Sunday, March 15, 2015

Island Hopping Guide at Siargao Islands

Siargao Naked Island - Schadow1 Expeditions

March 1-2, 2015
Siargao Islands is primarily famous for its awesome waves to which surfers all over the world are worth riding for. But aside from surfing, Siargao offers a few of its small islands for beach lovers. Fine white sands, turquoise sea and intimate connection with nature is what these islands can offer. This is a travel guide to Siargao, the country's gateway to Pacific Ocean.

Siargao is primarily a group of islands and two of these islands are its major islands. Siargao as its largest which is made up of four towns and the other one is Socorro, it second larger island at south primarily known with good dive sites.

The town of General Luna at the main Siargao Island is its main tourism hub being the town that is nearest to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Barangay Catangnan is the most famous of them all. Because foreign tourists are having a hard time trying to say the word "Catangnan", thus it was called "Cloud 9" which seemingly rhyme (but not quite) with the barangay's name.  At General Luna's town center down south of Catangan is its town center and is the jump-off to its island hopping hub.

Three notable islands are worth visiting yet all of them have its same characteristics that beach bummers are drooling to reach. The Naked Island, Daco, and Guyam Islands.

Naked Island
coordinates 9.73486N 126.12594E

This island is the farthest from the boat docking area of General Luna at about six kilometers. Not that far actually as you can reach it in just 20 minutes. The island is actually an islet; a sand bar composed of very fine white sand and shallow turquoise sea at about a 100 meters around it during high tide. You can't do camping here due to the absence of any shade. But this is the best area to do your signature jump shots due to absence of any shade that can hinder the view.

However, beware as when we were there, there were too many blue bottle "jellyfish" or more appropriately called Portuguese man-o-war to which its sting is way powerful than a jellyfish. See our article about the Portuguese man-o-war on Island Hopping in Siargao.

Dako Island Siargao - Schadow1 Expeditions

Daco Island
coordinates 9.74291N 126.15505E

Daco is the largest island among the three islands and is actually a barangay (village) to which its residents dwell at its northern flank. And most of its area is proliferated with coconut trees and other shrubs. Although its best area for beach bumming is its northwestern flank to which is a large beach with super fine white sand. Cottages for having your lunch and picnics are also available for rent for Php 200 at this island.

Guyam Island Siargao - Schadow1 Expeditions

Guyam Island
coordinates 9.76524N 126.16759E

Is a small island at 100m x 80m, although the nearest to General Luna at just 2.1 kilometers; but so far, this is the most serene island among the three with ample shade from coconut trees. There are also cottages here but is uninhabited which makes it the best spot for beach bumming.

Habal-Habal fee from Dapa Port to General Luna island hopping boat dock (coordinates 9.78121N 126.15694E) is Php 200 and is about 15.5km away or a 30-minute ride.

The boat fee for island hopping costs Php 600 which is already good for 4-5 passengers. Beware of scalpers. Usually the best person to deal with on boat rides are the boatmen themselves. Siargao seems not to have an efficiently functioning central and organized tourism authority to standardize their fees and protect you from abusive locals. Be aware as well that General Luna port does not even have its own shower rooms for island hoppers. And when you decide to swim on its islands, you have no other option but to get to your hotel to take a bath after that sea water swim.

The Drawback

No shower rooms

We were just unlucky as we have not reserved any hotels in Siargao as we're only there for single-day mapping expedition and plan to get back to Surigao City at the break of dawn. And our boatman even told us that there is a shower room at the port so we were very much confident to take a swim; only finding out at the end that there isn't any. Good thing there are Pension houses at the town of Dapa near the port back to Surigao. But of course we have to bear with ourselves being wet and cold on a 30-minute motorcycle ride back to Dapa just to get a room to stay for a few hours and clean up before getting a fast boat back to Surigao.

