Marajaw Karajaw, Siargao!
The island of Siargao is known to be the surfing capital of the Philippines. We spent one week here and it simply was not enough. The island is relatively big compared to others and has a huge surf culture. Most people would say it is what Bali was 10 years ago. The island is covered with hidden surf spots and beaches, lagoons and rock pools, and has a few smaller islands surrounding it that you can take by boat.
How we got there:
The trip by land/boat is a bit more complicated than flight but we were hitting other islands around it so it just worked in our favor. Is it doable? YES, but you have to be willing and patient.
Flights to Siargao were ~$70-90 USD and way over our budget so we opted out of this and just made our way to Surigao City. (Do not get Surigao City confused with Siargao island they are very different.)
We commuted from Camiguin island over to Surigao City, then took a ferry from Surigao City to Dapa in Siargao. The ferry to Siargao is 350 pesos plus 10 pesos for the terminal fee ($7.15 USD). After arriving to Dapa, take a tricycle to General Luna. General Luna is the main city/road with a bunch of guesthouses, hostels, and resorts. The tricycle to General Luna is 200 pesos but we went in a group of 4 so turned out to be 50 pesos each for the tricycle. ($0.99 USD) Sweet!
Where we stayed and transportation:
General Luna is the main area in Siargao that has all the bars, cafes, shops, etc. We stayed at Avocado Tree Hostel which is super clean and homey, but there are a ton of other places. Rooms at the hostels range from $6-9 USD depending on whether you want a fan or air con. Most private rooms are about $20+ USD and the resorts are about $30+ USD.
While you can walk along the main road for food and shopping, the main surf spots and other spots are a little far so we highly recommend renting a motor scooter. (Travel Tip: if you rent the bike for more days, you should negotiate a discount.)
350 pesos ($7 USD) is the standard for more than one day and remember to get one with a board rack if you want to surf.) Click here for more insights on renting a bike in South East Asia.
Favorite Restaurants and Shops
There are a ton of restaurants and bars to go to in General Luna. We listed a few that we went to pretty often with a different range of budgets.
CEV - Filipino (280-400 pesos per plate) - must get the kinilaw!
Zicatela - Mexican (280-400 pesos per plate) - best tacos on the island!
Mama's Grill - BBQ (30-180 pesos depending on the meat) - chill vibe with a ton of people but really good bbq
Eateries (30-180 pesos) -here are all of the pre cooked meals for your choosing. They are typically our favorites as they have a home cooked feel to them! We ate at the eateries almost every day. We really liked J&M Malubay and Tuna on D'Road.
Jam's Snacks and Shoumai (30-65 pesos) - this is right by the port in General Luna but the burgers here are SO good!
La Santa - Spanish/Filipino twist (280-400 pesos per plate) - good food and has a great shop below!
Kiniana - Cocktail Bar (280-300 per drink but offer pitchers too) - this resort has delicious cocktails but be careful because they sneak up on you!
Mama Coco (5 pesos) - Pan de Coco- don't forget to try this tasty treat! She fires up a grill at her street stall and heats up these coconut filled breads. A Siargao favorite!
Travel Tip: An eatery or carinderia is pre-cooked food so you'll find a range of different sautéed and curried vegetables, a variety of meat, lumpia (Filipino spring rolls) and other snacks. The meals are home cooked and have a comfort food vibe and feeling. If you are on a budget, you MUST go to these eateries. They're super affordable with a ton of options.
Top Things to Do in Siargao
Reputable for its waves and where all the pro-surfers go but don't let that stop you! There are a ton of surf spots to go to and a lot of the locals will offer you lessons. Jacking Horse is a great spot for beginners and where to go to rent your boards and get instructors. We went to Chana Surf and got our board rentals for 300 pesos per day (the most affordable whereas most places rented out boards for 850 pesos per day). Instructors are the same everywhere at 500 pesos per hour. Surfs up!
Go Island Hopping:
There are a few places that offer this from 1500-1900 pesos ($30-$37 USD) for 3 islands including drinks and food starting from 10am-5pm. We definitely think you should do this. We went with One Love Boat - you can find them on facebook or IG for 1800 pesos but it's truly an incredible experience. You hop the 3 islands: Guyam, Naked, and Daku Island. This tour gives you a party but also brings the native tribal group that has jam sessions and fire throwing on the beaches. You'll go skim boarding, plant coconut trees and give back to the island, and drink your way into the sunset.
Tip: If you don't want to go with a tour group you can also take a local boat to Daku for 250 pesos one way ($5 USD). There are pretty big waves here if you surf in the afternoon so we recommend only attempting to surf here if you have experience.
Swinging from Coconut Tree:
Tarzan Swing into the Maasin River - just a quick stop after the coconut tree roads, you'll find a red bridge. Park along side of the road for 20 pesos and pay the entrance fee of 20 pesos per person to see this beautiful site.
Hang with the Locals:
Sugba Lagoon - this is a bit of a drive about 2 hours from General Luna but definitely worth it. You can go by bike (350-500/day + gas) or rent a van (3000/day for 12 people). Once you get there, you can join a group for 1600 pesos per boat for 6 people to bring you to this beautiful lagoon. You can rent canoes and rafts and even jump off the diving board here into the turquoise waters.
Magpupungko Rock Pools - it'll take you about 45 minutes from General Luna to get here by yourself but 100% doable. The entrance fee is 50 pesos per person and 20 pesos for parking. Not bad for these emerald green and crystal blue waters.
Grab a beer and have some fun!
PARTY, PARTY, PARTY - no matter what stay/accommodation you're at, you will see a list of parties for every day of the week. Each night has a different vibe from EDM to latin nights and they all rotate across the bars. We had such a blast here and met so many people out!
Siargao Island is known for its relaxed vibes, and when it comes to LGBT culture its no different. People of all walks of life are welcomed here and treated with love and respect. I mean, even their motto on the island is "One Love" it doesn't get much more clear on unity and inclusion than that!
We absolutely loved Siargao. The island is growing and developing quickly so expats are moving there at fast rates. Overall, the island is still affordable and super fun. There are a ton of locals that are so happy to guide you and show around the island. The lists above are just fractions of things to do, places to eat, lounges to dance at. You really get to feel like a name not a number here. This island truly won our hearts over and is our favorite island in the Philippines.