Siargao: the surfing gem of the Philippines
It took us more then 48hours to reach Siargao the surfing gem of the Philippines. And let me tell you that we would gladly do it again. Not only because of the enriching journey of public transportation but also because of the enchanting vibes of the island. Not to mention the unquestionable joy of surfing there. We just fell in love with Siargao!
First day: Hell day
The last boat trip landed in the port of Dapa city where we hurriedly rushed to catch a tricycle ride to GL (General Luna) before it started pouring heavily on our heads and luggage. No accommodation booked, we had to search, under the rain, for a place to stay. After 2 days of hardcore travel, it was far from being the ideal welcome we had hoped for. Nevertheless, we managed to get through the night sleeping in our hammock, getting bitten by 101 sand flies, jump out of the hammock in fright of thunderstorm strikes and end up lying on a pool table inside the restaurant section of Keisa’s resort, the only resort that allowed us to crash in even when it was fully booked.
Cloud 9: where waves are 9 shaped
By the next day we were settled and ready to surf. Cloud 9 is the main surfing spot of Siargao with 6 different swells to satisfy all levels. On our first time there, many locals rushed to offer us package deals of surfboard and motorcycle rentals. We soon came to realize that dealing with locals is far better than purchasing our rentals from third parties being from the resort itself or neighboring street shops. With locals, prices are open to negotiation contrary to the shops where prices are already fixed.
For the next 2 weeks we spent every morning and most of our evenings in Cloud 9, surfing, surfing and surfing. The best part, that made the whole experience much easier and the surf spot quickly accessible, was the famous boardwalk of Cloud 9. The long wooden deck cut straight into the ocean and ended where every surfer wanted to be, a couple of paddles away from the swell. Two vantage points, on both extremities of the boardwalk, are equipped with wooden banks where you can relax while watching pro surfers showcasing their ripping talents or just practice your daily yoga routine.
The unfortunate part is that even during low season the surfing spots get too crowded, too quickly, which left us with only a small window during early dawn morning to benefit from the waves and practice correctly. See, when it gets too crowded, people tend to forget about surfing ethics and accidents become more frequent. My ankle got cut open by the pointy nose of one of the locals’ surfboards. The wound took over a month to heal. With that being said, we found it more convenient to hit the waves early mornings, as soon as the tide started shifting.
An island with a distinctive vibe
One distinctive aspect about Siargao is that it doesn’t seem to solely be a Filipino island rather than a multinational one where cultures crash in beautiful harmony. Many businesses are owned by foreigners who genuinely chose to move there for the love of the Island and for the love of surfing. All this combined with astonishing nature and year round waves gave Siargao a special vibe that gets directly under your skin.
And surfing is not all there is! The island itself is a golden pot of discoveries. We drove long tiny paved roads, got lost, went island hopping, visited the natural pools of Magpupunko and we even got stuck in the current while trying to kayak to an island that appeared really near but obviously wasn’t – islands can be deceiving sometimes – and got rescued by a passing boat. Yeah it is not always fun and games but this is what makes traveling an ongoing adventure.
Best time to go
The spot is fully functional throughout the year with a high season between August and November. High season is the season of barrels and surf competitions. As a beginner or intermediate you won’t get much surfing so aim for the off-season where swell and wave conditions are more suitable.
Waves and swell
The surf spot is not called Cloud 9 for no reason. Dew to the shallow reef break, waves curl up in a 9 shape and can get as high as 15 feet depending on the time of the year you choose to visit Siargao and on the swell spot you chose to hit. There are 6 nearby spots to satisfy all surfing levels:
- Accessible by the boardwalk: Jacking horse (for beginners), Quicksilver (for intermediates) and Cloud 9 (for experts)
- Accessible by boat: Tuason’s point, Stimpy’s and Rock Island (boat fee is 5$/person).
A wide selection of surfboard is available for all levels: Short boards, long board, fish tales, stand-up paddles and many more. You will definitely find what you need. However, don’t expect top quality products.
The surf shops rental rates are 10$/day or 4$/hour. Just keep in mind that many local surfers are looking to rent their own board as well, and for a much cheaper price. I got my board for 5$/day.
- Quicksilver surfing wet shirt
- Surf boots
- Surf wax
- First aid kit
How to get there?
The fastest way to get to Siargao is via airplane. You’ll land in Sayak airport and then take a taxi or tricycle ride to General Luna or Cloud 9.
If you have time more then money, you can combine – from anywhere in the Philippines – a series of bus and ferry rides to arrive to Surigao City. Then you’ll have to take the public ferry or boat to get to the port of Dapa in Siargao and finally a tricycle ride to GL or cloud 9.
How long does it take to get there?
Taking Manila as the point of reference, it takes about 5 hours by flight and more than 48 hours by public transportations depending on availabilities and schedules.
Where to stay?
Many guesthouses and beach resorts are available in both General Luna and Cloud 9. Normally, people prefer to get lodged in GL because it is more equipped in terms of facilitie. But if you prefer being at a walking distance from the surf spots, Cloud 9 should be your number 1 choice.
- Curry Pot: wooden hut with excellent mosquito isolation, clean and tidy and offers delicious food. However acoustic isolation might be a problem as there’s a 24/7 operational karaoke bar right next to the place. Price: 12$/night
- Kermit surf resort: wooden hut scattered right next each other in a very cozy way. We didn’t have the chance to stay there since the place was fully booked for the next whole month. This clearly shows how popular the place is. Plus prices are affordable starting at 16$/night
- Keisa’s beach resort: Right next to boardwalk of Cloud 9. Rooms and beach cottages are available for a price as low as 12$/night. Not as clean as you’d expect.
Where to eat?
In Siargao you can find all kind of cuisines from local delicacies to western homey dishes.
- Mama’s grill: Delicious barbecue skewers for both vegetarians and non-vegetarian. Price starts at 1$/skewer. Be there early, as the place gets quickly packed.
- Local Pumpkin soup in the street market of GL.
- Wood-oven pizza at Kermit’s restaurant.
- Island hopping and snorkeling.
- Live music band at Rhumbar each Monday.
- Visiting Magpupunko tidal pools.
- Get back to the 90s in the weekly jungle parties.
- Roadtriping around the Island
- Discovering the hidden lagoons of Del Carmen
- ATMs and money exchangers are quasi-absent in General Luna. You will have to go to Dapa.
- Small grocery markets are scattered around town but don’t expect big supermarkets with imported products.
✔ Surfing there is just amazing especially when the right weather conditions are there.
✔ The fascinating multicultural vibe of the Island.
✔ Island hopping is a must do.
✗ Surf spots can get overcrowded making surfing quiet unpleasant.
✗ Low tides makes the surfing real dangerous in Cloud 9
✗ The lack of facilities.
If you love surfing then you must visit Siargao. If you’re not into surfing, you still have to visit Siargao. This Island is a precious gem in the treasure chest of the Philippines.