Travel Guide to Siargao – The Surfing Capital of The Philippines
Siargao is a small island in the Philippine Sea, often referred to as ‘the surfing capital’ of the Philippines. Surfing actually brought me here in the first place, but with an endless stretch of pristine beaches, the island is a perfect destination for regular beach bummers as well. Although the tourism on the island is constantly developing, Siargao is not overrun by tourists (yet) and has managed to preserve its relaxed island vibe.
Here is my travel guide to Siargao in the Philippines!
How to get to Siargao
You can fly to Siargao from either Cebu or Manila. Cebu Pacific (or actually its subsidiary Cebgo) operates three daily flights between Cebu and Siargao. The flight time from Cebu to Siargao is one hour.
Just a few months before my trip another airline, SkyJet, started operating direct flights between Manila and Siargao. I choose to fly with SkyJet, mainly because they took surfboards to their flights with a surcharge of 1200 PHP. With Cebgo their official rules say they do not take surfboards for their flights. Although, the rumor says that they actually do take them if you just show up to the airport with your board. Anyway, we didn’t want to risk it and flew with SkyJet. The flight took around 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Getting from the airport to General Luna, the main tourist area of Siargao is super easy. When you get out from the airport there are several van drivers waiting for you outside to take you to General Luna. It takes about 40 minutes to get from the airport to General Luna and the price is fixed, 300 PHP per person.
You can also go to Siargao with a ferry from Surigao. This is (naturally) the cheapest way but if you are only planning to visit Siargao and not the surrounding islands, I would say it is too much hassle to go with the ferry. First, you have to fly to Cebu, and from there take a bus to Surigao, and from there the ferry to Siargao. The whole trip takes a lot of time so I don’t think it’s worth it and would just go with a plane.
Where to stay
Most of the tourism on the island is focused on the area between the town of General Luna and the surf spot Cloud 9. This is the best area to base yourself. The distance between Cloud 9 and General Luna is about 5 kilometers, but it is easy to drive with a motorbike. Most of the ‘life’ in the area (restaurants etc.) is located closer the town of General Luna, but I don’t think it matters that much whereabout you are staying in this area.
There are various hotels, hostels, bungalows and resorts offering accommodation for all budgets. Some places offer you discount if you stay a longer time. I stayed in Siargao for almost three weeks and rented a bungalow for this time with small kitchen, bathroom, ac and satellite tv. The room was around 830 PHP per night for two people, so 415 PHP each. I saw some hostels advertising 350 PHP per bunk bed and I guess a lot of budget hostels are charging around this per bed.
Mama’s Grill is the most famous and busiest grill on Siargao and for a good reason. If there is something Filipinos know well it’s how to make delicious barbecue! This place is super popular so try not to come during peak times (around 7-8pm) or you may end up waiting for a long time. For the barbecue sauce, you can choose a sweet, spicy or mixed sauce. Price per skewer is around 15-60 PHP. If you are visiting Siargao you must eat here at least once but I warn you, the food is really addictive. I had dinner here maybe 15 times during my three week holiday.
Miguel’s Taqueria serves the best tacos on the island! Everyone’s favorite fish tacos are definitely worth a try. You can also choose chicken or beef filling, which were both also really delicious. Tacos (2pieces) cost 100 PHP and burritos are also 100 PHP. Miquel also serves definitely the coldest beer on the island for 50 PHP per bottle. Also, Gecko Shake delivers their delicious shakes to here. Small shake is 60 PHP and large is 75 PHP. My personal favorite is the sweet mango shake.
This became my favorite place to have lunch in Siargao and I actually ate here almost every day. Delicious Filipino street food with very affordable prices. The place is located at the corner of the market behind Palaka Beach Bar. Meat dishes are only 50-60 PHP and pumpkin soup only 30 PHP. Try my favorite, Pork Afritada.
If you are craving for pizza Aventino’s is definitely a good place to go. After trying Pizza in Aventino’s I didn’t even bother to try any other places for pizza because theirs is so good and cheap. The delicious thin pizza costs only 135 PHP. They have three restaurants in Siargao: One is close to Cloud 9 (where I usually went to), one is in General Luna and one is in Dapa.
