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Philippines: 5 must-visit surf spots

By Mariel Abanes 28 October 2020

Header image courtesy of Ivan Torres (via Unsplash)

It isn’t only gentle waves that hit the shores of beaches in the Philippines. In fact, the country has become a hotspot for the ever-growing community of surfers. With tropical weather all year round and accessible surf destinations boasting surf breaks that form the perfect coils to ride in, this Southeast Asian hotspot is a surfer’s paradise that wave catchers ought to not sleep on.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a seasoned pro or just beginning to become acquainted with the board—the Philippines’ surfing spots bring swells that cater to all levels of surfers, along with a throng of other fun activities, and scenic attractions to boot. A surfing holiday here isn’t just all play and crash in the water—the sights, the crowd, and the laidback lifestyle add to the experience you’ll keep wanting to come back to.

Here are five surfing spots that board enthusiasts should go to when visiting the Philippines.

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Siargao, Surigao del Norte

This teardrop-shaped island has become synonymous with surfing and is rated as one of the best surfing spots around the world. Advanced surfers flock to the famous Cloud 9 area, where competitions are held every September. Tuason’s Point and Pacifico are other well-known spots for world-class waves, whilst Jacking Horse and Quicksilver are places where beginners can practice. Peak swell season is from July to November, but waves are consistently present no matter which month you choose to visit. Even though it takes over an hour by plane from Manila until you can step foot onto Siargao Island, it will be worth it.

Nearby, there are restaurants that serve a variety of cuisines. You can also check out nature-expeditions around the island in tourist sites like the Magpupungko Tidal Pools, Palm Tree Road, and Sugba Lagoon. Then, end the night by paying a visit to the lovely night scene in Poblacion in General Luna—these are just a few of the spots that travellers should cross off their Siargao bucket list.

Baler, Aurora

Spare five to six hours of travel time if you plan to head north and visit the beautiful, marvellous waves in Baler, Aurora. At Sabang Beach, surfer pros and beginners alike flock to this long-stretched beach that forms beautiful barrels, especially during the months of September to February. If you’re in for more challenging waves, best head to Cemento Beach.

After spending some time in the water, fuel your body with fresh seafood from one of the restaurants that line the coast, then enjoy a chill evening at your chosen resort with a beer in your hand as you listen to the distant sounds of the ocean. When the day comes to a close, don’t miss out on the sunset! Pay a visit to Baler’s tourist gems like the famed Balete Tree (the biggest one in Asia), Museo de Baler, and Mother Falls, and give other water activities like snorkelling and scuba diving a try.

San Juan, La Union

Here’s the surf town that reigns in the north. People on vacation and those looking for a good surf all flock to Urbiztondo Beach, where surfing and fun coincide. Paddle and catch the waves during the north swell season, which is from October to April. We recommend hitting the waters early in the morning—but you’ll be guaranteed solid board time at any point during the day if you’re in San Juan!

Elyu, as La Union is often called, plays host to some of the hottest beach events. Enjoy a music festival by the shore with hip local acts, chill with delicious bar chow and cocktails in a cosy bar or restaurant along Urbiztondo, or party the night away and dance with the best crowd. Your pick!

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

Real, Quezon Province

With thinner crowds compared to other surfing spots, Real, on the island of Luzon, is an underrated gem that can rival more popular surf destinations in the country. Reef breaks are best enjoyed during peak months of October to February. Getting here is easy as well—a four-hour drive will bring you to a modest yet high-quality spot with strong, magnificent waves for you to play in.

Since Real is quite remote, the quiet town offers a more peaceful and serene experience. Why not camp by the beach? Pitch your tents, make your own barbecue, build a bonfire where you roast marshmallows and hotdogs, and gaze at the blanket of stars in the sky.

San Narciso, Zambales

Another prized surf location can be found just three hours away from Manila. San Narciso’s proximity to the capital makes it an ideal choice for surfers who want less time on the road and more moments on the board. Travellers can book a stay at Crystal Beach Resort, which houses a surf academy and board rental facility—a convenient place to get your dose of waves to knock you until you’re satisfied!

The relaxed environment of the resort instantly puts you at ease. Alternative activities are also offered, such as sunrise or sunset yoga, as well as massage services. Guests can have access to sports facilities like frisbee and billiards. There’s also acoustic music at night, and sometimes even a fire dancing performance.

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Mariel Abanes


Mariel Abanes is a writer/editor from Manila who constantly finds herself packing her bags and exploring places in and outside her country. Apart from juggling her day job and planning out her next itinerary, she spends time immersing in the indie music scene, finding the next great read, and hopping from one social or cultural gathering to the next.