Featured image photo credit: Isabel Bengzon
Move over, Boracay. Siargao is the new Philippine island on every millennial traveler’s list. Siargao started out in very much the same way Bali did some 40 years ago. It began as a pilgrimage site for surfers chasing beautiful swells, braving heretofore untrodden roads to remote shores. Today, it’s been recognized by elite travel brands and publications as the up-and-coming Philippine destination to watch as perhaps Tulum was for Mexico.
Where is Siargao? The teardrop-shaped island–40 times bigger than Boracay–can be found in northern Mindanao, on the southeast corner of the Philippines. Is it dangerous? Not unless you drink and drive. What’s it all about? Siargao is the Philippines’ surf capital, home to easily 10 mostly reef breaks, the most famous of which is Cloud 9 in General Luna. Beyond the surf, people come for the raw beauty of the place and the great vibe. We spoke to Isabel Bengzon (@lovewesay) to bring you this guide to Siargao for the best sun, surf and swimming vacation!
When to go
Major events during the year held in Siargao include the following:
- Siargao International Game Fishing Tournament – April
- Philippine Surfing Championship Tour – September
- Fiesta (local island-wide festival) – end of September
- Cloud 9 International Surfing Cup – October
The best time to go to Siargao is from February to July for non-surfers looking for sunshine. Bigger swells arrive from September to November, making it the best time to go surfing. Rainy season is from November to January but the waves are still good for surfing though, so if you don’t mind getting extra wet, go for it!
If you want to avoid the crowds, overbooking and high prices, don’t come during big Philippine holidays including Labor Day (weekend on May 1st), Holy Week during Easter, Chinese New Year in January or February, Christmas and New Year.
Getting there and around
There are no international flights that land in Siargao. You need to fly to Cebu or Manila and book a domestic line to Siargao (IAO). Cebu would be our recommended stop as it’s an easier and quicker transfer.
When in Siargao, the best way to get around is by motorbike. Try to rent one in advance from your hotel before you arrive, especially if you’re coming during the high season. Specify if you want one with or without a board rack, the former being more expensive. You can also hail “habal-habals”, a narrower version of the tuk-tuk, or a car while there.
Some hotels also offer shuttle services. There are also bike rentals or, if you’re close by to everything, you can simply walk! Distances are relatively short as most establishments are concentrated on a two-kilometer stretch of road.
See & Do
Go on a road trip! Tour the island stopping at Taktak Falls in Santa Monica, the Magpupungko Tide Pools or Tayangban Cave Pool in Pilar, and Sugba Lagoon. If you’re into the adrenaline rush, don’t forget to squeeze in swinging into the river at Maasin. Not Bali-swing style, Tarzan style.
For some quiet time, visit Pacifico Beach up north for surf and relaxation. You can even book a couple of days there if you’re looking for a complete digital detox. Further north, there’s the burgeoning town of Burgos, where you can stop by Lokal and Isda’market to learn about how the community is growing. then unwind on Alegria Beach, home to what some consider the island’s finest stretch of sand.
The most popular island-hopping trip with My Siargao Guide goes to Daku, Guyam, and Naked islands. Other trips go to Sohoton Caves much further away (it takes a whole day, but so worth it). There’s also Anajawan and Mamon islands, or Corregidor Island for hiking. Boat parties and fishing trips can be arranged with Lupita Adventures along with motor and mountain bike rentals.
Try different tours like the Bathala Land Tour, which includes getting to know Philippine-grown coffee, a weaving workshop, and secret beaches. The Bayatakan Farm Tour, meanwhile, offers a farm to table experience in which you learn about the challenges of local farming, enjoying the river and an organic, locally-prepared meal as part of the tour.
Then, of course, there’s surfing. Remember to go to the surf spot appropriate for your skill level or you will put yourself and other people in harm’s way. Sign up at Kanaway Surf School for packages and day trips.
Finally, no vacation is complete without massages and a spa! There are several on the main road including mid-range Emerald Spa, Sol Spa, and Esse Spa. Siargao Bleu would be the choice for a more pampered experience.
