Hey guys! We are Emy and Johan – a travel couple known on Instagram as @withsaltypassports. We will be sharing our experiences on the beautiful island of Siargao which is a tear-drop shaped island in the Philippines.
Originally, our plan was to travel to the Philippines for just two months, starting last March. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we decided to stay and not go home because our original plan was to travel for an indefinite amount of time. We were also under the assumption that the world would open up in just a few short weeks after March, 2020 (how wrong we were).
Fast forward to July, 2021 and we are still in the Philippines with no intention of leaving anytime soon! Our first nine months were spent in Moalboal, Cebu. We then decided to move to Siargao in January. We instantly fell in love with this untouched, tropical island paradise and decided to stay indefinitely. What a decision that turned out to be!
Siargao is a place that was always high on our list. We heard amazing things about the island, for example: that it was the next Bali or a little Bali. The cool vibe, the wonderful people and the thousands (if not millions) of palm trees made us fall in love with Siargao. Also, we should mention that the surf was a big drawcard too. We are still learning but it’s a lot of fun.
Living the Dream in General Luna, Siargao
We live in General Luna which is a town located in the south of the island. Every day looks different for us. Either we are chilling on the beach with our dogs and visiting some of the best restaurants and cafes on the island. Or we go surfing for the day, hang out with friends, go island hopping, explore every corner of this beautiful island or volunteer to rescue street dogs.
Siargao is unlike any other place we have visited. As with many islands, life moves slowly and daily activities include ”waiting for surf”. At the same time, Siargao offers nightlife, good restaurants and during high season, a lot of travelers. From the outside it may look like a small island but there are easily enough activities to keep you busy for more than a weekend.
10 Best Things To Do in Siargao
1. Swing into the Insta-Famous Maasin River
The Insta-famous Maasin River has been a popular photography spot for Instagrammers over the last few years and it’s easy to see why! This river is surrounded by palm trees, with one special palm leaning over the river in a unique way. Go on a raft ride and swing into the river with locals. A perfect experience to enjoy from General Luna (25 minutes drive away).
2. Go on an Island Hopping Tour to Nearby Islands
The most popular island-hopping tour leaves from General Luna on a long tail boat and takes you to the nearby islands of Guyam Island, Daku Island and Naked Island. Guyam Island is the cutest little oasis entirely covered in palm trees. You can also go on a boat cruise that is more of a private charter (bigger than a long-tail boat) and discover more amazing places!
3. Marvel at the Sea of Palms at Palm Tree Viewpoint
Palm Tree Viewpoint reminds us of just how many palm trees this island has. It almost looks like a sea of palms from this spot and there are too many to count! The sunsets here are especially epic with amazing views over the jungle. Whenever we visit this viewpoint, we know we are home.
4. Cliff Jump at the Magpupungko Rock Pools
Come for the clear waters and stay for the cliff jumping! The Magpupungko Rock Pools can be reached by taking a 45-minute scooter ride from General Luna. Make sure you arrive at low tide when the rock pools are exposed. Enjoy hours of fun swimming in the pools and cliff jumping.
5. Surf the Waves at Cloud 9 Surfing Area
Siargao has waves for every type of surfer – from learners just starting out, to beginners who need some practice, to pros looking for waves to shred. One of the local surf breaks – Cloud 9 Surfing Area – has been widely recognized as one of the best surfing spots in the world. As just mentioned, we are still learning how to surf but it’s so much fun to be in the water!
6. Enjoy a Day of Water Activities at Sugba Lagoon
Sugba Lagoon is one of the most popular attractions on the island. The lagoon is surrounded by these lush hills where you can go swimming in warm waters. The pontoon house has a cool little diving board that you can jump off which is always a lot of fun! Other activities here include renting a wooden raft, stand-up paddle boarding and relaxing in the cafe.
7. Visit Local Farms at the Northern End of the Island
Alegria and Burgos, in the northern part of the island, have farms which you can visit. Much of this region of Siargao is untouched by tourism and this makes it a unique experience. As you travel through the north you will see farmers, fisherman and workers going about their daily lives in a rural setting. Burgos in particular is a cool town with some good waves too!
8. Check out Mam-On Island off the Coast of Siargao
Mam-On Island is an off the beaten path destination that offers travelers a great oasis to avoid the crowds and enjoy an island paradise all to yourself! You can relax at several stunning little beaches, as well as check out the reef surrounding Mam-On and the other island called La Januza Island.
In fact, for Johan’s birthday, we rented a catamaran and brought along our friends for a day of sailing. We went to the remote island of Mam-On which took us about one and a half hours to reach. There were no stores, no vehicles and no people on the island – it was just white sand beaches, palm trees and turquoise waters. It was the best birthday ever!
9. Have a Relaxing Little Getaway at Mao Mao Surf
Mao Mao Surf is a surf camp where backpackers can experience everything from surfing, to relaxing and healthy eating. There are five cute jungle bungalows to stay in, an awesome little bar with vegan/vegetarian options, a surf school where you can learn the basics of surfing and more! Mao Mao is located close to the beach, right in General Luna.
10. Book a Few Nights at Punta Punta Surf Retreat
This is glamping done right! Punta Punta is only a couple of years old and is in a great location right by the water. The beautiful glamping tents have ceiling fans, massive beds and private open-sky bathrooms. They also have a five person surf villa for you to book with your friends if you would like.
Tips for your Visit to Siargao
This island is a precious paradise – so it’s important that all visitors treat Siargao with the care and respect it deserves. The island has created a few good initiatives and even offers eco-tours around the place. They don’t sell plastic bags at the market, instead you can buy an eco-bag and re-use it.
Make sure you bring a refillable water bottle and don’t buy plastic bottles of any kind. There would be nothing worse than seeing thousands of plastic bottles littered in between the sea of palm trees. If you forget your refillable water bottle, you can always buy one on the island and then you can refill them almost everywhere. Remember to leave no trace wherever you go!
Siargao was booming before the pandemic and there is no reason why that will change – so book your accommodation in time to be able to stay where you want. We have heard of tourists knocking on locals’ doors asking if they can put up a hammock because everything was booked! Lastly, prepare for busy days. It’s a small island but there are so many things to do!