We recently visited Mindanao for a backpacking trip in SOCCSKSARGEN and we were blown away by its beauty, people’s hospitality and harmony of a diverse, well-preserved culture. It also made us realize how safe it is to travel in this part of Mindanao specifically to the provinces of South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and city of General Santos; contrary to the stigma that people have about it. If you also plan to explore this part of Mindanao, here’s the top 11 places to visit in SOCCSKSARGEN that you should not miss!
Check out this DIY travel guide to SOCCSKSARGEN with budget and itinerary!
Asik-Asik Falls in Alamada, Cotabato
Enchanting. One of a kind. There is just too much to say about this place but you’d surely be lost for words upon seeing it with your own eyes. This is Asik-Asik Falls — just one of the many yet among the most remarkable waterfalls in the region. It is one of the tourists’ top favorite places to visit in SOCCSKSARGEN. It is characterized by a curtain of waterfalls that flows through the walls that are covered in lush green. Unlike any other waterfalls, Asik-asik does not have a wide and deep catch basin but it sprinkles down a rocky base with shallow waters only. Its name is derived from a Hiligaynon word “asik” which means sprinkle.
How to Get There:
- From Cotabato: make your way to the terminal where you can take a bus bound for Davao. Get off at Libungan Public Market. Then, hop onto a jeep going to Barangay Upper Dado. From the drop off point, haggle for a tricycle or habal habal that would take you to Asik-Asik Falls. You may also opt to take a tricycle from Libungan Public Market to another terminal with tricycles going to Alamada. From there, charter another one that would take you to Asik-Asik Falls.
- From Davao: Make your way to Ecoland Bus Terminal. From there, take a van or bus bound for Cotabato. Tell the driver that you’re going to Alamada so they can drop you off a point where you can charter a motorcycle going to Asik-Asik Falls.
Note: Be mindful of the vans and buses’ trip schedule. It’s safer to travel to Alamada before 5:00 PM and stay at inns or homestays by the jump off. Also, be it known to you that the more or less 30-minute trek going down to the falls (especially on the way back up) isn’t as fun as a walk in the park. It is an agonizing one yet with a priceless reward, so to speak.
Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque (Grand Mosque), Cotabato City
Cotabato City’s Grand Mosque is named after the current Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah ibni Omar Ali Saifuddien III who funded about half of its construction cost and the rest by the former Philippine President’s administration, Noynoy Aquino. It is considered to be among the largest mosque in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.
There is no entrance fee when visiting the mosque. However, please observe proper attire and following their rules shall you decide to enter. There are attires for rent just outside for only Php 100.00. Also, take note that there are no public vehicles passing by nor terminals around. Thus, it is best to rent a tricycle or a habal habal that would take you here and the other attractions in the city from the airport.
Sultan Kudarat Provincial Capitol
In case you’re wondering what is there to see in this place, this structure holds the title of the “largest provincial capitol” in the Philippines up to this date. Located in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, this white building, about five-story tall with a golden dome sits in a sprawling greenfields in the town proper. The golden statue of Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat whom they named the province after stands in front of it. The said Sultan is considered as the greatest in Maguindanao and the most powerful in Mindanao.
How to get here:
From Awang Airport in Cotabato City: Take a habal habal or tricycle to the pick up and drop off point of vans or at the terminal. This may cost about Php 60.00 to Php 80.00 per head. From there, take a van going to Tacurong or Isulan. The trip may take an hour or an hour and a half with the fare at Php 150.00. Tell the driver to drop you off Isulan and that you’re going to the provincial capitol.
From General Santos City: Make your way to Bulaong Terminal. From there, take a van or bus going to Marbel [Koronadal City]. The trip may take an hour for van and an hour and a half to two by bus. From the drop off point, take another van or bus bound for Isulan. If there are no trips straight to Isulan available, you may opt to hop on a bus or van going to Tacurong. This may take about 30 minutes. Then from Tacurong, take a van going to Isulan. Tell the driver that you are visiting the provincial capitol.
La Palmera Mountain Ridges of Columbio, Sultan Kudarat
The majestic mountain range in the sleepy town of Columbio in Sultan Kudarat has enchanted a many ever since it went viral on social media in 2020. This instantly put La Palmera to the top notch in the list of the places to visit in SOCCSKSARGEN. If ever you’re wondering: No, you do not need any advance trekking or hiking skills to be able to enjoy this unparalleled view. You just need to be patient and endure an hour of bumpy ride on a habal-habal from downtown. They also offer room and tent accommodations just in case you wish to stay longer.
The place is named after the palm plantation that surrounds the ridges. This plantation has been a source of livelihood to the B’laans – the indigenous people of Sultan Kudarat. You’d also get a chance to meet them on your visit in La Palmera!
