What to See, Eat, and Do in Baler, Philippines!
February 12, 2019
by Juliann Savard
When you say “surf” and you say “Philippines” you will most likely hear “La Union” “Siargao” or “Baler,” but everyone knows the OG of surf spots in this archipelago is and always will be BALER. What people DON’T always associate with Baler is the fact that it is so much more than a surf spot, Baler is a must-go travel destination in the Philippines. So you’re probably thinking, “Ok, well then what do I do in Baler?” Plenty, my friend, plenty. It has easily become my favorite beach vibe and hang and I would move there if my life wasn’t based elsewhere. So let me just run you down a few places to stay at, food to eat, and things to do when you decide to become a Baler baby yourself!
Where Can I Stay in Baler?
I’ve been to Baler three times in the last year (2018) and have stayed at six places while visiting, three places in one visit, funny enough.
On my first visit to Baler, we were happily lodged at a cute, almost boutique-like lodge right next to the beach. Its location was pretty convenient, seeing as it sits comfortably right in the midde of Aliya Surf Camp, where a lot of events happen at night and the main road.
With only a few rooms available at at time, it’s safe to reserve in advance but trust me, these rooms are worth it. Decorated in nautical-styled beds, white linings and wallpaper, every detail serves the name: Oceana. If you’re lucky, you can even reserve a second floor room where there’s a terrace you can sit out on and watch the sunrise or if you never get up before sunrise like me, the sunset. Prices range around PHP4,000 a night.
Amihan Aplaya Lodge
On my second visit to Baler, fortunately for work again, we were situated at a lodge right next to Oceana! Literally, side-by-side and beachfront, too! Amihan Aplaya Lodge, in my humble opinion, has a more cottage feel to it with wood interiors and exteriors: made up mostly of bunk beds, a neat bathroom, and chairs and tables right outside to enjoy the breeze or hang around with your family/friends.
There are rooms ranging from 2-3 persons sized or family rooms for larger groups, with the same price at around PHP4,000 a night! I prefer Oceana Lodge to Amihan Aplaya but both lodges are quaint, with friendly staff, and there’s nothing better than waking up to the sound of the sea so near you!
Nalu Surf Camp
That led us to Nalu Surf Camp! Which was actually in my top three originally, but they were fully booked on my first call. Luckily, on my second try they said they had an available single room for two nights. We packed our bags again and headed over to the resort, and we were happily surprised to see that it was decked out with a lawn of tables and chairs facing the ocean and had its own restaurant!
The only catch is that their rooms are kubo-styled and that means if you get a single or double room, it may look cute to be in a small, hut-like cabin, but…there’s just no space. So for our second night, we were squished in a tiny room, two of us on the bed and one extra mattress for my other friend. With the mattress included, it came to about PHP3,000 for the night.
Finally, on our third attempt, we hit jackpot! I had heard many good things about Surfhouse Baler seeing as it was a newly-built hostel located on a side road near Sabang Beach. Some of my friends had stayed here before and I knew they only had 4 rooms so I was wary that they wouldn’t let us come in so last minute but thankfully they were gracious, and not only that, they gave us the largest room for the price of a single room because the aircon wasn’t working!
So we basically had a house to ourselves and only spent PHP3,000 like our night before that with quadruple the space. I highly recommend Surfhouse Baler as place to stay at in Baler and suggest you get the large room we did! With a group of 5-6, it’s easy to split PHP8,000 (its original price).
What Should I Do in Baler?
Besides surfing, there’s so much to do in Baler! Of course eating is always part of the plan, but we’ll get to that later. If you just want to beach bum, then Sabang Beach has a perfectly good shoreline and hotels/restaurants lined up on it if you want to grab a snack or a drink.
Obviously, if you do want to learn how to surf, there are instructors willing and happy who will most likely come up to you and ask if you want to take some lessons. Just don’t get fooled! You should only pay PHP300 an hour and no more! But if you want to do some exploring, this is where I would tell anyone they must go.
