I am not kidding when I say that Siargao, Philippines is one of my favorite places if not all-time favorite place I have ever been. Many people describe this little island town to be similar to parts of Thailand before it got popular. There are a lot of similarities between the two. Amazing weather, welcoming, friendly people, delicious food, incredible nature, outdoor sports, and a laid back, relaxed atmosphere that even the biggest curmudgeon could find happiness in. The high quality of life vs affordability makes Siargao a great spot for the digital nomad who wants save/make money while bootstrapping their business. Truth be told, bootstrapping means living under $1500/month with a beach front bungalow ($30/night), weekly massages ($7), private surf lessons ($10/hour), and delicious food ($4/meal. The selfish part of me doesn’t even want to talk about it since it feels like my own little hidden paradise. However, in the spirit of the abundance mentality, I am going to share with you all my best kept secrets about this paradise called Siargao.
Siargao is an island in the Northern tip of the Southern part of the Philippines, Mindanao. Its rise in the global tourist map can be attributed to the year-round waves that attracts many surfers in the Philippines and all-over the globe. Thanks to the surfing hype, Siargao isn’t an obscure place anymore. But the place is nowhere near overrated.
Photo via Siargao Island Philippines
The archipelagic Philippines has many beautiful beaches to offer to the world that will satisfy every kind of personality. The beauty of Siargao is incomparable to the fine, powdery shores of Boracay. Neither is it like the world-famous Palawan. For one, neither Boracay nor Palawan can offer you the magnificent waves of Siargao. It is truly a surfer’s delight. But Siargao goes beyond surfing. Unlike other tourist spots where the lives of the tourists and locals are visibly delineated, that divisive line doesn’t exist in Siargao at all.
Photo via Kermit Siargao Facebook Page
Describing Siargao purely in terms of the beach will not do its beauty justice. The sum of all the parts of Siargao is what makes it a marvellous place to visit, and to even live in. The locals live up to the Filipino hospitality. It’s not just the kind you expect from well-trained staff at 5-star hotels. They will not just welcome you to their life. They want you to be part of it. They will warmly show you the ins and outs of their small town, without the intention of ripping you off. Since it isn’t a big city, establishments are usually homegrown. The people speak Surigaonon, Cebuano, and Tagalog but you’ll get around with your English just fine. Most Filipinos can communicate in basic English.
Photo via Kokai Resort Facebook Page
Great weather, great people, and great food – this is a well-recommended place for someone who works remotely. There is great internet connection in the place after all. The crashing of the waves and the ocean breeze have a way of amping up your productivity. If it’s time to relax and surf, the beach is just a few steps away.
How you want to enjoy Siargao depends on your purpose. In this case, this guide is catered for someone who wants to experience an alternative life and get a little bit of everything in Siargao – a little surfing, a little adventure, a little taste of what it’s like to live in Siargao, and a glimpse of how heavenly it is to do some remote work in this piece of tropical heaven.
Getting to Siargao
From Manila, you can fly to Siargao via Cebu City with Cebu Pacific Air. They offer direct flights from the capital to Siargao daily. As with most airline ticket prices, there’s no definite price but Cebu Pacific Air can offer as low as Php 1,300 (USD 26.00) for a round trip ticket if you’re really lucky. Check their website for regular updates on promo fares. Cebu Pacific has a lot of that.
Lifestyle in Siargao
Living in Siargao definitely costs only a fraction of what you will pay in other tourist spots. Honestly, Php 100 (USD 2.00) per meal will already take you very far. On top of that, seafood is very fresh! Quality of life is never compromised in Siargao just because everything is affordable.
Sure, there are conveniences in the big city that aren’t found in Siargao. Most of the beach life in Siargao is in General Luna and the nearest ATM is around a 20 minute drive to Dapa town. You need to carry cash constantly, preferably smaller bills, because there aren’t too many ATMs close by. Perhaps there are supplies that you can only find in the big city. But that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. In fact, Siargao can be the beginning of paradise. Siargao is no stranger to WiFi, for one. Communication and safety shouldn’t be a problem. The locals are warm and receptive to foreign tourists. Food is fresh, safe, and cheap. Siargao has also managed to grow its number of available accommodations for tourists yet it has managed to keep a homey, small-town vibe. It is where you come to realize that you don’t need much in material terms and you don’t need to spend much to be able to enjoy a good quality of life.
