Baler Travel Guide: Discovering the Town’s History + Top Things To Do

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Baler is a quaint surfing town that has a lot to offer to travelers in terms of various activities.

Baler is a quaint surfing town that has a lot to offer to travelers in terms of various activities. Its name, whenever mentioned, more often conjures images of surfing, a day at the beach, or an invigorating hike.

Huge waves in Diguisit Bay in Baler
Huge waves in Diguisit Bay

Baler Travel Guide: Discovering the Town’s History + Top Things To Do




    Undoubtedly, the town of Baler is one of the top surfing destinations in the Philippines. However, beyond surfing, Baler's historical destinations and natural attractions hold a lot of promise in terms of tourism value.

    What to expect in Baler


    Surfing season in Baler peaks during the winter monsoon months (locally known as amihan) which typically begin around November until the dry season of the following year.

    Town marker of Baler
    Baler town marker

    Baler, once a sleepy town in Aurora province some 230 km. northeast of Manila, has become a favorite surfing and eco-tourism destination because of its proximity to the National Capital Region. Nonetheless, residents still remain unperturbed despite the huge daily influx of travelers.

    If you are thinking about bars, there is not much nightlife in Baler, save for a handful of restaurants along Sabang Beach. Most establishments are closed by 7:00 or 8:00 PM, thus getting a tricycle to take you back to your hotel may already prove to be a challenge around that time. And in most households, families are already preparing to go to bed by 9:00 PM.

    How to go to Baler


    Baler is just a few hours away from Metro Manila, as such, it can easily be reached by land. Air travel is an option but the flight schedule is not regular unless you charter a plane. Anyway, here are more details about your transportation options to reach Baler.

    Via Bus


    If you are taking an early morning trip, you may sleep through it in Joy Bus’ comfortable La-Z Boy seats. It can get really cold inside so take with you a jacket or a thick cardigan.

    Joybus bound for Baler
    Joybus

    They do, however, provide coverlets but it would not be enough to combat the cold air. Good thing there is a restroom inside so you will not have to worry about getting a call from nature. Complimentary bottled water and biscuits are also available on board. Joybus usually has no stopovers but if they do, it’s usually just a brief 10-15 minute rest.

    Inside Joybus bound for Baler
    Inside Joybus

    Travel tip: Upon reaching the Genesis bus terminal in Baler, reserve a return trip ticket already as the slots get fully-booked quite fast.

    If you are on a tight budget, you may also opt to take a Genesis bus from Cubao to Baler, the earliest trip is at 6:00 AM while the latest is at 11:00 PM. Genesis has very few trips plying the Cubao-Baler route. But do confirm with them the schedules of their trips as they rarely update the calendar posted in their website.

    For options other than Joy Bus, you may take any bus bound for Cabanatuan (Genesis, Five Star, Baliwag or ES Transport) for less than Php 200. You may take the NLEX or SCTEX route but the latter is recommended because it’s faster. From Cabanatuan Central Transport terminal, take any bus or van going to Baler (fare around Php 200). Try to be early, though, because trips are until 5:00 or 6:00 PM only.

    ****** Genesis Transport, Inc.

    Address: G/F Genesis Transport Building 704 EDSA Corner New York St., Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines 1109

    Telephone Numbers: 7090803/4211425
    Website: http://www.genesistransport.com.ph

    Via Private Vehicle


    You may take either the old NLEX route or the SCTEX route:

    1. NLEX (Bulacan-Nueva Ecija route)


    From Edsa, Balintawak, exit to the North Luzon Expressway. Make a turn to the Sta. Rita exit and take the highway passing through Plaridel, Baliuag, San Ildefonso, San Miguel, Gapan, Sta. Rosa and Cabanatuan.

    2. SCTEX (Tarlac-Sta.Rosa-Cabanatuan route)


    NLEX up to Clark Logistics Interchange. Enter SCTEX going to Tarlac. Exit at Amucao, Tarlac (End of SCTEX). Turn right to La Paz up to Sta. Rosa, NE. Turn left going to Cabanatuan.

    From Cabanatuan City, there are two routes going to Baler, the Baler-Bongabon Road and the longer Canili-Pantabangan Road.

    The Baler-Bongabon road will take you through winding roads across the Sierra Madre. From Cabanatuan take the Maharlika Highway and turn right to the Nueva Ecija – Aurora Road where you will pass through Palayan City and Bongabon, Nueva Ecija. From Bongabon turn right to the road going to the Sierra Madre mountains. After two or three hours of winding road you will reach the municipality of San Luis and then Baler.

