Baler is the capital of the province of Aurora, in the Central Luzon region of the Philippines.  It is mostly known for being the shooting location of the famous surfing scene in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “Charlie don’t surf!” are 2 lines that may sound familiar, especially if you are a film buff.  Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore played by Robert Duval said these lines at Charlie’s Point, now one of the most accessible and popular surf spots in the area.  But if you are an avid surfer, or just want to give it a try, know that this is only the beginning of what Baler has to offer.

Located a, roughly, 7 hour ride from Manila (it took us 12 hours from Santa Ana, Cagayan), Baler is not only ther birthplace of the Philippines Surf scene, but also home to some beautiful white sand beaches and waterfalls.

Digisit, Ditumabo, Cunayan and Paltic falls are all within a reasonable distance and are a must if you wish to combine a little hiking with a little dip in fresh water.

Head over to Dinadiawan or down to Dicasalarin Cove if you want to avoid the crowds and relax on a white sand beach sorounded by beautiful coconut trees.

Baler is also motorcycling paradise.  Its twisting roads are fairly quiet and there isn’t much traffic outside the town propper.  The ride will reward you with great sea views and coconut trees, beautiful muntains and rivers.  Road conditions are good, but watch out for certain sections where the pavement disappears and the roasd becomes a dirt track.

If you are looking for a place to stay, we really like Kahanamoku Bed & Breakfast, which is super clean, well decorated and has very tasty and healthy breakfast options which you need to order before 5pm the previous day.  Even though this place does not have T.V. or wifi, it is one of our favourite lodging options in the Philippines.  It is also the home of Salty Dog Customs and also offer yoga classes and retreats.  If you are in Baler for surfing, Cemento beach and Cobra Reef are literally across the road.

While some claim to be able to surf all year round, surf season in Baler runs from September to March, having best waves from December to February.  Do check out Sabang Beach, Charlie’s Point, Lindy’s Point and Cobra Reef in Cemento Beach if you want to catch some waves.  Charlie Does is the perfect all in one stop iuf you are hungry, need a board and even if you need some lessons before jumping in the water.

Santa Ana (Cagayan)

Santa Ana is located in the north-easternmost point of Luzon and is the home of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone.  This little known gem of the north counts with deserted white sand beaches, waterfalls, wind and kite surfing and is also one of the best places for game fishing in the Philippines.

Santa Ana (and the north of Luzon in general) is perfect if you want to avoid the crowds and see something outside your regular Palawan, Bohol, Boracay tourist destinations.  Although, as a much less travelled destination, you should expect a much less developed infrastructure.  Resorts, hotels and restaurants may not be as fancy as in other places in the Philippines.  Overpriced camping, and simple very affordable hostels catered to local barkadas are the most abundant lodging options, and the fancier resorts in our experience, may be a disappointment as they are for those looking to blow their cash at the casino, and care little about service standards, not to mention the food.

We booked a sea-view room at the Avalon Beach Club (also called Party Beach Resort) and were given a room facing the parking lot (no water visible unless it rained).  The food was just not edible.  Internet was (as it is almost everywhere in the Philippines) slower than a dial up connection, and the service… let’s just say there is plenty of room for improvement.  At check out, they were nice enough (after much debating and having to show them on site, what we meant by sea-view) to give us a non sea-view rate, and we also should mention that the beach was beautiful and well maintained.

If you are looking for a place to stay, dont be deceived by appearances, and if you are looking for something to eat… This may be your time to get adventurous and try some of the local eateries! cheap and… Ma sarap!

If you love nature, a little adventure and the sea, Santa Ana is a place you should put high up on your list.  Head over to Palaui island and treck to the Spanish-era Cape Engaño Lighthouse.  Enjoy the beautiful Anguib and Nangaramoan beaches.  Explore the Gotan mangrove forest and waterfalls, Padlas and Lamesa Falls or ride a Takuli and go firefly watching at Brgy. Casagan.

Santa Ana is a good four and a half hour ride from Pagudpud and a three hour ride from the provincial capital (Tuguegarao).

Having mentioned all of the above, if there is something we would like to highlight about Santa Ana and Cagayan, that would have to be the ride itself.  We rode into Santa Ana from Pagudpud and we went to Baler after.  The landscapes tell a visual story that changes constantly.  A 12 hour journey (Santa Ana to Baler) became a visit to natures very own art gallery, offering incredibly beautiful views of the Sierra Madre on one side and the Cordillera Central on the other.  Definitely a must if you are looking for something a little less ordinary.


Pagudpud lies in the Ilocos Norte province in the northern-most point of the island of Luzon (Philippines).  It Is a popular destination among local tourists and kite surfing enthusiasts.  Its location and generally windy conditions make Pagudpud the ideal place for wind surf and kite surf, having a long season that goes from October to May.  This 4th class municipality of the Ilocos region, also offers some great surfing opportunities and as opposed to most other surfing destinations with seasons defined by the Amihan (neortheast winds) or the Habagat (southwest monsoon), due to the different orientation of its various breaks, it is not strange to encounter a good swell, almost any time of the year.

Pagudpud is, however, not only a haven for water sports lovers.  Just 2 hours to the south (and about an hour and a half north of Vigan), one can find the Paoay sand dunes and Suba beach.  Here, one can ride a 4×4 through the dunes and also have a go at sandboarding for around php2500/hour.

Also in the vicinity of Laoag, the St. Augustine church is a must if you are looking to learn something about the history of the Spanish colonial era.  Built in the early 1700’s, St Augustine church stands as one of the few remaining Baroque structures in the Philippines.

If you are looking to lose yourself hiking and admiring the breathtaking natural sights, Pagudpud counts with a great number of amazing waterfalls (around 18 in Adams alone) and some unforgettable sunsets.

Where to eat in Pagudpud?

Kingfisher is tucked away along the coast in between Saud beach and the Blue Lagoon and not only is an amazing place to stay, but also a great place totaste some of the local delicacies.  Staff is friendly and the place is just gorgeous.  Not to mention it is THE PLACE if you want to throw a kite in the air and be literally blown away by the experience.

The Blue Lagoon is somewhat a little bit of a cocktail of feelings.  The horrible eye sore that is called Hannah’s Beach resort, makes you want to turn around and ride away as fast as one can go.  However, once one turns to the sea and avoids the ridiculous statues of superheroes and Egyptian pharaohs, it is possible to enjoy the beautiful colours of the bay.  Ride up north past Hannah’s and get to Casa Consuelo, where you will be able to enjoy a great, fresh, local meal with very nice views of the sea (and an amazing wifi connection).

For a healthy option, head to Adams for a dining experience around sustainable farming and eco friendly farms.

Pagudpud is the perfect place for those looking for something a little less travelled than your usual destinations in the Philippines, and in addition too the countless activities available in the area, to ride through the famous Patapat viaduct and the grand wind farms in the area, will make your ride, a difficult one to forget.

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