With a coastline of over 36,000 km and surrounded by water, the Philippines is a giant playground for any traveler looking to spend some time in the sea. Although the country is usually famed for white sand beaches and tranquil waters, there’s a rising generation of young adventurers looking for a bit more of an adrenaline rush. Surfing in particular is fast becoming one of the top tourist activities in the country, with the Department of Tourism implementing programs to develop the sport into a major activity, and popular surfing spots like Surigao del Norte reporting a steady increase in arrivals.
If you’re looking to add a little more spice into your beach trips, take a look below at some of the best surfing spots in the country.
Siargao, Surigao del Norte
If you ask anybody about surfing in the Philippines, they’ll more likely than not point you to the island of Siargao in Surigao del Norte. This teardrop-shaped island is home to one of the most famous waves in the country: Cloud 9, which is a hollow righthand reef wave named for the Philippine chocolate snack. Also called the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, Siargao is home to the Siargao Cup, a domestic and international surfing competition that brings in surfers from all over the world.
Baler is famed for being the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines, with local lore stating that crew members of the 1979 film Apocalypse Now left their surfboards to the locals and prompted the start of the sport. Located some 7 hours from Manila, Baler is a flexible surf spot with waves that can cater to beginners, intermediate surfers, or advanced surfers. The best waves usually hit in December to January, so keep that in mind when you plan your trip.
San Juan, La Union
Another popular surf spot is the town of San Juan in La Union, a few hours’ drive from Manila. It’s a great destination for a weekend getaway or for beginner surfers, with lots of hostels and restaurants in the area where you can meet like-minded people and unwind after putting your boards up for the day. While the swells are good all year-round, peak waves usually come in December to January. Try to plan your visit so you don’t run into the crowds!
The province of Zambales in Central Luzon lies along the western coastline, making it a haven for beachgoers and water lovers. It’s very accessible from Manila, and perfect for a beach daytrip. The waves tend to be gentler here, and a wide variety of other water activities are available for travelers who want to try a little bit of everything. Some good surf spots are the towns of San Felipe, San Antonio, and San Narciso.
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Catanduanes on the eastern side of the archipelago usually faces the full brunt of the typhoon season, but that also means some incredible waves. Puraran Beach is home to the Majestic, fast hollow righthand barrels that can go up to six feet in height. If you’re just starting out, Tilod Beach is a little tamer due to the many rock formations in the area. Catanduanes also hosts the Governor’s Surfing Cup, which is a local and international surfing competition every November where you can watch how the pros do it.
Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
The Northern coast of the Philippines is a good 14 to 18 hours’ drive from the capital, but its remoteness makes it one of the country’s hidden jewels for surfing. The most famous spot is Blue Lagoon or Maira-Ira Point, which is a beautiful blue beach with white sand and gentle swells perfect for beginner surfers. The waves get larger during the monsoon season in July to September, which makes for exciting surfing if you want a little more of a challenge.
Daet, Camarines Norte
Due to its proximity to Manila, Daet is a popular weekend destination for surfers from the city. There are several beaches for different levels of proficiency, but the most famous is probably Bagasbas Beach, where the waves are easier to get to from shore. Bagasbas makes for good surfing for both beginners and intermediate surfers alike, but you can also check out the breaks at San Jose, or at The River Mouth, where you’ll need to hire a bangka to take you further out.
Mati, Davao Oriental
Dahican Beach in Mati, Davao Oriental is one of the lesser known surf and skimboard spots, so much so that staying overnight usually involves camping out on the sands! The beach is 7 kilometers of pure white sand, and while waves can sometimes be a little difficult, the variation makes it good surfing for beginners and intermediate surfers alike. It’s also home to the Amihan Boys, local surfers and skimboarders, who are the people to go to if you want to know more about surfing in the area.
Guiuan, Eastern Samar
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Calicoan Beach in Guiuan, Eastern Samar is another little-known surf spot. The local industry is steadily rebuilding itself after the devastation from Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, and the secluded area means that you won’t have to battle other surfers for the waves. If you’re starting out or want an easy ride, plan your trip during the summer months when the waves are a little gentler. Pros will enjoy the larger waves during the stormier months of August to October.
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Gubat, a small town in the province of Sorsogon, is our final entry on our list. Although it’s quickly gaining popularity as a surf spot, the beach is still relatively quiet, which makes it a good choice for travelers who just want the water to themselves. Lola Sayong Surf Camp is where you want to go if you want to rent a board or take lessons. The surfing season starts in October and ends in March, so plan your trips accordingly!
For more reading on the best places to go in the Philippines, check out our travel section on Daydreaming in Paradise.
James Gonzales is a Filipino-American travel enthusiast and writer currently based in the Philippines. After living and working in New York for 10 years, James decided he wanted to see more of the world and leave the city behind. In the course of saving up for what would become an epic trip across Asia, he wrote about previous traveling experiences for various travel websites and publications based in the Lower East Side.
James focused on journeying through the Philippines in the hopes of understanding his roots, and began Daydreaming in Paradise to share his thoughts and experiences. He’s always looking for like-minded travelers to trade stories and swap tips with, and he hopes you’ll join him on his journey.