A sudden change of plans left me and my travel buddy Rian with no plans at all but to just drive to BALER. Spontaneity kicked in and since this wasn’t the first time we traveled with no plans at all, our strategy was to always think of the first thing we’ll do in the morning and then take it from there. Being in the island of pacific waves, surfing was #1 on our list and so our adventure starts in the sea.
Baler is the provincial capital of Aurora and it is a 5 to 6 hour drive from Manila. It’s not only one of the best surfing spots in the Philippines but it is also home to numerous natural attractions from cliffs to waterfalls to grand rock formations. The vibe is very laid back all throughout the day so don’t expect strobe lights and blasting speakers at night.
Being first timers in Baler and in surfing, we hired a surfing instructor who also happens to be a tour guide. We asked him to come with us to some of the attractions and as for the rest, we just got tips and directions and went on our own.
Suddenly our schedule was packed with so much activities and places to visit! Oh, we made the most out of our weekend escape for sure!
THINGS TO DO IN BALER
SURF AT SABANG BEACH
For Php 350 (200 for the board and 150 for the instructor) an hour, you can conquer Baler’s waves whether you’re a beginner or a pro. Surfboard rentals go for 200/hour, 400/half day, and 800/whole day.
Best to hire an instructor if you’re a newbie like me to know the proper way to surf and to guide you all throughout your surfing experience from positioning your surfboard to cueing you to get ready, set, and surf!
CLIMB AND ENTER THE MILLENNIUM TREE
Surviving 6 centuries, Aurora’s famed Balete tree has not only stood the test of time but it is also the largest of its kind in Asia. People were once allowed to climb all the way to the top by holding on to and stepping on the vines; however, new rule says you’re only allowed to climb up to 3 meters now — that’s still pretty high and risky for a climb with no harness or a helmet, if you ask me.
Afraid of heights? Go through it! There are guides there who would gladly tour you INSIDE the tree and even take photos of you — trust me, they have the best photography skills complete with good angle shots and Panoramic tricks and effects!
HIKE AND SWIM IN THE MOTHER FALLS
Also known as the Ditumabo Falls, it stands 140-feet high and man, they call this falls “MOTHER” for a reason! It is the biggest waterfall in Aurora and the water’s drop is strong that it almost blew us away when we were in the water and I’m not even exaggerating! My friend Rian even said, “it’s like a hurricane!”–OK, she exaggerated.
Getting there, you would need to hire a tricycle and leave your car parked where the tricycles are. We were told that no cars are allowed beyond that point and a tricycle ride is Php200 per person, round trip —whoa, steep! Eventually we found out that cars CAN pass through that road. Ripped off.
Moving on, upon reaching the drop-off point, you are to take another 20-minute hike before reaching the Mother Falls.
You’d know you’ve touched down as soon as you see mist fill the air and hear the water roar. The Mother Falls is GLORIOUS.
MARVEL AT THE ROCK FORMATIONS OF DIGUISIT BEACH
The sand is not as fine as Sabang Beach’s but Diguisit makes up for it with its gorgeous scenery!
Find shade in the many huts lined up on the beach or walk on the rocky ground and climb the rock formations, any spot you choose is a sure spot for a perfect photo!
GET AWESTRUCK WITH ERMITA HILL’S VIEW
History says that in 1735, a huge tsunami hit Baler and Ermita hill was the only land not submerged in water. Seven families survived by climbing the hill when the tsunami happened and the seven people in the Ermita Hill’s sculpture represent the 7 families.
Today, Ermita Hill also serves a perfect viewing spot of the whole of Baler.
CROSS THE HANGING BRIDGE
A typhoon recently hit when we went there so we were discouraged to cross the bridge as it caused some damages to it. However, if and when it gets fixed, I think it would be fun to cross it and see the view from the middle.
It’s a private beach that can be accessed for Php 300. I hear the beach is great and there’s a lighthouse you can check out too.
If you’re up for a tour package, you can ask your resort to set that up for you or you can ask some of the surf instructors to be your tour guide too — yes, some are licensed tour guides.. at least ours was so make sure and be safe.
WHERE TO STAY
There are lots of resorts side by side for you to choose from in Sabang Beach — which is the best area to stay when in Baler.
You’ll see them everywhere. If you’re on a tight budget, you can rent a room in one of the many transient houses in the area.
For a more upscale experience, this is your bet. It’s a beach front hotel with a nice pool and perhaps even nicer rooms. It’s pricey though for a Baler resort but if you’re after comfort, this should be worth it.
BAYLER VIEW HOTEL
Conveniently located on the beach front, you’re not only close to the waves but you’re also assured of clean and decent rooms and good service for an affordable price.
BALER SURFER GRILL
You won’t miss it while walking in the beach strip! It’s that restaurant with a Volkswagen Beetle right in front that they turned into a grill—yes, from engines to a grill! They serve good barbecue meals and the overall vibe is really cool too.
YOLLY’S IHAW-IHAW AND SEAFOOD
If you’re looking for fresh seafood, let your stomach lead you here! It’s a carinderia-style restaurant that serves different dishes but their best-sellers would be the huge shrimps, crabs, and lobsters displayed upon entering the restaurant. It is located in the main road of the town proper.
YELLOW FIN BAR AND GRILL
It’s a good place to enjoy some drinks with your friends while indulging in grilled seafood. Located behind Bay’s Inn.
Don’t count on it, there’s no such thing! Rian and I tried looking for a bar to hang out but to no avail. I think most people sleep early when in Baler because they wake up early to surf. We ended up enjoying a cup of tea in a nearby cafe.
HERE’S TO SEE HOW OUR ITINERARY LOOKED LIKE
8:00 PM – Leave for Baler + Late Dinner in NLEX
3:00 AM – Arrival in Baler
9:00 AM – Breakfast
10:00 AM – Surfing at Sabang Beach
12:00 NN – Check out and transfer to another hotel
1:30 PM – Balete Park
2:30 PM – Mother Falls
4:00 PM – Hanging Bridge
5:00 PM – Back in the hotel. Power nap.
7:30 PM – Dinner
8:30 AM – Breakfast
9:00 AM – Surfing
12:00 NN – Check out and lunch
1:00 PM – Ermita Hill
2:00 PM – Diguisit Beach
3:30 PM – Drive back to Manila
THE DRIVE. The road going to Baler is steep and full of zigzags. Some parts of the road are narrow, some are under construction, some are rough, and around 2 hours of your drive will be dedicated to zigzags. LOAD UP ON COFFEE. Stay alert. BUT pace your liquid intake because you’d have to hold it in once you enter the zigzags.
DOGS. Try not to bump them – they own the road. They’re everywhere.
SUNSCREEN. Apply and re-apply.
SUNRISE. Baler is also known for its beautiful sunrise. Try to wake up around 5:30 AM to see it.
EAT LIGHT. They say you should never eat a heavy meal right before surfing (We totally broke this rule)
GPS. The signal is good in Baler for all networks so you should not have a problem navigating around the area using a GPS especially when touring around.
HOW TO GET THERE FROM MANILA
GENESIS – Airconditioned Bus
Go to the Cubao Terminal
Trips are from 3 AM to 7:30 AM with 1 hour interval6-7 hours travel time
550 pesos one way
JOYBUS DELUXE – Airconditioned Bus
Go to Cubao Terminal
2 trips: 12 MN and 1AM (No Stopovers)
Has reclining seats and a comfort room onboard
Snack, WIFI, blanket, pillow, and toiletries provided for all passengers
650 pesos one way
Want to check out other surfing spots in the Philippines that’s just a road trip away from Manila?