The ultimate guide to Siargao, Philippines.
Siargao Island is one of the ‘hidden’ gems of the Philippines and most definitely one of the underrated islands in the country. It is relatively popular to surfers as it is the Surfing capital of the Philippines. But unknown to many, Siargao Island offers so much more than just its famous waves. In this blog, you will see the following important guides to living the ultimate island life in Siargao as well as my insider tips, and rating about travelling to this island.
I came here from my photography trip in Batanes, north of the Philippines which is really a gem in itself. (See my article about Batanes). I originally planned to stay for two weeks here but ended up staying until the end of the year. This is a common story around here. Travelers come and plan to stay for a certain period, but most of the time, they end up staying for a long term, if not, going back again some time later. They all have the same sentiments as I do. You just fall in love with the island and its people.
There are only a few blogs and guides that are available to completely describe Siargao and what it is like living there. This could be good as I’d like the island to be as simple as it is, not being buzzed by a lot of tourists. But as much as I’d like to make it a secret, I know you deserve the pristine beauty of Siargao Island.
So, here it goes, my complete guide to living the ultimate island Life in Siargao Island Philippines!
- About Siargao Island
- How to get to Siargao
- Going Around
- Where to Stay
- Where to Eat
- Things to Do
- Conclusion and Rating
About Siargao Island
Siargao Island is located south of the Philippines off Mindanao. Siargao Island consists of 48 smaller islands, with 9 municipalities located in the main island of Siargao with a total land area of approximately 437 kilometers which you can easily go around on your motorbike in 3 hours. General Luna is the main municipality where tourists go to. It is where the famous Cloud 9 surf spot is located and off its coast are smaller islands with white sand beaches and the clearest waters you’ll ever see. And on the other parts of the island are numerous beautiful sites which I will describe below.
But more than the beautiful sites, Siargao Island offers the kind of chill and laidback island life that everyone could ever wish for. The people are amazing and lovely. You’ll get used to strangers that are going to be your soon-to-be friends saying hello and kids waving their hands at you with their brightest smiles.
How to get to Siargao Island
The only way to get to Siargao Island from Manila is by taking a connecting flight to Cebu. From Cebu, there is only one flight per day going to Siargao and two flights going from Siargao to Cebu. Only the Cebu Pacific Airlines (check their website) provides flights going there. Sayak Airport is located in a town called Del Carmen which is an hour drive from General Luna. You can arrange for a pick-up from your host before going to the island.
The main transportation in the island is the motorbike. You can rent a motorbike for 350-400 pesos a day. Or you can ask for a discount if you are planning to use it for a week or even a month. Fill it up and take it to beautiful places on the island. Most of the roads are paved and developed so you can easily access the different parts of the island and find for yourself a secluded beach.
Or if you don’t know how to drive a motorbike, you can hail a habal-habal, which is a motorbike with a roof. For a short distance, it will only cost you 20 pesos. But when going to different parts of the island, it will costs 200-1000 pesos.
Where to stay
General Luna is the main town that attracts the majority of the travelers. It has a lot of resorts that offer accommodation from luxury rooms to cheap dormitories. Trip advisor, Agoda, and Booking.com will always come in handy. But once you get on the island, there are several places that you can look into that may offer good deals. Or better yet, stay with locals and experience Island life like how the locals live it. The town of San Isidro also offers a few accommodations. It is much quieter than General Luna but it is also a growing tourist spot in itself with white beaches and surfing spots and easy access to the north of the Island.
Recommendations for great accommodation in the island
My favourite place to stay. It is a 7-bedroom guesthouse with a beach front. Rooms are basic but clean. Location is perfect; between the town center and the famed Cloud 9 surf spot, less than 5 minutes by motorbike. They also offer stand up paddle, kayaking, boat rides, surf lessons, and bikes for rent. . The price ranges from 700-3500 pesos when it is peak season.
Plus points: amazing staff and well-prepared food! The lounge on the second floor and their rooftop are definitely a plus. They do parties every Friday night.
