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Introducing Siargao

After several days of either riding the waves or simply watching others take them on, your mission to decompress and take it easy accomplished, it's still difficult to pack up and leave. Siargao (shar-gao) is the kind of place that seems to give off a magnetic force, transforming weekend-long stays into weeks or for the handful of foreign surfing lifers now calling the island home, forever. Time spent here makes you ask the existential question, 'Why can't I do this every day for the rest of my life?'

Until recently, when Siargao was plucked from relative obscurity by officials hoping to make it one of the shining stars in the Philippines' tourism firmament, the only visitors were Filipino day-trippers and seriously laid-back and committed Aussie and American surfers. Land values have gone up tenfold in the last ten years and the Cloud Nine surf break is now on the international surfing trail map. Siargao has plenty of natural attractions for nonsurfers too: beaches and rock pools, extensive mangrove swamps, inland forest and waterfalls. Wildlife includes tarsiers, flying lemurs and monitor lizards. Attractive islands are nearby, especially Bucas Grande with Sohoton Cave. This is not the island for people seeking an active nightlife, but the resorts are enough for a quiet sunset drink or two.

The Siargao Cup surfing competition, one of the largest international sporting events in the country, is held in late September or early October every year. Surfing can be good from April to October and is great on the northwest coast during the northeast monsoon, but as with many places in the Philippines, surf can't be guaranteed. Surfboard rentals can be found in resorts around the island. Booties are highly recommended to protect your feet since the break is along a reef and not the beach.

Deep caves like the Blue Cathedral and strong currents mean experienced divers only - for diving trips try the bootstrap Siargao Island Diving Inc on General Luna St, or go to the Pansukian Tropical Resort.

The port is in the main township of Dapa. On arrival you'll probably want to head straight over towards General Luna (known locally as GL) and 'Cloud Nine', where the low-key beach resorts are located.

Wherever you are on the island, room rates increase during surfing tournaments and Holy Week. There are no banks and only two places to access the Internet: Patrick's on the Beach near GL and the Siargao Institute of Technology (per hr P30; 8am-8pm) in Dapa.