A common question I get from my friends is, “What beach near Manila would you recommend?” I usually say Puerto Galera, or Batangas, but these places can get crowded in no time.
So, if you’re looking for something new and full of adventures, head to San Juan, La Union. Dubbed as northern Philippines’ Surfing Capital, La Union is renowned for intermediate quality surf. Surfing seasons are from July to October, and November till March.
Surfing had been on my bucket list for quite a while. I had been to a lot of island hopping activities in 2016. I even did scuba diving. This time, I wanted to try something new. So, I decided that it was time to try out surfing. What made the trip extra special was, I was with my family. It was part of my annual commitment to take them out on a vacation.
How to get there?
From Pasay, or Cubao, take a bus bound for La Union. Fare is roughly PHP400 or USD8. Travel time is 5-7 hours depending on traffic. You can also take a bus bound for Vigan, or Laoag and tell the conductor to drop you off at Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan.
Where to stay?
Since I was traveling with my family, I highly considered the place to stay and Little Surfmaid Resort was the best for my budget. The resort is located on the beach front. Our room was facing the beach as well. It’s perfect for small family. It has two beds, living room and, kitchen. The balcony facing the ocean is my favorite spot. It also has a parking lot. June is a lean season, so there were a few guests. That gave us a more peaceful vacation. It has a restaurant and bar, too. There’s nothing fancy. If you need anything, approach the attentive staff.
The resort is located in a quiet area, but if you want to party at night, you can go to the bars that can be reached by a few minutes of walking. Don’t expect, though, that night life will be livelier, as June is the lean season. You can book them online by clicking on this link.
Where to Eat and Hangout?
- Tagpuan – This is a popular place to eat at in San Juan after a drinking session. It’s not actually a restaurant. More like a small eatery that you can find in the Philippines. They serve classic comfort Filipino food like lugaw, mami, bagnet, and the like. The food is okay. Nothing special, but since they are open until midnight and the food is affordable, it will do. It’s definitely one of the few open establishments that will serve you hot noodles which is perfect after drinking..
- Flotsam and Jetsam – One thing I love about this place is the good vibes. It’s the perfect place where you can chill, drink, and relax. I love how artistic the place is. I’ll probably stay here the next time I visit La union and travel alone. Beer price is reasonable, but the food is a bit expensive. This place is also a walking distance from Little Surfmaid Resort. Perfect place to chat with friends, or strangers.
- Halo Halo De Iloko Balay – This is a famous restaurant in San Fernando, La Union. Since they are famous, we have to wait for more than an hour just to get a table. So, if you’re planning to visit them make sure that you will be there as early as possible. The restaurant is serving delicious Ilokano cuisine, but people visit the place because of their famous Halo-Halo. It’s worth the wait. Food is delicious and the price is reasonable.
Other places that are recommended online that I would like to try next time are El Union Cafe which is known for making premium coffee and Surf Shack which is a good spot to be laid back in San Juan.
What to do in La Union?
- Surfing – Definitely, you go to San Juan not just to swim but to surf. Board rental is PHP200 plus PHP200 for a surfing lesson that lasts for an hour. You can also rent a surfing board per day instead of per hour to save more money. Note: If you are bringing kids, please be extra careful, as the wave is really strong and is not ideal for kids without supervision.
- Explore Bahay na Bato – Bahay na Bato is in Barangay Nalvo Norte in Luna, La Union, less than an hour from San Juan via car. Our family decided to visit Bahay na Bato. It’s a place where almost everything was made from stones and pebbles. Entrance fee is PHP20. This a must visit place in La Union.
- Have a taste of China at Ma-Cho Temple – The temple is located in San Fernando, La Union and it can easily be found on Google Maps. Built in 1975, the 7-story temple is a towering 11-tiered, multi-hued attraction on a more than a hectare of lot. This is one of the best Chinese Temples I’ve seen here in the Philippines. The best thing is, it’s free of charge and everyone is welcome to enter.
Summer never ends here in the Philippines. The waves are waiting! So if you’re looking for a new adventure near Manila, prepare your bag because the surfing season is about to start in July!