La Union, Philippines
People based in Metro Manila who often find themselves in need of some serious ocean therapy are no strangers to the beaches of La Union. Long regarded as the surfing capital of the Philippines, La Union's Urbiztondo beach in the municipality of San Juan has been a hot spot for the local surf scene for the past few decades. Its laid back surfer vibes, close proximity to Manila (now made even closer due to new highways) and beginner-friendly surf breaks have made it a popular destination for budding surfers of all ages.
La Union, part of the Ilocos Region in Luzon with its beaches facing the West Philippine Sea, features many surf spots, the main reason for the surge of tourism. This brought about the rush of hotels, resorts, restaurants and other establishments ready to serve all tourists, from backpackers to families and barkadas.
Although the bustling surf scene is reason enough for travelers to visit, there’s much more to La Union than just surfing. Its rich history as a well-established province beginning as far back as the Spanish era has given present-day visitors a chance to experience centuries-old churches, heritage sites and other notable historical landmarks.
Besides getting acquainted with the province's history and lounging by the beach, there are a ton of other interesting things to do in La Union. Travelers can go explore the thriving local art scene, satisfy culinary cravings with the latest restos and cafes, go on an adventure to Tangadan Falls, or they can even check out Agri-tourism farms that are open to the public for tours and grape-picking activities.
Since the pandemic, more and more people have been flocking to LU to get their road trip beach fixes out of the way, taking full advantage of the weather, location, beach culture and vibrant night life. It's been so popular, that visitors have been relocating and setting up their work-from-beach situations in La Union, whether temporarily or full time, making it clear that La Union is now much more than just a weekend destination.
Amongst the municipalities in La Union, Urbiztondo is known to be the surfing capital of the North as it is perfect for beginners and pros alike. It is also brimming with different food spots and gives visitors a fun and lively nightlife experience.
San Juan Surf Resort
San Juan Surf resort has been one of the go to resorts in San Juan due to its surf school and location – centrally located around popular shops, restaurants and bars.
Accommodations are basic, nothing fancy but definitely comfortable. If you’re looking for a more family friendly resort in San Juan, we also recommend Kahuna Beach Resort & Spa.
For a hostel type of accommodation you might want to check out Rada Hostel, Flotsam & Jetsam and Charlie’s Hanger.
Coast Call Kitchen & Bar
A cozy and homey in-house restaurant of San Juan Surf Resort. The restaurant serves a variety of local, eastern and western dishes with good serving sizes and are moderately priced.
If you’re looking for plant-based options to eat, Seabuds offer fresh and healthy smoothies, rice and acai bowls and sandwiches.
San Juan Surf School
A pioneer in teaching and conducting surf lessons in San Juan. Surf lessons with an instructor is priced at Php 500/ hour.
A homey and friendly hostel surrounded by restaurants, they offer rooms that are bunk bed style with shared bathrooms and showers – perfect for groups of friends. They also have a handful of rooms with their own private toilet and bath.
A beach bar and restaurant with nice interiors that’s popular with the tourist crowds. A nice place to hang out, grab a bite and have some drinks. Kabsat is usually packed (especially during the weekends) so expect to wait a little longer if you’re having lunch or dinner here.
Come here to satisfy your caffeine and alcohol fix. Indulge in their fancy and delicious pastries and catch some great happy hour deals!
A beachfront food hub where you’ll find many community-centered and interesting start-up restaurants.
El Union Coffee
Local café serving hot and cold brews, popular with the visiting crowd.
Delicious coconut ice cream paired with mango, grated coconut meat, then topped with rice crispies. It’s a simple and neat fusion of tropical flavors in one delightful dessert.
Authentic and fresh Japanese food prepared by a Japanese chef. We recommend you to try their sashimi plate and poke bowls.
Even if it’s a hot sunny day, their ramen is a must try!
Tasty, juicy and flavor-filled burgers.
Your usual Silog Meals with very budget friendly prices.
A simple eskinita restaurant that offers cheap eats. Their bagnet, pares and other rice meals are not bad at all. Sulit meals that are simple yet satisfying that is easy on the pockets.
All-you-can-eat seafood, steaks, and different varieties of meat for grilling for PHP 389.
This restaurant offers all things Asian. With cozy and laid back interiors, it’s a great place for a quiet date night or an intimate hangout with friends.
Even though it’s located by the road side and offers limited seating capacity, it attracts a variety of customers who are in for a tasty Mexican treat. Authentic and affordable, don’t miss this taco place when you’re in San Juan.
They've got good food, great brews and warm competent staff. The quietness and chillness of this place makes it a perfect spot for breakfast or brunch.
Beach Bum Food Park
Inside you’ll find a variety of food stalls offering many food and drink choices within a wholesome atmosphere.
Flotsam & Jetsam
A hostel that offers dorm-type accommodations and private rooms, they also have a popular in-house bar and restaurant known as one of the go-to places in San Juan. Securing a table in their restaurant is hard, so be sure to be early. Also be prepared to load up your Gcash or bring Cash when dining in their restaurant.
A quaint café that offers good coffee, comfort breakfast favorites and serious and not-so-serious breads. Masa is a good brunch place to hang out with friends and family.
LUNA - BACNOTAN
Baluarte Watch Tower
An interesting historical landmark that was built during the Spanish era that served as a lookout point for enemies invading the area.
One of the good food options in Luna with great views of the Baluarte Watch Tower and Pebble Beach.
Steak to Juan
Affordable steaks and burgers – casual dining with a menu that’s great value for the price.
It is quite fascinating to see a unique view of a beach with so many rocks instead of sand.
Bahay na Bato
If you’re in Luna already, why not visit this place for a minimal fee of Php 50. You will appreciate the different shapes and sizes of rocks that were handmade and transformed into art. Time your visit accordingly and make sure to hydrate because it can be very hot.
Paraoir Man Made Forest
A refreshing view of beautifully lined up mahogany trees that provides a cool and calming ambiance.
A Taoist temple that is open to the public and allows guests to marvel at the beautiful structures and peaceful surroundings. The best part is the view from the top where you can see La Union’s seascape. When visiting the temple, be mindful to be respectful and to dress appropriately since it’s a sacred place of prayer.
San Fernando Lighthouse
Also known as Poro Poro light house, it’s a bit out of the way in San Fernando and there is not much to see here except for the old light house. There is also an access to view the cliff just behind the ruins, but be cautious since there are no barriers to protect you from falling.
Halo Halo De Iloko
Go here if you would like to experience Ilokano food. We recommend to try their Pinakbet, Diningding and of course, their Halo-Halo. The place is a house converted into a restaurant so expect the place to not be so spacious. It can also be crowded especially during the weekends.
Ahmad Brothers Cafe
This Pakistani restaurant is originally from Baguio, recently opening its second branch in La Union. They serve affordable authentic Pakistani Halal food. Don’t expect the place to be fancy – a bit of a hole in wall atmosphere but the food is worth it.
They serve good tasting coffee drinks and a handful of light meals perfect for a snack. Take advantage of the beautiful and peaceful Bauang beach right in front of their coffee shop.
This beach is recommended for families with younger kids since the waves are calmer and with relatively smooth and fine sand. Bauang’s crowd is not as saturated as that of San Juan.
Besides taking your car, you can explore La Union by hiring a tricycle that can bring you to different tourist attractions or you can explore it on a rented bike.
Photos property of Livph