The Beauty of Siargao Island
One of my goals traveling abroad was to be a beach bum. So, we did just that. We booked a one-way ticket to the Philippines, with the full intention of going to Siargao Island for an entire month. We wanted to meditate by the beach, cleanse our minds, and forget about our worries. Known for its powerful waves that make it the surfing capital of the Philippines, Siargao Island is an island full of coconut palm trees, delicious Filipino barbeque, kind locals, and travelers seeking paradise.
During the first week, we stayed in an affordable beachfront resort in the north part of the island on Alegria Beach, which in my opinion, is the best beach in Siargao. Alegria Beach had everything we were looking for in a beach: fine white sand, clear turquoise water, a swimming area, and very few tourists. Away from the hustle and bustle of General Luna located in the south of the island, staying on Alegria Beach meant that there was a lot less light pollution. In the evenings, we had the pleasure of witnessing a blanket of stars across the night sky, with the waves of the Philippine sea as our soundtrack. It was one of the top three starscapes that we experienced during our entire four-month trip. During one of our stargazing nights, a twinkle caught the corner of our eyes and we stood below a tree to watch the mesmerizing light show emitted from hundreds of fireflies searching for their lovers. It was an incredible sight. Gazing at the universe beyond was a reminder that we are as insignificant as we are significant.
One of our hosts told us that the best part about this island is getting lost. He was right. We rented a motorbike and explored the northern tip of the island without any agenda. As we drove past the villages, we exchanged smiles with kids, parents, and elders who were as curious about us as we were about them. The children excitedly yelled “Hello!” as we passed them on the street, welcoming us to their barangay, which is the native term for a village, ward, or district.
We also discovered amazing sunset viewpoints in the northwestern part of the island, which are a rare sight in General Luna. One evening, with only a half hour of light remaining, we drove towards the Santa Monica pier, where I had read about a great sunset spot. Before we reached the pier, we noticed a tiny beach with the perfect view of the sun descending into the sea, located across a field with a mountain of palm trees in the backdrop. We decided to investigate. As we pulled into the beach, we found a couple taking selfies, and after a few brief snaps, they drove off. We were perplexed as to why anyone would leave such a beautiful sight in a rush, but we were delighted to have the beach to ourselves. We did a quick sunset portrait session and jumped back on our bikes before it got too dark (because driving at night on a motorbike is never a great idea).
After a quiet week up north, we decided to explore the southern part of the island and decided to stay in General Luna for the last three weeks. We had heard about how “crazy” it could get with parties and tourists, which we typically don’t seek out, but we were ready for a little more human interaction. Our first impression of General Luna did not reflect the warnings of the locals up north. The nightlife was thriving – there was a party every night - but we didn’t find it as wild as we had imagined. In fact, on our second day in General Luna, we went to a packed party at Harana with house music and we felt like we were going to a friend’s house party. We learned from one of our hosts that the reason why it doesn’t get so crazy anymore is because two weeks before we arrived, the government enforced a midnight curfew after a foreigner drove drunk and killed a local. So, don't drink or drive because it is never worth it.
For the remainder of the month, we explored the rest of the island through organized day trips or by motorbike. Our favorite day trip was going on a private tour of Sohoton Cove with another couple that we had met in General Luna. This tour reminded me that as I have gotten older, I have gotten more risk averse. But being with travelers who were more adventurous than I am motivated me to push my mental and physical limits. For example, during this tour, I jumped off cliffs, rock climbed through dark caves, and swam through narrow cove entrances. I don't know if I would have done any of this if it wasn’t for Mike and my fellow travelers encouraging me and holding my hand (metaphorically and literally) along the way, so thank you to those who helped me say goodbye to my anxieties and to just…go for it. To make the leap. To keep climbing.
One accomplishment that I am very proud of during this trip was surfing for the very first time. We had heard horror stories of people getting cut up on the reef from surfing and I promised myself that I would not surf in Siargao, even though deep down, I knew that I wanted to give it a try. All I needed was a sign from the universe to push me to attempt it. One day on the beach, that sign came to me. I was reading Wayne Dyer’s book, “Excuses Begone!” and came across his passage about trying new things and facing your fears. A switch turned off in my brain and I decided that I was going to try it, just like that.
Mike had tried to surf in Jacking Horse, which had beginner waves near Cloud 9, but he did not have the best experience since it was too crowded, so we decided to get a surfing instructor near Secret Beach, also known as Guyan Beach. After we arrived to the beach, we found a house located across the entrance to the beach, and a skinny surfer came out asking us if we wanted a surf lesson. He reassured me that he could teach me how to stand on a surfboard in one lesson. Without any hesitation, he was hired. He told us that he would take us to a surfing spot a few minutes away because Secret Beach was already getting too crowded that morning. We hopped on the bike and followed him to the spot and when we arrived, we saw a group of local boys surfing. After a brief lesson on the ground, the instructor said, “You are ready to surf!” I certainly did not feel ready and felt a tinge of terror as I walked with my surfboard towards the ocean, but I knew that there was no stopping now. I was committed. After a few tries, I managed to get up on the board and rode a handful of waves throughout the hour-long lesson, which felt incredible.
