THE ISLAND of Siargao has become synonymous to surfing, and for good reason. After all, in 2012 this once obscure island in Mindanao’s Pacific seaboard was named by CNN Go as the world’s eighth best surfing site for its 16-foot high waves.

Annually, some of the world’s top surfers converge at a spot at the edge of Gen. Luna town called “Cloud 9” to ride the barreling waves, thrill the crowd, and snatch the handsome cash prizes at stake in the Siargao International Surfing Cup.

Some say that the spot was named “Cloud 9” after the chocolate bar that surfers supposedly subsisted on in the early 1990s when the area was virtually unknown. Others say it is named after the feeling of riding the wave — heavenly, or like walking on Cloud 9.

Blue Cathedral by Rutger Gerling
Blue Cathedral dive spot

But there is more to Siargao than surfing.

Just off Gen. Luna is a string of islets with fine sand beaches and crystalline water that never fails to captivate. First stop is Naked Island, a sandbar, whose contour is determined by the changing tide. The nearby Guyam and Daku islands are lined with coconut trees and native cottages for intimate picnics. At dusk, visitors can see the sun dramatically setting behind the mountains.

Then there is the 4,000-hectare mangrove forest in Del Carmen, the biggest of its kind in the country, which helps maintain the area’s ecological balance by providing rich spawning grounds for aquatic life.

Tucked in the interior is Sugba Lagoon framed by limestone cliffs which shut the visitor from the outside world.

Magpupungko Rock in Pilar, the only one of its kind in the archipelago, is a natural clear seawater pool which appears at low tide, and is ideal for rock diving, snorkeling and free diving.

Magpupungko Beach in Pilar, Siargao Island
A natural clear seawater pool at Magpupungko Beach

As Siargao is surrounded by the sea, it is perfect for aqua sports — a must-do recreation in this in this waterworld: paddle in the flat waters aboard a kayak or on top of a stand-up paddle, ride the waves on a kite board or skim board in San Isidro, or plunge into depths of the Blue Cathedral coral reef, Siargao’s signature dive spot.

Those who can kayak longer distances can go around Sugba Lagoon and the mangrove forests of Del Carmen, or visit Naked, Guyam and Daku Islands in Gen. Luna.

And now it is not just the surfers who go to Siargao: summer now see it hosting the International Game Fishing Tournament, with top anglers congregating in the laid-back town of Pilar to catch the biggest deep sea fish.

Visitors can opt to stay at the Balinese-themed Siargao Bleu Resort & Spa (ranked by the Department of Tourism as a Triple-A resort) with its Floating Cottages, Garden and Terraces Rooms, and a 1,600-square-meter swimming pool, the biggest in the island. The Floating Cottages boast of a bedroom, an outdoor shower, a spacious Jacuzzi-equipped toilet, and a scenic veranda facing both the sea and the pool.

The resort offers water aerobics, yoga, cooking classes, bartending sessions, swimming tutorials for children, sunset Zumba, and kayaking and pool stand-up paddling. In the evenings, there are movie nights.

One can also opt to pitch a tent in the sleepy shores facing the vastness of the Pacific.