Siargao ( pronounced Shar-Gow ) is a small, tropical island in the southern Philippines. I first heard about it when the Red Hot Chili Peppers were spotted surfing there after a local show. Apart from being absolutely stunning, the island also has it's own quirky local culture. Surfers can be heard yelling "yewwwwwwww!!" when catching a nice break.
If you're looking to get away from the fast food chains on other more developed islands, you'll love Siargao. While it does have a few high-end resorts like Dedon and Kalinaw, for the most part, it still maintains its simple, funky charm. The best part is that if you use a Globe wifi stick, you can get decent signal almost anywhere - and for as little as $1 per day.
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In Siargao, I fulfilled my dream of learning to surf...but I definitely didn't do it at Cloud 9! This is where you'll find some of the best surfers in the world. To give you an idea, the waves you'll see below are nothing compared to the massive swells during the "tournament season" starting in November.
The boardwalk is a great place to watch the sunrise - and also a great place to see professional surfers doing their thing. If you want to learn, "Jacking Horse" is the best place nearby. Don't worry, there won't be any shortage of people asking if you would like a lesson.
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Aside from surfing, there are plenty of other things to experience on the island. You can check out the legendary Drunken Carabao Rides, or the infamous Jungle Party every Tuesday and Saturday. You can stroll through a white-sand beach cemetery. You can also book an island hopping tour, or a fascinating trip to Sohoton Cave.
Check out the town of General Luna for a glimpse of the many fishing villages that dot the shores of the Philippines. Here you'll find local eateries, as well as the busy market - which sells affordable fresh-caught fish. Local kids love to play at the dock each afternoon. You'll find them jumping into the water to cool off.
One of the best ways to see the island is to rent a motorbike and explore it on your own. It might cost about $7.50USD a day, though you could get an even better price if you rent for many days. I took this shot during a trip to Pacifico and Tak Tak falls.
If you're going to surf, make sure you get a bike with a rack for your surfboard. FYI, you can also rent a surfboard for about the same price...and renting for many days will get you the best price as well. Getting a ride, a bike, or a board is very easy, because people will offer everywhere you go:)
About 45 minutes from General Luna is fascinating Magpupungko Tide Pool. This is a great place to swim and cool off. Make sure you check the tide table, because the pool is most beautiful (and safest) during low tide.
My favorite pizza was at Aventino's, which has 2 locations on the island, and is quite affordable. Many tourists love to eat at Mama's Grill, which is a no-frills eatery serving great BBQ pork, chicken and fish. Check out Bravo Surf Resort for excellent Spanish Tapas.
If you want to get away from the crowds and eat like a local, check out Wow Siargao or Kayaha Grill...both closer to Cloud 9 on the way from General Luna (they are on the right, but are easy to miss. You might want to ask a local). If you like sushi, you MUST try the Filipino version called Kinilaw. Kayaha Grill had the best I've ever tasted, and it's just $2.50 a plate!
Buddha's Surf Resort - Located about halfway between General Luna and Cloud 9, Buddha has a great vibe, very friendly staff, and excellent food. Breakfast comes with the room, and I quite enjoyed it. Speaking of my room, I enjoyed the flat screen TV loaded with movies, and my own personal water dispenser...nice touches! Check Buddha's Surf Resort rates.
Bravo Beach Resort - This is one of my favorite places to chill out and meet some great people. For me, the music and ambience were just right. The owner is Spanish, as is the chef. You can find excellent tapas here, and don't forget to wake up early for sunrise on the beach! Check Bravo Beach Resort rates
Harana Surf Resort - You'll find Harana tucked away about 1 km before you get to Cloud 9. I loved the striking architecture - traditional meets modern. Run by 2 Texas surfers who wanted to return to their roots in the Philippines. Great guys, and they host a very popular jam session on Saturday nights. Try the nipa wine! Check Harana rates.
Check out more Siargao hotels HERE.
There is a super cheap Dormitel directly across from Cloud 9. I believe there is one aircon room downstairs, and 8 bunk beds upstairs. Jing's Place and Paglaom Hostel are both affordable options as well. They are located near Kermit's, which is a bit more pricey and almost always booked up. Like so many others, you may end up wanting to stay on the island long term. Go to Jacking Horse and ask around for the best monthly rates.
Everybody who has visited Siargao seems to absolutely love it, but you won't really understand why until you've experienced it for yourself. Put simply, the island has a great vibe. Let's hope that it stays this way for many years to come!
Btw, if you need help finding cheap flights to the Philippines, I liked playing around with this new site:)
- Nathan Allen
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