It’s always refreshing to stay in a place that makes you feel like a kid again. A place where you can find wooden treehouses and swings instead of the usual cold steel, leather couches and glass windows in most hotels. A place where anyone can take a nap in a hammock any time you want and the only walls dividing your bunk bed from your neighbors’ are see-through mosquito nets. A place that’s just walking distance from the beach, where you can just fall asleep on the sand while stargazing if the electricity unexpectedly goes out.
I got to experience just that during a very laid-back weekend at The Circle Hostel in La Union, one of two eco-hostels (the other is in Zambales), catering to surfers and budget backpackers looking for a friendly community atmosphere and affordable lodging. The Circle Hostel in La Union is right across the street from the main surf spots in San Juan, Urbiztondo, making it an ideal hub for those who just need a locker and place to crash for the night.
While a lot of people still put a premium on having aircon rooms, a private bathroom and cable TV when they travel, I think vacations are best spent outdoors. There’s a growing community of travelers who prefer open-air dwellings, shared spaces and dorm-style bunk beds so that they get to interact more with fellow travelers and enjoy nature and the activities in the place instead of holing out in a hotel room.
The Circle Hostel has two main huts with 45 bunk beds and lots of spaces around to hang hammocks. I found the banig and floor pillows in the common area very comfortable and took a siesta on them after a heavy lunch. I ended up sleeping there at night instead of the top bunk where I stashed my bag. There are several good quality hammocks hanging in the common area as well. The common restroom in the middle of the space has 4 shower areas, 4 cubicles & 2 outdoor sinks. Though the place doesn’t serve food, you can order the basics like brewed coffee (P50), water (P40) and beer (P50) from here and just eat in the different restaurants and resorts in the area.
The Circle aims to be a “sanctuary for the artsy and the adventurous.” Thus, the place itself is an evolving canvas. Concrete walls, stepping stones and wooden rafters are all waiting for visitors to leave their mark and words of wisdom. I spotted some pretty cool artwork which reflects the laid-back nature of surfers and travelers, love for the waves, as well as community spirit.
We got to play with paint and add to the existing artwork around the place. I wrote my motto in life on one of the stepping stone blocks and hid a Riddler challenge somewhere on the premises (based on Batman: Arkham Asylum, the last game I played & finished before heading out there that weekend.)
Aside from the artsy vibe, the best thing about The Circle Hostel is that it makes you feel part of a community. The owners believe that part of traveling is about making friends, so they built the hostel for “maximum interaction.” Aside from being a nice place to hang out and sleep, the common area can be used for yoga sessions during the day, which we got to try out.
At night, the same area was transformed into a space for new friends to chill out to music, play cards & play some really cool random drinking games. We had a blast! Special mention to Elal of The Shades of Grey for reigning supreme over the drinking games & Aleah of Solitary Wanderer for the best straight up downing of rum coke in King of Cups.
As their tagline goes, “there are no strangers at The Circle Hostel.” So, if you’re looking for a laid-back place to hang out and make new friends in between your surfing sessions, this is a great choice. Thanks to Lois of We are Sole Sisters and Raf of The Circle Hostel for letting us chill out in this cool, artsy space.
The Circle Hostel La Union. Urbiztondo,San Juan, La Union, Philippines
- Website: www.thecirclehostel.com
- Facebook page: The Circle Hostel
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mobile Number: 0917 832 6253
- Tel Number.: 607-3796
- Bed Bunk: P400/night
- Hammock: P300/night
- Day Trip: P150/day
- Surf Board Rental: 1 hour = P200, Whole day = P800, Instructor = P200/hour
- Towels for rent: P50 (+100 deposit)
For detailed instructions on how to get there and a location map to The Circle Hostel La Union, click here.