What a nice way to kick-off the week- a back-to-back surfing and travel guide for wave-junkies. ’m/
So either you are planning on surfing at
you have this guide to help you plan your adventure.
This is made possible with the help of a proud La Union local, Nikka of Two2Travel.com.
Nikka talks about La Union in general while I focus on surfing. Entiendes?
1. Describe La Union.
Nikka says: La Union is not exactly touristy since you often just pass by it on the way to Ilocos or somewhere south. But it does have at least three waterfalls worth visiting, several churches, beaches, dive sites, and of course, excellent waves for surfing.
James says: La Union is a Ilocano-speaking province 6 hours away from Manila. People are very laid-back and warm too! I can’t think of why would people go to San Juan or other coastal towns (Bacnotan) if there is no surfing. As Nikka said, people just pass by this beautiful province when going to Baguio or Ilocandia.
2. What do you like most about the La Union?
Nikka says: I love the sunsets in my hometown. It doesn’t have white sand beaches but the sunsets make up for it. And there’s fresh, affordable seafood everywhere.
James says: Surfing. #nuffsaid
3. Is there anything the local government can do (or stop doing) in order to make the place more tourists-friendly.
Nikka says: La Union could use more tourist-friendly facilities, especially more public transport options for tourists who want to visit the more remote areas like the Tuddingan Falls (Naguilian), Tangadan Falls (San Gabriel), and Balay-Anito Falls (Santol). As far as I know there are no local guides to these spots, so visitors are pretty much left to their own devices if they decide to trek to these areas. I think the province doesn’t quite see itself as a tourist destination yet (except for San Juan of course), so it takes a bit more effort for visitors to see everything else worth seeing.
James says: I guess they are doing great in terms of tourism promotion. They are finding other means of income right now than before when La Union is a purely agricultural province. I hope they become more proactive in promoting more surf spots in the province, meaning develop these spots so that the government will get other forms of income, before foreigners buy all the beach-front properties in the province.
4. Don’t go home without seeing/visiting/experiencing _______.
Nikka says: Don’t go home without trying surfing in San Juan and viewing the sunset from a hilltop location (you can go to the Filipino-Chinese Pagoda, the Ma-Cho Temple, or the Statue of Christ the Redeemer, all within San Fernando City and accessible by tricycle). If you haven’t seen the sunset at Thunderbird Resorts’ boardwalk yet, it might be worth a visit too. Thunderbird is a jeepney ride away from the city proper. All these spots I mentioned do not charge entrance fees.
James says: Don’t leave La Union without trying its waters- surf! Surfing season starts September until April. I will also add CURMA- Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions in San Juan. They are known to take care of the pawikans in the area.
5. Don’t go home without trying/eating ________.
Nikka says: Don’t go home without trying patupat. It’s a sweet sticky rice cake inside a woven coconut pouch, sold for about P50 a clump (that’s about three or four individual packs). Although it’s very popular in Pangasinan, the patupat is actually Ilocano in origin and is available in every market in La Union. Your hands are going to be all sticky and messy when you eat this but the fuss is worth it. Better if it’s piping hot too.
James says: Don’t miss tupig, ground glutinuos rice mixed with coconut strips wrapped with banana leaves and cooked over charcoal until the banana leaves becomes burnt. It smells burnt but the taste is unique- the mix of rice, banana and coconut is just delectable. Comes in bundles of 4-5pieces only at Php20.
6. Traveler’s Tip:
Nikka says: CHURCH-HOPPING: Set aside a whole day for this if you’re commuting (half a day if you have a car). Recommended from south to north are: Agoo (Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Charity), Bauang (Sts. Peter & Paul), San Fernando (Pindangan Ruins & Ma-Cho Temple), San Juan (St. John the Baptist), and Luna (Our Lady of Namacpacan). BEACHES TO VISIT: Urbiztondo Beach (San Juan); Sea Park (San Fernando); the pebbled beaches of Luna GOING THERE AND AROUND: La Union is about 7 hours from Manila; 5 hours from Ilocos Norte; 2 hours from Baguio. Partas services all these routes; Farinas and Florida are also available from Manila and Ilocos; Genesis to/from Manila only. Jeepneys and mini buses are easily accessible to get you from one town to the next. SURFING: Surf lessons are at P400 per hour including instructor and board rental. Board rentals only are at P200 per hour.
So you want to surf? I recommend you rent at Kuya Nano (his surf rack is in the middle of San Juan Beach with a red skimboard as a signboard). Very very understanding especially when you are out of the budget. He gave me discount. If the Point Break is too crowded, try going to Bacnotan or Karylle.
How to get there? The best way to go to San Juan, La Union is to take the Partas bus that goes to Vigan or Laoag. You just tell the driver that you are getting off at Brgy. Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union (after about 6-7hours of travel time from Cubao). They have a terminal in Cubao, Quezon City, fare is Php456.00. Other option would be to take the buses that ply the Manila-San Fernando, La Union route: Autobus (Sampaloc, Manila), Dominion Transit (New York, Cubao, QC) and Farinas (Sampaloc, Manila). Cheapest bus fare is Dominion Transit.
When you arrive at San Fernando, La Union, just take the jeepney going to Bacnotan and tell the driver you will get off at Urbiztondo, San Juan or just tell him you will surf. Usually they bring you down at Sebay Surf Resort or San Juan Surf Resort (Fare: Php11.00).
7. Recommendation Hotel, Inn?
Nikka says: San Juan: Stay here if you’re going to surf. The Circle Hostel and San Juan Surf Resort are good choices. San Fernando: Stay here if you want accessibility. Hotels though are a bit old, so don’t expect too much from them (Hotel Mikka, Sea and Sky, and Plaza Hotel along the city proper; Sea Park at Poro Point). If you can afford the pricier ones, try Oasis Country Resort and Thunderbird Resorts. Bauang: Beachfront resorts are easily spotted along the highway (Ariana, Bali Hai, Coconut Grove).
James says: I stayed at Circle Hostel which can be found at the narrow road in front of San Juan Surf Resort before Sebay Surf Resort. Nothing fancy and backpacker-friendly. Hammock is Php300/night (includes fast wifi and use of locker, please bring your own padlock), Php400/night if you use the bunk-bed. I like the ambiance of the place, very chill and staff are very welcoming. Still, I find it expensive to be paying Php300 for a overnight stay on a hammock. I paid Php300 even if I brought my own hammock. On my last day, I was lucky to have met some local surfers who let me set up my hammock for free in their kubo. Free beers too!
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That’s our simple travel guide to La Union. Before going to the next article, please do check out Nikka’s awesome blog and photography at Two2Travel.com, follow her on Twitter: @Two_2_Travel; and get updates form their Facebook Fan Page: www.facebook.com/Two2Travel
If you want to join the Travel Bloggers Collab, please do email me at journeyingjames(AT)gmail(DOT)com together with the place you want to talk about. I want to learn from you and see from your perspective.