Siargao surfing is perhaps the best in the whole Philippines, with two epic competition-level breaks and stuff for all levels besides.
An introduction to Siargao surfing
Glimmering like a jewel out on the very edge of the Philippine archipelago, Siargao is one of the first islands to feel the full brunt of the Pacific Ocean swell here. The pokey-out southwest shoreline really makes the most of that, with tubular pier breaks at Cloud 9 and more sheltered reef breaks that temper the swells for beginners and intermediates alike.
The rise and rise of Siargao surfing has been nothing short of phenomenal. To those of us who’ve been on the Southeast circuit for some years, this one sort of appeared on the menu overnight circa 2012. Sadly, the buzz has brought the crowds but there’s still chances for empty line ups if the tides match and you’re willing to rise early. On top of that, you can now pick from a pretty neat array of pretty slick surf camps and well-rated surf schools.
It’s also worth mentioning that Siargao has plenty to offer off the fiberglass. Away from General Luna – the island’s main resort town – you can whizz through shadowy thickets of coconut trees, swim in glistening tidal lagoons, and seek out talcum-powder beaches where there’s not another soul in sight.
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This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing Philippines
Siargao surfing at a glance
What’s in this guide to Siargao surfing?
A guide to the Siargao surf spots
Siargao surfing is split into two categories. The stomping ground of most will be in the area known as Cloud 9. That’s after the famous competition break that’s there, but you also get easy beginner waves like Jacking Horse to boot. The other area is General Luna, a small town about 5 minutes’ to the south. That’s the place to base yourself if you want to access island breaks like Daku or outer reefs like Cemetery.
Stimpy’s is a high-quality left wave that sits over the far side of the bay from Cloud 9 and Jacking Horse. Can handle big swell pulses of 10 foot but likes longer periods to really channel the power into the line, which can often wall up and hollow out for some neat backdoor sections. For those reasons, it’s predominantly an expert wave but can lower to intermediate with a good offshore and smaller swell (4-7 foot). Board grazes aren’t uncommon because of the nasty rock stack that plagues the channel – keep your eyes on that!
Rights that are fast and hollow but not quite as challenging as Quiksilver or Cloud break at the reefs that underly the bay south of Stimpy’s. You’ll need a boat to get there and it’s a shifty break, forever trying to pull you from the take-off zone into the inside section where it’s hell to get out from. Our advice? Do short sessions so you can paddle hard against the current and always lip out to paddle back to the point rather than rely on the duck dives.
A mushburger of a right that’s the go-to choice for surf schools in the General Luna and Cloud 9 area, Jacking Horse is crumbly and usually no more than chest high. It’s actually the inside section of the waves that reform at the end of Quiksilver, but a much, much easier prospect. This one can only be surfed from mid-tide and up because otherwise the water peels back and reveals the reef too much and you’ll be surfing on urchins. Wait for it to get deeper and then try to stick deeper into the right-hand side for take-off. That should give you a better chance of longer rides and less time paddling against the annoying cross-shore that plagues the break.
Some say Quiksilver is the hardest break on the whole island and we’re inclined to agree. Just watching from the end of the now-defunct Cloud 9 pier (back in the day, ay), it’s easy to tell that it’s a very technical challenge. Speed is the main issue, as the take-off gets steep and wally before dropping you into a very zippy right hand section that can plump up into barrels that are overhead or even double on the biggest days. The offshores of the fall are a joy here because they slow the wave just a touch and help to shape up the tubes for something special. Expect crowds. The local Gwapitos basically own the break.
Cloud 9 is the wave that really put Siargao surfing up there with Southeast Asia’s best. First snapped by John S. Callahan in the 80s, it didn’t really hit the big time until the Surfing Cup started swinging around in the mid-90s. This is where those iconic shots of pitted pros in Philippines-turquoise tubes come from, mainly courtesy of the Cloud 9 Pier, a jetty that was constructed specifically for surf viewing but has since been ruined by a 2021 cyclone.
Anyway…onto the break. It’s experts only, very fast, very hollow, and downright awesome if you can find your way off the steep lip and into the barrel. Rides like a surf pool wave in that its barrel from beginning to end and slabby as hell overhead. Sit in the right spot and you’d think there was a mile of H2O above you. This one works best in the late-summer peak season, and hits a double-overhead zenith in October time with the SW offshores.
