Siargao Island is composed of 48 islands and islets-politically divided into nine municipalities: Burgos, Dapa, Del Carmen, General Luna, Pilar, San Benito, San Isidro, Santa Monica, and Socorro. Siargao Island contains the largest mangrove forest reserves in Mindanao, at Del Carmen. Long stretches of wetlands indicate a potential for commercial seaweed propagation. Siargao Island is greatly influenced by the winds and currents coming uninterrupted from the Pacific Ocean, intensified by the Mindanao current running westward through the Siargao Strait. Siargao Island’s coordinates are 9°52′N, 126°03′E. Offshore, a classic tropical island lies protected within its surrounding coral reef with dozens of coconut palms dressed in the center circle of the island. Off to the right, well within the massive coastal reef, lies a shining white sand bar, (Pansukian, or Naked island) some 200 meters long. The tide of Siargao is diurnal with tidal curves typically present, especially on the east coast of the island.
The Island’s Pacific-facing reefs are situated on the edge of the Philippine Trench, and the extremely deep offshore waters assure the ocean swells have undiluted power when they encounter the many coral and rock reefs. Siargao has excellent surfing conditions, particularly during the southwest “habagat” monsoon from August to November, when the prevailing wind is offshore.
Siargao Island is the premier surfing destination in the Philippines nestled in the pristine and preserved backdrop of the Surigao del Norte paradise. Fed by the mighty waves of the Pacific Ocean, this island presents itself as the Philippine alternative to Oahu and Tahiti.
Siargao Island is situated west of Surigao del Norte and is the biggest of the islands belonging to the province. It is approximately 800 kilometers southeast of Manila. This island of roughly 200,000 people boasts a well-preserved wetland of mangroves (the largest in Mindanao) in the west and south, and a sprawling coastline composed of white sand beaches and unspoiled lagoons in the east which faces the Pacific Ocean. The most important town and port of entry is Dapa located south of the island. Other municipalities include General Luna, Pilar, Del Carmen, Burgos, San Benito, San Isidro and Santa Monica.
The island maintains a simple and laid-back economy, lifestyle and culture. The locals rely mostly on copra farming, seaweed propagation and tourism as their sources income. They speak Surigaonon, just as the rest of the province, but English and Filipino are very well understood. Being a haven for surf-loving tourists, the locals are very friendly and hospitable, and have remained loyal and pious in their local traditions and belief systems. With the development of its road network, jeepneys can now take locals, tourists and goods around the island, but the ingenious invention called habal-habal (a motorcycle fitted with iron grills at the sides) still continues to carry passengers between towns. For those who want to hop on the island’s assortment of islets, boats are available to take you one island at a time.
The birth of tourism in the island came with the publishing of Surfer magazine in the United States on March 1993 when American photographer John S. Callahan wrote a feature on the island after a visit the previous year. His various photos and awesome description of the island’s excellent surfs and breaks has helped place the island in the international surfing scene. Prior to Callahan’s feature, various surfing enthusiasts such as Steve Jones, Tony Arroza and Mike Boyum have made extensive explorations of the island’s breaks and surfs.
The town of General Luna in the southeast tip of the island is the prime destination of surfers in the island. To the north of this town are a dozen of breaks that have become popular in recent decades such as Cloud Nine, Tuesday Rock, Ventura, Tuason Point and Pilar Point. New surf sites have also popped up, with names that show the creative side of the surfers who named them: Cemetery, Stimpies, Pacifico, etc. Most of these breaks cater to both right and left handed surfers. The provincial government sponsors the annual Siargao Cup to the delight of local and international surfers.
But aside from surfing, the island also offers other tourism spectacles and water-related activities. Spelunking enthusiasts may want to try the luminescent Silop cave or the labyrinthine tunnels of Mapawa. The submerged Suhoton Cave in Bucas Grande Island (southwest of Siargao) leads to an enchanting lagoon of islets and can be accessed only at low tide. The mangroves that cover the west and south of the island create unique water-streets, perfect for boating and kayaking. The waves being fed by the Mindanao current to the east of the island are not only perfect for surfing but also for sailing, parasailing and kite surfing. The Santa Monica Falls in the town of the same name has crystal clear waters flowing from an unspoiled, virgin forest source. Snorkeling and scuba diving sites include Guyam and Daku Island just off General Luna. The islands are also rich in marine life which makes it a game fisher’s haven. Large game fish such as sailfish, blue marlin, tangigue, yellowfin tuna and morang are abundant in the area.