The huge waves look ominous the first time you see it.

I asked my boatman, Jojo, what I’m seeing. Is that turbulent area dangerous? Is it inaccessible to fishers and swimmers? Should I, um, tighten my life jacket?

He chuckled. “Oh, that,” he said in a voice that suggested he’s had this conversation many times before. “Those are the Cloud 9 waves. Surfers love those.”

And then it hit me, like ’em big kahunas: this is Siargao, Glenn. There’s supposed to be waves.

While the uninitiated like me may feel uneasy, for the people of who call Siargao home, these waves are the most familiar thing. As the name implies, it’s their piece of heaven.

UNDERSTANDING SIARGAO ISLAND

Siargao is an island located off the northeastern coast of Mindanao. It is within the jurisdiction of Surigao Del Norte province, and composed of nine municipalities: Burgos, Dapa, Del Carmen, General Luna, Pilar, San Benito, San Isidro, Santa Monica and Socorro. Around the main island are smaller islands, included as part of the Siargao Group.

Siargao is known today as a surfing mecca, a place where thrill-seekers the world over gather to ride the waves. For the local population, however, Siargao is their simple, non-assuming hometown, with vast swaths of coconut farms, thick mangroves, and secluded coves. If it’s your first time here, it’s hard to ignore the contrast between the adventuring, wide-eyed tourists and the simple, stoic ways of the locals. Case in point: me and Jojo.

The island is a relatively sheltered surfing destination until around the early 2010s, when word of the island’s majestic waves exploded in the surfing world. Today, surfing culture is pretty much a staple in the island. This is particularly true in General Luna, where the island’s best waves can be found.

Daku Island Siargao
Daku Island

More info about Siargao Island:

  • Language: Surigaonon is the dominant language, but Tagalog, Cebuano, and English are widely understood and spoken.
  • Currency: Philippine peso (PHP, ₱). PHP 100 is around USD 1.85, EUR 1.60, or SGD 2.55 (as of October 2018).
  • Mode of payment: Cash preferred. Large establishments often accept credit cards.
  • Electricity Info: 220V, 60Hz. Socket Type A. There were a couple power outages during our stay, but these were during daytime, when we were in the middle of our day trips.

Electric Socket in Siargao


BEST TIME TO VISIT SIARGAO ISLAND

Siargao Island has a dry and wet season: it’s relatively dry between March and November, while the rest of the months are frequented by monsoon rains.

If you’re going to Siargao solely for surfing, then these seasons don’t really matter. The waves are strong year-round. However, September to November are particularly enticing since various activities take place at these times, most prominent being the Siargao Cloud 9 Surfing Cup.

If you’re going to Siargao for other leisurely activities aside from surfing, then the dry season between March and November is your best bet. Take into consideration that most travelers have the same mindset, too, and Siargao might get more crowded than usual during these months.


HOW TO GET TO SIARGAO ISLAND

By Air

Siargao has its own small yet serviceable airport, named Sayak Airport. Traveling by air is the most efficient way to get to the island.

In the past, the usual route (from Manila) is to first take a flight to Cebu City or Surigao City, then take another flight to Siargao. This has changed, however, since Siargao Airport now offers direct flights to and from Manila, as well as Clark and Davao.

  • Manila to Siargao: Cebu Pacific and Skyjet
  • Cebu to Siargao: Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines
  • Clark to Siargao: Philippine Airlines
  • Davao to Siargao: Philippine Airlines
  • Surigao City to Siargao: Cebu Pacific

From Manila, it usually takes two hours to get to Siargao (one hour if you fly from Cebu). The fare will vary, with the cheapest average at around PHP 3,000 for Cebu Pacific (non-promo) flights.

Book Cheap Siargao Flights Here!



By Ferry

You can also get to Siargao via Roll-on, Roll-off (RoRo) ferries. These ferries leave to and from Surigao City. The main seaport in the island is located in the municipality of Dapa. Boat and ferry rates vary, between PHP 200-300.


SIARGAO AIRPORT TO GENERAL LUNA

Shuttle/Van Service to Siargao

By Van

Most of the hustle and bustle occur in the municipality of General Luna. Here is where Cloud 9, Quicksilver and other surfing camps are located. Many hotels, resorts and restaurants are also found here.

Sayak Airport, however, is located in another municipality, in Del Carmen. To get to General Luna, head outside the airport, where vans for rent are parked. Traveling by van is your fastest and cheapest option to get to General Luna, but you may have to share the van with other passengers.

