Great surf, great coffee, and even greater amounts of black sand ending up in all the wrong places. Known for its laid back vibes, or lack thereof when you drop in on a local surfer; Raglan is a long time favourite of mine.
Its coordinates place it amidst the vast and ominous west coast making it the perfect candidate for a winter getaway or a dreamy summer adventure.
Where to Stay in Raglan.
A swift 2 hour drive from the bustle of Auckland City will lead you to Raglan’s doorstep. There are accommodation options to suits all; a highly prized $10 campground (you’re lucky I’m sharing), Raglan backpackers or the holistic Solscape.You’ll be spending most of your time outdoors, so don’t get too caught up in the details.
Food & Drink
There is a small collection of cafes and bars in Raglan township. Quality over quantity sure rings home in this instance. The infamous Raglan Roast coffee is found at the back of Volcom Lane, so wake yourself up with a drop of their goodness. The Shack is on-point with its mouth-watering breakfast options. Find yourself hungry come lunch time then Aroha Sushi will relinquish your fuel tanks. Their donburi bowls are outta this world! Post surf beers can be tracked down at the Good George brewery. You’d be missing out if you didn’t finish your night at the quirky Yot Club.
Bridal Veil Falls
Set in an abundance of native New Zealand bush, the Bridal Veil Falls are truly mesmerising. A 15-minute drive off the main road plus a 15-minute walk will deliver you to the bottom of these mystical, fairyland falls. For you muppets who always manage to get lost here’s a detailed description of how to get there.
You can’t claim you’ve been to Raglan unless you’ve had a crack at surfing. With surf breaks for all levels, the town has established itself as a surfing mecca. Channel your inner Kelly Slater and head to Ngarunui Beach (main beach) for lessons. Further south, the waves wrap around the rocky point offering left-handers for miles. Manu Bay is the first point break followed by Whale Bay further round the coast. These spots are often busy so the early bird gets the worm.
On a strong westerly wind, Raglan is a strong contender for best kite spot in New Zealand. A huge estuary fills the gap between Raglan and the Te Akau hills. The tidal pull is strong giving a magic carpet feel when kiting, landing upwind of yourself when jumping. The team at Ozone Raglan offer great introductory lessons.
An absolute stunner of a sunset can be captured on the West Coast, parking up at Manu Bay would be my recommendation. Watch the softly saturated scenes disappear into darkness from the vantage point of your vehicle. Beer, book, surfed out kinda vibes.
The perfect elixir of wilderness and suburbia, Nelson proves itself as a primo New Zealand destination for all ages; as long as you remember the bug spray. Autumn is a truly stunning time to visit the region, landscape inundated with rich orange hues. The humble Nelson airport is situated 5-15 minutes from the rest of town making it easy to navigate to your accommodation.
Day One: Takaka Hills, Golden Bay, Te Waikoropupū Springs & Anatoki Salmon Farm.
Make the trek over the mighty Takaka Hills to reside in the Golden Bay area for the day. Here you will find an overwhelming amount of walks, waterfalls and activities, limiting yourself to just one day here is almost cruel. Stop for caffeine at Courtyard cafe to fuel yourself for the day ahead.
First stop, Te Waikoropupū Springs. These are the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand. Their flirtatious crystal blue water makes it hard not to jump in, however, please don’t be a noob and do so, these springs are sacred. The short loop track will leave you almost as speechless as the amount selfie sticks you’ll spot tourists with here. Truly gram worthy.
From the springs continue the blissful drive around the coast to Tata Beach for a picnic lunch. Should you not find Freshchoice supermarket rolls and hummus a satisfactory lunch, takeaway spots are scattered (scarcely) en route to Tata Beach. Enjoy the course caramel coloured sand and uncrowded blue waters of Tata Beach.
If you have some extra hands on the clock, check out the Grove Walk or Wainui waterfall which are both located on the route back to town.
