Touted as the “birthplace of Philippine surfing”, Baler’s claim to fame are its massive swells, which can rise as high as 9 meters. Baler’s waves were first discovered by tourists in 1979, after it became a shooting location for the Francis Ford Coppola film, Apocalypse Now.
For non-surfers though, Baler can also be an exciting destination to rediscover history, nature, and gastronomic delights.
Check out our list of 6 non-surfing destinations you should check out in this coastal town in the northeast.
1. Dicasalarin Cove
The Angaras are a well-known clan in Baler, not only for politics but also for tourist destinations that they own. One of these is Dicasalarin Cove, a remote island 45 minutes away from the kapitolyo. Home to local artistry, the cove features an Artists’ Village where visitors can get a glimpse into various antique pieces, artifacts, paintings, and other artworks from local art creators. An Ifugao Village consisting of Ifugao-style accommodations and picnic tables is also to be found on site.
The scenic drive to the cove passes through an elevated road flanked by the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, overlooking the beach. But if the drive up is already stunning, wait until you reach the cove itself where a strip of white sand lined with foliage and coconut trees welcomes guests. Jagged rocks, formed from ages of crashing waves, dot the shore.
Head onward to the northern tip and scale the cove’s most prominent feature: a cliffside and an unusually shaped lighthouse called Sun Dial. The 15-minute trek up cemented steps is both awe-inspiring and nerve-wracking. Just beside it is a cliff that plummets a hundred feet down to a rocky beach–definitely one for thrill seekers!
2. Barangay Zabali’s rock formations
From Dicasalarin Cove to Baler’s center, you will pass by several rock formations along the isolated coast of Barangay Zabali. The most popular are Lukso-Lukso and Aniao Islets, which lie just a few minutes away from each other.
Lukso-Lukso (“lukso” is Tagalog for “jump”) was given its name for its closely connected twin rocks that jut out of the water. Aniao Islets are made up of several rock formations that are more massive than Lukso-Lukso’s. Translating to “small island”, Aniao houses several bamboo cottages that serve as a rest area for travelers. Snorkel, swim, or simply take a selfie. These islands are ideal for any of these!
3. Mangrove Reforestation Area
Learn about sustainable tourism in the Mangrove Reforestation Area. Resting on waters near the fish port, the mangrove forest is a local government effort geared toward reducing the impact of climate change and aiding fisherfolk.
4. Historical Trail: Ermita Hill and Baler Church
Baler isn’t just a sight for adventurous explorations, it’s also one for the history-hungry. Baler’s Historical Trail starts at Baler Church (also known as San Luis Obispo Parish), a 16th-century church that was fashioned from honey and corals. More than serving as a location for the local film Baler, the church is where the Siege of Baler occurred.
In 1898, 54 Spanish soldiers locked themselves inside the church as over 800 Katipuneros barricaded it. Back then, the Philippines had already broken free as a Spanish colony, and the Spaniards inside were the only ones left (hence, the church was also given the name “The Last Spanish Garrison in the Philippines”). It took nearly a year before the Spaniards surrendered, and when they exited the church, 19 have died and only a handful were deemed mentally stable. It is said that they survived that long with the help of a Filipina (believed to be in a relationship with one of Spanish soldiers) who supplied them with food.
What makes the Siege interesting was instead of punishment, the Spaniards were met by warm hospitality: fed, cared for, then peacefully sent off to Spain by Filipino revolutionaries.
Another interesting part of Baler’s Historical Trail is Ermita Hill in Barangay Zabali. From the base of the hill going up, you’ll fine eight statues lining the trail—seven males (mostly children) and a woman. They represent the sole survivors of the catastrophic 1735 tsunami named “Tromba Marina” that wiped out Baler’s population. The families ran up Ermita Hill (some say they swam) and took refuge there for days. It is said that they are the descendants of Baler’s townsfolk today, which also explains why many people in Baler share the same first and last names.
5. Nature Green Forest Resort
Fancy a serene, nature-filled getaway? Nature Green Forest Resort Baler is your go-to destination.
Found along Cemento Beach, the resort boasts of a variety of outdoor activities in its property, including hiking, BBQ grilling, and swimming in a private beach. Water sports equipment like canoes and bamboo rafts are also available for those who wish to explore a river adjacent to the rooms.
6. P200 buffets: Gerry Shan’s Place and AMCO Beach Resort
After tours, there’s no better way to cap off your day than with a buffet. And when it comes to buffets that don’t break the bank, Baler is the perfect destination. A couple of places in Sabang that offer extensive P200 buffets are Gerry Shan’s Place and AMCO Beach Resort. Both whip up an array of local delicacies, including fresh seafood and stews. Desserts and drinks are included in Gerry Shan’s buffet too.