La Union is a province of the Philippines located in the Ilocos Region in the island of Luzon. The provincial capital is San Fernando City. The province is bordered to the west by the shores of the South China Sea and comprises of many towns within the Province. Most notably is San Juan: the closest surf spot from the country’s capital. Learning to surf here is also very inexpensive compared to other surf spots around the world because the industry is still very much run by the locals.
Places to Stay:
There are many options from Luxurious Villas to Homestays, all on the waterfront or close by. Some noteworthy places to stay are:
- Flotsam & Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel – You walk onto the property and can instantly feel the good vibes. Located just a short walk around the corner from the more commercial parts of San Juan beach, Flotsam and Jetsam is a relaxing oasis for a perfect beach getaway. You can either book a bed in a dorm room or a private room. There is a fully operational bar and restaurant as well as a front yard full of cozy seating and day beds overlooking the ocean. This place fills up most of the time so definitely make your reservation before coming. Even if you don’t get a chance to stay here, definitely make it a point to stop by for dinner and drinks, or to just hang out and enjoy the good vibes.
- The Circle Hostel La Union – Located in a more remote location but still close to all the surf actions, it’s rather quiet at night yet perfect for backpackers who want to meet new people and socialize. There is a cheap restaurant/ bar across the street for quick and easy eats. The hostel offers hammocks or bunk beds (depends on what you prefer), a lovely common area, wifi, showers, and toilets with bidets.
- San Juan Surf Resort – Right smack in front of the ocean, this one is more modern and new. If you are looking for a cleaner and newer option to stay, this is the choice. They additionally offer large rooms that can sleep up to 10 people so this place is great to stay in if you’re going on a large group surf trip!
Things to Do:
- Hit the Beach and Surf – For less than 10$ you can rent a surfboard and have one hour of instruction. There are plenty of surf schools lined up along the beach and unless the beach is extremely crowded on a summer weekend you don’t need to make any sort of reservation in order to get a same day lesson.
- Appreciate the Local Culture – Another local tradition has put this place on the map: pottery. The famous dalikan or cooking stove, created from red clay and soil, is handcrafted ‘til today as it’s preferred by the locals.
- Visit the Churches of La Union:
- Catherine of Alexandria Parish/Shrine of Our Lady of Namacpacan, Luna.
- San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish, Balaoan .
- William the Hermit Cathedral, San Fernando.
- Holy Guardian Angels Parish Church/Shrine of Nuestra Senora del Mar Cautiva Parish Church, Sto. Tomas .
- Basilica of Our Lady of Charity, Agoo.
- Pindangan Ruins – is the remnant of a church that was built in May 6, 1786, that symbolizes the unification of two sites, San Vicente de Blanac, a coastal village, and San Guillermo de Dalangdag, a village at the foothills of mountains, both desiring for mutual protection against their assailants, the pirates and the headhunters through Fr. Jose Torres in 1759.
How to get there?
Getting to La Union from Manila is really easy and traveler friendly. The easiest way is to take the bus from Manila to San Juan, it is a 6-7 hour ride depending on traffic and whether you leave day or night. Just hop in a cab from anywhere in Manila and go to the Partas Transportation Company Terminal located at 816 Aurora Boulevard, Cubao, Quezon City. Partas Transport buses depart hourly 24/7 from Cubao, Manila to Laoag, a province of northern Luzon. Just tell the driver that you want to be dropped off at Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union which is will drop you right in front of the beach front resorts. It will cost you less than 400 pesos or about 9$.
Where to Next?
- Baguio – Baguio City, is an urbanized city located in the province of Benguet located in mountainous terrain and only a short drive away from San Juan (accessible via public transport). The temperature in the city is usually about 7-8 degrees Celsius lower compared to the average temperature in the lowland area and because of its cool climate, Baguio City was designated by the as the “Summer Capital” of the Philippines. Panagbenga Festival is a month-long annual flower festival occurring in Bagio in the month of February. Come here for a break from the typical Filipino beach scene and enjoy a whole new landscape and atmosphere in Baguio!
Article written by Jennifer Poole:
Jenn is a free spirited go-getter with a passion for travel and longing for discovery. She recently graduated with two bachelor’s and an MBA, and via a quarter life crisis decided to pack her bags and venture into the life of an international woman of mystery. Jenn has been working in Manila for the past 8 months and is excited to see where this whole journey takes her! Follow along with the adventure at noaddressnomad.tumblr.com!