I remember a couple of years back when I received a mystery travel box from a friend who is trying out a new business idea. The concept was simple - the box contains a mystery destination. Inside it were information about the destination and a couple of basic stuff that you would need for that trip. The idea was to encourage the receiver to go out and explore the mystery destination. My box contained a cap, a metal straw, and a waterproof cellphone bag. My mystery destination... Siargao!
Siargao is a teardrop-shaped island east of the country. Dubbed as THE "Surfing Capital of the Philippines", its close location to the Philippine Trench make its ocean swells ideal for surfing for beginners to the advance. Only the few and the brave dare explore the islands decades back. Now, the island is slowly getting attention from travelers after decades of being under the radar, not only for its surfing spots but also for its amazing natural attractions.
Siargao is a destination that was on my list for a time now so when the opportunity to explore the island on a long weekend came up, it was a chance that was hard to pass up. So I packed my bags on the last long weekend holiday, took a 90-minute flight, and came up with my top 10 list that would make you say #SiargaoNaNgaAngHinahanapNgPuso.
#10. Sleep or Relax or Read a Book
Sleep?!?!? Are you serious?!?
Although there are a lot of things to do in Siargao, the laidback atmosphere of the island is very conducive to relaxation especially if you are used to the hustle and bustle of the city. Siargao slows down time and you get to enjoy the simple things which we often count as a privilege in the city and yes... that includes getting the liberty to sleep anywhere and anytime of the day.
Whether you are within the confines of your resort room or lazing around the beach of Cloud 9 or a beachfront resort, the breeze and the atmosphere is enough to lull you to sleep. Cafe Loka, near Cloud 9, is a great place to relax, read a book, or listen to music while watching a Siargao day pass by.
You can also hop on a hammock and doze off to the rustic sound of the island. Just relax and enjoy the day. In Siargao, there is no need to rush. All you got to do is to let go and relax. Trust me, you have plenty of time to do anything.
#9 Walk Around Town
General Luna is a small rural town where walking is a great way to acquaint yourself with its nooks and corners. Its provincial vibe brings back childhood memories of summer vacations in your parents hometown where you walk around and explore during lazy afternoons. It is this same vibe that you get on the island so walking its streets is a 9 for me!
At the heart of General Luna is the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church. Its simple facade glowing in yellow, in the late afternoon sun, and its two belfries stand out in General Luna's skyline. Peering through its steel bar doors, we caught a glimpse of its simple interior. The altar was simple that highlights the cross against a blue backdrop giving it a tropical paradise feel.
Do not be surprised to find small country shops where you can find an array of souvenir items from ref magnets to shirts. You will find most of these shops along Tourism Road, where you also find most of the restaurants and bars. Take the time to check out these shops for items to remind you of your Siargao trip. Just be conscious that some of these shop owners ask guests to walk around their stores barefoot. So be courteous enough to leave your slippers, sandals, or shoes at the doorstep.
Exploring Siargao on foot is a great way to discover and relax. You will be surprised at what you can find along the way - a public white sand beach, a great photo spot under the shade of coconut trees, a yummy treat, a great souvenir item, fresh fruits, etc. I enjoyed the provincial vibe while walking around and... guess what? I also got to bring home with me a Sarok Hat which I got from one of the souvenir shops that we checked out. So don't just ride in Sairgao, walk it!
#8 Ride a Bike or a Motorbike
If there was one thing that I regret not preparing for this trip is learning to ride a motorbike. Locals have shared with us that hiring a motorbike is the best way to explore the WHOLE island. You can set your own itinerary and go out on your own pace to discover the natural wonders of Siargao. This is my next goal for my next Siargao trip.
But do not fret, there is always the dependable habal-habal if you want to go on a DIY around the island. The drivers know the perfect, the usual, and the hidden spots of Siargao.
Well, there is always the option to rent a bike to go around General Luna. They charge you Php120 pesos per day for the use of the bike. You can leisurely bike to Cloud 9 under the late afternoon sun. And besides, a bike is a good prop for that IG-worthy shot.
#7 Chill Out By the Beach
When you have the beach, you got to chill and that comes in at number 7. And when I say beach chilling, I seriously mean soaking it out under the sun, getting the feel of sand, and enjoying the cool waters of the sea.
There are a lot of beach spots in Siargao. General Luna is dotted with a shoreline blessed with white sand and there are a lot of beachfront resorts to choose from to chill out. Cloud 9 is a popular stop in Siargao, not only for its surfing and its boardwalk, but it also has a beachfront where you can spend a lazy day while munching on a sandwich and sipping your favorite fruit shake.
Speaking of Siargao beach chilling, you can also avail of an island tour where you get to explore the three islands of General Luna. You can opt to do a private tour if you are a big group or you can opt to get a tour package if you are a solo traveler. We signed up with Cavys Tours for our land and island tours at Php3000 per head. It is the cheapest tour that you can get in Siargao and it is inclusive of breakfast and lunch.
