When the hustle and bustle of the city life becomes too much to handle, what do you do? You go on a beach trip, of course! Part of the Zambales province, Liw-Liwa is just a three to four-hour drive from Manila. It belongs to the municipality of San Felipe, which is further up north of the more popular areas like Crystal Beach and Anawangin. Those who frequent this small surf town fondly call it as just “Liwa”. Compared to other surfing destinations, Liwa is still largely untouched by commercialized establishments. Don’t expect any fancy cafés or well-built roads just yet. But this also means it’s cleaner, and easier to feel connected to Mother Nature.  

Man paddling on a yellow surfboard

Liwa is perfect for de-stressing because of it’s quiet and laid back atmosphere. No big parties and no hordes of people. For better or for worse, internet connection is intermittent here so no notifications either. It’s just you and the beach for the weekend! A bunch of friends and I took to Liwa for a short surf break. Here’s what our weekend escape looked like:

Day 1

Tricycles parked on a sandy beach road with trees

Photo courtesy of @mijocoloco on Instagram

To get to Liwa, one could take a bus bound for Iba, Zambales and then ask the driver to drop you off at San Felipe. Victory Liner in Cubao has regular trips starting from 5:00 AM, and succeeding trips every two hours. However, we decided to rent a private van instead of taking public transportation since we could fill up all of the seats anyway. It was also more convenient since we could set our own schedule to leave.

Like the norm of quick weekend getaways, my friends and I left in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Everything around us was still dark, so it wasn’t that hard to give in to sleep. When we opened our eyes, we already woke up in Liwa. As mentioned, the roads weren’t as smooth upon arriving in the municipality of San Felipe. From the main road, we followed a narrow path pointing us to our accommodation.

The Circle Hostel

Sign of The Circle Hostel

Photo courtesy of @extra_biii on Instagram

First things first: we checked in at The Circle Hostel, where “there are no strangers”. We were warmly greeted by the local receptionist. Once she had confirmed our identities, we were shown to our bunk beds. Each person was given a pillow, linen, and a blanket. There was no air conditioning but the receptionist assured us that the winds would keep us cool at night.

At the common area, several board games were available like chess and scrabble. A deck of playing cards and a ukulele were also free to use. Feel like escaping to the world of fiction? Rummage in their bin of donated books and you might find a literary gem. You can also keep busy by taking pictures of the hostel’s colorful murals.

Quirky and colorful graffiti painted on The Circle Hostel's Lockers

Don’t forget to bring a padlock for the quirky lockers

Rad graffiti designs on The Circle Hostel's Eco Brick Walls

Eco-brick walls with rad designs

Liw-Liwa Beach

Liw-Liwa beach waves

The shades of blue from Liwa’s beachfront

We were ready to check out the beach after being stuck in a van for so long. In between the establishments, there are sandy lanes which lead to the beachfront. The beach extends to as far as the eyes can see! You can see the mountain ranges in the distance.

Since it was too hot for our liking, we retreated back under the shade of the hostel. We killed the rest of our time just chilling and playing games at The Circle’s common area.

Anghalo Falls

For the afternoon, we planned to visit Anghalo Falls. Since we had our own van, we only needed to hire a guide. The first part was easy; it was mainly just walking a paved path to the waterfalls. Trekking wasn’t so bad with a view like this!

Mountain ranges of San Felipe

Mountain ranges of San Felipe

The second part of the trek was slightly more challenging. Climbing up, down, and over rocks required a bit more athleticism and balance. But for someone who wasn’t physically fit, it was relatively easy. As we overcame our last hurdle of granite, we finally had a view of our reward: a dip in the cool waters of Anghalo Falls!

Anghalo Falls surrounded by lush tress

The tranquil Anghalo Falls

The basin wasn’t too large but there was enough space for everyone to swim around in. Thrill seekers can do some cliff diving if they’re looking for an adrenaline rush. Those who prefer to chill can get a massage under the current. We took our time at the base of the falls since we earned it! Anghalo Falls is a good choice if you’re looking for a chill nature date with your girl.

Liwa Sunset

Liwa colorful sunset

Liwa’s sky turning orange

After our waterfalls adventure, we headed back to the beachfront to catch the sunset. The Liwa sky slowly changed its colors. Watching the surfers and skimboarders coast along the waters against a colorful backdrop was so relaxing.

Bro Tip: the view is best accompanied by a beer or two with the bros!

Just make sure to pick up after yourself. A great way to cap off an exciting day.

Day 2

Surfing

Surf lessons on shore with surfboards

Surf lessons before jumping into the water

Girl surfing glassy Liwa waves

Photo courtesy of @obiemercado on Instagram

Everyone was up early to get stoked! The waves weren’t as strong but we hired instructors anyway. Safety first! We were taught how to successfully push up from the board and also some guidelines to avoid any untoward accidents. The waves weren’t too big and intimidating, so it’s perfect for beginners too. If you’re not into surfing, you can try skimboarding instead. Instead of being in the middle of the water, skimboarding is about gliding the surface of the beach. It’s like surfing, but you’d be on shore! We soaked up as much sun and sand as we could before saying goodbye to the beach.

Boodle Feast

Boodle Feast on Banana Leaves from Board Culture

Buttered shrimp, vegetables, grilled meat, and rice

As one last hurrah before we left Liwa, we had a boodle fight at Board Culture. Who doesn’t love eating freshly grilled meat and seafood with their bare hands? Make sure to visit Board Culture a day before to arrange this feast. With our bellies full, we blissfully sleep through our ride home.

For those who surf like me, the best time to ride the tide is during the south swell. Waves are generally more flat during the summer. If you’re looking to surf during off season, thankfully, waves are said to be consistent all year round. But most of all, Liwa is perfect for unwinding and doing nothing by the beach. “Chill” would be an understatement to describe the small surf town’s vibe. If you’re looking for a place to disconnect (literally and figuratively), disappear to Liwa this weekend!

Header image and article cover courtesy of The Circle Hostel

Photos courtesy of CVMN