Travel

Five days in Siargao: What to do

This place is something else.

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Although Siargao is mainly known for its surf spots, there are just so many things to do and places to see! The beauty of Siargao blew my mind because I wasn’t expecting to see sand this fine and water this clear.

This is part two of a two-part blog about Siargao. In this entry, I will be talking about what to do, how to get around, and more. Scroll down to the end if you want to see my sample itinerary and costsPart one covers where to stay, where to eat, and how to get there, so check that out first! Below is a map I designed of the General Luna area, where you’ll most probably stay.

Siargao General Luna Map by gabbydario

(I took the information about the surf spots in General Luna/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!)

First things first — if you’re the type of person that doesn’t like to plan and just wants an itinerary prepared for them, I would highly suggest getting Kermit Siargao’s Sleep-Eat-Surf packages, which includes airport transfers, daily breakfast, transportation to surf spots, daily surf lessons with a board and instructor, WiFi, island hopping, one free massage, three yoga sessions, free bicycle and SUP rentals. Honestly, this is a crazy good deal and the best one on the island, IMHO. The prices depend on what room type you get and how long you stay, so check out the link above to see full details!


Surfing

(…from the POV of non-experts!)

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Photo from Ron Tan

No matter how beautiful Siargao is, your experience is not complete without catching some waves.

  • Board only: ₱200/hour or ₱500/day or ₱2500/week
  • Board + instructor: ₱500/hour (some surf schools might ask for a minimum of two hours, especially if the spot is far from GL)

My friends and I are no surf experts, but we’ve had some background surfing in La Union and Baler and we wanted to finally meet the waves in world-class Siargao. But remember: most of the surf spots in Siargao are over a reef break, so wounds will become part of your #surflife. The soles of my feet got cut during my first session so it was quite hard to walk around for the rest of the trip. You can rent aqua socks: they don’t look cool, but at least you’ll be protected!

La Union and Baler are both great places to learn, but the entire visual experience you get from surfing in Siargao is completely different. It’s like surfing in Palawan: the beach has fine, light-colored sand, and the water is intensely clear. There would be times when we’d just be sitting on our boards  just staring at how beautiful the palm trees on the shoreline are. It’s unreal sometimes, as if everything had an Instagram filter on it. This is a big part of why surfing in Siargao is so enjoyable.

Giwan

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The first surf spot our instructors brought us to was Giwan (or G1). It’s around a 30 minute motorbike ride from General Luna but it’s a beautiful drive, cutting past mountains, rivers, and mangroves, before you arrive at the beach.

The wind was bad that week, so the waves in the Cloud 9 area were really messy. This is good for beginner/intermediate surfers. When we went to Giwan, the waves weren’t very high (maybe around 3-4 feet?) but it was very consistent and the beach is absolutely beautiful! The reef is a hassle, but it won’t be much of a problem when you’re already out there. These aren’t the toughest waves I’ve tried, but they were definitely the most enjoyable.

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It was a bit full when we got there in the morning at high tide, but you won’t be fighting over waves with locals/foreigners for waves. People are pretty polite when it comes to taking waves, and as long as you listen to your instructors, you should be good. Don’t bring much when you go to Giwan because there’s no secure place to leave your stuff, except inside the seat of your motorbike. Make sure your GoPro has a floater so you can bring it to sea.

Read more about Giwan here and here.

Isla Daku

Daku Island is one of the three islands you’ll be visiting as part of the usual island-hopping package. There are “fun and playful waves” on the side of the island, but you’d need to take a boat out to sea to get there. You’ll have to rent out your boards for the whole day if you’re taking them to Daku with you.

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Photo by Jason Santos

I didn’t like the waves here as much as Giwan since they were a bit slow, but the ride is incredibly long and it’s not as reef-y (?) down below. Taking a boat out to sea, dropping an anchor, jumping off the boat, and paddling to the waves was a really cool and unique experience! We still got great rides in and worked up a good appetite for lunch on the island.

(Jason Santos took these awesome shots using a GoPro with a glass dome rig. It was one of the best investments ever for this trip and I’d really recommend getting one to up your GoPro game!)


Island Hopping

Also a must-see for anyone going to Siargao, the usual island-hopping trip will take you to three islands right by General Luna: Naked Island, Daku Island, and Guyam Island, in that order. You can take a tour from Bravo or Kermit, for ₱2000/person for the whole day, which includes lunch. This isn’t a private tour and you’ll most probably be sharing with other tourists and foreigners, but it’s a fun way to make friends!

However, we wanted to plan it ourselves and surf at Daku as well, so we made friends with some local surf guys and they basically took care of everything for us. We ended up spending around ₱1600/person, but that was already inclusive of a huge lunch and one hour of surfing with instructors. You can also get a boat straight from the market, which will cost only ₱1500/boat, but can comfortably hold 8 people. They’ll say it can hold 15 pax, but they’re lying (haha), it’ll be way too tight.

