La Union Travel Guide for Non-Surfers

My non-ending bucket list is nothing but a manifestation of how an adrenaline junkie I am. Included in it is, of course, surfing. Just this July, I was able to finally check it off my list when I hit the road to the North – in San Juan, La Union, and experienced and visited more.
La Union is one of the well-known surfing capital of the Philippines with others being Baler in Aurora, Siargao and some newly introduced surfing points in Real, Quezon and Zambales and others perhaps still remaining unexplored. If you are into surfing and long drives (no booking  and plane tickets involved) and food trip, Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union is the perfect place for you.

I had a DIY trip to La Union and it was quite fun and challenging at the same time not to mention how bad the weather was due to the threats of habagat and typhoon Goryo. The good thing about having a DIY is you get to deal with and interact with the locals and be familiar with the streets and places and oh, the taboos!

How to Get There

From Pasay or Cubao, ride a bus bound for Vigan or Abra. You can choose from these liners: Partas, Florida, Dominion and Viron. Tell the conductor to drop you off Urbiztondo in San Juan, La union. Prior to your trip, make sure that you have booked a room so that you can at least have somewhere to stay should you come so early. The trip will take you four to six hours.

Places to Visit

There’s actually so much more than the beach and surfing points in La Union. You can trek, cliff jump, visit museums, church, temple and historical heritage. Going from one place to another isn’t hard though. These must-see attractions include:
?Surf points
Almost all of the resorts in San Juan offer surf lessons and surf boards for rent. The rate is standard for all the resorts as I have observed. If you are a beginner, you will need an instructor. This costs 400php for an hour plus the use of the surfing board. But if you know how to surf already, renting a board costs 200php for an hour, 500php for 3 hours and 800php for the whole day.
?Macho Temple
You can actually pass by this Chinese temple if you’ll be coming from San Fernando to San Juan. However, it is only open during weekdays. This is at the right side of the road. If you’ll be following the suggested itinerary below, you have to ride a jeepney from Darigayos bound for San Fernando. This will cost you around 60-70php.
?Bahay na Bato
This museum is located in Luna. It showcases fascinating stone arts, landscape and a gallery owned by a Korean National, Mr. Kim. To get here from San Juan, you have to ride a jeep bound for Darigayos (50php) get off at Coral Island Beach Resort. Then, ride a tricycle to get exactly to Bahay na Bato. Upon my arrival, I was asked for some donations and not an entrance fee anymore. However, it was declared officially closed by its owners recently. I have previously posted this on my Facebook page and some netizens reacted that they were not allowed to get in when they came which was prior to my visit. I was in constant communication with the care taker telling her I want to feature the place in my blog.

?Namacpan Church
This church, considered a heritage in the town, is located at Luna near the Baluarte.
?Mga Bantayan ng Luna/ Baluarte
This isn’t the one in Ilocos. It’s just that, locals also happened to call this ‘baluarte’. Another cultural and historical heritage of the town, this one is also located in Luna by the beach. This watchtower is currently being restored but is still open to the public. During my stay, I was able to get inside it (found out it isn’t opened all the time. LUCKY ME INDEED). To get here, you have to ride a tricycle from Darigayos to Baluarte. You can also ask the tricycle driver to bring you to Namacpan Church and to the market where you can buy mouth-watering bibingka and cassava cake. You just have to haggle but please don’t go beyond 100php because it’s quite far from Darigayos. In my visit, I paid 150php from Coral Island Beach Resort to Bahay na Bato, Baluarte, Chuch and Luna Public Market.

I was able to get inside, yay!
?Tangadan Falls 
This is what I was not able to visit during my stay in La Union due to the inclement weather. But it is one of the must-see attractions in there. Located at San Gabriel, La Union, Tangadan Falls is characterized by wide curtain-like, freezing-cold falling waters from the mountains with rafts beneath. There is a need for a little trekking before you get to the falls itself. You can actually do cliff jumping in here. To get to Tangadan falls, you have to ride jeep going to Darigayos and get off San Gabriel near the municipal hall. Guides are also required for the trekking. Monaliza Surf Resort offers guide and assistance to Tangadan Falls.

La Union Food Crawl

Hopping from a bar and restaurant to another is one of the things that you can also do in San Juan and you can actually go there by foot (some 500 meters at least).
1. Flotsam & Jetsam
2. Makai Bowls
3. El Union Coffee
These three feature food and place which are quite instagrammable. Just prepare to shell out 200-300php for a meal. F&J and El Union also offer accommodation. You just have to book early because they are usually fully booked.
4. Gefeisis Greek Grill – a Santorini-inspired restaurant
5. Seawadeeka – Thai food (100-200php for food)
6. Olas Banditos – Mexican-inspired food house with a cool and hippy place (150-300php for food)
7. Sebay – Sebay isn’t a restaurant. It’s actually  a place where you can find numbers of bar and restaurants where you can choose from (180-300php for food).
8. Nak Nak Canteen – for those who are in a budget trip, you may try Nak Nak Canteen just right in front the entrance of Monaliza Surf Resort. Food price (rice meal) ranges from 80php-120php. 
Breakfast at El Union Coffee and had pancakes. I met this sweet cat, Arabicat.

Sample 2D 1N Itinerary

Visiting a place requires an organization of itinerary to at least guide you and not waste your time. With that, here’s a suggested itinerary in La Union should you decide to spend two days and a night in there.
Day 0:
1200am or 0100am ETD La Union
Day 1:
5am or 6am ETA San Juan
Check in to resort
Tangadan Falls
Surf. Surf. Surf.
?Dinner/ Chill•••
?Lights out
Day 2:
0600am – ETD Darigayos, Luna
0700am – ETA Coral  Island Beach Resort, Darigayos 
0700am – ETD Luna
0730am – ETA bahay na bato
???Photo Ops
0800am – ETD Mga Bantayan ng Luna/ Baluarte
0820am – ETA Mga Bantayan ng Luna/ Baluarte
???Photo ops
0900am – ETD Coral Island Beach Resort
1015am – ETD San Fernando
1130am – ETA Macho Temple
???Photo Ops
1200pm – ETD San Juan

Sample 2D 1N Budget

I was not able to visit Tangadan falls and Macho temple due to some reasons. With that I only spent around 3000php inclusive of:
(Cavite to Cubao) bus x MRT – 111php x 2 = 222php
(Cubao to La Union) – 395php x 2 = 790php
food for two days and one night = 500php
surfing = 400php
accommodation = 1000php
Trip to Luna – 150php

This is just a suggested budget per head. Of course, this may still vary depending on how many are you who would be sharing in the room for accommodation and the tricycle fares.

Anne Elizabeth Gumiran, also known as Queenie, is a 20-something, full-time public school teacher, a part-time travel blogger and a freediver. She started putting her stories of adventures and misadventures into words and pictures in 2017 and continues to do so as she shares her advocacy, Sustainable Traveling.


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