Since we are only available on weekends, we decided to visit a near metro place to meet the waves and get stoked. This DIY Weekend Surfing in San Juan guide discusses on how to to get there, where to stay and eat, attractions and other travel trips.
La Union, often called by Millennials as Elyu (L.U.) is known as the surfing capital of the Northern Philippines. Aside from surfing, it is also rich in other land attractions.
After work, we ride a bus from Manila to La Union for 5 hours and spend our weekend by enjoying the food, trekking to a nearby falls, learning how to surf, ending the day with a bottle of beer and enjoyed the view before we go back to Manila.
Best time to visit La Union
Generally, a good time to visit is during the “North Swell” were there are consistent waves which usually starts around October until March. For veteran surfers, May to October are the best time where typhoon season starts making the waves a little more challenging.
Though we went there out of the recommended month we still experienced some pretty decent waves. The only downside was there are lots of jellyfish which makes the water quite uncomfortable.
For other attractions like the “Tangadan Falls”, it is best to visit during the dry season where the trail is not slippery and the water from the falls is not muddy.
How to get there
If you’re from Manila, there are a lot of buses bound to San Juan La Union that runs every hour.
Take any bus bound to San Fernando La Union, Laoag, Vigan, Abra or Ilocos Sur. The trip usually takes 5-6 hours and can be less or more depending on the traffic situation or if the bus stop overs. Make sure to ask the conductor to drop you off at Urbiztondo San Juan La Union (Surfing area) or drop you off at your hotel if it’s just around the highway.
If you took the San Fernando terminal, tell the conductor to drop off you off to Partas terminal or Petron gasoline station (near Partas terminal) and ride another tricycle or jeepney bound to Urbiztondo San Juan proper. The trip usually takes 15minutes. For the tricycle fare, it normally varies from 50-100 pesos and 10 pesos for the jeepney. Tell the driver to drop you off your hotel. They are helpful so don’t be shy to seek help.
We booked our ticket via Biyaheroes and I’m happy that somehow our Bus market system is already upgrading. Our booking is a bliss and I was able to pay via Paypal (or Credit Card). There are other options for the payment system and you can also choose your seating arrangement. Kudos to Biyaheroes and hopefully this will be implemented on major bus liners as well! For my booking experience on Biyaheroes, check my other post – Real Heroes: Hassle Free Online bus booking via Biyaheroes
If you don’t want advance booking or if your preferred time is not available anymore online, you can check the following bus liner’s schedule and location below:
Bus Lines bound to La Union:
816 Aurora Blvd. Cubao, Quezon City
Aircon Buses. Fare costs Around 500 pesos
Schedules: Usually every hour. For more updated schedules, visit their facebook schedule: https://www.facebook.com/pg/partastrans/photos/?tab=album&album_id=984207828367345
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/partastrans/
Telephone Number: +63 (2) 7278278. For more contact numbers on all their station, visit their facebook contact album: https://www.facebook.com/pg/partastrans/photos/?tab=album&album_id=846217205499742
Edsa Cubao, Quezon City
Aircon buses, Fare costs around 500 pesos
Laong Laan cor. M De La Fuentes St. Sampaloc, Manila
Aircon buses, Fare costs around 500 pesos
Schedule: Daily departure to Laoag (6am to 11:30pm)
Thinks to do
Most of the attractions can be reached via private car. But, if you prefer DIY, it can be challenging and time consuming. You can rent a tricycle to tour you around or better to just choose attractions nearby.
For the attractions, we went to Tangadan Falls in the morning and surfing in the afternoon. Next day was also spent for surfing and preparing for departure to Manila.
Trek to Tangadan Falls
After the trek, you’ll be rewarded with these view in Tangadan Falls – Tangadan Falls in San Juan La Union
Visit a local coffee shop
If you want to start your trip with a kick of caffeine, you may want to visit El Union Coffee located along Mac Arthur Highway. They highly recommend to bring take out foods as long as you order drinks from them. This is also a great hangout location after surfing or post-inuman-session. They only offer drinks though
Pig out and a beer on hand
As tourist overtime visits San Juan on during peak season, a lot of bar and restaurants already makes spots on the center of the town. On the highway just outside the shoreline, you can try a lot of restaurant that caters Filipino – Mexican – Greek varieties.