They were short-lived rides but what mattered most to me was that I was conquering my fears of surfing and I was actually enjoying the experience too. Looking back on this moment, I wonder: What if I didn’t try to surf? What if I persisted in my stubbornness that I was not meant for the ocean and the ocean was not meant for me? I wouldn’t have had the thrilling experience of becoming one with the ocean. The lesson that I learned from this challenging one-hour lesson is that I can overcome the voices in my head and say to my fears, “Welcome! Nice to know you and enjoy the ride.” Other life lessons that I learned from surfing are to focus, to breathe, and to believe in myself.
If you are planning a trip to Siargao, I would suggest giving yourself at least a week (ideally a month) and check out my top recommendations below on places to go, eat, and relax.
Below is a list of 15 recommendations that we experienced first-handedly and absolutely loved:
1. The best area to stay: Stay on a beachfront accommodation near Tuason Point, which is a five-minute scooter-ride or a 10-minute walk to Cloud 9. The waves are just as powerful as Cloud 9, but the beaches are usually empty throughout the day, giving you lots of privacy and time to be away from the crowds. It’s quite rocky but a little tip is you can wade in the water during low tide.
2. The best cocktail: Treat yourself to a sunset drink at White Beach Club, also located in Tuason Point. They have a great happy hour deal from 4-5pm, where you can get two drinks for the price of one.
3. The best beach: Swim and stargaze on the best beach of the island: Alegria Beach. The really cool thing about this beach is that the waves break about 800 meters away from the shore, so it is ideal conditions for paddle boarding and swimming. The sunrises were also really beautiful from this beach. If you decide to stay near this beach, check out Jungle Garden Café for breakfast.
4. The best breakfast: Grab a delicious smoothie bowl at Shaka for breakfast and head to Cloud 9 for a quick meditation session to prepare for your adventurous day.
5. The best lunch spot: Try kinilaw (Filipino ceviche) at CEV, which is located in General Luna. The food is as delicious as it is beautiful.
6. The best dinner spot: Enjoy some delicious chicken inasal at AZUETE, my favorite barbeque grill in General Luna.
7. The best surf spot: Take a surfing lesson at Secret Beach, also known as Guyan Beach. Check out the house across the street from the beach entrance and ask for J.R. He was my surfing instructor and he was a patient teacher!
8. The best locals: Stay or eat at Pukaw Grill in General Luna. We stayed here for three nights and became good friends with the staff who treated us like family (shoutout to Jing, Fernz, Michael, Third, and Pepe!).
9. The best sunset viewpoint: From Alegria Beach, drive towards Santa Monica Pier and you will find a few viewpoints along the way. The pier itself was also an amazing spot to catch the sunset but they do close the gates of the pier right after the sun sets.
10. The best day-trip: Make friends with another couple or two, and book a day-trip to Sohoton Cove. It is about a 2-hour boat ride away but it was worth the ride! Make sure to bring some earbuds or headphones for the boat ride.
11. The best party: Drink some local rum with coke and dance your night away to house music at Harana Surf Resort.
12. The best view of coconut trees: About halfway to Magpungko Rock Pools from General Luna, you will reach a point where you will see a field of coconut trees with mountains in the distance. It is absolutely breathtaking! (Also be sure to check out the rock pools during low tide. We went during high tide and didn’t get to experience the magical rock pools.)
13. The best place to people-watch: Enjoy the white sands of Cloud 9 and watch beginners attempt the waves at Jacking Horse and professionals surf the humungous waves by the Cloud 9 pier.
14. The best place to day-trip tour: Book your day-trips through Bravo Beach Resort, which is also a beautiful beachfront restaurant and hotel. The 3-island hopping trip was affordable, lots of fun, and includes a delicious buffet lunch. A few tips are to do this early during your Siargao trip and to join the group tour because it was a great way to meet other interesting travelers and make new friends!
15. The best snorkeling: Check out the beautiful reef and sea life in Sugba Lagoon. You can reach the lagoon by yourself by heading to the Del Carmen pier and getting a private boat at the pier without any reservations. We were able to rent snorkels and a kayak once we reached the Lagoon. Just be sure to wear water shoes because the reef is sharp! We also stopped by Kawhagen Island on tour to have grab some lunch – they serve a great grilled whole fish!
Siargao Island is so much more than just a surfing or party destination and has so much beauty to explore. After a month of making this island my home, I can confidently say that Siargao Island is one of my favorite places in Southeast Asia.
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