    Canili-Pantabangan Route. From Cabanatuan take the Maharlika Highway going to Talavera, Nueva Ecija. Turn right to the road going to Rizal and Pantabangan. This road will take you to Canili, Maria Aurora, Aurora. The road will pass through the Sierra Madre until you reach the Poblacion of Maria Aurora. From Maria, Aurora you can then go straight to Baler.

    Via Air Transportation


    There used to be commercial flights going to Aurora. Currently, Seair has seasonal and chartered flights to Baler. For private airplanes, there is an airstrip located at Brgy. San Isidro, San Luis, Aurora about 10 kilometers from the Baler town proper.

    How to get around Baler


    Getting around Baler is really easy. To see the most popular sights in Baler, you only need a day or two depending on where you are staying, the places you would want to visit, and on how long you would stay in one location. Also, the best way to get around Baler is via tricycle. The standard tricycle rate for a day of roaming is P800. We were very fortunate to have met a driver who was very professional and who was conversant with the different tourist spots in Baler. He is Kuya Boyet Gomez and his number is 09381127335.

    Top Things to Do in Baler


    Aside from surfing, Baler also takes pride in its rich culture and heritage. Stories about the town's famous landmarks abound and we wee lucky because our driver/tour guide was very knowledgeable about the places that we visited. 

    Here are the top things to do in Baler:

    1. Trek up Ermita Hill


    Located in Barangay Zabali, Ermita Hill is around five kilometers from the town proper of Baler. To reach the top of the hill, we had to pass by a steep slope surrounded by trees. 

    When we got to the top, we were greeted by the breathtaking sight of the Pacific Ocean. Apart from the expansive view of the Pacific from this vantage point, there weren’t really much to see on top except for a small park.

    Statues depicting the residents of Baler going up Ermita Hill to escape a tsunami
    Statues depicting the residents of Baler climbing Ermita Hill to escape a tsunami

    At the foot of the hill, there were sculptures depicting how the people of Baler fled the great tsunami that ravaged the town in the 1700s.

    2. Marvel at Diguisit Bay and Rock Formations


    From Ermita hill, our guide brought us southward to Diguisit Bay. We stopped by the roadside to have a bird’s eye view of the bay and, from where we were standing, we saw the Dimadimalangat and Aniao Islets, a cluster of rock formations protruding from the sea. These group of small islands are collectively called Diguisit Rock Formations.

    A bus at the entrance of Amco Beach Resort in Baler
    A bus that has been converted to a store

    Afterwards, we drove further down to Amco Beach Resort to see the islets up close. Amco Beach resort charges a minimal entrance fee of Php20 per person.

    The resort is a quaint strip of property standing on cream-colored sand with a generous sprinkling of pebbles and crushed shells. It also offers accommodation for tourists who want to spend the night here.

    The rock formations were very near the shore and it was low tide so were able to go near. The rocks were very sharp and can be slippery so one has to be extra careful, especially when having your photos taken.


    Dimadimalangat Islets


    Diguisit Bay rock formations in Baler
    Diguisit Bay rock formations

    These are rocky formations jutting out of the sea and shaped by the pounding Pacific Ocean waves.

    Aniao Islets


    These are small islands near the Dimadimalangat Islets and characterized by lush shrubberies growing on top.

    Watching the waves



    Huge waves at Diguisit Bay in Baler
    Huge waves

    We spent a few more minutes at Amco Beach Resort, hoping to get dramatic shots of heart-stopping waves. The waves did not disappoint because they were huge and pounding!

    3. Climb the hanging bridge


    After our visit to Diguisit Bay, we drove back to Zabali Road, and made a right turn when we reached the end of the highway. We passed through a rough road with thick foliage by the roadside until we reached a small clearing with a few houses. 

    Hanging bridge in Baler
    Hanging bridge

    There, we saw the hanging bridge. It was not really a tourist destination per se but it provides a nice view of the Sabang River emptying to the Pacific Ocean. Our driver Kuya Boyet told us that the bridge connects the two Barangays of Tibang and Sabang.

    4. Walk back in history at the Aurora Aragon House


    Aurora Aragon House in Baler
    Aurora Aragon house

    Our next stop was the replica of the ancestral house and birthplace of former first lady Aurora Aragon-Quezon, who was a well-loved humanitarian and served as the first chairman of Philippine Red Cross. 

