Last updated: 4th August 2020
Summer’s here and almost everyone is looking for a new destination to visit. Admit it; beaches come first to mind when you hear summer so for this article, we will be visiting one of the most popular beach destinations in the Philippines. Yep, I’m talking about La Union!
Also referred to as ‘Elyu’ or simply ‘LU,’ La Union is located 273 kilometers north of Metro Manila and is part of the Ilocos Region. To the east, you’ll find the Cordillera Mountain Range and to the west, is the West Philippine Sea.
Over the years, the municipality of San Juan in La Union has gained its reputation as the ‘Surfing Capital of Northern Luzon’ because of its waves that sometimes can go up to 8 feet on a good swell. Let’s discuss more about this in a few along with everything you need to know about visiting La Union.
Best Time To Visit La Union for Surfing
If you’re planning to explore La Union, we highly suggest that you try out surfing. That leads us to our second tip which is to visit Elyu on its surf season or North Swell Season from October to April. Hanging Amihan or the Northeast Trade Winds produces the waves you’ll need to surf.
How to Go to La Union from Manila
1. By Public Transportation
You can ride a bus at Partas that has a direct route to San Juan, La Union. Those that are bound for Ilocos Norte and Sur also pass by Brgy. Urbiztondo where you can drop off when you’re staying in San Juan. Travel time would take around 5-7 hours depending on traffic conditions.
You can read our Partas Luxury bus experience here.
2. By Private Vehicle
Search the directions going to your resort in La Union using Waze or Google Maps. Travel time would take around 4-5 hours depending on traffic conditions and stopovers. Once in NLEX, you’ll be advised to take the exit towards SCTEX/Clark Airport, TPLEX, and head to Pozorrubio Exit. Then, you’ll pass by other towns like Bauang and San Fernando, before reaching San Juan.
Where to Stay in La Union
There are TONS of options when looking for a place to stay in La Union. Depending on your budget, you can enjoy the amenities at a 4-Star resort or keep a tight budget while staying at San Juan’s one of many transient rooms.
You can see some of our recommendations below. But I suggest that you check out this article where we reviewed the TOP 10 Hotels, Hostels, and Resorts in San Juan, La Union.
1. Sea Breeze Beachfront Home & Cottages
If you’re looking for an accommodation where you can have the best value of your money, you’ll never go wrong with Sea Breeze Beachfront Home and Cottages. It’s located right in front of the beach (hence the word beachfront, right?) where you can even play volleyball with your friends.
2. Villas Buenavista
Address: Ili Sur, 2514 San Juan, La Union
Going out on a vacation means pampering yourself. When it comes to choosing where to stay, I go for the place that will make me feel comfortable without being stressed. Most of the travelers said that Villas Buenavista has a friendly staff and the ambiance of the hotel is very relaxing. Amazeballs!
3. The Escape San Juan
Address: 170 National Highway, Urbiztondo, 2514 San Juan, La Union
Looking for more options? Try Airbnb.
Don’t have an account with Airbnb yet? You can sign up using my link so you can get up to ₱2,200 off your first trip! Click here to save money!
Things to Do in La Union
Aside from swimming at the beach, there are also plenty of other things to do in San Juan, La Union.
If you haven’t tried surfing anywhere and you have plans in visiting San Juan, don’t go home without surfing! You will see a lot of instructors offering surfing lessons while walking along the beach for P400-500 an hour. Learn the basics of surfing, as well as the correct positioning to get the right balance. Expect a lot of falls if you’re a beginner, but there’s nothing to worry about because all surf instructors are certified professionals in their craft.
You will see numerous signages along MacArthur Highway (in Bauang) inviting tourists to pick fresh grapes in their farm. Be careful though, since they might not be legit. We recommend visiting Lomboy Grapes Farm because they already have established their name as one of the most famous grapes farm in La Union. Aside from grape-picking, they also sell their own products such as wine, guapple jam, and more. They also offer a free taste of their wine. Me and my friends loved the coffee wine!
3. Discover the other Side of La Union
Off for a road trip? You can visit the following tourist spots in La Union when you have spare time:
- Ma-Cho Temple – Located in San Fernando City, Ma-Cho Temple is a Taoist temple dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess named Mazu. Entrance and parking is free, and they are open from Monday to Sunday, 7:00 am – 6:00 pm.
- Tangadan Falls – Had enough of salt water? Visit Tangadan Falls in San Gabriel, La Union. If you’re already in San Juan, ride a jeepney going to San Gabriel for P15. Travel time is 20 minutes. From there, you can take a 30-min motorbike ride for P250 that will take you to the falls.
- Baluarte Watch Tower – Also dubbed as the Leaning Tower of Luna, Baluarte Watch Tower is 5.6 meter tall that was built during the Spanish era. According to Choose Philippines, the watch tower was heavily damaged when Typhoon Lando hit La Union. Currently, the local government is rooting it to become a national historical landmark.
- Poro Point Lighthouse – Located in San Fernando, Poro Point Lighthouse is situated in an open park and can be visited when you visit Thunderbird Resort. Some reviews say that you can skip this if you’re not going to Thunderbird because the park has limited features and amenities. It can also be seen from a distance.