Travel time: 45 minutes
Fare: PHP 300


By Motorbike (Habal-habal)

If you’re feeling adventurous, or you’d like to travel privately, you can get to General Luna on a motorcycle, either via habal-habal (hired motorcycles), or for-rent motorbikes you operate yourself. These are also available outside the airport. Of course, if you have lots of luggage with you, this isn’t a viable option. Or maybe it is, provided you have very dextrous teeth.

Habal-habal fare: PHP 500
Motorbikes for rent: PHP 500 per day
Travel time: 45 minutes


By Multi-cab

Another popular form of transport is the multicab, small multi-seater vehicles that look like bonsai trucks. Multicabs have enough space for luggage, and the ride is relatively more comfortable than the two-wheeled options.

Travel time: 45 minutes
Multicabs for rent: starting at PHP 1500


HOW TO GET AROUND GENERAL LUNA

  • By Habal-habal. The habal-habal motorcycle, a common sight in rural Philippines, takes center stage in Siargao as the primary mode of transportation. These motorcycles bear a quirky design: riding a habal-habal is like riding a car frame on two wheels. Getting around on these icons of rural ingenuity is cheap and fast. If you only want to get around General Luna proper, it only costs PHP 20 per ride.
  • By Tricycle. Tricycle are usually on par with the habal-habals.
  • By Rented Motorcycle. You can also rent motorbikes for PHP 500 for 24 hours.
  • By Bike. Bikes cost PHP 150 for 24 hours.
  • By Car Rental. We’ve seen some posters advertising cars for rent. PHP 2500 per day.

WHERE TO STAY IN SIARGAO

You’ll never run out of options when it comes to accommodations in Siargao. The island attracts tourists within the full spectrum of budget preferences. Whatever your own budget is, there is a hotel, hostel, or resort to fit your needs.

If you’re looking for a place that’s close to surfing sports and other major attractions, we highly suggest that you book a place within General Luna, somewhere along Tourism Road. Here most attractions like the Cloud Nine and Quicksilver surfing camps, Mama’s Grill, and the General Luna public market, are just a habal-habal ride away.

Here are some of the best places to stay in Siargao, as curated by Traveloka:

Siargao Budget Resorts

  • Patrick’s on the Beach Resort. Check Rates & Availability.
  • Reef Beach Resort. Check Rates & Availability.
  • Ocean 101 Beach Resort. Check Rates & Availability.
  • Sailfish Bay Surf & Big Game Fishing Lodge. Check Rates & Availability.
  • Search for more Siargao Resorts


    THINGS TO DO IN SIARGAO

    Surfing!

    Surfing is Siargao’s biggest draw, hands down (and on opposite rails, as the surfing instructor tells us). The island’s picture-perfect waves, the famous “Cloud 9” swell, entice surfers from all corners of the globe. These waves occur along the General Luna coast: the best places to catch them will be the Cloud 9 and Quicksilver surfing camps.

    The surfing camps offer surfboard rentals and surfing classes for beginners and intermediates. Beginner surfing classes are at PHP 1000 for 2 hours. That’s enough for about 2 dozen epic wipeouts.


    Cloud 9 Boardwalk

    Cloud 9 Boardwalk

    Also located within the Cloud 9 beach is the famous Boardwalk and Tower. This three-story wooden structure, and the promenade that leads to it, greets visitors when they enter the vicinity. It offers an exemplar view of the Cloud 9 beach, the waves, and the Pacific Ocean. You need to shell out PHP 50 for the entrance fee.

    Here’s a tip: Make sure you arrive before the break of dawn, as the Tower is an ideal place to catch some breathtaking sunrises.


    Secret Spot

    Siargao has a place locally known as the “Secret Spot” or the “Secret Place”. Contrary to its name, it’s not a heavily guarded secret. Rather it’s a place that seldom receives attention compared to other Siargao attractions.

    But make no mistake, the place should be high on your Siargao checklist. It has two sides: Doot Beach, a tranquil beachfront with fine, semi-white sand, and the mangrove forest, where you can rent a small paddle boat and explore the floating foliage. It’s out of the way from the general hubbub of the surfing areas, a half-hour’s ride from General Luna proper.


    Magpupungko Rock Pools

    Magpupungko Rock Pool

    Magpupungko boasts a unique coastal formation that makes it an attractive and worthwhile alternative to the surfing spots. During low tide, the receding coastline reveals natural pools perfect for some leisurely swimming. It’s an all-natural infinity pool, so to speak.

    But the pools are not the only peculiar feature of Magpupungko. Also part of the attraction is the eponymous Magpupungko rock, a huge boulder that serves as the place’s natural monument. If the tides are low, tread a little bit further and you’ll see the rock sitting there like a gentle giant guarding the coast.