    Inside the Aurora Aragon house in Baler
    Inside Aurora Aragon house

    Mrs. Quezon was assassinated together with her daughter five years after the death of President Manuel L. Quezon while they were on their way to the inauguration of a hospital. The province of Aurora was named after Mrs. Quezon.

    Presidential car of Manuel L. Quezon in Baler
    President Manuel L. Quezon's car

    The house retained the details of the original one, as well as the old furniture and utensils. It had a library that also served as a gallery of antique photos.

    5. Visit Baler Church


    Baler church
    Baler Church

    Just across the Aurora Aragon house is the Baler Church, the site of the Siege of Baler, a turning point in the history of Baler when locals rose against Spanish colonizers. In the end, the Filipino troop emerged victorious.

    6. Learn about the town's history at Museo de Baler


    Facade of Museo de Baler
    Museo de Baler

    The Museo de Baler provides an account of Baler's rich history as well as works by local artists. Entrance fee is a minimal Php60 per head.

    7. Have quirky photos of you taken at Balete Park


    We drove to the nearby town of San Luis to see another attraction -- a 600 year old Balete Tree standing proudly in the middle of a park. Before proceeding to have your photos taken, you have to pay a minimal entrance fee of Php10 per head.

    Giant Balete tree in Baler
    Giant Balete tree

    There are persons inside the park who can assist you in taking your photographs. They are very well-versed when it comes to using the Panorama setting of a smartphone or camera so expect creative shots of yourselves around the Balete tree.

    8. Hike to Ditumabo Falls aka Mother Falls


    Our last stop was Ditumabo Falls, also known as Mother Falls, in the town of San Luis. Normally, tricycles and cars are allowed to drive up to the point where the trail going up to the falls begins.

    Ditumabo falls in Baler
    Ditumabo Falls

    However, during our visit, the road was under construction so it was passable only by foot. Thus, we had to add an extra 30 minute trek to the actual 45 minute hike to the falls. At the start of the trail, do check out the small hydroelectric power plant which supplies electricity in Aurora.

    We had to pass by large boulders, small steams and slippery rocks on our way to the falls. All the while, we had to tread alongside an aqueduct that channels water from Ditumabo Falls to the hydroelectric power plant. Do keep your eyes also on the small falls that you will pass by before reaching the Mother Falls.

    When we finally reached the Mother Falls, we were greeted by a column of raging water of about 50 meters high. The pond which catches the water from the falls was clear and very cold. We initially wanted to take a dip to cool us down from the long trek but the water was as cold as ice. Instead, we waded in the pool until we felt relaxed and energized for the long journey back.

    We were informed by Kuya Boyet that there were such other beautiful falls in Aurora, particularly in Casiguran town. These are still not accessible to tourists though because of lack of a good trail.

    One must-see sight in Baler, the Dicasalarin Cove, was unfortunately closed to tourists that time because of the damage and litter caused by the recent Typhoon Kabayan.

    Tired from our day full of activities, we headed back to Casitas to rest, freshen up and get ready for dinner.

    Where to eat in Baler (Food & Restaurant Guide)


    This Baler food guide does not really cover all restaurants in town but we compiled this list to help travelers easily find the best and most popular restaurants.

    When in Baler, the options on where to eat seem endless. There are numerous food stalls in the town proper as well as restaurants around the urban center offering a good variety of flavorful dishes and price points that fit one's budget. Another thing that we love most about Baler was that food in most restaurants were affordable, had hefty servings, and were of good quality.


    For those exploring Baler, here’s a rundown of some of the best restaurants where you can have a filling meal:

    1. Yolly’s Ihaw Ihaw

    Location: Poblacion

    After exploring Diguisit Bay, Ermita Hill, and Aragon House, we decided to stop by at Yolly's Ihaw Ihaw for lunch. We were told by Kuya Boyet that Yolly's is one of the more popular restaurants in town.

    Yolly's Restaurant in Baler
    Yolly's Restaurant

    Yolly’s offers native dishes such as adobo, pakbet, pork and maya-maya sinigang, Bicol express and menudo, to name a few. They also offer grilled dishes like squids, crabs, shrimps and liempo. In terms of taste, you can be assured of delicious, home-cooked goodness. Food is around Php60 to Php150 per serving but the seafood selections are a bit on the more pricey side.

    2. Picnic Bay by Gerry Shan

    Location: Sabang Beach

    Picnic Bay is an affordable all-you-can-eat restaurant offering delicious and flavorful native cuisines. This restaurant is also owned by Gerry Shan of the well-known Gerry Shan’s Place in the town proper. Food here is really good and reasonably-priced at Php250++ per person. It’s along Sabang Beach so expect to be serenaded by the sound of pounding waves and the relaxing sea breeze.

