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I heard the instructor’s go signal and found myself paddling with my arms swiftly sliding to the water and back to the surface again and again. I pulled myself up as the long wave moved towards the tip of the surfboard pushing it face down. I felt the force that’s attempting to throw me out to the shores. I breathed, quickly brought my right foot forward unto the board and the other steady, then lifted my arms wide to find my balance. I reckoned it was a good pop! And so there I was dancing, swerving through the waves under a bright, sunny sky.
Welcome to the surfing mecca of the Philippines, SIARGAO!
Situated in the province of Surigao del Norte in Mindanao, this teardrop-shaped island which stretches for about 437 square kilometers has long been the go-to destination for surfing. It started in 1980s with the discovery of a break at Tuason point that is constantly having a battering relationship with the ginormous Pacific Ocean resulting to powerful, big waves. The place was too good of a discovery by surfers that they called it Cloud 9. Words spread out like traveling long waves, and thus now making Siargao one of the running frontiers in tourism in the Philippines.
Apart from surfing, Siargao has a collection of unique waterfront attractions that draw interest to non-surfers. There is the white, powdery sands of Daku, Guyam and Naked islands; the scenic rock formation and natural tidal pool of Magpupungko; and the enigmatic thoroughfares and verdant islets of Sohoton cove, just to name a few.
QUICK FACTS AND TIPS ABOUT SIARGAO
Here are few facts and tips to consider when traveling around Siargao and its nearby islands.
- Even with its rising popularity, Siargao has maintained its backpacker atmosphere, keeping the place simple, laid back and rustic with only a soft touch of modernization. Coconut groves are a typical sight in the area.
- Public motorcycle and tricycle are the only means of transport to get around the island. Minimum fare for short distance travel is P10. Transportation is scarce at night. If you want to go around, rent a bike or schedule a pickup with a motorcycle driver. Note that fare in the evening might surge.
- Surfing is all year round, but the best time to visit is during the months of September and October when the waves are at its most suitable state for surfing. The International and National Surfing Cup is held during September which is considered as the peak season. During this time, accommodations are mostly fully booked. Travelers are advised to arrange accommodation ahead.
- The waves in Cloud 9 are big and rough. If you are an inexperienced surfer, it is highly advised to hire an instructor for a fee of P300. Please note that surfing instructors are required to have a Siargao Island Surfing Association (SISA) ID. No ID means no surfing lesson.
- The seabed in most of the surfing areas are rocky. Expect small scratches when you fall down as you surf. While in the island, it is best to bring a health kit. Take extra careful in your trip as there is only one major hospital in the island and may not be readily available for complicated operations.
- Take note of the tide times. Magpupungko and Sohoton Cove are best visited and much safer during low tide.
- When it comes to food, the island has limited choices unless you are in a major hotel. Most restaurants open only during meal time (lunch and dinner only), and shut down operations not later than 9:00PM. Also, food is a bit pricey for most of the restaurants. If you are on a tight budget, go to Mama’s Grill. But to really save up, you can buy food items at the market and cook if it is allowed in your accommodation.
- The island is still lightly explored by tourists, hang out with locals to know more information, tips and special events.
- Avoid haggling with tour operators. The best way to save is to tour in group. Join or invite other travelers if you are traveling solo.
- Parties at night are all over the island. The best local parties happen every Friday, feel free to ask the locals for details.
- Stack up some cash, as there are only 3 ATMs in the island. One at the airport and the other 2 at Dapa port. These ATMs do not accept foreign cards.
- Mobile and internet connectivity is average in most of the areas. The more popular choice around the island is SMART cellular. Ocean 101 is near a SMART tower and might be the best place to stay if you heavily rely on internet connection.
HOW TO GET TO SIARGAO
Here are options in getting to Siargao by air, land and sea.
By Air (Direct Flight)
Among the local destinations, only Manila and Cebu have a direct flight to Siargao at Sayak airport. CebuPacific airline flies from both destinations while Skyjet only offers a direct flight from Manila and Philippine Airlines (PAL) only from Cebu. Book your flight using the links.
Once at Sayak airport, take a public van for P150 or a tricycle/motorcycle for P500 for 2 to 3 persons to General Luna. Travel time is about 45 minutes.
By Air + Sea
Another option is to fly to Surigao del Norte if you are from Manila, Cebu or Ozamiz City. At the airport, take a tricycle or multicab (small light truck) to the port. Take note that there are two separate ports in Surigao. One offers outrigger boat and the other port has RORO ferry to take you to Dapa port in Siargao. Fare is P260, travel time is 3 hours. Daily trips are available as early as 6:00AM until noon.
At Dapa port, charter a tricycle for P250 good for 4 persons or motorcycle for P200 suitable for 2 persons to take you to General Luna. If you are on a budget, walk ahead to the nearby tricycle terminal beside the market. Fare to General Luna is P30 per person.