Take note that there are no public transportation vehicles available in La Palmera other that the one that took you there. Hence, make sure that you either visit only for a day or keep your habal drivers’ contact details so you can always ask them to pick you up.
Read the full, detailed travel guide here: La Palmera Mountain Ridge: A Captivating Gem of Sultan Kudarat
Pangadilan Falls and Rock Formation
Another rising destination and truly a hidden gem in the region is the Pangadilan falls located in Brgy. Polomolok, Columbio, Sultan Kudarat. What makes this even more special are the visually satisfying rock formations on both sides of the gushing cold waters. Fret not. This does not require any long trek nor hike. You only need to take a 45-minute habal ride off the road from downtown. It is usually visited in a Sultan Kudarat day trip together with La Palmera Mountain Ridges and Fekung Bula which are all located in Columbio.
The following are the important fees as per the management:
- Entrance Fee (Adult): Php 50.00
- Entrance Fee (Children): Php 30.00
- Cottage Rental: Php 200.00
- Parking fees:
- Four wheels: Php 50.00
- Motorcycle: Php 20.00
Lotus Flower Garden in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
One of the travelers’ top favorite places to visit in SOCCSKSARGEN is the Lotus Garden in Lake Sebu. A SOX backpacking will never be complete without the canoeing experience in T’boli costume at the serene Lake Sebu early in the morning to witness the blooming lotus. Make sure though that you’ll visit the lotus garden between 5:30 AM until 11:00 AM only since the flowers will be closed by then.
Canoe rental is at Php 200.00 per head if to be shared. It costs Php 300.00 for solo rental. As for the T’boli costume, you may rent one from School of Living Traditions Homestay for only Php 200.00.
Read the travel guide here: Lake Sebu Lotus Garden: Paddling through the T’boli Culture
Seven Falls of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
Another wonder that one should not dare miss in SOX is the Seven Falls of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. There’s a variety of ways to best enjoy these falls and one of which is the zip line. For only Php 300.00 on weekdays and 350.00 on weekends (as of January 2023), you’ll get to hover over some of these seven falls through the highest zip line in Southeast Asia at about 180 meters high. That’s about 591 feet! The first line and the higher has a distance of 740 meters and the second line is at about 420 meters.
Good news: You can get up close to two of these seven. These are the first and second waterfalls namely Hikong Alo (Alo means passage) and Hikong Bente (Bente means immeasurable). Hikong Alo (about 35 feet tall) is the widest while Hikong Bente is the tallest (about 70 feet tall) of the seven. The other five requires trekking for hours to witness its enchanting beauty. The T’boli named them as Hikong B’Lebel (zigzag or coil), Hikong Lowig (booth), Hikong Ukol (wildflower), Hikong K’Fo-I (short) and Hikong Tonok (soil).
Lake Holon, South Cotabato
If you are going to have an extended stay in the region, here’s one of the top places to visit in SOCCSKSARGEN that you shouldn’t miss: Lake Holon. Lake Holon, locally known as Lake Maughan, is also popularly known as the Crown Jewel of the South as the crater surrounding the lake looked like a crown. It sits at 1,430 Meters Above Sea Level (MASL), atop Mt. Parker that is formerly known as Melibongoy until an American surveyor crashed in the mountains. It is truly one of those challenging yet fun and exciting destination in the region!
How to Get There:
From General Santos City
- Make your way to Bulaong Terminal. From the terminal, take a van going to Marbel [Koronadal City]. The trip may take more or less one and a half hour.
- Upon getting off at Marbel (Koronadal Integrated Terminal), take another van at the terminal going to Tboli. Travel time is about 45 minutes to an hour. You may asked to be dropped off at the tourism office.
From Davao City:
- Make your way to G-Mall or SM City Davao. Ask around as to where you can take the van going to Marbel. This trip may take 4 hours.
- Upon getting off at Marbel (Koronadal Integrated Terminal), take another van at the terminal going to Tboli. Travel time is about 45 minutes to an hour. You may asked to be dropped off at the tourism office
Lang Dulay Weaving Center, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
This Weaving center is a legacy left by the late Lang Dulay, the T’Nalak Master Weaver of the T’boli Tribe in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. The National Commission for the Culture and the Arts awarded her in 1998 with the “Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan” (GAMABA) for preserving their weaving tradition. Further, she used to be one of the Philippines’ National Living Treasures not until her passing on April 13, 2015.
The T’boli tribe is known for T’Nalak (T’boli cloth) weaving which designs were sent and taught to them in their dreams by the abaca goddess, Fu Dalu. This is the very reason why they are known as the “dreamweavers”. Lang Dulay is believed to have received more than a hundred of designs. She passed down most of it to her granddaughters (as she never had a daughter) to preserve the weaving tradition.
