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ASIAN DESTINATION great
Gathered from previous travels of Living Asia Channel correspondents and fellow explorers, with cooperation of local tour guides, is a collection of information on various Asian countries and its provinces to make traveling easier for the common tourist.
COSTA PACIFICA, BALER
Time Zone +8:00 hours from UTC/GMT
Baler is renowned for its surfing waves, lush forests and breathtaking mountain views. It is the hidden treasure of eastern Luzon, beloved by a healthy surfing community. A coastal town in the province of Aurora, Philippines, it faces the Pacific ocean and has a thriving fisheries industry nurtured by a warm and friendly people. If you’re looking to find a balanced travel experience that has lots of time for surfing, lounging at the beach and exploring hidden coves, then Baler is for you.
HOW TO GET THERE
Take a leisurely drive to Baler passing through the North Luzon Expressway and the Subic–Clark–Tarlac Expressway. The travel is winding along the mountain side of Aurora. The travel can be taxing, with a distance of 274 kilometers from Manila, but the roads are well paved and the signs leading there abound. Expect to travel about 5-6 hours journeying northeast of Manila. Be careful of the buses that frequently ply the same route, as the winding roads often blindside speeding cars.
Bus lines travel to Baler daily, most leaving from midnight till around 7 AM. These air-conditioned buses are not famous for their comfort but they can make the trip in about 5 hours. You can travel direct to Baler or take a detour at Cabanatuan City before taking another bus to Baler. There are also bus lines from Baguio City, should you want to include it to your trip. The bus ride from Baguio city to Baler is about 3-4 hours long.
For an average rate of Php 10, you get to the main spots within the city on a motorized auto rickshaw or "Tricycle." These can also be rented out for half a day to hit destinations outside of the city and it will set you back around Php 400 for a maximum of 4 people. “Trike” drivers can also double as tour guides at no additional cost.
Pro Traveler Tip! "Build Rapport with your tricycle driver."
Locals are friendly in Baler and building rapport through shared meals and warm conversation can allow you to extend your rental arrangements. They can also help you talk with other locals and business owners. But never let them hold your money or pay on your behalf.V
Like much of Luzon’s east coast, the months of November to January have cooler weather, while February to June is hot and humid. Facing the pacific, the typhoon season usually starts from September to November. Not a problem for surfers, as the waves begin to pick up around this time as well. If you are traveling during the typhoon season we suggest you ask advice about emergency contingencies and typhoon protocols at the municipal office.
Surfing in Baler is consistent year round with the best months to hit the waves between October to April (North Swell).
WHAT TO DO
The surfing community in Baler has defined the experience of this destination. Many enjoy the variety of waves along the coast. Sabang beach is the main beachfront, with waves more ideal for beginners. There are surf rentals in almost every establishment along the main beach. Boards rent out at about Php 400 for half a day plus an additional Php 200 per hour should you be needing an instructor.
For experienced surfers, here are the main spots you can also visit:
Safety Tip: We recommend you inquire about areas that are safe for surfing and swimming. Ask about undercurrents and adhere to beach warning flags.
Enjoy sweeping views of Baler bay, Sabang Beach and the Pacific ocean atop Ermita hill. A 20-minute drive from the beachfront, it’s an ideal rest stop for picnics.
Baler Lighthouse (Dicasalarin Cove)
The pointed structure at the edge of the cove in Dicasalarin is the Baler Lighthouse. Climb it’s 175 steps and have an unhampered view of the Pacific ocean. Watch out for the turtles that frequent these parts.
Trek to the mother falls passing through shallow waters, bamboo bridges, and rich vegetation. The 140 feet high waterfall is the prize at the end of this journey. To get to the start of the trail, you can hire a tricycle, which costs around Php 700 for a maximum of 4 people (roundtrip).
Balete Park (half an hour away)
The balete tree (banyan tree) at the Balete Park (also known as the Millennium Park) is believed to be at least 500 years old. It spans 15 meters, so wide you can go inside and explore. Less than 30 minutes from the town proper, it's an inexpensive yet fascinating experience.
Boardwalk along Sabang Beach
Stroll along the boardwalk and savor the views, enter into the resorts along this strip of coast and if the waves are too strong for you, take a dip in the pool facing the sea at Costa Pacifica Resort.
Dona Aurora Quezon Ancestral Home
Baler Church (Infamous Siege of Baler)
Museum of Baler
OTHER NOTABLE SITES
Dimadimalangat Islet (Southern Most Tip of Baler)
Tromba Marina Sculpture (In Ermita Hill)
There is an assortment of local resort and hostels in and around Baler. Costa Pacifica Resort is currently a complete option for those who want a healthy balance of pampering and surfing. The resort also offers an international menu, a spa, and sea-facing infinity pool.
Home Rentals and Homestays.
If you are all about roughing it, you can opt to rent a house a few meters away from the sea. These do not offer hotel amenities and you may need to prepare everything you'd need in advance. From towels to tissue paper and at times even cookware, it's best to ask your renter what amenities they can provide.
Pro Surfer Tip: If you’re seeking a more secluded surf spot search for home rentals outside the city. These are usually owned by fellow surfers who are already prepared for what you need.
The food options to enjoy in Baler have, in the last decade, opened up to a variety of flavors, with seafood central to most of them.
The Beach House - A place for intercontinental dining, they pride themselves on having the best breakfast buffet, while their lunch and dinner menu captures the local flavor of Baler. See more on our episode on Costa Pacifica.
Grill houses abound in Baler. Try the liempo sisig or grilled pork belly mixed in with peppers, calamnsi (Philippine lime), and other spices.
For a seasonal treat, head over to the guys at Good Food Project usually along Button Street (Opposite of Sabang Beach). The soft shellfish taco is a must but may run out early so try to get your hands on them as soon as they open between lunch and dinner.
Filipino Tapa abounds in Baler and there are few quick roadside eateries that serve up these sweet soft meats. Some also serve premium instant coffee and are open as early as 6 AM.
Seafood at the Public Market - Grill your own fresh catch by heading over to the public market. From yellowfin tuna to octopus and lobsters, the seafood selection at the market can be overwhelming but is certainly worth multiple trips. The stores are also stocked with wasabi, light soy sauce, olive oil and more to elevate your grilling game.
What to Bring Home:
Seafood (If you can manage to bring a cooler with you consider bringing some seafood back with you)
Suman (Sweet Ricecake)
Nanay Pacing’s Homemade Pasalubong
WHERE TO STAY?
WHAT TO EAT?