My Siargao Guide Bravo Resort, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 927 611 6117, www.facebook.com/mysiargaoguide
Loka Poblacion 1, 8424 Burgos, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, lokalsiargao.com
Isda’market Purok Kalachuchi, 8424 Burgos, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, www.facebook.com/isdamarket
Bathala Land Tour Purok 1, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 995 011 7805, www.facebook.com/BathalaLandTours
Bayatakan Farm Tour www.instagram.com/bayatakanfarm
Kanaway Surf School +63 999 771 0061, www.instagram.com/kanaway.surfschool
Emerald House Village Barangay Catangnan, Cloud9, General Luna, Siargao Island, 08419 Surigao del Norte, Philippines, www.emeraldhousevillage.com
Sol Spa General Luna Siargao, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 930 599 5530, www.facebook.com/solespasiargao
Esse Spa www.facebook.com/EsseMassageAndSpa
Siargao Bleu Tourism Rd, General Luna, Surigao del Norte, siargaobleu.com.ph
For the full-on local experience, try a carinderia, or local open-air canteen. The two carinderias near Boyum’s Resort right next to fruit and veggie stalls have a wide array of local delicacies to choose from. Try things like monggo (bean soup), ginataang langka (greens cooked in coconut milk), bamboo shoots, or spicy pork with coconut.
For beachside dining, we recommend L’Osteria Siargao for an enjoyable fancy Italian dinner on the beach. Walk to White Banana next door for drinks; it’s especially busy on Saturdays but chill the rest of the week. Kalinaw Resort for date night on the beach, only 800 meters away from the infamous Cloud9 surf break. Lamari Siargao for breezy pool-side dining and drinking which is also a trendy place to stay. Grill places at Siargao Boulevard where you can buy fresh catch of the day from the General Luna wet market and bring them in for grilling.
Check out Spotted Pig, Kook Cafe and Greenhouse Siargao that serves great Western-style breakfast and brunch. If you feel a little heavy after days of rice and meat, drop by Kalipay for healthy food or Kali Ma at Lotus Shores and Cafe Honest for vegan dishes.
For a taste of hearty Filipino food (think meat and rice!), check out Azuete for inasal (Filipino-style barbecue) and Kanin Baboy, Cantina Luna, or Bulalo-An sa Bankerohan for some warm bone marrow soup on a rainy night at a good value.
If you’ve had your fill of Filipino food, perhaps spice it up with some Mexican comfort food at Miguel’s Taqueria y Cervecería in town or perhaps something Spanish at Bravo Beach Resort Siargao for trendy, international beachfront eats or La Santa for tapas which is also a surf shop, bar and tattoo studio!
Boyum’s Resort Tourism Road, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, www.facebook.com/boyumsonsiargao
L’Osteria Siargao Tuason Point, Bgy. Catangnan, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 917 892 3537, www.facebook.com/losteria.siargao
White Banana Tuason Beach, Brgy. Catangnan, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, www.facebook.com/whitebananabeach
Kalinaw Restaurant Resort General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, +63 939 904 3554, www.kalinawresort.com
Lamari Siargao Tourism Road, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 917 555 0073, www.facebook.com/lamarisiargao
Spotted Pig www.facebook.com/spottedpigsiargao
Kook Cafe www.facebook.com/kookcafeph
Greenhouse Siargao www.facebook.com/Greenhousesiargao
Azuete Tourism Road, General Luna, Siargao, 8419 Catangnan, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 932 289 4296, www.facebook.com/azuetesiargao
Kanin Baboy www.facebook.com/kaninbaboycorp
Cantina Luna Tourism Road, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 917 125 1442, www.facebook.com/cantinalunasiargao
Bulalo-An sa Bankerohan Pob. 5 Tourism Road, Catangnan, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, www.facebook.com
Miguel’s Taqueria y Cervecería Poblacion 3, Tourism Road, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 977 247 4182, www.facebook.com/MTCSiargao
Bravo Beach Resort Siargao Tourism Road, Barangay 5, General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 905 395 5493, www.bravosiargao.com
La Santa Siargao Tourism Rd, General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, www.instagram.com/lasanta.siargao
If you’re in Siargao to surf, you can try Alon Resort right smack in front of the breaks of Cloud 9 and Quicksilver. It often hosts visiting surf pros during the annual Cloud 9 International Surfing Cup. Beachfront resort Cloud 101 Beach Resort is another good option, within walking distance of Cloud 9 and the other beginner to intermediate breaks like Jacking Horse. It’s also a five-minute walk to the boat jump off to surf breaks in nearby islands. Harana Resort is the place for intermediate-advanced surfers, sitting in front of the Tuason beach break.
