BALER: A PRACTICAL TRAVEL GUIDE FOR DIY & BUDGET TRAVELERS [UPDATED as of 2021]

Note: As a precautionary measure in this time of COVID-19 pandemic, it is best to check with the authorities the updated travel requirements and possible restrictions that might affect your travel plan. Contact Baler tourism office at tourism_baler@yahoo.com or at +63 907 085 7947 or the office of the municipality of Baler at info@baler.gov.ph or at +63 907 933 8202 to know the latest update.

Remember to always follow the health and safety protocols imposed from your travel origin to your destination. I wish you a safe trip ahead!

Traveling to Baler for the first time? This detailed DIY travel guide is exactly what you need. Scroll down and take note of the outlined information from sample itinerary and budget, best places to visit, top things to do, recommended transports, budget-friendly accommodations, and other travel tips. Have a fun and enjoyable trip ahead!

START HERE!

BALER AT A GLANCE

At the eastern part of central Luzon, 5 hours away from Manila on a land trip, lies the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines – BALER. This small town, which has been the capital of Aurora province, is conceivably the cradle of the first surfing community that started in 1970s when it was made as a film location of the American epic war movie Apocalypse Now. Rumor has it that the film crews left behind their surfboards for the locals to try on. Thereafter, the surfing culture spread out and has flourished to what it is today.

Surfing in Baler
My second surfing experience, first time was in Siargao. 😉

Surfing is what makes Baler tick. But that’s only looking at it on the surface. Baler gets more interesting as you dig deep into its past and explore further into its underrated attractions. Its story of how 6 families out from a thousand survived from a humongous tidal wave that hit its coast back in 1735 and of how the Filipino revolutionaries emerged victorious against the Spanish colonizers during the siege of Baler in 1899 – are two highlights of its rich history that are definitely worth uncovering. Not to mention, Baler is endowed with an array of natural wonders riveting with composites of beautiful rock formations and sweeping landscapes. Truly, it is a destination worth going for.

A replica of the surviving family from the 1735 tidal wave that hit the coast of Baler.
A replica of the surviving family from the 1735 tidal wave that hit the coast of Baler.

WHERE TO STAY IN BALER

The best place to stay in Baler is near Sabang beach where most of the surfing activities happen. Below are top-rated accommodations near the area:

REDDOORZ PREMIUM
Rating: 9.1 | Price: P455 for a room good for 2 adults and 2 kids
Near Museo de Baler
Click the photo for details.
VER AMARE PLACE
Rating: 8.9 | Price: P898 for a room good for 2 adults and 1 kid
Click the photo for details.

Here are other recommended accommodations near Sabang beach: (click the link for details)

Lukso-lukso islets
The rocky shore of Lukso-Lukso islets.

HOW TO GET TO BALER

There are no flights going directly to Baler, Aurora. For now, the only means is to go on a land trip from difference places in Luzon, as shared below:

Via Manila

The total travel time from Manila to Baler is roughly 5 hours, depending on the traffic. To get there, head out to Cubao Bus terminal and choose any of the two (2) Genesis Transport service buses below which go directly to Baler.

  • Joy Bus, an executive bus type which offers free wi-fi, snacks, blanket and pillow if you feel like sleeping on the trip. Bus schedules are as follows: 12:30 a.m., 1:00 a.m., 1:30 a.m., 2:30 a.m., and 5:30 a.m. Bus fare is P650 or P730 depending on the schedule.
  • Regular aircon bus, fare is P450. The bus departs hourly from 2:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m.

Alternatively if your travel schedule doesn’t match with the bus’, take the Manila-Cabanatuan-Baler route. Go to the bus terminals in Manila at Cubao, Caloocan and Pasay. Take any bus that goes to Cabanatuan city. Daily trip is in an hourly basis. Bus fare is P200, travel time is 3 hours. At Cabanatuan Central terminal, take another bus or van to Baler.  Fare is around P230, travel time is another 3 hours.

Daguisit Rock Formation
The rock formation of Daguisit at sundown.

TOP TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN BALER

Here are top eleven (11) tourist spots that you can cover in a day tour or with an itinerary for 2 to 3 days while in Baler, Aurora.

SABANG BEACH

Sabang Beach of Baler

Sabang beach is where all surfing happens in Baler. It’s a vast beach of fine, gray sand that casts a mirage display of clouds and the near mountains on its sea on a bright day. The water is shallow but comes with big swells while the seabed is sandy which makes the beach a more suitable place to swim and to learn to surf for beginners than in any place in Baler (or arguably in the Philippines). Alongside the beach are a lineup of resorts from budget to luxury, restaurants and cafes and other forms of social entertainment. While here, frolic around and feel the vibrant sense of community among surfing enthusiasts.

Rating: 4/5

MUSEO DE BALER

Museo de Baler

Museo de Baler (or Baler museum) comes off with an intricately eloquent facade. Pay a visit for an entrance fee of P35 on any day of the week except Sunday from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and discover the roots and Hispanic heritage of Baler through its display of paintings, sculptures and works of art.

