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Review: CIRCLE HOSTEL ZAMBALES #HostelStay @thecirclehostel #SanFelipe

Other than Baler and San Juan La Union, there is a other surfing destination in Luzon that is rising in popularity ----San Felipe Zambales. Makes sense because San Felipe is the 2nd town from San Antonio which is well known for its coves Anawangin and Nagsasa as well as Capones Island. That said, the place is only approximately 3 hours away from Manila via NLEx and SCTEx, half the time you need to travel for both Baler and San Juan. So if you are a beginner who wants to learn the 101 of surfing, San Felipe is the place to go.


There are only a few accommodations in the beach area (less than 10 in my count) and some of them are private vacation accommodations but the fact that a popular hostel brand -- The Circle Hostel --has put up a branch here means this place is in for bigger things.

And that's where we stayed for two nights last month. Not so much to surf because we knew the weather will be not good due to an incoming storm but we were there to feel the place and chill.


By Car
-urn left upon exiting the Kalaklan Gate.
-Go straight and pass through the following towns: Subic Town, Castillejos and San Marcelino
-You will hit an T-intersection with a Petron. Make a right.
-Straight until through San Narciso until you see the San Felipe arch.

We got here by taking public transport. Took Victory bus from Caloocan station bound Iba Zambales.
We were in San Felipe at around 9:30 am. Had a quick breakfast at their public which if I could say is clean and organized for a public market. Took the tricycle to Circle hostel for 80 pesos and that's it. Cost is normally 70 pesos but it rained heavily the day before so the clever tricycle drivers unanimously agreed among themselves to raise the rate by 10 pesos. tsk tsk

About The Circle Hostel
"A chain of budget friendly eco-hostels in the Philippines. Affordable lodging and a positive and friendly community atmosphere amongst travelers.We want to be a sanctuary for the artsy and the adventurous where people can express themselves freely among each other and on our walls. Because at the Circle Hostel, there are no strangers". --website

Zambales / La Union / Baler


First Impression
Barangay Liw-Liwa where Circle Hostel is located is unique. It feels very different because the landscape is dominated by a specie of pine tree same with that in Nagsasa and Anawangin cove except that here it's a big area with pine trees so it feels really different. The sound the trees create when hit by wind is music to the ears and the area is cooler too. The hostel is located five minutes away from the beach. I wished it were next to the beach but no property dare to set up one next to the beach. I understand because the waves and wind could get really rough during rainy season. There were around two or three but they are still more than 500 meters away from the shoreline. It's interesting because if you are in the beach and look behind you, there is nothing to see but pine trees. It gives a feeling pf being in a remote area. Follow the small road to the main road leading to town and that's when you see accommodations. The place is still remote in that sense. Or at least that's the feeling you get. I didn't notice many houses of locals too so it's really quiet at night.

There are no private rooms so the options are either dormitory rooms or hammock. Tent is also offered for 290 pesos per night but ai don't really advice it because there is not enough open space to set up tent. Dormitory beds are comfortable. Each bed is with mosquito nets to keep insects away and curtains for a little privacy. There are a few ceiling fans to circulate air inside and since it's all wooden/ bamboo, there's lots of spaces for air to circulate. A thin mattress for a comfortable sleep. Clean sheets and a pillow. All good.

We stayed in the co-ed room for 405 php per night per pax for two nights with total bill of around 1,600php. Not bad at all.

Room Types and Price

Female Single Dorm Bed
PHP 405per night
PHP 350per night
Co-ed Single Dorm Bed
PHP 405per night
PHP 290per night

Artwork At Every Corner

Other than the native materials making up most of the hostel's structures, one key element here are the artwork all over the place. All corners are filled with graffiti. Guests could find a spot where they can paint and express their views or sentiment. There's hardly any space left. Even the wooden fence and trees inside the area. If you are mindful, you find something interesting at every corner, whether a famous quote, a nice artwork, a personal mantra, guests contributed to the creation of this colorful place. One personal favorite, a quote saying "there are many kinds of love, but never the same love twice". Pak!



The Gazebo

We were not able to surf for two days we were here because the waves were too rough due to a storm passing Northern Luzon so most of the time we were at the gazebo chilling out. The gazebo at Circle Hostel Zambales is an elevated hut. Since all sides are open and the roof is made of kugon grass, it's really cool and airy. It's a perfect place to just relax and let time slip. Spend lazy hours while on a hammock with mellow music playing. Chat with friends or fellow travelers while sipping San Mig light or red horse beer. This the place to chill.

Food? There are not much choices here. Don't expect special dining places but you will be ok that's for sure. The hostel doesn't have a restaurant of its own but opposite it is a sari-sari store and they also sell set meals mostly silog (tapsilog, longsilog, tocilog etc.). There is another restaurant nearby selling local delicacies like sisig, bopis, sinigang, even bagnet. This is where we had meals most of the time and we were satisfied naman. Good tasting lutong-bahay style Filipino dishes. This store also rents out bicycles for 100 pesos per hour. We managed to haggle for 150 pesos for two bikes and went around despite the drizzle. It was quite a challenge but fun.

The story weather still didn't stop us from going to the beach. We were there two afternoons sitting by the sand appreciating the view and even the turbulent waves. There was heavy rain prior to our arrival so the many water lilies washed by the river nearby were scattered on the beach. It could look messy at first but I came to appreciate the pattern they make on the beach. We walk through the length of the shoreline, and it is really a long beachfront, and noticed many pvc pipes lining the Northern section from where our accommodation is located. Saw some men working on one of the pipes and asked one of them what the pipes are and that's when I learned that these pipes are for the purpose of getting seawater to prawn hatchery inland. One pvc pipes accounts for one prawn hatchery and there were many pipes which means there are many hatcheries in the area. San Felipe is a major source of prawn.
Sadly on our 2nd day, we laid witnessed to a terrible event. While at the beach, we noticed a group of young people were drinking by the shoreline. The boys suddenly decided to have a swim minutes before the sun was about to set. They were playful but made sure they were closest to the shoreline as possible because the waves were still too rough. But events turned quickly bad, one of them started drifting farther ashore. At first we thought he was playing prank but turns out he was being dragged by the waves. The other members started panicking. Some went for help while others were helpless and can't do anything but to shout for their companion to try swimming back to shore.

One managed to get to him but they were already too far afield. They held hands for a few seconds but were separated eventually. The current drifted both of them towards the North direction and we thought both men would drown. The one who went out to save his friend managed to make it back shore but the other guy was still drift. The weather was uncooperative and a sudden strong rain and wind hit the area. That is when the guy finally disappeared from everybody's sight. The ones who came to rescue him were too late.
Other member still tried to walk further North of the beach hoping their friend would emerge somewhere but to no avail. Night came and he was nowhere to be found. In a small place like Liw-liwa where everybody knows everybody, the mood in that night was all but gloomy. Even we were somewhat saddened witnessing the event. Police cars and vehicles of local officials visiting the area. We spent the night drinking beer.


Looking for a surfing destination in Luzon? 
To relax, to meet fellow travelers, to surf or simply to chill by the beach, Liw-liwa Sab Felipe is a good option and it's nice that there is Circle Hostel to provide the venue for it all. I would love to go back here one summer. Happy travels!!!

Sito Liwliwa, San Felipe Zambales, San Felipe, Zambales
Phone:0917 861 1929
Twitter: @thecirclehostel


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