A 2019 Travel Guide To Siargao Island—One Of The Philippines' Best Kept Secrets
One of the Philippines’ best-kept secrets, Siargao is a hidden paradise entirely covered in palm trees and surrounded by turquoise waters, and sees more locals than foreign visitors (for now). Often referred to as “the surfing capital of the Philippines”, the tear-drop shaped island boasts world-class surf breaks for surf enthusiasts of all levels.
Not a surfer? The island offers much more than its waves—whether it’s a relaxing beach getaway or an adrenaline-filled holiday that you’re after, there’s a whole range of activities—from swimming with stingless jellyfish in a blue lagoon to paddle boarding through ancient mangroves—that makes this tropical heaven a delight to explore both on land and sea, not to mention it's an eco-friendly destination that promotes sustainable tourism.
We recently visited the Philippine island to bring you an insider guide to the best places to stay, eat and visit.
How to get there
Getting to Siargao from Hong Kong will require a flight to Manila or Cebu, followed by a connecting flight to Siargao’s Sayak Airport. The good news is, the flights are fairly short for a secluded island like Siargao: around two hours to Manila and three hours to Cebu for the first leg, and then a short hop that takes one or two hours before arriving at the palm tree-lined island.
From the airport, the drive to General Lunar—the main town that is usually used as the reference point where most resorts, cafes, restaurants, bars and shops are located—takes roughly 30 minutes.
Where to stay
Nay Palad Hideaway
Nestled between tranquil mangrove forests and a private white sand beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Nay Palad Hideaway is the only five-star, all-inclusive resort on the island. With 10 luxurious villas, an infinity pool overlooking the ocean, a treehouse boasting the most stunning sunset views, a yoga pavilion and a world-class spa offering holistic treatments, every experience at the resort is tailored to your every need.
Whether it’s dining in the treehouse, watching a movie by the pool, or taking a boat ride to the jewel-like uninhabited islands that your heart desires, you can find absolute privacy or around-the-clock attention that promises a personalised stay.
What to do
Aptly named “the capital of the Philippines”, Siargao is arguably one of the best surfing hotspots in Asia, boasting waves all year-round. Among its numerous surf breaks, Cloud 9 is the most legendary wave that attracts professional surfers from around the world.
But don’t worry if you’ve never surfed before—the beauty of surfing in Siargao is that there are surf breaks to suit all levels, so even beginners will have a great time learning from the island’s certified instructors on small rolling waves.
Jacking Horse next to Cloud 9 is an accessible surf spot to get a surf lesson, where the mellow and soft waves make it easier to learn how to catch a wave. Alternatively, you can visit a surf shop in General Lunar like Jose’s Surf Shop, which will take you a bit further out in the ocean by boat, not too far away from the shore so you can practice riding bigger waves with the help of an instructor.
Jose’s Surf Shop | Tourism Road, Poblacion 3, Siargao | 63 919 301 2811
Magupunko Rock Pools
Around a 45-minute drive from the main tourist area of General Lunar, the crystal clear blue rock pools are only exposed during low tide, so be sure to check the tides online in advance to avoid any disappointment. It’s a magical spot for swimming, cliff jumping and exploring the surrounding coves and caves.
As Magpupungko is one of the more popular tourist spots on the island, we’d recommend getting there earlier in the morning to skip the crowds.
While there’s plenty to explore in Siargao, one of the most popular activities is to book a day tour to visit the three beautiful islands nearby, namely Naked Island, Daku Island and Guyam Island, which are only a short long-tail boat ride away from General Lunar.
Each tropical island has its own character: Naked Island is a bare sandbank in the middle of the ocean surrounded by a colourful reef; Daku Island is the biggest island on the tour, a perfect stop to enjoy a coconut or a seafood banquet on the beach; while Guyam Island is a charming little oasis covered in a miniature coconut palm tree forest that boasts romantic sunset views.
Despite a long 2.5 hour boat ride from Siargao, Sohoton Cove is one of the highlights of our many adventures during the trip and a must-see for any traveller visiting the archipelago.
The tour begins at Hagukan Cave, where you can swim inside a luminescent cave where the water glows in electric blue, followed by Magkukuob Cave where you can climb up the cave (wear a pair of waterproof reef shoes) before emerging at a 5-metre diving board to jump back into the lagoon when you begin.
The last stop is the Jellyfish Sanctuary, an enchanting place where you can swim and interact with stingless jellyfish in a blue lagoon—it’s a surreal experience that will change your perception of these mesmerising creatures.
An Insta-famous spot framed by a stunning blue lagoon with a wooden diving board in the centre, Sugba Lagoon is a 20-minute long-tail boat journey that zig-zags in and out through the mangroves until you see a floating hut which will be your base to leave your bags safely.
Here, you can rent out snorkels, stand-up paddle boards and kayaks to explore the lagoon, or take a leap from the diving board if you’re feeling brave.
Palm tree rope swing at Maasin River
Once a secret spot for local kids, the bent palm tree is quickly becoming a tourist hotspot thanks to Instagram. This particular one among thousands of palm trees has gained its fame due to its bent angle, which arches over the emerald water of Maasin River.
The swing hanging from the palm tree is run by locals, who will guide you to climb up the palm tree safely and make sure you have the best time swinging like Tarzan.
Where to eat
Boasting picturesque views of the famous boardwalk of Cloud 9, Shaka Cafe is a favourite among locals and travellers, serving Insta-worthy smoothie bowls, fruit shakes, cold-pressed juices as well as a great selection of teas and coffees.
Our go-to power bowl is the signature Super Bowl, which consists of island fruits like mango, watermelon and kiwi to with the local honey—a feel-good, nutrient-dense treat that will boost your energy for the day.
For the best sunset views, get there early to save yourself a spot on the beach beanbag or the swing under the palm trees.
Kook Cafe is an all-day breakfast spot serving delicious breakfast, fresh juice and quality coffee. Our favourites on the menu are scrambled eggs served with homemade sourdough and fresh fruits, vegetarian fajitas and matcha pancakes.
They also have one of the fastest WiFi connections in Siargao, which can be hard to come by (power cuts do happen on the island).
Don’t forget to try their homemade coconut cheesecake and pastry of the day for a sweet treat.
CEV serves the freshest ceviche and kinilaw (a Filipino raw seafood dish) with a creative twist that incorporates locally sourced ingredients. Their latest creation, Santa Monica Tiradito is a great example bursting with a mixture of flavours and textures from the pumpkin and coconut milk puree, pickled green mangoes, calamansi juice, crushed roasted peanuts, fried local squid and fresh catch of the day.
Best to come here in the evening and stay for a tipple—their local rum mixed cocktails won't leave you disappointed.
What better way to enjoy the freshest seafood offerings of the island than a poke bowl? Sushi Nori also has a wide variety of sushi, maki rolls, donburi, sushi bowls and tacos—all made fresh and served in generous portions.
It's hard to pick a favourite, but you can't go wrong with the “Sunrise” tacos made with salmon, mango wrapped in a tempura shell.