Close to Manila, check.
Simple lifestyle, check.
A place to meet friends, check.
I hardly think I need more reasons to love Liw-Liwa, a relatively up-and-coming surfing spot in Zambales. Prior to the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, the whole site purportedly did not exist. Today, it is one huge, and I mean, huge stretch of cement-gray beach extending from north to south and gently tapering off to the nearby Anawangin and Nagsasa coves, facing the abyss-like South China Sea on the horizon, with a full range of scenic pine-trees (PINE TREES!) lining the background. The 360° view is breathtaking, but kind of impossible to describe through flat pictures or silly sentences like this. Its location provides a beautiful, panoramic, unobstructed sunset view.
Liw-liwa is a more affordable alternative to Crystal Beach surfing spot in Zambales It’s a very young spot, relatively 4-5 years old, and is still very clean, quiet, and un-touristy–which is exactly what’s loveable about it.
The lack of modern reminders of the city, especially during the very dark nights, is a charming point of Liw-liwa. This is one of those beaches where a bonfire at night is an absolute must, as it would be a big waste to not make use of the vast stretch of sand to lie down in, stargaze, or listen to the ocean.
How to get there:
- Board a Victory Liner bus to Iba, Zambales (last morning bus at 10AM, next one at 3PM. Not advisable to take the 3PM-onwards bus). Travel time is about 3-4hrs.
- If you miss that bus, take the Victory Liner bus to Olongapo, which will stop at the terminal in Olonggapo. Transfer to an Iba, Zambales bus.
- For both scenarios, en route to Iba, get off at San Felipe Bobulon Elementary School where you will see a public market and a tricycle terminal. (Some bus drivers don’t know this school, but all Iba-bound buses will pass this. They might recognize the name San Felipe more, so ask them to drop you here and be on the lookout for the public market to your left and the school to your right. Travel time is about 30 minutes maximum).
- Better buy fruits, water, and grill supplies like fish and charcoal at the public market before heading to Liw-liwa, because a trip back to town and back to the beach again, at the price of each way’s ride, is not that worth it. Note also that fish is cheap here! We bought a 1.65kg full bluefinn tuna for only Php200.
- Ask a trike to take you to Liw-liwa. They will immediately know The Circle. They will try to charge you Php100 or so, do haggle up to Php80 as the place is far and isolated.
Where to Stay:
- The Circle Hostel – international-backpacker-friendly hostel
- Kila Bot Sir Ping Spot – owned by surfers Bot & Ping. Good for groups of 2 or more.
2D1N Budget & Itinerary per head:
- Rountrip transportation bus + tricycles: Php 600~
- Surfing for beginners with instructor and board, one hour: Php 400 (one hour is more than enough for beginners, especially if the waves are constant.)
- Food (liberally, gluttonously assuming 2 lunch, 1 dinner, 1 breakfast from the next-door eatery): Php 300~
- Hammock accomodation at The Circle Hostel: Php 250
- Total estimate: Php1500~/head
Sounds perfect for a quick weekend getaway, yes? Stayed here for 3D2N, and it wasn’t enough!
Tip: gather firewood & kindling in the afternoon for a bonfire at night. It’s weird, but sometimes random locals will try to charge you if you light a bonfire with “their” wood, though it’s technically wood you find lying around the wide open beach. The Circle offers to make a bonfire for you, but at a steep Php 300 price, when you can just do it yourself.
Also, respect the locals. Surfing is their lifestyle, don’t haggle when it comes to surfing rates. It’s an infant industry that needs protection. One day, when it becomes mainstream here in the Philippines, I suspect the prices will naturally go down. But for now, think of those fees as tributes to the pioneers, those whose passions really lie in surfing. Keep the beach, and everywhere actually, clean. It’s an unspoiled place, for now. Let’s try to keep it at that. :)
Anyway, see you on my next Liw-liwa trip?