By Air + Land + Sea
This can be time consuming but you may take a direct flight to Davao, Cagayan de Oro or Butuan then ride a bus to any of the ports in Surigao del Norte before heading out to Dapa port in Siargao on an outrigger boat or RORO ferry.
TOP ATTRACTIONS IN SIARGAO
Here are 9 top tourist destinations that you can cover in a day tour or with an itinerary for 2 to 4 days while in and near Siargao.
CLOUD 9 BOARDWALK
MAGPUPUNGKO TIDAL POOL
JELLYFISH SANCTUARY (TOJOMAN LAGOON)
TOP THINGS TO DO IN SIARGAO
Here are top things to do and activities that are worth a try in Siargao.
- Go Surfing! Siargao is the surfing capital of the Philippines for a reason. Whether advanced or inexperienced, a trip to Siargao is not complete without it. If the rocky seabed of Cloud 9 is too harsh for you, go to Daku island. It has fine sands and gentle waves to suit your first surfing experience.
- Get your perfect tan and go on an island hopping. The islands of Naked, Daku and Guyam are one of the Philippines’ finest. Start your trip to Naked island and freely bare it all, before proceeding to Daku where you can trade smiles to the friendly fishing community. Cap off your island hopping experience by gracing on a beautiful sunset at Guyam island. The whole day tour would only cost for about P1,500 good for 6 persons.
- Experience Bucas Grande! It is costly but definitely worth every dime. Marvel at the beautiful work of nature in Sohoton cove. Enjoy the spotted stingless jellyfish sanctuary. Swim in the bio-luminescent water inside Hagukan cave. Jump off a 5-meter platform outside Magkukuob Cave. Chill at the low-key resort of Club Tara. There is too much to do while here that you simply cannot miss out!
- Cliff jump at Magpupungko Tidal Pool. Feel the adrenaline rush on a 20-feet jump off that will take you deep into its tidal pool.
- Taste the spicy melon cocktail and sumptuous pizza of Kermit.
- Go on a night party! The night life in Siargao is vibrant. Head out to Rumbar, Viento Del Mar, Jungle Disco, Pagoda or Kermit Surf resort to experience the best party that Siargao can offer.
- Tag along with Siargao Environmental Awareness (SEA) Movement and help out in cleaning the beaches of Siargao.
- Watch the flock of birds hovering the seas of Bucas Grande.
- Catch the beautiful hues of the sunrise and sunset at Cloud 9 boardwalk in General Luna.
SIARGAO SAMPLE ITINERARY
You can enjoy Siargao by just surfing, going to the beach, partying at night, trading stories with locals and other travelers, and lying flat under a palm tree while reading a book, which will save up your travel expenses a lot. But if you insist on going around the top attractions in the island and its neighboring shores which can be costly, here is a sample DIY itinerary to help you. It is good for 4 days and 3 nights, assumes a party of two and will set back a budget of P7,025.00+ per person, excluding expenses for accommodation, souvenir and other incidentals.
Tips for this itinerary:
- Go to Magpupungko and Sohoton Cove on a low tide only. Check the tide times ahead and consider your travel time.
- On your tri-island hopping, bring some food items and ask any local in the island to cook for you for a certain fee.
- Pack some lunch and snacks on your Sugba Lagoon and Sohoton Cove tour. Food items in the area are a bit pricey.
- The estimated budget can still be reduced if you travel in group.
Siargao Standard Rental and Tour Rates:
- Surfboard rental only costs P300 per hour, with instructor costs P500 per hour.
- Tricycle rental with driver costs P2,000 per day, with a capacity of 5 persons.
- Motorbike rental with driver costs P1,000 per day, with a capacity of 2 persons.
- Van or SUV rental with driver costs P2,000 per day, with a capacity of 10 persons.
- Bike and motorbike rental (without driver) ranges from P300 to P500 depending on the number of days you are renting.
- Tri-island hopping tour for Guyam, Daku and Naked costs for about P1,500 for 6 persons.
- Tri-island hopping tour with Bucas Grande (Sohoton Cove) from General Luna costs P5,000 for 6 persons.
- Chartered boat to Sugba Lagoon at the tourism office in Del Carmen or in General Luna costs around P1,500 for 6 persons. The cost includes lunch for some tour operators.
