Siargao Island is a small, tear-shaped island roughly 500 miles southeast of Manila. It’s an island in the middle of the Philippine Sea that is quickly becoming a magnet for tourists and surfers alike.
Getting to Siargao Island:
There are two major international airports in the Philippines accessible from the U.S.: Manila and Cebu. We were able to reduce the cost of our airfare significantly by flying into Cebu, paying only $425 roundtrip from LAX. Asiana Airlines is a Korean based company that offers discount prices on their economy tickets. We found the service to be quite good and the in-flight food was actually really tasty (not much sleep was had in fear of missing the next feeding). But my favorite part of the transportation aspect of this trip was that we paid no extra baggage fees for bringing surfboards. You are allowed two pieces of checked luggage with a max weight allowance of 50 lbs. However, you might want to double check for dimension limitations with regards to longboards.
Cebu Pacific is the only airline that offers daily transfers to Siargao Island for about $100 round trip. Be sure to book this connecting flight as soon as you book your international flight – they tend to fill up quickly. Also, I recommend having an extra day cushion in between your flight from Siargao back to Cebu before your international flight home. During their wet season, flight cancelations are very common.
Accommodations and Transportation:
General Luna is the main town on the island and home to the world famous Cloud 9. It’s about a 45-minute drive from the airport with beautiful scenery of lush green jungles, water buffalos, and smiling faces. The airport on Siargao Island is very rustic and coordinating airport transportation through your hotel is highly recommended. We stayed at Isla Cabana, booking a 1040 sq foot oceanfront bungalow complete with its own front porch jacuzzi, breakfast every morning, extra bed for the kids, and airport transportation. It all came out to $1700 for eight nights. A few other noteworthy places were Kalinaw Resort and Bravo Beach Resort. More affordable surf centric hotels were Kermits and Greenhouse. Filipinos love to haggle so if you’re not entirely satisfied with a quote through an online booking site, call or email the hotel directly and make an offer. That was how I was able to bring the initial quote of $2,000 on Agoda down to $1,600.
The main mode of transportation around the island is through motorbike taxi or “habal-habal.” Variations of the habal-habal that offer more “spacious” seating are also available but few and far between. Actual vehicles are also available but can be costly. A typical ride on a habal habal around town can run about 50-100 PHP or about 0.98-1.96 USD. Price is usually not established at the beginning of the ride and when dealing with Americans, they will try to get as much as they can. Once at your final destination, kindly say “maraming salamat” and hand him 100 PHP.
Surfing Siargao Island:
There are plenty of warm waves for any surfer, from beginning to expert. Board rentals are available for about 200 PHP per hour or 4 USD.
Of course, if you come out here, you’re likely going to have a session at Cloud 9 on your To Do list, which is best at high tide with fast punchy barrels offering both lefts and rights. Just on the other side of the long boardwalk is Quicksilver, which is also a reef break but is much smaller and more forgiving. This break is often crowded with beginners and tourist being pushed into waves. The outside section is ideal for longboarders and there were a bunch of Filipina lady sliders dancing up and down their boards when we went there.
We booked a “banca,” or outrigger boat, for about 500 PHP ($10 USD) to take us to boat access breaks such as Rock Island and Stimpy’s. Tides are very important here as it often can make certain waves unsurfable. When it’s low tide and the reef is exposed, hop on a boat and head out to Stimpy’s. Jacking Horse is located just around the corner from Cloud 9 and gets its name from how the wave jacks up at the peak before it smashes down onto the reef. Don’t be fooled by the name, though. It can also be a fun intermediate/beginner wave at mid to high tide. If Cloud 9 is crowded, you’ll have a better chance at catching waves here.
Excursions and Activities on Siargao Island:
When you’re surfed out or your travel partners start to throw fits, there is plenty to do around the island. A few of our favorites included:
Magpupungko Tide Pools – one of the biggest tourist attractions and best to check out at low tide when these gorgeous rocks are exposed and crystal clear tide pools make for epic cliff jumping. It’s about 50 minutes from General Luna with 50 PHP or 1 USD entrance fee. There are bathrooms and a small outdoor restaurant here.
TakTak Waterfalls – a day trip from General Luna given the 1.5-hour drive up north. But this picturesque waterfall surrounded by a majestic jungle backdrop is well worth the trip. The entrance fee is 25 PHP or 50 cents. There are trails to explore the surrounding jungle – be sure to wear hiking sandals if you have them or have princess feet like me.
Island hopping on Daku, Guam, and Naked Islands – I booked this excursion through Viento Del Mar. For only 3,000 PHP or $55 USD we were picked up by an English-speaking tour guide, taken to the harbor where we boarded an outrigger boat, taken to three islands complete with hosted lunch (beer, rum drinks, and other beverages included), and brought back to our hotel at 3:30 pm. And because Filipinos are fascinated by half Caucasian/Filipino babies, we got free babysitting too.
Sohoton Lagoon – this is where you will find the jellyfish sanctuary filled with beautiful golden nonstinging jellyfish. Sohoton is also a long trek from General Luna and can be accessed by boat ferry. I highly recommend asking your hotel concierge for help booking this excursion because most of the tour companies offering this trip speak poor English and often speak a dialect different than Tagalog. It’s a two-hour boat ride so be sure to bring plenty of snacks. I believe we paid 1000 PHP or $20 USD per person. Once inside the sanctuary, you hop onto a smaller boat manned by English speaking tour guides and will spend the next hour or so exploring the different caves. At one point, you will be encouraged to jump into the water to swim with the jellies. It was a big highlight of our trip.
Filipinos love Americans and embrace American culture but showing a willingness to embrace the Filipino culture as well goes a long way. Try saying “salamat” instead of “thank you” or “kumusta ka,” meaning “how are you?”
When it’s all said and done, an amazing trip to the Philippines does not have to cost a small fortune. Here’s our breakdown:
-International airfare = $1,700
-Domestic Airfare = $400
-Ground transportation = $100
-Hotel = $1,600
Excursions = $170
Food/drink = $200
Board bag fees = 0
All this came out to a grand total of $4,170 for 12 days and 11 nights for our family of four.
Filipinos love to share everything and enjoy life and that is quite evident on this lovely little island off its south east coast. So come, enjoy the slow pace, eat amazing fresh food, and surf uncrowded waves.