Surfing is not really my thing but I when I got to experience it in Baler, it just drives me to do it again.. at least to another surfing destination in the Philippines. That's one reason I wanted to go to this province in the north (Luzon). But there's more to discover and explore in La Union!
ABOUT LA UNION
From the mid-2000s to the early 2010s, an influx of entrepreneurs began putting up establishments such as boho-chic-style art hostels and third-wave coffeeshops in San Juan and Agoo. They were initially attracted to the already-established surfing scene of Barangay Urbiztondo in San Juan, but eventually envisioned business in the province as an alternative to the stresses of city-based employment. This coincided with the phase-by-phase opening of the Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway (TPLEX), which made La Union more accessible to tourists from Metro Manila.
Alongside the rising influence of social media outlets Twitter and Instagram, these factors led to a drastic tourism boom that made San Juan—previously been seen as just one of the Philippines' many surfing venues—a major backpacker's destination whose attractions centered on surfing and art.
San Juan began to be featured prominently in independent films such as Jay Abello's 2015 film Flotsam and JP Habac's 2017 film I’m Drunk, I Love You, and the province began to be referred to by the colloquial initialism “ElYu.”
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCEIn 2017, me and my friends went to La Union for a 2D1N stay. We were on a budget backpack trip so we didn't get a chance to explore more around La Union.
We began our trip in the morning and took a long walk to a wet market in San Juan that was closed upon our arrival. We instead spend a few hours and had our breakfast at an opened 7 Eleven store nearby the municipal hall.
After a few hours we took a tricycle ride going to our booked transient in Urbiztondo. It is located along Urbiztondo Rd, an uphill narrow way coming from McArthur Hi-way. Landmark is "Tagpuan sa San Juan"
We checked in at noon, took some rest before we hit the famous San Juan Beach in the afternoon.
Our trip was on a weekend so the crowd is expected. At around 4 PM, many tourists are roaming around the beach and more are in the water enjoying the splashes and small waves. It was summer days in May, the best time to visit La Union (I guess). The waves are just perfect for beginners in surfing.
Since its May, the weather was also perfect for a dip into the sea. There are plenty of resorts in the area and restaurants where you can spend your afternoon at.
This beach is also decorated with different murals and artworks by local artists. Don't forget to take a selfie when you spot one!
Also, if you are a party-goer (not like me) this area in La Union is alive until midnight. The shore is filled with nightlife and activities at night. But if you are into serene moments (like me), you can also find a line of cafes along the highway.
On a Saturday night, some bars are open for you to chill at until midnight, too.
The following morning, we went off San Fernando's town proper to buy some food and things we need to end the day. It was just a few minutes jeepney ride from Urbiztondo. Just make sure to get the ones off to San Fernando's market.
On a Sunday morning, the market and the town proper are so busy - just like any markets in Metro Manila. Here, the community is thriving. You see street vendors. You see food-on-the-wheels.
Here, we got to try some of their usual street food including the best "lugaw" I've ever had in my life!
Not too far, you can also visit the famous Ma-Cho Temple which offers a breathtaking view of La Union.
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN LA UNION
- Gapuz Grapes Farm - Gapuz Grapes Farm is also one of the more popular vineyards in Bauang, La Union. There is no entrance fee for this farm. Visitors need only to pay for the grapes and goods they’re interested in purchasing, or a small fee for those who simply want to take pictures within the vicinity. Perfect for those who are on a budget!
- Baluarte Watch Tower - A 400-year-old watchtower facing the West Philippine Sea built during the spanish period, a 5.6-meter high made by reddish bricks structure located at Barangay Victoria, Municipality of Luna.
- Poro Point - Poro Point, also known historically as San Fernando Point (Spanish: Punta San Fernando), is a headland and peninsula located in the city of San Fernando, La Union
- Pindangan Ruins - Sacredly and holy, the Pindangan Ruins stood at Brgy. San Vicente, San Fernando City, La Union. It is located near Camp Oscar Florendo, Police Regional Office 1, about 500 meters from the national highway.
- Kamay Na Bato Art Gallery - Situated in the pebble beach of Luna, La Union, Kamay na Bato is drawing a lot of tourists as its predecessor, Bahay na Bato, is now totally closed to the public.
- Christ The Redeemer Statue - Another place to visit especially for Catholics is the large Jesus Christ image which can also be found in San Fernando City. The statue known as Christ the Redeemer just like the one found in Brazil.
