Why you must visit Siargao Island, Philippines
After being on the road for so long you learn to appreciate the little things. Siargao is a small island with a big heart and a strong community and after 36 hours switching from buses to ferries and back again we were happy to arrive in paradise.
We took a hape hape for 50 pesos ($1) each into General Luna where we were greeted by our friend James at Malayah. James was one of the positive things about the whole whale shark fiasco. His friend who worked as a researcher for the whale sharks put us in contact and he was the most amazing tour guide and even better friend. When we first looked into going to Siargao it looked as though everything was booked, but he was able to find us two dorm beds at Malayah. You can show up and try to find places to stay on Siargao as there are a handful of accommodations not found through booking websites, but I also learned that most places in the Philippines have a Facebook and can be booked through the social media platform. I hopped around a fair bit while staying on the island because of full bookings moving from Malayah to Softa and then last, but certainly not least to the artist Sanctuary at Primitivo.
James immediately took us to breakfast at Dadong’s, a local eatery ran by lady boys that we ended up eating at for the first half of our stay on the island. Cheap and good food, but oily as hell and full of MSG so I had to stop the last three days. From there we ventured to his secret spot and swam in the river. If you want to find a really tranquil spot to spend the day and watch the sunset ask a local to take you the “No Tresspassing” spot. It’s a beautiful place to relax.
Siargao is a very small island which means you run into the same people almost everyday if you are staying near or around General Luna. Each night starts with some live music or a drum circle at a bar and then everyone moves to more of a club type scene. A different bar each night of the week has a party so it is easy to run into people you met the night before. My favorite nights were the drum circles at Kaizen and Kitiya, very low key but everyone got to join in on the fun whether it be singing or playing an instrument of their choice. I made really good friends with some of the musicians and was welcomed into their little family which was nice to have while on the island. Rum bar was also a good party with a great atmosphere, live music to begin and a DJ to close out the night. Some of the places like Jungle Bar, Octopus and Hot Spot get quite wild so please be careful and ladies use the buddy system!
My days were filled with lots of adventure. The first night at Rum Bar we met some Filipino Canadians who were visiting and we decided to go island hopping with them. Island hopping included three islands with fresh fish, fruit and salad for lunch and copious amounts of Tanduay rum. It started off with gray skies and an hour of downpour, but as we reached the first island the sun began to shine and the blue skies welcomed us with open arms. We visited Naked, Daku, Guyam islands, the last being my favorite. They had beautiful rock pools and an endless horizon of crystal clear waters. This was Anzac Day in Australia and I raised my glass of rum to all the veterans and my dear Jesse who fought for our countries. It was a memorable day surrounded by good company and beautiful views.
One of my favorite days was when my friend, Deeda and I rented a motorbike and drove around the whole island. We visited the rock pools which are best to visit during low tide to see all of the tidal pools and enjoy a few hours in the pools. There are heaps of tourists at first, but if you walk a bit further down and around the corner you’ll find some rock pools to have all to yourself.
From the rock pools we managed to find “Lebron James and Dwayne Wade” family owned restaurant. The owners were hilarious and massive basketball fans who named their kids Lebron James, age 10 and Dwayne Wade, age 8. I honestly couldn’t believe it at first, but it made for a good laugh. This family made all sorts of curry which they allowed us to try free of charge. After spending a bit of time in Pacifico, a top surf destination, we rounded the northern most tip of the island where the mangroves led out to rolling hills of many smaller islands. It was a beautiful drive through the fishing villages, past the houses all on stilts and the communities built on water. Every person we drove by flashed us a smile and a wave or screamed out “Hello!” I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
We spent a whole other day at Subda Lagoon, a must see while visiting Siargao. After a late night dancing and playing darts at Rum Bar we summoned James to drive us the hour and a half to Del Carmen. He thankfully had an early night so he could focus on getting us there safely while Rosa and I bumped tunes and laughed our heads off. I recommend rounding up five other people to join you on the scooter ride up to Del Carmen or else you’ll be paying 1600 pesos on your own for the boat transport to and from the lagoon. This lagoon and the surrounding areas was Philippines version of Ha Long Bay, with massive rocks covered in green foliage sticking out of the sea in the various forms.
The boat ride was stunning, but be sure to bring headphones so you can listen to your music instead of the loud motor. Although the lagoon was quite crowded when we reached you are able to rent a paddle board or kayak to explore the quiet areas of this beautiful area. It’s also comical to watch all the tourists jump off the diving board with their life vests on, this had us entertained for hours.
The sunsets and sunrises on Siargao are magical to say the least. The sky lights up an array of colors while the sounds of the waves crashing complement the atmosphere to a T. The energy of this island can not be replicated and I recommend spending as much time as possible exploring and relaxing around Siargao. I will definitely be back!
Where to eat:
- Fat Lips tacos - 120 pesos each ($2.40)
- Dadong eatery - cheap local eats!
- Barrels- Shwarma, burritos and burgers. A bit more expensive but if you’re craving western food it’s worth it!
- Miguel’s tacos and burritos- 100 pesos ($2) for a burrito
- Mama’s Grill- get there early because it does get crowded!
- Boardwalk BBQ
- Shaka smoothie bowls
- Kaizen for sushi
What to do:
- Rent a motorbike and drive around the island. It takes four hours if you don’t stop, but I recommend taking your time. It is beautiful! 250-400 pesos ($5-$8) per day
- Kaizen drum circle and live music
- Loose keys- Live music and draft beer. A small bar with lots of westerners.
- Rum bar- Big party two nights a week on Monday and Wednesday nights
- Island hopping - 800 pesos ($16) to visit three islands. Includes lunch and booze
- Subda lagoon 366 pesos ($7.15) which includes boat ride and environmental fee if you have 6 people in your boat. If not each boat is 1600 pesos ($28) to rent.
- Rock pools- 50 peso ($1) entry. Be sure to visit at low tide!
- Pacifico- Top surfing destination!
- Million dollar spot- Nice viewpoint in Burgos!
- Surf- Daku Island, Secret Spot, Gy 1, Cloud 9, Cemetery, Stimpy’s, etc... most spots are accessed by boat 150-250 pesos ($3-$5)
- The Pier near the public market in General Luna for sunset
- Cloud 9 boardwalk- 50 pesos ($1) entry
- Buddha (Thursday) or Kitiya (Sunday) live music
- Bravo- perfect place to chill out during the day! Cold pool and shower with wonderful comfortable beds to nap on.
- Baybayun (Monday) and Harana (Saturday) — live music at first then a bigger party and DJ vibes.
- Octopus, Jungle Bar, Hot Spot for a massive club type party on different nights of the week.
- “No Trespassing” secret spot
Where to stay:
- Softa- Very social hostel! Great vibes and staff. They have hammocks, dorm beds and double rooms. 250 pesos ($5) for hammock, 300 pesos ($6) for mattress on floor, 400 pesos ($8) for bed
- Malayah- Hostel near the beach. Have bamboo huts with double beds and a fan or AC dorm room. Lovely family owned hostel and cute shop attached. 450 pesos ($9) for AC dorm/800 pesos ($16) for double private hut
- Buddha Resort- A bit more expensive, but a very nice place to stay. They also host live music on Thursday nights!
- Primitivo- Artist village where musicians and tattoo artists live. Dorm beds for 300 pesos ($6) per night.
- Bravo- If you have the means to spend a few extra bucks Bravo is a lovely resort right on the beach!
Enjoy every second and stay a bit longer if your schedule permits! You won’t find another island quite like Siargao in the Philippines!