When talking about Mindanao, people often have this misconception that the region is dangerous and has little traces of industrialization within it. These are far from truth, though. While some areas in Mindanao do experience war, majority of the places that make up the region are peaceful. Likewise, advanced industrialization is not just a dream here; it is a reality. SOCCKSARGEN and Davao, for instance, have topped national competitiveness rankings in recent years in terms of infrastructure growth, economic dynamism, and government efficiency. This only goes to show that Mindanao is not just a massive rural island, but a bright spot for major business and investment destination.
Unfortunately, the aforesaid presumptions have stuck over the years, making local and foreign tourists hesitate to come and visit the area. This is quite a bummer considering that Mindanao has numerous destinations that can cater to every type of traveler out there, from sun worshippers and divers to adrenaline junkies and history buffs. Perhaps one of the most popular destinations in the region is none other than Siargao.
Located off the coast of Surigao del Norte, the small island of Siargao is making a name for itself as the Philippines’ surfing capital. What not many people are aware of is that it’s not just about perpetual waves. Siargao also hosts a diverse range of other amazing spots worth exploring and immersing in as well as delectable dishes that will keep you satiated. We have round up some activities that will let you enjoy all these, so be sure to include them in your Siargao itinerary.
Ride the Waves
Obviously, surfing tops our Siargao itinerary. As the country’s premier surfing capital, Siargao’s open waters dole out exceptional waves that are on par with those in surfing hotspots like Hawaii, Tahiti, Bali, and Costa Rica, among others. Barangay Catangan’s very own “Cloud 9” is a favorite among surfers, both locals and foreigners alike, due to its amazing swells and hollow tubes. In fact, this is where the annual Siargao surfing cup is held every September.
Taking on Cloud 9’s huge waves is a challenge usually reserved for experienced surfers. If you are a beginner, you can hit up Jacking Horse to learn and master the basics. As of this writing, however, this beginner’s surfing spot is temporarily closed to check on trainers and ensure they know how to mentor surfing newbies. Still there is a good selection of beginner surf camps, especially in General Luna area, where you can enjoy and practice riding small rolling waves.
Take a Leap Off a Cliff
Just a 45-minute motorcycle drive away from Cloud 9 is a Magpupungko Tidal and Rock Pool. Considered as one of Siargao’s most amazing natural wonders, Magpupungko boasts crystal clear blue waters, coves, and caves. It is also easily the best place to do cliff jumping, as the area is surrounded by dramatic rock formations that serve as excellent jump off points. The depth of water in this area is not always the same, so be sure to check before you take the plunge. Also, it is best to wear water shoes when climbing up the rocks to protect your feet from their sharp edges.
During low tide, the tidal pool of Magpupungko is highly visible, making it the perfect place for a relaxing dip. So if jumping cliffs is not your cup of tea, you can just hang out in the natural pools here and soak up the beauty that surrounds you.
Dive to Your Heart’s Content
Underneath Siargao’s crystal clear waters is a diverse marine life that includes awe-inspiring coral and rock formations. No wonder, it is beginning to attract divers and snorkelers from around the world who want to observe or get up close and personal with schools of jacks, tuna, and barracuda.
There are several spots within the province that are perfect for diving and snorkeling. These include Seeco Reef, Pilar Twin Rocks, Shark Point, Casulian, Daku Island, and La Janosa Island. However, if you want a bit more challenge in your diving activity, Blue Cathedral is the site to include in your Siargao itinerary. A well-known underwater rock formation that has a 20-meter opening, this dive site has two deep caverns where you can find a wide variety of marine animals.
Swim with the Jellies
Bucas Grande is a group of islands sitting next to Siargao. It is home to Sohoton Natural Park, a protected area that boasts lakes and lagoons and underwater caves. Also found in this group of islands is Tojoman Lagoon, which got its name from tojom a local word for sea urchin.
One of the best things you can do in Sohoton Natural Park and Tojoman Lagoon is to swim with a smack of jellies. There are two species of stingless jellyfish that have made these areas their sanctuaries: Lagoon Jelly and Blue Moon Jelly. They feed on the algae, which is plentiful within the lakes, and reproduce without intrusion as there are no predators within this protected habitat. Two vital rules that you need to know before swimming in the lagoon are: (1) to avoid slathering lotion or sunblock; and (2) not to take the jellies out of water. Both can cause these creatures to die, causing their numbers to dwindle.
Go Island Hopping
General Luna is the touristy spot of Siargao, and it can get a bit crowded there, especially during peak season. One of the best ways to separate yourself from the crowd even just for a day is to include island hopping in your Siargao itinerary. Through this activity, you will be visiting the three neighboring white-sand islets of Naked Island, Daku Island, and Guyam Island through a guided boat tour.
Your first stop is Naked Island, a 200-meter long sandbar with bits of grass here and there. As its name suggests, the island is as naked as it gets. No palm trees or structures, just sand, surrounding sea, and some corals and shells. It’s the perfect spot to just chill and be away from the noisy chatter of fellow tourists. Just nearby is Daku Island, which is the biggest beach strip of the three. Unlike its neighbor Naked Island, this one is filled with coconut trees and has a couple of cottages to boot. It’s great place to go kayaking and skim boarding. Finally, complete your island hopping adventure by visiting Guyam Island. You can cover the ground of this tear-drop shaped island in just a few minutes and take a rest in one of its cottages before heading back to your base.
Feast on Siargao’s Culinary Treats
A day or two of water activities can definitely deplete your energy. Make sure to get the nourishment you need to recover the energy you have lost. Of course, Siargao has an amazing selection of dining options to choose from. You can find everything here including king crabs, cordon bleus, poke bowls, smoothies, and even Italian-Filipino fare. Don’t forget to try banana pancakes and chicken-mango curry, as Siargao is popular for these treats. And if you ever find yourself needing a quick, satisfying grub, try the local bread called “pan de surf” or “pan de totoy,” which is a known street eat made from a combination of flour, yeast, egg, and coconut milk.
Catch the Sunrise or Sunset
The sun views of Siargao are simply astounding and not to be missed. Head on to Cloud 9 pier, sit down at the edge of a hut and watch the sun as it rises in all its golden glory or as it slowly drops down over the horizon and retires for the day. Of course, Cloud 9 is not the only spot where you can catch amazing sun views. Siargao has many other places where you can do this activity without interference from other tourists, including Jacking Horse; Santa Monica pier; on the top of the road heading to destinations like Pacifico and Magpupungko Tidal and Rock Pool; and General Luna Port, among others.
Siargao is justifiably becoming one of the go-to destinations for those who want to ride the waves, experience underwater charms, or simply want to sit back and relax by the beach. Hopefully, this Siargao itinerary of ours will help you explore and enjoy the enamoring beauty of this heaven of an island here in the Philippines.