Siargao may be known for its beaches and pristine waters, but G3 San Diego is here to show that there’s more to that.
Ever since Siargao reopened for local tourists last November, I knew that this was the first destination I wanted to revisit since the lockdown started. I knew my timing had to be perfect and that my trip had to be very well-planned, especially since guidelines on traveling have very much changed in the new normal.
I decided to go in March—the first year anniversary of the lockdown—and the official start of summer in the Philippines. When I arrived, I was pleased to know that all the services and establishments have just recently reopened to restart the economy of the island—one that heavily relied on tourism. If before, foreigners flew in on a regular basis from different countries all over the world to surf its world-famous waves, now, Siargao is relying on local tourists to revisit. And so, I was there for this.
Back To Siargao
And do take note: Siargao is one of the very few places in the country with zero COVID-19 cases. This is because of their very strict health protocols and guidelines, should you desire to enter its ports and airport. First, you have to secure a negative RT-PCR test result or a COVID-19 saliva test result taken within 48 hours before your arrival to the province. Next, you’ll need a confirmed accommodation booking from a hotel or resort accredited with the DOT (Department Of Tourism). If the place you will be staying at is not yet DOT-accredited, you must secure a letter of invitation from a resident with approval of the Office of the Mayor of Surigao del Norte.
Additionally, you’ll need a Surigao del Norte e-HEALTH Pass that you can fill up online, the TRAZE app you must have downloaded on your phone which you will need upon arrival and departure from the island, a valid government-issued ID, and all the requirements from your chosen airline which you can fill up on their website. And finally, you must email all these to [email protected] for approval. Only then can you enjoy the island.
I will admit that upon returning to Siargao, I was reminded of the time in the “old” normal when people just came to enjoy the summer surfing capital without a care in the world. Of course, now, there are the safety requirements practiced by the local government to make sure that your return to Siargao will be as pleasurable as the time before.
The first thing I noticed was that Siargao has become a less busy and much quieter island. And because there is no haste or hurry of a frenzied vacation hotspot, I was able to appreciate Siargao in all of its raw beauty, minus the crowd of tourists and the noise of commercialism.
Sure, I still didn’t know how to surf (the famed Cloud 9 surfing spot is currently under repair due to a year of non-use in the pandemic), but there was so much more to do in Siargao for non-surfers like me. And I’ve collated 16 things to try when you return to the beautiful, wonderful, awesome world-class Siargao. Take a look!
16 Things To Do in Siargao (aside from surfing)
16. See the Nakedness of Naked Island
I think it’s a must to take the 3-island tour of Daku, Guyam, and Naked Island when you go to Siargao. It’s the three best beaches located very near each other by boat—filled with sandbars, pristine clean shorelines, and clearwater seas. Among the three, Naked Island is the only one without anything on it—no, you don’t have to be naked. It’s just an island all on its own where you can walk around on, swim in, and of course, take the most beautiful photos. The island-hop will set you back around PHP 1500 which already includes lunch.
15. Visit the Private Beach of Alegria in Sta. Monica
Take a drive along Pacifico to get to Alegria Beach, a more private beach in Sta. Monica far away from the busyness of General Luna. It’s literally the Pacific Ocean and the shores stretched out for miles where you can run, swim, and have the locals grill you fresh Tulingan to finish off a sun-kissed afternoon. Good cellphone signal is also very rare, so you go there simply to unplug and enjoy bathing in the sun and stroking your feet on the fine sand.
All the locals will tell you that this is the best place to have brunch—with even a few boutique hostels getting their food from this humble hole-in-the-wall establishment. The chef, Sir Arnie, who sports a white strip of beard, is a former barista at Google. And he will serve you the best and most delicious French Toast, Eggs Benedict, and Spam Sandwiches.
My friends who migrated to Siargao kept nagging me to try the Bulad rice at Cantina Luna and I resisted for as long as I could, especially since I’ve given up rice since January to be beach-ready for this trip. But after a couple of their very potent Cuba Libres, I was sinking my spoon in a plate of the most delicious rice I’ve tasted. It’s the perfect bite of salty, savory, and sumptuous. It pairs well with their Lechon Kawali, but it’s perfectly fine on its own, too!
If you wanna know where the best pizzas are on the island, it’s no longer at Kermit’s—it’s at Bulan Villas. The former pizza chef of Kermit now runs the pizza oven at Bulan and it has the best pizza flavors you will ever have! That is, after enjoying some fun and sun at the beach. Treat yourself to an authentic Italian dinner at Bulan Villas, where the calzone is something you must try because even after a few slices of pizza, a calzone feels like the perfect end to an equally perfect last bite.
Established by two Cebuano friends just two years ago, Lamari is a beautiful boutique hotel with a very elevated and chill tropical vibe. There, you can find a loft-type open space restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, and top-of-the-line rooms and amenities. You can spend an entire afternoon here just hanging out, sampling their fine food, and gulping on fruity cocktails from their expansive bar.
Heads up—Lamari also has the best cellphone signal on General Luna! This is why the second floor is reserved for digital nomads to do their work.