- Thunderbird Resort – Since you’re already in San Fernando, might as well drop by Thunderbird Resort in Poro Point. Have a blast in their Santorini-inspired rooms and villas that are all Instagram-worthy. They also offer other promos such as day tours for P500 per person, in which the P300 is consumable.
Where to Eat in La Union
Your La Union experience will not be complete without trying out their food! So we’ve listed below the top restaurants and even coffee shops in Elyu!
1. Layag Grille – Located at the second floor, Layag focuses on Filipino grilled dishes and ‘kilawin’. If you don’t know yet, kilawin (or kinilaw) is actually a cooking process where the meat/seafood relies on the acidity of the vinegar to have it cooked. We tried the liempo and pecho for P210 each, along with the sago’t gulaman for P75 and we loved it.
2. El Union Coffee – Probably the most popular coffee shop in La Union, El Union Coffee boasts a cozy and laid-back vibe. We tried the iced coffee mocha for P140 and smoritos for P160 which was good. My friend also tried the Masala Chai Latte (P140) and Cappuccino (P120).
3. Flotsam and Jetsam – Aside from accommodation, Flotsam and Jetsam also offers the night life you shouldn’t miss when visiting La Union. They have a restaurant and bar that is open to everyone. Be warned though because you might run out of space because Flotsam is always jam packed with part tourists.
4. Papa Bear – We planned on eating here but we can’t find it. And as of writing, I just found out that Papa Bear is just above El Union! Papa Bear focuses on Asian dishes like Sambal Pork Bowl, Korean Beef Bowl, and Smoked Pork Char Kway Teow. I added this to the list because of its positive reviews in social media.
5. Tagpuan sa San Juan – Looking for affordable and yet sumptuous meals? Have a trip to Tagpuan sa San Juan. They offer rice meals like Tapa, Adobo, and their must-try Bagnet for only P120. It’s located in Urbiztondo, in front of 7-11.
Sample DIY Itinerary
The following itinerary is only for 2 days and 1 night. When planning your trip to San Juan, we highly recommend that you stay there for 3 days and 2 nights to have extra time in doing the side trip.
Those marked with an asterisk (*) weren’t exactly followed. For example, we went to Flotsam but we grabbed a few drinks at a different bar because they were jam packed. We didn’t also eat halo-halo inside Halo-Halo de Iloko because there are no seats thus, we ate it inside the car.
6:00 AM – ETD to San Juan, La Union
9:00 AM – Stopover at TPLEX Pozorrubio Exit (breakfast/brunch)
9:45 AM – ETD to Lomboy Grapes Farm (Bauang, La Union)
10:45 AM – ETA Lomboy Grapes Farm (wine tasting, grapes picking, selfies)
11:45 AM – ETD to San Juan, La Union
12:45 AM – ETA San Juan, check-in at transient (lunch, rest)
3:00 PM – Off to beach (free time)
7:00 PM – Dinner at Layag
8:30 PM – Chill at Flotsam and Jetsam*
11:30 PM – Back to transient, sleep
4:30 AM – Breakfast (we bought canned goods last night)
5:30 AM – Off to beach (swim and surf)
9:00 AM – Freshen up at transient, tidy up things
10:00 AM – Have coffee at El Union Coffee
11:00 AM – Back to transient, organize bags
12:00 PM – Check-out, ETD to Papa Bear for lunch
12:15 PM – Lunch at Papa Bear*
1:15 PM – ETD to Ma-Cho Temple
1:45 PM – ETA Ma-Cho Temple, take pictures
2:15 PM – ETD Halo Halo de Iloko
2:30 PM – ETA Halo Halo de Iloko, eat halo halo*
3:30 PM – ETD to Manila
9:00 PM – ETA Manila
When visiting La Union, you must know that most of the rates in accommodations and food are almost the same in Manila. I mentioned this because in some tourist destinations, the cost of living is cheaper.
Here are the list of expenses we had on our La Union trip:
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Frequently Asked Questions
1. When can you surf in La Union?
The best time to surf in La Union is from October to May, during the North Swell Season.
2. How many hours is La Union?
Travel time to La Union is 5-7 hours via public transportation and 4-5 hours on a private vehicle.
3. Is La Union North or South?
La Union is located in Northern Luzon and it covers the southern central portion of the Ilocos region. Don’t get confused there.
4. What is the festival in La Union?
There’s a lot of festivals in La Union but the most popular one is the Dinengdeng Festival. It is a festival dedicated to the dish itself and is held every summer of the year.
5. What is the capital of La Union?
San Fernando is the capital of La Union.
Final Thoughts In La Union
Now that we have discussed everything you need to know about La Union including the best time to visit, accommodation options, where to eat, as well as tourist spots to visit, you are now ready to conquer the Surfing Capital of Northern Luzon!
The actual beach in San Juan may not be comparable as what you can see in Boracay, El Nido, or Siargao, but the one thing you shouldn’t miss in La Union is surfing. Since I’m not a beach person (latest hiking adventure is here), I would say that I enjoyed the food trip more than strolling around the beach.
But you might fall in love in Elyu more than I do and the only way to find it out is to experience the place yourself. Now call your friends, pack your bags, and visit La Union!
Visit ChamTravels for more DIY travel and hiking itineraries.