The Circle Hostel is a chain of eco-hostels in the Philippines catering to surfers and backpackers looking for a community atmosphere and budget-friendly lodging. They aim to be a “sanctuary for the artsy and the adventurous” where people can express themselves freely. They currently have two locations in popular surfing spots near Manila: La Union and Zambales.
The Circle Hostel Zambales has the same artsy, laid-back vibe as The Circle Hostel in La Union. It is located on a small street in Liw-Liwa, San Felipe, about 5 minutes away from the beach. It’s great for solo travelers who just want to meet new people or groups looking for a budget-friendly place for the weekend.
The Circle Hostel makes use of open-air dwellings, shared spaces and dorm-style bunk beds instead of private rooms. The whole space is very vibrant and colorful, with lots of quotes on surfing and paintings adorning the walls, rafters, and stairs. Owners encourage guests to grab a bucket of paint and a brush to leave their mark here.
Most hotels these days charge about P800-1000+ a night for air-conditioned rooms, which always seems like a waste to me if you just want to spend the day at the beach. The cheapest option here is to stay in a hammock with a built-in mosquito net, which costs only P250/night. Some friends and I were originally planning to just sleep in hammocks, but a couple of bed spaces opened up, so we upgraded to bunk beds instead.
The bunk beds (P350/night) come with built-in mosquito nets, privacy curtains and clean linens. They also go up to 3 levels high. It’s a bit hard to haul your stuff up the narrow ladder, especially if you’re on the top bunk, so I suggest you just stash your bag under the bed of the lowest bunk. The Whana Uangtanag Bunkhouse has a total of 44 beds, while the Wahine (girls only) Bunkhouse has 6 bunks.
For those who want to just camp out, you can pitch a tent on their grounds (P250/head/ night), but still get access to the shower rooms, common area and other amenities. The Circle Hostel also provides lockers where you can store your valuables. Make sure to bring your own padlock, or you can rent one at the reception for P20. There’s an open shower area behind the lockers, 4 enclosed shower areas with hot and cold showers, and 4 cubicles with clean toilets and bidets at the back of the reception area.
Most people gravitate towards the common area, an open-air loft, to hang out and socialize. There are a couple of very comfy hammocks here, some sleeping mats and lots of throw pillows, which make it a great place to play board games, read, lounge about, or take an afternoon nap. You can also charge all your gadgets here. Oh yeah, The Circle Hostel is pet-friendly too! That’s Toast, the cutest French bulldog ever, napping on the pillows. Keep an eye out for the hostel’s resident cat Garfield.
Unlike some other popular beach spots in the country, food in the area is pretty cheap. The Circle Hostel offers complimentary fruit and bread in the mornings which is served in the common area. They also have a grill house where you can cook your own food (you need to bring your own portable grill and buy supplies in the public market just 2 km away). However, you won’t want to cook when you can just eat at Mommy Phoebe’s, just a few steps away from The Circle Hostel. They serve really great fruit shakes, affordable rice meals (bagnetsilog, anyone?), beach grub and beer.
Surfing is the main draw in Zambales. The 4-kilometer long coastline in Liw-Liwa offers a lot of space for newbie and surfers to get stoked. The beach near the shore is also popular with skimboarders. During your down time, you can also ask the staff to set up the slack line so that you can tightrope your way in between pine trees right outside the hostel. The line is designed to help users develop their balance which is critical when you surf and skim. Or you could just chill out, get a tan, take a nap, or play Pokemon all day by the beach!
The Circle Hostel holds chill events where you can enjoy surfing sessions, yoga, poi, island hopping, bonfires and musical events. I had a really fun, relaxing weekend stay here for the Surf and Music Jam last December 2013. Aside from getting stoked at the beach, we got to try out beach sumo wrestling and enjoyed the concert by Indio I.
All in all, The Circle Hostel is a great place to stay when you’re in Zambales (and La Union). I heard there are plans to put up another Circle Hostel in another popular surf spot soon. It’s really great that there are now budget-friendly options like this for backpackers and budget travelers.
The Circle Hostel Zambales. San Felipe, Zambales,Philippines
- Website: www.thecirclehostel.com
- Facebook page: The Circle Hostel
- Email: email@example.com
- Mobile Number: +639178611929 – Paco
- Bed Bunk: P350/night
- Hammock: P250/night
- Camping fee: P250/head/ night (bring your own tent)
- Surf Board Rental: 1 hour = P200, Half day = P400, Whole day = P800, Instructor = P200/hour
- Towels for rent: P20 (+100 deposit)
- Padlock rental (for locker): P20
- Driftwood Hammocks for sale: P1,400
For detailed instructions on how to get there and a location map to The Circle Hostel Zambales, click here.