Only less than two hours on the island, and I was already planning a trip back.
People from all over the world flock to Siargao because of its amazing surf, great range of accommodations, incredibly friendly people, and beautiful scenery. I went on this trip with high expectations, and still felt overwhelmed with the whole experience. Photos can’t even capture how gorgeous it is out there; you have to go and see it for yourself.
[This is part one of a two-part blog about Siargao. In this entry, I will be talking about how to get there, where to stay, and where to eat. Check out part two here, where I wrote about what to do in Siargao (surfing, island hopping, etc) and added a sample itinerary and expense breakdown!]
Let me start by saying five days in Siargao is incredibly short, especially if you plan to surf. I would recommend to spend at least seven whole days in Siargao if you want to make the most out of your trip! There’s just so much to do, too many spots to surf, and so many people to meet! It’s no wonder that every time people come back, they stay for longer durations.
I started planning for this February 2017 trip in December 2016. Two months seemed like enough to plan, but by this time, accommodation options were limited and flight prices started increasing. I’d recommend planning three months before your trip, maybe even longer before if you plan on going during peak season.
General Luna is the area most travelers stay since it has a wide array of accommodations, food choices, and because some surf spots are easily accessible from here. General Luna (or GL) is also home to the world famous Cloud 9 surf spot up on the north by the boardwalk. While researching through different blogs, I noticed that it was difficult to visualize the relative locations of the resorts and restaurants, so I designed this map below to help you guys choose where to stay and eat while in GL!
(I took the information about the surf spots in GL from Kermit‘s website. The exact locations of the resorts and restaurants aren’t completely accurate, but at least it gives you a general overview of what’s near where. Please leave a comment if ever there are errors and I’d be glad to fix them!)
At the time we booked, Cebu Pacific was the only option. With CebuPac, you’d have to take a flight to Cebu (CEB – Mactan Int’l Airport), then a connecting flight to Siargao (IAO – Sayak Airport). Roundtrip fares can range from a cheap ₱6,000, to the average ₱8,000, to a steep ₱13,000 when flights are in demand. My flight cost ₱8,600 with the Fly + 30kg Baggage option, which isn’t so bad. Bringing a surfboard costs around an extra ₱1,000-2,000 roundtrip, which is worth it because board rentals are pricey. Just make sure your board bag has sufficient padding.
Note that there is usually only one daily flight in and out of Siargao on Cebu Pacific, which means that if your flight gets cancelled, you’d need to find a place to stay in Cebu or Siargao overnight. My friend was supposed to take a flight back home on Monday, Feb 20, but couldn’t find a seat for a flight back to Cebu until two days later! The Sayak Airport runway is pretty old, so if the ground team doesn’t think it’s safe for a plane to land, then that plane would just turn around and head back to Cebu. Ouch.
Your check-in baggage is sent straight to your final destination, which reduces the hassle of having to carry it around the Cebu Airport. The layover is fine because the airport has a lot of food choices, but if you’ve got more time to spare, hail a cab to go to Rico’s Lechon (a 3-minute cab ride away, ₱50 fare) and have the best lechon of your life!
(Some people take a CebuPac flight to the Surigao del Norte Airport, which is on mainland Mindanao, and although this can come out cheaper, I hear that the boat ride from the mainland to Siargao is unpleasant because of the waves. This was definitely not an option for us.)
However, starting this weekend, Skyjet Airlines now flies directly to Siargao! Roundtrip fares cost as low as ₱4,000 but can also climb up to ₱10,000. They have a birthday promo ongoing until the end of the year: fly on your birthday for free! Skyjet will definitely be most people’s first option to Siargao, so hopefully this pressures Cebu Pacific to make their prices more competitive.
When you get to the airport, there will be loads of van drivers with whiteboards already awaiting the flight’s arrival. You may arrange for an airport pick-up from your resort, but this isn’t necessary. Usually all you have to do is say the name of your resort out loud, and a bunch of drivers will try to get you to go with them. Don’t worry, the standard fee for the van transfer from the airport to anywhere in General Luna is ₱300/person, paid directly to the van driver upon drop-off. You will most probably be in the same van as other people but the vans are big and clean and comfortable.
Where to stay
Since we were a big group all staying in different places, we were able to see a couple of resorts and compare them to one another. Here’s a rundown of room options I’ve collected below. There are several other beautiful resorts on the island but these were the ones we considered:
(I took the information about all these resorts from their websites. Prices may vary depending on the season and there may still be additional charges for tax, but at least this gives you a ballpark figure of how much it would cost to stay at a certain place. I suggest checking their website to see more pictures before picking a place to stay! Click the photo to see a high-res version.)
