Siargao: A Lost Girl's Guide to Island Neverland.
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Growing up is optional.
Surf, stay and eat tips (feel free to skip to each section).
Do your soul a solid and visit this island.
Sometimes, we don't want to grow up.
Siargao is the place to be if 'growing up' sounds like adult detention. Located an hour from Manila or Cebu, this little piece of paradise will hypnotise you. It's a time warp: surf, swim, drink, sleep, eat... repeat. I first went in 2016 and left with a gnarly motorcycle scar (exhaust pipe rookie), life long friends and memories that'll CRACK-ME-UP until I'm in a retirement home. So whether you're a religious surfer, backpacker, newlywed or just looking for a new place to explore, a trip to Island Neverland will always be a good idea.
Who knew my motherland produced more than coconuts and awful karaoke singers?!
Siargao is Philippine's surfing capital. From baby (yours truly), hobbyist or advanced surfer, Siargao will have a break for you. Most surfers will know Cloud 9 for the annual WSL comp. But there's much more (less crowded) places. Check these spots out (📸 @egor_iggy ):
- Cloud Nine: Right/ Expert or Pro/ Most famous break aka Crowd Nine, powerful waves, likened for hollow tubes.
- Stimpys: Left/ Intermediate or Adv/ Consistent, good for shortboards who like left-handed waves.
- Rock Island: Right/ Upper Intermediate or Adv/ Best for experienced surfers looking for a fast punchy right.
- Cemetery: Mostly left sometimes right/ Intermediate/ Uncrowded left, locals & expats hot spot.
- Pacifico: Left/ Adv or Pro/ Biggest waves in Siargao, about 40 mins motorbike ride from General Luna.
- Tuason: Left/ Intermediate/ Heavy left that breaks hard and hollow down the fringe of exposed reef.
- For beginners, I surfed at Daku Island, Jacking Horse and Guiuan. Lessons are around 800 pesos (approx $20).
Also, most of these places you have to catch a boat to get to. It's about 200 pesos a trip (approx $5). If you want your own surf pics, Oli Bayer, Camille R.DP, Salty Studios, are Siargao residents. However there's always travel photographers floating around!
Do your soul a solid and explore this place.
Siargao offers more than reef cuts, so make sure to visit:
Daku, Guyuam and Naked Island: Most resorts and hostels offer island hopping tours, it's usually around 1, 000- 2, 500 pesos ($40 AUD). Often your tour will include a fresh seafood lunch, which is del-ishhh.
Sugba Lagoon: You can jump off a wooden plank, eat freshly cooked seafood and 'paddle board' per se on a wooden raft down the lagoon (so much fun!). You get this Lost Boy/ Neverland vibe here... the Peter Pan one, not the Michael Jackson sort.
Magpupungko Rock Pools: About an hour from General Luna (main town), you'll find crystal clear rock pools. Bring thongs, because the rocks are thirsty for your blood. Also a great place to BBQ and take pics for the gram.
Tayangban Cave Pool: Scratch your cliff jumping itch here. Swing off vines, jump off rocks or swim through blue waters... just watch this SICK Insta vid from Dan and Moore and you'll wanna book flight asap.
The best thing about island life is floating between street rat & 'instagram luxe' life.
Some days I feel like Aladin's little sister with a monobrow, other days I'll brush my hair and throw on a mini silk dress. Whatever island life experience you're after, there's hostel, resort or private villa for you. Make sure you book in adv during peak season (July- Nov). For a you deserve it stay, my go-to is Isla Cabana; for a longer stay I’ll go to Ocean 101. For a tighter budget, I'd go to Kermit or Villa Solaria.
There's more cheaper and expensive places than listed below, but here's a list I'd personally recommend ($AUD p/night):
Budget (from $15):
- Kermit: Prob the most popular place on the island. Always good vibes, food and people here! The owner Gianni is a living LEGEND on the island and you can thank him and Chef Irine for eating your weight in pizza, pasta and mango float. Contact Rozie for accom.
- Villa Solaria: Awesome place for backpackers or solo travellers. Guests are always having fun, there's ping pong, yoga, boxing bags and Tuason surf break is on your doorstep. Contact Max, the Swede Ken doll for accom enquiries.
