All rested after our stay in Siquijor, we headed to Siargao, one of the most eastern island of the Philippines located above Mindanao. Known as the Filipino capital of surfing, we were hoping it could also cater to us, whose sole experience of surfing involved getting up on a board for 2 seconds max last year in Sri Lanka.
Our first impression of the island was so positive, flying above the dense forest of palm trees before landing in the tiny airport of Siargao. Once our luggage picked up, we jumped on a minivan and headed to the busy General Luna to find our accommodation and start exploring the island during 6 wonderful days.
Here are our favorite parts:
Magpupungko rock pools
First lesson learned: do not believe the timing people give you to drive somewhere on a scooter! Every time, we took so much longer than what we were told!. If you’re not driving at 75km per hour, add at least 1/3 of the duration. Anyway, the natural pools are located about 45 mn from General Luna through what quickly became our favorite road on the island! It’s only accessible during low tide so make sure to ask for the tides timing or check online as otherwise you may have to wait a few hours! Also, it closes at 5pm so if you low tide is at 4:50, might not be worth going on that day ;)
2. Palm tree views
On the same road as the … natural pool, is the palm tree viewpoint called by the locals the top of the world. You can’t miss it as it’s a turn overlooking a giant forest of palm trees, breathtaking! Would definitely suggest hitting the spot at sunrise or sunset as the lighting is so good and there’s no shade during the rest of the day which makes it harder to stand in the sun.
3. Palm tree road
Right after Top of the World, you’ll find yourself on a straight-line with palm trees lining up on both side. You’ll definitely know when you’re there! It’s such a dreamy place, perfect for that instagram shot or just stopping by and enjoying the atmosphere! Ps: palm tree road isn’t its real name so don’t bother looking on google map!
4. Bent palm tree
Since we’re on the palm tree series, let’s keep going ! (Did I mention Siargao was ALSO the palm tree capital of the Philippines, such a verstatile island ;))
Keep going on palm tree road and you’ll hit a little village. Once you’re on the bridge, look left and you’ll see it! The instagram star of Siargao, the bent palm tree which you can climb. Unfortunately, it was fairly pricy so we decided not to go but how fun would it be to swing from a palm tree into a river 🙂
5. Clean up with the Suncrew
Found the Suncrew on instagram and immediately felt drown to their mission. Located in the northern town of Pacifico, the project raises awards about plastic pollution by enrolling kids and youth in weekly beach clean ups in exchange for letting them use surfboards from the founder’s surf shop for free.
Considering how important surfing is on the Island I let you imagine how happy the kids are to participate! They also have a project with which they go house a month to every household in Pacifico and collect their segregated soft and hard plastic, record the weight each family produces (at the end of the year, every household received a prize for participating) and the waste is then recycled in Cebu or up cycled if can’t be recycled. How cool is that!
So how can you join you may ask? They welcome volunteers for their weekly clean up, Saturday at 8am in Pacifico, just send an email before so they know you’re coming. Once in Pacifico, look for Wemar Surf Shop and park your bike there. You’ll then be welcomed by Wemar and the crew and start picking up litter on the beach and the road before coming back to the surf shop where you’ll share a juice and some fruits with the kids! Such an unforgettable morning, so so grateful to find sustainability initiatives like these while travelling! Ps: you can also join the surfing session afterward if you’re a surfer :
6. Secret Beach
Let’s just say that General luna doesn’t really have picture perfect beaches. That’s why most accommodations have a pool actually. But if you’re willing to go the extra mile, you’ll find secret beach!
Mostly a surfers spot, at low tide it has a nice strip of white sand which makes it super enjoyable! Plus, it’s a 10 mn walk from the main road through a forest of palm trees which is, on its own, worth the 30 mn bike ride from General Luna! You can actually put “secret beach” on google map to find it more easily, but watch out, the sign on the road that indicates the entrance is not easy to catch so be attentive, otherwise you might just miss it! 🙂
Imagine waking up at 5, hoping on your bike to go explore the island, being back at 7 for yoga and ending the class at 8, happy as can be but… starving! Where do you go? Shaka of course! Perfectly located in front of Cloud 9 to watch the surfers do their thing, Shaka has the most delicious smoothie bowls ever. They’re big, they’re filling and you can pretty much try a different one every day because they have so many! It’s a bit expensive (250 pesos for 1 bowl) but it’s so worth it. Come early as tables in the shade are taken quickly and there’s no AC or fan to give you a bit of breeze when it gets super hot.
