The Ultimate Guide to Surfing Philippines

by Tom Sanchez

Surfing Philippines is slowly but surely making waves, with the likes of Siargao and its hollow Cloud 9 leading the way. There’s plenty more than that, too, though…

An introduction to surfing Philippines

La Union Philippines

The Philippines have never managed to attain the heights of next-door Indonesia when it comes to surfing. That’s certainly not down to a lack of coastline – A mind-blowing 36,000km of the salt-washed stuff is on offer here, across 7,000+ islands. It’s more to do with the fact that this archipelago nation doesn’t get the same clockwork swell pulses from the southern latitudes; the ones responsible for Uluwatu and G-Land.

That said, there is plenty of Pacific-facing land that gets epic fall and spring systems off the low-pressure typhoons, along with other places that harness the power of NW trade winds coming over the East China Sea. They’ve started making real waves on the Southeast Asia surf line up, too, especially palm-fringed Siargao, which now flaunts the tubular Cloud 9 break as a rival to any that Bali can muster on the Bukit.

We’d say this: The Philippines is still very unchartered territory for surfers. There are only one or two places we’d consider to be worthy of a dedicated surf trip (basically Siargao, Baler, and San Juan in La Union). However, there’s an infectious vibe to the beaches, which are some of the most sugar-white we’ve ever seen, and bucket-list diving and snorkelling to be done if you want a mixed-adventure holiday.

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This guide is a part of our larger ultimate guide to surfing in Asia

Surfing Philippines at a glance

The good:

  • Some stand-out breaks like Cloud 9
  • Stunning settings for surf
  • Always warm

The bad:

  • Unpredictable swell seasons
  • It’s hard to travel around here still

What will I find in this guide to surfing Philippines

The top surf destinations in Philippines

Surfers in the Philippines

There are surf spots all over the Philippines, from Luzon in the north to the south-eastern islands around Siargao. Different spots pick up different swells, so always check that the place you pick is in season.

Siargao

Siargao is now firmly established as the top surfing destination in the whole of the Philippines. It owes its place to two breaks: Cloud 9, a heavy right-hand barrel over the reef on the southwest side of the island, and Quiksilver, a faster right that’s just next door. But there’s way more on offer, including a trio of small reef breaks and secondary-swell spots that are good for beginners, and some fun sandbar island breaks that you can only get to by boat. More than that, this island is simply stunning!

Check out our complete guide to Siargao surfing

Baler

Baler is often called the birthplace of Philippine surfing because it was where a certain Francis Ford Coppola brought his crews to film the infamous wave scene with a wild Robert Duval back in 1967. As the locals looked on, they must have thought, man that looks fun. The rest is history and surfing has been happening here ever since. More and more points and beach breaks have been discovered in the area, and there’s a decent mix of waves for all levels.

Check out our complete guide to surfing in Baler right now

La Union

La Union is called the Surfing Capital of the North. A couple of hours’ drive from Manila, it’s cut its teeth on an ultra-consistent beach break of crumbly stater waves and a peeling right point break that mimic the best of South Oz. Better surfers should try to time their trips for the winter season, when the strong NW trade winds can bring swells of 10 foot+.

We’ve got a full guide to La Union surf

Zambales

If you can’t be bothered to make the 3.5-hour drive to San Juan in La Union to hit the points and beaches there, Zambales is a good alternative. So long as it’s the summer (May-Sept) then you can usually pick up small ankle-burner waves at the Crystal Beach break, and there’s also one proper swell-magnet of a spot that’s for experts.

Check out our full guide to surfing in Zambales

Dahican

The all-level beach breaks of Pujada Bay in Dahican are pure fun. Getting very consistent swell through the Mayo Bay opening into the Pacific, there always seems to be something surfable on the shoreline. It’s not the best quality stuff, since the town lacks the reef fringing that you get in Siargao and others, but it’s chilled and unbusy.

Lanuza

The tiny little fishing village of Lanuza was already famous with water babies for its amazing underwater reefs, which are said to be some of the most biodiverse in the Philippines. Then folks realized there was a surf break here and bingo: A couple of surf camps now ply their trade in town too. The waves aren’t the quality you find in Siargao. Mostly, they are mushy reef-top stuff that goes left and right. There is one pretty good right hander, but we’re not sure its enough to tempt us on the 7-hour trek from Siargao.

Our pick of the best surf stays in Philippines

All of our three hotel picks for surfers in the Philippines are in Siargao. That’s because we think the island offers the best all-round experience and variety of breaks of anywhere in the country, and the surf camps and schools are second to none.

Single Fin Siargao

Single Fin Siargao reminds us of a stylish Balinese surf camp. It’s got the leafy garden with the plunge pool that you can return to after the dawn patrol. It’s got stylish interiors with their thatched roof and bamboo-walled bathrooms. But this surf camp is also very down to Earth, offering affordable hostel dorms for those on a budget and more luxurious doubles for those with some cash to splash. It’s also within easy reach of both of the major surf areas in what we’d say is the best destination for surfing in the Philippines: Siargao island.

Mao Mao surf

Walk through the palm-lined backstreets about five minutes from Cloud 9 and you’ll come to the quirky set of tropical cottages at Mao Mao Surf. They are done out like boho surf shacks, with indoor-outdoor bathrooms and arty touches throughout. We love the gardens and the lush grass areas where you can chill, plus the healthy eating from the on-site restaurant. We’d say it’s a great pick for surfing couples who value a touch more privacy than the local hostels have on offer.

Hiraya Surf Hostel

Another Siargao favorite, Hiraya Surf Hostel has a fine location jus t a stone’s throw form the Cloud 9 surf area, which has breaks for all levels. The vibes are the main draw here. Everyone’s mates from the get-go, you’ll meet new surf pals, and party in the evening. The on-site pool and the affordable nightly rates also add to the package big time.

When to surf in Philippines

Baler surfer

There are two main surf seasons in the Philippines, hitting opposite ends of the archipelago nation at different times of the year.

First, there’s the July-October typhoon months in the south-west. This is when Siagao goes off, with regular barrelling days on Cloud 9 et al, combined with good offshore winds to help the smaller reef breaks there hold shape. Second, you get the winter NW windswells that push through the Pacific. They hit a zenith between December and March, and bring the biggest waves of all to the northern island of Luzon, which means La Union and Zambales will be in their prime.

With the Philippines this isn’t hard and fast stuff. The swells don’t switch between the monsoon and the dry seasons like clockwork like they do down in Bali. Lots of places get some swell all year, while others – Siargao notably – has unexpected peaks in late winter and through the spring.

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We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This is just a part of our complete guide to surfing in Asia