Tawi-Tawi: A Guide to Southern Frontier


In the southernmost tip of the Philippine archipelago is a cluster of 107 islands and islets scattered over Sulu and Celebes Seas, closer to Malaysia than the nearest Philippine city of Zamboanga. But is not your usual tourists destination for it is enveloped by the ghost of its reputation, portraying a negative image and casting fear to everyone unfamiliar with the place! Tawi-Tawi!

A predominantly Muslim province, Tawi-Tawi used to be part of the province of Sulu until 1973 when it was separated to create a separate province. It consists of 11 towns that spreads into a wide sea area, from Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi and Turtle Islands in the Sulu Sea to Sitangkai and Sibutu in the Sea of Celebes.

The revered Bud Bongao

Unbeknownst to many, Tawi-Tawi is a place teeming with refreshing scenery and heritage sites. It harbors unspoiled island beaches, unexploited dive sites, mountains and other natural tourist attractions that are still in their raw state. It is also the birthplace of Islam in the Philippines, with Simunul Island being home to the first ever mosque built in the country.

Tawi-Tawi may be clouded by the hazy tourism outlook of the province but it is promising tourist destination, a rewarding treat for brave souls. Discover the province’s manifold of surprises. Brave, explore, experience and discover the beauty of  Tawi-Tawi!

A wreck of old Japanese war plane in the water of Pahut

How to Get to Tawi-Tawi

From Zamboanga City

By Air

Sanga-Sanga Airport in Bongao is the gateway to Tawi-Tawi by air. Currently, only Cebu Pacific flies there with their daily flight from Zamboanga City. Check out their website for the latest flight schedule and fare.

Sanga-Sanga Airport is located in Barangay Sanga-Sanga, approximately 15 minutes from Bongao town proper.

By Land and Sea

Aleson Shipping connects Bongao to Zamboanga with ferry trips during Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Travel time is approximately fifteen hours and fare is at least P1,000.

Going to Zamboanga City, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific connect the city from Manila, Cebu and Davao. By ferry, 2Go Travel connects the city from Cebu and Manila. And by bus, there are daily trips from Ozamis City and Dapitan.

From Semporma (Malaysia)

A public ferry plies Semporma to Bongao (and vice versa) once a week.

Sheik Makdum Mosque, the birthplace of Islam in the Philippines

Going Around and Away

Habal-habal and tricycle are the primary modes of transportation around the island of Bongao and the connecting islands of Sanga-Sanga and Tawi-Tawi, minimum fare is P10. From Bongao to the towns of Panglima Sugala and Languyan, there’s a jeepney that leaves daily from Bongao Public Market.

Going from island to island is by boat. There are public ferries from Bongao to the islands of Simunul, Sibutu, Sitangkai, Sipangkot and Liyaburan. If you plan of going to other islands, you have to charter a boat.

At one of the peaks of Bud Bongao

Where to Stay in Tawi-Tawi

Most hotels, inns and lodges are located in Bongao, the capital of the province of Tawi-Tawi. On our visit there, we stayed  at Beachside Inn Hotel and Restaurant located just along the main road and accross Simandagat Beach. They have fan and aircon rooms, a large hall, restaurant and a garden area. Their staff can also assist you in trekking Bud Bongao 🙂

Beachside Inn Hotel and Restaurant
Barangay Sowangkagang, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Budget: As low as P750 for a single fan room
Contact No: +639204815447/(68)268-1446/(68)268-1435

Other accommodations in Bongao are:

Rachel’s Place
Ilmoh Street, Lamion, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Budget: As low as P700 per room
Contact No: (68)268-1248

Hotel Juana Grill and Restaurant
Datu Halun St., Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Contact No: +639154044478/(68)268-1018

Aaron’s Pension House
Ridjiki Boulevard, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Contact No: (68)268-1601

Ibbo Beach Resort
Barangay Pasiagan, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi

Danmar Resort
Silisad, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Contact No: (68)268-1550

Sandbar Lepa and Restaurant
Barangay Pasiagan, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Budget: As low as P1000 per night for a villa room
Contact No: +639206109477/+639359790413