For a chiller vibe, Bravo is the place to be. It is located right next to Viento del Mar. It has several rooms – double rooms, family rooms, and even a dorm-type room. I stayed in their dorm type room with two bunk beds which was clean and spacious with cabinets with locks where you can stow your stuff safely. Very basic for 1000 pesos per person that includes breakfast.
Insider tips and plus points: their pool! And their restaurant with full-sized bed where you can chill and relax!
Patrick’s offers accommodations that are good for big spenders and budget travellers alike. They have nipa huts, which are traditional Filipino houses, fronting the beach (1000 to 4000 pesos) and they also have a dorm type room (500 pesos) which can accommodate up to 20 people.Room is basic and clean with AC or Fan.
Insider tips: great view of the sea; dug-up pool few meters from the beach for swimming even when low tide.
Where to eat at Siargao island
General Luna offers a lot of restaurants that offer different cuisines from international dishes to local ones. As expected of a tourist area, prices can go high as much as 500 php for a meal. But try to venture into the market or some of the local carinderia or food stalls which offer very cheap (around 50 pesos) and delicious local delicacies. Likewise, treat yourself by cooking your own food as many of the accommodation offer their kitchen facility. Or to make it simple, buy fresh catch from the market and have the host cook something for you.
Great places to eat:
Definitely my favourite! Not just mine, almost everyone’s! They offer a mix of Italian and Filipino cuisines. They also offer different cocktails. Hint: go during happy hour from 5 to 7pm and you’ll get 2 cocktails for the price of one and half the price on their beers. They are very popular and often fill up, so a reservation (especially for a larger group) is advised.
Insider tips: their focaccia and pizza and mojito are to die for! All-night happy hour every Friday.
Yes another mention of Bravo in this post, I just love everything about bravo. They serve very good Spanish cuisines mostly. But they have Vegetarian menu as well. Service is very good. Price: from 100 to 400 pesos.
Insider tips and plus points: chill atmosphere at their restaurant where you can also eat on their huge bed; the Panini is a must-try. Vegetarian menu.
Viento del Mar just offers the most delicious and well-made food in the island. They put great care in their presentation and taste. The chef and the staff are always helpful.
Insider tips and plus points: The steak is awesome and their burgers are the best on the island.
With over 250 dishes on the menu, you probably won’t miss your hometown favorite; from Southeast Asian to European to American to Australian dishes, Patrick’s has it. They even have a separate section for Vegetarian delicacies.
Insider tips and plus points: My personal favorite is their pork or chicken schnitzel with potatoes and delicious sauerkraut on the side!
Shaka is located just a few meters away from Cloud 9. It is a small food place that offers the freshest fruit bowls, energy fruit shakes, and their nicely brewed coffee. The foods they offer are supposed to boost your health especially if you are a surf buff.
Insider tips and plus points: try their super bowl and the cappuccino!
Local restaurants and budget places to eat
Lalay’s grill is located right on the boulevard with an amazing view of the sea and the islands across General Luna. They cook grilled chicken, pork, fish, squid and even octopus! Prices are usually just around 50 pesos.
Insider tips and plus points: Buy yourself a fresh catch from the market or some vegetables and have them cooked by Lalay just the way you like it.
Ronaldo’s offers a wide variety of Filipino dishes. What better way to have a taste of local island living than to enjoy some of the traditional Filipino dishes for very cheap price (a full meal of viand plus rice is just 100 pesos)!
Insider tips and plus points: Don’t leave without trying Adobo, the Philippines’ National Dish
Things to do in Siargao
Siargao is dubbed as the Surfing capital and the Surfer’ Haven of the Philippines. Needless to say, it is one of the main attractions of the area. There are several surfing spots in General Luna. Waves are good all throughout the year. But the National and International Surfing Competition are usually held every last week of September.
It is wise for beginners and pros alike to get a guide when starting out as they know where the best surf spots are, and where the currents are dangerous. Most of the surfing instructors offer php500/hour of their service.
Insider tips: ask a discount when renting a surf board for a long time, or buy second hand surf boards.
