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Traveling to Aurora means visiting a province where you can experience it all. Famous for its natural wonders and exciting destinations for outdoor activities, Aurora is fast-becoming a tourist hotspot. From surfing magnificent waves and trekking high mountains to learning about the historical Siege of Baler, there are many things about Aurora that travelers can enjoy.
Aurora was formerly a part of Quezon Province until it became a separate province in 1979. It was named after Aurora Aragon, the wife of former president Manuel L. Quezon. Quezon was the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth, and he was also born in Baler, the town that would later become capital of Aurora Province.
A significant portion of the province is covered by the Sierra Madre mountain range, while its eastern flank faces the Pacific Ocean, Aurora is rich in verdant forests, rugged terrains, breathtaking waterfalls, and lovely beaches. Its capital, Baler—the last Spanish stronghold in the country—is also known for its various historical sites.
Tourists can book domestic flights from Manila to Baler with Skyjet Airlines. This route is perfect for travelers who want to reach Aurora quickly, as flights are only about 30 minutes long.
From Manila, a 6-7 hour bus ride is the most common way to reach the province. Genesis Bus Transport Lines in Cubao offers direct trips to Aurora. Travelers can also take a trip to Casiguran or to Baler via Joy Buses, a deluxe bus that has an on-board comfort room, free WiFi, and no stop-overs.
Jeepneys and vans can take visitors to different locations within the province. For shorter distances, tricycles are the best alternative. Tour tricycles can even be rented for a day. Drivers can take travelers to popular spots while also providing information about the destinations. For bay tours and diving sessions off the coast, motor boats can be rented.
As the province has many great beaches, other must-see attractions in Aurora are often overlooked by visitors. Ermita Hills, for instance, is a site tourists shouldn’t miss. This hill was where survivors climbed and sought refuge during the 1735 tsunami that swept Baler. There are statues commemorating this phenomenal and devastating natural disaster.
For those who want to see the coastal side of Aurora, the famed Sabang Beach and Diguisit Beach are recommended destinations. Guests can go surfing in the former, but the latter is not ideal for any water-related activities. Instead, Diguisit is visited for its interesting rock formations.
Before leaving, tourists must also see the Millenium Tree, a 600-year old balete tree in the municipality of Maria Aurora. It is said that 60 adults with arms stretched out are needed to fully encircle this massive tree.
Travelers can cap their visit off by visiting the home of the Doña Aurora Quezon in Baler. This simple wooden house is now a museum that contains old books and native costumes, as well as the presidential Chrysler limousine of President Quezon.
When in this province, travelers have the option to go trekking to see some majestic waterfalls, such as the staircase-like Dimasalang Waterfalls in Maria Aurora, the graceful Bulawan Falls in Dinalungan, and the Ditumabo Falls in San Luis, which is known as “Mother Falls” because it is the biggest of all falls in the area.
Aside from being a trekker’s paradise, Aurora is also a sea lover’s dream destination. There are a multitude of activities one can try in the beaches and waters of the province. Travelers can try their hand at surfing in Sabang Beach, which is popularly referred to as the birthplace of surfing in the country. Beginners can even take lessons from some of the locals. There are also destinations for scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking and jet skiing.
Lastly, movie enthusiasts can snap pictures at Charlie’s Point. Located north of Sabang Beach, it is where the critically acclaimed Apocalypse Now, starring Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen, was filmed.
There are a number of good restaurants to try while in Aurora. Visitors seeking a taste of classic Pinoy dishes should head to Kusina Luntian along Dela Torre Street in Baler. Banana leaves are used as plates for their grilled meals, and no other utensils are offered, giving guests the chance to experience eating kamayan style (hands only).
Visitors can also dine at Baler Surfer Grill along Sabang Beach in Baler. They’re known for their generous servings and their unusual grill, a Volkswagen car converted into a grill, which they use to cook meals. Another surfer-themed food haunt to try is the Hungry Surfer Restaurant at Bay’s Inn, Baler. Customers can enjoy various seafood dishes while dining in a location overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
For travelers who really want to eat their fill, then Chef Gerry’s Picnic Bay in Baler is the place to go to. This restaurant offers an assortment of affordable food options that is sure to satisfy your tastebuds.
Visitors can also eat to their hearts’ content at one of the many riverside huts along Ibona River in Dingalan, where freshly-caught seafood and locally grown vegetables are served.
There are numerous small but good nightlife establishments around Aurora province. A variety of bars and karaoke places can be found near Sabang Beach, one of which is the Cauti Bar and Grill at Night. This home-turned-bar lets guests enjoy the night on their balcony, garden, and front porch.
Visitors can choose from many resorts and inns to book a stay at. The Costa Pacifica Resort in Sabang Beach has more than a hundred rooms and boasts luxurious facilities like an outdoor pool, a gym, a kid’s playroom and even a gift shop. This hotel is best suited for couples, foreign tourists, and other groups.
For travelers on a budget, the Hotel Motel Charlie Does Inn is a clean and comfortable option. Also located in Sabang Beach, this inn is a convenient choice because it is near the sea and the area’s restaurants and bars.
Travelers can also go glamping (glamorous camping) by staying at the Easy Adventure. Located at Charlie’s Point, Baler, Easy Adventure provides delicious meals and basic camping supplies to guests. The staff also sets up big tents for visitors to sleep in.
Check the weather before going. As the province faces the Pacific Ocean, it is sometimes visited by storms and strong winds. It’s best to check the weather forecast in advance when making plans.
Visit Aurora in February. The lively and colorful Aurora Day is held every February. This weeklong celebration includes dancing competitions, parades, beauty pageants, and exhibits. The festival ends with a fun beach party complete with a fireworks display.
Buy locally-produced Bignay Wine. This organically grown and produced tropical sweet wine is mostly sold in the Cordillera Region and in Baguio, but Aurora also produces it. It is widely popular because of its exquisite taste and for being full of antioxidants. This is a great gift or souvenir to take home.