Move over, Bali. A new tropical paradise has arrived on the scene. The teardrop shaped island, situated 800 kilometres from Manila is fast becoming southeast Asia’s destination of choice. On Siargao island, you’ll find palm trees are more populous than civilians and surfing is practically a religion. The dark smooth skin of the locals denotes time well-spent hanging ten on a longboard; but don’t let the thought of barrelling waves deter you from visiting Siargao, Philippines.
Travellers who, like us, prefer to keep their two feet on terra firma, will find plenty to see and do via land. We’ve put together this Siargao Island travel guide for non-surfers to detail how a pair of average swimmers managed to navigate the surfing capital of the Philippines. A few days spent on Siargao and you’ll be converted to island time before you know it.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN SIARGAO PHILIPPINES
HOW TO GET TO SIARGAO
Transport from Siargao Airport to General Luna & Cloud 9
It’s likely you’ll be laden with luggage so your best option is to hop into one of the minivans and have a driver transport you to your accommodation. If you’re staying in General Luna or Cloud 9, the ride is approximately 40 minutes. The roads are wide and smooth and the van air-conditioned. Cost is PHP 300 per person and non-negotiable.
How to get around Siargao Island...
Scooters & Motorbikes
The most common form of transport around the island is via scooter or motorbike. It’s quite simple to find a bike to rent as you’ll see signs all over General Luna and Cloud 9. Chances are your accommodation will also have options. The main roads of Siargao are wide and in good condition – much better than some of the roads we’ve seen in other countries on our travels. You’ll need to be mindful of dogs, playing children and oncoming traffic; basically nothing you wouldn’t find in other parts of Asia.
Make sure to negotiate a price for your daily scooter rental. As we didn’t hire one ourselves, we can’t provide exact prices but we suspect that they will vary depending on where you rent them. We spoke to a couple who paid PHP 350/day whilst another friend paid upwards of PHP 1,500/day! Don’t forget, safety first. Often, helmets won’t be provided either. Before renting a bike, make sure the lights and brakes are in good working order as once the sun sets, there are no street lights. Petrol costs roughly PHP55 a bottle (approx 1.5L).
After our recent scooter accident in Bali, we were hesitant to rent a scooter or motorbike again, so we opted to get around Siargao on tricycles with a driver. From our accommodation in Cloud 9 to General Luna (and vice versa), a tricycle ride cost PHP20 per person. The cost was the same regardless of how many people the tricycle carried. Rates vary depending on the driver. In the evenings, some drivers will request PHP50 per person, particularly at popular tourist spots and won’t budge from this figure when you barter. If you’re prepared to wait or wander just a little, you’ll be able to find a driver willing to take you to your destination for the cheaper rate.
For those travelling in large groups, you may wish to rent a car. We saw a couple of signs along Tourism Road offering daily rates of approx PHP 2,000/day.
WHAT TO DO IN SIARGAO
Siargao Island Hopping Tour
Unlike El Nido and Coron, most businesses on Siargao offer a limited number of island hopping tours. The main tour is a half-day tour to Guyam Island, Naked Island and Daku Island. All resorts and homestays will be able to organise a spot on a group tour for you, otherwise you can enquire about prices and availability with many businesses in town. We enquired at Kermit Surf Resort & Restaurant before wandering down Tourism Road and booking a private boat tour at Jose’s Surf Shop. A private boat tour costs PHP 1,500 and lunch is not included. There doesn’t seem to be any clearance restrictions like in El Nido and from we gather, you can leave as early as you wish depending on the tides.
The islands are about 30 – 45 minutes boat ride from Siargao. Guyam Island and Naked Island are not commercialised; they are purely small island paradises. On Guyam, you will spend time swimming, swaying in a hammock and playing a bit of island basketball. Naked Island is an oval-shaped sand island for swimming and sunbathing. The largest island, Daku Island, is where you’ll find beach huts and shacks selling food and drinks. Locals also sit at the edge of the palm tree grove selling fresh coconuts for PHP 50 each.
