I’m back in Siargao—the hottest NOW thing in tourism in the Philippine. It’s only been five months since I visited the coolest surfer island in the country of 7,000+ islands (and a lot of cool!), but I notice that so much has changed.
In fact, Siargao has grown up just since I was here last, as the secret is out and major expansion is in the works. No longer is it just a crowd of local and European surfers (and plenty of wannabe’s) and elite Filipinos that visit the island, but it’s now gone mainstream. Part of that is the inevitable explosion of growth when a beautiful but underdeveloped suddenly hits the international radar.
Another factor in the island’s commercialization is the closure of Boracay – the previous most popular island in the Philippines with more than 1.7 million tourists per year. As Boracay was shut down completely to tourism and visitors while they tried to fix their environmental problems (like raw sewage pumped into the beautiful ocean), a lot of people have turned to Siargao. Both vacationers and now workers are jumping to the chill, laid back, party-vibe island of Siargao.
The result is a huge housing and accommodation shortage. Just a few years ago, the average person on the island lived in bamboo nipa huts with no aircon, no fan, and probably no electricity. But, now, there is a construction boom as they try to keep up with the volume of tourists coming in who need guest houses, resorts, and hotels.
The reason I tell you this is because when I was booking my trip to Siargao a full month in advance, my options were really limited when I was looking for a place to stay. Every place was either of the cheap backpacker hostel variety, sold out, or way too expensive (even simple resorts have carte blanche to raise their nightly prices closer to $100 and know they’ll be fully booked ).
What I did find was the Talisay House in General Luna, the small fishing town and new coastal surfing community in Siargao. It’s not a hotel but a simple one-room cottage that does sit right on the water. But instead of sitting in the lineup of resorts and surf shacks, the Talisay House is located south of the little town and its quaint sandy seaside boulevard. In fact, there’s nothing but simple local houses here, with the water filled with fishing boats.
The Talisay House is also nothing fancy, but charming in its utilitarian aesthetic. Think of a tiny house right on the water, with a killer view of the ocean and the three popular islands for day trips on the horizon.
It has a way-too-small bed, a little kitchen that’s perfectly functional, a wooden table and a dresser, and a small bathroom. The nice part is that outside, there is a tiny concrete covered patio with a table andchairs – perfect for watching the sunset with a beer and pumping some reggae or taking a swim right off of your backyard. They even have natural grass lawns and palm trees on either side, with his and her hammocks.
Even though it’s simple and out of the way, it still ain’t cheap – about $65 a night. While I find that incredibly overpriced for this area of the world and what you get elsewhere, that’s just what you have to pay in Siargao for something private and decent.
Getting past my cheapness, I do love that I’m immersed in local neighborhoods , with dirt roads where kids are running and playing , the locals all smile and wave, and a few sari sari (corner stores) and markets are the only businesses for a six-minute walk until you reach the fishing hamlet’s downtown.
Yup, I’ll enjoy my time here on Siargao and the Talisay House, and a few years from now, I bet I recall fondly my time here instead of in a big western hotel!