I miss Siargao. More than its destinations, I miss its laidback and rustic vibe. Its the kind of ambiance that lingers on you for a very long time that it makes you want to head back to the island.
Well, Siargao is a league of its own. This teardrop island on the northeast side of Surigao del Norte has grown from being a surf spot to a prime tourist destination. The island transports you back to memories of your childhood summer vacations - you know, the real-kind ones. Its natural attractions, its ambiance, and its touch of adventure are complete ingredients for a great vacation.
You can choose to sleep, explore the town, bike around, beach bum, or party the night away when you find yourself in Siargao. But that is just half of the fun. The island has a lot to offer still. On this post, I will be sharing with you my top half that would make you go #SiargaoNaNgaAngHinahanapNgPuso.
#5 Eat your heart out
Siargao is a gastronomic paradise. It is a place that offers a wide selection of food choices that will definitely satisfy the tummy and your heart. From local delights to international dishes to healthy bowls, the island seems to have it.
For starters, pizza lovers can head out to Kermit. It is a popular food stop in the island with everyone, who have been to Siargao, saying that dining in Kermit is part of the Siargao experience. Apart from their brick-oven pizza, they also have rice meals and pasta in their menu that you will definitely enjoy. Its rustic ambiance add up to its dining experience. Be forewarned though, the place is so popular that you need to make a reservation to avoid a long waiting line. We walked in just right in time to get easily seated at the time of our visit.
Another pizza place that is popular in El Nido that has also touched down in Siargao is Altrove, located along Tourism Road. Munching on their pizza is an experience in itself. The open air dining of the place give it a more sophisticated feel. Mama's Grill along Tourism Road is THE place to go for your "inihaw" cravings. This is a no-fuss food stop where you come in, choose the items that you want them to grill, and find your spot among the benches and tables. Chances are you will get to share your table with other diners on a busy hour. Don't miss out on their fruitshakes to go with your meal. And there is also Café Loka for that quick beach snack while watching the day go by at Cloud 9.
Finally, do not miss out on the Siargao's famous pan de surf! Their bread is stuffed with sweetened coconut meat and baked on a makeshift oven using coconut husk giving it that unique smoky taste. The stall opens around 1pm and they close shop as soon as the breads are sold out. And they get sold out really fast.
#4 Catch the Sun
Whether you love watching the sun rise or the sun set, Siargao is a place where you get to enjoy catching the sun. Cloud 9 is one of the places to go to where you can watch the whole day from sunrise to sundown.
We got our fill of trying to catch the sun setting along the horizon from two different point of views - from the boardwalk and from the adjacent white sand beachfront of Cloud 9. Both views offer a different and dramatic perspective of the sunset. Let me warn you though that the crowd gathers up during the afternoons so make sure that you be there early to get a good viewing spot.
Too bad though that we were not able to catch the sunrise in Siargao. We were either busy preparing for our tours or we woke up late from the partying the night before. But we did get the chance to check out the Cloud 9 Boardwalk in the morning and we were given a treat - clean, unadulterated, and crowd-free signature shots at the boardwalk.
Here's a tip, you don't have to be lucky to get these clean shots. It is just a matter of timing - mornings are the best time to capture crowd-free photos.
#3 Jump and Rock
Siargao is an island of natural beauty carefully blended with one's spirit for adventure. It gets your adrenaline pumping, not only with its surfing, but with heart-pumping activities that could scare the wits out of you, that's if you don't like heights.
Coming in at number 3 is the Siargao Land Tour that brings you to two of the most popular destinations north of General Luna - Sugba Lagoon and the Magpupungko Rock and Tidal Pools.
Sugba Lagoon is popular for its diving platform set against the beauty of its still waters. It takes about an hour and a half of land and boat travel from General Luna passing through the scenic farmlands of Siargao and through the amazing mangrove landscape of Del Carmen. You wouldn't the notice the travel time because your eyes will be treated with nature's beauty. Visiting the lagoon has a time limit so as not to overcrowd the area although the 45-minute allotment is enough for you to enjoy the place.
The first thing that you need to face is your fear of heights as you face off its famous diving platform. At a height of at least one floor, guests are encouraged to take the plunge into its cool waters of around 12 feet. It may sound easy but I have watched people buckle down on the platform after the usual picture taking. I perfectly understand how they feel because for a guy like me who have a thing for heights, it takes a lot of guts just to even stand on the platform. But lo and behold, I did JUMP off the platform. I was already there and I did not want to pass off the chance. Just take a deep breath, walk, and jump.
There are also kayaks and paddle boards that you can rent out at Sugba Lagoon to explore and enjoy the stillness that the place offers. For Php300 per hour, you can paddle out and explore the nooks and crannies of the lagoon and get those IG-worthy shots. Better yet, you can find your own spot and enjoy the tranquility of Sugba Lagoon.
After taking that daring JUMP, it was time to ROCK the pools of Magpupungko.
