“Charlie don’t surf” – one of the most famous lines from the 1970s film ‘Apocalypse Now’. The surfing scenes was shot in Baler (pronounced Bel Air) on the Philippine’s main island, North Luzon.
We stayed at the “Costa Pacifica”:http://www.costapacificabaler.com/, Baler’s best hotel, for three nights. It was light and airy with a funky, hip vibe due to the surfers it attracts and was located at the southern end of Sabang Beach, although it wasn’t a beach you’d sunbathe on.
Our garden view, junior suite on the ground floor was huge with two queen size beds, small wardrobe with room safe (easy to use and accessible), a desk and chair, sofa and table, tea and coffee making facilities, TV, reasonable lighting and air conditioning. Although wifi was complementary, it was slow. The décor would have been bland with cream floor and walls, but huge flowers painted directly on to the wall added a splash of colour. There was a mini bar with soft drinks, complimentary water and a limited selection of meals from the menu were available via room service.
The bathroom was a good proportion to the room with an open plan area with sink and closed off loo and large walk in shower. Towels were white and fluffy, there was a decent hair dryer and complimentary toiletries.
Floor to ceiling windows at the front led onto the patio with chairs and a table, but it overlooked the back of the beach-front two storey apartments in front and a building site nearby.
The hotel had a large L shaped swimming pool and circular children’s pool. The wicker sun beds (including double ones) were comfortable and blue and white striped towels and chilled lemon water, were available from the lifeguard station. There was not a huge amount of beds, but as the other guests appeared transient or lured by the surf, it was never busy.
The restaurant was known as the Beach House. The staff were all young and casually dressed in turquoise polo shirts and white shorts.
Carlos, our guide, joked about how quiet we’d find Baler as it wasn’t on the tourist trail and the last time he’d taken visitors there was in 1975.
Our arrival coincided with that of a full wedding group and the celebrations were in full swing when we went for dinner. Consequently, the staff were run of their feet and service was abysmal unlike the excellent food: three long fat goujons of fish in a light and crisp batter with ‘game’ chips instead of fries (the American influence) and tender beef adobo. As our meal progressed the disco ramped up, so we were not expecting a quiet night. However, on getting to bed, the music appeared to also be coming from a nearby bar so we both tried to read ourselves to sleep despite the music continuing into the early hours.
Dinner on subsequent nights was much quieter and normal service was resumed. The food continued to excel, and I really enjoyed a ‘Poke Chill’, raw diced tuna marinated in a sauce with mango and served with rice topped with spring onion. With Sauvignon Blanc at 750 Peso/£12.50 we had very enjoyable, more peaceful evenings.
Breakfast varied depending on the number of guests. The morning after the wedding, there was an extensive selection which even included a pizza station, yum yum. The second morning it was a slightly pared back buffet where the chef tempted me to try brown sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf, reasonably yum, whilst on the third day, the a la carte menu included my favourite breakfast dish of eggs benedict, yum, yum, yum. What a way to finish!