A road trip away from the Metro, Baler has become a popular choice for many Filipinos looking for a break from city life. If you’re planning to travel to Baler, you’re certainly in the right place. Writing from the perspective of a frequent Baler goer and of a Baler local, we’ve made sure to include in this Baler travel guide everything a traveller needs to know about the place. This article is a comprehensive travel guide that’ll take you through every Baler tourist spot; from must-visit sites to nearby town side trips, as well as every detail you’ll need in between.
- Baler is the capital and the oldest municipality of the province of Aurora.
- As Baler has grown into a tourist spot, the municipality has attracted several resorts and establishments to cater to its visitors.
- While businesses have been growing in the municipality, Baler is still a rural area. As of 2022, Baler has no cinemas and only has one small shopping mall. Many establishments close early at night, too. So, it’s not really a place for nightlife.
- Baler is mostly known as the birthplace of former Philippine president Manuel Luis Quezon, and a few historical sites stand at the heart of the town in remembrance of him.
- Baler is also known for surfing, so the best time to visit would be from October to March. Aside from having fewer typhoons, these months guarantee waves suitable for surfing.
- The majority of the locals in Aurora speak Tagalog, while a few speak Ilocano. Residents of Baler are generally welcoming and helpful towards tourists.
How to get to Baler from Manila
Manila to Baler by car
If you’re driving from Manila to Baler, expect five to six hours of driving. You’ll be going through the long and winding roads of the Sierra Madre mountain range. So, it would be safest to put the most experienced driver behind the wheels.
On your way to Baler, you have two major route options, which we’ll discuss below.
If you’d like to take the common route taken by travellers and most commercial buses, use the Subic–Clark–Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). This is usually the fastest route to Baler since you’ll be driving at around 100km per hour on the north’s major highway.
With the recent addition of the Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEX), trips to Baler are now faster than ever! Just prepare for a hefty toll fee of about ₱460, depending on your entry point. Check the updated toll fees here.
To lessen the travel distance by about 40km, take the national highway through some towns in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. Be warned, however, that you’ll also have to navigate through some traffic in the area (usually in the morning and afternoon), or overtake a lot of 16-wheeler delivery trucks at night until dawn.
Manila to Baler by bus
At the moment, only Genesis Transport Service Inc. operates a point-to-point bus from Manila to Baler. The company runs two bus lines: the regular Genesis bus and their executive coach JoyBus. The buses take the same route, but the latter offers faster travel time with no stopover (snacks and water are provided, and there’s a lavatory inside). . They only update their JoyBus schedules which you can find here.
Genesis terminal address: 704 EDSA corner New York Street, Cubao, Quezon City, Metro Manila
In case you miss your schedule and you don’t want to wait for another day, you can take buses en route to Cabanatuan City. Disembark at Cabanatuan City Central Transport Terminal. There, you can find vans and buses going to Aurora Province. Take note that not all buses and vans at that terminal are going to reach Baler. Some stop at Maria Aurora, the town right before Baler. If Maria Aurora-bounds buses are the soonest available ones during your trip, don’t worry! You can still drop off at that town and take a tricycle to Baler.
Getting around Baler
Imagine strolling along with a coastal town with little to no cars on the road — basically, this is what getting around Baler is like. While most of the municipality is accessible by foot, tricycles are also readily available around the area. Tricycle rides start at ₱14 per person, depending on the distance travelled.
However, some far-flung tourist spots aren’t ideal to travel to via tricycle as they may cost a little too much and you’ll have a hard time hailing a ride back to the town centre. Fortunately, bike and motorcycle rentals are available around Baler. A bike day rental usually costs about ₱500, while a motorcycle day rental costs a bit higher. For groups travelling to Baler, van and tricycle rentals are also available. Tour guides come with an additional fee, but their services are highly recommendable for travellers keen on learning about the history and culture of Baler.
Where to stay in Baler
If you ask the locals what Baler looked like a decade ago, most will probably answer that it was a lot different than how it is today. With many a Baler tourist spot booming in the past years, many transient houses and hotels sprouted out of necessity. There’s a lot to choose from, but we can help you pick from some of the best Baler Aurora hotels!
