When Siargao was voted Best Island in the World — briefly taking the title away from Boracay — in the 2019 edition of the Condé Nast poll, it drew even more attention to the island paradise that had already become a tourist hotspot in recent years. And now, as dreams of traveling again come closer to becoming reality, travelers can’t help but start pining for Siargao’s white beaches, lush woodlands and exciting surf spots once more.
The global ban on traveling might have scuttled vacation plans everywhere, there is a bright side. Siargao, like other tourist hotspots, is taking a breather from the crowds — and locals are rediscovering the quiet charm of Siargao and the unhurried pace of island life. “It’s like having paradise all to ourselves,” says Camille Porras, who moved to Siargao in 2018. “You can walk up to the famous Cloud 9 tower and not bump into anyone. Tourist spots like Sugba Lagoon have reopened, and you get the chance to experience it without the crowds.”
However, like other business owners who rely on Siargao’s booming tourist trade, Camille is looking forward to the return of the thousands of beachgoers and surfers who are the island’s lifeblood. She had moved to Siargao a couple of years ago with the intention of opening a new location for Sea Green, a café and boutique inn that she put up in Davao and then in Boracay.
Sea Green Siargao opened its doors in June 2019, on a prime spot in General Luna, the main tourist drag on the island. The eight-room inn is right in the middle of what Camille calls a close-knit “neighborhood of transplants, more like a compound of friends”. Set back from the main road and near the beach, their spot is usually one of the busiest during the tourist season. “We have Lubihan right next to us, which is owned by good friends from Manila, a Crossfit gym hidden under coconut trees, a quaint hostel called Dream Catcher Nipas.”
“It’s like having paradise all to ourselves. You can walk up to the famous Cloud 9 tower and not bump into anyone. Tourist spots like Sugba Lagoon have reopened, and you get the chance to experience it without the crowds.”
True to Siargao’s nature as a small, intimate beach paradise, Camille says, “most of our guests have become our friends”. The slowdown in business has meant that they’ve had to miss out on welcoming new friends, and like everyone else, they’ve had to make changes over the past few months. “We’ve adjusted our prices just for us to remain competitive and to pay for operational costs. We now accept long-term guests at very reasonable rates. At this point, we just have to ride out the storm and survive.”
When travelers come back to Sea Green, they’ll be greeted with safety protocols that the staff has put into place to answer post-pandemic needs, Camille adds. “We sanitize and disinfect all rooms for at least a full day before another guest checks in. Our staff are required to wear a mask around the property.”
“We’re optimistic about tourism in Siargao. I’m sure the tourists are going to come back, and the island will be busier than ever,” Camille says. “We’ve put the quiet time to good use — we’ve brushed up the details of each of our rooms, retrained our staff, and let the island take a breather. It’ll be ready for travelers again.”