Surf to your heart’s content
The stretch of Urbiztondo is perfect for beginners to experienced surfers. A lot of surfing schools are available on the beach area starting as early as 7am until sunset. Prices for all the surfing schools are all same. For more details check – Surfing Experience at Urbiztondo San Juan La Union
500 pesos per hour for board and instructor
200 pesos for an hour
500 pesos for half day
800 pesos for whole day
What to bring
San Juan is perfect for a year round visit. If you plan to surf, better bring your action cameras with you. Some surf boards have GoPro mount ready for your surfing action. Rash guards and swim wears are highly recommended as well. For Tangadan trek, you may want to bring sturdy shoe wear and cap especially if you plan on doing a long trek. Though, we survived the trek with just flip flops. You may also want to bring dry bags for your non-waterproof belongings.
Where to eat
A lot of restaurants and café emerged around the surfing areas and hotel restaurants.
For breakfast, we dined at Naknak located near El Union Café. The store looks like a carinderia ambience but the food especially the breakfast is excellent. Prices are relatively cheap and servings are just fair.
For dinner we dined at Urbiztondo Grill. It is located near Sand Box Resto Bar and just the opposite road of San Juan Surf Resort. The place is crowded at night and the service takes a while but the food there is great. Try their Kare-kare and Lechon Kawali!
Where to stay
With our one week planning, most of the known and beach front hotels are already fully booked. Luckily, CT Apartelle is still available. The place is not beach front but the location is just along the Marcos Road. We got the room for 5500 pesos which is good for 6-8 persons. The place is spacious but the actual bedroom is just enough to accommodate the basic needs. The room is also air-conditioned with comfort room and a television as well. The owner is nice and approachable and is willing to help you out with your inquiries. They even gave me first aid remedy from the jellyfish rashes that I got during surfing. If you plan to stay there, it is located in between Kahuna and Little Mermaid Resort. Main landmark is the waiting shed on the left side of the road.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CTApartelle/
Rates: 3000-5500 per night for 6 persons
Type of rooms: Airconditioned room with TV. Some rooms has private CR others are shared.
For lists of Beach and Non-Beach Resorts, check my other posts – Where to stay in La Union
Sample itinerary + breakdown
Here’s the sample Do-it-yourself Weekend in La Union itinerary. This trip includes a full-pack activities on Day 1 with casual rests before the trip and mostly going back home on the second day.
DAY 1: REST-TREK-SURF-NIGHTOUT-REST
23:30 – ETD from Partas Cubao (PHP 604.00 via Biyaheroes)
04:30 – ETA at Urbiztondo San Juan, wait until CT Apartelle opens up (PHP 917.00 per head).
06:30 – Rest
10:00 – Breakfast at Naknak (PHP 80.00)
11:00 – Jeepney to San Gabriel Municipal for Tangadan Falls (PHP 18.00)
11:15 – ETA to San Gabriel. Meet tour guide (PHP 500 guide fee). Need to register and pay environmental fee (PHP 30.00)
11:45 – 20 minutes Motorcycle ride to Tangadan Falls Dropoff (PHP 500 each / two way).
10 minutes light walk to Tangadan Falls
Swim and Enjoy at Tangadan Falls
Lunch at Farmers near San Gabriel Municipio (PHP 70.00)
14:00 – Depart San Gabriel, went back to San Juan (PHP 18.00, Jeepney with San Fernando Signage)
14:30 – ETA to CT Apartelle. REST.
16:30 – Surf in Urbiztondo (PHP 500.00 board rental with instructor)
18:00 – Went back to the hotel, preparation for dinner.
18:30 – Dinner at Urbiztondo Grill (PHP 600.00)
20:00 – Chill at Magellan’s Restaurant and Lounge (PHP 300.00)
21:30 – Rest
DAY 2 – FINAL SURF
07:00 – Surf in Urbiztondo (PHP 200.00 board rental only)
08:30 – Prepare for Depature, breakfast from CT Apartelle
10:00 – Jeepney to San Fernando Partas terminal (PHP 10.00)
10:30 – ETD to Manila (PHP 453.00)