There is nothing quite like the beach in Liwliwa. Three times I’ve been to this beach in the town of San Felipe, Zambales, and its quiet beauty and magic remain the same.
There is the ash-gray shore that seems to stretch on forever and the pine-like agoho trees lining it, with sweeping mountain ranges in the distance. And, because, the shoreline is so long, you can easily find your own quiet spot – this is what I’ve found, even amid the rush of people during Holy Week.
There are the powerful waves perfect for surfing, and occasionally tranquil for swimming.
Then there are the glorious sunrises and sunsets – yes, both can be seen in Liwliwa. The sun makes its first appearance over the agoho trees in the east, and later descends a fiery end on the sea’s horizon. If you love walking like me, you might even see the sunrise reflected on run-offs from the river, or on clear pools left over by the receding tide.
And, this beach is just relatively near Metro Manila. If you want to surf or just have some quiet time on the beach, Liwliwa is the perfect place.
Below is a guide to this beach:
How to get to Liwliwa:
Ride a Victory Liner bus bound for Iba or Sta. Cruz in Zambales. While there are buses in Pasay and Cubao, the bus terminal with the most trips to Iba and Sta. Cruz (usually leaving every hour) is Caloocan. Bus fare from Caloocan is P282 (as of March 2018). Get off at San Felipe town proper (you can see the public market on one side and 7-11 on the other).
(Alternatively, you can ride an Olongapo-bound bus, with more frequent trips in almost any terminal and any bus liner, then ride a bus that will be passing by San Felipe. But I recommend the first option as this is a direct route).
From San Felipe town proper, ride a tricycle to your chosen accommodation for P30 each person. If you are riding alone, you pay P60.
Trip usually takes 5-6 hours.
Where to stay:
If you want some quiet time amid the agoho trees, I would recommend Hideout. This is where my friends and I stayed just recently this March. It is located toward the end of the strip of accommodations. There is also a noise curfew so you can sleep quietly at night. And, like most Liwliwa accommodations, it is just a 5-minute walk away from the beach.
Dorm beds start at P500 with vegetarian breakfast. The room we stayed at (good for 4) is P1,900.
If you are a solo traveler also keen to meet new people, I would recommend Circle Hostel. This is where I stayed the first two times I’ve been in Liwliwa. I love their “There are no strangers here” motto, and true enough, I met new people here. They have duyan (breathable hammocks) for P450 and bunk beds for P550. You can also stay in a tent for P350.
You can also bring your own tent and stay at a campsite for P100. There is a campsite just a bamboo bridge and a short walk away from Hideout.
There are other accommodations in Liwliwa to choose from, some more higher-priced like Surface Liwa.
Where to eat:
Budget options abound – especially carinderias and canteens – along the strip of accommodations which you can easily walk to. There are tapsilogs and variations below P150, there are freshly-cooked food (ulam and rice) for the same price, and there are more higher-priced open-air cafes.
What to do / Activities in Liwliwa:
Surfing is the main draw in Liwliwa, and lessons are usually P400 per hour while board rental is at P200. The waves for riding usually come during the rainy season (July to November), and even afterwards, till February. As with surfing areas in general, waves are usually bigger just after a typhoon.
You can also swim with the waves, which can be fun! If you want the waters to be calm for your swim, best time to come is in the middle of summer, around late March to early May.
The long stretch of beach, though, is also good for just walking and some quiet time. You can also just pick a spot among the agohos and set up a picnic with friends, and later, wait for the sunset.
On weekdays you are likely to see fisherfolk slowly pulling a huge net to the shore, hoping for a big catch. Watching them can be meditative.
Two times I also pulled with them, and I felt the rope burn into my hands. This is what they do for hours, faithful they will be blessed with the sea’s bounty.
If they have a big catch, you might also be able to buy fresh fish from them to roast for your lunch. I remember buying two plump yellowfin tuna for P100 some years ago.
What to buy:
For souvenirs, do buy handmade products from the locals. I would suggest those made from bamboo, especially the bamboo cups. These can be used for drinking or for holding objects like pens. At Hideout, they have some bamboo cups for drinking.
Sample budget for overnight trip:
Victory Liner bus from Caloocan to San Felipe P282
Tricycle to Liwliwa P30
Environmental fee P20
Dorm bed at Hideout, or share in a room good for 4 persons P500 (with breakfast)
Three meals – lunch, dinner, and lunch next day P450 (assuming P150 per meal)
Surfing lesson P400
Bamboo cup souvenir P50
Tricycle back to San Felipe P30
Bus back to Caloocan P282