Torn between San Juan, La Union or Baler, Aurora? We have created a simple surfing and travel guide for wave-junkies like you, hope this would better help you choose between the two of the famous surf spots in Luzon:
Baler, Aurora or San Juan, La Union
Before anything else, let me tell you that this post would not be possible without the help of my fellow travel blogger Natz of Little Girl Goes Places.
1. Describe the Baler.
Natz says: The beach has clean waters, soft and smooth sand (perfect for people who ‘wade’ rather than swim), and a really long shoreline, perfect for early morning runs and casual strolling. Now add a backdrop of beautiful mountains and you’ve got a really awesome scenery to look at. (Not sure what mountains are those, exactly.)
James says: Baler is a small fishing town that has gain so much popularity nowadays because of the waves. It faces the Pacific Ocean so you expect stronger waves compared to La Union. The locals are awesome and really are nice.
2. What do you like most about Baler?
Natz says: While Baler might be flocked by tourists especially during the weekends, I didn’t feel ‘suffocated’. The number of people enjoying the beach while many, were bearable and wasn’t bothersome. It was actually nice to see different people roaming around the shore or swimming in the water. And even if there were A LOT of people surfing that day (we went during the weekend), it didn’t feel crowded.
It was also fun to wait for the waves since the other surfers were friendly too. I remember while waiting, this group of other surfers and their own instructors sang happy birthday to one of my friends who was celebrating her day then.
And it’s not just the place that I liked, but the locals too! They were so warm and friendly, especially the instructors. They know how to deal with paranoid, first-timers like me who don’t know how to swim.
James: I actually went there to surf. I love the waves the most, kinda choppy though when I was there because of the typhoon in Manila. Compared to San Juan, Baler has much longer beach break, not easily gets crowded. There is also this spot called Cemento which is their reef break.
3. Is there anything the local government can do (or stop doing) in order to make the place more tourists-friendly.
Natz says: I guess they could begin standardizing the tour rates and training guides too, just like in Pagudpud. When my other friends chose to go on a tricycle tour instead of surfing, the rates for tricycle tours varied from driver to driver. Also more homestays near the beach front! That would not only provide more options for budget travellers like me, but give business to more locals. I think most of the homestays are located in the main downtown area.
James says: I guess the on-going construction of the big hotel there at the shore is encroaching the sea. I don’t care who owns that, its an eyesore for me. Time will come that the sea will recover what belongs to her. And please Mr. WhoeverIsInPower, take a look at the road we have to endure, we don’t have 4×4 SUV like you do.
4. Don’t go home without seeing/visiting/experiencing _______.
Natz says: Surfing of course! And don’t worry about not having any knowledge about swimming. I can’t even keep myself afloat, and I’m terrified of drowning! I panic when my feet can’t touch the seabed. But that didn’t stop me from finally doing it. And I didn’t regret it!
I was scared to death at first, especially when the instructor asked me to climb the board and pushed me really far into the sea. And when my first wave came, my knees literally shook! The first hour of my lessons was terrible because I can only stand up for a few seconds before falling back to the water. Not only was my instructor a wee bit disappointed (at least I think he was. Haha), I was more frustrated with myself. I became determined to at least have one long ride.
So on our second day, instead of joining my other friends in a town tour, I decided to surf the whole morning. I was in the water for almost 3 hours, and I was riding waves! The fear of drowning went away that morning, since I conditioned myself that should I fall off my board, I would be in knee-deep water. That I think I can already manage.
And I kept going back to the water after being wiped out or otherwise. That stoked feeling is something you keep looking for, and the feeling of being able to successfully have a long ride feels really really really good, more so for me, since I don’t know how to swim. It was such a huge accomplishment for me. And I’m sure you guys will feel it too once you get on that board and into the water.
James says: Natz, is that a novel? *kidding* For me, SURFING #nuffsaid
5. Don’t go home without trying/eating _______.
Natz says: You MUST try the eat-all-you-can buffet at Gerry Shan’s Place. For only P150, you get to choose from a really wide buffet spread of various meals. That price comes with free iced tea too! This is great for budget travellers who, while trying to spend less, won’t scrimp on the food they eat while on the road.
The food, at least from my own view, was made homemade and since I’m a fan of “lutong bahay”, I kept coming back to the table. I won’t say how many times, but I’m sure I gained a few extra pounds that night. ;D
James says: You sure enjoyed the food there Natz, huh? I always ate at what they call the “Rolling Store,” those small carinderias near the Museum and Plaza. I love the “lutong-bahay” kind of food, plus it doesn’t burn your wallet too.
6. Traveler’s Tip:
Natz says: Genesis is the only bus line that has trips straight to Baler. Instead of taking the regular aircon bus trips, I would suggest you reserve a ticket on their JoyBus, which goes straight to Baler, without any stopovers. It’s more expensive, but you’ll get to save a lot of time and be in Baler real early in the morning. This would be helpful especially if you’re travelling on a weekend, where seats on the regular AC bus trips run out very fast.
Transportation: Kinda expensive at Php700 one-way to Baler but if you are looking for comfort and safety, I recommend the Joy Bus. They have three scheduled trips from Genesis Bus Terminal (New York St., Cubao, Quezon City) to Baler everyday: 12:30am; 1:30am and 2:30am. Book early as these trips gets easily full. Trip is cut to just 5 1/2 hours compared to the 7-8 hours if you take the regular Genesis AC bus. Plus, you don’t need to worry if you are bringing your surfboard, the Joy Bus has spacious compartments for your boards.
Surfboard Rental: Surfing lesson with instructor is Php400/hour. If you don’t need an instructor, surf board rental is just Php200/hour, Php400/half day and Php800/day. Try to ask for discount, I was able to rent a board for Php150/hour.
Getting around: I prefer walking around the beach and even going to town. But if you want to see the tourists spots, hire a tricycle or better yet hire a motorbike (Php600/24-hour use) to better roam around.
7. Recommendation Hotel, Inn?
Natz says: We stayed at Jam Jen’s Resort and Baler Nipa House, which is right across the main line of resorts on the shore. The Nipa House is a 2-storey building, with a kitchen and ref, and can accommodate up to 8 people. Since we were a big group, we also stayed at Jam Jen’s which is right next to the Baler Nipa House.
James says: There are many budget accommodations in Baler, just walk around and ask. Cheapest I found is Php500/day which is good for 2persons. I stayed at Pasilyo Lodge and Surf Resort, Php500/room which is good for 2pax. This can be found just at the back of Bayler View Hotel.
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That’s it, our simple surfing and travel guide if you wanna experience Baler, Aurora. Hope that helps! Before reading another article, please do check out Natz blog: Little Girl Goes Places. Check out her adventures and muses as she explores the places she visits. Thanks again Natz for the collaboration, more travels for you.