Top 5 Tourist Attractions To Discover in Baler in 2020
Written by Dezza, 15 December 2019.
Are you looking for a totally unique place to visit in the Philippines? Do you want to avoid being stuck at an airport and being exposed to all the hassles associated with air travel?
If so, please continue reading as we explore Baler in Aurora province in more detail and check out the best top 5 tourist attractions to discover in 2020 and beyond.
Is Baler Hard To Get To?
When most people think about Baler, they think about spending several hours driving to this amazing place located on the northeast coast of Luzon.
Commonly associated as being a surfing location, Baler in North Luzon offers a lot more than just fantastic waves for surfing. As a matter of fact, there are some absolutely amazing natural attractions that make the trip more than worthwhile.
Most people are turned off driving to Baler thinking that it’s too far to drive however, this is now changing rapidly with Baler becoming one of the hottest Philippines destinations.
There has been massive improvements made with the roads and the infrastructure which means that what used to take several hours of driving can now be done in less than five hours if you plan your trip carefully.
Furthermore, once the Skyway in Manila is completed, which will link the North Luzon expressway with the South Luzon expressway, you could even reach Baler in 5 hours from the southern side of Manila (Paranaque, Alabang etc).
This means it could actually take you less time to reach Baler than it would to fly to Boracay. As an example, let’s take a look at a few facts about travelling to Boracay to help put things into perspective.
By the time you leave home to drive to the airport, check-in, wait around for your flight, fly to Caticlan, collect your luggage, take a tricycle to the boat, take the boat across to Boracay and then drive to your hotel, you are easily looking at 5 hours – assuming your flight isn’t delayed or even cancelled, which can happen when travelling to Boracay.
We took the drive from Manila leaving on a Sunday morning at around 10:00 a.m. Aside from a couple of toilet breaks and a food stop, the drive itself would have taken a little under 5 hours if we had driven directly.
The other consideration is price. If you take the whole family to Baler, you don’t have to pay for flights for everyone and other transfer costs, so it makes for a relatively cheap family adventure.
When you consider that even a trip to Boracay can take 5 hours door to door, then you shouldn’t be too concerned about driving to Baler. Believe me, it is worth it!
I was fortunate enough to be invited to stay at Costa Pacifica and Cube Hotel in Baler so that I could experience some of the recent changes that have been implemented at these resorts.
Both of these resorts have the same owner which means a lot of the services are shared.
Costa Pacifica is located right on Sabang beach in the heart of Baler and is a modern resort with beautifully landscaped gardens and the friendliest and most helpful staff you can imagine.
The main restaurant, The Beach House, has sensational food with a wide selection to choose from. The menu has a large variety of international cuisine right through to local Filipino favourites to ensure that everyone is catered for.
Some of the features of Costa Pacifica include:
- Many room types that cater to almost ANY type of traveller and budget
- Wide selection of great quality cuisine, including a large Vegan/Vegetarian menu
- Pet-Friendly resort which is in the process of being upgraded to a Pet Pampering service
- Intro Surf Lessons as part of the room rate
- 3 different guided full-day/half-day tours
- Two swimming pools
- Baler Brewing Tap Bar at the resort
- There will soon be a Spa at the properties
- Bus or Hire Transport if required
Cube Hotel is a different style of resort compared to Costa Pacifica. This is situated a couple of hundred metres from Sabang Beach and is made up of prefabricated modular units.
The rooms are basically two units side by side with one unit being a dining/living area and the other unit being a bedroom/bathroom.
Although Cube Hotel has a different look and feel than Costa Pacifica, as mentioned, the owners are the same so a lot of the services are the same as listed above.
We took up one of the day tour packages organised by the resort which was jam-packed with fantastic activities that you simply must experience when in Baler.
Luckily for us, Typhoon Tisoy had already passed the Philippines just under a week earlier. However, in my experience, it is normally after a typhoon when you have the best weather, sometimes for weeks afterwards.
Therefore, we were the beneficiary of this which meant that the weather was perfect while we were there.
So let’s take a look now at the top 5 tourist attractions for you to experience when you’re next in Baler.
1). Balete Park
Our first stop for the day was at Balete Park so we could check out the famous Balete tree which is one of the main tourist attractions in the town of Maria Aurora, just out from Baler.
For those that are unfamiliar with the significance of the Balete tree, also known as the Millennium Tree, is considered to be the oldest tree in the Philippines, estimated to be more than 600 years old.
However, it’s important to note that this is not actually a tree but a mass of tangled tree roots that still stand in the form of the tree as the original trunk has actually rotted away.
The reason for this is that Balete trees are also known as strangler figs. This means that they start to grow on other trees, eventually strangling the host tree and finally killing it through suffocation.
This is one of the reasons why Balete trees are shrouded with superstition in the Philippines.
What is left after the host tree dies is a mass of tangled roots in which little pathways have been created where the trunk once was. This allows you to actually walk through the remains of the tree.
It really is a fascinating experience and well worth a visit if you are in Baler.
Google Maps: Balete Park
2). Ditumabo Falls
After a short stay at Balete Park, the next destination was Ditumabo Falls which is located in San Luis and is about a 30-minute drive from Baler.
Ditumabo Falls is also known as Mother Falls. The reason for this is that there are several smaller waterfalls along the way and when you get closer to Mother Falls, which is at the head of the Ditumabo River, you will see why Ditumabo Falls is known as the Mother Falls.