We started the day at 7 AM and all decided to meet up at the General Luna Local Market to shop for meat and fish for lunch. We also bought some snacks like peanuts and bananas, as well as Gatorade and water, in case we got hungry on the boat. I highly recommend you do this if you plan on surfing at Daku as we got dehydrated really easily.

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The water while boating was incredibly blue. It’s unreal!!! (I did not edit that photo up there at all!) The best way to describe it is as if you’re boating on top of a fresh vat of Cool Blue Gatorade. Ask anyone about it and they’d probably have the same description! This makes the boat ride all the more interesting, gliding across the beautiful crystal clear water, and seeing interesting things, like the spear fishermen who greet you as you pass them.

Naked Island

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First stop: Naked Island. It’s not completely naked; there are some shrubs and two benches on the island, but it’s pretty naked. The pristine beach made for an amazing photo session and it was a surreal experience literally being the only people on a tiny island and having it all to yourselves.

The photos you’ll get here are awesome, especially since there’s a portion of the island where waves from two different sides meet in the middle. Be careful to not get pulled away because the current can be really strong!

Daku Island

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Daku Island was the second stop on the itinerary. As you may have read earlier, this is where you can get some waves, but it’s also known for “boodle fight”-style lunches. Right after surfing, we headed to the huts at around lunch time to eat. We were incredibly dizzy from dehydration and hunger so this was the perfect way to spend lunch time.

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You can rent a hut for the day and just chill there all afternoon. There’s a volleyball net in case you want to play with some locals and tourists, but it was too hot to be directly under the sun at that time (although the foreigners didn’t seem to mind). We had our fish and liempo from the market cooked by the locals on the island, and paid them a cooking fee. We also got our rice and fresh coconuts from them as well. There’s also a decent pay restroom right by the huts, as well as a sari-sari store, so feel free to do your business there.

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It was a simple meal, but it hit really hit the spot! (Don’t forget to feed your boatman and instructors!) We spent some time on the island looking around and taking photos. The sand here is really white, but it was a bit hard to chill in the water because the waves were a bit strong.

Guyam Island

Last stop for the island-hopping tour was Guyam Island. It’s literally a nearly perfect circle of sand with a nearly perfect circle of trees in the middle. The entrance fee for the island is only ₱10/person.

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Some people spend the sunset here drinking beer, but we decided not to stay too long because we were tired from the surfing, and wanted to check out some spots at General Luna after. Maybe we’ll do that when we come back to Siargao!

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Magpupungko Rock Pools

The Magpupungko Rock Pools are a 90-minute motorbike ride away from General Luna. Located in Pilar, this tidal pool is located on a charming beach. The entrance fee is ₱50/person and the parking fee is ₱40/bike. There are sari-sari stores by the entrance in case you get hungry.

You must go to Magpupungko during low tide so ask around before going there as to when the best time to go is. It’s completely closed during high tide because the current could be dangerous at that time. We went there mid-afternoon so it was the perfect time to go. Going on a weekday would be better because it wouldn’t be too crowded. But crowded or not, the view was definitely worth it.

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The GoPro Glass Dome really did its job in Magpupungko. The water was incredibly clear and you could jump off the rock if you wanted to.

On the way back to General Luna from Magpupungko, make sure to pass by the TAYANGBAN CAVE POOLS! It’s a quick 15-minute hike underground (you’ll actually be passing right under the main road!), starting in a cave pool with freezing water, and then a short hike underground through the cave. It’s not incredibly interesting, but it’s short and pretty easy, so might as well do it when you’re there.


Sugba Lagoon

Jason and I didn’t get to go to Sugba Lagoon, but Ron and Kim were able to experience it and shared their photos with us! Click their names above to check out their Instagram pages for more amazing photos, as well as our Outdooran Instagram.

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Photo from Kim and Ron

I hear so many great things about this place. I’d recommend you book a tour for Sugba Lagoon through Bravo. It’s quite far, so reserve one whole day for your trip there. You’d have to take a van, then a boat to get there, but Ron and Kim said it was totally worth it. The trip costs ₱2000/person but that’s inclusive of food, alcohol (yaaas), transporation, and SUP (stand up paddleboard) rental! Sweet!

Oh, and also, there are STINGLESS JELLYFISH at Sugba Lagoon! There are also stingless jellyfish in Sohoton Lagoon in the Bucas Grande Islands (nearer to Mindanao mainland), but these jellyfish look way cooler, IMHO. Plus, Sohoton is way farther and more expensive to go to than Sugba!

Sugba Lagoon will definitely be the first stop on my itinerary when I go back to Siargao in September. I’m incredibly jealous they got to see it, but at least there’s more to look forward to the next time I’m there! And hopefully it’ll be jellyfish season.

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Photo of Kim by Ron


The Boardwalk

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The Boardwalk at Cloud 9 is iconic. Surfers carry their boards across the boardwalk then take the stairs down to the sea, while spectators can watch surfers catch some waves on the multi-level platform. Although we only visited the Boardwalk at low tide during sunset, it was still beautiful seeing the waves of Cloud 9 crash against the reef. We were the only ones there at that time and we had the whole place to ourselves. It’s a really calming feeling to just sit down and watch the water roll in for high tide. I can just imagine how packed this must get during the Cloud 9 Cup in September!