Bringing Lunch for the island hopping trip

Just like every island hopping trip we had on other parts of the Philippines, most, if not all have public markets nearby to buy fresh seafoods to which you can cook later at the island of your choice with your boatmen willing to cook it for you. Although our boatmen are willing to cook for your, the public market nearby surprisingly does not sell fresh seafood and all we have to buy are cooked food. So be aware that in case you will be at Siargao for a backpacking trip and will not be renting a place to stay where restaurants are available to buy food, be sure that you supply up when you are still at the town of Dapa before getting to an island hopping itinerary.

How to get to Siargao

There are direct flights from Cebu City to Siargao Sayak Airport (coordinates 9.85749N 126.01632E) from a single carrier. And if you are coming from Manila, connecting flights are available.

A cheaper alternative if coming from Manila would be to get a flight to Surigao City's Airport then get a tricycle to Surigao City's Coastal Boulevard.

Although, the most common way to get to Siargao if coming from Manila is to book a flight to Butuan City and from Butuan Central Terminal (coordinates 8.95891N 125.53584E), hire a van to Surigao City  for Php 140. It is a 131-kilometer or a 3-hour ride to Surigao City. Buses bound to Surigao (Bachelor Bus) are also available at the same rate however they take too long to leave and earliest trip is 6:00AM and last trip is 5:00PM. For the vans they operate until 2:00AM but be aware that if you get to ride after 10:00PM you would need to wait longer until it becomes full.

As you arrive Surigao City Central Terminal (coordinates 9.76255N 125.48425E, you can ride a tricycle for Php 10 each for a short ride (3 kilomters) to the Coastal Boulevard (coordinates 9.78624N 125.50018E) or to Eva Macapagal Ferry Terminal (coordinates 9.78259N 125.50068E). But if you can't wait, you can hire them for Php 50 contract to get you there.

Fast Boat to Siargao - Schadow1 Expeditions

You can get to Siargao's Dapa Port in two ways if coming from Surigao City.

Either (1) ride a fast boat which leaves at 5:30AM and 10:00AM for Php250 each, which is the best way.
(2)  Or ride a RoRo vessel at the same price but it only leaves at 11AM if in case you will be bringing your own vehicle to Siargao.
Take note that the Eva Macapagal Terminal is not open for 24 hours as it closes at 10PM; so you could not stay in case you arrive at night, and the Coastal Boulevard which is the jump-off to Siargao for the fast boat is an open sea-side terminal without any shade. There are however a lot of motels and hotels in Surigao City for you to stay in case you arrive too late at night.
Getting back to Surigao City via fast boat is also every 5:30AM and 10:00AM, and via RoRo at 1:00PM

Sample Itinerary to Siargao coming from Manila

Day 1
21:00 Leave Manila via air
23:00 Reach Butuan City

Day 2
00:30 Reach Butuan Central Terminal
01:00 Leave Butuan for Surigao
04:00 Reach Surigao
05:30 Ride a fast boat to Siargao Dapa Port
07:30 Reach Dapa Port of Siargao
08:00 Reach General Luna Boat Dock and start island hopping
12:00 End Island Hopping
15:00 Get to Catangnan (Cloud 9) find a hostel

Day 3
06:00 Surf at Cloud 9
09:00 Get to Magpupungko Natural Pool
10:00 Arrive Magpupungko, swim

The trip to Siargao is part of our 7-day mapping expedition to the eastern seaboard of the Philippines; covering 13 provinces from Mindanao's Caraga Region to Eastern Visayas and Bicol which acquired over 500 waypoint data and covered over 2,700 kilometers of roads, trails and ferry routes. The data has been donated to OpenStreetMap Philippines and a GPS routable map of the Philippines is being compiled by Schadow1 Expeditions regularly to which it can be used for navigation assistance for tourism and humanitarian purposes.

Google Maps (link)
Schadow1 Expeditions Contributions (link)

How to use for your Navigation System (link)

2015 East Philippine Seaboard Mapping Expedition Articles


  1. Do you have a contact number of the owner of the boat that you rented? :) THanks

    1. We did not have a good experience with Te boat we rented thus we have not published it in this article. As suggested, directly deal with boatmen and not with Habal-Habal drivers in Siargao.