So I spent a week in San Juan, La Union last August 2018 and the original plan was to just surf all day errday. But many must-see places were so near the Circle Hostel, where I was checked in, that I decided to spend some days touring the province other than learning how to ride waves.
If you’re planning to head out to LU for a 1-week getaway, this travel guide might help! I’m including what I did and what I wish I could have done if only the weather wasn’t so bad when I went there (aww sad, lol).
HOW TO GO THERE FROM METRO MANILA
Bus liners you can take: Partas, Florida, Viron and Dominion
Bus terminals: Cubao, Pasay, Sampaloc
Travel time: 5-7 hours
1. Ride a bus bound for San Fernando, La Union.
Get off at the bus station in San Fernando and ride a jeep to Bacnotan. They pass by just along the highway. Tell the driver to drop you off at 7/11 or Sebay (pronounced as sea-bae not seh-bye pala hahaha) in San Juan. Fare is P8.00 per head and it’s only about 8-10 minutes away.
2. Ride a bus bound for Laoag or Vigan.
Tell the conductor to drop you off at Urbiztondo, San Juan. They usually stop at 7/11 or Sebay.
HOW TO GO BACK TO MANILA FROM LA UNION
Buses going back to Manila pass by the highway ALL THE TIME so you don’t have to go back to the bus station in San Fernando. All you need to do is wait by the road near 7/11 or Sebay for a bus going back to Cubao or Pasay.
THINGS TO DO IN LA UNION
Make ecobricks in the Circle Hostel
If you’re checked in at the Circle Hostel and you got some free time, check out their ecobrick stuffing station where you can make ecobricks that they use to build small-scale projects with.
Syempre di yan mawawala. Surf spots are pretty much everywhere in San Juan. Just walk to any resort by the seaside and you’ll see lots of surf schools offering board rentals, lessons and surf guides.
Visit Ma Cho Temple
Pray to the gods of the earth, the sky and the sea in this Taoist Temple. Everyone is welcome to enter and leave a donation, offering or simply chill and meditate here.
Cool off at Halo-halo de Iloko
It’s just a few minutes away from Ma Cho Temple. You can take a tricycle to take you there for P20. You can’t miss this popular food spot when you’re in La Union! The prices for the food aren’t too expensive and you definitely get your money’s worth.
Go on a tricycle tour!
All the tricycles have a laminated menu of places you can go to in case you want to go for a tour around LU. Just approach any of them by the waiting shed in front of 7/11.
You can experience all the tourist spots in just two days. I didn’t get the chance to do that but here’s what I was able to experience for half a day:
Baluarte Watch Tower
Kamay na Bato Art Gallery
Pebble beach just meters away from Kamay na Bato Art Gallery
Noble Tower Hotel and Resort
More things I would recommend to do around San Juan!
Try out every stall in El Union
Party and night life at Flotsam and Jetsam
Try out every food spot around San Juan
Other popular spots a tricycle tour can take you:
Riverfarm Seafood Restaurant
Thunderbird Hotel and Resort
La Union Grape Farm (seasonal)
TIPS AND FYI’S
1. As tourists, let’s do our part in keeping this popular and beautiful place clean by disposing our garbage properly.
2. Do not surf alone if you don’t know how to swim! Get a surf instructor or a guide. Wear a rash guard.
3. Heads up! If you’re surfing at Car-rille in San Fernando, there are spots that are rocky so be careful. Seaweed also float around so wag ma-shock if something brushes up against your leg. XD
4. Everything is walkable around San Juan! El Union is about 5 minutes away from 7/11 and Flotsam and Jetsam is about 10 minutes away. No need to get a tricycle if you want to save a few coins.
5. Bring a reusable water bottle with you when going on a day tour or surfing.
6. Use sunscreen!
7. Meals are a bit pricey around here. Expect to spend around P80-P250 per meal if you’re going to eat around San Juan.
8. To save money on food, choose an accomodation like the Circle Hostel that lets you cook your own meals for a small fee and buy your ingredients at San Fernando market. Don’t forget to bring your own ecobags!
9. If you need to get your laundry done, there’s Washaka just behind 7/11. You can chill and connect to their WiFi while waiting for your clothes to be washed and dried.
10. A BDO ATM is available at Planet G which is just along the road. It’s the building with Figaro. But if it’s not available, there’s BPI at San Fernando or Landbank at San Juan proper which is just a few minutes away by tricycle or jeep.
EXPENSES YOU MIGHT WANT TO PREPARE FOR
I’m listing down everything that I spent on while I was there to make it as comprehensive as possible and so you can get an estimate on how much your budget will be. 😀
Bus from Cubao to La Union
P449 one-way fare
Food at stopovers
CR fees at stopovers
Accomodation for 7D 6N
*Depends on the accommodation you will choose. The cheapest I’d recommend would be the Circle Hostel.
P80-P250 per meal
P400 per hour with instructor
Surf board rental only
P200 per hour
Tricycle to Car-rille, a surf spot in San Fernando which is good for beginners
P200 round trip
*Better to have friends with you to split the fare
Entrance fee at Car-rille
P20 per head
*You need to pay another P20 if you have a surf instructor.
Jeep from San Juan to San Fernando
Tricyle from Ma Cho Temple to Halo-halo de Iloko
Light wash and dry at Washaka laundry shop
Half-day tricycle tour
*Better to have friends with you so you can split this if you want to save more
P100 for 3 keychains
P100-P300 for different kinds of local goodies you can buy at any pasalubong shop around San Juan
SPOTS WITH WIFI FOR DIGITAL NOMADS
If you’re a freelancer like me and need internet connection for work, no need to worry about finding one in La Union because almost every establishment there has WiFi. I never even got to use my data that I registered for this trip!
Here are some spots with WiFi connection in San Juan, La Union.
This is where I checked in for a week. I have a fixed full-time schedule as a Virtual Assistant and I need to have a stable WiFi throughout my shift. They have a pretty strong and reliable connection even with other guests browsing all at the same time.
G&T Paleo Restaurant
Located just behind 7/11. You can eat paleo meals here, play board games with friends, or do online work. The ambiance is nice and I definitely recommend this place if you need to focus since not too many people dine in here.
Washaka Laundry Shop
Yeeeep. You could work while waiting for your laundry to be done here. If you get hungry, they have food and drinks available.
Located just along the road. You can’t miss it! My favorite food spot in San Juan La Union! They serve Mexican food and have a pretty reliable WiFi. I recommend bringing your own reusable utensils though as they only use single-use plastics, though they do ask you to CLAYGO and segregate your waste after eating. I still hope they switch to reusables or biodegradable utensils in the future!
La Union was super laid back and fun that I had major sepanx when it was time to go back to Manila. I’m definitely going back there to try out everything I missed real soon!
Questions or comments? Feel free to send me a message or write them in the comment section below! Happy travels!