Getting around

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There is only one way to get anywhere: motorbike. The only time I see cars in Siargao are the airport transfer vans. Apart from that, everything else moves around on two wheels. Make sure to bring a good windbreaker because it gets pretty cold and windy riding around.

  • Motorbike rental – ₱250/day-₱500/day (depending where you get it and if you need a driver; Pearl Venue is a cheap spot to rent)
  • Habal habal – ₱20/person/trip in the morning;  ₱30/person/trip at night
  • Bicycle rental –  ₱100/day

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Renting a motorbike is the most popular option. This can comfortably fit two people (some bikes can squeeze up to four!) plus a board rack on the side for two boards. This is the best way to get around the island and can get you to the surf spots outside General Luna. Because this is an island town, shirt and shoes are always optional. If you want to rent out a driver and motorbike for the day, it could set you back ₱500/day, but it will also depend on where he’ll be taking you.

You may have to pay for gas, which is like ₱50/liter, so bring some spare cash with you. A “gas station” in Siargao is literally just a wooden shelf with a bunch of glass Coke litro bottles filled with gas. It’s pretty cool.

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Hailing a habal habal is also an option if you don’t want to commit to renting out your own for the whole day. I suggest planning your itinerary for the day before starting, so you can determine whether renting a motorbike for the day or just hailing a habal habal would be cheaper.

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Photo from Kim

If you’ll just be exploring the General Luna area, renting a bicycle is good enough as it’s cheap and you can get some exercise in. You can’t bring your board with you when you use a bike but it’s enough to get you where you need to go in the area. We don’t recommend taking a bicycle out of GL because getting to other surf spots entails going uphill and downhill, which would be difficult with a bicycle.


What to expect

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It was the first time I felt like a foreigner in my own country. Siargao is crawling with people from all over the world; you’ll meet people from Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, the US, Italy, Canada, and everywhere else. Many of them have made General Luna their home, which is why many of the establishments in the area are run by foreigners, giving the island a very international feel. Most of them are incredibly friendly but they frequent some places (Bravo, Viento del Mar, Kalinaw) over others.

December to February is considered as the rainy season in Siargao. During our stay, the rain was intense for the first two days, which made habal-habal rides extra chilly. Bring an Aquazorb to towel off after a surf session and a good-quality windbreaker to be able to stay warm and dry during motorcyle rides. If there is any rain at all in your forecast, a warm sweater will become your best friend indoors.

Expect to go home with a lot of souvenirs in the form of bruises, cuts, scrapes, an intense tan line, jellyfish stings, and all the works. I also hit my ankle pretty hard on the corner of the bangka during island hopping because of the waves and it became hard to walk after.

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We met champion surfer Piso Alcala on the way to our resort!

After a day in the sun, cool off with lotions/oils, the most effective for me being Banana Boat’s Aloe After Sun Gel, Aveeno lotion, or Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO). If you knew me at all, VCO is my go-to for everything! It works as a makeup cleanser, moisturizer, helps heal scars, and does amazing at keeping your peeling skin in check.

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There is no accessible ATM in General Luna. The only one is in town and it’s a 20-minute habal-habal ride from wherever you’re probably going to be staying. Bring cash with you to Siargao, but only bring enough cash for the day, and keep the rest in your locked suitcase if your resort doesn’t have a safe. The less cash you bring with you, the better, so pay for your accommodations online or through bank transfer before you leave for Siargao.


Sample Itinerary for Siargao

Jason and I stayed for a very short period of 5 days, and the first two days were completely rained out. Luckily, our next three days  were bright and sunny and we were able to do some things we wanted to, like Island Hopping and Surfing! Like I said in my previous post, I recommend a minimum of one week in Siargao, especially if you plan on surfing, so here’s a sample itinerary, along with the costs.

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Note that ₱17,090 as an estimate is on the expensive side, especially since this does not include flight and accommodations. You don’t have to surf that much, and you don’t have to eat in expensive places all the time. Siargao can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to be. For more details about where to eat and where to stay, check out the link below:

Details on where to eat & where to stay are in my first Siargao blog post!

Final words: Siargao is a magical place. It’s been two weeks since I got back but I catch myself thinking about that trip all the time. I’m planning to go back in September and hopefully I’ll be able to do those things I wasn’t able to do, like surf in Cloud 9, see Sugba Lagoon, visit Sohoton Cove, and check out the Bucas Grande islands!

See other photos of our amazing trip on our Instagram accounts!

Ron Tan / Kim Isip / Gabby Dario / Jason Santos / Justin Lina / Vida Alegre / John Cheng
Cash us online, how bow dah!!!

Stay tuned for more posts about my upcoming trips, restaurants I love, and more! Thanks for reading!

xx
Gabby

One thought on “Five days in Siargao: What to do

  1. Pingback: Paradise found: Five days in Siargao (Part 1 of 2) | Gabby Dario

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