- Balay Anito Falls - Located in the Municipality of Santol, Balay Anito, which means house of unseen friends or Anitos, is great waterfall cascading to a very deep water called “ban-aw” about 20 meters deep.
- Bulalakaw Falls - Another waterfalls found in Santol is the Bulalakaw Falls (or meteorite) is located at Sitio Letang, Barangay Ramot. It is a newly discovered falls situated just next to Pimmalangka waterfalls.
- Heroes Hill - One of the 7 hills in San Fernandon, Heroes Hill & Freedom Park Stairway is located at the eastern portion of Capitol Hill. Here, you may have a look at the nine statues of our National Heroes.
Let me know another place or tourist spot in La Union we should try visiting next in the comments!
LIST OF HOTELS AND TRANSIENTS IN LA UNION
- Monaliza Surf Resort - Check Rates and Availability
- Aureo Resort La Union - Check Rates and Availability
- Thunderbird Resorts - Poro Point - Check Rates and Availability
HOW TO GET TO LA UNION
La Union is about 4-5 hours drive away from Metro Manila and can be accessed from Baguio or Pampanga.
Here are the travel options you can choose from going to La Union:
- From the Metro (Cubao or Pasay Station), you have the option to alight at San Fernando or San Juan, both of which are part of La Union. If you just want to visit San Fernando, you can board a direct bus that takes up to seven hours. Fare is around PhP500.00
- For those who want to go to the beach directly, San Juan is the stop. There are direct buses from either Cubao or Pasay. The ride can take up to seven hours and costs around PhP524.00.
- You can also get to San Juan via San Fernando. From the latter, board a jeep for around PhP11.00. The jeepney ride may take 30 minutes.
- If you’re coming from Baguio, the trip to La Union can take up to three hours. Go to Gov. Pack Road and board a bus bound for either Vigan or Laoag. These buses pass Urbiztondo in San Juan. The fare is approximately P104.
- Alternatively, you can get on an Abra-bound bus on Otek Street. Tell the conductor you’ll get off at Urbiztondo. The fare is approximately P90.
- You can also catch a bus heading to San Fernando, La Union in the same street. The fare is around P80.
- If you’re arriving at Clark Airport, get on a jeep bound for Dau Bus Terminal. The fare for this is around P100. Once at the terminal, you can board a bus traveling directly to San Fernando, the fare is approximately P300 to P400.
- Alternatively, you can board a bus going to Vigan for approximately the same price. Tell the conductor you’ll alight at San Juan or Urbiztondo. The ride takes about five hours or so.
EXPENSES AND SAMPLE ITINERARY
Disclaimer: we did not visit a lot of places in La Union since our reason of going there was to chill and relax. But here's my suggested itinerary for a jampacked weekend getaway in La Union:
04:00 - Departure from Cubao, Quezon City
08:00 - Breakfast at San Fernando
09:00 - Visit Ma-Cho Temple
09:30 - Visit the 7 hills of San Fernando (Seven Hills of San Fernando is composed of Capitol Hill, Heroes Hill & Freedom Park Stairway, Pagoda Hill, Bethany Hill, Mirador Hill, Mariner’s Hill, and Miracle Hill. Each one of them has its own story which pictures the great and rich history of the province.)
11:00 - Visit Christ The Redeemer Statue
11:30 - Rest (or you can buy some stuff at San Fernando Supermarket)
12:00 - Lunch (San Fernando or San Juan)
13:00 - Check-in and have some rest
14:00 - Explore Luna (Pebble Beach, Kamay Na Bato, Baluarte Watch Tower, Darigayos Cove, Almeida Man Made Forest)
17:00 - Catch the sunset at San Juan Beach, plus swimming or surfing
19:00 - Dinner
20:00 - Rest or beach bum or chill at one of operating bars until midnight
07:00 - Breakfast
08:00 - Beach
10:00 - Early check-out
10:30 - Visit one of the waterfalls (Tangadan Falls, Tuddingan Falls, Bulalakaw Falls)
12:00 - Lunch
13:00 - Visit one of the grape farms in Bauang
14:00 - Departure to Manila
Approximate budget per person: Php 3,000
If given a chance to visit La Union again in the future, I would go for at least 2 night stay to make the most of the trip.
WHERE TO NEXT
IMPORTANT NOTE: The rates, contact details and other information indicated in this post are accurate from the time of writing but may change without IMFWJ's notice. Should you know the updated information, please message us on Facebook.
WHERE TO STAY IN LA UNION:
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