Ronaldo’s serves good Filipino and Western dishes with affordable prices. This place is great choice to go if you want to have some variety and a lot of options to choose from in the menu. Main dishes are starting from 80 PHP. Again, I would recommend to trying their Afritada.
Siargao is a dream come true for any surfer no matter what your skill level is. The island offers world class waves for more advanced surfers and nice mellow waves for beginners. Water is warm, clean and clear and you can enjoy the most beautiful scenery while riding the waves. Also, the crowd factor is not too bad – at least when it’s not the high season for surfing.
Surf spots & seasons
Siargao became well-known among surfers in the early 90’s for its famous surf break Cloud 9. Apart from Cloud 9, there are many other breaks around the island suitable for all skill levels. I’m not going to write a detailed description of the surf spots around the island because the guys at Fat Lips Surf Shop have already done that. Check out the spot descriptions and locations from their website.
Best season for surfing is roughly from August to November when the trade winds are blowing off-shore and the swell is likely to be a decent size. This is also the high season for surfing so the island can get crowded during these months. During summer months, from June to August, the surf is pretty much flat.
Stimpy’s & Rock Island
When I was visiting Siargao (in April) the trade winds were blowing onshore for most spots accessible from the mainland. I was actually surfing only three different spots in Siargao: Stimpy’s, Rock Island and one time at Daku. All these spots are outer reef spots and only accessible by boat. Stimpy’s and Rock Island are located next to each other and facing different directions. If there was enough swell either of these spots was working almost every time I went there.
Stimpy’s was my absolute favorite and probably the most fun wave I have ever surfed. It is a world-class left-hander that can handle big swells but also works well also on smaller days. You can even catch a nice barrel in here if you are lucky! Rock Island is a bit similar to Stimpy’s but a right-hander, although I think the wave in Rock Island is bigger and fatter compared to Stimpy’s. Even though I am a regular and normally would prefer right-hander waves, in here I liked Stimpy’s way more than Rock Island. The boats to Stimpy’s and Rock Island are leaving from the end of the road at Cloud 9. The boat ride is 200 PHP per person if there are at least two people on board.
The wave at Daku was also super fun, although the day I was there it was also really small. Daku is really popular spot among surf schools and beginners so it can get crowded. When we were here there was only one surf school and few locals, but they all left after a while when the low tide was coming and we had the spot just for ourselves! The waves were also getting crappier but nothing beats an empty lineup – especially in the most picturesque surf spot you could ever imagine. The boat to Daku is 500 PHP so with two people on board 250 PHP each.
Other things to do
Chill on the beaches
Siargao has hundreds of meters of empty palm fringed white sandy coastline so it’s a beach bummers paradise. Just drive or walk around and pick your spot. My favorite beach area is the stretch south of General Luna. High tide is best for swimming, as during low tide the beaches dry out and you have to walk a long way to the outer reef if you want to swim.
Siargao is surrounded by alive coral reef, clear turquoise water and healthy marine life, which make the island ideal for snorkeling. Palaka Dive Center rents out snorkels and fins if you want to go DIY snorkeling trips. I found some nice reef from the south coast (between Dapa and General Luna). I also went snorkeling at Stimpy’s once when I was not able to surf that day. If you are traveling with a surfer but are not that keen to surf yourself, hop on the boat and you can do some snorkeling while your friend is catching waves.
Go island hopping
Island hopping is probably the most popular thing to do for nonsurfing tourists in Siargao. And also for surfers on flat days. I was planning to go island hopping one day but… There were waves at Daku Island and I went surfing instead!
The island hopping tour goes normally to three islands, Guyam Island, Daku and Naked Island. Guyam island is on the way to the surf spot in Daku so I saw that one from the distance. Guyam looked like the ultimate paradise you see on the brochures of travel agencies – a small sandy island filled with coconut trees and surrounded by the bluest water ever. Daku is a bit of a similar looking island but bigger one. I didn’t touch the land in Daku, but I was surfing at the spot right next to it and enjoying its beauty from the sea. The price for island hopping tour is around 700 PHP per person including these three islands.