As mentioned, there are other beautiful islands off the coast of General Luna. Many accommodations will arrange boat trips for you. They usually gather a group of people to go on a boat ride together Php 2000 per person to include food. Or you can just gather people yourself and go together in the boulevard where a lot of boats are waiting to take you to three islands. The whole boat costs 1500 to go the three islands which can accommodate mostly 7 people. You can buy ready-made food in the market or get a fresh catch and have them cooked in one of the islands for a small price Php50 for each food.
Naked island is a small sandbar of just pure white sand and clear waters. No naked people, though!
Tips: Bring a lot of sunscreen! There are no trees as shade there; that’s why it is naked!
Daku Island is a village-island where a small community exists. It is the usual stop for having lunch. Locals will also offer you fresh buko (coconut) juice for 50 pesos. The view is stunning with glistening white sand and the blue waters are just at its cleanest for a village-island. Spend some time swimming and sunbathing while waiting for food. There’s a boat fee of 100 pesos per boat and 500 pesos for the use of their cottages.
Tips: have the local women cook fresh catch for you. Yum!
I just love Guyam Island! It is a very small uninhabited island with coconut and a few trees that will give you shade when you just want to chill and relax. This is the usual last stop during the island hopping. It boasts the purest and cleanest sand and waters I’ve ever seen. The island is just 3 kilometers off General Luna so you can see the town from there too. Just pay 20 pesos per person when you go to the island.
Insider tip: You can stay here overnight (Just pay for the shelter 100 pesos and the entrance fee, 20 pesos each)! Just enjoy lying on the sand, watching the night sky, and experience peace and tranquillity. And in the morning, watch the sunrise then take a dip in the water. Enjoy the island all for yourself, at least not until other tourists come for day trips to the island.
La Janusa and Mamon island
A bit further away, past Naked Island, lies a true paradise where barely anyone goes to. La Janusa has an incredible white sand beach, completely empty, wonderful water and excellent snorkelling. It’s very close to Mamon island and it’s great to swim or snorkel there.
Sohoton Cove is part of the Bucas Grande Group of Islands off Siargao, politically part of the town of Socorro. It can be reached from General Luna in two hours using a motorized boat or by a speed boat in 45 minutes. It is popular for its non-sting jelly fish. Yup, you can swim with them! The entrance to the cove is an underground cave which is not accessible when high tide. You will make stops to caves and jump off points. Then after the tour in Sohoton Cove, pay a paddler to take you to the nearby lagoon with the non-sting jellyfishes. They’re usually numerous on summer months from March to May.
Insider tips: waves can be very big along the way and the ride could get bumpy; you may have to wait for your turn during their peak season from March to May.
Sugba Lagoon is located in the Municipality of Del Carmen, an hour drive from General Luna. Go to the port of Del Carmen and ask for the office where boats going to Sugba Lagoon take off. From there, it only takes 30 minutes boat ride through mangroves and into the sea and then into the lagoon surrounded by low cliffs and limestone formation. You can rent a snorkeling gear, a raft for a price. You can also have the ladies who tend the lagoon cook something for you. Or, otherwise, just bring a packed food. The water is clean and clear, can’t get enough of this lagoon really.
Insider tips: careful of sea urchins and stone fishes!
Magpopongko Rock Pools
Magpopongko Rock Pools is one of the most popular destinations in Siargao Island. These natural rock pools are located north of General Luna, about 1-hour drive on a motorbike. This is great for swimming on low tide with its fresh clear blue water that is sure to cool you off. The pools are hidden away during high tide. Bring you snorkeling gear and find different species of fish in the pools.
Insider tips: Go on less touristy days, the pool can get really packed. Know the tides too. Best when it is low tide.
Siargao Island has little light pollution that on a cloudless night, you can clearly see the Milky Way. Shooting stars can easily be seen. The Milky Way is visible every first week of the month when there is no moon.
Night life parties. Happy hours. Fire dances.
Every Night there’s something going on the Island. Ask any local or your host. A good thing about the island’s party places is most of them are located relatively far away from many accommodations so that non-party goers can enjoy their goodnight sleep. The big nights are usually Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
On Mondays, there’s Rumbar Night in Rumbar where you can enjoy live music and DJ afterwards. If you are lucky, the owner will randomly give free drinks. Wednesday is acoustic night at Rumbar as well.
