If the Philippines is one of the most amazing countries in the world, offering an endless natural playground among its 7,600 tropical islands, the central Eastern island of Siargao is one of its best. Siargao, called the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, is also the new travel hot spot for tourists, backpackers, and nature lovers, aside from the flocks of Filipino and European surfers that visit the island. There are so many great things to do in Siargao aside from surfing, but one of my favorites is paying a visit to the Magpupungko tide pools. The best of the best of the best, by proxy, these tide pools are one of the coolest natural wonders I’ve seen and experienced in the whole world.
Located in the tiny coastal community of Pilar on the northern side of Siargao Island, it takes a little effort to arrive there. I ended up renting a moto-taxi driver to bring me the two hours on winding roads up into the mountains, down into jungle valleys, past emerald rice fields, and through humble villages to reach Pilar.
It was a hot, dusty, roller coaster ride, and easy to get lost if you don’t know exactly where to go and what turns to take. But I do know that some foreigners rent their own motos and take the trip without a driver. I didn’t realize at the time, but you can also reach Pilar and Magpupungko Beach and pools by sea. It’s easy to find a local boat captain to take you up there in a local barka, or pontoon type fishing boat, or motorized tourist vessel, and it only takes one hour by sea.
Reaching Magpupungko Beach, it looks not too different from the scores of other little beach communities on the island, with a line of palm trees near white sand and blue waves. My driver took me to the gate where I bought a ticket to enter and signed my name in their tourism register.
We then walked past the beach, up the coastline a few hundred yards to the tidal pools, which were seriously something to behold.
Tidal pools are areas of rock and coral along the coastline that have deeper pockets. When the tide is low and goes out, it leaves seawater in these deeper areas, creating natural pools of different sizes and depths. Of course, when the tide comes in, the whole area is underwater, and you can’t detect anything different.
These tidal pools are even bigger, as I soon found out. After walking across coral and sea moss, I reached the pools, which were as big as round swimming pools. They were also shockingly deep, as you could jump in or even dive in at many spots and not even come close to the bottom. But the water was warm and salty and just as aquamarine blue as the ocean. It was so cool to paddle around and explore the different pools, including huge boulders that created mini tidal pool islands in the center.
Further along the coast, we found a natural rock formation that was jaw-dropping, as it was a huge boulder perched on top of a cliff as if someone put it there. In fact, it was balanced so delicately that it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t rock and come crashing down. I learned that it’s named after the Visayan (local language) word for squat, “pungko,” as if the rock is squatting over the coastline below.
It makes for insane photos (I wish I’d brought more than just my iPhone!) and a fantastic day of exploring, swimming, hiking, and even snorkeling or just laying around the nice beach. There are plenty of small restaurant shacks and places to buy cold beer or fresh buko – coconut water – right there, and it’s a must-see when you’re in Siargao!