The second day of our tour in Surigao del Norte is a road trip to the town of Pilar and Del Carmen. We were fetched by the van driver at General Luna and ventured on a one hour road trip to see Magpupungko Rock Pools, our first stop that day. The best time to visit is in the morning so it’s not too hot and it’s low tide so you can walk on the tidal pools.
The sandy shores will greet you as you walk towards Magpupungko Rock Pools, a natural carved tidal pool with deep and shallow blue waters, where you can take a refreshing dip with small fishes amidst the hot sun.
The name Magpupungko Beach was derived from the odd-shaped boulder resting on a flat-surfaced stone that’s found in the middle of the rocky stretch. The boulder is shaped like a human head that’s facing sideways when you look at it from a distance. It’s also known for its limestone formations.
This is where we finally found an authentic local dessert called Salvaro, a delicious cassava crisp that’s fried and drizzled with caramelized coconut cream or chocolate syrup.
There’s also a refreshing buco juice sold and several food stalls selling Filipino dishes like breakfast staples of tocilog, tapa or fresh fruits. Travellers can take a break to eat under the coconut trees.
Next stop is the serene mangrove forest at the town of Del Carmen. We toured the 8,620 hectares onboard a traditional banca boat. It’s recognized by the Department of Natural Resources and said to be the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the Philippines.
Our last stop for the day was Sugba Lagoon where we paddle board on the lagoon surrounded by the gorgeous limestones. It’s quite a peaceful treat to cap the tiring yet fun day around Surigao Del Norte. You can also go snorkeling and see the fishes swimming in the emerald waters of the lagoon. There’s also a cliff diving spot at the lagoon connected to the three level bamboo house where you can chill and eat if you don’t feel like doing the water activities.
On our third day, we spent the day in General Luna. We were lucky that it was also fiesta season in Siargao and around three locals invited us to their house to eat. So we had lunch with our local guide Ronnie at his home and his wife cooked several Filipino dishes. It was great to mingle with the locals and his family as we converse about life in their province under the coconut trees in their backyard.
The trip to Siargao was also my birthday trip and it was also that day. We decided to go to General Luna and chill out to watch the surfers paddling in the sea, trying to catch some good waves. I was too tired to go surfing after the fun-filled couple of days so it was fine for me to just chill and take it all in, the local laidback beach life of the island in Mindanao.
I was also able to spend the night before my birthday at one of the popular party hostels in Siargao, Viento del Mar. It was unexpected that the locals and other travellers I met celebrated my birthday while partying the night away. It truly made my vacation quite memorable!
In General Luna, there are a handful of pretty good restaurants you can dine in. For my birthday dinner, we ate at Bravo Beach Resort. The resort has a beachfront bamboo style restaurant that has a laidback vibe. It’s a Spanish restaurant with good food. A bit pricey but worth every penny. Try their Hummus (Php260), Taco Poblano (Php280) and Peri-Peri Chicken Thighs (Php310).
If you’re looking for good pizza, dine at Altrove. It’s a nice bungalow cozy Italian restaurant that has one of the best oven brick pizzas in the island. We love their thin crust Pepperoni Pizza (Php410). Also check out Kaizen, a good Japanese restaurant in Siargao. Their Du30 Roll (Php 390) is so good you have to try it!
There’s more to Siargao than just surfing. It was surprisingly still clean despite the number of tourists that flock to this part of the Philippines. Hopefully, it stays this way as its one of best features of the island.