Even if I wasn’t able to check out their rooms in person, I would definitely recommend staying at Kermit. This gets incredibly full (we called them in December and they said they were fully booked for the whole month of February! Whaaat!) so if you can find an available room, BOOK. IT. As you can see in the table above, they have several choices and from what the photos look like on their website, each room looks lovely and really has a beach feel. Also, you should stay here if #pizzaislife.
What’s nice about Kermit is that there’s always something going on. They have daily yoga classes (schedule in the photo above) at their beautiful resort. Kermit also hosts daily tours to different points of interest (Sugba Lagoon, Island Hopping, Magpupungko, etc) and what’s great about these tours is that, although they’re expensive, everything within the day is already taken care of for you. Schedules may vary so arrange this with the staff before planning out your itinerary.
The drawback of staying in Kermit is that it’s not beach front, and it’s not by the opposite side of the road either. The entrance is a two-three minute walk from the main road, which can be a hassle when raining. However, out of all the resorts described here, it’s nearest to the market.
The first two nights in Siargao, we stayed at Harana. The vibe of this place is amazing; this was probably the best-looking place for me because of the vernacular architecture and mixture of different woods and native textures. It really made me feel so connected to the environment, so if you want to feel that backpacker feeling, Harana is for you. Filibeans Espresso is literally a couple of steps away from the reception so you don’t have to go too far for your coffee fix. (Also if you love dogs, Harana has a resident pug that sleeps everywhere. Plus points for the doggo.)
This is the Deluxe Room (₱2800/night). Among all the rooms we saw during this trip, this was my favorite because it was exactly how I envision the ideal beach villa. It had such a Southeast Asian feel but was still very clean. Note that the Deluxe Room spans only one floor. The second floor is another Deluxe Room; I didn’t get to take a photo of it but it has a higher ceiling.
The Community Hut is such a great place to stay in if you’re on a budget. At only ₱700/person/night, this was the cheapest among the bunking options we looked at, but the space was the biggest. This room is huge and the ceiling is very high so even if we were sharing with others, it was still very comfortable. Each bed has a power socket and a reading lamp and there are lockers off to one side of the room. It also has a veranda outside where the board rack is located. If you book early enough, you might be able to rent out this whole room with a group of friends! That seems like the ideal cheap option if you’re a big group going to Siargao.
The beach in front of Harana is very rocky. The first two days we were in Siargao were spent at Harana and the weather was pretty bad so we didn’t really get to enjoy the beach much. Those waves that we saw in the distance are actually part of surf spot Tuason Point and are really beautiful when the conditions are right.
Viento del Mar
Unlike the Filipino-inspired Kermit and Harana, Viento del Mar is more modern in looks. The crowd is primarily foreigners and it’s primarily known to be the party hub of General Luna because of their wild #VientoFridays. The energy on Friday nights is ridiculous, so expect around 200 people crammed into Viento, partying it up to house music until lights off at 1 AM. (Jason and I were so tired that we had no problem sleeping through the music though!) Sam and Peach from management are incredibly nice and easy to talk to so do have a chat with them and they can even help with your itinerary!
The resort also doubles as a kitesurfing school, which is appropriate because Viento del Mar translates to seawind in English. They offer a 15-minute free trial, as well as long and short-term rentals for kiteboards and surfboards. Their second floor lounge is also a great place to watch the sunrise or drink with friends while checking out the kitesurfers.
This is one of their Deluxe Rooms on the second floor. It’s a pretty simple room, but the bathroom with a rain shower looks awesome. They also have another room similar to this, but with a shared bathroom. There is a bunk bed room for four located on the ground floor, where you’ll get to meet other travelers.
What I loved most about Viento del Mar is that their beach in front is very swimmable. The sand is incredibly white and fine and the reef isn’t very sharp. You can see in the photo above that there’s a portion of the water where you can just swim and relax with sand on your toes. If you see those white waves by the horizon, you can actually walk on the reef with your board to get there; the water is shallower than knee-deep that whole way!
Villa Maya is a good alternative for those who want a space to themselves, far from the action on the main road. Taking a dip in the infinity pool overlooking the golf course and the ocean doesn’t sound too bad at all! They have different options and configurations within the house, wherein you can pick to rent out their huge 70sqm 1-bedroom pool villa for four people, or you can rent out any of the rooms in the 3-bedroom villa. It may be the farthest from the beach out of everything in this list, but for those who want to really relax far away from the busy streets of General Luna, this is the place for you.
