Eight Captivating Siargao Experiences - Just Perfect for a Long Weekend
Would you like to visit one of the world's most beautiful islands? How about island-hopping around some of the most stunning islands in the Philippines? Do you want to drive a scooter through rice paddies and jungle? What about visiting a unique lake right in the middle of an island? Does eating seafood several times a day sound good to you? Is getting a $15 surf lesson appealing at all? How about visiting villages lost in time? All this and more is possible in a long weekend on Siargao Island, so read our list of eight captivating experiences to enjoy there and book a flight to the island soon!
If you've made it all the way to Siargao, don't forget that the best beaches aren't on the mainland. Lying in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a few kilometres offshore General Luna, Siargao, are some of the most incredible islands in the Philippines (if not the whole world). You're spoilt for choice between so many options: consider Guyam (small and photogenic), Daco (incredible beach), Casulian (great hilltop views and beaches), Naked (nothing but a large sandbar), La Januza (paradise defined with powdery beaches and a lush interior) and Anahawan (good waves and beaches). Due to recent changes on the island, you'll probably have to go to tourism department if you want to hire your own boat. Alternatively, join a group tour through Bravo Resort or another operator. Independent touring starts from P1500 for three islands (plus tourism fees, depending on your nationality) and group tours from P1200 for three islands.
While San Benito isn't on anyone's radar right now, it really should be top of any Siargao itinerary. Off its coastline are islands even more beautiful than more popular island-hopping destinations near General Luna. In addition, and even more unique, is Poneas Lake, a lake literally inside an island surrounded by tropical jungle and completely pristine. Read more about San Benito's attractions in our detailed blog "Chasing Lakes, Islands, Beaches and Sandbars off San Benito".
3. Dive into Sugba's Turquoise Lagoons, off Del Carmen, West Siargao
Seems like everyone visiting Siargao these days wants a picture of themselves on Sugba's famous diving board. Propelled to fame on the hippest social media application out there, Instagram, you have to expect quite a crowd at Sugba's stunning lagoons. However, if you're happy to share the translucent seas with hundreds of people (and photoshop them out for your Instagram share), then don't hesitate to drive over to Del Carmen and jump in a boat to the lagoons. Private boats are available for around 1800 pesos but are strictly regulated these days by an overprotective tourism department. Make sure you arrive after 8 a.m. and around high tide or you won't be able to go. Alternatively, join a group tour with one of many agencies based in General Luna. SUPs, snorkel masks and kayaks are available to rent for an additional charge, but diving off the board is free!
Easily accessible on a scooter or as part of a round-island van tour, Maasin village has myriad attractions within a five-kilometre radius that are all worth investigating. The most obvious one is Maasin Mountain Viewpoint, which you'll pass by on the main road between General Luna and Pilar, about 2km before Maasin village itself. Instagram fans flock here to capture themselves posing in front of one of the biggest coconut farms in the world. Aside from picture-taking, there's a basic restaurant and a few kids selling bamboo straws to help save the environment.
Next up, just before the beginning of the village, is a particularly straight road lined with tall palm trees and a mountain backdrop. Particularly famous on Instagram, you might see people here posing on their scooter in the middle of the road or shooting a drone into the sky to get a picture for their main feed. Third point of interest, and easily the best one, is Maasin River. Situated right in the heart of town on the main road, the river has a slanting tree infamous on Instagram for classic drone pictures of young kids swinging in a Tarzan-like fashion into the cool water below. These days you can swing yourself (with help from a guide, 50 pesos) or take an extended trip up the river in a dugout canoe to a freshwater clear pool (500 pesos per boat). Finally, a few kilometres beyond Maasin are a couple of caves worth checking out - they're well signposted on the main road towards Pilar.
There are three ways to reach Magpupungko's awesome tidal pools: independently on the back of a motorbike (see more information below), on a round-island group tour (cheap and a good way to meet people) or on a pump boat from Salvacion area (a great way to feel the natural beauty but only advisable on calm days). Whichever way you choose to get to Magpupungko, make sure you time your visit for low tide when the incredible rock pools are clear of the wave action from the incoming/outgoing tide. Once you get there, you can just chill on the beach, swim in the pools, eat at one of the many eateries outside the main gate or jump off the sharp rocks (bring reef shoes) into the pools below. While it's usually fairly crowded, there's plenty of room to enjoy the place. However, if you really want the pools to yourself then come fairly early in the morning. Entrance fee is 50 pesos and 20 pesos extra for motorbike parking - pretty cheap for such an awesome attraction!
Definitely the most iconic spot on the whole island: Cloud 9's observation tower. It provides a totally unique view of the surfing area and its surroundings. Of course it's up to you whether you actually get wet (hire a local surf champion for 500 pesos per hour to teach you the basics) or just watch the experts thread their way in and out of some sweet barrels (the waves here are so hollow and perfect for nimble, advanced surfers - for more surf-related information click on this link "Nine Waves To Die For On Siargao Island"). If you work up a big appetite in the surf, wander along to Shaka Siargao (right on the beach at Cloud 9) for a smoothie, coffee or big power bowl. There are heaps of other great places to eat and drink in the area - click this link "The Ultimate Siargao Food Guide - 16 Fantastic Places to Eat and Drink in General Luna and Cloud 9".
Although Union's magnificent river is usually only explored by Bayud Boutique and Nay Palad's exclusive guests, it's fairly easy to rent a boat/SUPs from General Luna and organise your own paddle board adventure through some of the most beautiful mangrove waterways in the Philippines. If you feel like a swim or picnic too, there's a lovely beach situated at the river's entrance and heaps of quiet beaches on the way too. Remember, nothing is strictly private on Siargao Island (the government owns the shoreline) and you can freely walk along the beach all the way from Union River to General Luna (8km) if you're feeling energetic.
Consider the following itinerary as one of many possibilities. First of all, drive from General Luna to Pilar (turn left about 3km before Dapa), stopping at Maasin Mountain View, Maasin Palm Tree Road, and Maasin River (see number 4). Then, drive through timeless Pilar, set on the banks of a huge tidal river, and stop at famous Magpupunko rock pools (see number 5), well-signposted about 3km beyond Pilar, for a quick dip. Third, drive for another 15km to Pacifico, where long left handers perfect for surfing and a lovely beach makes it an ideal stop for lunch. Next, Push onto Burgos Bay (beautiful views, beaches and waves), Tangbo, and take a break at TakTak Falls. While the falls themselves aren't that impressive, it's a great place to hide from the harsh midday sunshine. After the falls, drive down the western coastline past Santa Monica and San Benito (see number 2) and Del Carmen (access point for Sugba Lagoons, see number 3). Finally, to complete the island loop, drive from Del Carmen to Dapa, via Sayak Airport, and finish your epic cruise on the scenic road back to General Luna via Union.
8. Cruise Around the Island by Scooter/Motorbike
Probably the cheapest experience available on the island, renting a scooter is the best way to explore the island's attractions and stumble upon something unexpected, original or empty. It only costs 400 pesos a day (less if you take it for two or more days) to rent one. Once the keys are in your hands, you can discover the island at your own pace without any agenda but your own.
Although it's easily possible to experience the best Siargao has to offer in a long three-day or four-day weekend, you might enjoy your trip a lot more if you extend it to a one-week stay. A few extra days would give you the chance to take a few surf lessons or relax a bit more on the beach. It all depends on whether you want your itinerary action-packed or laid back. Whatever you decide, you're guaranteed to have an amazing time in a place now considered by many to be Asia's best island!