Since Baler is a popular destination among weekend warriors, hostels and inns are scattered across the area. Some places of accommodation even provide hammock rooms — a perfect option for budget travellers and backpackers. Our tip? Browse through Airbnb for affordable homestay options.
Luxury hotels are also available for travellers seeking comfort and privacy. Many of these are suitable for families or leisure trips. Most resorts, like the popular Costa Pacifica and the newly established Hotel Serendrina, sit right by the Sabang beach. These places are most ideal if you’re planning to explore Baler on foot.
Costa Pacifica is your best choice if you’re looking for a place to stay where you can be near to the town proper and have quick access to Sabang Beach in Baler. It’s the largest hotel in the province, and it offers complete amenities of two swimming pools by the beach, a buffet restaurant, and even van transfers from and to Dicasalarin cove.
Close to Costa Pacifica is another premier hotel in Baler, Nalu Surf Camp. Book here, and you’ll find yourself relaxing in private villas in front of the beach. They also have in-house surfing instructors that can help you learn the basics of surfing, right in front of the hotel!
Outside of these Baler Aurora hotels, there are many more with beach-front views of the Sabang shore. For instance, Playa Azul and Aliya Surf Camp are also worth noting.
If you’re looking for a more serene stay away from crowds, book a hotel away from the town centre. You can find some resorts in the quiet corners of Baler, specifically tucked in Reserva or Zabali. Take note that you might find a more difficult time accessing the public market or most restaurants if you book a place away from Barangay Sabang. Still, you can easily walk to less crowded parts of the beach practically anywhere you stay.
If you want to steer clear of the crowd, L’Sirene Boutique Resort is your best bet. Located in the coastal area of Brgy. Reserva, this hotel owned by a popular Filipina celebrity will surely give you one of the most tranquil weekend getaways of your life. You’d also basically have your own private beach in front since there are no nearby hotels on the side.
What to eat in Baler
There are so many things to do in Baler that you’ll surely empty your stomach at some point. Two things you must learn when going to Baler: where to go, and where to eat. Fortunately, this surf town is crawling with food hubs and local restaurants worthy of a gastronomic adventure.
As Baler has become a famous tourist destination, more and more restaurants have been sprouting in the municipality. From air-conditioned bistros to laidback food parks, Baler doesn’t sell short in offering a diverse food selection. But of course, the local pako (fern) salad still remains the ultimate crowd-favourite. In fact, it’s made its way into different recipes. Around various restaurants in Baler, you’ll find ginataang pako, ensaladang pako, and even pako pizza on the menu!
Kusina Luntian usually tops the list of every food lineup in Baler. They offer delectable grilled food served on Banana leaves. You won’t need spoons and forks here as you’ll eat with your bare hands, like a true Filipino! If you get here, consider ordering their famous pako (fiddlehead fern) salad.
In case you fancy some steak, consider dining at The Secret Spot. There, you’ll find the Kingfisher and their roast beef and tomahawk steak. The Secret Spot is a food compound that also houses other restaurants such as Happy Huts Pizza, Mithi The Sundry & Atelier, and Yo Mama! Baler.
Dogtown Collective is another spot to try when you’re at Baler. This quaint food park is home to several hippie stalls such as Halle’s Kitchen, Gagay’s, and Kai Smoothies. It’s the go-to place for people who aren’t sure what they want to eat — yet!
Baler is a coastal town, so fresh seafood is naturally abundant in the area. While it’s inevitable that most restaurants, or even carinderias, offer seafood options at a higher (tourist) rate, the market sells several varieties of fish at a relatively low price. If your accommodation has a kitchen you can use, you may try cooking your own meals instead. You’re free to head out for a picnic by the beach, just as long as you clean up after yourself!
As grilled food magically tastes a lot better when eaten by the beach, expect to find a cornucopia of grilled meat and veggies along the municipality. Make sure to buy some classic island drinks to pair them with, too. Most resorts along Sabang beach offer refreshing fruit shakes and buko juice.
Top things to do in Baler
Every Baler tourist spot you have to check out, especially if it’s your first time!