    Sugba Lagoon

    Sugba Lagoon

    Sugba Lagoon is located at the other side of the island, in the northwestern coast.

    To get there, you need to travel to Del Carmen port first. From General Luna, the trip takes about a couple of hours, and costs PHP 500 via habal-habal. You can have your habal-habal driver park at the Del Carmen port and wait for you to return. PHP 30 for the parking fee.

    At the ports, boats are available to take you to the lagoon. You must register first at the local port authority and list your name in the manifest. A boat costs PHP 1,600 to rent, with enough space for 6 people. You can wait for other passengers to fill up the boat and you split the fee, or you can go ahead and claim the entire boat for yourself.

    The boat ride will take about an hour. Within the lagoon is a two-story docking area where you can stay and rent a table for PHP 50. The cool, turquoise waters seem to invite everyone to explore the lagoon’s site, and there’s equipment available to do just that. There are paddle boards, canoes, and snorkeling paraphernalia available onsite for rent. There’s also a diving platform you can use for free.


    3 Islands Tour: Guyam Island, Daku Island, Naked Island

    This tour follows the three islands nearest General Luna: Guyam Island, Daku Island, and Naked Island.

    • Guyam Island is a small, circular island, usually your first stop in the three-island tour. It has two distinct sides: one side is rocky with strong currents, while the sandy side is more serene. Smiling ladies with a small box will greet you and cheerfully let you know there’s a fee once you set foot on the island. If you’re not sure what island you’re in, the large letters spelling GUYAM might be a nice indicator.
    • Daku Island is the largest of the three islands, and is a whole barangay in itself. It is primarily a fishing village with cottages lined up along the coast. There are also private properties along the beach. You can rent the cottages for PHP 250-300.
    • Naked Island is so named its lack of… trees. It is a sizeable sandbar that draws dozens of tourists who’s keen for a quick stopover before going home. Its barren features in the middle of the sea makes it seem like a reverse oasis of sorts.

    It costs PHP1500 for the boat tour, plus additional charges once you set foot on the islands: 30 PHP (per head) for Guyam Island, and 100 PHP (per boat) for Daku Island. Naked Island is free of charge. Fresh fish are available at Daku Island (that you can have the locals cook for you), but if you’re in a tight budget you can always bring your own food.

    Guyam Island
    Guyam Island
    Daku Island
    Daku Island
    Naked Island Siargao
    Naked Island

    Sohoton Cove (Bucas Grande Island)

    Sohoton Cove is part of Bucas Grande Islands, an intricate network of stunning karst hills and islands that nestle breathtaking lagoons, beaches and even caves. The crystal clear water of some lagoons carry stingless jellyfish, something tourists can swim and interact with if their timing is right. Jellyfish season begins in March but reaches its peak in July and August.

    Located in Socorro in Surigao del Norte, Sohoton Cove is a bit detached from Siargao but still easily accessible if you have the time or money. Boat tours from Siargao cost P3000, but some boatmen and operators merge it with the 3 Islands Tour to create the ultimate island hopping adventure. This Sohoton Cove + 3 Islands combination tour usually costs P4000. If you want to save a lot, find other travelers to split the cost with.


    SAMPLE SIARGAO ITINERARY

    Here is a sample Siargao itinerary for a 4-day, 3-night stay in Siargao. Feel free to adjust depending on your length of stay and budgetary preferences.

    This itinerary assumes the following:

    • You’re traveling with a partner and you’re splitting the expenses.
    • You’re traveling from Manila.
    • Your hotel budget is P2000 per night (or P1000 per night/person)
    • You allot P100-150 for each meal.

    DAY 1: ARRIVAL
    02:00 pm — Arrival, van to hotel, P300
    03:00 pm — Check-in and rest
    07:00 pm — Dinner at Mama’s Grill, P150 + P20 fare
    08:00 pm — Return to hotel, P20 fare
    09:00 pm — Sleep, big day tomorrow!