If you’d like to book a private tour in advance, this option is available.
Sugba Lagoon is located to the west of Siargao and is accessible from Del Carmen Tourism Centre. Here, you can purchase your tour tickets and organise your transport to and from the lagoon. Unfortunately, the booking process takes place in one room and is a three-step process.
Firstly, you inform the first officer of the tour you wish to do. He will give you a piece of paper stating the number of people and tour cost. Secondly, you pay the next officer the price for your boat and admission fee. If you are travelling as a couple and you’re able to share the boat with another couple of small group, take this option! The boat costs PHP 1,600. Fortunately, we were able to split this cost with a Spanish couple. Lastly, you pay the third officer for the environmental tax which is PHP 100 per person.
The boat ride to the lagoon is approximately 40 minutes. Sugba Lagoon is a protected wildlife area. Be aware that you are not permitted to bring in any plastic water bottles and food. Smoking is prohibited. Upon arrival at the lagoon, you have 3 hours to explore the area.
The diving platform is a popular choice so make your way here and ask a buddy to snap your picture. Kayaks and SUPs are available to rent for PHP 300/hr. Jump on one of these as soon as possible so that you can explore the coves in the larger area.
One thing to note: there are no lockers to store your bags or belongings. Food and drinks are not available for sale. It’s highly recommended that you bring as little as possible and keep your belongings with you in a dry bag.
Magpupungko Rock Pools
The Magpupungko Rock Pools are on the east coast of Siargao. They have become well known for the beautiful shallow rock pools that become exposed at low tide, allowing visitors to bathe in the warm water. Make sure to check the tide times and visit during low tide otherwise you will not be able to see the rock pools in all their glory. Be careful where you tread as various seaweed, coral and fish varieties thrive in this environment.
Magpupungko is a popular coastal pit-stop. Many restaurants line the beachfront so you can also stop in for lunch or a snack. Entrance is PHP 50 per person and vehicle parking ranges from PHP 5 – 20.
Maasin Bridge Rope Swing
The township around Maasin River has cleverly commercialised the famous bendy palm tree, where locals and visitors are able to swing off an attached rope into the river. Entrance to the river area is PHP 20 per person and kayaks are available to rent. A donation is requested for those wishing to use the rope swing. Make sure not to belly flop!
Sunrise at Cloud 9
The best place to catch the first light of the day is the Cloud 9 Boardwalk. A wooden pier which stretches from the beach to a multi-level viewing platform in the ocean, the golden orb will rise from the horizon casting a warm glow over the water.
Take a surfing lesson at Cloud 9
Siargao is the surfing capital of The Philippines, where surfboards and bronzed bodies are the norm. Now, we did specifically write this guide for non-surfers as the blog title suggests. However, if you’re looking to give surfing a go, the break at Cloud 9 is very gentle and perfect for first timers. Rent a board and ask an instructor to accompany you in the water for an hour. The instructors are super helpful in coaching the surfing basics and will assist you in the water.
We highly recommend going early in the morning just after sunrise as the surf break becomes quite crowded come mid-morning. A one-hour lesson and surfboard rental cost PHP 500.
WHERE TO EAT IN SIARGAO
This is not a restaurant to dine at if you’re in a rush. And Mama’s Grill will tell you this from the start. Join the queue and then make your selection from Hungarian sausages, vegetable skewers, half-chicken and seafood slathered in sweet or spicy sauce. Order a San Miguel at the bar and soon, scintillating grill smells will waft your way.
Address | Bayan ng General Luna, Lalawigan ng Surigao del Norte
Opening Hours | Thursday – Tuesday 11.00am – 3.00pm, 6.00pm – 10.00pm
Shaka Cafe screams beach shack vibes with its bleached wooden tables, palm awnings and black and white surfing photographs. It also boasts the prettiest and tastiest smoothie bowls on the island. Located only a short walk from the Cloud 9 boardwalk, order your colourful breakfast and pick a spot under the palm trees. You can add superfood extras too. Shaka also offers coffee and freshly pressed cold juices.
