Four days in Siargao

Long-time Siargao residents Gai Olivares and Rosanna Yulo give us insider tips on the best this idyllic island, 800km southeast of Manila, has to offer, from surfing to island hopping

Photos by Mike Alcid


Kids on their way to surf at Cloud 9
Why go?
The monsoon season starts sometime in June, bringing rain to most parts of the Philippines except Siargao. Sun worshippers can still pretty much enjoy Siargao’s powder white beaches and rock pools, explore mangrove swamps and inland forests, waterfalls, and nearby islands, without rain dampening the day. For surfers, the best time to go is in September to get a chance to catch the Siargao Cloud 9 Surfing Cup held at Cloud 9, the world famous surf break that put Siargao on the map. The event's final date is yet to be announced. The island’s rainy season starts from the end of December to February.

Touchdown
Cebu Pacific
has direct flights from Manila to Siargao Island via Cebu. There are no buses, taxis or jeepneys for hire at the Sayak Airport in Siargao. If you’re lucky, a habal-habal may come along, Siargao’s version of a taxi, in this case a motorbike custom-fit to accommodate entire families (hence the name ‘’habal-habal’’ which is a Visayan term for bodies close together). If sitting at the back of a bike balancing luggage on your lap may not be your ideal way of getting around, you could rent a van —vans for hire are just outside the airport — for P1,500 (about US$33) good for up to ten. It takes about 45 minutes to get to most resorts from Sayak.

Get your bearings
The island of Siargao is about 800 kilometers southeast of Manila in the province of Surigao del Norte. The only airport in the area is in Sayak. From the airport, you’ll probably head to General Luna and the east cost where most resort and beaches are located.

The island’s east coast is relatively straight with one deep inlet, Port Pilar, with a coastline marked by a succession of reefs, small points and white sandy beaches. There are neighboring islands and islets with similar landforms.

 

Photo @gapssabuero #fluidsurf #siargaocloud9 #burleblocked

A photo posted by Manuel Melindo (@manuelmelindo) on


The island’s Pacific-facing reefs are on the edge of the Philippine Trench, and deep offshore waters result in swells of significant power. This gives Siargao excellent surfing conditions, particularly during the southwest monsoon from August to November, when the prevailing wind is offshore.

Check in
Ocean 101
is popular with surfers due to its proximity to Cloud 9. It offers basic, no-frills airconditioned rooms from P2,200 to P2,750 a night, good for two. Villas are from P9,900 a night, good for four. Internet broadband is available in the resort. For inquiries and reservations, call +63919 826 8837.

 

A tale of two towers. #saganaresort #surfingsiargao

A photo posted by Gerry Degan Owner (@saganaresort) on


Sagana Resort. Directly fronting Cloud 9, Sagana is the only mid-range resort on the island. The owner put a lot of thought into the room decor and the food, making this resort one of the best finds on the island. Sagana Resort has room rates that range from P3,600 to P4,600. For inquiries, call +63919 809 5769 or email sagana@cloud9surf.com

Closer to the town of General Luna is Patrick’s On The Beach which offers kayaking, diving and island tours. Cottage rates range from P1,500 to P3,950. Patrick’s also has an internet cafe. For inquiries, call +63918 481 6483.


If you want to get away from it all and treat yourself to the good life, book Dedon Island, Siargao’s only high-end resort tucked away in a secluded corner on the mainland, about 45 minutes from Siargao Airport and 20 minutes from the surf sites. It’s enconced between a lagoon and a lush mangrove river. Rates are from P31,500 a night per person for a stay at the Superior Garden Villa. For inquiries and reservations, call +63917 701 7820.

Over at Pilar, hardcore fishermen stay at the simple home of Siargao’s fishing expert, Junior Gonzalez. A double-occupancy room costs P1,200 per person inclusive of meals cooked by Junior’s lovely wife, Jean. It’s fully air conditioned and comes with two single beds, a safety deposit box and telephone. All in all, there are six rooms with the same amenities. For more information, call Junior Gonzalez at +63920 772 8875.

Where to eat
Popular places to eat are Kermit Restaurant and Pizzeria, the number one Italian restaurant in Siargao. They serve fresh homemade pasta and pizza, made from fresh ingredients from the market and imported ingredients from Italy. Kalinaw Resort also serves pizzas for dinner. Try the Campagnola di Parma. For barbecue, try Mama’s Grill, Ronaldo’s and Lalay’s.