The Magpupungko Rock and Tidal Pools is nature's amazing work of art. Its rock formations was carefully molded by the wind and the waves to its ruggedly beautiful look. Its pools are glistens in varying colors of green as the water recedes to give guests a full view of this natural wonder. The best time to visit the rock and tidal pools is during low tide.
We definitely ROCKed the pools of Magpupungko because its innate beauty had our creative minds toggling on capturing amazing pictures. And you can rock it further by exploring the area. We got the tip from our resident funny guide, Mai-Mai (whose personality reminds me of Maymay Entrata), that we should go out and explore further. We did find another white sand beach cove at the end of the beach strip. We were also lucky that we had the beach strip for ourselves when we got there.
As we walked back to the main beach, the tides were starting to come in. Its the signal that guests would have to be leave for the daily "natural cleaning" of its pools.
#2 Swim with the Jellies
Just 2 hours by boat from General Luna is a peaceful sanctuary where one can swim with the jellies and explore the 7 islets of Sohoton. Welcome to the municipality of Socorro!
As soon as your boat docks at Bucas Grande, guests are registered and ushered into smaller bancas to visit its jellyfish sanctuary. You will be enveloped by the tranquility of the place as you make your way to the sanctuary. The sounds of the leaves rustling with the wind and the swooshing sounds of the water are enough to calm your nerves.
The jellyfish sanctuary is the home of stingless jellyfish. In this sanctuary, you can swim with these gentle creatures. Kuya Eddie, my boatman, shares with me that these creatures swim to the surface during lowtide. You can try to pet them but he also said not to take them out of the water. Kuya Eddie even helped direct some of the jellyfish towards me when I took a dip in its waters.
I asked Kuya Eddie why there is a net at the entrance of the lagoon. He said it serves as a protection for the jellyfish from predators. He shared with me the time when two fish got into lagoon and started eating the jellyfish. One was eventually caught while another escaped after a hefty buffet. After that incident, they decided to set up the net as a safety measure.
After returning to the docking station, our group boarded a bigger boat that would give us a tour of the Sohoton Cave. Its name was derived from a local term that means "under the cave" because, to explore the place, one needs to go under a cave.
Sohoton Cave have 7 islets within its territory and our guides were quick to mention that it is easy to get lost within the area. He was quick to show us a famous rock formation as soon as we went under the cave entrance. The rock formation serves as a marker to point of entry/exit of Sohoton. A few meters away from the rock formation is the Daungdong Wall. It is a white limestone rock face that has also become an attraction in Sohoton.
Our first stop was the Hagukan Cave. Its name was derived from the word "Hagok", a local term that means snore. Our guide shares with us that, when the wave hits the walls of the cave, it creates a hollow sound similar to the sound of snoring. The cave is popular for its luminous waters. Guests enter the cave and one will be amazed by the luminous green shade of the water at the mouth of the cave. If you are taking a picture or a video, take it from underwater to capture its beauty.
The Magkukuob Cavern is another popular spot for its cliff jumping. But before you make the 2-meter high jump, one needs to go inside its cave and navigate through its rocks to the platform. Traversing through the cavern is manageable despite of the sharp rocks and the dim light. Oh and by the way, it is a one way ticket which means that the only way out is to jump!
Exploring Bucas Grande and the three islands of Siargao - Naked, Daku, and Guyam, can be done in a day. Our tour was organized by Cavys Homestay and Tours at Php1500, inclusive of breakfast and lunch. You can reach Ate Luz of Cavys at(0910) 940 8297 .
And of course, topping my list of the things to do in Siargao is SURF!
I mean you are already in THE Surfing Capital of the Philippines so you might as well ride its waters. Cloud 9 is the spot to surf. You will find a lot of instructors by the main road offering surfing lessons. Take extra precaution though because, unlike Baler and San Juan, the waves of Siargao breaks on mostly reefs so taking a tumble may entail a minor gash. Well, the gash may serve as your medal for riding high in Siargao.
Most guests surf during the early mornings and late afternoons so do expect the crowd not only on the line but also on Cloud 9.
Post Travel Notes
As I write these closing paragraphs down, after arriving in Clark, I am still stomped with how to describe Siargao or what place I can compare it to. I have been to a lot of places in the Philippines and it is only Siargao that has left in me this longing imprint of me wanting to go back there soon... really soon! It toppled my previous favorites, not for its attractions, but for its natural charm that really seeps into your blood and psyche. Siargao makes you her own.
Siargao is stubborn. It keeps its identity despite the lure of bigger tourism revenue. It refuses to lose itself even if it means that other spots can get well ahead despite Siargao's better opportunities. It is stubborn for playing it safe by just playing what the community is used to doing.
But it is that stubborness that make Siargao stand out from the rest. There is no place that you can compare it to because it is its own. Siargao grows inside of you as you try to decipher its character. And you end up being owned by this teardrop-shaped island making you surrender and admit #SiargaoNaNgaAngHinahanapNgPuso.
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 Souvenir. 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.