If you like salmon, fishing at Anatoki Salmon Farm is an essential addition to your trip. Summon your inner Bear Grylls and cast your rod, the fishing pool literally contains thousands, so you won’t be disappointed. The experience is truly wholesome, set at the bottom of a valley rife with stunning New Zealand landscape.
While the sun’s still awake make the journey back over the Takaka Hills.If you’re parched after a hard day adventuring then stop at The Toad, a great eatery in Motueka.
Day 2: Nelson Lakes National Park & Tahunanui Beach
Set off early to the Nelson Lakes National Park. The journey is around 1hour 30 from Nelson township. The Mount Roberts track is a great day walk if you’re short on time. It took us about 3 hours to complete the track, not one if you’re feeling dusty as a steep incline is included! The area is utterly stunning, picture perfect hills race down to meet Lake Rotoiti’s edge.
Bellies will be hungry after the 3-hour walk, so pack a lunch and enjoy lakeside. A note of caution: sandflies will be out to get you so make sure to pack bug spray.
Carrying on the theme of picnics and pretty landscapes head down to the main Nelson beach, Tahunanui Beach for sunset. Whatever your poison, the quality Nelson takeaway scene will be sure to cater.
Day Three: Nelson Markets, Wine-tasting & Mapua Wharf
After an action-packed few days unwind a little with the Saturday morning market. These markets scatter the town’s main streets so won’t be hard to miss. Fresh Nelson produce, art and clothes are all plentiful. A developing cafe scene in Nelson means you will be able to find a drop of liquid gold after your morning market antics.
The best thing about a city flush with vineyards is the wine-tasting, of course. So jump on a bike, grab a sober friend or pile on one of the many organised tours for a day tasting in sunny Nelson. Have a look at the various wineries that offer tastings here.
End your tour in Mapua Wharf, where old meets new in spectacular fashion. Funky art shops combine with newly developed eateries to provide a well-rounded wharf area. We devoured lunch at The Apple Shed followed by ice-cream at Alberta’s both exceeding expectations.
Wind: May to September is the best time to visit Sri Lanka for kiting, the middle ground providing the best conditions; absolutely nuking, in fact. Sri Lanka’s winter season runs from mid-December to March. In these months you’ll sacrifice consistent wind, but the absence of crowds and turquoise blue waters will make up for it.
Getting there: Kalpitya is located a three-hour drive from Columbo Airport. The slightly traumatic journey will set the pace of Sri Lankan driving for the remainder of your trip. Most accommodation will offer transport from Columbo Airport to Kalpitya Lagoon. An array of villas and hotels surround the edge of the lagoon – with options to suit all budgets. We stayed at Sun Wind Beach Kalpitya which was a truly amazing and authentic experience.
1) KALPITYA LAGOON
If you’re in Sri Lanka for kiting, I can guarantee you’ll have heard about this spot. The expansive lagoon offers relatively flat water and a steady breeze, with room for everyone to shred. Located on the sand-bar lie handcrafted huts for you to rest and eat; only once you’ve kited till you drop. You can launch from villas on the east side, but preference lies to do this from the sandbar. On the outer edge, you’ll find the Indian Ocean with swells gently lapping the beach.
2) VELLA ISLAND
Is the creme de la creme of kiting spots in Kalpitya. A one-hour boat ride will deliver you to Vella Islands doorstep. Here you will find yourself in kiters heaven. A large sand spit offers butter-flat goodness, filled with inviting clear water. We opted to stay the night, sleeping under the stars – not as romantic as it sounds when hoards of flea-ridden stray dogs also inhibit the island and decide your tent is a good toilet! Nonetheless, I would 100% recommend this surreal experience.
3) KAPPALADY LAGOON
Another lagoon located a (very) bumpy 20-minute scooter from the Kalpitya base. Whilst it is very small and can only accommodate 10 riders at a time, it makes up for its size with strikingly flat water and winds steadier than the main lagoon.
*Pictures are from the main lagoon. Didn’t snap any of Kappalady.