    Picnic Bay by Gerry Shan restaurant in Baler
    Picnic Bay by Gerry Shan

    Picnic Bay's selection of soup-based (sinigang, nilaga), meat, vegetable and seafood dishes is extensive. Standout dishes were the crispy squid, lechon kawali, sisig and kilawin. Dessert of fresh fruits, native cakes and leche flan, and unlimited pitcher of iced tea are also included.

    3. Bay’s Inn’s Hungry Surfer Restaurant

    Location: Buton Street

    Our accommodation package in Casitas Bed and Breakfast included a buffet breakfast at the Hungry Surfer Restaurant, run by its sister-lodge, Bay’s Inn. 

    Hungry Surfer restaurant in Baler
    Breakfast buffet at Hungry Surfer restaurant

    It was a hearty breakfast of garlic rice, eggs, Baler longganisa, tocino and pako salad. Bread, suman and coffee are available as well as juices and iced tea. What’s nice about the Hungry Surfer Restaurant is that it provides a lovely morning view of Sabang Beach.

    4. Bayler View Restaurant

    Location: Buton Street

    Bayler View restaurant in Baler
    Bayler View restaurant

    Hungry from walking along Sabang Beach, we stopped by Bayler View for merienda. They offer one of the best seafood marinara we have ever had. Their club sandwich and shakes were also notable.


    Where to buy the best pasalubong in Baler


    Each time we travel, we feel that the experience is not complete if we would not be able to hop through local souvenir shops to check for the best deals in pasalubong (Tagalog, noun: a keepsake, bought from a place where one has been to, that is usually given as gift to family and friends).

    As such, during our trip to Baler, we asked Kuya Boyet, our driver and tour guide, to take us downtown so that we could hunt for stores that offer the most affordable trinkets and souvenirs that we can buy for our own as well as for our friends and family.

    What are the most popular pasalubong items from Baler?


    While we were on our way to the town center, we asked Kuya Boyet to give us his recommendation on the best items to buy for pasalubong. In particular, we said that were looking for products that are unique to Baler and popular among tourists.

    Kuya Boyet gave a good list of his recommended pasalubong but we are also adding here the things that we personally liked.

    Here are 7 pasalubong ideas from Baler that you may want to consider the next time you are in town:

    1. T-shirts - you can never go wrong with souvenir shirts. This is one product that you can probably find in almost every corner of Baler.

    2. Key-chains - another popular keepsake. These are quite affordable and can be bought in bulk if you are thinking of buying for a big group.

    3. Suman de baler - delicious rice cakes that are even more flavorful when dipped in peanut butter or coco jam.

    4. Peanut butter - one of the best-tasting peanut butter in probably the entire country. It's smooth, creamy, and with just the right balance of sweetness.

    5. Aurora Blend Coffee - I personally like the local coffee of Aurora province. It's got a mild flavor that is perfect for an evening after-dinner cup.

    6. Biniklad na dilis - these are small dried fish that had been butterflied. What we like about this type of dried fish is that it's not salty and it is when crunchy when fried.

    7. Ak'kaw Poppo - a book containing words and expressions that are unique to Baler. The lexicon is quite extensive, giving the Tagalog spoken in Baler its own character and distinctness.

    Popular pasalubong stores in Baler


    As I had mentioned above, there is a souvenir store in almost every corner of downtown Baler. However, if you are looking to score the best pasalubong deals, here is a list of the stores that you may want to visit:

    1. LRT Store

    Location: Quezon St, Baler, Aurora

    At LRT Store, tourists can look forward to affordable shirts and key chains. What's more, the store has an extensive collection of ballers, ref magnets, local alcoholic beverages, local spiced vinegar, and ground coffee.

    Coin purse souvenirs and pasalubong from Baler
    Coin purse

    LRT Stores has one of the most numerous items on display among the souvenir shops that we visited in Baler.

    2. Mura Crafts, Gifts and Souvenirs

    Location: Quezon St, Baler, Aurora

    Among all the shops in Baler, Mura Crafts, Gifts, and Souvenirs offers the best deal in souvenir shirt at three for Php400. Just like other stores, they also offer key chains, ballers, chips, coco jam and coffee.

    Mura pasalubong shop in Baler
    Mura souvenir shop

    Also here, I saw an interesting book called Ak’kaw Poppo, which is a collection of words and expressions that are unique to Baler.