Almari Beach Resort
Pahut, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi

Porch Bay
Contact No: +639265603688/(68)268-1322

Tawi-Tawi Provincial Capitol

Things to do in Tawi-Tawi

  • Trek Bud Bongao
  • Visit the first mosque in the Philippines and the tomb of Karimul Makhdum (founder of Island in the Philippines) at Simunul Island
  • Check out the nearby Sangay Siapo Island
  • See the neighboring islands of Papahag, Laa, Bilatan and its neighboring islets
  • Scuba diving (Contact Tawi-Tawi Divers Club (TDC) – Engr. Dong Reyes – 0917 7222905; 09212938287)
  • Snorkeling, free diving
  • Explore Bolobok Cave
  • Check out Tawi-Tawi Provincial Capitol
  • Walk around the market and old Chinese Pier
  • Buy some souvenir items at Badjao Village
  • Drop by the Mangrove Forest
  • Catch a boat to Sibutu and Sitangkai
  • Explore the other virgin island beaches and sandbars of the neighboring towns such as the famous Panampangan Island in Panglima Sugala; Pusogan, Pasegan Guimba, Pandan and Tagao in South Ubian; or Simalak Island in Languyan
  • Experience local culture and cuisine
En route to Sangay-Siapo Island


  • Mobile signal of major networks are present
  • PNB has ATM in downtown
  • No establishments accepts credit/debit card
  • Take precautionary measures when visiting other islands, register at the tourism office and listen to authority


  1. Vince Salapuddin

    Hi Angel. I am from Tawi-Tawi and I find this travel guide so accurate and precise, well done. But, just a suggestion, it’s better if you include the mouth-watering native delicacies of the province and the influence of Malaysia on the food of the mainland province.

  2. […] The MILF has bastions in the ARMM’s component provinces Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in mainland Mindanao, and in the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. […]

  3. RJ

    Hi, may aLam ka bang tour for Turtle Island? Thanks!

    1. same here would love to go to turtle island, baka may alam ka? thanks

  4. thisisyahsz

    im back here in bongao,tawi-tawi for vacation and im inviting you to come! 😀

    “pittu kam,palanjal kam ni tawi-tawi!”

  5. dhie-dhien

    ehehe .. maganda talaga ang isla na yan .. want nyo pumunta … i guide you?

  6. I heard sa ibang bumisita na may military escort pag pumapasyal sa Tawi-tawi.

    And ganda talaga diyan. Thanks, Sir Angel for the comprehensive guide.

  7. Waaaahhhh!!!! I pray conflicts end soon. I just want to travel around the islands. Arrrgghhh.

  8. I was in Tawi-Tawi last month and found it to be a beautiful place. I only got to explore Bud Bongao and some of the roadside beaches though. I should have read this article before I went. I stayed at Rachel’s Place who had wonderful staff members (I just heard their manager just died so RIP), but I wish I was able to contact someone at Sandbar Lepa. They have a very beautiful beach and I wish I was able to sleep there for a night. I found it difficult to book a hotel in advance – it was only Rachel’s Place that responded, but I guess Tawi-Tawi is a backpacker’s haven.

  9. Kevin


    Hingi lang ng info, may client kasi kami sa Tawi – Tawi, mukha naman maganda, sa Bongao, kaso sa Tumbagaan Island yung location ng client ko, hindi po ba delikado doon?

  10. Well, lalo akong namangha sa ganda ng Pinas !
    Perfect Travel Guide to those who wants to go and experience the beauty of Tawi-Tawi 🙂

  11. Well, lalo akong namangha sa ganda ng Pinas.
    Parang gusto kong mag explore sa Tawi-Tawi at idiscover ang ipinagmamalaki nitong Tourist Sites. Perfect Travel Guide 🙂

  12. Very informative. Couldn’t agree more. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Opkors, ultimate travel guide na naman ‘to. Lagi na lang eh! hahaha! I wish to visit Tawi-Tawi someday. 🙂

  14. […] Travel Guide: Tawi-Tawi | Lakwatsero https://www.lakwatsero.com/In the southernmost tip of the Philippine archipelago is a cluster of 107 islands and islets scattered over Sulu and Celebes Seas, closer to Malaysia than the. […]

  15. this has gotta be one of the most extensive guide to tawi tawi. thanks angel.

    1. Lakwatsero

      Thanks Oman! :))

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