This quiet surf town has become a hot tourist spot where you can enjoy the waves, sand and fantastic food.
Life is pretty simple and laid-back in Siargao. The casual, hang-loose vibe of the locals lends itself to a lazier, more relaxing atmosphere. Making friends on the island is not only easy, it’s encouraged. No need for formality here — shorts and slippers are practically the official mode of dress.
Surfers from all over the world come to this teardrop-shaped island in Surigao del Norte, Mindanao, to ride the waves, and some of them never leave, opening hostels, restaurants and more to serve both the growing local community and the crowds of travelers drawn to the much-talked-about island that has rapidly become one of the country’s top destinations. Siargao, with its natural beauty, friendly locals and plethora of outdoor activities, will not fail to charm and thrill at the same time — whether you’re there for a few days, weeks or even for good.
Highlights for the Traveler
Visitors tend to make a beeline for the municipality of General Luna on the eastern side, mostly heading to Cloud 9, the ultimate surfing spot. Local lore says it was discovered by a surfer fleeing Balinese authorities, but the name came from photographer John Callahan and professional surfers, Taylor Knox and Evan Slater, back in 1992: Cloud 9, a local chocolate bar, was a staple of their beach diet, and it was used as a caption in a surf magazine. The name stuck — and so did the surfers who come to this mecca regularly. It has become so popular, in fact, that it serves as the location for the annual Cloud 9 Surfing Cup, where some of the best surfers in the world ride the Siargao swells.
Beyond Cloud 9 are less crowded surf spots such as nearby Tuason Point or Cemetery (which requires a short boat ride). Surfing newbies can also hire a local surf instructor or join a surf camp. There are waves year round, but the best time to visit is around March or April and September to October. Beginners should come by around June and July, when the waves are relatively small.
The beaches on Siargao island, though great for surfing, aren’t very good for casual swimming because of their reef-lined floors. Instead, take an island-hopping tour to visit islets boasting white sand, smaller waves and clear swimming spots. You can hire a boat from General Luna to see Sugba Lagoon, a sapphire–blue hideaway with a diving board right in the middle of the lagoon. Or go on a road trip to Del Carmen, about 54km away, to get a boat to the lagoon.
Activities abound in and around the island — there’s even a tiny golf course. While the course is quite small with just five holes, the level of difficulty is said to appease die-hard golfers. If you like what you see and would like to help maintain Siargao’s natural beauty, volunteer with the Sun Crew Organization, which organizes beach clean-up activities on weekends.
Just Outside Siargao
Thrill-seekers shouldn’t miss the Tak Tak Falls. About 28km away from Siargao, this day-long adventure spot is definitely worth the trek, even if it is one of the less popular activities on the island. Dive off a cliff or jump off a tree into crystal–clear waters, explore the top of the waterfall or float along the pool and watch fellow divers from below.
Transportation to Siargao’s prime spots is pretty easy to find. There are vans to rent (usually for large groups) and motorcycle taxis called habal-habal. Hop on a boat or ferry to explore by sea or rent your own motorcycle or bike to get around town.
By Patrcia Barcelon, as of January 2020.