- Chillout: Little cottages up near General Luna. Good for couples or friends looking for quiet, beach front accom. Great spot to paddleboard too. Contact Jackie, my gorgeous Pinay/ British mermaid for accom.
- Riad Masaya: Beautiful Moroccan inspired villa. Dorms or private rooms available and a gorgeous shared kitchen.
Mid-Range (From $50):
- Ocean 101: Beachfront private rooms, suites and 3 bedroom villas (which are so much fun to stay in as a group). There's also a massive oceanfront restaurant and the hotel is walkable to Cloud 9 and Jacking Horse.
- Villa Maya: Six suite villa on a golf course. Great pool, quiet and feels like a mountain getaway.
Splurge (From $150):
- Isla Cabana: Beautiful pool, beachfront bungalows with outdoor spas and the breakfast is a solid 10/10. Best for couples or small families.
- Siargao Bleu: Think Hilton in Siargao. The most commercialised hotel but still darn beautiful. You and your plus one get a free massage with your stay (it's AMAZING).
- Kalinaw: Other than Dedon (which I won't cover here because its about $2, 000 p/night), Kalinaw is probably the second most high-end resort. Best for romantic getaways or newlyweds looking for a luxe quiet stay.
- Bayud: About 20 minutes from General Luna, perfect place to escape the noise of Siargao. Great pool, amazing restaurant and luxury villas.
There's also private villas or rooms to rent on Airbnb (check this epic house my mates stayed at).
Is it just me, or do you also feel like an island rugrat on a bike? I love the wind drying my hair, the nimbleness of riding down streets with no signs, whilst drinking a coconut pineapple smoothie... which might also have a shot of Tanduay for no good reason. Anyways, almost everyone rides a motorbike in Siargao (all come with a surf board rack too). You can rent one at your hotel or anywhere along the main road. I'm too chicken to drive one, so I rent a push bike. It's fun... until it rains and you're like f*ck, I still have another 2kms until I'm home.
Two words. EAT EVERYTHING.
Most people agree Kermit is the best restaurant in town. I won't argue with that! Hannah the restaurant manager makes sure of that ; ) The woodfire oven is imported from Italy, which explains why it has the BEST pizza on the island. Also, the mango float and chocolate fondant is dessert ecstasy.
At the risk of sounding like a brat, the only downside in Siargao is the lack of big salads. Which is more a Philippines in general thing. It's not like Vietnam, Thailand or Bali where there's fresh salads at every corner. But it's a small sacrifice when you can eat all this:
Other honourable mentions:
- Coconut pan de sal: My GO-TO treat. A fresh hot bun filled with caramelised coconut. Head down to General Luna, its across the basketball courts and you'll see two ladies hacking coconuts over a fire. At 20 pesos (50c) each , I always buy like 40 and share them around with my friends. Lie. I eat 30 and reluctantly share the other 10.
- Sweedish chocolate cake and oat cookies from Kudo Surf.
- Hummus place @ Tuason break. Authentic hummus place run by a super cool Israeli guy. Only open Tuesdays and Fridays.
You don't stop drinking.
Every night one of the hotels/ bars hosts a party. Best places are Viento, Bravo and Kityas. Then the 'after bar' is at more dingy place like Jungle or Octopus. If you haven't lost your standards and dignity yet... this is definitely the time and place to do so.
- Wi-fi is super super slow. Frustrating if you need to work.
- Drive safe. There's NO HOSPITAL nearby, it's a boat ride away... but ya'll be seeing God before you get there.
- Salamat karajawwwwwww = Which means 'thank you very much'!
until next time...
Siargao will intoxicate you with youth. It literally feels like Island Neverland. It's funny to think so many people from around the world call this random island in the Philippines home. But I get it. Because here, you don't have to grow up in spirit. Here you can be a Lost Boy or Lost Girl forever! Here, you'll feel at home.
So, when are you visiting?!!! Check out my short story on Siargao which was published in Navigator's Around the World in 80 Days book. And shoot me a line if you have any questions about visiting this paradise : ) xx