Sagana Resort's restaurant is open only to their guests, unless advanced reservations are made. Their last seating is at 7:30 pm and all orders should be in shortly after. 

Also go to Surf n’ Dine for western and traditional Asian cuisine. They also serve sandwiches, burgers, pasta and pork steak. Their sauces and desserts are homemade. Surf n’ Dine will soon open a cafe serving freshly made doughnuts and pretzels.

Go to Lunares Cafe for Italian coffee and pastries, from tiramisu, apple crumble to canoli. New on their menu is mixed fruits topped with yogurt, muesli and honey. 

La Luna Resort's restaurant is one hotel on the island that serves good straight up Filipino and international cuisine in big serving. Try their fried rice. 

Burrito lovers should stop by Siargao Inn to try their version of this tortilla-wrapped Mexican dish. 

Explore the islands
Pansukian sandbar or Naked Island

There are spectacular white-sand beaches and islands to explore in Siargao.

Daku island's icing-sugar white sand.

Guyam island.
Go by boat to the nearby islands of Guyam, Daku and Naked Island, their surrounding waters clear and shallow, a hit with families with small children. For active days, kayak along the coast of Pilar. And don't miss the twin islands of La Janosa and Mamon, splendid for snorkeling. 

Siargao's Bucas Grande island

To get to Sohoton Cove you need to pass through a small tunnel cave
Sohoton Cove National Park in Bucas Grande is also worth a visit. To get to the cove you need to pass through a small tunnel cave with a low ceiling before being greeted by a beautiful labyrinthian lagoon.

Mamon Island during lowtide

Magpopongko tidal pools
Another way to explore the island is on motorbike. The hour-long, butt-cramping ride to Magpopongko is well worth it. The scenery along the way is breathtaking. In Magpopongko, the waters recede far enough during low tide to allow you to explore rock formations and natural swimming holes, with the surf crashing dramatically in the background. Make sure you come at low tide and do not leave your personal belongings on the beach. And be mindful of the ever-changing tides.

Dive
Both Dedon Island and Patrick’s On The Beach resort have diving amenities and offer dive lessons to their guests. The Blue Cathedral is recognized by most divers as one of the Philippine’s best dive sites but it’s a very advanced and challenging dive requiring a deep dive at about 40 meters, a current dive, and a cave dive rolled into one.

Go fishing
Junior Gonzalez

Ask your resort to contact the island’s premiere fisherman, Junior Gonzalez, for a half day or whole-day fishing trip. Or call him directly at +63920  772 8875. Try to book in advance because he tends to be busy. If you’re lucky, you’ll struggle with a sailfish (liplipan) before Junior helps reel it in. Other fish that may be biting: dogtooth tuna, yellow, fin tuna, dorado or mahi-mahi. Although fishing can be done year-round in Siargao, March to May is the peak fishing season. Gonzalez also organizes fishing trips. You can rent his boat for P5,000 for the whole day, all fishing equipment included. You can also rent a pumpboat for P2,500 but without the fishing equipment. Rental for fishing equipment costs P500.

Junior has been fishing since 1964 and has been involved in sportsfishing tournaments in Siargao joined by fishing aficionados from the Philippines Game fishing Federation, Manila Sportsfishing Club, Cebu Anglers Association and Silver Jacks Fishing Club of Manila.

Surf


Siargao attracts avid surfers and those wanting to learn how to surf. Beginners start at Jacking Horse, a mild break round the corner from Cloud 9. Lessons cost P500 an hour, including board rental. More experienced surfers have a choice of different breaks around the island but the most powerful is Cloud 9. Best time to surf is from August to October. 

 

Our Surf House ! #turtlesurfcamp #siargao #swimmingpool #lounge

A photo posted by Enric Serrano (@turtlesurfcampsiargao) on


For surf lessons or surf camp packages, contact Turtle Surf Camp or Kermit Siargao.

Weekend hangouts

 

Go to Viento del Mar for Art Night on Fridays, then move on to Tattoo jungle disco. Tattoo is open only on Tuesdays and Fridays. On Saturdays, go to Harana for their acoustic night, and try their halo-halo dessert made of shaved watermelon instead of ice, or their Lambanog Paoroy or Nipa wine. On Sundays go to Bravo for traditional Spanish cuisine, and relax in their chill-out area.



Originally published in InFlight Traveller June to July 2007. Updated June 2016