4) MANNAR ISLAND
What a spot. Mannar Island is located an intrepid 5-hour journey from the kiting hotspot of Kalpitya – elephants, monkey and crocodile sightings included! It is well worth the extra travel, you will be rewarded with acres of flat water for all to share. This spot is notoriously winder than Kalpitya, all the more reason to go. The sandbar which stretches out for miles actually connects to India! Don’t get any ideas though, the navy heavily patrol this edge of Sri Lanka. Small swells greets the outer edge of the sandbar.
Four weeks of sun-kissed skin, dazzling blue waters, intrepid adventures and friendly locals.
Getting There: Fly into Caticlan Airport, you will most likely require a stop over at Manila or Cebu. Boracay is a great first stop in the Philippines – everything designed with the tourist in mind. You wont find yourself short of tuk-tuk’s to take you to the Boracay Jetty, don’t pay more that 150PHP. Once here the check in process is smooth – make sure you have proof of accomodation! A short and sweet ferry ride will deliver you to Boarcay’s doorstep.
Day one: Swim in the alluring blue waters of White Beach, eat until your heart is content, drink a little too much (hello hangover) and dance the night away – repeat this for days 2 & 3!
Boracay has eateries and bars densely scattered along the waterfront of White Beach. There are plenty of vendors trying to sell you tourist activities, but to be honest I would avoid it in Boracay, it’s pricey compared to the rest of the Philippines and more epic adventures await on the other islands.
Great coffee and great vibes from Sunny Side Cafe. If you’re after a flavour-full Mexican Fiesta try Tres Amigos. Finish up with a delicious coconut based ice-cream from Coco Nanas. Most of the bars along White Beach have happy hour deals – so definitely capitalise on this.
The options are endless for accomodation on Boracay, there truly is something to suit everyone. For a more luxury hotel service try The Summer Palace Lovely staff and great location! The Mad Monkey Hostel on Bulabog Beach – if you’re not planning on sleeping. Seriously comfortable rooms and a super clean hostel. If you’re all about location, location, location, check out the Sundown Resort. This resort sits at Station 3 which means less crowds and more glorious white sand beach to yourself.
Getting There: Fly into Cebu City airport, here you will get your first real taste of a Pilipino city. It’s busy and chaotic. If you came to escape the hustle and bustle, hop on a bus from the South Station (not in the airport terminal); for 150PHP you can find yourself in Moalboal. If you’re tired and not feeling that stoked about a 5 hour, no air-con bus ride – get a Grab taxi and split it between 4 people. Significantly more at 700PHP, but hey, we like our air-con and we got there in 3 hours.
Day one: I can’t recommend Savedra Villas enough. Right on the water’s edge and in the middle of town. For NZ$43 you can have your own double private room with a balcony. So check yourself in, grab a San Miguel from the mini bar and enjoy the view.
Day Two: We spent more time under the water than on land. Grab a snorkel or book a scuba dive and away you go. Activate your inner mermaid (or man) to spot countless turtles, sardines and other marine life in abundance.
Day Three: Visit the renowned Kawasan Falls! Yes, it’s busy but it totally lives up to the hype. You must have a guide to go canyoneering, which can be easily sourced from the Moalboal town centre. Go in the early morning to avoid the crowds.
You will not regret the extra travel to this island! Fly from Cebu City to the only airport in Siargao. Your won’t find it hard to get a taxi from here to General Luna.
Day One: Check in to Bravo Resort, a stunning beach front resort with great rooms, tours and a restaurant. This resort has a great location right in the middle of General Luna.
Day Two: Surf safari! Siargao has an amazing nightlife scene so no better way to get rid of a hangover than hitting the waves. Get in touch with the office at Bravo and get either a lesson or rent a board. The locals know the best spots and best tides, so ask away.
Day Three: Hop on a boat tour from Bravo Resort. Check out the jaw-dropping neighbouring islands with a fantastic guide from Bravo. Enjoy a delicious meal on one of the Islands; of course rum & coke is included.