    Ak'kaw Poppo book of words from Baler
    Ak'kaw Poppo

    While the language spoken in Baler is Tagalog, I was surprised to discover that the locals use many words that can only be found (or heard) in this town. I wish I bought Ak'kaw Poppo so that I could learn the words that are unique to Baler.

    3. Giiiggles

    Location; Brgy. Suklayin, Baler, Aurora

    Pasalubong ballers from Baler
    Ballers

    Giiiggles sells the usual shirts, key chains, bags, slippers, native products, purses and chips. Price was standard and there was nothing really unique with their merchandise.

    4. Pasalubong Center

    Location; Brgy. Suklayin, Baler, Aurora

    If you are looking for more options, then head over to Pasalubong Center. The Pasalubong Center is actually a cluster of many different stores, serving as a one-stop-shop where you can canvass for products that fit your budget.

    Pasalubong shirts from Baler
    T-shirts

    The shops here offer the usual key chains, ballers, slippers, jams, peanut butter, coffee, vinegar, fans and accessories.

    5. Nanay Pacing Store

    Location: Brgy. 05, T. Molina Street, Baler, Aurora

    Pasalubong peanut butter from Nanay Pacing in Baler
    Peanut butter

    Perhaps one of the most iconic shops in Baler is Nanay Pacing Store. As such, one can always expect to find large throngs of visitors in this store.

    Pasalubong coco jam from Nanay Pacing store in Baler
    Coco jam

    Here, you can buy Nanay Pacing’s famous coco jam and peanut butter that are really popular in Baler. You can also stop by here if you want to buy Suman de Baler, native sweets, banana chips, and turmeric tea.

    6. Baler Public Market


    Dried fish from Baler
    Dried seafood

    Baler, being a coastal town, offers a variety of dried seafood produce. We made a special trip to Baler Public Market to find Biniklad na Dilis, which we loved so much when we tried it in Costa Pacifica. 

    Biniklad na dilis from Baler
    Biniklad na dilis

    What differentiates biniklad na dilis from the regular dried dilis is that the former is butterflied before it is sun dried, giving it with more crunch when fried. Biniklad na Dilis is indeed special – it’s quite expensive at Php700 a kilo! We bought one-fourth of a kilo of this dried fish that, we were told, can only be found in Baler.


    Sample Baler Travel Itinerary


    If you are interested to explore Baler, here is a sample itinerary for one day which you might find helpful:
    • Depart from Manila to Baler - 5:00 AM
    • Arrival in Baler and Hotel Check-in - 8:00 to 8:30 AM
    • Have a quick breakfast - 8:45 AM to 9:15 AM
    • Hire a tricycle - 9:20 AM
    • Ermita Hill - 9:30 AM to 10:00 AM
    • Diguisit Bay and Rock Formations - 10:15 AM to 10:45 AM
    • Hanging bridge - 11:00 AM to 11:15 AM 
    • Aurora Aragon House - 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM
    • Baler Church - 12:45 PM to 1:00 PM
    • Museo de Baler - 1:15 PM to 1:45 PM
    • Late Lunch break - 2:00 PM to 2:30 PM
    • Balete Park - 2:45 PM to 3:30 PM
    • Ditumabo Falls aka Mother Falls - 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
    • Drive back to your hotel - 5:15 PM to 6:00 PM
    • Dinner - 6:30 PM

    We did not include our trip around town to buy pasalubong in this Baler itinerary because we suggest you do this separately. You may allot half of a day for this activity so you can move around without any time pressure.

    Baler is a beautiful town. It has a lot of things to offer to travelers in terms of culture and history, natural and man-made attractions, delicious food, and fun activities. The people are friendly, warm, and hospitable. And despite Baler's popularity, it's amazing to know that prices of commodities are still well within the affordable range.
      
    PIN THIS BALER TRAVEL GUIDE


      MAP OF BALER

        This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you book or purchase anything through one of those links, I may earn a small commission but at no extra cost to you.
        Like this:

        4 comments

        1. Superb and quite narrative post .❤️

          ReplyDelete
        2. Thank you for the kind words!

          ReplyDelete
        3. Thank you for the tour. I followed along on a map and learned about a new part of the world.

          ReplyDelete
        4. Glad to be of help. Thank you very much, too!

          ReplyDelete

        If you like to travel, you may have come across an opportunity to buy a timeshare at some point. If you decided to purchase a timeshare and found that you no longer want it, a timeshare exit through a company like US Consumer Attorneys or Omni Ellis could be a good solution.