This blog post was written in 2015.
I never knew ‘falling in love’ could occur outside of the desired sex, but that’s what happened when I came to Siargao. I fell in love with the island, the beaches, the food, the culture. Now I understood why a handful of my friends gave up city life to live here. I felt heartbreak when we had to leave; five days was not enough. One month won’t be either. Maybe I could live here with my son, I tinkered with the idea.
Siargao is (so far) my favorite island in the Philippines, and is considered as the Surfing Capital of the Philippines. Most of the tourist activity is centered in General Luna in Siargao, and there are plenty of gems in the area to dine, party, and do activities. If it’s your first time to visit the beautiful island, this blog will help you identify the must-sees:
- Best Comfort Food
- Best Coffee
- Best Sushi
- Best Pizza
- Best Barbecue
- Best Party
- Best Surfer’s Hangout
- Best Luxury Resort
- Best Mid-Range Resort
- Best Budget Resort
(Disclaimer, these are preferences coming from a local tourist/novice surfer and may not reflect the preference of the majority)
Getting around GL is not difficult, there are a lot of motorcycles who will take you anywhere for P20/head. It comes up to P25/head at night.
Siargao is still a small provincial town but starting to get more touristy every year. Currently, most establishments in General Luna only accept cash. You need to bring sufficient financial artillery because there is no ATM machine in the area, and are only accessible in Dapa, 30 minutes away from GL.
Best Comfort Food: Pleasure Point Cafe
Pleasure Point is all about chill vibes and good conversations. We had breakfast here on our second day in the island, and our first taste of paradise. The cafe defines what Siargao is all about: life, surf and coffee–that’s all that matters.
Their menu perfectly complements the surfer’s lifestyle. They have lovely crepes, omelettes and other food that make perfect pairings with coffee or tea. We tried the French Toast (my personal favorite!), Sunny Side Up and Bacon Omelette (the boys’ favorite!), Parfait and Blueberry Cheesecake.
If you’re feeling special for breakfast, try their Chia and Coconut Pudding with fruits–it’s divine.
It’s the best place to unwind after riding the waves. They also have movie nights every Saturdays if you want to take it easy for the weekend.
Best Coffee: Cafe Loka
Cafe Loka is a charming little cafe located conveniently in Cloud 9. They offer healthy food, great coffee and fruit shakes. While waiting for your orders, one can jump in their giant trampoline (great for my overly hyper, slightly ADHD friends) or just lounge on the beach chairs and watch surfers catch waves (great for lazy bums like me).
Best Sushi: Lux Siargao Sushi Bar
Technically, it is the only sushi restaurant in the island. But it is worth telling that it is the best sushi place I’ve tried in the whole Philippines! A Lithuanian sushi chef named Freeman heads the sushi bar, and he easily converted me to become a hardcore sushi lover (I was never really into raw fish before!) We burned most of our cash in here, eating sushi for dinner over sake and Cards Against Humanity.
It’s very affordable, too: P350/sushi set, which may sound like a lot when you’re in Siargao–but P350 is very cheap for the authentic sushi you get here. This is legit sushi that will give sushi bars in Cebu and Manila a run for their money.
I recommend you to get the Omakase Sushi (Chef’s Choice, in Japanese it means ‘I leave it to you’). I always let Chef Freeman do his magic and surprise me–he gets me all the time!
Best Pizza: Aventino’s
On our third day in Siargao our wallets were getting dry. We were splurging too much and we needed to fill our stomachs well with something more affordable. Aventino’s Pizza was the answer.
Aventino’s had me at their Tricia Pizza, three layers of meat, veggies and cheese. All their other pizzas were just as good too–plus they also offer great pasta, rice meals and wines.
Aventino’s is located near Cloud 9, and they also do delivery.
Best Barbecue: Mama’s BBQ
Siargao cuisine is fairly simple. It’s not commercialized yet, so you won’t expect to find any McDos or Jollibees in town. I was surprised not to see any lechon places even (not even roast chicken kiosks like Chooks-to-Go. If you wanted something roasted, you have to buy the animal and find someone to roast it for you-or do it yourself.
Like Cebuanos, they like their barbecues a lot. BBQ stalls are a staple; from the beaches to the disco clubs. Mama’s BBQ is to Siargao as Larsian is to Cebu. ‘Nuff said.
Best Party: Pagoda Beach Bar (UPDATE as of 2016: CLOSED already)
Thankfully Siargao’s night scene has become busier and livelier. To avoid splitting the crowd, parties alternate in the local clubs in a week. They have Acoustic Nights at Buddha Surf every other Thursdays, local disco at ‘Jungle Bar’ on Fridays, the raunchier budots-style music at ‘Stowaway Bar’ on Saturdays, and on Mondays, be sure to be at Pagoda Bar.
The Monday Parties at Pagoda Beach Bar are legendary, don’t miss them. The bar is located just by the beach and a great locale to meet new people–everyone’s so friendly in the island. More foreigners frequent here.
It’s odd that the best party’s held at the start of the week, but also makes perfect sense: it’s a lovely way to upstart your week!
Update: Recently, I’ve heard about epic parties that Lux Siargao hosts every Saturdays! Worth checking it out on my next visit!
Best Surfer’s Hangout: Jing’s Place
If you want to learn to surf, there are a lot of options in GL–one of the most famous surfer’s hangout is definitely Jing’s Place.
Jing’s Place is a family homestay owned by local surf god Jing, who was among the first to learn and teach surfing, and helped make Cloud 9 the famous surf spot that it is today. You can get accommodations, order food and drink, arrange island hopping, rent surfboards, or get a trainer.
Best Surfer Spot: The Boardwalk, Cloud 9
Cloud 9 is the reason why Siargao is known as The Surfing Capital of the Philippines. You can go down Cloud 9 to catch big waves that reach up to 10 ft, or go to the Jacking Horse for smaller waves. Even if you’re not a surfer, it’s still fun to get awestruck while watching the experts ride the waves.
Best Luxury Resort: Lux Siargao Resort
My friends and I, all ten of us, were able to book this place via Airbnb–and talk about the first-class luxury (redundant, but it’s that awesome!). Designed by famed architect Ed Gallego, Lux Siargao boasts a modern Asian aesthetic set in tropical paradise.
The whole 5-bedroom, 7-bathroom beachfront estate can be rented exclusively. It can accommodate up to 16 guests and can enjoy full use of the kitchen, pool, beach, grill, and fire pit. If you’re all about exclusivity and comfort, Lux Siargao is the only best.
The owners and staff are very accommodating and friendly. In the evenings, we would make a bonfire and hang out. True enough, by the end of our stay we have gained new friends and fond memories.
Best Mid-Range Resort: Arka Hayahay
For the mid-range budget, Arka Hayahay is a good choice. Designed like a boat (hence the name) and set against blue skies and swaying coconut trees, Arka Hayahay will provide you with cozy accommodations at an affordable rate. It’s just a short motorbike ride away from Cloud 9!
The resort provides both private and dorm-type rooms. Their dormitory fan rooms are 500/bed/night (without breakfast) and their standard rooms are P1,500/night.
Best Budget Resort: Paglaom Resort
Paglaom Resort is rated #1 specialty lodging in General Luna by Tripadvisor. Paglaom offers bunk bed lodging to budget travelers and backpackers for a cheap rate of P250/night. Nothing can beat that price.
They have shared toilets, outdoor showers, common kitchen, lockers for your backpacks, and free wifi (which is of course the most important amenity!).