The Circle Hostel, Zambales
| +63 917 305 5391
Surfing in the shadow of PinatuboEnterprising Filipinos Raf and Ziggy have pretty prestigious corporate day jobs but they've set up this place (plus another three coming online in the next two years) on the side and it's a great success story, catching the budget-weekend-from-Manila market.
Take the classic low-key backpackers place you'll find around the world, add Filipino friendliness ("there are no strangers" is the creed here), a delightful air of innocence, accommodation in the form of airy bamboo platform or a cloud of hammocks, lockers, showers, and the all-important surfboards for rent.
I'd recommend slightly more luxe accommodation elsewhere, but pay the day rate to make this your Zambales surf base camp.
"What's the surf like?" you ask. It's not the best in the world, and it's not the whitest of beaches, with more Pinatubo eruption ash visible than sparkly purity. But this is an excellent beginner's spot, where you are absolutely guaranteed to be standing on the board within half an hour (courtesy of a row of instructor-cum-boardpushers standing in the surf, ready to set you up and off). You get to stand, smile and pose for the perfect facebook update.