Day Four: Magpopongko Rock Pools. Rent a scooter or hire a van and head to these awesome pools. Infatuating crystal blue water fills the crevasses of the rocks; watch the surf roll in from the comfort of your own infinity pool! Make sure you visit on low tide. On your way you’ll get to see the “Million Dollar View” and other stunning spots around Siargao.
Day Five: Surf some more and enjoy your last day in this island paradise! If you’re not adventured out book a tour or rent a scooter and check out the Scuba Lagoon. Rum and cokes got the best of us, so we wrote this adventure off – bear in mind it is a whole day mission to make it to this spot.
Catch a flight from Siargao to Puerto Princesa. There are flights which go directly to El Nido, but these triple in price. Puerto Princesa is a gorgeous sea-side town – why wouldn’t you want a stop over here!.
Day One: Make a bee-line for Puerto Princesa Boulevard and join in on local festivities. We arrived on a weekend so there was a colourful market in full action. Don’t forget to check out the op-shops in town – I made some outstanding purchases for less than 70PHP.
Day Two: Book a van to El Nido, this can be booked through your accomodation (most places will offer this). Prepare yourself for 6 hours of driving! The scenic drive helps you pass time. Check into Outpost Hostel if you’re up for a bit of party combined with stunning views.
Day Three: Boat tour time! We did a combination tour of tour C & D which we loved. It is a bit overwhelmed deciding which one to do, they all see some pristine islands. Two tours combined was definitely enough for us. You won’t have trouble booking these, majority of accomodation and street stalls will provide them.
Day Four: Hangover recovery! There is some great nightlife in El Nido which can make for sore heads the next morning. Spend the morning basking in the sun, rent some kayaks from Outpost Hostel and sweat out the alcohol voyaging to near-by islands.
Day Five: Give yourself a day to explore El Nido town and surroundings. The town itself has epic views of the islands nearby – pretty hard to tire of! Great food options and the nicest shopping I had spotted in the Islands. Note of caution: many people catch food poisoning in El Nido so be a little careful of what you’re eating.
Consistent wind, turquoise blue waters, friendly locals and plenty of authentic experiences, are just a few of the many reasons the Philippines should be on your kitesurfing holiday bucket list.
There are two windy seasons in the Philippines. One called Amihan (northeastern monsoon), which runs from November to March. There is another windy season called Hagabat (southwestern monsoon) which makes an appearance between the months of May to October. The former is known to be more unpredictable and inconsistent, therefore I would recommend traveling between the months of November to March.
1) Bislig Beach, Mindoro.
Our first kitesurfing stop set remarkably high standards for the rest of the trip. The quaint Bislig Beach is situated 1 hour 30 minutes away from the St Jose Terminal in Mindoro. This is an easily accessible slice of paradise, located a mere 30-minute plane ride from the hub of Manila. We stayed with the team at Amansinaya Resort who arranged for a taxi to come to pick us up. This is pretty much the only accommodation option if you want to kitesurf Bislig Beach.
On arrival we experienced a wee bit of sensory overload – beautiful bungalows lined the property, rows of palm trees neatly surrounded the beach front and of course, there was wind; lots of wind. A 10-second walk to the beach in the morning will determine the urgency of your need to hastily arise from slumber to kite, or return back to bed. The beach is protected by a small reef which flattens out the windblown ocean. Due to Amansinaya Resort only having limited spaces, you’ll never find the kite beach overcrowded.
We managed to get on the water 8 out of the 9 days we stayed there – pretty good statistics considering we visited in November (the start of the season). We found our quiver size ideal, one 9m and one 12m . In the midst of the season, you may want to consider something slightly smaller, dependent on your weight of course.
I can’t recommend this place enough, the raw beauty of Mindoro conveys an extremely pure vibe to it – definitely something you wont find in other tourist hotspots such as Boracay and Palawan. There are plenty of non-kiting activities should you find yourself kited-out; these include pristine waterfalls, free-diving, sunset watching at a local village and exploring the neighbouring towns.
2) Aslom Island
Located just a short boat ride away from Bislig beach, Aslom is a must if you’re visiting Amansinaya Resort .