Situated right across Viento del Mar, Vivo Inn is right in the middle of everything as well. Because it isn’t beach front, the room rates are affordable and so is the food. The staff and management here are incredibly nice; it was like being at home with your lola making sure you’re always happy. Their double room is clean and simple but bigger than the one in Viento. Each room faces the garden and has a small veranda outside.
Where to eat
There are so many places to eat in Siargao, all with different price points and styles. You can find everything from simple carinderias and ihawans to really impressive high end restaurants.
I never thought I would have the BEST PIZZA OF MY LIFE in Siargao! Kalinaw is a gift from the pizza gods. I was really shocked with how great the brick-oven thin crust pizza tasted.
Since Jason and I didn’t get to spend Valentine’s Day together (we were both packing for the trip since we were leaving later that night), we decided to have our delayed V-Day celebration at Kalinaw! We ordered the white parma ham pizza (₱520) and a frutti di mare pasta (₱480) and although I found it quite expensive, we were still incredibly happy eating there.
Note that the pizzas are rather big — our friends had trouble finishing one pizza for two people, but if you have a crazy appetite like Jason and I, one pizza and one pasta will be perfect. Having a pizza at Kalinaw should be on everyone’s food bucket list!
Also, Kalinaw is one of the swankiest places to stay on the island. It’s a high end resort (₱16,400/night for their amazing pool villa for two) so their dining service is top notch. We didn’t get to see the place in the morning, but I’m pretty sure it’s just as gorgeous. You can also opt to have your dinner served right on the beach if the weather permits.
Kermit is the more mainstream place to go on the island for authentic Italian brick-oven pizza. The vibes are more friendly compared to the fine dining ambience at Kalinaw, and you get to customize your own pizza! The base price is ~₱250 then you add ~₱30-70 depending on what kind of topping it is. This place gets hella full at night and on weekends so make sure to reserve a table in advance! We didn’t get to eat here because we couldn’t get a reservation, but at least there’s more to look forward to next time!
You may not have eaten here, but you’ve probably seen it on Instagram. Shaka is the Siargao millennial go-to place for power bowls. Jason ordered their Bom Dia (açai based) bowl and I ordered the Cloud 9 (peanut butter & banana) and we were both really happy with our orders. The bowls cost ₱250 each.
They open really early in the morning to be able to cater to the Cloud 9 surfers, giving them a pick-me-up before they take on some waves at the boardwalk. Their granola-filled colorful bowls tasted really refreshing and were the perfect sunset snack.
Kawayan, like Kalinaw, is a high end resort that also serves great food. I ordered a chicken pasta which was good and Jason made the right move by going for the seafood. Their mahi-mahi is phenomenal and is as soft as butter! We had dinner late and we were the only ones that ate there so it felt quite lonely, but the food definitely tasted as good as it looks! We ended up spending ₱400 each.
Aside from being a great place to stay, Harana is also a great place to eat. The ingredients are incredibly fresh. I’d recommend their chicken rice meal (kind of like Hainanese chicken, but with coconut milk!) and their breakfast spicy longganisa.
Lunares Cafe is a great place to have breakfast! It’s an Italian café that serves good coffee and pastries. Although ₱120 for a ham and cheese croissant might be a bit steep, take note that “ham” on their menu refers to parma ham (not the cheap canned ham), so it’s really worth it! I even bought one on the way back to the airport just so I could have it again. I didn’t get to try their coffee but my companions liked their foamy latte.
Cafe Loka was recommended to us, since it’s a nice place to hang around the boardwalk, but take note that this place, like many others in the Cloud 9 area, opens really early and closes by sunset. We went there at 5:30 PM on our last day there and it was already closed so we weren’t able to eat there. It seems really nice though because it’s right by the boardwalk and you get an awesome view of the beach and the trees.
The restaurants listed above are all pretty expensive considering this is outside of Manila. I found eating in Siargao way more expensive than Baler, but probably the same as La Union. However, there are always cheaper places to eat that you might want to check out like Mama’s Grill, Cashey’s, Dawis, and Pearl Venue. Of course, there’s always the option of buying fresh fish and meat from the General Luna Market and having it cooked at your resort, which I’ll be discussing in further detail in my next blog entry! 😉
And that concludes part one of my two-part blog on Siargao! Check out part two here, where I wrote about what to do in Siargao, plus a sample itinerary and costs.
*This blog entry was not sponsored by any entity mentioned above.