The trek from the entry point to Mother Falls is approximately 1.3 km. About 70% of the trail leading to the falls and relatively safe for walking on, however, there are several water crossings that you need to take but don’t worry too much as the water only comes up to your knees.
As mentioned earlier, one of the upsides of Typhoon Tisoy is the weather that comes after a typhoon is usually sensational.
However, we were also very fortunate when it came to taking this trek to Ditumabo Falls because the excess rain from the typhoon meant that the waterfall was furiously pumping water into the river at the rate of about 700,000 litres per minute, according to our guide.
As a result, the river rapids were flowing strongly as we made our way up the trail towards Mother Falls.
The last part of the trail is a fully paved concrete path that runs along the side of the river up towards the mini-hydro plant located and near the foot of the falls.
This path is elevated about 3 metres above the river and gives you excellent views of the water rushing through the rapids.
Just before you get to Mother Falls, there is a beautiful cascading waterfall known as “shower falls” and then in between Shower Falls and Mother Falls is a triple layer waterfall known locally as Second Falls.
By the time you reach Shower Falls, you can hear the deafening roar of the water from Mother Falls echoing its way around the gorge.
The ferocity of this was something to behold with mist and spray going everywhere as the water pounded down from a height of approximately 40 metres into the basin below.
As mentioned, the fact that the Typhoon Tisoy came through and caused so much rain the previous week meant that this waterfall was at absolute full strength.
In all my years of chasing waterfalls in the Philippines, I don’t think I’ve seen a waterfall as ferocious as this.
All in all, it’s best to allow around two hours back and forth to complete this hike. I would grade the trek as relatively easy, however, please note, for safety reasons, hiring a guide is compulsory.
Entrance fee for the trek is P30 per person and the cost for the guide is P200. The guide will also expect a tip so as a minimum, I suggest tipping at least P200.
Google Maps: Ditumabo Falls
3). Aniao Islets
The next stop was for lunch at a restaurant located at Dicasalarin Cove.
The drive to Dicasalarin Cove offers some absolutely unbelievable scenery as you head along the coast and then up to the Sierra Madre mountain range. From here you really get a view of where the mountains meet the sea.
The colour of the water here is a spectacular turquoise colour and has to be seen to be believed.
Along the way, we enjoyed the spectacular scenery offered by Aniao Islets located just off Diguisit Beach. Aniao Islets consists of limestone rock formations that protrude from the ocean, somewhat like you would see in Palawan or Caramoan.
There were a couple of local resorts located on Diguisit beach if you were looking to spend some more time there chilling out with great views.
However, as we were on the way to Dicasalarin Cove, we only stopped briefly along the way to capture a few photos.
Google Maps: Aniao Islets
4). Dicasalarin Cove
Nothing quite prepared me for what to expect when we arrived at Dicasalarin Cove. This is, without doubt, one of the best places in the Philippines.
The entrance down to Dicasalarin Beach and restaurant is located next to the PAG-ASA weather station which is nestled high in the Sierra Madre mountain range at 180 MASL overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
The scenery here was absolutely amazing with breathtaking views looking out across the beautiful turquoise water of the Pacific Ocean with the white sand beach glowing in the sun below.
After twisting and turning down the winding road for a few minutes, you’ll find yourself at Dicasalarin restaurant which is where we stopped for lunch.
Here I was pleasantly surprised to find that they have wood-fired pizza among other classic Filipino dishes.
After lunch, we took a stroll to the beach which is only about 100 metres away from the restaurant. This beach has beautiful white sand and was bereft of tourists which made it even better. With beautiful two-metre high waves regularly crashing in with the tide this was an awe-inspiring experience.
With beautiful palm trees lining the beach this was a postcard-perfect place to relax after lunch.
To enhance the experience even further, there is a lighthouse located on the point of the cove which apparently offers amazing 360-degree views across the Pacific Ocean and of the mountain range in the background.
However, we were short on time and we’re not able to make it to the lighthouse.
Google Maps: Dicasalarin Cove
5). Historical Tour
Our final stop was back in the town of Baler so we could take in some of the historical landmarks. This included the house of Dona Aurora who was the wife first president of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon.
We also went to Baler Church and was able to learn the historical significance of this landmark with regard to the Spanish surrendering the Philippines to the US back in 1898.
Although this might not be one of the grandest churches I have seen in the Philippines it was still interesting to understand the role the church played in Philippine history.
From there we went to the Baler marker which is located right in the centre of town and then took a short walk across the road to check out Museo De Baler and also the original house of the first president of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon.
I’m not necessarily a big fan when it comes to museums however, you are always able to learn some of the historical facts of the area which help to put things into perspective, particularly for a country with such a colourful history as the Philippines.
Google Maps: Baler Municipal Tourism Office
Forget The Drive, Just Do it!
So there we have it. Don’t be put off by the long drive to Baler. The roads are fantastic for just about the whole drive and if you leave early enough in the morning, you can easily make it up there by lunchtime and be enjoying the beach and the sun before you know it.
There are some fantastic places to visit on either a half-day or full-day trip that will make your overall experience that much more enjoyable.
Costa Pacifica and Cube Hotel offer a number of accommodation options to suit all budgets and have fantastic restaurants and facilities which will make your stay in Baler even more memorable.
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