The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on earth can visitors experience such a range of spectacular diving - from encounters with huge whale sharks and oceanic manta rays, to muck dives with beautiful Rhinopias and the exceedingly rare psychedelic frogfish.
The beautiful island of Siargao is fast becoming one of the Philippines’ hottest destinations for adventure travel. A favourite amongst surfers who make the journey to the island to experience the famous Cloud 9 break, Siargao offers travellers that perfect combination of beautiful scenery, a laidback vibe, opportunities to explore, dive, snorkel, surf and more, and plenty of different accommodation options to suit every budget. As adventure destinations go, its safe to say Siargao has it all!
- Go island hopping and explore pristine white sand beaches and deserted islands
- Learn to surf or improve your skills at the Philippines' best surf destination
- Dive the stunning Cathedral and other dramatic sites
Surfing and diving generally don’t go together as the big swell that attracts surfers is not particularly conducive to easy dive conditions. Siargao’s exposed location, right on the edge of the plunging Philippines Trench, means that any oceanic swell generated by storms out in the Pacific hits the island’s east coast unimpeded by other islands or shallow, coastal seas - and this same exposure to the open ocean also creates the potential for some interesting diving for those willing to explore. Siargao’s dive industry is still in its infancy but with 15-20 known sites and more being discovered every year, visitors to the island can now mix up their surf sessions with some great diving.
The majority of the dive sites are found around the islands of Pansukian, Daku and Casulian just off the coast from General Luna, and to the southeast around La Janosa, Mamon, Anahawan and tiny Antokon. Divers can explore a mix of reefs and rocky sites, with some fantastic visibility. Sites such as Seeco Reef, Pilar Twin Rocks to the north and Shark Point all offer exciting dives, but the real highlight of Siargao’s diving is the Cathedral, located close to the famous Cloud 9 surf break. The pounding surf along this coast has eroded the base of the reef into a dramatic series of caverns and tunnels, which can by explored by more experienced divers when conditions are perfect.
Whilst the diving around Siargao may not be as well known as its surfing, the fantastic visibility and stunning underwater topography at sites such as Cathedral, its laidback island vibe and of course, the pumping surf, makes the island one of our favourite destinations in the Philippines - one that will reward adventurous divers with a truly memorable experience.
Siargao is one of the top destinations in the Philippines for snorkeling and island hoping, with plenty of white sand beaches and deserted islands to explore. Some of the best places to experience the clear water and rocky reefs that have made Siargao such a sought after destination, are the small islands just off the coast from General Luna - Pansukian or Naked Island, Daku Island, Casulian Island, Anahawan, Antokon, La Janosa and Mamon. These can be explored on a half day trip, or a full day with some island hopping.
If you are looking for something a little off the beaten track, then Sohoton Cove in the southwest or Sugba Lagoon in the northwest offer amazing opportunities for paddling, swimming, caving, rock-jumping and snorkelling. Both wilderness areas are home to hidden lagoons surrounded by limestone cliffs cloaked in thick jungle - perfect for those instagram-worthy shots!
800 kms southeast of Manila and facing the open expanse of the Pacific Ocean is beautiful Siargao, one of the Philippines’ rising stars and the destination of choice for surfers, adventurous travellers and even divers, all drawn to the island by its laidback vibe, stunning beaches and opportunities for exploration and discovery.
Siargao found fame in the 1990’s when the break at Cloud 9 first graced the covers of surf magazines around the globe, and Surfer Magazine in the US declared Siargao as one of the ‘Ten Best Surf Trips of All Time’. The perfect hollow of Cloud 9’s wave might have put the island on the international surf map, but today, travellers are more likely to appreciate the island for its beautiful scenery, welcoming people - and some incredible adventures. You can dive or snorkel the offshore islands with their glorious beaches, explore coconut farms and tiny villages, kayak though mangroves or cliff-jump in hidden coves - the choice is yours.
Surfing in Siargao
Siargao has become the go-to destination for surfers traveling in the Philippines. As one of the most easterly islands in the Philippines, Siargao is exposed to reliable swell from the Pacific Ocean and when the offshore winds blow, the famous Cloud 9 break delivers some world-class waves.
The World Surf League now runs its Siargao Cloud 9 Surfing Cup each year, usually in September, and the unique viewing platform provides an incredible vantage point for spectators. However there are plenty of other breaks for beginners, longboarders, bodyboarders, and those just looking for a bit of fun. Just round the corner from Cloud 9 is Jacking Horse, where a gentle curving right-hand break is ideal for beginners. And with a beautiful beach to relax on and a smoothie shack nearby, it’s a fantastic location to hang out at for a few hours. The islands off the coast are great for day trips and with the support of an expert local guide you can be taken to the best breaks depending on the conditions and swell on the day. Finally, there is a quieter spot about 30-40 minute drive south from General Luna that offers a playful left and right hand reef break.
As Siargao has risen in popularity, so has the ease of getting to the island and there are now direct flights from Manila, Clark and Cebu - air travel is certainly the easiest way to get to the island. However, if you are feeling more adventurous or are traveling on a budget, then you can catch a ferry from Surigao City on Davao. Once on the island, it is very easy to get around using vans, motorbikes or local habal-habals. If you are staying for more than a few days, it is certainly worth renting your own motorbike.
The vast majority of the homestays and resorts on Siargao have been developed with surfers in mind and are concentrated around the Cloud 9 area and General Luna. The few dive shops on Siargao are also located in General Luna. There are also plenty of other options as you head west along the coast from General Luna towards Union Beach but if you want to get away from it all, there are homestays scattered around the island on the road that runs all the way around Siargao, as well as around Sohoton Lagoon in the southwest of Bucas Grande island.
If you are traveling to Siargao for some surf at the famous Cloud 9, the best time is normally late August to late November when the southwest monsoon creates offshore winds. From December through to May, onshore winds make surfing at Cloud 9 a lot more difficult but when the winds drop from June to August, this break offers the only consistent surf in the Philippines. Other breaks such as Pilar can be better during the northeast winds. Be aware that during the peak surfing season, accommodation gets booked up well in advance.
The dry season in Siargao is between March and October, and if you are less focused on surfing and want to try some diving, then this is the best time to visit as the weather is beautiful and the visibility at its best. Given the island’s exposed location, you can expect swell on dive sites at any time of the year.