Rating: 3/5

DOÑA AURORA HOUSE

Doña Aurora House

Fronting Museo de Baler, across the street, is the well-preserved Doña Aurora house. It is a small, simple, wooden house but quite a large offering for people who loves history. It showcases the traditional Filipino way of living, and the life of President Manuel Quezon’s wife, Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon, on her devotion to charities and humanitarian causes. The house opens to guests daily from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Entrance fee is P30.

Rating: 3/5

BALER HANGING BRIDGE

Feel the bridge shaking on your every step, Baler Hanging Bridge is definitely not one for the faint-hearted. This steel-cable foot bridge jumps over the shallow water of Sabang River that dries out a third of its areas on a low tide. At the end points of the bridge are souvenir shops which offer the cheapest price in all of Baler, better buy your items here.

Rating: 2/5

ERMITA HILL

Ermita Hill

Ermita Hill is the very place where the only surviving families ran to escape the enormous tidal wave that hit Baler back in 1735. At the foot of the hill are life-sized statues of the surviving families installed in recollection of the saddening catastrophe.

Ermita Hill
The drawn out steps to the Cross at the top of Ermita Hill.

To reach the top, guests will have to climb through the 250-drawn out steps before reaching the 30-feet cross placed at the farthest part of the hill. There are also viewing decks in some areas where you can catch Baler in 360-degree view.  Entrance fee is P15, parking fee is P10.

The 30-feet cross at the top of Ermita Hill.
The 30-feet cross at the top of Ermita Hill.

Rating: 3/5

DIGUISIT BEACH & ROCK FORMATIONS

The rock formations nestled along the shores of Diguisit is a photographer’s dream. During sunrise, the light peaks through the mountains while during sunset, hues of golden blue and yellow bend at the back of two boulders that make an aisle for the flickering sea water to pass. It’s gripping and astonishingly beautiful.

Diguisit Beach and Rock Formation

The shore is creamy white with coarse sandy seabed. Access to the rock formations can be through any beach resorts in the area. Entrance fee can range from P20-P50.

Diguisit Rock Formation
Diguisit Rock Formation during sunset.

Rating: 3.5/5

DIGUISIT FALLS

Diguisit Falls

Diguisit falls is small with a catch basin good for 10 people at most. It’s beside the road and climbing up to it would only require 2 to 3 minutes. Careful on your way as some parts to the waterfall are slippery. Entrance is free.

Rating: 3/5

LUKSO-LUKSO ISLETS

The rocky seabed leading to the islets. It’s not the only way though so don’t fret! 😉

Lukso-lukso islets are three beautiful rock formations at the coast of Diguisit. The distance among the islets is only a hop away. Thus, its name “Lukso-lukso” or hop in the local dialect. During low tide, the shore at this section of Baler seems like a desert with rocks rough on its surface. Entrance fee is P10.

Lukso-lukso islets

Rating: 3.5/5

BALER LIGHTHOUSE & ANIAO ISLETS

Baler lighthouse is one of the most scenic places in Baler. To get to the lighthouse, embark on a 15-minute trek from the main road to the hill where it is installed. Get some help from the locals who usually await for guests in exchange of a certain fee.

Baler Lighthouse

At the top of the lighthouse is a fascinating view of the Ania islets fronting a cove with a backdrop forming a beautiful lush terrain.

Baler Lighthouse
The scenic view at the hill where the lighthouse is installed.

Rating: 4/5

600-YEAR OLD BALETE TREE

Millennium Balete Tree

The millennium Balete tree in Baler is by far the grandest in scale that you can find in all Balete tree attractions in the Philippines. It’s hanging roots strangle to form a cave where you can freely go inside; it’s sturdy and makes for a perfect climbing wall to reach at least the midpoint of the tree. Entrance fee is P15 (another P10 if you will go inside the tree), parking fee is P10.

The back part of the tree.
The back part of Balete tree.

Rating: 3/5

DITUMABO MOTHER FALLS

Ditumabo Falls

Arguably the biggest waterfall in the province of Aurora – Ditumabo Mother falls is towering with all her might at the town of San Luis, 40-minute drive away from Sabang beach. It possesses a strong cascade that drops 140-feet to its cold, emerald-green catch basin.

Ditumabo Mother falls
One of the small overflows from Ditumabo Mother falls.

Going to the waterfalls is relatively easy which requires a 30-minute trek over rocks and streams; it is rewarding with all the scenic views and the refreshing waters of the waterfall. Entrance fee is P30, parking fee is P30, and tour guide fee (which is a requirement) is P200 per guide.

Rating: 4/5

TOP THINGS TO DO IN BALER

Here are top things to do and activities that are worth a try in Baler, Aurora.

  • Surf! Baler is the best place to learn this water activity. It’s definitely worth an experience.
  • Go around and check out the beautiful rock formations in most of its beaches and islets specially at Diguisit.
  • Learn the roots of Baler and the different highlights of its history that helped transform the coastal town into the beautiful community that it is today.
  • Feel the vibe and hang around with locals. Baler is filled with happy and fun folks.
Sabang Beach
At Sabang beach, about to surf for one more time.