Lang Dulay Weaving Center is located in Sitio Tukalefa, Lamdalag, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. To gain a deeper understanding of the T’boli women as the Dreamweavers and the fascinating process of T’nalak weaving, this is the best place to be. Presently, you can visit and meet Sebulan Dulay, Lang Dulay’s daughter-in-law, the master weaver of the house.
Gumasa Beach, Glan, Sarangani
The region also has a fair share of pretty, bone-white sand beach seated at the southernmost part of it. If you feel like lounging on a beach during your trip in SOCCSKSARGEN, get up early for a fun road trip to Glan, Sarangani then where the “Boracay of the South” is located. This six-kilometer white beach that opens up to Celebes sea is lined with resorts where you may stay upon your visit mostly with affordable rates.
How to get there:
From General Santos City: Make your way to KCC terminal. Board the first trip to Glan at 8:00 AM but be there as early as 7:00 AM as passengers come early to line up for the first trip. Fare is at Php 200.00 for an hour trip to Glan. From the drop off point, charter a habal habal or tricycle that will take you to your chosen resort in Gumasa Beach. This may take about 20 to 30 minutes and fare ranges from Php 150.00 to Php 200.00 per ride.
Isla Jardin del Mar, Glan, Sarangani
If you are into water fun activities, Isla Jardin del Mar is the best place to be in this region! This hotel resort in Glan, Saragani offers a variety of water activities including jetski, banana boat ride, band wagon, disco boat, water bike, paddleboard and even diving! TIP: The best spot to dive in the resort is by the Isla Pier. After trying these activities, you may also lounge in its beach with fair, grainy sand. If you decide to extend your stay, there’s a variety of accommodation that you can choose from.
Make sure though that you either hire a tricycle or you have a contact number of the driver so they can pick you up when you decide to leave or hop into a nearby beach in Glan. There are no terminals around nor station for public vehicles in the area. You may visit Isla Jardin del Mar on a day trip in the town together with Gumasa Beach.
Other Places to Visit Near SOCCSKSARGEN
Our Muslim brothers and sisters in Mindanao are open about accepting visitors in their place of worship regardless of the religion. Our responsibility as non-Islam then is to respect it. Because of that, mosques have become among the top places to visit in SOCCSKSARGEN and its nearby region. While Grand Mosque is the only one located in SOX itself, there are two more from a nearby region that can be also visited. These are the White and Pink Mosque.
Masjid Al-Nasser Abpi (White Mosque), Maguindanao
Among the sought-after spots that backpackers in SOCCSKSARGEN would never miss out on is the White Mosque in Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao – a province in the neighboring region called BARMM or Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. This is relatively the newest of the three mosques that travelers would visit in SOCCSKSARGEN and BARMM.
There are no Muslim attires for rent in the temple so make sure that you at least pack or wear a modest outfit especially if you decide to visit White Mosque. They don’t collect entrance fees from visitors, too. The only thing they’d ask is respect by observing the rules in the mosque.
Like Grand Mosque, Al-Nasser Abpi is situated in a far end of a corner where there’s no public transport available. Hence it is advisable to rent a tricycle or a habal habal to get to it and away hassle-free.
Masjid Dimaukom (Pink Mosque), Maguindanao del Sur
Masjid Dimaukom, also known as the Pink Mosque is named after Samsudin Dimaukom, the mayor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan who also directed its construction. It is situated in the province of Maguindanao del Sur and was given to its people as a gift. The iconic color of the mosque represents love and peace and as per the hearsays, it was the former mayor’s wife’s favorite color, too. The construction of the mosque itself shows the values it embodies since not only Muslims took part in it. There were also Christian laborers, too.
How to get here:
From Awang Airport in Cotabato City: Take a habal habal or tricycle to the pick up and drop off point of vans or at the terminal. This may cost about Php 60.00 to Php 80.00 per head. From there, take a van going to Tacurong or Isulan. The trip may take an hour or an hour with the fare at Php 100.00. Tell the driver that you are going to Pink Mosque. From the drop off point, you may take a tricycle or payong payong (Php10.00 per head) or walk your way to the Pink Mosque.
From General Santos City: Make your way to Bulaong Terminal. Then, take a van or bus going to Marbel. The trip may take an hour for van and an hour and a half to two by bus. From the drop off point, take another van or bus bound for Tacurong. Bus fare is at Php 68.00 and the trip may take an hour. From Tacurong, take a bus or van going to Cotabato City and get off Datu Saudi Ampatuan. You may also tell the driver that you’ll go to Pink Mosque. From the drop off point, take a tricycle or payong-payong (Php10.00 per head) or walk your way to Pink Mosque.
Places to Visit in SOCCSKSARGEN, In a Nutshell
These are just few of the many yet the top places to visit in SOCCSKSARGEN and the nearby region. These places will surely introduce you to their rich, diverse culture, amaze you with its natural wonders and amuse you with the exhilarating activities that they offer. Which of these have you visited and do you look forward to visiting?
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