Sunscreen. This should go without saying. However, I just watched an Irish guy cut his trip short because he failed to bring sunscreen. This guy has been covered in giant blisters for days. His head, his face, his shoulders. Maybe he did bring sunscreen, and failed to apply it. Sunscreen is one of those items that simply having it isn’t enough. Please apply it also. The sun here is hot. Hot like you’ve never experienced before, unless you’ve previously been this close to the equator. Even if you think you can handle the heat, your skin surely can’t. Bring sunscreen. Apply it. Have the best trip of your life.
A reusable water bottle. Plastic disposal is a worldwide problem. Plastic disposal in Siargao is a more acute problem. There currently isn’t an elegant solution to trash reception and disposal on the island. Some plastics are burned, some are tossed in the sea, and some go to a dump that grows larger every day. A reusable water bottle will prevent you from needing to purchase and dispose of plastic water bottles. Most resorts and many restaurants have large water dispensers where you can fill your water bottle for free or a small fee. In addition to saving the planet, you also get to save money. Use your savings to buy a beer for that beautiful person you saw in the surf.
A first-aid kit. You thought this list was going to be fun, huh? Instead here I am, sounding exactly like your mom. Wear sunscreen! Save the planet! Bring a first-aid kit! Allergic reactions to bug bites, reef cuts, exhaust pipe burns; these things can and do happen. While medical supplies are available on the island, the last thing you want to be doing is wasting your time going from place to place trying to figure out which shop has what in stock. At the very least, try to carry: anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine, anti-diarrheal (I know, I know), disinfectant, antibacterial ointment, gauze, and medical tape.
A backpack or beach bag. Life in Siargao is fun, and the best plans often happen last minute. Invited on a two day camping trip? Taking a road trip up north to check out some pristine beaches? Don’t miss out because you can’t toss together a bag in time. You’ll want something big enough for a towel, change of clothes, sunscreen (!), and various other sundries. Dry bags are waterproof and ideal if you plan on spending much time in a boat or participating in water sports. Find them at Fat Lips Surf Shop. Otherwise, show off that handmade beach bag you got in Cambodia, you world-traveller, you.
Swimwear that stays put. By now you’ve probably gotten the idea that Siargao is an adventurous place. Whether you’re jumping off the rock at Magpupungko Rock Pools, or holding your breath through your best wipe-out yet, you aren’t going to want to worry about whether or not the world can see your bum. Swimwear that is adjustable is good, Swimwear that does not attach firmly to your body is bad. There is swimwear available for purchase in Siargao, but the selection is limited.
A back-up credit/debit card. Getting cash on the island is surprisingly difficult for a place that is basically cash only. There are two ATMs on the island. One is about a twenty minute drive from General Luna, and one is more than an hour. There are some international cards that the ATMS reject, for no apparent reason. Bring a second card in case your normal one is rejected. Otherwise you’ll be doing a whole lot of sitting in your room.
Mosquito repellant. Spend your evenings chatting instead of scratching. Off lotion for bugs and various natural insect repellants are available on the island. If you’re the kind of person that mosquitoes can’t get enough of, these may not be enough. Nothing seems to be as effective as good ol-fashioned DEET filled bug spray. Thankfully, malaria is not a concern on Siargao. It’s still not nice to be covered in itchy red bumps. When you go out for the evening put your bug spray on along with your party pants.
Chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, Cloud 9 bars and Choco Mucho are fantastic snacks. Delicious though they might be, good chocolate they are not. Chocolate didn’t make the list because I think you can’t live without a tasty little morsel to finish off your dinner (though that is a perfectly valid reason to pack it.) Chocolate helps build relationships. Locals and long term visitors in Siargao are friendly. They’ll happily talk to you about the island, direct you to a good place to surf, and possibly even invite you over for a meal. Want to show your appreciation? Share some of that delicious chocolate that you so thoughtfully packed.
A sarong. Sorry dudes, this one is for the girls. As a not really fashionable lady, I never knew what I was missing out on until someone gifted me a sarong. They are seriously one of the most versatile island life items you can bring. Want to have a cute bikini cover up? Shade your head on a long motorbike ride? Wrap something around your neck for warmth? Cover your sunburned shoulders? Lay on something comfy on the beach? Your sarong has got your back.
Earplugs. The traditional boats are pretty to look at, but boy are they loud. Noise sensitive people should bring earplugs for boat trips. If you aren’t one of those people who sleeps through absolutely everything, there’s a good chance you’ll want earplugs at some point during your stay. This especially applies if you’re going to be staying in backpacker accommodation. If you’ve traveled long enough, then surely you know the danger of being stuck with a loudly snoring roommate. In the Philippines, roosters and the sun wake everyone up early. If you’d like to sleep in then bring earplugs. Come to think of it, you may want an eye mask as well.