10. Feast on the Boodle Fight from Daku Island
What island hopping tour is complete without a boodle fight? Daku island has been the venue of boodle fights for locals and tourists alike, as evidenced by the cottages on the shore where you can gather and enjoy the catch of the day—prepared by a local chef of your choosing. Chef Glyn (@chef_glyn on Instagram) prepared our boodle and it’s one of the most festive and flavorful ones we’ve had.
It was also my first time to try Saang, too, or Spider Shell. What a gastronomic delight!
9. Swim in the Pool and Enjoy Cocktails at Las Palmas
For me, Las Palmas is the prettiest of all the resorts in General Luna. It was an ode to 16th century Siargao when it was first called Isla de las Palmas. The moment you enter, you can see the thought and care that went into the tropical design and detail of the place, its restaurant, the casitas, and even the mermaid-tiled pool. It’s absolutely world-class! Every corner is Instagram-worthy and a dip in the pool is like a warm blanket on a cool summer’s day.
Bonus is that they make some of the best calamari I’ve ever tasted anywhere.
8. Snack on the Yakitori at Wantaw, Along Pacifico
About an hour’s drive from the center of Siargao, General Luna is on the highway coast of Pacifico. And as you make the drive through beautiful coconut trees and rivers, you’ll arrive at the surfing area of Pacifico where a lone, zen, Japanese wonder welcomes you along the highway. It is just an architectural marvel in the middle of nowhere — fronting the Pacific Ocean and offering the best Yakitori on the island.
Go for the views and the feeling of being away from it all yet enjoying modern Japanese treats!
A unique Tiki-Filipino cocktail bar tucked within the sidestreets of General Luna, Manu offers a very romantic, date-place feel that is different from the energy of all the modern places sprouting in Siargao. A place where good food is prepared thoughtfully and cocktails are delicious and unique, many of those in the know in Siargao go to Manu to enjoy a great night with just a few people.
You will need to secure a reservation before you go over because they are very strict in the number of people that come in at any given time. But yes, if I were to pick a date place in Siargao, Manu would be it.
6. Eat the Street Barbecue of Catangnan
The best way to experience a place is to eat as the locals do! And what place in the Philippines doesn’t have a roadside barbecue? Surely Siargao has it, too!
As you drive further up General Luna into Catagnan, you will see people gathered by a roadside barbecue stall that offers second-floor dining—an extension of a duplex Kubo, complete with sinampay and usok (smoke). It’s a very casual kind of dining, almost as if you’ve been invited by a local into their home. There, you can sample the most tender chicken barbecue I’ve ever tasted and the best cheese dog that there is. But the sawsawan—the ultimate condiment for all—is the perfect blend of sour, spicy, and sumptuous. Get ready to gobble down a large cup of rice while you’re at it. It’s the only serving size they have.
5. Meet Foreigners and Eat Roadside Carinderia-style Food in Kurvada
Presumably getting the name Kurvada as it sits on the curve of the road, you will see that this carinderia or road-side food stall is quite popular with the locals and foreigners that live in Siargao. Nothing unusual about the stall itself, but the food is not your usual turo-turo. Made with different world flavors and sophisticated tastes at the friendliest price, your Siargao experience is not complete without a meal at Kurvada.
It’s also the best place to meet foreigners in the daylight. The patronage is as yummy as the food!
As a former CrossFit fanatic, I was pleasantly surprised to know there is a CrossFit Gym on the island. Plus, it was the most beautiful and spacious box I’ve been to!
CrossFit Siargao boasts of local, tropical material, but with the latest and best gym equipment, too. It even has the best coaches and CrossFit athletes that come all the way from Manila. After all the eating, drinking, and celebrating on the island, it’s best to put in a great workout for a day or two—even on a weekend. That way, you can challenge yourself to an awesome WOD (workout of the day) in the heart of paradise. Each session is only PHP 250, too! What a steal!
Siargao may be most known for surfing, but many come here to practice yoga. Sitting quietly in the heart of the forest is Sadhana Yoga, a serene sanctuary where you can clear your mind and return to yourself. There’s something about practicing yoga in nature that makes you feel invigorated and involved with Mother Earth.
And if you decide to go of a full yoga retreat, four villas and a grand villa are available at Sadhana for rent. Namaste!
Perhaps the newest structure built in Catagnan, Surfing Temple is meant to be that—a place for surfers to come together and just enjoy the experience of a well-attended night. Tucked within Catagnan, complete with an outdoor pool, a huge space, a large bar, and a very up-to-date DJ, Surfing Temple is where people come for the best kind of nightlife. The drinks are awesome and the people are the best looking on the island.
Plus, you can see all of Siargao’s small community of locals and foreigners at the Surfing Temple. Villas will be constructed soon.
There’s just something about enjoying fine dining in the sunset of a beach town that makes dining at Alma the best experience in Siargao. Expect the most delicious Spanish cuisine—from paellas to sangrias—while you take in the ambiance of Alma.
Leave your shoes or slippers at the door and enter a mix of tropical and industrial space that breezes through with an island vibe that can only be described as pure vacation heaven. What we remember most about vacations is the feeling of satisfaction in every sip of cocktail and every delicious island bite and you can get all these in Alma.
As we enter into the summer season and with all the uncertainty of city life, it’s always a welcome change to get away from it all and experience the charm and recharge of island life. There are just so many places you can choose from. But as for me, I will always return to Siargao.
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