A teardrop-shaped island in the southeast of the Philippines, 500 miles from the capital Manila, Siargao (shar-gow) feels like Bali might have a few decades ago.
Given its smaller size, a population of 200,000 Vs Bali’s 4-M, Siargao is unspoiled, remote, and under the radar, despite the influx of new infrastructures in recent years.
You will revell at the island’s pristine white beaches, coconut woodlands, and vivid green mangrove forest as well as the clearest water you have ever seen plus sensational waves.
But the backdrop is just 50% of this spectacular picture.
Siargao has been enchanting visitors for years because of its welcoming vibe and easy island lifestyle.
Now independent new hotels and businesses are making the island a shining example of sustainable tourism, and there’s a wealth of activities to keep you busy for days.
It’s no surprise then Conde Nast Traveler readers voted it the best island in Asia, and Topped its list as the best island in the world.
Below is how to plan a trip to the island, and what to do once you have gotten there, as follows:
Siargao has no international airport, so you have have to fly via Manila, where a 2.5-hr propeller plane flight will get you to Sayak Airport.
Also, you can transfer in many of Asia’s main cities: Singapore, Taipei, Seoul, Shanghai, or Hong Kong to Cebu, from which the turboprop flight takes 90 min. From the airport, it takes about an hour to reach the hotels and other traveler-friendly areas.
Siargao is considered the surfing capital of the Philippines, and its 15-plus breaks deliver world-class surf. Among them, Cloud 9 is the most famous: come here during peak surfing season, which starts in late August and winds down in October, and you’ll see packs of surfers gather at sunrise to ride thick, hollow tubes for hours on end.
Most resorts and accommodations can provide lessons and board rentals even if you are not staying with them; Kermit Siargao is one of the best, as are Harana Surf School and Buddha’s Surf Resort. If you really want to up your game, several of these places run full-on surf camps, too.
But it’s not all about surfing.
Kite surfing and paddle boarding are other solid options for water activities, as is sailing to the nearby white-sand-ringed islets of Daku, Guyam, and Naked Island. Several local companies can help with organizing a day trip.
Back on land
Rent a motorbike for a day or two of exploring the island. Siargao can be circled around in 5 hours, but you willwant to take your time to soak in the sights, which range from a sea of coconut trees to the vivid green jungle and the rock pools at Magpupungko.
There’s also the quieter, nearly deserted beaches of Pacifico, Alegria, and Santa Fe to the North, where you could spend a day of doing nothing but relaxing.
You can also book a ride with BinGo, a private tuk tuk rental service, which has drivers but also lets you drive your own 3-wheeler, or book a tour with Bathala Land Tours, a company that takes guests to far-off and lesser-known places around the island in a jeepney, the Philippines’ version of a small bus.
You can also kayak through Sugba Lagoon hunker down on stunning Kawhagan Island for an afternoon, or venture further afield on a 2-hr boat ride to Sohoton Cove, on the island of Bucas Grande, to swim with stingless jellyfish.
Siargao has a remarkably varied food scene too.
There is a focus on sustainability at almost every restaurant, with locally sourced ingredients and no single-use plastic to be found. Most of the restaurants and bars are concentrated in the main town of General Luna, along a stretch of the main drag aptly called Tourism Road.
Siargao’s hotels have sustainability on the mind. Most places have banned single-use plastic, and will provide either water dispensers in the rooms or refillable bottles for the duration of your stay. There are no international chains on the island now
At L’Osteria Penthouse, a luxury beach house rental attached to popular Italian restaurant L’Osteria, the house runs on an organic wastewater system and, as much as possible, energy- and water-efficient equipment.
The gorgeous Harana Surf Resort has donated more trees than it used in the construction of the property, and uses earth-friendly detergents and upcycles all the plastic disposables collected on its premises through a community livelihood project.
Situated in the quiet Malinao neighborhood, the eco-conscious Soul Tribe Beach Retreat has beach cabanas and glamping options, plus yoga classes and communal dinners.
Nay Palad Hideaway, the only 5-Star stay on the island and one of the country’s most expensive resorts, it has a private beach, plenty of activities, and a holistic approach to wellness
Enjoy your travels