Thursdays are known as Thirsty Thursday in Hotspot Bar. There’s a DJ that plays the music. They’re open late at night every night when everything else is closed.
Friday Nights are probably the best Night for party goers. Start off at Kermit’s restaurant where you can have dinner and enjoy their cocktails and beers in their all-night happy hour. Drink there until 9 or 10 and then move to Viento del Mar.
I personally like Viento del Mar as a party place. They have a DJ that plays nice music where you can dance in their small dance floor. If you don’t feel like dancing, help yourself to beer pong or if you just want to chill, just head towards the beach where they set up seats and tables, and bonfire. You might also enjoy fire dancing shows. Or when the night is clear, help yourself to white Russian and stare at the night sky.
Feel drunk already? Head out to Jungle Tattoo, a disco bar, and sweat the alcohol out. Have fun on the dance floor, meet new people, and wake up the next day feeling refreshed (hopefully).
Insider tips: Don’t drink and drive, a lot of accidents happen from irresponsible driving and you could get injured badly that even the local hospital cannot manage you completely.
Important things to know
Weather in Siargao is mostly sunny throughout the year. Summer months start from March to June and then rainy season comes, which doesn’t really mean rains throughout the day or week. It is really unpredictable sometimes. The waves are the best from September to January as the winds are strong enough to create big surfs although a lot of surfers enjoy the waves throughout the year. January and February are usually very windy. This is when most of the kite surfing competitions take place.
There are three ATMs in the island, one in the town of Del Carmen, where the airport is located; and two are in Dapa town, 14 kilometers from General Luna. They mostly accept most cards from around the world. However, make sure to talk about this with your bank for leaving your country. As a Dutch holding a Rabobank account, the ATM didn’t accept my card. I ended up using my credit card in certain places in General Luna and exchange for money for a certain fee which may vary from % to %.
The Island of Siargao has one major hospital that is a primary hospital; that means they cannot do complicated surgeries because of lack of doctors and equipment. There are also other doctors that run small clinics which cater to the poor local people. They would appreciate donations if you ever use their service. They will be able to manage minor injuries and diseases. In case of major operations, patients can be flown to Cebu City or you may be advised to take a boat to Surigao City, which is a 3-hour boat ride from Siargao.
Planning to stay for a long time? It is actually possible to extend your stay in the Philippines for 12 months the moment you arrive at the airport and pass through immigration. They might need a photocopy of your passport. Or if you missed that, you can go to the nearest Immigration Office in Surigao City which is a 3-hour boat ride from Siargao Island. There, you can extend your visa for up to two months. It only takes about 15 minutes to process. Other places where you can renew your visa is in Cebu and Manila where you can extend your visa up to six months.
Internet connection is pretty bad, as everywhere in the country, except for the big cities. Sometimes, you’ll get good internet connection, but mostly you won’t. Most travellers here get their local sim cards and subscribe to “unlimited data” (it gets slow after 1gb) for 1000 pesos a month or an 800mb max. Smart and Globe are the only tele companies and it varies from time to time which one offers what.
Conclusion and Rating
You just can’t help but falling in love with the island. Waking up to a mostly sunny weather for most of the year, walking barefoot on the white sand, feeling the clear blue water rush on to your feet, then hopping on a motorbike and cruising around the island which offers lush greens and just simply finding a secluded beach for yourself and go swimming, is just a typical day in Siargao. And if you’re into surfing, even if you are a beginner, you can bring your surf board to the easily accessible waves.
At night, you can go party, watch the night sky on the beach (put links). It is a common thing to find yourself not knowing what the date or time is as you get lost in the slow-paced, chill atmosphere of the island. The people are lovely and are always friendly. You will definitely enjoy Siargao.
Hope you enjoyed my complete guide to living the ultimate island life in Siargao Island, Philippines. And I hope I’ve enticed you enough to take the next flight to this beautiful island! Don’t forget to share your stories or ask questions for anyone who hasn’t been to the island yet. I’d love to hear from you!
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 10
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: 7
EASY TO TRAVEL: 8
Links to check out!