90’s kids will get a kick out of a few features, while those looking for beauty will admire its simple yet deliberate approach.
Surf towns have become all the rage ever since Siargao took off. Luzon already has a few of its own: Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, Liwa Beach in Zambales, Baler in Aurora… and basically the entire coast of La Union. Naturally, places to stay have also popped in surf destinations, though this one in the town of Bacnotan in Elyu (La Union) made me do a double take: the Hillside Hostel.
At first glance, the place’s black, white, and wood-themed hostel won’t draw much attention. Bacnotan, after all, is like that seemingly unnoticeable dude sitting next to the current hotness, San Juan.
Don’t get me wrong; I like San Juan’s vibe. But there’s something about how quiet Bacnotan can be that just draws me to it like a moth to an unwitting candle—while the rest of the swarm hits up that bright light in the ceiling across the hall.
Hillside has a nostalgic charm on its own. The hostel sits at the bottom of a hill—hence the name. The lobby presents itself more like a living room of a good friend rather than a hotel/hostel lobby: a big sofa, two arm chairs, and a cool wooden coffee table with card and board games right underneath.
After getting your room key and a short briefing on the house rules, you’ll be led to your bunk in one of their three rooms. These bunks are quite spacious by themselves, with comfy mattresses, soft pillows, a fleece blanket, and a towel —the last two items you might not find in other hostels.
You’ve got a light, two wall outlets to charge whatever electronics you’ve brought, and lockers located at the far end of the room to store your stuff—if the in-bunk-bed mini-storage compartment isn’t enough.
Food at Hillside Hostel isn’t grand, but it does the trick if you want to fill up on something before or after a day of surfing or exploring La Union. They currently have Filipino breakfast staples presented as a rice bowl: tapsilog, bangsilog, and bacsilog—silogs, to those who are not familiar, are dishes paired with sinangag or fried rice, and log, short for itlog, Filipino for egg. In this case, the silogs are tapa or cured beef, bangus or milkfish, and bacon paired with silogs.
They serve free breakfast for all guests, which can be one of two things: malunggay pandesal from a bakery in Bacnotan with peanut butter, or a bowl of cereal from the fridge. Freshly-brewed coffee from El Union is served all day long.
You can take a tricycle to San Juan for lunch or dinner if you wish, or eat at the Riverfarm Restaurant, which is virtually next door.
A trip to San Juan on tricyle (Php20 per person from Hillside) is always in order if you’re ever in La Union. If, however, you’ve grown weary of surfing in Urbiztondo Beach, you can always ask for a tricycle tour of Bacnotan. For only Php1,900, you can hit spots like Tangadan Falls in San Gabriel, Immuki Island in Bacnotan, or even as far north as the Luna Watchtower in Luna. Check with the front desk for the whole itin.
If touring isn’t your thing, visit Quirino Beach (Bacnotan Surfing Spot on Google Maps, 10-15 minutes from Hillside). It has good swells even during summer months and is good for both beginner and experienced surfers alike. Staying in means you can drink cold beer at Hillside’s roofdeck, play board or card games, or read a book.
From the jalousie windows to the black, white, and wood motif, Hillside has been deliberately designed to be simple, which is in itself already beautiful. I wish there were more food options. Company was great as well, seeing as hostels are often places where you meet people from all walks of life.
Php800 per person per night, includes breakfast (malunggay pandesal or breakfast cereal, El Union coffee)
KM 281.7, National Highway, Brgy. Baroro, Bacnotan, La Union
@HillsideHostel on Facebook and Instagram for inquiries and reservations
Get there. Ride a Partas bus bound for Vigan, Laoag, or Abra and asked to be dropped off at Hillside Hostel, Baroro, Bacnotan. If the conductor is not familiar, just tell them it’s before Riverfarm. Fare is at Php552 per person from Pasay City, and buses leave every hour. You can also ride a Sebay Express bus and be dropped off at San Juan, where you can then take a jeep to Hillside for Php12 per person.
Photos by Andrew Del Rosario
Modelling by Alyssa Sevilla