THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SIARGAO IN THE PHILIPPINES (FOR NON SURFERS)
Siargao is known as the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines”, but you don't need to be a surfer to enjoy the beautiful scenery and natural attractions on the island...
Let's start with the bad news: This is going to be a long post (+2000 words).
Now the good news: I also made a video for you. It took us (my bf and me) two weeks to edit the video and another one to upload it (thanks to the slow internet connection in the islands of the Philippines).
Here you go: a compact 2:30 minutes video that will show you what's so amazing about Siargao and why we fell madly in love with this island.... Watch in HD!!
Still there? Great! I'm glad you're still reading.
Never heard of Siargao? Good. I like to keep it secret... OK OK, I'm gonna tell you a little bit more about it... But where do I start?!
Siargao is addictive. The first time I stayed 4 days. The second time, almost a year later I stayed for 10 days. Still not enough. After a week in Siargao I considered buying a piece of land there. I just thought to myself: Why not? Maybe I could stay forever...?
Where is Siargao?
So where is this hidden gem, you ask? Good question.
Siargao is located 800 kilometers southeast of Philippines' capital Manila. It belongs to the province of Surigao del Norte, situated at the northeastern tip of Mindanao.
Most travelers end up staying in General Luna because the lively beach town has a decent variety of resorts and restaurants, and is still not overrun by mass tourism.
The island has a lot of natural attractions and offers some beautiful scenery:
Perfect white beaches, enchanting lagoons, caves, sand bars, coral reefs, bizarre rock formations, exotic wildlife, endless rice fields, waterfalls, a large mangrove forest reserve... and so much more...
Oh wait... Did I mention that Siargao is famous for surfing?
In case you're a surfer and googled for information about surfing in Siargao - I'm going to disappoint you. This is not about surfing. I know, Siargao is the Surfing Spot in the Philippines and I'm sure other bloggers wrote fantastic articles about surfing in Siargao here and here, but ... I'm not one of them.
Siargao is not only about riding waves and the perfect swell. And I'm not a surfer. Because I can't wake up early. I sleep until noon. I'm a beach bum. Now you know.
So then... What is this article about? This is the Ultimate Siargao Guide for Non Surfers, because this island offers so much more beyond surfing!!
My friend Jasper Ribbers of The Traveling Dutchmen describes Siargao as "The island is a place of purity and simplicity. No cheesy restaurants, no tacky shops, and no crowded watering holes." I can hardly describe it better than that. Siargao is for nature lovers. If you have ever dreamt of an paradise island with no annoying vendors, no party by the beach until early morning and no loud music – then you will love Siargao! The relaxed and laid-back atmosphere on the island makes you want to stay forever.
No matter how many days you've planned to stay in Siargao, let me tell you it won't be enough. That's because you will fall in love with the people, the beaches and the food. Yes, the food. The seafood is absolutely the best, a culinary feast! It's so delicious, I'll promise you will dream about it after you left the island. To cut to the point: Plan a lot of time for your stay in Siargao.
Let's get to the details...
HIGHLIGHTS AND THINGS TO DO IN SIARGAO
01 | GO ISLAND HOPPING WITH (NEW) FRIENDS
Just off the shores of Siargao island are three spectacular islands that are perfect for island hopping:
Naked Island, Daku Island and Guyam Island.
Most resorts offering day tours to these three small islands. Alternatively, rent a boat and go by yourself. Just go to the public market in General Luna and talk with the fishermen. They always know someone who has a boat. We were 8 people and paid together PHP1,200 (US$26) for the boat rental (full day).
Our first stop was Naked Island, and no, there are no naked people (in case you were wondering). It's basically not really an island, it's a 200 meter long sand bank surrounded by crystal clear turquoise waters and blindingly white sand! It almost looks surreal! We spent an hour there and we all got an impressive tan (or in other words: sunburned). Make sure to bring enough sunblock!
We had our lunch on Daku Island, another stunning place, dotted with countless coconut palm trees. A small fishing community of 300 residents are living on the island. The beach is gorgeous with its powdery white sand. If you love the place you can stay overnight - there are simple beachfront huts. Keep in mind that there is no electricity on the island.
Last stop was Guyam Island, a little piece of paradise (picture above). The island is uninhabited, for one afternoon this place was all our own. It looks like
one of those tiny islands in the Maldives....but hey, it's the Philippines, and paradise costs a fraction there compared to other tropical islands in the world. It's the perfect place to
take selfies and make all your friends super jealous.