Address | Tourism Rd, General Luna, 8419 Surigao del Norte, Philippines
Opening Hours | Daily 6.30am – 5.30pm
Website | Shaka Siargao on Facebook
Bake X Siargao
Bake X Siargao has brought Scandi living to Siargao. With its sleek modern decor and air-conditioning, this cute eatery would not be out of a place on a high street in the Western world. Bake X offers an all-day breakfast menu alongside traditional Filipino breakfast options. Alternatively, take a seat on a lounge and treat yourself to a slice of baked goods with your coffee order.
Address | Tourism Rd, General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Philippines
Opening Hours | Thursday – Tuesday 7.00am – 5.00pm. Closed Wednesdays
Perched at the edge of Cloud 9 beach, Cafe Loka is a fab pit stop for a fresh fruit smoothie after a walk along Cloud 9 boardwalk, to watch passers by and laugh or admire the skills of learning surfers on the nearby waves. Cafe Loka serves all-day breakfast, toasted sandwiches and salads.
Address | Cloud 9 Dr, General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Philippines
Opening Hours | Daily 7:00am – 6:00pm
Website | https://cafeloka.business.site/
Yeah Yeah Tacos
Simple food made with care and washed down with a cold beer or bottle of coke. Yeah Yeah’s menu features soft shell tacos, double decker tacos, burritos and nachos. Choose your filling (chicken, pork, fish or vegetarian), a sauce and your toppings include cabbage, mango, cucumber and crispy chicken skin crumbs. Perch at the bar while your food is prepared and watch the comings and goings of the town.
Address | Tourism Rd, General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Philippines
Opening Hours | Monday – Saturday 3.00pm – 12.00am
Website | Yeah Yeah Tacos on Facebook
The Western world has KFC and Siargao has CFC. Funnily enough, a fellow Aussie had told us about a fried chicken place up at Cloud 9. Turns out, it was right next door to our accommodation! The majority of CFC’s menu is burgers and fried chicken. After a day of exploring, a serve of fried crispy skin chicken with fries and washed down with a milkshake or cold beer will go down a treat.
Address | Tourism Rd, General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Philippines
Opening Hours | Daily 10.30am – 9.30pm
WHERE TO STAY IN SIARGAO
The main town on the island where there is no shortage of hotels, resorts and homestays. You’ll be on the doorstep of cafes, bars and restaurants plus the island hopping tours depart from the nearby beachfront.
Bravo Beach Resort Siargao
For oceanfront living, check yourself into Bravo. The beach resort offers double rooms which start at PHP 3,900 per night, however, if you’re willing to share with other travellers, their 4-bed dorms are available for considerably less. There is a renowned restaurant onsite, as well as a skateboard pit and ice-cream shop. If you’re planning on giving surfing a go, check out their surf packages which includes surfboard rental and airport transfers.
Address | Siargao Island, Tourism Rd, General Luna, 8419 Surigao del Norte, Philippines
Website | https://www.bravosiargao.com/
Kermit Siargao Surf Resort & Restaurant
When you visit Siargao, everyone will know Kermit. Even during our research of the Philippines, this is one spot in General Luna that was continually mentioned by other travellers. Kermit is your one stop shop in town. A resort, restaurant (renowned for its wood fired oven pizzas), surf clothing shop and tour operator, you’ll likely find what you need at this establishment. Rates start from PHP 1,800 per night for a basic air-conditioned room.