Getting Around Siargao
You know when you’re in the Philippines when you see a habal-habal. It’s a motorcycle that can surprisingly carry 8-10 passengers at a time. Average price is Php 10.00 (USD 0.20) for a short-distance ride. And mind you, almost everything in Siargao is short distance.
Habal-habal. Photo via Wheninmanila.com
To maximize your freedom and time in Siargao, there are a number of motorbike rentals that you can rent for as low as Php 350.00 – 500 (USD 8.00-10.00) per day. Prices may vary a little but that’s the average. You can hire a tricycle or habal-habal for the whole day if you don’t want to maneuver a motorbike yourself, but that’s going to cost you more. If you rent your own motorbike, you can take a trip to places like Magpupungko Pool at your own pace, as suggested by Sabrina of Just One Way Ticket. Places like Magpupungko deserve all the time in the world.
Placid Magpupungko Pool is separated from the ocean by rock formations.
Photo via Just One Way Ticket
Van and boat rentals are available for tours. Prices vary according to the size of the group and your destination.
Things to do In Siargao
Ah, the primary objective of most tourists in Siargao. There’s no need to worry if you’re a beginner. The most famous surfing hot spot, Cloud 9, is meant for intermediate to advanced surfers but there are also spots in Siargao that are beginner-friendly. Check out this entry for a guide on where to surf depending on your skill level. You can take surfing lessons for Php 500 (USD 10.00) per hour, with surfboard. The best time to catch a nice wave is usually in the morning. Even if you don’t intend to become a professional, a few surfing sessions can give you a nice adrenaline kick to keep you energized and in a good disposition.
Paddle-board, scuba diving, free diving, kite-surfing, kite-boarding – these are other activities you can do if you’re not really into surfing. Kitesurf Siargao offers beginner and advanced courses in kite surfing. You can also avail of these activities in almost every resort, hostel, or lodging in Siargao. Water is life in this town.
Kite-surfing: Another way of enjoying the waves & wind.
Photo via Kitesurf Siargao
Stand-up Paddle Boarding is a great way to work those abs.
Photo via Kokai
You can join the growing yoga movement of the community. Kermit Siargao offers yoga classes for Php 300 (USD 6.00) for an hour and a half, led by British yogini Sarah Coxon.
Sarah Coxon leading a Yoga class in Kermit Siargao
Photo from Kermit Siargao website
Harana Surf Resort also offers yoga classes. It’s becoming popular in Siargao. Do go around and check out places that you think suit your style of yoga. Yoga classes are usually expensive in the big city (think USD 15.00 as compared to the USD 6.00) so really go out of your way to enjoy a session or two. The sound of the waves and rustling of the leaves make the best sounds to practice yoga with.
Island hopping will give you a chance to revel in the quieter, more pristine islands of Siargao. Usual highlights of a Siargao island hopping adventure would be Guyam and Daku ISlands. You can head here for an idyllic picnic and stroll. You can also snorkel or dive around the area. There are so many possible tour options for as low as Php 2,000 (USD 40). Meals are normally included already. Do check the details because you may also want to visit Sohoton Cave and Bucas Grande Islands, which are simply breathtaking
Small but pretty Guyam Island
Photo via Biyahe ni Drew
Here are a couple of places I would recommend for accommodations.
Harana Surf Resort
Harana is a 5-minute walk from the famous Boardwalk. The waves in Harana are best for experienced surfers but even non-surfers can dabble into fun and rewarding activities offered by Harana. Harana also offers volunteer tours such as tree planting, medical missions, sports clinic, waste cleanup,etc. You can also check out their social media page for updates on their yoga session schedules. The interiors are spacious and naturally lit by the rays of light from outside. Harana is nothing short of cozy.
Harana Surf Resort is best for multiple occupancy. Spend between Php 2,500 – Php 5,500 (USD 50.00 – 110) per night, depending on the type of room. The Community Hut offers an amazingly affordable rate of Php 600 (USD 12) per bed, per night for 10-12 people. You can even opt for a bed space rental in the Community Hut if it isn’t rented exclusively by a large group.
