Sometimes you need to be patient for dreams to come true. This February 2021 after almost a year of tough lockdown conditions in Manila, my dream to visit the surfing capital of the Philippines, Siargao Island, finally happened and it didn’t disappoint.
There were a long list of requirements to complete so this dream could come true. This is what we had to complete. 1. Clear COVID19 test result within 48 hours of arrival. We booked this online through the Philippine Red Cross for 2,000 peso ($40 USD). Fortunately, the saliva test was all that is needed and they have many sites around Metro Manila you can attend. 2. A minimum of 5 days accommodation at an accredited hotel or resort, return air tickets, a draft itinerary and a letter of acceptance (organised by our hotel). We had to email all the information to the Provincial Tourism Office at firstname.lastname@example.org for approval the day before travel. We got our approval within minutes. 3. Completed E-Health pass (important!). You will have to scan this multiple times when visiting places in Siargao. You can complete it by visiting https://covid19.ssct.edu.ph/healthform 4. Download the Traze mobile app for checking in and out of the NAIA and Siargao airports. 5. Tick all these off and we are ready to go! Note: Please always double check the requirements as they are always changing.
I wasn’t going to be put off by the wet and windy weather on the first couple of days due to tropical storm Auring. In fact, relaxing inside our lush villa at the Isla Cabana Resort and listening to the sounds of the wind and rain was refreshingly soothing after 12 months of lockdown life in a condo.
With Siargao being a small island, we rented a van for the day to explore and to keep us drier than a motorcycle. It was a smart choice. Our van cost us 5,000 peso ($100 USD) for the day, and while it was probably more expensive than we needed to pay, it was a last-minute decision.
Cloud 9 Surfing
First stop was to take a look at the Cloud 9 surfing area. Given the weather, Cloud 9 resembled a scene from the movie Point Break with howling winds and big waves in the distance. That didn't stop a couple of local surf instructors being on stand by to offer us lessons! Another day perhaps! The iconic Cloud 9 boardwalk was closed for renovations which was a shame. Hopefully the Local and Foreigner levies charged at the airport are being used to help fund its repair sooner rather than later (20 pesos for Local's and 50 pesos for Foreigners).
We got back there a few days later for a refreshing Shake and Powerbowl at Shaka Cafe and a bit of wave watching as surfers of all levels gave it a go.
Coconut Road and Siargao Food Tripping
As we continued along Coconut Road to the barangay of Burgos, we made a stop at LOKAL Cafe which was well worth it. Tucked away in a small and quiet street that you could easily miss, their coconut ice cream was from another world. A must-try for sure and only 60 peso a scoop ($1.20 USD).
As we ventured around Siargao Island, it was clear a lot of restaurants and cafes had closed down due to the impact on tourism by COVID, or were closed temporarily due to the stormy weather. Despite the grey cloud backdrop, the Million Dollar View lookout still looked a million bucks and so did Maasin overlooking endless coconut trees.
We managed to find a couple of gems along the roads too. Bamboo Cafe for coffee and Pacifico Beach Resort for delicious tuna fish and chips and uninterrupted views of the rolling Pacific Ocean waves all to ourselves!
We continued driving to take a look at TakTak Falls, the only waterfall in Siargao. It was closed, but that didn't stop us grabbing our umbrella and walking up to the falls to take a look anyway!
Fortunately, we were blessed with blue skies in the back half of our stay in Siargao. Time for island hopping and exploring - but not before our latte and Banana Choco shake from White Beard Coffee in General Luna town. Tucked away, but you need to find this place. The BEST coffee on the island! It became our morning routine to take a walk or tricycle into town just for their coffee!
With the storm past it was now time for some of the traditional tourist hot spots!
Cruising through the mangroves to reach Sugba Lagoon was very cool, unlike any other boat trip I had done before. I must admit, when they told me that they were filled with saltwater crocodiles some nervous thoughts came into my mind, but despite my best efforts at looking I didn't see one!
Once we arrived, the Lagoon was deserted of tourists, however, the peace and tranquility were somewhat disturbed by the 10+ local “workers” who would be sitting there watching us and chatting. It would have been nice to enjoy the serenity and silence of this majestic lagoon alone, much like you can at Kayangan Lake in Coron. Nonetheless, it was cool to paddleboard, jump off the diving platform, and float in the clear waters.
A short boat ride from Sugba Lagoon was Kawhagan Island where we stopped for lunch. Speaking of short, I left my shorts at Sugba Lagoon so I guess my piece of my heart and my clothing will always be with Siargao! Kawhagan Island was quiet, beautiful and has plenty of great photo opportunities! Just be warned, if you are buying fresh produce to cook for lunch there, the prices are clearly set to take advantage of tourists, in particular international tourists. 700 peso ($14 USD) for a fish that would be 150 pesos ($3 USD) at the local market and 700 peso for about 1 kg of chicken. Pretty big mark ups considering you are surrounded by ocean, fisherman and FISH!
Cabana rentals were 500 peso (about $10 USD) and basic picnic tables 350 pesos ($7 USD). We booked a Cabana but spent most of our time in the water or laying on the manicured grass areas staring at coconut trees and the crystal blue waters.
Isla Cabana Resort
I cannot speak highly enough of the Isla Cabana Resort. They have beautiful villas to suit a range of budgets. Standard Villas from 5,500 peso/$110 USD a night to Premier Villas with their own beachfront and dip pool for 12,000 peso/$240 USD a night. The villas are set amongst lush greenery, and they have a couple of pools to choose from. My favorite being the infinity pool overlooking the crystal clear waters.
The Isla Cabana Resort also have their own private white sand beach so there really was no need to leave the resort. In fact, we spent our last day simply relaxing on their beachfront instead of taking on another busy day of island hopping.
Their beachfront is great for a swim or complimentary paddleboard. And the food at Isla Cabana Resort - well everything we ordered was sensational and well priced!
We were lucky to enjoy this resort practically to ourselves, with only 3 other guests during our 6-day visit.
My Top Tips & Recommendations for Siargao Island
Best Siargao Pizza - Kermits Wood Fire Oven Pizza. Bellisimo! If you are not staying there, make sure you have a way to get home as there weren't any tricycles. We probably would have walked except for the rain.
Best Siargao Coffee - White Beard Cafe. Yep, the guy on the sign is the owner and he works there. Great guy! It is a bit hard to find, but head to the Town Hall and it is to your right when you are facing the ocean.
Best Siargao Snacks - COCONUT BREAD! Wow this was so delicious. Super hot, freshly baked and delicious!
Best Siargao Icecream - LOKAL Cafe (specifically coconut icecream). Just do it - and more than one scoop. It is my only regret!
Best Siargao Resort - Isla Cabana Resort. Beautiful, affordable, ticked all the boxes!
Siargao Secret Beaches - There is one called Secret Beach. See if you can find it :) Clues below!
Best Siargao Surfing Spots For Beginners - take a walk to the Cloud 9 Boardwalk then turn left. Walk for about 100 meters and you will reach a small little cafe with bean bags. Next to that will be no shortage of local Siargao surfing pro's ready with boards to give you lessons.
Final thoughts on Siargao Island
All in all, Siargao Island did not disappoint. The effort to get all the approvals was well worth it. I now feel refreshed, recharged and ready to take on the rest of 2021!