In my travels all over Asia and Europe, I had experienced staying in different kinds of accommodations.
I’ve stayed in couches offered by locals, slept in hammocks, bunked down in what used to be a cave.
I’ve stayed in luxury hotels, too, but mostly, I just stayed in basic backpacker-type hostels where budget meets sociability.
“There are no strangers,” so goes the tagline of this budget-friendly eco-hostel, and its two branches–the other is in Zambales–show how they maximize interaction among the guests.
For one thing, the hostel doesn’t have private rooms; everything is open. There are no walls, no dividers between beds. They do have privacy curtains, but why would you want to stay on your bed when you can be in the common area and socialize with others?
In a recent bloggers’ event, a group of 10 or so lifestyle and travel bloggers went to La Union to experience what it’s like to stay in the Circle Hostel (Thanks, Lois and Raf!). I was surprised at the novel concept of it; I have stayed in dormitory-type rooms before, but I had never stayed in an open-air one.
Fortunately, after the initial surprise came pleasure. The dormitory buildings looked like bahay kubos (native Filipino houses) which was a novelty in itself. The whole place looked very much alive, too, with the artwork left behind by guests. Everywhere you look, you will see a riot of colors that, instead of looking chaotic, only added to the charm of the place.
Once you’re there, you will be invited to leave your mark; just choose your own space, plan how to implement your artwork, and mix your own colors if you like. I found quite a few good pieces there. I can only hope that they would last a bit longer for others to appreciate!
A bunk bed at the Circle Hostel costs P400/night. It comes with free use of linens (bring your own towel, though), a mosquito net, and a locker (bring your own padlock). You can also sleep in the hammock (P300/night); be warned that if you’re not used to sleeping in one, you may wake up with cramps.
Aside from the two huts and the common area, another structure is the common bath. It, too, sports a lot of artwork on its walls. Indeed, who can resist to unleash one’s creativity when given license to do so? There’s more–they have two swings, as well as some sort of a tree house where you can lie down and relax if you want to be by yourself.
The best thing about the Circle Hostel is their common area. It’s a huge space where you can just lie down and chill out, or join friends in games, yoga, and other group activities. Raf Dionisio, one of the co-owners, facilitated a drinking game which we all enjoyed until the power went out.
In other hostels, if there’s no electricity, you would probably just go to sleep, right? Not in the Circle Hostel! We all trooped to the beach (around 200 meters away, across the street), observed the night sky for a while, and even saw the moon rise.
So, if you’re going to La Union to surf or snorkel, check out The Circle Hostel. It may be the most memorable budget accommodation you will have, whether as a solo traveler or not.
Tips When Staying at the Circle Hostel
- Bring your own towel. You can rent one here for P50, though you do have to give a refundable deposit of P100.
- Bring food and other supplies you may need (e.g., toiletries). They don’t have a restaurant. You can order brewed coffee (P50), and they also have water for sale. They do recommend that you buy at the local stores to support small businesses. Unfortunately, when we were there, we found that we had to walk at least 30 minutes to get to the nearest one.
- Bring insect repellent as there can be a lot of mosquitoes at night if you decide to sleep in the open.
- Don’t forget to bring a padlock for your locker! I would recommend that they have this available for rent as well, for those who–like me–keep on forgetting things I should bring.
How to Go to the Circle Hostel
Take a bus for Laoag, Vigan or Abra, e.g., Partas in Cubao, Quezon City. Other bus lines could be Genesis, Viron, and Florida. Get off at San Juan Surf Resort, San Juan, La Union. Across the resort is Urbiztondo Grill. Take the access road beside the restaurant; it leads to The Circle Hostel.
Check out the other hotels in La Union via Agoda.
Disclaimer: Even though my stay in the Circle Hostel has been sponsored, all opinions stated in this post are mine alone. The management of the Circle Hostel has had no say in this review.