Because of the growth of diverse surf sites throughout the archipelago, surfing in the Philippines has continued to gain popularity among adventure travellers. In fact, the Philippines boasts over 7,600 islands, which means the surfer has a myriad of options to get good waves to surf on. Whether you are an experienced surfer or a beginner looking to learn the sport, here are several locations where you can quickly create the sensation of being stoked.
Baler, Aurora Province
A noteworthy scene from the film Apocalypse Now took place on Baler Beach, when Captain Kilgore famously said the line, “I love the scent of Napalm in the morning” from a helicopter above the beach. At the conclusion of shooting the movie, film crew members left their old surfboards behind for the locals to use. The events that followed sparked the creation of a vibrant surfing culture that has since become nationally recognised.
Baler’s lengthy coastline is lined with hostels, hip cafes, and artisan restaurants, creating a communal atmosphere where surfers from all over the world may meet and make new friends. The most well-known surfing area in Baler is called Charlie’s Point, with Cemento coming in at a close second.
San Juan, La Union
Surfing’s rise in popularity in recent years has fuelled San Juan’s tourism scene growth. All along San Juan’s shore, you’ll find hotels that range from budget to upscale. Some of the top surfers in the country call this area home, with many of them having gone on to compete in international events. There is now a thriving scene ideal for unwinding after a day of surfing, thanks in large part to trendy hostels like Vessel, Circle Hostel, and Flotsam and Jetsam. If you want to learn how to surf, you can do it in just a couple of hours at Billabong Surf Camp, where a team of seasoned surf instructors will show you the correct form of balancing on a surfboard.
Don’t surf spots such as The Point, the Bowl and the Beach Break. Other surfing spots not far from San Juan include Darigayos, Bacnotan, Sunset and Car-rille.
Dahican Beach, Mati, Davao Oriental
Although ideal surfing conditions do not last all year round, a surf season here might stretch for several months. The sands at this crescent-shaped beach are whiter and the sea appears bluer than at other surfing destinations in the Philippines. Feeling extra competitive? You might want to challenge the young locals to a skimboarding contest while waiting for the swells to arrive. A small biplane ride over the Dahican waters is another thrilling activity available here. If you happen to be in the area during the hatching season for sea turtle eggs, you may also visit a conservation facility dedicated to protecting these creatures.
Bagasbas, Camarines Norte
The Pacific Ocean is really one surfing swell factory. One of the long shorelines facing this mighty body of water is Bagasbas Beach. Here is a great place to learn surfing because like Baler, it has an extended coastline that allows surfers to paddle out and wait for waves without having to go too deep. However, the ocean’s current can easily sweep you under, so it’s important to always surf with a trained instructor. For seasoned surfers, Bagasbas beach becomes their endless playground thanks to waves that keep on coming and provides surfer enthusiasts the joy of feeling stoked.
Lanuza, Surigao Del Sur
The marine ecosystem at Lanuza Bay is home to some of the highest concentrated marine life biodiversity in the country. Many endangered aquatic creatures call this place home. The bay of Lanuza is not only beautiful underwater, but also has big swells that surfers love to ride.
In search of a more secluded surfing spot, surfers from Siargao frequently make the journey here. The friendly, little town is home to a community of surfers who are happy to teach beginners the ropes. Lanuza is a great alternative to Siargao because it is less congested.
Liwliwa, San Narciso in Zambales
The positive vibes of Zambales’ beaches draw people together for reasons beyond the sport of surfing. The beach culture becomes a magnet to a wide range of creatives, from musicians, poets, writers, yogis, and everyone from novice to experienced surfers. While surfing conditions isn’t consistent 24/7, there are plenty of other exciting things to do in the area. Liwliwa has become a go-to surfing destination for many people since it is a mere a 3-hour drive from Manila. Among the best surfing spots in the area are Crystal Beach Break and High 5 Lahar.
If you’re used to seeing fine white sandy beaches all over the Philippines, don’t allow the powdery black sands of Real, Quezon’s beaches put you off. Black sand comes from eroded volcanic material such as lava, basalt rocks, and other dark-coloured rocks and minerals.
If you are looking for surfing spots in the Philippines accessible by a few hours’ drive away from Manila and has the waves of Baler and La Union – on a good day, then Real beach is your best option.
Stories of city dwellers who sought a more relaxed pace of life by moving to this island have become commonplace. Aside from the surfing scene, there is an abundance of beautiful nature spots to explore such as natural tidal pools, secret lagoons, and endless lush green countryside. Known as the country’s premier surfing spot, many visitors choose to spend extended periods of time on the island because of its charming vibe. Famous people frequently surf in Siargao — which once included Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers, so keep an eye out for them when you find yourself on a surfing lineup.
Puraran Beach, Catanduanes
Catanduanes, known as the “Happy Island,” is home to a breathtaking terrain that includes mountains, lagoons, waterfalls, beaches, pools, and amazing rock formations. Catanduanes offer several great spots for you to explore on a motorbike across the island. Surfers, on the other hand, will find that Puraran Beach dishes a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, since the Pacific Ocean provides a reliable source of surf-able waves throughout the surfing season. Some of the top surfers in the United States compete here annually in a surfing competition.
Gubat, Sorsogon, has a long, mostly naked coastline that faces the Pacific Ocean and receives massive swells. The main spot here is called “Breeding”, typically begins to witness an increase in visitors in the month of October. Surfers from Gubat have gained national and international recognition at events held across the country and even in Bali, Indonesia. Traveling here by land from Manila will take more than 10 hours, but the opportunity to have a fun road trip with friends and the pumped sensation of surfing the waves of Gubat is too good to pass up.
Guiuan and Calicoan Island, Eastern Samar
It took some time for these two locations to recover from the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), but they remain at the top of the list of ardent surfers from all over the Philippines. Guiuan was the first to put this region on the map of surfing globally. Because of its lengthy stretch of pure white sands and crystal-clear waters, it consistently generates almost perfect barrel waves.
Calicoan Island, on the other hand, is a charming area to relax with a nice beer. This surfing site is well-known for its powerful swells that arrive from all directions. Only experienced surfers are encouraged to play here due to its high difficulty level. Eastern Samar, which is simple and laid-back, remains an off-the-beaten-path destination for vacationers, particularly surfers looking for a remote beach break.
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All photos courtesy of Nomadic Experiences.