Your guide to Mindanao’s Mountain resorts

The beautiful mountain ranges of Mindanao from Digos (Davao Del Sur) to Kitcharao (Agusan Del Norte)

The mountain provinces of Mindanao was once just a talk of the people. Inaccessible for many of the population, it has remained pristine. Untouched. Its magnificent high peaks and green terrain can only be seen from an airline making its final descent into the major airports of the island. Rugged yet tranquil from a birds eye view. The idle fog deliberately enchanting the serene and mystique beauty of what’s beneath. One can appreciate it for a glimpse of a few minutes. The waterfalls and small creeks hidden and tucked away from most of the population only the many small tribes that live within them enjoy its peaceful abode. You might find a small hut with fuming smoke coming out from the side. A curated smell of delicious haponan (dinner) in my head. I can almost taste and smell the dish. The content in each and everyone’s tone and disposition.

It was a beautiful reminder for me as a small young boy at the tender age of two growing up in one. To remember the manobo tribe and the usi, bringing my family a gift basket of fresh plucked fruits and or a generous gesture of a bundle full of native chicken carried on their shoulder. Yes, it was indeed a wonderful memory. One I continue to hold on to for a long time. The fascination for culture and tradition embeded deep within my very core and pulsate within me. I have never really traveled those roads again after we left the mountains of San Luis. The many danger that lurk around and the few optional rugged road to take us- really anywhere. It’s made it a lot harder for anyone to even begin to plan for a trip.

Fast forward to the millennium and the slow but steady growth and road construction- progressed deep in the many arteries of once dirt roads. Slowly the paved roads connecting major highways somehow dwarf the though and travel time.

This journey takes us across the steep mountains and valley of Mindanao cutting across it from the southern Davao Oriental’s lush untapped green forest and rivers that snake within hillside to the highlands and progressive Malaybalay Bukidnon’s plateaus.

The journey and the route

left: part 1 of this journey ( Surigao-Davao coastal route) right: part 2 of the journey (The mountain resorts of Mindanao route)

This journey is a continuation from our Surigao-Davao coastal road trip from the previous article. We start the leg of the trip towards the mountain ranges of Digos in Davao del Sur and back to Davao where we take the route north from Tagum to Bukidnon.


Our journey continued westward to the mountains of Digos that sits on the foot of the tallest mountain peak of the Philippines, Mount Apo. A torrential rain paved our way from its foot making it hard to maneuver in flooded highways until we made a slow but steady ascent. A few more hour deep in the mountains and the rain turned mist and fog. The nearby City lights have now disappeared. The pink tinged cluster of clouds has now been replaced with the intimate dark heavens adorned with ornaments of intimate clusters of stars. Our final destination from the hustle and bustle city of Davao is a quaint surprise sitting atop a plateau. A mountain resort tucked away high up in kapatagan Rizal surrounded by tall evergreen trees. The rain made the evening cool and unhurried.

Camp Sabros

We woke up the next day to a memorable intense rainclouds painted sunrise overshadowing the valley and hillside below. Zip line and horseback riding are few of the activities here at Camp Sabros mountain resort. Enjoy the view of the mountains and the wide variety of collectibles displayed around the resort. Wonderful Americana collections serves as the cherry on the cake on this trip even before the delicious and generous serving of breakfast meal.

Wine Woods Apo

As you descend to the main highway from the camp, you wont want to miss a stop at the Wine Woods Apo. You can explore the property with an entrance fee and find a nice bottle of local wine to buy for souvenir or simply for you to enjoy and reminisce on the beauty of mindanao with its locally grown and fermented fruit. The property has a few choice of rooms to stay overnight to enjoy a romantic evening with bon fire tucked away in the mountains surrounded by evergreen trees, ferns and wonderful floral display. There is also a wine bath all for you to enjoy and highlight your stay. A unique opportunity and a great way to unwind if you have a day or two to spare. Be aware that there is not a designated parking spot. Right outside the property can hold a few cars but be ready to park on the side road.

Jardin de Senorita

Further along this road is another newly opened mountain resort- the Jardin de Senorita. It is proudly known as the Keukenhof botanical garden (the Netherlands) of the Philippines. There are wonderful collection of floral displays and a picturesque colorful painted houses that sit atop a hill overlooking the valley. On a clear sunny sky you can appreciate mount Apo at a very close distance. There is nothing more to say than the awe inspiring designs and view you have to come check for yourself.

Monte frio

A few kilometers down is the Monte Frio garden resort. It has a wonderful day pool to enjoy resting on top a gorgeous mountain with an almost 360 degree panoramic vista view. The simplistic architecture and color bring a reminiscent of a Santorini design, becoming more common in the Philippines. And rightfully so because of its enchanting and elegant structure that doesn’t foil the already incredible valley view. We had a good lunch here with a serving of local vegetable grown nearby.

Back to Davao

We ended our Digos trip after a one night stay in Camp Sabros and a day trip through the nearby mountain resorts. We spent the night back in Davao City to recharge for our next leg of the travel up north through Tagum, Talaingod, Bukidnon and back to Butuan City. We left our laundry at one of the many shops in the city the previous day and picked it up on our return here. One trick we learned from our many travels.

We stayed at Dusit thani hotel, one where luxury, comfort and fine serving of food all compliement the ambience of a pampered travel. No night life is complete without visiting the famout Roxas night market right in the heart of the City. We filled our stomaches with the flavors of the authentic Pinoy grill and found ourselves running through puddles of water to find shelter as the rain poured down heavy. Truly, there is no adventure without the miss adventure!