Address | Purok 5, General Luna, Siargao Island Philippines PH, General Luna, 8417 Surigao del Norte, Philippines
Website | http://www.kermitsiargao.com/
Harana Surf Resort
Harana Surf Resort offers its visitors the perfect resting spot to enjoy the beauty of Siargao. Budget travellers can stay in a bunk bed from PHP 950 per night while their deluxe room is on offer from PHP 5,500 per night. The resort is committed to sustainability and environmental responsibility with clear practices in place for water management, water conservation, tree planting and carbon offsetting. Harana also runs a voluntourism program, offering special discounts to guests who volunteer on the island. A true all-rounder, Harana runs yoga and surf camps too; check their website for details!
Address | 2 Tuason Point, Brgy. Catangnan,, General Luna, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, Philippines
Website | http://haranasurf.com/
If you’d prefer to distance yourself from the hustle and bustle of General Luna, choose to stay in Cloud 9. Here you’ll have quick access to Cloud 9 boardwalk and Cloud 9 surfing area which is the perfect spot for beginner surfers. There are fewer eating spots out this way but you’re likely to come across some late night pop karaoke sessions. Accommodation here is only a ten-minute drive to General Luna (approx PHP 20 – 30 per person via tricycle).
Nine Clouds Homestay
If you’re looking for clean and simple, we recommend Nine Clouds Homestay. We stayed here for four nights, opting for a basic room which included a double bed, an outdoor hammock, a desk and a fan (unfortunately no window!). The toilets and showers are separate from the room and shared with guests in the other basic room and the homestay family owners. Expect to use a bucket for the occasional shower which might also be cold, but the facilities are cleaned daily. Wifi is free and available in the restaurant/reception area. Nine Clouds also offers rooms with air-conditioning and private bathrooms. If you’re looking for a no-frills option, this homestay provides great value. We paid PHP 3,000 for four nights.
Address | Bayan ng General Luna, Lalawigan ng Surigao del Norte, Siargao
Website | http://www.ninecloudskangaroo.com/
Our friends visited Pacifico when they travelled to Siargao and told us about empty beaches and gorgeous sunsets. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it up to this part of the island. Our understanding is that it is a quieter area with few beach resorts and not much else. If you’re after peace and solitude, this could be the place for you!
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO TO SIARGAO
English is widely spoken. The Filipino folk are some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. They are all super polite too, always addressing visitors as “ma’am” or “sir”. Make sure to return their warm and welcoming smiles!
ATM’s are scarce. We spotted one small bank branch with an ATM on Dapa-General Luna Road but we cannot be certain that it was in operation. Be prepared and take enough cash with you for your stay in Siargao.You can withdraw money at Cebu Airport (all ATMs charge a PHP 250 withdrawal fee). We’ve put together a list of our expenses to help you budget for 4 days in Siargao.
Water Shoes & Snorkel Gear
Most of the activities in Siargao take place on or near water. We’d highly recommend bringing a pair of water shoes, like our Aleader Footwear, to protect your feet when walking on or around sharp coral and rocks.
As mentioned earlier, we’re not natural water babies. If you have your own snorkelling gear and you can fit it in your suitcase, we’d suggest bringing it on your trip. Snorkelling gear is available to rent but it adds up quickly if you pay a fee on each water excursion.
The Filipinos are hardly ever in a rush, which means things might not always run on time, but they’re always smiling. If your itinerary runs late or doesn’t go to plan, don’t take it personally. Try to go with the flow.
WiFi & SIM cards
Be prepared for limited to no internet. On Siargao and throughout most of the Philippines, the WiFi is weak and slow. Even if you purchase a local SIM card, the 4G does not always work.
We purchased a SIM card before arriving in Siargao at Cebu Airport. There are two main carriers: Globe & Smart. There were little differences in the prices and we chose Globe solely based on the tourist package that aligned best with our itinerary. We paid PHP 800 which gave us 1,000 text messages (all networks), 500 call minutes (Globe and TM networks only) and 25GB internet for 15 days.
The Philippines appears to be implementing practices to reduce their dependence and use of single-use plastics. Many hotels, homestays and restaurants offer filtered water so that you can refill your reusable water bottles.