Featured photo credit: @julienne.rara
Embark on the surf journey of your dreams this side of the Pacific and we’ll show you how. Surfing in Siargao is on the rise and if you love surfing, or even just the idea of it, this little-known corner of the Philippines is where to go. You won’t be the first to go in search of swell-Nirvana in Siargao. If you come just to surf in Siargao, whatever your level, you’re almost guaranteed to have the time of your life!
Many of the best surf spots in Siargao are tightly held secrets, but we’ll be divulging more than enough here to keep you busy during your stay. Just remember to respect the local rules and contribute to the good vibes the island holds dear!
History: The birth of the Philippines’ surf capital
Over ten years ago, the road leading up to world-famous break Cloud 9 was just a dirt path with only a handful of resorts; only the more adventurous travelers willing to rough it would go. Pioneering surfers from Australia and Europe looking for some peace and quiet settled into the neighborhood and set up what would later become mainstay resorts–places like Alon Resort, Kawayan Siargao Resort, Kalinaw Restaurant Resort, and Kermit. Growth has been exponential in the past five years, with popular resorts like Bravo Beach Resort Siargao and Harana Surf Resort cropping up.
Construction of new establishments has practically been a constant year-round since 2015, with many local families building homestays to cater to the ever-growing crowd alongside foreign and national transplants buying up land and setting up their own resort, hostel, bar or restaurant.
Along with the boom in tourists visiting the island, development has pretty much been unrestrained, the municipality almost unable to keep up with the growth. That said, tourism has also led to increased awareness regarding environmental and social issues. Many residents, resort operators, and private establishments take matters into their own hands when it comes to beach clean-ups, waste management, upcycling, uplifting local industries, and education. The island’s residents have thus become conscious of avoiding the same fate that befell Boracay.
Alon Resort Bgy. Catangnan, Gen. Luna, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, +63 919 999 5854 (reservation), +63 999 998 5962 (resort/dining), www.cloud9surf.com
Kawayan Siargao Resort Siargao Island, Cloud 9, Philippines, +63 949 0860 808, www.kawayansiargaoresort.com
Kalinaw Restaurant Resort General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, +63 939 904 3554, www.kalinawresort.com
Kermit Siargao Purok 5, 8419 General Luna, Siargao Island, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 917 655 0548 (room and availability), +63 977 856 3321 (restaurant reservation), www.kermitsiargao.com
Bravo Beach Resort Siargao Tourism Road, Barangay 5, General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 905 395 5493, www.bravosiargao.com
Harana Surf Resort Tuason Point, General Luna, Siargao Island, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, +63 998 849 5461, haranasurf.com
Today’s Siargao: What to expect
Who might you bump into traveling to Siargao today? According to Isabel Bengzon, a local entrepreneur and surfer, several Europeans come to the island hoping to find a trail off the beaten path. “We’re seeing mostly Spaniards and French people from Europe followed by Scandinavians and Germans. We’re getting many Australians and Israelis these days as well, depending on the season. Recently there’s also been a spike in Korean and Chinese tourists.”
Originally from Manila, Isabel is one of the “capital-born” Siargao residents who chose to uproot themselves from city life and create an alternative way of living on the island. She gives us insider knowledge on how and where to surf on the island!
When to go
Intermediate to advanced surfers head to Siargao from September to November–the best time for surfing. During rainy season from November to January, the waves are still good for surfing although any other touristic activities might be hindered.
If you want to avoid the crowds, overbooking and high prices, don’t come during big Philippine holidays including Labor Day (weekend of May 1st), Holy Week during Easter, Chinese New Year in January or February, Christmas and New Year.
If you’re a beginner with minimal surfing experience, you must go with an instructor your first time out in Siargao’s waves. Even intermediate surfers hire guides to understand the island’s several breaks, danger zones, jumping-off points, shoulders, and more. There are no hard and fast rules for where you should surf on any given day because conditions are constantly changing; your instructor will recommend the best place to go.
Book in advance with Kanaway Surf School, well located by the pier where boats depart for offshore surf spots. You can message them on Facebook or Instagram for package details; prices are mostly fixed. They have a pool of several instructors who should be able to help you grow in the sport over your time on the island.
You can also book with Oh Wow Surf on the beach in front of beginner spot Jacking Horse, or with Harana in front of an intermediate-advanced break.
Kanaway Surf School Siargao Island, Brgy, General Luna, Philippines, +63 999 771 0061, www.facebook.com/kanaway.surfschool
Oh Wow Surf Tourism Rd, General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, +63 915 474 3655, ohwowsurf.com
Harana Harana Surf Resort, Tuason Point, General Luna, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, +63 998 8495461, haranasurf.com/surf-school
Getting started: Beginners
The easiest spots to access are around the famous advanced break of Cloud 9 in General Luna. Jacking Horse has a beginner-friendly inside section with long and small waves that push you along. Facing the sea, you can find it on the left of the iconic boardwalk, almost directly in front of Cafe Loka.
Out of surf season, head to Quiksilver not far from Jacking Horse. This otherwise advanced spot can be small enough to learn on as with Cloud 9 when the sea is flat elsewhere; check the off-peak inside section for enjoyable waist-sized waves.
Guiuan or Giwan further south is a year-round surf spot great for learning and playing. It’s home to two breaks; one is called Paradise and another is Secret Spot. According to the guys at Fat Lips surf shop and rental store, “Under normal conditions, Guiuan is between knee and shoulder high and a perfect place for beginners.” Be warned, though–the place is not easy to find unless you’re with a local instructor!
Cafe Loka Cloud 9, Siargao Island, 8419 General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, www.facebook.com/Cafe-Loka
Fat Lips Tourism Road, General Luna, Siargao Island, Philippines, www.surfsiargao.com
Are you comfortable going out on your own and can you pretty much handle the board with confidence? Can you turn away from someone about to crash into you if need be? If you’ve got more control of the board, try the following spots:
Cemetery or Pesangan is a solid intermediate spot, although beginners might be hanging about depending on the conditions. There’s usually a break for all levels and it’s close to General Luna’s busy strip; however, you have to either walk a way off from the shore to get to the reef or take a boat around.
Quicksilver can be great if you can beat the locals to the paddle, definitely challenging when waves get overhead. If you want a quick and easy bout, though, head to Jacking Horse (peak section) where you can usually find faster and bigger waves without having to journey too far.
Up north, you can try Salvacion. It’s a 30-minute drive up the island, and from the shore, you’ll have to take a five-minute boat out. Salvacion has become more popular recently and is definitely more intermediate than advanced. Further north in Pacifico you can also check the breaks in front of Bamboo Garden Beach Resort (beginner to intermediate) or across Big Wish (intermediate to advanced)
If you don’t want to venture too far from General Luna but want to get away from the crowds, try taking the boat from Kanaway Surf School to Philippine Deep across Santa Fe. This intermediate to advanced spot has more than enough room for those who make an effort to travel here.
What would this guide be without mentioning Cloud 9? If you’re an expert or pro wanting to test your limits, head to some of the world’s most powerful waves. Just walk to the tower from the boardwalk with your shortboard, jump, and, well, good luck!
Otherwise, jump on a boat and shop around for waves on Rock Island, Stimpy’s and Bumee (or Bomie/Bumie)–the latter is a beautiful sunset surf spot.
For a more comprehensive surf spot guide complete with information on tides and wind direction, try this one by Fat Lips shop. The best is really to ask the locals who would know where it’s at!
We hope you have the time of your life chasing waves in the Philippines and this guide to surfing in Siargao was helpful. Don’t forget to check out our lifestyle guide on what to do, where to stay and when to party in Siargao here. May the swell be with you!