The next day we hit the road after breakfast and headed up to the mountain ranges of Kapalong. We took route 909-912. We passed through a few quaint towns and mountain resorts along Kapalong-Talaingod road (route 909). Here the roadway snake up the mountain and a grand panorama of vista can be seen both sides as you wind your way down the valley. Uraya’s peak is a perfect stop over for lunch as the place welcomes you in with colorful decorated walls surrounded with refreshing display of plants and a few display of live birds the kids will surely enjoy. This is where we also encountered the children of Talaingod.

a quick stop at Uraya’s Peak in Talaingod

Dahilayan Forest Park

We continued west from route 912 (Kapalong-Talingod-Valencia rd) and cutting across north to route 10 (Sayre highway) through the province of Valencia towards Bukidnon. It is known as the province of the “highlander” or the “mountain dwellers” just north of Davao Del Norte. It occupies a wide plateau of untapped resources reserved mainly for farming. It is considered the ‘food basket’ of the region being the major produce of rice, corn, sugarcane, banana and the famous pineapple.

Driving further north route 10 takes you to the municipality of Manolo Fortich, a province of Bukidnon sitting atop a high plataeu overlooking a vast valley of rolling greens below and open fields of pineapple plantation.

We made it up here from Davao just in time for dinner. We spent the night to recharge after a long days travel and to ready for the next day’s adventure.

Dahilayan forest park sits at the base of Mount Kitangland where nature lovers can enjoy a scenic large hillside playground, lagoons and koi pond the whole family can enjoy.

The nearby Dahilayan adventure park boast a unique take on adventure seekers where one can luge down a hill, walk through the forest on a hanging bridge, zipline to take in the beautiful grand view of the park and even a game of miniature golf to filter out the sore muscles from the days demand. Enjoy a delicious lunch at a nearby 50’s themed diner restaurant (Jessie’s diner) adorned with classic vintage cars. Find a wonderful night accommodation to enjoy a serene view of the tall evergreen trees surrounding the property. It is recommended to stay a night or two to fully enjoy this mountain resort.

Claveria view deck

Taking North from route 10 (Sayre highway) and eastward to the 955 (Villanueva-Claveria road) take you across Villanueva to Gingoog.

Claveria view deck has a wonderful view of the valley and just a few miles down the road, Don Narciso Cafe serves authentic local menu. It has open seating with picturesque and panoramic view of the mountain valley. The ambient is on spot for anyone looking to enjoy a conversation over a cup of coffee with cool fresh air throughout the venue, not to mention its superb ‘elevated’ food served.


This is one of my most favorite part of the trip as the roadway cut across mountains with wonderful panoramic hillside view on both sides. Restaurants and local coffee shops welcome you to dine in with magnificent backdrop of nearby mount Balatucan and its vast green forest.

We descended down to highway 9 (Butuan-Cagayan iligan road) for our drive back to Butuan. There are few wonderful places worth mentioning along the way here. You can visit Mount Carmel in the municipality of Carmen and the newly opened nature preserve Alicia’s ridge in Buenavista. Further north between the provinces of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte boast an epic view of the fourth largest lake of the country, Lake Mainit, from the Kitcharao view deck.

Mount Carmel View Deck

Formerly know as Marcos park. It sits atop the highest peak in the province with a wonderful view of the coastline on a clear cloudless day. It is a memorable place for Joycee and I back in our college days as we drive away from the busy City life into this peaceful retreat of rolling green hills and wonderful atmosphere to find some connection with nature and recharge even for a quick day trip.

Alicia’s ridge

This newly opened preserved echo park sits high up in the mountains of Agusan del Norte. It is a wonderful nature park with few nipa hut style accomodation you can rent for a night’s camping in the heart of the forest. The clouds roll in here early morning and just before dusk. I personally would recommend staying the night here to enjoy how the mountain transform as it play with the rolling clouds and fog.

Kitcharao viewing deck

This viewing deck is an easy access from the main highway. There are few levels of vista’s to view Lake Mainit and the valley. They have carenderia style food serving that I prefer over any fastfood restaurant. The staff here are very friendly. There are several steps to take to get up on the very top platform but the view up there is worth the small hike. My children did not have any problem walking up the steep stairs.

Final thoughts

Solitude. The single word that’s clearly paved the way to this incredible mountain road trip. Each unattended hut that cling onto mountain cliffs, the children running off to the vast valley of greens, the local farmers that work intently into the rich soil each with their own hectares to ponder on- brings a sense of joy. Contentment thats beyond boarders. The very simple life cuddled in a place desolate at times yet fertile and blooming- full of life. Rich land of agriculture and traditions.

I have truly enjoyed this memorable trip with my family and the children. The higher peaks and vista that surprises us in each turn. The very blue print of an up coming roadway expansion laid before our eyes that boom possibilities of how the future can richly pave ways to the very remote places. I hope for ways we can preserve and give back to the rich tribes and their communities thats live in it. May we not spoil its marvels but cultivate as we learn from each other through our very private travels and intimate stories.

How we accommodate the longing to travel bridges us closer to finding our true self. I may not have gone back to visit San Luis this time around but it has given me the hope that it is most possible in the near future. The mountains it calls. I must go.

Here is our short clip from the road trip. Thank you for the coffee.

Part 1 of this trip driving the Surigao-Davao coastal road from Butuan City.

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