Bucas Grande & the Sohoton Caves near Siargao, Philippines © Yana Victoriano | travelyoung.ph
Another popular tour is a day trip to Bucas Grande to see the Sohoton Caves (photo above). Many visitors compare the beauty of Bucas Grande with the Archipelago of Palawan.
The Sohoton Caves are ranked as #1 attraction in things to do in Siargao on Tripadvisor. You can rent a kayak and explore the marine reserve and the natural cave tunnel. Expect to see bats, wild orchids, stalactites and sting-less jelly fish...
Unfortunately during our stay in Siargao, the sea was a bit rough and we skipped the trip to Bucas Grande. What a pity!! I can't wait to return and discover this hidden gem myself! If the weather is pleasant during your stay, don't miss this magical place! Most resorts are happy to arrange your boat trip.
02 | EAT EAT EAT .... FRESH SEAFOOD
Siargao is a culinary heaven when it comes to seafood. Almost every resort and every restaurant in General Luna offers different kind of fish and seafood, don't miss out to try some local specialties.
If you're on a budget, go to the public market in General Luna and buy fish or seafood. Go in the morning, when everything is fresh. Tuna cost around PHP120-150 per kilo (~US$ 3). The cooks of most resorts are willing to prepare the fish for you (for a small fee). Enjoy!
We were actually lucky enough to get the freshest octopus during our island hopping tour, caught and prepared right in front of us.... (click image to enlarge)
03 | MAGPUPUNGKO POOL
Magpu... what? I still can't pronounce the name correctly, but I can guarantee that this place will blow you away. I haven't seen anything like it before.
Surrounded by bizarre rock formations lies a natural pool that looks like an infinity pool. It's separated from the ocean by a large reef. During low tide you can walk on the reef, the sea is calm. The water is incredibly clear in all shades of blue, green and everything between.
The Magpupungko Pool is located in Pilar, about an hour drive from General Luna. Rent a motorbike for PHP350 per day (US$8) and explore it yourself. If you don't want to drive, hire a tricycle / habal-habal for PHP800 - 1,000/day (US$20).
There is an entrance fee of PHP50 (US$1) per person. Absolutely worth it.
04 | RENT A BIKE AND GET LOST...
Siargao has some of the most beautiful natural landscapes and scenery in the Philippines. Renting a motorbike (PHP350/US$8 per day) and getting lost around the island is probably one of the best experiences for you. You can find deserted beaches, caves, waterfalls, endless rice fields...
Discover local villages, meet the people and see how they live. Many of their houses are build on water. Don't hesitate to stop from time to time, get off your bike and have a chat with the locals. You'll be surprised.
05 | BEACH BUMMING
Here comes my favorite part of Siargao. Beaches. I'm a beach-bitch. I love beaches. Perfect beaches. White beaches with turquoise waters and palm trees. And I have some damn high expectations when it comes to beaches.
What about Siargao's beaches....? They were just ...WOW.
Breathtaking. No people. No noise. No trash. Just me and a slice of paradise...
I really didn't expect that but Siargao has some of the most beautiful beaches I've seen in the Philippines – Wait... No. Siargao has some of the best beaches I've seen in my life...!! And I've been to the Maldives before, so heck... this means something!! Save your bucks and go to Siargao instead if you fancy a serene paradise beach looking like a postcard.
Most travelers coming to Siargao are there for surfing and don’t really care about beach bumming. It's not hard to find lonely beaches and enjoy them all to yourself.
These images were taken at the beach in General Luna, between the public market and Cloud 9. Don't expect to meet anyone there. Only the dead...there is a cemetery right on the beach. I can't imagine a more beautiful place to rest in peace. Except, I’d rather rest alive in paradise.
I took approximately 4862 photos of the beaches around Siargao, it took me forever to choose just a handful pictures for this section. Believe the hype, Siargao is beach bum heaven.
Not enough? Check out Tripadvisor for a detailed list of things to do in Siargao.
WHERE TO STAY IN SIARGAO?
I have bad news here. I don't want to share any information about the place I stayed because I loved it so much, and I want to keep it to myself. Sorry. Ugh. OK. I'll give you a hint. It's called Kermit Surf & Dive EcoCamp. Alright, I'll tell you more, what do you want to know?
The rooms? Wonderful. All native style. (photo below)
Expensive? No. Single room from PHP890/night (US$19), double room from PHP990/night (US$21).
Every room comes include a big breakfast. Really big!
The location? Five minutes walk to the beach in General Luna. Two minutes if you run.
