Looking for the best surfing spots in the Philippines? That shouldn’t be a problem. With 7,107 islands making up our little archipelago, it’s no surprise that we have beautiful, endless beaches and gnarly waves to get every thrill-seeking surfer’s blood pumped up.
So, what are the best spots to go to during surfing season here in the Philippines? Here’s a quick list of our top picks for tourist surfers based on their skill levels, how to get there and around, what to eat, and what other things to do while there.
Main Image: Eugene | Flickr
Surfing history in the Philippines
How surfing started in the Philippines is actually very vague and who did it first and when is still up for debate. Most fingers, however, point to those U.S. service members who arrived in the Philippines back in the 1960s and brought with them surfboards and started riding the waves surfing. The popularity of sport sharply rose after the filming of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” in 1976 – a movie that featured an iconic surfing scene taken on the beach of Baler.
By 1992, surfing in the Philippines has become a booming sport, thanks to the challenging waves that come from typhoon swells. Surfing competitions were up and running with generous prize money and a marketing budget. Though surfing in the country has become a good business, most locals still surf just as a staple part of their life rather than as an activity that pays.
Today, surfing continues to draw big sponsors and hold major events that contribute to the further development of the country’s surfing culture, and there’s even a pro tour to have. The Philippines, by now, has all the features of a tropical surfing paradise.
Hottest Surfing Spots in the Philippines
NOTE: There may still be COVID-19 protocols in place, so make sure to check the local government guidelines before planning a trip to any of the following places.
Siargao, Surigao Del Norte
Skill level: Intermediate and Advanced
Siargao is mainly responsible for introducing surfing and its culture to the country, rightfully claiming the moniker of the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines.” Most travelers, both local and foreign, come to Siargao just to experience surfing on a whole new level. They say that Cloud 9 in Siargao is the place where you can experience surfing like no other. Additionally, this island has always been a venue for both local and international surfing competitions., And Siargao is not just about surfing, as it is also home to exciting nightlife and plays host to other activities such as cave explorations and rock climbing.
How to get there
There are two ways you can travel to this prime surfing spot in the Philippines, which is in the province of Surigao Del Norte: flights or ferry.
Flights – Siargao has its Sayak Airport, which is located in the municipality of Del Carmen. Finding flights should be easy as local airlines from Clark, Manila, Cebu, and Davao have regular direct flights there.
Ferry – Many travelers prefer to reach Siargao via ferry or “Ro-Ro” (roll-on-roll-off) from Cebu. This can be a significantly cheaper option than booking a direct flight to Sayak Airport.
How to get around Siargao?
Once you’ve set foot on Siargao, there are options on how you can get around the island depending on your budget:
Motorcycle (“Habal-Habal”) – You can hire local motorcycle drivers or even rent out motorcycles called “Habal-Habal” to get around the island especially if you’re traveling solo or in smaller groups. These are quite popular for tourists as riding motorcycles around the island can be an adventure in itself. It can be easy on the wallet too!
Tricycle – Another cheap and popular option to travel around the island is tricycles. Tricycles can accommodate 2 to 4 passengers and feature an immersive open-air experience. These serve as a taxi, and you can find and hire one anywhere in Siargao.
Van or Car Rental – If you’re traveling in large groups, you can rent a van or car to get around the island. This is perhaps the most convenient option but also the costliest.
Where to eat in Siargao
- Kermit Siargao – Italian cuisine, best known for their homemade brick oven pizza.
- Lamari Bar & Restaurant – Known for their extensive bar choices and international dishes.
- Bravo Beach Resort – This restaurant serves authentic Spanish cuisine as well as other international wonders.
- Shaka Cafés Siargao – For those with a vegetarian diet, this café serves innovative and tasty food and smoothies made from locally sourced produce.
- Kawayan Siargao – This premier resort is known for its very luxurious villas and fine-dining scenery.
What else is there to do in Siargao?
When in Siargao, you’re on an island, so all you have to do is sit back and relax and look at all the natural picturesque sceneries. At night, you can experience island partying like no other in areas such as General Luna.
San Juan, La Union
Skill level: All levels
Bear with us as this can get confusing. Siargao is the surfing capital of the Philippines. San Juan, La Union, on the other hand, is certainly one of the hottest surfing spots in the Philippines too. In fact, it is the surfing capital of the North. The Urbiztondo beach break, for one, offers highly consistent waves for many frothing beginners and surf school students. The good right point waves at Monaliza Point are for the more advanced surfers. San Juan has become the surfing capital of the north because of its good waves, rapidly growing availability of resorts and an excellent offering of local cuisine, and welcoming people.
How to get there
From Manila, you can easily get to San Juan by driving or taking a bus.
By Car – Easily, from Manila, take the NLEX to TPLEX and then exit at Pozorrubio going to McArthur Highway and continuing along the bypass road of San Fernando, La Union until you reach the San Juan-San Gabriel Road. You can also use Waze or Google Maps to lead you to your destination.
By Bus – Some bus companies take you to La Union from Manila. However, it is best to take the Partas bus line as they’re the only ones offering direct routes from Manila to San Juan, La Union.
How to get around San Juan
Walking – It’s a prime surfing spot in the Philippines, all right, but San Juan is relatively small, so you can easily get around on foot. Walking along the entire stretch of the commercial beach area from end to end should take you only around 20 minutes.
Car – If you take a car to San Juan and if you’re feeling lazy to walk, you can easily drive along the highway and there should be ample parking space in major points of interest.
Tricycle – There are no taxis or any other similar modes of transportation so you may resort to using a tricycle to get around.
Where to eat in San Juan…
- Tagpuan – A small hole-in-the-wall that offers Filipino rice bowls. Try their bagnet rice bowl.