If you want to be social, book your stay at the highly popular and trendy Bravo Beach Resort. Another beachfront place, White Banana Beach Club, is the place for sunset beach parties (Saturdays) and high-end cocktails. Budget travelers can check into Mad Monkeys Hostel for socializing and just the right amount of party. If “instagrammable” is a criterion for you, make a beeline for Hillside Resort.
For peace and quiet, opt for Greenhouse Resort, an “eco-surf” property with villas built into tropical gardens on the waterfront. Kawayan Resort in front of Cloud 9 is both calm and great for surfers – they also have the island’s best bakery! Finally, consider Soultribe Beach Retreat in Malinao away from the madding crowd of General Luna.
If you want to be pampered (and have no spending limit), allow us to point you in the direction of Nay Palad Hideaway in Malinao, formerly known as Dedon Island Resort–Siargao’s most luxurious and exclusive resort. Runners-up include Bayud, a boutique resort in Malinao set apart from busy General Luna, Kalinaw in General Luna, a beachfront property but still in the heart of the action, and Siargao Bleu, seafront villas known for its relaxing spa.
Cloud 101 Beach Resort Cloud 9, Gen. Luna, Siargao Island
Surigao del Norte, Philippines, +63 910 848 0893 /+63 919 826 8837, www.ocean101cloud9.com
Harana Surf Resort Tuason Point, General Luna, Siargao Island, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 998 849 5461, haranasurf.com
White Banana Beach Club Tuason Beach, Brgy. Catangnan, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 947 553 1000, www.facebook.com/whitebananabeach
Mad Monkey Hostel Siargao Lot 2903 Brgy, General Luna, 8419 Surigao del Norte, Philippines, +63 947 187 2392, www.madmonkeyhostels.com/siargao
The Hillside Resort Siargao Tourism Rd, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 977 275 2889, www.facebook.com/hillsideresortsiargao
Kawayan Resort Lot 4, NIA Road, National Highway, Brgy. Macabling, 4026 Santa Rosa, Laguna, +63 922 877 4146, www.facebook.com/kawayanresort
Kalinaw Resort General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, +63 939 904 3554, www.kalinawresort.com
Siargao Bleu Resort & Spa Tourism Rd, General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, +63 917 772 4188, siargaobleu.com.ph
In many ways, Siargao is still a small town compared to bigger beach destinations in Asia. Usually, there are only one or two lively places to choose from in terms of going out on any given night and it changes depending on the day. Whatever the case, leave your heels or long trousers at home, because the dress code is definitely beachwear anywhere you go, at any time of day!
Barrel Bar and Restaurant is jam packed with residents and tourists joining Quiz Night on Tuesdays for some alcohol-infused trivia fun. For something a little more laid back, head to Kitya’s Place on “Happy Sundays”.
La Santa hosts dance parties several nights a week, notably the Skama Party on Thursdays for also for electronic music lovers. You can head to Baile Restobar on Thursdays if you prefer more mainstream music. Loose Keys Moto Culture is also a good option for Friday (electronic), although it’s pretty much happening every night of the week.
On Saturdays, head to White Banana for sunset and then continue to another of Harana’s famous dance parties. On Sunday, continue the fun at Lamari’s “Daytime Disco” and dance your heart out by the pool!
Barrel Bar and Restaurant Purok 5, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, www.facebook.com/BarrelBarSiargao
Kitya’s Place Purok 3, General Luna, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 947 428 7836, www.facebook.com/kityasplace
Loose Keys Moto Culture Tourism Rd. Purok 5, General Luna, Siargao Island
8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, www.facebook.com/loosekeysmotoculture
Baile Restobar Tourism Road, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 908 518 3989, www.facebook.com/bailerestobar
Lamari Siargao Tourism Road, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, www.facebook.com/lamarisiargao
Ready for your trip yet? We hope you enjoy and make the most out of it! Remember, be respectful of the locals and the island’s environment. This is a Philippine destination that prides itself on the harmony of its community; Siargaonons welcome those who understand and contribute to the spirit and lifestyle of their beautiful home. For more Philippine destination inspiration, check out this article!