It’s like another world. It’s like discovering a secret spot. It’s like heaven on earth. And so on and so forth, there are many ways to describe what is personally my favorite private beach, Dicasalarin Cove. And you just have to see it to believe it.
On my first visit, I was able to walk the little hike trail leading up to the sun dial on top of the cliff, but that was about it. So I NEEDED to go back a second time and simply enjoy the sand and sea, with barely anyone else around.
If I were you, I would do the hike to see what all the fuss is about over this sun dial, but plan to spend an entire afternoon here soaking up the sun on one of the most pristine and cleanest beaches I’ve ever been to. These photos just don’t suffice!
The Rotonda Art Space & Cafe
If you’re looking for a good time in Baler, just ask a local. They’re probably all hanging out at the Rotonda Art Space & Cafe. After a long day of surfing or exploring Dicasalarin Cove, you want your day to slowly shift into a chill night of relaxing, grabbing a few cold ones, and chatting with the locals.
The Fat Mermaid is one stall in the Rotonda Art Space & Cafe where you can try unique concoctions, like the “Baler Baby.” If you go within the first part of the year, you will most likely be served by two American dudes who own the bar and spend 6 months here and 6 months back in the States! They’ve given their cocktails a few funny names, but don’t worry, everything’s safe to drink. Right beside it is the famous Palas Chori Burger stand which you will end up getting because a day of that much activity makes a stomach active. Sit back and watch a screening of a surf documentary they may have playing or just admire the artwork around the space and if you’re feeling really spontaneous, there’s a tattoo parlor inside! Plus, adorable dogs strolling around for your petting.
Where Should I Eat in Baler?
The most important part of this blog: food. If you’re like me, I’m also searching for the best food spots to go to in an area. The Philippines in general is known for its amazing cuisine, but Baler has the advantage of being seaside and also slightly hipster so your variety of meals is abundant!
What? No, that’s really the name of the restaurant. Pretty cool, huh? What’s even cooler is it’s completely vegan and they’re not even trying to trend. The owners are pure vegans but have somehow been able to attract even the biggest carnivores (like myself) into their cozy, little nook right smack in the middle of the main road.
They put a spin to their dishes which would fool you into thinking it’s meat! But even their pure veggie meals are a delight, and well, we’re all trying to be a little healthier right? I’d go back to Charlie Does for one thing always though, and that’s the coffee. Start your day here with a nutritious breakfast and a flavorful iced coffee!
Another great place to go for breakfast or lunch is Crash Pad, which doubles as a restaurant and a hostel. Serving local to international food, I was surprised at how many choices there were. Having gone back three times, I never skipped getting something different at this bamboo, dorm-like looking resto, but my favorite had to be the bacon brekkie!
While we were staying in Surfhouse Baler, we were right next to Crash Pad and at night, we found out that they did live acoustic sets and anyone was welcome to jam with the band, fun!
If you’re looking for a good ol’ grilled meal complete with all kinds of seafood and meat, Yellow Fin is the place to pig out. They grill right on the spot with a menu ranging from liempo to chicken to shrimp, squid, tilapia, bangus, marlin, you name it! Now seeing as everyone wants grab some grub here (and there seems to be a shortage of staff)/ the lines can get pretty long but it’s worth the wait! Just try to get to the resto a little bit earlier than dinner time and order quick!
You can even stay the night and check out the bar on top that not only serves your favorite beers or liquors, but also serves up a hot set of music that you’ll be singing along to. I’m talking 90’s classics, guys! We ended up having two dinners practically because the Destiny’s Child and Spice Girls jams just wouldn’t stop playing.
Well there you have it! Places to stay, things to do, and food to try in beautiful Baler! If you ever make it to this part of the Philippines, you may see me there hanging by the beach or down at Rotonda trying to blend in. Mind you, these are just a few out of the many places to check out and see, including other beaches, surf spots, restaurants/bars, and hostels/hotels, but my Baler travel itinerary worked for me so I hope it does for you, too! Now come on, it’s time to become a Baler baby!