Tuason is a very wally break that’s as steep as a barrel but hardly gives the joy that you get from the hollow sections of Cloud 9. It sits at the southern end of the Cloud 9 area, outside the reef, so you’ll have to walk over the jagged rock dodging urchins or get a boat hire. Tuason loves a close out and can be quite a beefy customer on larger days. When it’s smaller, it’s a decent option to dodge the crowds.
Walk over the long reef from the edge of General Luna and you can reach a break called Cemetery. It’s quite a strange spot in that it really acts like a patch of peaky beach breaks but sits far beyond the shoreline. Suffers really badly when it’s cross-shore or offshore, but a southwesterly and smaller condition (say, chest-high) can help shape it up into something more solid. Then, the peaks line up better and there’s a definite left that peels away in front of the reef. When it’s not behaving, Cemetery is a slop fest with big wedges that basically turn to dust under your board (not fun and not worth the walk).
Not on Sairgao itself but on the small island of Daku (hence the name) just to the south, the break here is an offshore reefy that pulls in some good power from the Pacific but manages to temper it into a fantastically soft right that basically everyone learns to love. Summers can see the place offer some long, mellow rides with surfers gliding across the front of a palm-trimmed tropical island. The reef is deep so it’s okay for most levels bar complete beginners. Crowds are the main problem, which is why we say early starts are the best. Chuck the boat guys a couple of dollars and they can take you across from General Luna starting around 4.30am.
Where to stay when surfing in Siargao?
We’ve picked hotels that sit on the western and northern sides of General Luna, which is definitely the area of Siargao that you want to be for surfing. Basically, anywhere within reach of the port (for access to breaks like Daku) and the Cloud 9 surf point are great choices. All these fit that bill..
Villa Cali Siargao
A short tuk-tuk ride from the port in General Luna but also walking distance to the Cloud 9 area, Villa Cali Siargao offers boho-style accommodation done out in colourful tones. There’s a bamboo-built terrace and a lush tropical garden that’s dominated by a big pool, all set just behind one of the most gorgeous beaches we’ve ever been to.
Hiraya Surf Hostel
Those on a tighter budget might prefer to head up to the Cloud 9 area and stay at Hiraya Surf Hostel. It’s very clean, very stylish, and comes with bargain beds in mixed dorms. The location is fantastic for getting on Jacking Horse and the epic rights of Quiksilver alike. Back in the hostel, you can hang with other surfers in the shared lounge and bar space.
Single Fin Siargao
We’d put Single Fin Siargao up there with the best surf camps in Southeast Asia. It’s super chilled and super stylish. Part hostel, part lux boutique hotel, it has room options for couple surfers and solo backpackers on a budget. The folk here are always happy to help plan tuk-tuk and boat transfers out to the best breaks, they have surf rental contacts, and do it all with a smile. The place itself is centered on a small tropical garden with its own pool. What more could you ask for?
Step-by-step guide to planning your Siargao surfing trip right now
Step one: Book flights to the Siargao surfing…We use Skyscanner and only Skyscanner for this. The reason? We’ve always found it the best site for comparing deals from basically ALL airlines and somehow seems to offer deals that beat going direct.
Step two: Book your surf lodge. There’s Booking.com. That has consistently unbeatable rates for hotels and a nifty map feature that lets you check how close EXACTLY that hotel is to particular breaks. Or Book Surf Camps, which is the numero uno online booking platform for fully-fledged surf-stay packages.
Step three: Book surf lessons and other activities For advance booking, you can use GetYourGuide or Viator. To be fair, though, we usually just leave this until we’re there – it’s easy to book in person in most surf destinations.
When to surf in Siargao?
The peak season for Siargao surfing is between September and December. That’s when the strongest SE swell pulses push through the Pacific Ocean and combine with regular offshores from the SW. Don’t go thinking it’s Bali, though. The surf here relies on irregular typhoons and storm systems that skim low-pressure around the Philippine archipelago. They aren’t clockwork and sometimes you can get okayish waves for week after week, suddenly turning into a mega overhead set that lasts 48 hours. Other times, it’s the other way around.
There’s rarely a totally dead time here. Even the early summer has small, ankle burner waves for learners, and there’s usually mush on Jacking Horse for the surf schools. Same goes for the spring in April and May, which is peak holiday time and actually sees some good S swell push up to get breaks like Daku working really nicely. Overall, we’d say: September-November for the pros, April-July for the beginners.