Top 3 Places to Visit in Lianga
I’ve been to Lianga thrice in a span of three months. It baffles me how everytime I go back, something just happens that lures me even more to the place.
Having been used to seeing white sand and crystal blue waters almost all the time when I’m in the beach, Lianga is a breath of fresh air literally!
A quaint fourth-class municipality in the province of Surigao del Sur, Lianga has the charms of a small coastal town where almost everything is within walking or biking distance. Lianga is around 270 kilometers or some 4-5 hours drive from Davao City and almost 2 hours away from Tandag City.
Lianga has been gaining popularity as an uncrowded surfing destination with the ongoing construction of its very own Gran Ola Eco Surf Camp in Lawis Beach. This excites me as I’ve come to discover Lianga’s versatility of gray sand beaches, rivermouths and our usual clear blue water reef breaks with the accompanying coconuts lining up the beach.
The first time I saw Lianga was back in February this year during the east coast surf trip that I had the pleasure of joining where we drove all the way from Dahican in Mati City up to Siargao Island, surfing non-stop for almost half a month.
Surfing in Gran Ola Surf Camp
I only got to try surfing in front of Gran Ola Surf Camp that time and the conditions were lesser than the average, having decent waist-high waves on the beach break. Not one to complain, it was still a great experience surfing on a sandy bottom because I was used to falling on hard reef most of the time.
We stayed just one night at the camp, pitching our hammocks in their spacious and breezy surf house which is just in front of the beach. It was so convenient sleeping there because every morning when I wake up, I’d just pop up out of my hammock to check if the waves were good and if they weren’t yet, I’d go back to sleep.
Imagine waking up seeing a glorious sunrise each morning from the comforts of your own snug hammock? That is one of the Lianga experience that I’ll never forget. Another unforgettable moment for me is the first wave I ever caught there because it was quite a long ride. I was so thrilled to realize I haven’t wiped out yet!
Right from the beach on the surf camp, you can already see some of the islands from the famous Britania Group of Islands in San Agustin, Surigao del Sur. I’ve heard that a boat ride from Lawis Beach to Britania Islands can be arranged so you won’t have to drive all the way up to San Agustin anymore.
I knew after the first visit to Lianga, I’d have to go back and surf more. The long beach break rides on fine sand was something my senses easily remembered. Even for beginners, the waves here were friendly enough to not be intimidating (on smaller days as locals say it can get quite big too during the surf season).
Contrary to what others might think, there's a lot more to do in Gran Ola than just surf. If it's flat, there are standup paddleboards (SUPs) that you can take out to the sea.
From Gran Ola Surf Camp, you can paddle from the beach til the manmade point where there are three metal posts that used to be part of a little port or bridge (I have to confirm this). Then you can paddle all the way up to the Parola or lighthouse.
Just take caution of the current as in all oceans, there will be days when it's strong. If unsure of your paddling skills or of the curent, best to get a local guide.
Anyway, the beach just outside the camp is quite large. If it's your first time, you may get tired easily but as with all ocean lovers, we never stop until we've had enough.
The most iconic attraction here in Gran Ola Surf Camp are their surf huts. A mini united nations in each hut! You don't need to travel far to get a photo in a different country.
The Parola in Lawis Beach
The second visit to Lianga was not so planned. Like all semi-spontaneous trips, the ones not thoroughly planned out seem to always push through. I found myself in the company of younger generation surf enthusiasts on the way to Butuan to check out a locally shaped surfboard.
Being mutual friends and family friends, it was during a trip back to Davao from Dahican that we thought of just going to Butuan for a roadtrip to check the surfboard out and if our companion, Charisse, decides to buy the surfboard we’d head straight to Lianga to test the board out. All in the name of friendship and surfing!
This trip was the longest stay I had in Lianga. Two nights! (insert laughter) I wish it could have been a week as the swell was bigger that time that my first visit but we all had city commitments to fulfill so we had to go home on the third day.
