Travel “Before Corona” seems like a world away. Travel, that is, to other countries- at least for me, and Siargao was the last place I’d visited outside of China. A beautiful, unspoiled Philippine island that I’d dreamed of visiting, and then in February 2020 finally did so with my sister and friend.
It was the first in a very long time that I’d traveled with company other than my boyfriend. And us girls had a fantastic time on the teardrop-shaped island of Siargao (even though the coronavirus outbreak had begun in China). Early on in our trip, we underestimated COVID’s impending worldwide catastrophe, but as the days went by, and we frolicked on the beach, hopped the waves, and basked in the surfer vibes that Siargao so generously bestows upon its visitors, it became evident that something big in the world was happening. And our sunny days gradually became overshadowed by concern and confusion. When I think of our trip to Siargao, it seems somewhat of a blur until I look at pictures from our time there. They bring back pleasant memories of our vacation almost lost.
Sighs, a moment of silence for the times when we freely traversed our Earth.
Where to Stay?
Siargao is a very small island, but because of limited transportation options (mainly tuk-tuk and motorcycle), it may take a while to get to places outside of General Luna-the main strip. I highly recommend staying in this area, as there is one main road, and the beach is a stone's throw away from it. There are also bars and restaurants along this street, which makes it easy to chill on the beach and hop across the street, for a treat.
We stayed in two locations, the first Makulay. Which is about an hour and a half from General Luna. If you prefer being away from the hustle and bustle, I would definitely recommend spending a few nights here. We stayed at a beach villa, where it felt like we had somewhat of a private beach and a literal tiny island that rose every day as the tide changed. Real-life magic!
We then relocated to General Luna and stayed at an Airbnb which was perfectly situated between the beach, a couple of feet away from the street noise, and 2 minutes away from our favorite breakfast cafe!
Where to Eat?
There were lots of options in town for having meals. We seemed to keep going back to the same spots, many of which were vegan and vegetarian friendly. Our favorite spot for breakfast was Kook Cafe, which was just a minute walk away from our tropical Airbnb. Cafe Honest was also close by, and it was the perfect spot to grab a quick healthy lunch. We favored Bravo for dinner as they served up food with a vibe. It's a totally Instagrammable hotel/restaurant that featured DJs, and live music on some nights. We discovered Bulan Villas when our craving for pizza kicked in and even discovered a little shop that stocked non-dairy milk!
What to do?
Head to the beach of course! Siargao is known for its surfing and it’s one of the main activities to do on this island. Unfortunately, the seabed is a bit rocky, so for safety reasons, I opted out of surfing. My sister, however, has lived in a surf town before, so she excitedly took to the waves and enjoyed her time out on the waves.
One of my favorite activities on Siargao island was the island hopping. One can simply hire a private boat at the public dock and head out to the nearby islands. The three most popular are Naked Island, Daku Island, and Guyam Island. We spent a lot of time at Daku island as there are more “amenities” there. Nothing fancy- some huts for rent, vendors selling grilled seafood on makeshift grills, a well to fetch water for a “shower” after your swim and a makeshift toilet- hey! Naked Island is just that, tiny, barely a tree, no amenities, but very beautiful #instaworthy. Guyam Island is a bit smaller than Daku and also had small “amenities” and your private boat can take you to all and will linger around the islands until you are ready for departure.
We also visited Secret Beach twice, as it felt like a special place to be. There was a small mangrove lake on one side and the beach on the other, and in between, a grassy stretch of land that was shaded by dozens of coconut trees- a perfect place for a picnic!
We were very excited about visiting the main attractions of the island- the Sugba Lagoon, Rock Pools, and Sohoton Cove, but unfortunately, they were closed for yearly maintenance. We were very disappointed about this, but happy to see that locals were taking care of their island so that it would not end up like another Boracay. I would highly recommend checking the yearly maintenance schedule before you book your trip.
Luckily we found out that there was a water cave on the island. The Tayangban cave tour is a guided one and lasts for about 15 minutes. My favorite part of the experience however was outside of the cave, at the cave pool where we dared to jump off rocks and swing on ropes, dropping into the pool.
There was also a lot of partying on the island, and every night, there was a designated location for a party. I was not a fan of the ones we had attended and pretty much preferred spending my nights at our dinner spot Bravo or White Banana Beach Club.
As mentioned Siargao was the last place visited outside of China since the pandemic, so naturally, I frequently think about the locals there. This island is noticeably impoverished, and while there, it delighted me to see how the growing popularity of the island among tourists had been slowly improving the local standard of living. All while, being eco-friendly and conscious of what must be done to preserve their pristine natural surroundings. And their genuine hospitality made it even easier for one to be motivated to contribute to their livelihood as a tourist. Small café owners and operators, waiters, bartenders, tuk-tuk drives and tour guides, all seemed a bit hopeful from their earnings. Positive vibes filled the air, as proper roads and bridges were finally being built, making it “easier” to get to their jobs, literally paving a way to a better future.
But what about now? What is life like now on this teardrop-shaped island? What about the small cafes, could they have sustained their businesses from 2020 until now? What about the workers that they had employed? The hotel staffers? Or the tuk-tuk drivers? I’d read that many tour guides, who were once farmers, had returned to farming as a way to provide for their families during the pandemic. And I’ve seen (thanks to Insta), that some businesses are striving on, despite the slowdown and sometimes halt in tourist traffic. I hope that things go back to “normal” sooner than later. For this little island's sake and the sake of many across the world who depend on tourism as a livelihood. And lastly, I hope that we travel more consciously- in every way possible. But until then…