1. Surf the waves at Sabang Beach
Of course, the highlight of this surf town is its waters. Being the birthplace of Philippine surfing, Baler has attracted both foreign and local surfers of all levels because of its world-class waves. Surfers flock Baler just to feel the wind above their boards as they rock the waves’ ebb and flow. To find the most popular Baler Aurora beach, head over to the neighbourhood of Sabang.
The soft, polvoron-like sands of Sabang Beach make it an ideal and safe Baler surfing spot. If you’d like to learn how to surf, there are many instructors waiting by the bay. These are honest, trustworthy locals who won’t fraudulently ask you for too much. Surf lessons cost only ₱350 per hour, while surfboard rentals cost ₱200 per hour.
Unlike other surf spots, almost the whole stretch of Baler’s coastline is suitable for surfing. That said, there are also areas along the two-kilometre shoreline with calmer waves perfect for dipping in more tranquil waters. If you ever find yourself hungry for some chow, there are also lots of restaurants along the beach area.
Also read: Surfing at Sabang Beach in Baler, Aurora
2. Climb up Ermita Hill
Back in 1735, a terrible tidal wave named Tromba Marina came to Baler and wiped out the whole town. Only a few families survived the storm as they rushed towards Ermita Hill, which is now known as the highest point in the municipality. Today, the catastrophe is remembered through a sculpture depicting the families clambering up the hill. Travellers are open to climbing up Ermita Hill, where a panoramic view of Baler Bay awaits at its peak.
Don’t forget to pack your picnic hampers when going to Baler! On Ermita Hill, you can grab a quick bite at several overlooking decks. There are also pavilions surrounding the area for a quiet afternoon rest. Keep in mind that there are no restaurants there, so you’ll have to bring your own food.
3. Take a historical walk
Nestled in the centre of the town are landmarks that commemorate the heritage of the municipality. Museo de Baler, a two-story building that stands at Quezon Park, with an extensive artwork embossed on its bricked exterior, houses historical artefacts that are reminiscent of the Spanish colonisation period. Inside the museum, you can find exhibits and artefacts dating back from the early 1600s to recent contemporary history.
Learn about the Siege of Baler at this museum, too! Afterwards, head to the next Baler tourist spot…
The San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Parish, also known as Baler Church, was first built in 1611. A tidal wave that hit Baler in 1735 destroyed it, but fortunately, locals reconstructed it immediately after. The church made its mark in history when the Spanish forces used it as a garrison during the Spanish Colonial Era.
For the final stop of your historical tour, head over to the replica of Doña Aurora Aragon-Quezon’s ancestral house, just in front of the Baler Church. Doña Aurora is known for her heroic acts in fighting for women’s right to vote. She also served as the first chairperson of the Philippine Red Cross. Because of her remarkable contributions to Philippine society, the province of Aurora was named after her.
4. Take a creative shot with the Baler sign
The Baler sign is so famous for photo-ops, there’s barely a time tourists aren’t huddled around it. Get creative with your travel buddies and strike a pose around the sign.
5. Bum on a private beach at Dicasalarin Cove
A hidden treasure half an hour away from the town proper, the Dicasalarin Cove is a private and serene place for you to enjoy. Since there’s an entrance fee of ₱300, you won’t find crowds of beachgoers flocking to this area. So if you fancy some beach bumming on white sands with pristine waters, make a beeline for this private area. Since it’s a cove, the strong waves are blocked off by the craggy mountain lining, allowing you to enjoy a breezy afternoon by the beach.
It’s not that far off the town proper, but you’d have to go across some extremely steep slopes and sharp curves on a mountain before you get there. Don’t fret, ‘cause the spectacular views on the mountain road are also well part of the trip. Also, when you get to Dicasalarin Cove, you’ll see a lighthouse nearby. If you’re up to the challenge, you can walk up to the top.
6. Reach the top of Baler Lighthouse
Speaking of lighthouses… If you’re looking for a Baler tourist spot that has the best views, you won’t find it elsewhere than at the top of Baler Lighthouse. It’s an abandoned lighthouse-turned-tourist attraction because of its stunning coastal views. The trek to reach the lighthouse could prove to be a challenge, and we discourage you from going there during the rainy season — when the paths could get dangerously slippery.