    DAY 2: CLOUD 9 & MAGPUPUNGKO
    05:00 am — Leave for Cloud 9 surf camp, P20 fare
    05:30 am — Sunrise at the Tower, P50
    06:00 am — Breakfast, P100 for food
    07:00 am – Swimming, FREE!
    09:00 am — Cloud 9 surfing lessons, P1000
    11:00 am — Early lunch, P150
    12:00 pm — Travel to Magpupungko Rock Pools, PHP 250 (P500 fare/2 pax)
    02:00 pm — Magpupungko (low tide usually early/mid-afternoon), P50
    05:00 pm — Return to hotel, rest, P250 (x2 pax)
    07:00 pm — Dinner, P150

    DAY 3: OPTION A: 3 ISLANDS TOUR
    07:00 am — 3 Islands Tour, P750
    08:00 am – Guyam Island, P30 entrance fee
    10:00 am — Early lunch at Daku Island, P100 entrance fee + P150 for packed lunch, P250 for cottage rental
    01:00 pm — Return to hotel
    02:00 pm — Arrive at hotel, free time
    04:00 pm — Travel to the Secret Spot, P50 fare
    05:30 pm — Sunset at the Secret Spot
    06:00 pm — Travel back to hotel, P50 fare
    07:00 pm — Dinner, P150

    DAY 3: OPTION B: SUGBA LAGOON
    06:00 am — Leave for Del Carmen port, P250 (x2 pax)
    07:00 am — Breakfast, P100, P30 parking fee
    07:30 am — Boat to Sugba Lagoon, P270 (P1,600 fare/6 pax)
    08:30 am — Sugba Lagoon, P50 entrance fee
    10:30 am — Return to hotel, P250 (x2 pax)
    12:30 am — Arrive at hotel, free time
    04:00 pm — Travel to the Secret Spot, P50 fare
    05:30 pm — Sunset at the Secret Spot
    06:00 pm — Travel back to hotel, P50 fare
    07:00 pm — Dinner, P150

    DAY 4: DEPARTURE
    09:00 am — Souvenir run, brunch, P100
    11:30 am — Checkout, leave for airport, P300 pax for van fare
    03:30 pm — Flight out of Siargao

    If you choose OPTION A (3 Islands Tour), this Siargao itinerary will cost you at least PHP 7,600 (USD 145, SGD 198, EUR 127) including hotel accommodations (but not flight tickets).

    If you choose OPTION B (Sugba Lagoon), this itinerary will set you back at least PHP 7,300 (USD 140, SGD 190, EUR 122) including hotel accommodations (but not flight tickets).

    Of course, you can still bring the cost down if you’re part of a bigger group.

    If you have a larger budget, you can do the 3 ISLANDS + SOHOTON COVE combination tour to maximize your stay and see more wondrous spots!


    OTHER SIARGAO TIPS FOR THE POOR TRAVELER

    • Leave no trace. Don’t leave trash on the beach. Whatever you bring to the place, take them with you when you leave. Leave nothing but footprints!
    • Use coral-friendly sunscreen. Surfing is all fun and games until you get home and you see how burnt you are. Wearing sunscreen is not just for cosmetic purposes, too. UV rays are harmful to one’s skin and are known to cause skin deformities. But choose sunscreen that doesn’t contain chemicals like oxybenzone, benzophenone, and parabens, which are harmful to marine life.
    • Befriend your habal-habal driver. Siargao locals are friendly and helpful to tourists. The most informative person you’ll meet in Siargao is your own habal-habal driver. Befriend him and you may get privy to a lot of wonderful new discoveries in the island, and even a few discounts!
    • Practice sustainability. Siargao is home to vibrant mangroves and a diverse marine ecosystem. Let’s do our small part and ensure the island remains pristine by practicing sustainable travel hacks, like bringing our own water and soap bottles.
    • At nighttime, look up! It wouldn’t hurt to remind ourselves of the simpler things. The skies are darker here because of the lack of strong nightlights. Being a city guy, it’s the first time I saw the Milky Way again in a very long time.

    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SIARGAO

    Is Siargao safe?

    Siargao is very safe. NOT all of Mindanao has security issues. Siargao is very far from the places you see on TV. In fact, in Siargao, many domestic and foreign tourists have stayed long enough to start living like the locals. It’s not unusual to see white guys in dreadlocks speaking Surigaonon.

    However, you should also be careful when swimming in the open, as Siargao has a seasonal jellyfish population. Always ask around before taking a dip.

    Don’t sweat safety. Wear life vests when on the boat. Don’t leave gadgets plugged in when going out. Wear aqua shoes on beaches and rocky shores. These small safety measures can go a long way to ensure you enjoy every moment in paradise.

    Are there ATMs in Siargao?

    Yes, there are ATMs in Siargao, BUT, and it’s a big but, signal losses make them unreliable. Most of them are also incompatible with foreign cards. It’s best to bring enough cash with you or use credit cards for major transactions. Convert your cash to Philippine pesos before traveling to the island. An alternative is to get cash via money transfer facilities like Western Union, M Lhuillier, etc.



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