it’s absolutely mind-blowing. All these blues are… so blue! And these greens so green! I’ve been to some spots before where the water was particularly clear and colorful, especially Koh Phi Phi in Thailand, but this is unheard of! Seeing it in photos is bad enough, but flooding your mind and eyes with this divine liquid is 1000 times better!

The enchanted river - Rivière enchantée - Philippines
Also read on the Davao guide :

How to get to the « Enchanted River »?

This is where it gets complicated. Getting to such a place requires a plethora of adventures and many pitfalls! It would be too easy otherwise. So, in my opinion, the easiest way to get to this sacred site is to go to the town of San Francisco (nicknamed San Franz), one of the major cities in eastern Mindanao, accessible from Davao City or northern Mindanao. Once you’ve reached the Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a jeep (80 pesos) or a van(between 200 and 300 pesos) to the small town of Hinatuan (about 1 hour’s drive from San Francisco). Once in Hinatuan, you’ll need to find someone to take you to the Enchanted River by motorcycle. Don’t worry, once you arrive at Hinatuan Bus Terminal, you’ll be met by a pack of bikers roaring:  » You want to go to Enchanted River?  » The river is 15km from Hinatuan and will cost you around 300 pesos round trip by motorcycle. If you have a Filipino number, don’t forget to ask for the motorcycle driver’s phone number so that he can take you back. If you don’t have a number, you can always find bikers near the river. But don’t stay too late, because it gets dark quickly and once it’s dark, you can’t see a thing! (Good old Beatrice…hmm…).
The enchanted river - Rivière enchantée - Philippines

The enchanted river - Rivière enchantée - Philippines

As far as I’m concerned, I stayed in Hinatuan, which is much simpler. The Maryland hostel is very inexpensive. In Hinatuan, the locals are clearly not used to Western foreigners. Expect to be accosted by most people, especially children, who are definitely the most curious! It’s a bit stressful, I must admit. But nobody’s going to want to hurt you. On the contrary, it makes them happy to see Westerners.  » What’s your name? » ,  » Where are you from? » ,  » Where are you going?  » are just some of the questions you’ll have to answer if you choose to be polite!

The enchanted river - Rivière enchantée - Philippines

Tip from Tonton Bastien : In Hinatuan, don’t hesitate to take a tricycle, which you’ll find all over town. You can put your belongings on it, which will be protected by a roof, and it will only cost you 5 pesos. Practical and inexpensive, especially if it’s raining!

The enchanted river - Rivière enchantée - Philippines The enchanted river - Rivière enchantée - Philippines

To sum up

As you can see, The Enchanted River is for adventurers only! To get there, you really have to want to. It’s bad enough that few tourists dare to venture onto the island of Mindanao (wrongly so), but if it’s to get lost in the depths of Surigao del Sur… But if you’ve got a sharp enough adventurous spirit, throw yourself into the maw of the « Enchanted River » – it’s worth it, and it’s unique in the world. Getting there is a pretty incredible challenge, so if you accept and go through with it, you can be proud of yourself and, like me, say « I did it! ». Good luck 😉