Flung out eastwards to the Pacific Ocean from peninsular Surigao del Norte, the rugged islands of Siargao turn huge swells into the best surf breaks in the archipelago.
The epicenter of this surfing Mecca is Cloud Nine, a laid-back village with rocky coastline where thick, tubular waves form. First discovered by traveling surfers in the late 1980s, this surf spot was named and popularized by American photographer John S. Callahan, who first published a feature on the island in March 1993.
Since then, thousands of international surfers flock to these Pacific islands. While there other quality waves in Siargao, this particular spot is the most accessible and has gained the most publicity, leading to overcrowding especially during the peak season that some have also dubbed it “Crowd Nine”.
|Local surfers check out the morning surf at Cloud Nine Boardwalk|
Non-surfers can also enjoy Siargao, especially when stationed in General Luna town. There’s a nice public beach and boulevard in the middle of town. GL is also the jump-off point for island-hopping at the handful of isles offshore, namely, Dakô, Guyam and Naked.
|Guyam Island offers some OK snorkeling and a small beach|
Naked or Pansukian Island is essentially a sandbar with nothing but clumps of vegetation that provide a resting place for sea birds. Guyam, a smaller island with both sandy and rocky coastlines, has some snorkeling near the reef break. Dakô, meaning “big” in Visayan, is naturally the largest of the three, offering the best stretch of beach and some rental cottages (PHP 200). During our visit, local kids were riding the waves with their short boards and skimboards. This is definitely the best island to eat lunch and linger. On our way back to our resort from Guyam, we stopped by a shoal of crystal clear waters where our bangka anchored for us to take a swim before calling it day well spent.
|A young surfer practices at Dakô Island|
HOW TO GET THERE: There are direct flights to Siargao from Cebu City. Transport around the island is slightly more expensive than other island destinations, as there is very limited mass transportation (i.e. jeepneys). From Siargao (Sayak) Airport, take a van to transfer to General Luna (PHP 300, 40 mins) or Cloud Nine (PHP 500, 1 hour). If the weather is good, take a motorcycle-for-hire. Share a canopied habal-habal (motorbike) with friends; a motorbike can accommodate 2-3 persons. A habal-habal to Dapa (20 mins) is only around PHP 200, and Cloud Nine is P500 for example.
|Native cottages at Jadestar Lodge|
WHERE TO STAY & EAT: Budget non-surfers are better off staying at General Luna town or “GL” than Cloud Nine. GL has sandy beaches, and serves as a jump-off point for island-hopping to Dakô, Guyam and Naked Islands.
Jadestar Lodge is an old favorite with non-AC cottages at PHP 600, good for four. The resort can arrange island-hopping day tours; boat rate at PHP 1,500, up to 10 pax. They can prepare generous lunches for island hopping as well for PHP 100/pax. Rental motorbikes available at PHP 500 per day (excluding gas). Rental vans available at PHP 4,000 per day. Contact Anita Quintas at +639192344367.
Habal-habal from Jadestar Lodge to Cloud Nine is PHP 30/pax. For budget meals, check out Laida’s Restaurant, across the Cloud Nine Boardwalk. Laida’s – home to champion surfer siblings – offers board rentals at PHP 500/day (or only PHP 900 for three days), and lessons at PHP 300/hour.
|Local children play at General Luna’s beachfront|
The biggest town is Dapa, where ferries to/from Surigao City and Socorro (jump-off point to Sohoton National Park) dock. Very cheap accommodation can be found here – MNRB Pension House along Jacinto St (only few minutes walk from the pier) has non-AC doubles starting at PHP 250. Mobile: +639215135306.
For great food, don’t miss homey Decolores Restaurant along Sto. Niño St; they have affordable breakfasts (eg. tapsilog for PHP 45) and oh-so-delicious fish and chips (a platter for three for only PHP 180).
Only Dapa town has ATMs – Green Bank and Cantilan Bank.