8.Sunrise/set at Cloud 9
Mention Cloud 9 to a surfer and you’ll probably see hearts in their eyes. This famous surfing spot (not only in the Philippines but also worldwide) is where all the surfers come to practice their skills. But even if you’re not a surfer, it’s worth a stop! The long wood pier which ends by a viewing area has become one of the most popular tourist spot on the island. If you go early morning, you’ll probably be one of the first as not many people head out there for sunrise. You can seat in the hut overlooking the water and watch the surfers before heading to Shaka less than 2 mn away.
If you’re planning on watching the sunset though, you’ll probably find a dense crowd who had the same idea. My suggestion then, is to head left when facing the pier, towards the beginner surfing spot of Jacking Horse. Walk about 5 mn on the beach and find yourself a quite spot to watch the sun go down (you will actually be facing the right way rather than Cloud 9 which faces East).
Ps: if you hop on to the pier, there’s a 50 pesos fee.
Oh Pacifico. Even the name has something wild and tropical about it. Located on the northern part of Siargao (about 1:30 by scooter), it’s a sleepy little beach town famous for its incredible surf and chilled vibe. If you’d like to escape the craziness of General Luna for a few days, or even just for a day, you should definitely check it out. There’s yummy restaurants, a few places to sleep, regular beach clean ups (hey sun crew!) but hardly any phone or internet signal. Perfect getaway!
10. Get lost in the coconut forest
Siargao is the island of coconut for sure. They are literally everywhere! Especially if you drive a bit out of the main towns, you’ll find yourself surrounded! Most of the time, you can park your bike by the side of the road and go exploring (except of course, if there’s a sign that says private property!). Around sunrise and sunsets, you’ll see beautiful golden rays of light peaking thrown the palm trees and that my friend, is truly magical!
11. Go island hopping
We always thought that island hopping was specific to Palawan and Coron. Our mistake! Siargao has some of the most wonderful islands less than 30 mn from General Luna to explore.
Wherever you are staying, you’ll see flyers and ads for island hopping tour. Depending on what you like, you can either choose this option or go for a private tour which isn’t that much more expensive and with which you can stay as long as you’d like on each island and avoid the crowd.
Here’s how we did it:
Head to the “port” of General Luna (take cloud 9 road heading opposite of Cloud 9 until the church then turn left then right in front of the school and you’ll reach the port. As soon as you park your bike or arrive, you’ll see boatmen approaching you and offering you their services.
We ended up paying 1500 pesos for the both of us but we heard you can negotiate up to 1300 pesos (if you want to ;)). Tip? Go before 7 if you want to beat the crowds on the different islands.
So what’d included? The tour of 3 absolutely stunning islands very close to each other so no long crossing and more time to enjoy each of them.
We started of with Naked Island which is called that way because… well there’s literally nothing on the island, no trees, no house, no nothing. It’s a little strip of sand about 50 m long that make you feel like an adventurer lost at sea on a deserted island, truly an experience! It’s also the perfect place to work on your tan but don’t forget to bring sunscreen!
After Naked Island, we went to Daku, the largest of the 3 and we had the best kind of welcome we could imagine: friendly puppies! We spent the next 2 hours exploring the beach, going over the rocks at the end to find a small lagoon and playing with the pups. It’s definitely the perfect place if you’re planning on having lunch there as there are little huts lining up on the beach waiting for you to come and enjoy your meal.
Finally, we headed to Guyam island, the definition of tropical paradise! It’s covered in palm and has plenty of hammocks to relax in. There’s a fee of 50 pesos per person on this island because it’s privately owned.
Overall, this trip took us 5 hours and we were back right before noon when the sun was becoming too much for us. Don’t forget your sunscreen on this trip, you’ll be mostly on the boat or in the water and it’s so easy to get burnt! Find here a list of sunscreen that do not harm marine life and the environment.
