Siargao is a teardrop-shaped island in the Philippines, located about 800 km southeast off the capital city of Manila. For the past few decades, it’s been a secret hideout for surfers from Australia and America who were tired of touristy, crowded surf joints like Bali and Hawaii.
With the emergence of the Internet and Instagram, it’s been difficult to keep Siargao on the down low. The little island has really started to make waves (had to go there) both with Filipinos and foreigners alike for its laidback, island lifestyle and its untouched surroundings.
Now that Siargao is making its way onto everyone’s radar, make sure you head on over ASAP before it’s too late.
Here are just a few reasons why you need to pack your bags and head to Siargao right now.
1. Magpupungko tidal pools
The tidal pools at Magpupungko only show up during low tide. The leftover seawater is confined to the dips in the rocks, forming a natural pool of turquoise water. The huge rocks surrounding the pools also make for great jump off points for anyone brave enough to take the plunge. You’ll see locals climbing barefoot up the sharp rocks and lending their flip flops to any tourists who clearly don’t have the same seasoned feet that they do.
2. Sugba Lagoon
Perhaps one of the most photographed locations in Siargao, the Sugba Lagoon in Del Carmen is tucked away within one of the country’s biggest mangrove forests. Sugba is a word in the local dialect which means “to broil or grill”, and the lagoon got its name from the foggy surroundings that make it seem like the lagoon is blowing out smoke.
Aside from a two-story building which was put up by the local government for visitors to have lunch or chill out, there’s a wooden diving board at the end of the dock which makes for a great launch pad into the calm, emerald waters. Many choose to hop on a stand-up paddle board or grab some snorkel gear as the waters are really clear and are also home to groupers and lobsters.
3. It’s very dog-friendly
Dogs are everywhere in Siargao. From the ubiquitous askals (A combination of the Filipino words aso and kalye, or “dogs who roam the streets”) to the purebred dogs brought in by foreigners, Siargao is a natural playground for pooches of all shapes and sizes. From beachside cafés to restaurants and hotels, you’ll have a hard time finding an establishment in Siargao that isn’t dog-friendly.
4. It has some of the best surfers in the world
Back in 1980, an American named Tony Arruza and his Australian pal Steve Jones came to Siargao on their quest for the perfect wave. They found it in the Philippines and that wave is the now famous “Cloud 9”.
However, it was only 12 years later when the secret of Siargao was revealed to the wider surfing population. Surfing photographer John Callahan snapped shots of a group of big name surfers riding Cloud 9 and his photos were featured in a number of global magazines. Soon after, more surfers made their way over and competitions, surf schools, and organisations were set up. These all paved the way for the new crop of local surfers like Marama Tokong and Nilbie Blancada who have been racking up international titles left and right.
5. You can ride a moped deep into the jungle
Though you’ll now be able to find trucks, vans, and cars on the island, most people still prefer traveling by moped, or as the locals call it, a habal-habal. You’ll see a throng of these little scooters parked outside any club, restaurant, or bar, and if you decide not to rent one yourself, you can always hire a driver for your entire stay.
Because much of Siargao still hasn’t been industrialised, you can easily be invited to someone’s house for dinner and need to take your habal-habal deep into the jungle to get there.
6. Tayangban cave pool
As of writing, this little spot still hasn’t made it into many tourists’ itineraries. Down a muddy track lies a natural pool filled with spring water. Limestone walls surround the pool and a cave explorer group has already identified it as a potential destination for cave divers and spelunkers in the future.
If you ever make your way here, the only people you’ll probably meet are the local kids who’ve been coming for years and find nothing wrong with climbing to the top of the gorge’s opening and leaping straight into the fresh, cold swimming hole below.
7. It has become a haven for digital nomads
“I planned to come for a week. It’s now been two years and I’ve bought some land and run my own business,” is a very common line you’ll hear from the many foreigners who now call Siargao home. Walking around the island, you’ll notice that many restaurants, shake shacks, or hotels are manned by Europeans. It’s one of the only places in the Philippines where locals and foreigners genuinely work hand-in-hand, side-by-side, and treat each other as equals.
You can be sitting at a café sipping on a fresh mango shake and notice that the guy on his laptop next to you in flip flops and board shorts is actually Skyping with his boss in the US. After the call, he pays his bill and heads out to catch a wave. Or maybe you’ll check into your hostel and find out that the Australian millennial having her photos taken by the graffiti-filled wall is not just an Instagram addict, but actually gets paid to model for online bikini and surf brands, which is more than enough to sustain her life on the island.
With the easy integration into the local culture, the low cost of living, and the unbeatable proximity to one of the world’s greatest surf sites, it’s of no surprise that Siargao has become a fast favourite for the digital nomad community.
So get on that plane or jump on that ferry because this little speck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is not going to stay a secret for much longer.
There are daily direct flights from Cebu or Manila.
The following airlines have flights to Siargao's Sayak Airport (IAO):