The second-class municipality of Baler is the provincial capital of the province of Aurora. After the filming of the 1979 film "Apocalypse Now" in Baler, everything changed. The production crew left their surfboards to the locals who used it to learn how to surf. Since then, surfing has become a popular sport in the town, and is now one of the top destinations for tourists who wish to ride powerful waves and experience a thrilling beach adventure.
Sabang Beach is the most frequented place by surfers who come to the town. Its shores are full of accommodations and surf shacks where both experienced and first-time surfers can rent boards. There are also surfing coaches available. The best time to visit is from September to March when the waves are at its highest. For those who don't surf, the shores of Sabang Beach are perfect for fun activities like swimming, sunbathing, and playing other watersports.
Dicasalarin Cove is a hidden beach away from the gray sand and surfers of Sabang Beach. The shore is untouched with nothing but white sand and crystal clear waters. Like Sabang Beach though, the waves are powerful so swimming may not be advisable. But the view of the seascape from a nearby beacon-like lighthouse is a thing of beauty.
To know more about Baler and its history, visitors can drop by the local museum, Museo de Baler. Various pieces of art, images, documents, and artifacts that present important facts and information about the history of the town are all on display.
Baler is situated about 300 kilometers northeast of Metro Manila, and the more convenient and accessible option to get there is to travel by land. Whether you take public transportation or bring your own car with you, travel time will take approximately six to seven hours.
To date, Genesis Transport Bus offers direct routes from Manila to Baler and back. From Manila, find your way to Genesis' bus terminal in Cubao, Quezon City. The first trip is at 3:00 AM with succeeding trips every hour until 7:00 AM. On the other hand, the first trip back to Manila from Baler is at 4:30 AM, while the last trip is at 3:00 PM.
Joy Bus, operated by Genesis Bus, offers a much more convenient land travel option. Using premium buses, Baler-bound travelers are treated to more onboard amenities and services. The trip is also only five hours long instead of the usual seven.
If you’re driving, take the North Luzon Express Way (NLEX) and exit at Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). Follow the highway leading to Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija. Follow the signs leading to Bongabon until you see the sign that leads to Baler. Be prepared for rocky terrains and zigzagging roads, but a fascinating view of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range is sure to make it worth your while.
How to Get Around
When in Baler, the tricycle is the most convenient mode of transportation when getting around the different places. To get to the different provinces in Aurora, you can take the bus.
What to See
Landmarks and Other Man-Made Attractions
As the provincial capital of the province of Aurora, Baler has quite a number of stories to tell. In the middle of this quaint and rustic town is Quezon Memorial Park, which stands on the site where the late President Manuel L. Quezon was born. The focal point of the park is the statue of the late president alongside a replica of the hut where he was born and raised. If you are a car enthusiast, you will surely be drawn to the old but grand limousine displayed on the grounds. It was used by President Quezon during his presidency.
A couple of steps away from the park is Museo de Baler, with a façade decorated with a mural called the “Baler Historical Mural.” Perfect for the history buffs, Museo de Baler is home to a number of artifacts, art, and heirloom pieces—all of which narrate a fascinating story about the origin and the history of Baler. Chinese porcelain, mementos from the Franciscan missionaries who settled in Baler until 1899, and a number of photographs, paintings, and sculptures will capture your attention once you’re inside.
Another historic landmark in Baler is the Baler Catholic Church, dedicated to San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Originally built in 1611, the church played a major part in the historic Siege of Baler in 1898. And not far from the church is a replica of the ancestral home of Aurora Quezon. Aurora Quezon is the beloved wife of President Quezon who was also born in Baler.
Another significant landmark in town is located about eight kilometers away from downtown Baler. Ermita Hill is in Mount Dibudalan in Barangay Zabali, which is accessible via a 17 to 20-minute ride by tricycle. The hill is said to be the place where surviving families sought refuge when a tsunami struck Baler in 1735, flooding the entire town in sea water. Today, visitors in Ermita Hill are treated to a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean, the mangroves nearby, and the surrounding lush greens.
Baler is dubbed as the “Birthplace of Philippine Surfing,” so it is quite impossible to visit the town without trying to ride the waves. Sabang Beach is where most of the surf shacks are found. Catering to both professional and non-professional surfers, these surf shops provide the gears and even the instructors needed to help you get started. To best enjoy the exhilarating waves of Sabang Beach, it’s best to schedule your Baler holiday between the months of September and February when the waves are strong enough.
During the months when the waves aren’t good enough for surfing, you can also try snorkeling and scuba diving to explore Baler’s captivating marine life and aquaculture. From Sabang Beach, you can hire a motorized boat that can take you to Borlongan Beach where scuba diving activities are usually held. For snorkeling, Baler also has a good number of areas that have been blessed with beautiful coral reefs such as the Aniao islets, Cemento Beach, Digisit Beach, Dimadimalangat Islet, and the Lukso-Lukso islets. If you’re heading to Baler for diving or snorkeling, it’s best to schedule them from March to June to get an optimum underwater view.