Where to eat?
So, eating as a vegan in Siargao was much much easier than in other parts of the Philippines. From delicious smoothie bowls to Indian food and chia pudding, it’s a vegan paradise considering how hard it can be elsewhere! Here’s the places we loved most:
Bravo: Perfect for a beach lunch facing the sea! There’s not that many vegan options on the menu but the ones that are are delicious including hummus and a burger. Bit pricey but worth it for the super nice staff and the beautiful view!
Kermit: The place is one of the hippest hotel and restaurant in General Luna. And we understood why! The Italian menu includes delicious pizza made in a stone pizza oven and really good pasta too. Don’t forget the garlic bread as it’s to die for!
Come early though because as of 6pm you’ll have to wait at least 30 mn.
Shaka: Delicious smoothie bowl with a view on Cloud 9, what’s more to ask? Definitely one of the highlight of General Luna.
The Pleasure Point: Was mainly closed when we were there because of the elections but we managed to go our last day on the island. And we’re so glad we did! The place caters plenty of options for vegans including vegetable milk, fruits salad and chia pudding. Plus, it’s home to several cats and dogs which makes it even more likeable if you’re an animal lover!
Honest Café: A 100% vegan restaurant on General Luna road owned by the loveliest family. Once you take off your shoes and head up to the first floor, you’ll have to choose from a menu of bowls and sweets including fake “meat”, mushrooms and curry (the chickpea curry is to die for). Be ready to wait a bit though as the service is fairly slow.
How to get around?
Once again, scooter is kind. Siargao is much bigger than Siquijor for instance and if you’re planning on leaving General Luna to explore, you’ll probably find it easier to rent a scooter rather than relying on trycicles. However, be extra careful. General Luna for instance is much harder to navigate because of the constant traffic. However, once you get out of GL, it’s a real pleasure to be almost the only one on the road. We paid 400 pesos per day, helmets not included (apparently it’s fairly common in GL).
Where to stay?
Most accommodations are located in General Luna but you’ll also find some in Pacifico. We decided to stay in GL for convenience and there’s options for everyone and for every budget!
Palaka Resort: Where we stayed and we couldn’t be happier about it! A little oasis in the hustle and bustle of General Luna, this 7 room resort organised around a swimming pool was perfect in every way. Big clean room and bathroom, lovely staff, and a feeling closer to a guesthouse than a hotel. About 55€ per night.
Isla Cabana & Kawayan Resort: If you’re feeling fancy and ready to spend several hundred euros for a night, these should be your 2 top choices. Private bungalows, incredible pools and views, they are truly luxurious hotel for an incredible stay.
Secret spot: Where we would have stayed had they had double rooms. This hostel a bit outside of GL is as eco friendly as it gets! Don’t miss it if you’re on a budget.
Any Sustainability initiatives?
Finally I can say… plenty! It was so good to witness how locals and foreigners alike are putting sustainability as a priority! You’ll first notice that water is free in every hostel/restaurants on the island which avoids a huge quantity of plastic bottles from being sold! Traditional single use plastic you can encounter such as straws for instance are made of bamboo and there’s recycling bins in the strategic location of the island.
The Sun Crew: Located in the northern town of Pacifico, the project raises awards about plastic pollution by enrolling kids and youth in weekly beach clean ups in exchange for letting them use surfboards from the founder’s surf shop for free. They welcome volunteers for beach clean ups every week end.
SEA Movement: Siargao Environmental Awareness (SEA) Movement is a collaborative effort to help preserve the natural resources and beauty of the island which the local and the traveling community rely on for a simple yet beautiful life. You can volunteer in several projects including beach clean ups, awareness raising, school interventions etc.
Hope Organic Farm: Created in 2009 following the realisation that the only available crop at that time was rice and root crops while Vegetables imported were chemically treated to keep them fresh and presentable, it’s the only organic farm on the island. They supply many of the luxury resort in GL and welcome visits from visitors.
How to get there?
There’s only one airport on Siargao with direct daily flights from Cebu. From there, travellers have to catch a van to GL for 300 pesos per person.
It’s also possible to land in Surigao and catch a ferry to Siargao (departs daily).