7. Cross the Baler Hanging Bridge
Prepare your mobile cameras and DSLRs for this one, folks! The Baler Hanging Bridge is a picturesque landmark that connects the barangays (neighbourhoods) of Tibang and Sabang. It’s been serving the locals for decades and has played a crucial role in their daily errands.
As you go across the bridge, gawk at the vast mountainscapes and tranquil estuary in the distance. This hanging bridge has become a very popular Baler tourist spot that some souvenirs stores have set up shop at both ends of the bridge.
8. Conquer the rock formations at Diguisit and Aniao islet
Aside from being a great Baler surfing spot, Diguisit Beach is most famous for its crystal clear waters and unique shapes of rocks. Aniao, the most famous rock formation in the area, is actually two small islands naturally moulded by the hammering waves of the Pacific. Having stood years of crashing waves, the rock formations have formed into a beautiful rugged surface visitors love taking photos with.
When the tide is low, you can head over to the rock formations and take some Insta-worthy snaps. Depending on the season, the waters around the rock formations also serve as either a surf spot or a diving spot.
9. Go snorkelling
Aside from surfing, there are other water sports you can try out in Baler. Snorkelling is ideal at many diving spots in Baler, especially from March to June when the ocean is calmer. You can rent diving gear from different sports resorts around town.
10. Participate in a beach cleanup
As a way of giving back, travellers can help keep the beaches pristine either individually or through an organised beach clean-up. Some Baler residents started an initiative, the Ocean Care Movement, to maintain the healthy and clean coasts of Baler, and visitors are more than welcome to participate.
Other noteworthy activities in nearby towns
Make the most out of your road trip! If you plan to visit every Baler tourist spot, consider taking a side trip to these beautiful spots in Baler’s neighbouring towns.
11. Travel back through time inside the Balete Millenium Tree
In a nearby town called Maria Aurora, you’ll find an enormous tree. Standing at approximately 200 feet, the Balete Millenium Tree is so massive that you can take a walk inside! Many locals believe that this Balete tree has been home to many mythical creatures from Philippine folklore.
Several Filipino superstitions surround Balete trees. But more than that, it’s the olden age and massive size of Aurora’s Millennium Tree that makes it a fascination among locals and tourists alike. The tree is believed to be more than 600 years old, with a size so wide, that it would take 50 grown men to stand hand-in-hand to fully circle the trunk. The roots of the tree have also towered high enough to form caves that visitors can explore and climb up.
12. Plunge into the cold streams of Ditumabo Mother Falls
Aside from having multiple surfing spots, Aurora is also home to many waterfalls in its forests. One, in particular, is dubbed by the locals as The Mother Falls, as it is about 140 feet tall. A waterfall that high makes the water come down at blazing speeds. The Mother Falls is in Ditumabo, San Luis, which is a neighbouring town about a 20-minute away of drive from Baler.
To get there, you’d have to trek through rocky paths and small streams between a lush rainforest. It’s a challenging trip, but undoubtedly fun and worthwhile!
Although a fairly easy hike, the rocky path leading to the cold blue pool is a thrilling adventure enough — especially for those of us coming from a bustling urban jungle.
13. Wander on a road trip toward the north
You can take on the roads headed further north, if you have the time. With no particular destination in mind, simply buckle up your seatbelts and let the road decide where you’ll go. On the way, you can find several picturesque destinations and many other interesting spots.
Consider taking a few moments to bask on the exquisite Ampere Beach. It’s a boulder beach with huge rocks and some rock formations. However, the waves are very strong here, so swimming is prohibited.
If you can’t be bothered with a Do-It-Yourself trip to Baler and would rather leave your vacation to the hands of the more experienced tour guides, there are several tour packages available for those travelling to Baler.
Also read: Surfing at Sabang Beach in Baler, Aurora
Basically, these are all a traveller needs to know before going to Baler. If you want to know more, feel free to drop your inquiries in our comment section. Have fun and enjoy your trip!