Siargao is an amazing island. Known as the “surfing capital of the Philippines” with its famous waves, clear blue seas, and chilled vibes, it’s a great holiday spot where you could easily get sucked in and stay for ages.
I absolutely loved it BUT it was very different to what I was expecting.
Because of its reputation for surfing, I thought it would be quite touristy. And so, I assumed it wouldn’t be too far behind Bali in terms of civilisation.
So I went with the intention to work, surf and chill a bit too. Surfing and chilling was great but work went totally out the window due to the lack of internet!
Maybe I was too disorganised but there are certainly a few things that I wished I knew before I arrived. So if you’re heading to Siargao, hopefully this list of things to know might help you prepare a bit better than me!
Cash is so sparse on the island that it’s often impossible to get.
First things first- make sure you get Philippino pesos BEFORE you arrive on Siargao. I made the rookie mistake of assuming I’d be able to take out pesos from the ATM in the airport; however there is no ATM in the airport!
Luckily I sat next to a local on the plane who told me all about Siargao. This included him being very concerned for me when I told him I didn’t have cash! He kindly let me hop in his pre-booked van and asked the driver to stop at all the ATM’s on the way there. (It was a Saturday so there was barely any cash left on the island)
We had to stop by 3 ATM’s because the first 2 were out of cash.
The ATMs get replenished at the beginning of the week, so if you arrive at the weekend, there’s a high chance you won’t be able to find cash on the island. On top of this, a lot of places don’t accept card so if you’ve got no cash, you won’t be able to buy anything!
(You’ll also need cash to get from the airport to your accommodation. It should cost 300 pesos to General Luna)
Where are the ATMs?
I had a rather unfortunate situation where I broke my surf board in two (the waves were pretty big that day!). As I was renting the board, it meant I owed the surf shop 10,000 pesos (about $190). And I had to pay in cash.
Due to the limited cash on the island, it took me a while to find an ATM that had enough money.
So if you need cash in Siargao, you can either go to:
- The one ATM near the main strip in Siargao, General Luna; this is next to the Western Union, by the church.
- Or you can try Ronaldo’s Inn who offer a cash-back service. The maximum you can get is 3000 pesos, but you pay them by card and they’ll give you the cash.
Neither of the rates here were very good but if you’re desperate…its better than nothing!
If you want a surf lesson, book Kermits (and ask for Estong!)
As I went to Siargao solo, I booked a surf guide to take me to some of the best spots. I asked around for the best rates and teachers, and I tried a few different surf schools.
Hands down though, the best guy was a local called Estong who worked for Kermits. He was a great instructor, took me to some fun waves, and was pretty chilled too. I always found myself in the best spot and caught a ton of waves.
Even if Estong isn’t around, I’d recommend booking Kermits anyway. They’re known to be one of the best schools and they’re also very well priced compared to the rest; one surf session costs 1,200 pesos which is about £17 and lasts up to 3 hours. Most surf guides cost 500-600 per hour so Kermits was much better value if you stay out for longer AND their teaching was amazing too.
If you have your own surf board, take it
I didn’t take my surf board but I wish I did.
Renting surf boards is quite expensive and there isn’t a huge variety on the island either.
It would have been cheaper for me to have taken my own surf board with me on the plane, than to rent each day on the island. Board rental from Fat Lips seemed to be the best price at 350 pesos for a day (around $6.50)
Plus surfing is so much better if you’ve got your own board!
Accommodation in Siargao
Because Siargao is so small, accommodation gets booked up early.
I thought I was over dorm rooms but the dorm room in Harana was actually REALLY nice. The beds are super comfy, there’s a lot of space, and the vibes are really great. It’s chilled without being too hostel-crazy, which it makes easy to meet people.
If you’re booking in advance, all of these places look amazing:
- White Banana Beach Club (have what they call a luxury dorm, and it’s located right on the beach with their very own cocktail beach bar)
- Dahun Villas looks pretty dreamy
- Kermits (part of the surf school and also home to the best pizza on the island)
This is the dorm room at Dahun Villas below…
Siargao is very much a party-island.
Every night of the week, there’s a different party. This makes things super fun if you want to go out… but if you want to wake up early for surfing, going out until 4am might make things harder!
I was more in the surf-and-chill vibes so didn’t go out that much, but at least the options there if you want it.
I booked Siargao completely on a whim, and did ZERO research into the weather, or even wave season.
Luckily the waves were amazing when I was there, but it was typhoon season.
The best time to go for surfing is between July and December, with the biggest swells usually in September and October.
Typhoon-wise; it was pretty windy and rainy for 2 full days. There’s not a huge amount to do on the island when it’s pouring with rain as most activities revolve around being outside (whether you go surfing, visit the rock pools, or island hopping)… but the rest of the week was so beaut, that I didn’t really mind.
The only annoying thing for some people was that the airport shut and some flights were cancelled. So maybe leave a couple of days lee-way in case you have somewhere important you need to be after you plan on leaving.
The wifi is painfully bad
I really wanted to relocate from Bali to Siargao for a week, and hoped there wouldn’t be any disruption with work. Man how I was wrong!
By the afternoon, the internet literally does not work. I tried buying a SIM card to hotspot data but even that didn’t work.
Apparently it’s better in the mornings because less people are connected, but by the afternoon and then evening, it’s basically impossible to connect.
The best place I found was the hotel called Isla Cabana Resort. There’s a minimum spend of 300 php (around $5.50) in the restaurant but they’re super chilled and don’t mind you staying and using their internet for hours!
This was the view from the restaurant…
Make sure you take the right adapter
And last but not least – there are a few different types of plug sockets in The Phillippines.
So make sure you either have a multi-socketed global adapter, or one for both.
(Power sockets in Cebu have two prongs that are long and thin; power sockets in Siargao are the same as Indonesia or Europe)
I found it pretty annoying when my phone and laptop both ran out of battery in Cebu airport… but a very sweet man lent me his his adapter while I was twiddling my thumbs in Starbucks.
So there you have it… 9 things I wish I knew about Siargao before I went.
I had the best surf ever (despite breaking a board in half) and it was very relaxing. My one word of advice would be to not have any pressing work to do, or you may struggle to get it done. Other than that, go out and enjoy the chilled island life that is Siargao.
Man I can’t wait to go back already!