Additional Fees per Siargao Attraction (excluded in the rates cited above):
Entrance Fee: P50
Tri-Island Hopping: Naked, Guyam and Daku islands
Daku Island Entrance Fee: P50
Daku Island Docking Fee: P100
Guyam Island Entrance Fee: P30
Entrance Fee – P50 for local, P100 for foreigner
Paddle Board Rental: P200 per hour
Kayak Rental: P200 per hour
Snorkel Gear – P200
Entrance Fee: P50 for locals, P100 for foreigners
Environmental Fee: P50
Docking fee per boat: P100
Boat for Sohoton: P500, good for 6 persons
Guide Fee: P330 for 2 guides (2 guides per boat is a requirement)
Safety Gear: P40
Jellyfish Sanctuary Tojoman Lagoon
Siargao Rental and Tour Contact Persons:
Here are some persons that you can contact in Siargao to arrange a tour or transport:
- Tricycle drivers in Siargao: Rence +63 907 976 8198, Jun +63 909 794 3128, Romeo +63 915 858 1654
- Multicab driver in Siargao: Lolong +63 912 270 8159
- Boatmen for island hopping and Bucas Grande Tour: Pokil +63 930 253 9203, Oliver +63 919 787 1825
- Land + island hopping tour guide: Loyding +63 905 605 4600,
- Kermit Resort and Smiling Pig Hostel also arrange an island tour for P750 and P650 per person respectively.
- Ivy of Cavy’s Homestay offers accommodation and tour package depending on your time of stay. Rate per person is P3,000 for a 4-day and 3-night stay, including a tour for 2 days, entrance fees, breakfast, lunch and transportation for the tour and to and fro the airport. Contact Ivy at +63 907 935 8594
The sample Siargao itinerary below can be shortened to 2 or 3 days, depending on your length of stay.
|Arrive in Siargao||9:00AM|
|To General Luna||10:00AM||P75|
|Magpupungko Tidal Pool||P50|
|Back to General Luna||4:00PM|
|Sunset at Cloud 9||6:00PM|
|Dinner and Socials at Kermit||7:00PM||P200|
|Tri-Island and Bucas Grande||P2000|
|To Bucas Grande||8:00AM|
|Bucas Grande Tour||10:00AM|
|Back to General Luna||5:00PM|
|To Sugba Lagoon||8:00AM||P750|
|Enjoy Sugba Lagoon||9:30AM||P100|
|Back to General Luna||1:30PM|
|Sunset at Cloud 9||6:00PM|
|Check out and Depart||11:00AM|
WHERE TO STAY IN SIARGAO
When it comes to accommodation, any stay in General Luna is where you want to be. The place is close to most of the attractions in Siargao including the surfing spots near the Cloud 9 boardwalk. The public market to buy food items and Mama’s grill if you opt for a quick meal are also only a ride away.
Up for grabs: Register at booking.com and use the link in your next booking to get US15 back. Link here!
Basic accommodation in General Luna, Siargao
- Villa Solaria Check rate and availability here
- Big 9 Hostel Check rate and availability here
- Moonlight Homestay Check rate and availability here
Mid-range accommodation with bar and restaurant in General Luna, Siargao
- Vivo Inn Check rate and availability here
- Viento Del Mar Check rate and availability here
- Tuason Point Check rate and availability here
- Eddie’s Beach Resort Check rate and availability here
- Tiki’s Bungalow and Bar Check rate and availability here
High-end accommodation in General Luna, Siargao
- Isla Cabana Check rate and availability here
- Sandy Feet Check rate and availability here
- Kalinaw Resort Check rate and availability here
Club Tara offers a unique accommodation at the heart of Bucas Grande where where Sohoton cove is situated. Contact them at +63 917 522 5500.
English is widely understood in Siargao. But in case you want to speak the local tongue, here are phrases that proved to be useful.
English to Siargaonon (which has a direct link to Cebuano language)
Thank You – Salamat
Good Morning – Maayong buntag
Good Afternoon – Maayong hapon
Good Evening – Maayong duyum
How are you? – Kumusta na kaw?
Where is… – Diin ang…
BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER
Lastly, have fun and don’t forget to be awesome! 😉
EXTEND YOUR TRIP
For more of Siargao, visit this page: www.siargaoislands.net.
For more trips in the Philippines, check out the off-the-beaten path Gigantes Islands of Iloilo. Gigantes Budget travel guide here!
Or, visit the top places in Luzon:
- Manila Budget Travel Guide
- Baler Budget Travel Guide
- Pagudpud Budget Travel Guide
- Vigan DIY Budget Travel Guide
- Laoag Budget Travel Guide
- Sagada Budget Travel Guide
- Baguio Budget Travel Guide
- Palaui Island Budget Travel Guide
- Zambales: Anawangin, Capones and Nagsasa Budget Travel Guide
Or, go to Visayas and visit these fascinating islands:
Or visit other countries in Asia:
- Bangkok, Thailand Budget Travel Guide
- Chiang Mai, Thailand Budget Travel Guide
- Johor Bahru, Malaysia Budget Travel Guide
- Singapore Budget Travel Guide
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