BALER SAMPLE ITINERARY & BUDGET

The best way to get around Baler is to charter a tricycle or a van for a day tour as the attractions are far from each other and going by yourself would be time-consuming, unless you have at least 5 days to spend.

Here is a sample Baler DIY travel itinerary good for 3 days which assumes a party of two and will set back a budget of P4,335.00+ per person, excluding expenses for accommodation, souvenir and other incidentals.

Things to consider for this Baler itinerary: 

  • Surfboard rental costs around P200 per hour, P350 if you require an instructor.
  • Most tricycle drivers double as tour guide. Tricycle tour would cover all of the attractions cited in the Top Tourist Attractions list for P500 for half-day and P800 for whole day for a group of 3 persons. A day tour on a van costs P2,500 good for 10 persons.
  • Genesis bus bound for Manila leaves from Baler at 2:00PM. Finish up your activities before the time to avoid inconvenience.
On the way to Ditumabo falls.
The view on the way to Ditumabo falls.

DAY ONE: Tricycle tour is only half day for P500.

ActivityTimeBudget
Depart to Baler1:00AMP750
Arrive in Baler6:00AM
Breakfast7:00AMP100
Early Check in8:00AM
Tour9:00AMP250
Ditumabo FallsP30
Balete TreeP15
Lunch12:00PMP200
Continue Tour1:00PM
Hanging Bridge
Ermita HillP15
Museo de Baler3:00PMP35
Doña Aurora House4:00PMP30
Socials at Sabang beach5:00PM
Dinner6:00PMP200
Lights Out!9:00PM
Diguisit Beach
The rough sea swells at Diguisit beach before sunset.

DAY TWO: Tricycle tour is only half day for P500.

ActivityTimeBudget
Tour5:00AMP250
Sunrise at Daguisit Beach6:00AM
Breakfast7:00AMP100
Continue Tour9:00AM
Daguisit Falls
Lukso-Lukso IsletsP10
Baler Lighthouse
Aniao Islets
Lunch12:00PMP200
Socials1:00PMP200
Surf!3:00PMP350
Freshen Up5:00PM
Dinner6:00PMP200
Socials at El Jardin Bar8:00PM

DAY THREE

ActivityTimeBudget
Breakfast7:00AMP100
Surf9:00AMP350
Freshen Up11:00AM
Lunch12:00PMP200
Check Out1:00PM
Depart to Manila2:00PMP750

If your choice of transport to get around Baler is bicycle or motorbike, head out to Pajaroja lodge. Bicycle rent is P300 per day, for motorbike is P500 to P800.

Climbing up the Balete tree.
Climbing up the Balete tree.

QUICK FACTS & TIPS ABOUT BALER

Here are few facts and tips to consider when traveling in the province of Baler, Aurora.

  • The surfing season in Baler happens from September through February during the northeast monsoon.
  • During the summer months of March through May, the surfing areas and top attractions in Baler can get too crowded and may not be suitable for relaxation. Waves at Sabang beach are also average, but would still be considerably suitable for surfing.
  • The roads to Baler are well-paved. Going there during the rainy season of June to September may not be a hassle.
  • There are only 2 ATMs in Baler located at the town proper. Make sure to have enough cash.
  • Establishments accept credit and debit card but not a traveler’s check.
  • All mobile network operators have a good signal strength in the area.

USEFUL PHRASES

English is widely understood in Baler, but in case you want to speak the local tongue, here are phrases from 2 different main languages that proved to be useful.

English to Ilocano
Thank You – Agyamanak
Good Morning – Naimbag a bigat
Good Afternoon – Naimbag a malem
Good Evening – Naimbag a rabii
How Much? – Sagmamano daytoy?
Where is… – Sadino ti…

English to Tagalog
Thank You – Salamat
Good Morning – Magandang umaga
Good Afternoon – Magandang hapon
Good Evening – Magandang gabi
How Much? – Magkano?
Where is… – Saan ang…

Ermita Hill
The foot of Ermita Hill where the life-sized statues are installed.

MY TRAVEL HIGHLIGHTS IN BALER

What I like?

The surfing activity, its people and community, the tourist attractions – there is a lot to like about Baler. I would love to go back and capture more raw moments around its tourist spots using my mirrorless camera and drone especially at Sabang beach where activities are mostly concentrated.

What I don’t like?

The long drive from Manila to Baler is a pain in the butt. haha! Good thing the scenery on the way and the sunset were mesmerizing that I didn’t feel so much inconvenience at all.

Also, I wish that there was an easy access from Baler to Dingalan so it won’t have to take much time while on a backpacking journey.

MEET THE BLOGGER

Leaning on our boat at Punta Sibaring 1. This photo was taken during a high tide.

Hey there! I’m Ker, The Fun-sized Traveller. Fun-size because I’m a short guy from the Philippines. Thanks for checking out this virtual block I have started building since my 30th birthday to document my 2nd quarter life. Yup, it’s more of a personal pursuit, but a part of me also wants to give back to the travel community that is why I make it a point to share travel articles out from my trips around Asia.

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