Speaking of Digisit Beach, it is also home to a stunning rock formation which visitors can explore or visit for some rock climbing. It also serves as a fantastic backdrop for a good photo op with the Pacific Ocean visible in the background. When climbing the rocks, be careful since they can be sharp and slippery.
Another thrilling activity that shouldn’t be missed when in Baler is going on a four-kilometer hike to reach Ditumabo Falls. Also referred to as “Mother Falls,” Ditumabo Falls is located about a two-hour jeep or tricycle ride away from the Baler town proper. It will also take you roughly one to two hours to complete your hike up the falls, so be prepared to go through rivers, boulders, and bridges—both natural and man-made. However, the cool and refreshing waters of the falls and the opportunity to be one with nature make the tedious climb truly worth it.
The Balete Tree in the neighboring town of Maria Aurora is also another must-see attraction when visiting Baler. The tree is said to be six centuries old and was designated as the “Millennium Tree” of the Philippines. It is considered as the biggest Balete tree in all of Asia. Despite the supernatural beliefs that people have about it, the tree continues to attract a number of tourists who climb up and down its twisting and winding roots.
Events and Festivals
Every August, Baler celebrates its town fiesta in honor of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and the birthday of the late President Quezon. The entire town comes alive with colorful and festive activities that showcase the heritage and culture of the people of Baler.
Baler also hosts the Aurora Surf Cup, an annual competition where various local and international surfers compete against each other while riding the challenging waves of the Pacific Ocean. The surfing cup is usually held every February in either Cemento Beach or Sabang Beach. Competitions are also held at Charlie’s Point and Lindy Point.
Where to Eat
Baler also has quite a number of restaurants and dining establishments, which offers guests an array of options to choose from.
Beach House at Costa Pacifica is known for its breakfast buffet with waffles, pancakes, bacon, beef tapa, and much more. For the usuals like crispy pata, bulalo, and different chicken dishes, you can check out Hungry Surfer at Bay’s Inn.
Gerry Shan’s Place is quite popular to a number of tourists who have been to Baler. Offering delectable Chinese dishes, this restaurant has an eat-all-you-can option for only PHP 200.00, ideal for those who want to pig out after a tiring day of surfing and swimming. For Italian fare, especially pizza, Bayler View Restaurant is the place to be.
Meanwhile, The Rolling Store is a roadside eatery that serves Filipino dishes like sinigang and other home cooked meals that may crave for. For some grilled dishes, dine at Yolly’s Ihaw-Ihaw—their grilled white marlin is a must try.
Fare: PHP 500 to PHP 1,000.00 per ride/trip
The fare for a deluxe bus bound for Baler is roughly about PHP 500.00, one way. If you want to ride the premium bus with all its prime amenities and services, be prepared to shell out about PHP 1,000.00 for a one-way fare. Renting a van is also another option but could be costly. The average rate starts at PHP 2,000.00 for a day.
When in Baler, the going rate for a 10-minute tricycle ride is PHP 50.00. A 10-minute jeep ride is PHP 8.00 per person.
Food: PHP 100.00 to PHP 300.00 per meal
With a variety of dining establishments available, there is bound to be a restaurant or eatery that will surely suit your appetite and your budget. One can already find a satisfying meal for only PHP 100.00 in town.
Shopping: PHP 10.00 to PHP 250.00
Buying pasalubong would be a breeze since the Baler Pasalubong Center is situated right beside the bus terminal. Buy a coin purse for PHP 10.00 or a souvenir shirt for PHP 250.00. The delectable suman from Baler is around PHP 50.00 for 10 pieces (a must-try for every traveler). Nanay Pacing's Peanut Butter is also another favorite pasalubong from Baler, with prices starting at PHP 90.00 for 230 grams.
Accommodations: PHP 900.00 to PHP 2,500.00
Baler has seen an influx of tourists in recent years, which is why many inns and hotels have sprung up in the area. You can already book a basic room for just PHP 900.00. For quality rooms with topnotch amenities, it could go for as much as PHP 2,500.00 a night.
Activities: PHP 50.00 to PHP 500.00
The entrance fee to the museum cost PHP 50.00 per head. Surfing lessons range from PHP 150 to PHP 200.00 per hour. For a city tour, prepare around PHP 500.00 per person. A trek to Ditumabo Falls should also be around PHP 500.00 per person.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
Restaurants usually include a service charge in your total bill so leaving a tip is already unnecessary. But if you insist on leaving a tip, around PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 would already be enough. For tour guides around PHP 50.00 or a little bit more should be fine as well.