Since its inception as the surfing capital of the North, La Union’s popularity has surged tenfold with weekends full of tourists and surfers alike. Nowadays, the surf province is facing rapid developments and thus, less of the idyllic lifestyle we city slickers crave out of town.
With bars belting out live music alongside each other and night clubs on the rise, Barangay Urbiztondo in San Juan is one of the most happening places in the Northern Province. But just across the beach and a few steps away from the highway, Circle Hostel provides a sanctuary amid the hurly-burly world of the energetic surf town.
On weekend nights, the neighboring bars are barely audible while during daylight, the hostel is a welcome respite from the rest of the world. As sunlight lulls dreamers awake in Circle’s open-air setting and the singsong of native birds become an inviting alarm for breakfast; this is probably the definition of a bucolic morning altogether.
Unlike most accommodations along the beachside town, The Circle Hostel foregoes most of the enclosed concrete walls and values open space – in generous amounts. Amidst greenery, the hostel sports a bare flooring of loose rocks, but leads guests through a walkway to the various buildings that serve as quarters, bathrooms and common areas. Circle Hostel keeps a modest lot but maximizing every inch of its available space without overcrowding.
Its tree house-like structures that would make any of the Lost Boys proud are constructed entirely of natural and recycled materials – living proof that the mundane do have a spark for a greater creative collective.
The hostel houses a ladies’ dorm with bunk beds armed with mosquito nets, and a few fans; a mixed dormitory with hammock options at the ground floor and bunks at the next level; a two-storey common area complete with bean bags and wi-fi to ensure productivity even in the midst of inebriation, a common bath area (far from the coed showers of Starship Troopers) with designated showers and toilets for male and female guests; and a quaint reception hut where you can buy your beer and coffee.
Despite the picturesque surroundings (from artful images to words of wit and wisdom painted all over) and the laidback atmosphere, The Circle Hostel delves deeper in its ethos. While providing backpackers an affordable option for rest and recreation, it advances its capitalistic ventures and wholeheartedly involves itself in holistic sustainability. From a deep immersion with the community to the conservation of the local environment, the hostel seems to keep the balance in a fragile beachside ecosystem with less footprints and more positive change.
While the La Union branch of Circle is fairly new, its mothership and original hostel in Zambales has created a lasting relationship with the Aeta community, creating job opportunities through tourism and instigating reforestation efforts. In La Union, Circle Hostel is already drafting plans to reforest a barren mountain ravaged by former illegal logging activities.
Smaller steps have begun as well within the community of San Juan in collaboration with the locals including beach and Mother Falls clean-ups.
Guests are encouraged to segregate their garbage and discard plastic waste inside plastic bottles for a future project – walls that will use these as fillers. Old tires are being upcycled into filtration devices that eradicates mosquitos naturally.
Anything pretty much goes at Circle. Boodle fights and shared meals (and booze) are a common ice breaker while tours can easily be arranged to Tangadan Falls, Bahay na Bato or where La Union and your budget can pretty much take you.
The sprawling common areas, and side-by-side bunks and hammocks allow you to meet new people and share worthwhile stories.