Each room has a comfortable and clean toilet and bath. Harana also offers an air-con or electric fan option to their guests. It can get pretty hot in the tropical Philippines but the ocean breeze is wonderful at night, so some people want to enjoy it and just get additional ventilation from the electric fan instead. There’s also available WiFi.
Harana’s Community Hut via haranasurf.com
Harana will appeal to a lot of crowds, whether you are visiting with family or with friends. The housekeeping service is excellent but the resort doesn’t give off that standard, stiff hotel vibe. If you are traveling alone, you can check with the management if there are available beds in the community huts or reserve the entire Deluxe Room to yourself.
Kermit is highly popular among the younger backpackers because aside from the affordable prices you can’t miss, there are so many things you can do here. The food is really good in Kermit. Check out the RestoBar at the end of the section. There are also regular yoga classes, usually conducted at 8:30 AM or 4:00 PM. Accommodations start at Php 1,250 (USD 25) per night.
Kermit’s appeal lies not just in the affordable accommodations. Backpackers love this place because they don’t have to spend a fortune on gourmet food, good coffee (Nespresso & Cappucino!), table games, library, tennis table, paint ball, paddleboarding and other forms of entertainment. And have you heard of drunken Carabao riding? You will, in Kermit! Kermit even offers surfing lessons, island tours, and motorbike rentals for their guests. Come to think of it, everything the guests may ever need is already in Kermit.
Kermit’s Native Bungalow
Photo via Kermit Siargao
Kokai Resort, a lovely beachfront property, is another affordable option in Siargao. At Php 2,200 (USD 44.00), you can get a spacious airconditioned room that’s good for 2-3 people complete with breakfast. It also has a mini-kitchen just in case you decide to stay in and cook. Kokai also has a resto bar in case you get lazy to go out. Don’t worry about staying connected because the Resto Bar has stable WiFi access.
How your life will look like in Kokai Resort
Photo from Kokai Resort
Lux Siargao Boutique Resort
The name gives it away – Lux Siargao belongs to the high-end spectrum of accommodations in this small island. Rates start at Php 4,200 (USD 84.00) per night, with breakfast for two. Though the rates are steeper than the previously mentioned resorts, Lux Siargao will give you your money’s worth. It boasts of its own private pool, breakfast and fine dining, private generator, stable, and high-speed WiFi. Not only does it have a beautiful beachfront, it also has its own garden too. You’ll enjoy the peace and quiet here, especially if you need the silence for working or for relaxation.
A taste of luxury in Siargao
Photo via Lux Siargao Boutique Resort
Where to Eat
You’ll find local eateries in Siargao left and right, locally-priced and without that dreaded tourist padded traps. As part of your authentic Siargao experience, be-friend the locals and eat where they eat. They’ll point you to very affordable and fresh finds. As mentioned earlier, if you are going around Siargao island hopping, you can ask the boatman if your meals can be taken from the fresh catch. If you’re staying in a hotel like Kokai where kitchen facilities are available in rooms, why don’t you head to the market and buy the ingredients yourself? You’ll befriend locals along the way.
Do check out Kermit Siargao Restobar for their amazing homemade pizza. Even non-guests of Kermit flock to the place just to try this pizza. It’s made from a brick oven imported all the way from Italy, according to its Swiss owner.
Brick-oven Pizza from Kermit Restobar
Photo from their Instagram Account
Mama’s Grill in General Luna is a down-to-earth grub stop with unbelievably delicious grilled seafood. You can get juicy prawns for Php 200 (USD 4.00). There pork and chicken barbecue are famous too. Basically, everything grilled in heaven is found in Mama’s Grill. There’s a reason why people keep coming back to it.
Although there is no formal coworking space ..yet in Siargao. You can find consistent internet at various accomodations throughout the island. If surfing is your sport of choice, or future hobby to conquer than Siargao is your perfect spot to learn, train and run your business in paradise. Amazing food, beautiful weather, sports, stunning beaches, friendly people, and low cost/high quality of life ratio. , I think we found another winner.