After a 15-minute boat ride, questioning whether I’d need to get out and swim, due to the suspiciously unstable nature of the narrow boat – my fears were adverted and we arrived dry.
A small sand spit extends out one side of the island to offer butter flat water. We kited the day away, taking turns to rest on the sand bar – this way there was flat water for all. Local kids were joyed with our presence and we even halted the work of nearby fishermen.
The kitesurfing here is pretty sensational, but the experience in its-self sure contributed to the high levels of stoke after kiting this spot.
3) Sugicay Island
Another spot we experienced thanks to the help of Amansinaya Resort. A short downwinder from this picturesque island led us back to the main kite beach at Bislig Beach. This secluded island is enveloped by crystal clear water and is home to a sleepy village.
This wouldn’t be a post about kitesurfing Philippines without the mention of the infamous Boracay. The island is well renowned for being a kitesurfing mecca. To be perfectly honest I didn’t have high expectations, due to horror stories of 300+ kiters in the bay. However, I was left pleasantly surprised; the kite beach wasn’t overcrowded, relatively clean and the wind was consistent.
With an array of dining options you won’t find yourself going hungry. The Island is well known for the nightlife too, so if this is your cup of tea certainly pay a visit. We stayed at Mad Monkey Hostel which is close to the kite beach and certainly lives up to it’s social reputation.
Caticlan is a quick transit point for many on their way to Boracay, the ferry is located seaside, in this vibrant town. While most only spend a total of a few hours in Caticlan – we decided to unfollow the sheep to Boracay and spend a few nights. This was well worth it.
We stayed at Blue Orange Kite Villas right on the lagoon’s edge, one that’ll make you drool. Not quite the butter-flat of Boarcay but it makes up for this in lack of crowds and minimal sea-urchins inhabiting the sea-floor.
The contrast between the two islands is remarkable, in Caticlan, not another tourist remains in sight. We went to explore further into the region and discovered some pretty spectacular sights.
What an island! Although the wind here is pretty fickle you can definitely keep yourself occupied with some world-class surfing if the wind doesn’t pull through. I wouldn’t recommend going here if you’re solely looking to kite, nevertheless this was one of my favourite islands on my trip.
Getting to Siargao can be tricky but is well worth the effort. It is easily accesible from Cebu (arond 30 minsute flight) other options are some rather lengthy ferry journyes.
It is important to note the rainy season is different in Siargao . Between the months of December to March is the supposed “rainy season”. We visited in December which definitely wasn’t rainy at all. I have heard stories of people getting stuck here due to poor weather, but I wouldn’t let this effect your decision too much.
Gatorade blue water fills the epic lagoon, while waves break around the outer edge. This sensational flatwater spot is a dream when the wind works. Unfortunately, there was only one possible kitesurfing day out of the week we stayed there. A few kite schools line the beachfront making renting of gear feasible.
Other Kite Spots in the Philippines
There is an oasis of untouched islands in the Philippines, many I’m sure are kiteable. Unless you’re spending a year here it’s impossible to make it to all these spots, but I’ve compiled a list of pretty rad looking kite spots I will be back to check out someday.
This place is relatively out of the way, but check out the huge sandspit and you’ll instantly be seduced. Have a look at this site which has a range of accommodation options.
This place received glowing reviews from multiple kiters on our trip. Definitely one to look into if you enjoy wave kiting. In saying this there is flat water kiting before the edge of the reef – everyone wins! The travel of this place did put me off, it sits at the northern most point of the Philippines. Google maps says an 11 hour drive, but would recommend doubling this with traffic and limited transport options!
I did visit El Nido but didn’t manage to go kiting here. The wind didn’t really seem worth it. There are some pretty amazing looking spots here though, about 1-2hours away from the tourist hub of the west side beaches.
Travelling and kitesurfing the Philippines was a pretty surreal experience. The diversity between the mecca of islands felt like we were travelling through different countries, not the same, yet Philipino culture still managed to intertwine itself across the 7000 plus islands. I will be back Philippines!