If you’re looking for a dreamy place to visit – a place where the beaches feel endless, the waves are perfect, and the underwater life is gorgeous, Siargao might be for you. It’s a tiny island in the state of Mindanao, and it’s like a whole different world.
1. Siargao is hard to get to, but worth it.
Siargao is somewhat hard to get to, though it is getting easier. They now have daily flights from both Cebu and Manila, but there are just a few flights a day on and off the island. You’ll be flying on a small-ish prop plane, and the runway on the island doesn’t quite look plane-worthy. But that, my friends, is what makes it magical.
2. You don’t have to worry about how to get to your hotel from the airport.
Yes, feel free to book arrangements ahead with your hotel, especially if you’re not concerned about cost. For 300 PHP (Philippine Pesos, or about $7 US), you can take a van from the airport. The van drivers know what time the flights get in, and will converge at the airport. They’re all good at sorting out who should go in which van for the best routes. It’s about a 45-minute ride from the airport to the main part of the island, so this is a pretty good deal. Just make sure you have 300 PHP cash on you!
3. Cash is king.
Cash is king, and it’s highly recommended to get Philippine pesos before you arrive on the island. There are some ATMs, but they can run out of money and be somewhat finicky. If you’re in Cebu or Manila before, it’s easier to grab money there. If you’re coming straight from the US, you can order PHP through your bank and have it before you go.
4. Surfing is a must-do.
Siargao’s main claim to fame is as a surfer’s paradise. It’s known as one of the best islands in the world for surfing, and it’s actually one of the best places to learn how to surf. You can get a private surfing lesson from a local for about 1000 PHP, or a little more than $25 US. That’ll include your board and lesson! If you’re worried about booking a lesson, ask at your hostel or at your hotel, and they can point you in the right direction.
5. Bring some basic water accessories.
The beaches in Siargao are simply fabulous, and the water is crystal clear, warm, and perfect for swimming. Except for the fact that there are numerous sea urchins around. You’ll want to bring swim shoes with rubber soles on the bottom so that you don’t ruin your vacation with a sea urchin sting! Whatever you do, don’t get the all-neoprene surf shoes. You NEED the rubber soles.
The other thing you’ll want to consider bringing is a mask and snorkel for snorkeling. Swim fins could be fun, but those are much harder to pack. Boat trips are a must-do around Siargao, so rather than pay to rent a mask and snorkel, it can be easier to just have your own.
6. Don’t be afraid of the habal habal!
One of the main (and most fun) modes of transportation around the island is the habal habal – or the motorcycle. Most of these have roofs over them (that are great for holding on to), and they also have places for a surf board – if needed. It’s a cheap, fast, and effective way of getting around the island. Depending on where you’re going, most rides are 40 – 80 PHP (or less than $2 US).
7. Sugba Lagoon is not necessary if you’re headed to Palawan.
Sugba Lagoon is a gorgeous lagoon in Siargao. It’s perfect for a day trip, but if you’re headed to Palawan (Coron or El Nido), feel free to skip it. What you’re going to see in Palawan is much grander, bigger, and less crowded, so focus on the beaches and surfing in Siargao, and then enjoy the lagoons in Palawan.
8. Rent a boat for a day trip around the islands.
There are a number of gorgeous and incredible islands around Siargao, and you can easily hire a boat to drive. It’s a bit over 2,000 PHP to rent a boat for the afternoon, but that can be split with 6 – 8 people, so the end price per person becomes incredibly reasonable. If you hire a boat, you can also go to the islands not included on the standard tours, or adjust the tour for spots with the least crowds!
9. The starfish look like the Windows background.
Remember the old beach background on Windows, where there was a gorgeous deserted island and a fake-looking giant starfish in the frame? Yeah, that comes to life in Siargao! When you’re snorkeling, you’ll see the most incredible, intricate starfish in the most electric blue waters. It’s amazing!
10. The sunset and sunrise are worth watching.
Never in my life have I seen sunsets and sunrises like those on Siargao. Absolutely mind-boggling colors emerge from the sky. It’s worth every second of your time to just sit on the beach and watch it.
11. Get ready for true “island time.”
The magical thing about Siargao is the true feeling of island time. The days seem to just ooze by slowly, with one second running into the next. The WiFi and internet there is interminably slow, so don’t expect to get lots of work done. But the long days of relaxing on the beach, watching the sunset, and surfing are just incredible.
12. Siargao is part of Mindanao state, not Mindanao island.
Mindanao island in the Philippines reached the news in 2017 when martial law was declared. Siargao is hundreds of miles away from that – and given the island life, worlds away. It’s a true tourist paradise, and the groups that are causing issues in Mindanao have not yet gone to Siargao. Keep an eye on it, but Siargao is generally incredibly safe.
13. When booking your flights, don’t book straight through to Siargao.
If you’re booking flights from the US, it can be hard (and incredibly expensive) to book flights from the US to Siargao. Look at booking your round-trip flights from the US into Manila or Cebu. Then, you can take advantage of great deals on flights from there to Siargao. (My round-trip flight from Cebu to Siargao was less than $90 US.)
Want to know more? Find out things you should know before you go to the Philippines.
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