- Sabong La Union Fried Chicken – As the name suggests, expect fried chicken in many varieties. From Korean soy chicken to chicken glazed with honey and bagoong, they have it all.
- El Union Coffee – One of the very first establishments in San Juan that make the place a foodie destination too. Enjoy a cup of cold brew coffee or the Mexican horchata.
What else is there to do in San Juan?
Aside from surfing, you can visit the Tangadan Falls which is 20 minutes away from Urbiztondo. You can also try something new like picking grapes in Bauang, a nearby town. End the night with a party over at Flotsam and Jetsam, where most people vacationing in San Juan drink every night.
San Narciso and San Felipe, Zambales
Skill level: Beginner and Intermediate
For city dwellers, these towns are their favorite surfing spots in the Philippines because of their proximity to Metro Manila. They encompass the first proper beach stretch you’ll reach when you drive away from the metropolis heading North. The waves here may not be as consistent and large as the ones you’ll find in San Juan or Siargao, but the vicinity is still quite a nice place nonetheless. It’s perfect for those just starting to learn how to surf. There are two spots you can visit for surfing in Zambales: Liw-liwa, more commonly known as just “Liwa,” is located in the town of San Felipe. It hosts a variety of developing rustic resorts and food joints. Crystal Beach is a major resort located in the town of San Narciso.
How to get there
These are two ways that you can reach these Zambales towns if you are coming from Metro Manila:
By Car – Take the North Luzon Expressway and exit at SCTEX to gain access to Subic Bay. Once in Subic Bay, locate the exit going to Zambales and the 306 National Highway going North. From there, you can keep following this road until you reach San Narciso and then San Felipe.
By Bus – You can go to any of the Victory Liner stations and take a bus bound for Iba or Sta. Cruz. Remember to tell the driver or conductor that you will be getting off at San Narciso or San Felipe so that you won’t miss your stop. Once there, you can hire a tricycle to take you to the beach resorts.
How to get from Liw-Liwa to Crystal Beach and vice versa
Liw-Liwa and the Crystal Beach resort are small areas so you should just be able to explore their entirety by merely walking. However, the two beaches are almost 6 kilometers apart, located in the towns of San Felipe and San Narciso respectively so you may need to get a transport to reach one from the other:
By Car – If you have taken a car with you, just keep heading along the national highway. If you’re coming from San Felipe, head South. If you’re coming from San Narciso, head North.
By Bus/Jeepney – You can take a Victory Liner bus either going North or South depending on which town you want to reach. There may also be jeepneys passing by the national highway. Simply hail one down for a ride.
Where to eat in Liw-Liwa and Crystal Beach
Sad to say, these places are still developing, and food places are yet to be discovered and reviewed. Crystal Beach Resort has its own restaurant, of course. On the other hand, Liw-liwa has small eateries that serve local cuisines. There is word going around that there are tasty taco joints, food bowls, and other food places set up there already. Surprise yourself by trying each one of them! Otherwise, get ready to grill what you buy in the local market.
What else is there to do in Zambales?
Apart from surfing, you can camp at the Anawangin Cove, unwind at Nagsasa Cove, or go island hopping.
Skill level: All levels
Aside from being one of the top surfing spots in the Philippines, Baler also has the distinction of being the birthplace of Philippine surfing. It is home to the oldest and largest community of surfers in the Philippines. Fun fact: This surf spot was discovered during the filming of the Hollywood movie “Apocalypse Now.” The film was about the Vietnam War, but most of the major scenes were shot in the small town of Baler. After filming, the crew left behind their surfboards, which local children used to teach themselves how to surf. Today, surfing in Baler has become a popular weekend activity for the local population and those from the city.
How to get to Baler, Aurora
By Bus – Genesis is the only bus liner that offers trips directly from Metro Manila to Baler. Their terminal is located in Cubao. You can take the executive luxury bus called Joy Bus or opt for the cheaper, regular air-conditioned bus.
By Car – It’s going to be a 5 to 6-hour drive from Manila. You’ll have to go through NLEX and SCTEX before exiting at Tarlac 122. Turn left to Aliaga and then drive to the Maharlika Highway in Talavera. Look for the sign that says, “To Baler.”
How to get around Baler
Tricycles – These are the most common mode of transportation in Baler and are the cheapest too. The minimum fare is only P10. However, you can pay P700 for a whole-day tour of the whole town for a maximum of four people.
Where to eat in Baler
- Kusina Luntian – A local eatery that features typical hut interiors and authentic Filipino food. Treats are served in banana leaves and coconut bowls.
- The Beach House at Costa Pacifica – This premier restaurant offers a breakfast buffet. It features an extensive selection of international and local dishes. It’s mostly known for its wood-fired pizzas, longganisa, and paco (seaweed fern).
- Sonia’s at Surfer’s Garden – An alfresco bar and restaurant in the middle of a coconut forest. They serve local dishes such as their specialty, laing (dried taro leaves slowly simmered in coconut milk).
- Bayler View Hotel – Their in-house restaurant offers local favorites. If you’re a meat-lover, try eating their boneless crispy pata.
- Madison’s Café – A unique fusion of Italian and Filipino food, serving café favorites such as pasta, paninis, sandwiches, and cakes.
What else is there to do in Baler?
Aside from surfing, you can also tour the rest of the town. Check out the well-preserved museums and churches or even take a refreshing dip under a waterfall.
Apart from being the hottest surfing spots in the Philippines, all the aforementioned places have their unique characteristics. These set them apart from each other and other tourist spots in the country. If you’re an active surfer or a surfer-to-be, you should include them in your bucket list.
Want to know more about the great places you can visit around the Philippines? Need helpful tips and tricks to make your trip enjoyable and memorable? Check out our other articles here at enta.ph/resources.