Cruise around the island
Rent yourself a motorbike and go exploring! You will need a motorbike (or bicycle if you want to stay fit) anyway for moving around, so why not go for a little further and explore the island a little. What I really love about Siargao is the beautiful unspoiled nature, which consists of countless palm trees, clean pristine beaches and some more palm trees. There is definitely no shortage of coconuts on this island!
Apart from few towns and villages and one main road, the whole island is basically covered in coconut trees. What would be more liberating feeling than cruising on an empty street, wind running through your hair and nothing or no-one around except countless palm trees. Really, if you go a little further from the main road going from General Luna to Dapa, the streets are almost empty. Occasionally you encounter some water buffalos, goats, chicken or friendly locals, but traffic isn’t really an issue in Siargao. Most places were renting motorbikes for 400 PHP per day, but if you rent it for a long term you may be able to negotiate the daily price to 300 PHP.
Places to visit
Mangpupungko Tidal Pools
Incredibly difficult word to write, but a really beautiful place. Mangpupungko Tidal Pools are located north of General Luna about 50 minutes drive away. The pools are a popular place to go for tourists and travelers visiting Siargao. It is also an easy place to visit, as you can just drive there and you don’t have to book any tours or boat trips.
During low tide water gets trapped into the holes on the cliff, forming beautiful turquoise swimming pools. Make sure you time your visit during low tide because otherwise there are no pools, although the beach is nice as well. You can check the tide chart for example from magicseaweed.com.
Sugba Lagoon & Mangroves of Del Carmen
Sugba Lagoon was one of the places on my bucket list for Siargao after seeing incredible pictures of this place. The lagoon was gorgeous but during the time of our visit it was also packed with tourists, so my experience was not as good as what I hoped for. Nevertheless, I would still recommend going here if you are visiting Siargao. A lot of hotels, travel agencies and other places organize tours to visit the lagoon, but as a DIY travelers, me and my partner decided to do the trip by ourselves. I was a bit worried would it be hard to get to the lagoon, but it was actually so easy I wonder why people are even going on these organized trips. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to get to Sugba Lagoon by yourself.
1. Drive yourself to Del Carmen
Del Carmen is a small town located at the north-west corner of the island. This is where the boats to Sugba Lagoon are leaving from. It takes around 1 hour to drive from General Luna to Del Carmen.
2. Eat something
There are no shops or restaurants at the lagoon, so make sure you don’t go hungry. I had lunch at one nice local shop next to the market but can’t remember the name of the place. If you would rather have your lunch at the lagoon that’ll do as well. At the lagoon, there is a small hut with bench and tables where you can eat. Apparently, you can also buy fresh fish from Del Carmen and the locals will cook it for you at the lagoon.
3. Find Mangrove Protection & Information Centre
This is the place where you can buy your boat ride to the lagoon. The Information Center is the last building after the market, just ask some locals they will point you to right direction. The price per boat is 1600 PHP, I’m not sure for how many people as we were only two. Foreigners pay also 100 PHP each extra, so the total price for the boat was 1800 PHP for two people, so not too bad.
The perks of doing everything by yourself is definitely that you get your own private boat and you can spend as long time at the lagoon as you like. Also, you don’t have to wait for the others if you want to leave earlier. Naturally, you save some money as well especially if there are more people on the boat. One price I saw for an organized tour was 1400 PHP per person. The organized tours usually include transportation to Del Carmen, the boat ride, lunch and paddle boards.
The boat ride to the lagoon is almost as good as the lagoon itself. The route to the lagoon goes through the Mangrove Forest of Del Carmen, which is the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the Philippines. At the lagoon, you can rent paddle boards and snorkels what I highly recommend to do. The surroundings of the lagoon are super nice for paddle boarding. For snorkeling, the water is super clear and there is a nice variety of colorful coral fishes.
Have you visited Siargao and have some great travel tips? Please share in the comments below. 🙂