Surfing, Valentines, and family vacations. Oh, and jellyfish.
Not exactly four things you would naturally string together in your mind, but there it is: my entire family spent the recent Valentines weekend in Siargao Island, the surfing capital of the Philippines. (Tell you about the jellyfish later.)
First, a bit of geography for those who aren’t very familiar with the Philippines. If you look at the Philippines on the map, you’ll see it’s composed of islands — we have over 7,000 — that together form what looks like a script capital S. There are three main island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The big land mass up north makes up the bulk of Luzon — that’s where Manila, our capital city, is. In the middle of the Philippines is a bunch of islands — that’s the Visayas group, with the middle-most island being Cebu, which is where I live. The other big land mass, the one in the south, plus its satellite islands make up Mindanao. One of those satellite islands — located right on the eastern edge, facing the Pacific Ocean — is Siargao. It is well-known among surfers for its furious waves, which can reach an average of 7 ft during surf season. International surfing competitions take place during the peak months of September and October.
Siargao in February observes a gentler pace — slow but not entirely sleepy. The low-pitch hum of day-to-day island life is reinforced by a steady trickle of tourists; our plane in and out was full, even if it was the off-season. Some visitors, such as ourselves, were from other parts of the Philippines, but most were from other parts of the world. We shared a van with two Italians, a boat with a lone Spaniard, and a flight with an entire family of French. Many were there to surf, but many were also there just to chill — to enjoy the sun and sand without the overwhelming numbers crowding more popular Philippine beaches like Boracay and Palawan. Most of us in the family are non-surfers — honestly, I sometimes trip while wearing flat shoes walking on a flat road, so I don’t have too much confidence in my balancing skills 😀 — so we belonged to the latter group. We were there mostly to do nothing.
How to get to Siargao
The easiest way to get to Siargao is by Cebu Pacific flight from Cebu. (There are no Manila-Siargao flights.)
To get to Cebu, there are dozens of daily flights from Manila and other parts of the Philippines. International travelers can get a non-stop flight to Cebu from Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo (Narita), Kuala Lumpur, Seoul (Incheon), Busan, and Taipei. Non-stop flights to Cebu from Dubai (Emirates) and Los Angeles (Philippine Airlines) are scheduled to begin later this year.
Alternatively, you can fly to Surigao then take the ferry from Surigao City to Dapa (the main port in Siargao).
Where to stay
We stayed at the family bungalow in Ocean 101 Cloud 9 Surf Resort, which we chose because of its beachfront location, proximity to Cloud 9 (the main surfing area), and availability of family accommodations. It was good enough, if not totally something to write home about. (Full review of Ocean 101 HERE.)
The top-rated accommodations in Siargao (based on TripAdvisor ratings as of 20 Feb 2016) are as follows:
- Buddha’s Surf Resort
- Dedon Island Resort
- Kawayan Siargao Resort
- Island Dream Palm Paradise Resort
- Siargao Paraiso Resort
- Siargao Bleu Resort and Spa
B&B and Inns
- Bamboo Garden Bar and Lodging
- Kermit Surf Resort Siargao (formerly Kermit Surf & Dive EcoCamp Siargao)
- Sagana Resort
- Siargao Inn Beach Resort
- Reef Beach Houses
- Bravo Beach Resort
- Paglaom Hostel
- Turtle Surf Camp
- Jafe Surf and Sail Camp Resort
- Romantic Beach Villas
- Isla Cabana Resort
What to do
Surfing, obviously. (You can get insider surfing info here.) But Siargao is the type of place where you don’t necessarily go to do things. It’s equally lovely to not do anything in particular there — just laze by the beach, read, wade, watch the waves, catch the sunset, chase the sunrise, or sleep in and then have a four-hour-long breakfast. The absence of crowds makes a real getaway possible.
If doing nothing isn’t your thing, some of your other options are:
- Island hopping — the standard route takes you to three white sand beaches
- Magpupungko beach — rock formations and tidal pools
- Sohoton cove — a maze of islets, partly submerged caves, jellyfish lagoon, a bit farther away
Note: One thing you have to know about Siargao is that there isn’t an extensive public transportation network in the island. There are motorcycles (“habal-habal”) you can hire to get from Point A to Point B but their standard rates are rather expensive — the shortest distance costs P100, compared to, say, the P6.50 minimum fare when you take a jeepney in Cebu. Your other options are to rent a scooter and drive it yourself, or hire a van or a boat. The latter can be expensive — island hopping starts at around P1,500 and I was seriously quoted P3,500 for a van to/from Magpupungko — so if you are traveling alone, try to join up with other tourists so you can split the costs with them.
We only had one full day in Siargao — it was really just a quick weekend break — and we didn’t want to cram in too many activities in our itinerary so we went for Sohoton. (Read about our Sohoton adventure HERE.)
Aside from that, we really basically did nothing. Which was the whole point of the weekend, so…mission accomplished. We did stir ourselves at dawn one time and headed to the Cloud 9 boardwalk, where we caught the sunrise.
And for kicks we caught a sunset too.
And it — nothing — was all good.
(The amazing Sohoton Cove up next.)
Siargao, and the art of doing [nearly] nothing
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