Our island tour was a combination of Bucas Grande in the morning and an afternoon tour of General Luna's famous islands - Naked Island, Daku Island, and Guyam Island.
Naked Island is a white sandbar jutting out from the blue waters of General Luna. The sandbar initially was bare without coconut trees within its perimeter hence its name. I guess we might have to change its name soon because it now has a young coconut tree growing on the island.
Be forewarned though that you will definitely be basking under the sun at Naked Island. There are no shade where you can take cover from the sun. Although, you can take a quick dip on its cool waters to cool down. The island's bare beauty is a perfect backdrop for that melodramatic shot.
Daku is the biggest island in the area and its name is from the Visayan word "dako" that means "big". The island is developed to accomodate the needs of guests who visit. Beach cabanas line the beachfront and small food businesses are also present in the area. You can even buy fresh seafood and have the locals grill it for you. Judging from the development, I reckon that it is an island that is frequented by tourists.
The island have a lot of activities to offer. You can enjoy its cool waters or you can opt to find your own corner to read a book under the shade of a coconut tree. You can even opt to play a round of volleyball under the sun or under the coconut trees. There are more activities to do here compared to the other two island so do not be afraid to explore the "big one".
One of its interesting features are its coconut trees that grows in abundance in the area. There is one spot where you can enjoy the gentle sea breeze under the shade of the trees. And with a little creativity, you can probably come up with an interesting snapshot of your Siargao trip.
If there is a big island, there is a smaller counterpart and that is Guyam Island. Just like Naked and Daku, the island is blessed with a white sand shoreline and clear turquoise waters.
Guyam Island is unique for its combination of white sand and rocky shorelines. The white sand shorelines are bordered by rock formations creating a small beach cove where most activities happen. The rockies are worth exploring and make a good backdrop for photos.
#6 Party the way Siargao does!
I have always heard that part of the Siargao experience is making friends on the way and on the island. My trip to Siargao proved that making friends during the trip complete the experience. Like what I have shared, it is hard not to get to know people in Siargao because you bump into them at least once while on the island.
Parties in Siargao is something to check out and are good venues to make friends. But let me tell you that partying on this island is a totally different experience. It levels up by creating a unique mix of keeping the provincial vibe and partying - and that is what I liked in Siargao. Parties seemed to be hushed up but, once you are at the venue, partying is at full blast. Beyond the curtain of provincial peace and tranquility, the thumping of party feet and clicking of bottles of beer are rocking the night away.
By the way, always ask the locals or drivers where the party venues are for that day because party spots are different depending on what day you plan to go out.
Post Travel Notes
These are the bottom half of the things that will make you go #SiargaoNaNgaAngHinahanapNgPuso. Writing this part was exciting and with the top half coming through in the next couple of weeks, I am pretty sure that part 2 of this travel blog will be more interesting. Clearly, we can already see that Siargao is beyond surfing. It has a lot more on its plate and its vibe make it stand out. The vibe is hard to describe. You just feel it.
Throughout my stay in Siargao, I tried to nail down Siargao's character but I can't seem to find the right word to describe it as I boarded my plane back to Clark. The island's uniqueness was hard to capture in words but one thing was sure - I fell in love with Siargao. It is the kind of love that captures you, grows in you, and stays with you. It was the kind of attraction that makes you want to come back soon and go through the experience all over again and probably add more.
Getting there: Skyjet, Cebu Pacific, and Philippine Airlines have regular flights to Siargao from Manila, Cebu, Clark, and Davao. If you are coming from Manila, I suggest taking a Skyjet flight to Siargao in the morning and take the PAL Siargao-Clark in the afternoon to maximize your stay.
From the airport, you can take a van going to General Luna at Php300 per head. You can contact (0938) 1737647 to arrange for your van transportation.
For land and island tours, we booked our tours at Php3000 per head for both with Cavys Homestay and Tours through Ate Lucy at (0910) 940 8297. Their packages are already all-in, inclusive of lunch and breakfast. It is one of the cheapest that you can find in General Luna.
Day 1. Arrival
12nn ETA at General Luna. Check-in at resort / Lunch at Kermit.
2pm Walk around General Luna town proper / Try the Pan de Surf near the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church / Rent a bike
4pm Finalize tours with Ate Lucy at Cavys
5pm Check out Cloud 9. Watch the sunset.
9pm Chill out or Party
Day 2. Island Tour at Php1500 per head (Bucas Grande, Naked Island, Daku Island, and Guyam Island) / Watch the sunset/ Party at Night
Day 3. Land Tour at Php1500 per head (Sugba Lagoon and Magpupungko Tidal Pools) / Watch the Sunset / Party at Night
Day 4. Departure
5.30am Surf and Watch the Sunrise.
7.00am Breakfast and Chill out by the beach.
10.00am Buy Souvenirs / Early Lunch / Preparation to head home.
12.00nn ETD for the Airport
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.