One of the things I love about Lianga is that there’s always something to do, especially when it’s low tide. As if on cue, it was the full moon so the low tide was really at its shallowest. From Gran Ola Surf Camp, we inched our way across the reef and rock pools, over a manmade wave breaker and across a bigger part of Lawis Beach to the Parola or lighthouse.
It took us a total of one hour to get back to the camp. Maybe because we spent around 15-20 minutes walking and the rest of the time to take photos! We had to walk the edge of the shoreline because the locals warned us of sea urchins if we took the shorter route, which was through the reef.
Despite it being high noon and sweltering hot, the trek to Parola was worth it. The lighthouse is nestled on top of a huge limestone rock around 2-storeys high if I’m not mistaken. I wonder how they managed to get the lighthouse on top of the rock because there was no trail around the rock.
Our companion, Mawe, who took rock climbing lessons back in college was the only one able to scour the jagged limestone edge to reach the top of the lighthouse. Good for him! We watched below as he made his way up the rock and took the spiral staircase to the very tip of the lighthouse where there was a solar panel that energized its light during the night.
Again in my forgetfulness, I forgot to ask the locals around about the history of the Parola in Lawis Beach. Since I’m returning to Lianga for another trip, this is priority in my to-do list though, I’ve asked around and found out that the Parola has been around for ages. Also lined up on my next visit is a trip to Lianga’s Bao-Bao Falls and its reef breaks for some quality surf time, if the conditions are right.
The Ruins in Pugad
I was wearing a souvenir shirt from Cambodia when we visited the ruins of an old port in Pugad Beach, just a few kilometers from Lawis Beach in Lianga. The ruins looked faintly like the temple ruins from Angkor Wat that we jokingly said to name the place “Anchor Whaaat” just to satisfy my tourist look because of my shirt.
It was on our third day in Lianga and we were on our way home so we decided to maximize our trip here. We weren’t sure when we’d be back so we all (or all of the girls) said yes.
From Gran Ola Surf Camp in Lawis, it was around 2-3 kilometers back onto the main highway in Lianga when we turned left. Seeing a road signage that read “Kaunan sa Katunggahan” it surprised me that there was a restaurant somewhere inside this road lined with mazes of limestone ponds that give you an idea that the area might be a shrimp or prawn farm of some sort.
Wang Tan, our local guide and resident surfer at Gran Ola, was telling us that the ruins here used to be from a port that was abandoned way back. Again, I forgot to ask when and a deeper history of the place but I promise to update this section once I do.
What is good here in Pugad aside from taking unique photos from the ruins? It’s a white sand beach lined with cottages that seem like they are just free to be used for picnics and day trips.
I also heard that there are nearby surf spots from here so it’s interesting what more can we find from this place aside from the beautiful view in front. Like non-urban beaches, this little nook in Pugad seemed entrance fee free which is something I love.
It was quite a foreign concept for me to be required payment to pass through certain roads before reaching a destination. I’m probably not used to it but if the income goes straight to the right pockets then it’s a good thing. I sincerely hope it does.
My family and I went back to Lianga for the Holy Week. This sums my second visit to the Ruins here in Pugad. Like reading a book for the second time, visiting this place again made me notice things I haven’t seen during my first time.
Sometimes when we’re too fixated on getting to the destination, we fail to appreciate the views along the way. I didn’t notice how beautiful it was walking along the white sand dotted with beautiful driftwood. I only saw the driftwood when my mom was trying to see if she could carry one of the bigger pieces.
Of course, I reminded her that those belong to the sea and we couldn’t bring it home. She laughed off my reminders and told me not to worry. Looking back at that big piece of driftwood, it would really look lovely in our living room but again, it wasn’t ours to take home.
Another thing I’ve noticed is the cleanliness of the surroundings. Surprised to see that the locals actually pick up their own trash after a day’s picnic and bring it along home with them. That’s something I wished I’d see more often in other places in the Philippines.
While we’re enjoying the summer months, let’s remember a few things: leave the beach clean, pick up trash if we see any, throw trash properly, feet off corals and no touching of marine wildlife!