Out of the 7,000 plus islands in the Philippines, none are more enchanting than Siargao. Thanks to its killer waves, this tear-shaped island is an international surfing destination. Located 800 km South-East of Manila, Siargao is the highlight of the Mindanao islands. Boasting a robust population of 100,000 residents and multiple municipalities, Siargao offers the best of both worlds. While General Luna is home to unlimited bars and dining options, the other areas of the island provide a welcome break from tourism. Filled with a lush amount of palm trees and surrounded by pristine waters, this island is drop-dead gorgeous.
Even though Siargao’s popularity has only recently surged since 2011, this island was first discovered by the Spaniards in 1543. When the Spanish navigator Bernardo de la Torre tried to return to Spain from Sarangani, he accidentally ran into Siargao. Impressed by its beauty, he named it Isla de las Palmas. While it was too remote to become a port, Siargao was far from forgotten. The island witnessed multiple regime changes until it was permanently incorporated into the Philippines.
In the late 1980’s, Siargao underwent a renaissance when its waves were discovered by professional surfers. To avoid the law, G-Camp founder and convicted cocaine trafficker Mike Boyum fled to Siargao in 1988. When he arrived, Boyum was overwhelmed by the potential of the island’s waves. He quickly told his brother, who was running their infamous surf camps in Indonesia. Unfortunately, Mike ended up dying in Siargao during a 44-day spiritual fast that was a little too cleansing.
This sudden ending didn’t allow the surf legend to see what Siargao would become, but it helped spark the interest that paved its legacy. By 1993, Siargao’s epic wave breaks were featured in Surfer Magazine as “Cloud 9”. Due to its wide range of cheap accommodations and restaurants, the island made Surfer magazine’s list of “Ten Best Surf Trips of All Time”. When this news broke in 1995, Siargao was never the same. Surfers from communities around the world descended upon the island, which drastically speeded up its development.
Today, Siargao sits at an interesting crossroads. Due to its unique selection of breathtaking natural attractions, this island is the Philippines’ next rising tourist destination. It’s once remote location is now home to an airport that can barely keep up with demand. While visitors used to have to take an overnight ferry from Cebu, now 6 direct flights from Manila arrive everyday. Over 15,000 tourists visited the island in 2017, which was a 25% increase from the previous year.
While the exposure is welcome, this massive influx of tourists has caught the island completely off guard. On top of pushing the Wi-Fi capacity to the brink, this seasonal migration is highlighting some major issues. Even though the island is home to over 100,000 people, it doesn’t have its own hospital. This forces visitors to take a one-hour ferry to the neighboring island Surigao to receive medical attention. In emergency situations, this can mean the difference between life and death.
Due to Siargao’s lack of regulation and laid back party atmosphere, the number of motor cycle accidents is staggering. Last year the island lost one of their most promising pro-surfers, Mike Escoltura. The twenty-year-old perished after a car hit his motorcycle that he was riding with two friends. This story hit home for many residents of the island, since moto accidents are a daily occurrence. Siargao is an epic place to ride motorcycles, but be careful to avoid becoming a statistic.
Despite the island’s growing pains, Siargao remains one of the most amazing attractions in the Philippines. To highlight this island’s charm, we compiled a list of the best places to visit in Siargao. It’s developing at an alarming rate, so the time to visit is now. In a few years it will be completely oversaturated like Boracay, so enjoy the peace and tranquility while it lasts!
Top Places to Visit In Siargao
Attraction #1: Tayangban Cave & Lagoon – This gorgeous cave is nestled outside the town of Pilar. Every day it fills with water during high-tide, which allows users to swim through it. This provides an interesting look at countless stalagmites and stalactites that litter the cave. It’s complemented by a turquoise lagoon that can jumped into directly from a short cliff. This attraction only costs 50 Philippine pesos to enter, so it’s well worth making the pit-stop!
Attraction #2: Magpupungko Tidal Pool – After visiting Tayangban Cave & Lagoon, tourists can continue on the highway until they reach these pools. This gorgeous area is filled with turquoise water and shocking rock formations. The area is best highlighted during low-tide hours, so plan your trip accordingly. Either way, the swimming and cliff diving options at this rock pool make it too entertaining to miss. While some taxis will take visitors directly there, driving yourself is the best option. Rent your own moto and make a trip out of it, since the hour-long drive from General Luna is absolutely spellbinding.
Attraction #3: Taktak Falls – This is the only waterfall on the island, so it can’t help but make an impression. TakTak falls is hidden on a dirt road about 20 minutes off the highway by Sta. Monica. Despite its remote location, the falls are surprisingly well maintained. This gorgeous waterfall has a pool where visitors can swim and an area to lounge and eat. The dirt road to get there is treacherous, so drive your moto there during the day!