The staff? Gianni the owner will become your best friend.
The food? OMG, don't get me started! I ate all my meals at Kermit. Every. Single. Meal. Too bad for all the other good restaurants in Siargao, I didn't give any other place a chance because the food at Kermit was some of the best I've had in the Philippines. Sigh. Just writing about it, I'm missing it.
Rooms & food at Kermit Surf & Dive EcoCamp (click to enlarge)
Obviously I loved staying at Kermit Surf & Dive EcoCamp. I even asked for a monthly rate (starts from PHP15,000 incl. breakfast in low season). Then wondered if I could just stay a year. I heard other guests asking if they can stay and work for the place. Probably forever?
You can book Kermit through the contact form on their website, however plan in advance, they tend to be fully booked, this place is popular! Say you heard about Kermit from JustOneWayTicket
when you contact them.
If you can't get a room, here some alternatives:
You want more choices? No problem. There are a few more cool places to stay in Siargao! I spent enough time in the island and had a look around... The following hotels and resorts are definitely worth to check them out!
Paglaom Hostel: If you're on a budget, try this new hostel! Bed in a dormitory cost PHP250/night (US$6). A cozy backpacker place in General Luna. Cheap, clean, and fun hostel with bunk beds and hammocks.
Point 303 Resort: Another highly rated budget hotel is the Point 303 Resort near Cloud 9. Native style rooms with fan for PHP700 (US$15) and A/C rooms for PHP1400 (US$30). Laid-back resort with spacious rooms and a nice veranda to hang out.
Isla Cabana: If you're on a bigger budget, a bit down the beach you'll find Isla Cabana (image above right). Rates from PHP4900 (US$110) for a double room with A/C. Not exactly budget friendly, but the resort is stunningly beautiful, amazing spacious cottages around a swimming pool, perfectly located on the white sandy beach in General Luna.
Buddha Resort: My blogger friends Melo, Ron and Gay stayed at the Buddha Resort (where the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been seen the week after I left...DAMNNN IT!). My friends really liked the place. I spent an evening at the resort and can vouch for it. Rates from PHP1900/night (US$42).
Tiki Bungalows: This resort is run by a Swedish guy and his wife. Beautiful native huts with modern interior, located along the beach between Cloud 9 and the center of General Luna. Free WiFi. Rooms start from around US$20/night. You can book Tiki Bungalows directly on Agoda or on Airbnb (here is a US$20 voucher for Airbnb!)
Eddie's Beach Resort: Gorgeous setting right on the beach, surrounded by palm trees and the perfect beachfront views (photo below, right). This resort is run by a friendly German guy. Spacious and spotless rooms, good restaurant with fair prices and free WiFi are more than enough reasons to stay here. From US$30/night.
Generally Siargao is very affordable. You can find basic double fan rooms from PHP500 in General Luna. If you're not a surfer, don't come between June - October, because that's when all the surfers are there and Siargao will be packed (and room rates are up).
For more rooms and hotels in Siargao, I'd recommend to check out Agoda.
HOW TO GET TO SIARGAO?
There are no direct flights from Manila, you have to fly via Cebu. Cebu Pacific Air pioneered direct thrice weekly flights between Cebu and Siargao in 2009. It continues to be the only airline servicing this route, providing connectivity for tourists who wish to visit the island, and locals needing access to Cebu’s commercial hub and beyond.
Lowest year-round fares to Siargao start at PHP1,288 (~US$29).
Cebu Pacific Air currently flies from Cebu to Siargao daily. Actually, my return ticket got cancelled. Keep in mind that weather conditions can change quickly and cancellations are common. Plan your return ticket around this, especially if you have a connecting (international) flight.
The flight itself was fantastic. It's small plane - I almost felt like in a private jet. The view over the islands was breathtaking, Make sure to get a window seat!
SO.... WHEN ARE YOU COMING TO SIARGAO?
You’ve almost reached the end of this article! I appreciate your interest in Siargao and I hope you will love it there as much as I did! The island is so much more than just surfing. Siargao is a piece of heaven. It became one of my favorite destinations in the Philippines, and I will surely return for a third time. Who knows, maybe next time I'll try surfing... See you!
Thank you for reading!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sabrina Iovino is the founder of JustOneWayTicket.com. She's half German, half Italian and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe. She feels weird to write about herself in the third person, so she'll switch now. Phew...much better! Let's restart:
Hi, I'm Sab! This is my blog and I write about the things I love. Mostly.
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