One of my favorite go-to places for a solo trip is Baler in Aurora, located 267 km away from Manila. It’s easy to go there, I know my way around, and the people are ever so nice that I consider them family. Here’s how a Saturday-Sunday weekend trip in Baler looks like for me.
Genesis is the most reliable transport service to Baler. To get seats in the luxury Joy Bus, it is best to buy them in advance since tickets can get sold out fast. In addition, you can buy your return tickets from their Manila office or online. For let’s-see-how- it-goes kids like me, catching a lucky regular trip can be for you, but take note that these trips don’t have regular timing, tickets can’t be bought in advance, and there is always a chance you’ll sit on one of those tiny and uncomfortable middle aisle seats.
Home in Baler is The Circle Hostel. For P500, I get a bunk bed with shared showers and an awesome common area. Safety-wise, I have never heard of any bad incidents happening and none have ever happened to me (the theft or assault kind). Breakfast of peanut butter, bread, and bananas are also free, but I always go overboard on my bill with coffee. However, at P40 a cup of local brew, coffee is always worth the splurge.
The hostel’s common area is a good place to chill in the afternoons or at night (they sell beers), strike a conversation with other travelers or a place to read a good book. A few weekends ago, a travelling yoga teacher was staying in the hostel, so there were yoga classes at that time as well (check their social media pages for updates). I tend to overspend on meals wherever I am, but good affordable meals in Baler include the Wapang-wapang meals (starting at P99) at Kusina Luntian, which can get crowded to best to come early. My personal favorite eating joint is The Good Food, located at Buton Street. Their grilled chicken is so soft I compare it to eating marshmallows (seriously, it’s that good). The fish tacos and grilled pork chops are also awesome (from P70 an order).
If you have a lot of extra moolah, head over to Costa Pacifica. Their pizzas are good and you have a nice view of the ocean plus some refreshing afternoon breeze at Beach House, their in-house restaurant. Coffee is also good here but for your fancy- schmancy coffee needs, head over to Charlie Does (behind Costa). I was here at night to spend some time alone and noted that they also serve craft local beers (as well as international ones).
Surfing: primarily the reason I come to Baler over and over again. I usually just end up hanging out with the boys of El Dawn Surf School, led by Kuya Jayson Iglesia. Always fun memories with that crew. They are located between Aliya Surf Camp and the North Shore (near that big hotel ongoing construction). The waves that break here are often bigger than the rest of Sabang beach (waves get bigger as you move up north), so I’ll end up surfing in front of Aliya Surf Camp. However, this spot is usually not as crowded, so it’ll be me, the boys, and a few locals in the lineup. Surfing is also best before the wind blows in, so that’s early morning before lunch or late in the afternoon. Lunch time before leaving Sunday was fish and grilled eggplant with the crew. It always humbles me how these people own so little but give so much. This is why I consider them family.
Leaving Baler is always bitter sweet and 30 or so hours are never enough but hey, there’s always another weekend coming up!