La Union Travel Guide – Best Surf Spot in the Northern Philippines

Everyone knows La Union for being the surfing capital of the Philippines, but did you know there is so much to see in the surrounding areas as well? I took a trip to both crash my surf board into the waves but also to explore the nearby attractions including waterfalls, pebble beach, reconstructed war-time watch towers, churches, and a beautiful centennial tree.

Read on to see all of these and more. Plus let me know if I missed any great places!

How to Get to La Union?

There are a few different bus liners which you can take going to La Union but below are the most recommended:

  • Partas: Either in Cubao or Pasay Terminals
  • Dominion: Cubao/Edsa Terminal
  • Viron: Cubao/Edsa Terminal

No matter which of the above 3 bus liners you choose you can either take the bus going Vigan (P450 or $9 USD) and get off in Urbiztondo or take the bus going to San Fernando(P400 or $8 USD) and take a tricycle to Urbiztondo.

The closest city to La Union is San Fernando which can be confusing as there are multiple cities with the name San Fernando in the Philippines. Ensure you head to San Fernando in the Illocos region.

While it’s important to check the schedules, there are often buses going there every 1-2 hours.

Where to Stay in La Union?

La Union has a really chic vibe to it and offers quite a few different accommodations with a unique style and setup. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Costa Villa Beach Resort: While not directly on the beach, it’s just a short 2 minute walk to the water and they have really great breakfast. Great for groups as well! Around P1600 ($30 USD) a night.
  • Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel: This is a great budget accommodation right on the beach. The best part about Flotsam and Jetsam is their night activities which includes music, drinking, and plenty of food vendors. All the hanging lights, hammocks, and bean-bag chairs making it a great party place! Around P700 per night ($14 USD).
  • The Circle Hostel: No matter which Circle Hostel you visit you can expect plenty of hammocks and bunk beds covered in a thatch roof. No matter when you visit, you’ll always end up making new friends here. Around P900 ($18 USD) a night.
  • The Little Surfmaid Resort: This is the closest to beachfront accommodation that you can stay. The Beach is literally a few meters away. At night they lay out tables and beanbag chairs so you can enjoy some drinks, food, and a good beat. Around P1500 ($15 USD) per night.

Often it can be difficult to determine where the actual surf beach is located in la Union so you can use the map below to know exactly where you should look for accomodations:

What to Do in La Union? 

There are plenty of things to keep you busy while you’re in La Union both on the beach and in the surrounding areas.

Surfing in La Union

No trip to La Union would be complete without catching the waves! It’s one of the best places to surf in the Philippines. The best location to surf is on the San Juan Beach in La Union. There’s no need to schedule these in advance – just walk out to the beach and you’ll see surf instructors all around willing to teach you.

  • Surf Instructor: P200/hour (Around $4USD)
  • Surf Board: P200/hour (Around $4USD)

La Union Land Tour

There is a long list of places you can visit nearby on land which you must see. The easiest way to visit these is by approaching a tricycle driver to make a day-tour. While you can take different public transportation, it can often take far too long and be very tedious.

Below are my favorite land activities which can be accomplished in 1 day starting at 8AM until evening:

  • Baluarte Watch Tower: This watch tower had been long destroyed, but in 2013 the local government decided to restore it to remember their heritage and history.
    Baluarte Watch Tower La Union
  • Kamay na Bato Stone Hand Art Gallery: Just nearby the art gallery has a great variety of art including rock art, paintings, statues, and much more.
  • Pebble Beach: While it seems to look man-made, the amount of large pebbles on this beach is just beautiful.
  • Centennial Tree: This giant acacia tree has stood for over 100 years and gives shade to an elementary school below. It is also known as the Victor Ortega Tree.
  • Tagadan Falls: The most exciting part of the land tour is definitely the waterfalls. In photos it seems so small but when you arrive it is a powerful giant. This is a must see place when visiting La Union. You will need a tour guide for this and costs around P400 ($8USD).
  • Macho Temple: Located in San Fernando city up on a tall hill. The Macho Temple is a Taoist Temple and is dedicated to Mazu, a Chinese sea-goddess. It is a beautiful temple and a great place to visit on your way out of the city when passing through San Fernando.
  • Pindangan Ruins:  The Pindangan ruins is what’s leftover of a church which was destroyed in the 1892 earthquake.  A new church was erected next door and the ruins remain to keep the history and spirit alive.
  • Grape Farm & Wine Tasting: This cannot be included in a day-trip and definitely needs a secondary trip to visit the grape farm as it’s 45 minutes south of La Union. It’s a wonderful place to pick fresh grapes, do wine tasting, and learn a little about how grapes grow.

There are plenty more places to visit when you’re here which you can see a full listing by approaching any of the tricycle drivers.

A typical day-trip using a tricycle can cost around P1500 ($30 USD) for them to take you around for the whole day. This can fluctuate depending on the entrance fees for different activities.

Best Places to Eat and Drink in La Union

One thing that I love about La Union is that there are plenty of unique restaurants and food parks offering many different food options. By far eating in La Union is one of my favorite things to do!

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Beach Bum Food Park: 10 different food stalls. This was my favorite place to get many different types of food all in one place.
  • Surf Shack: Known for it’s great grilled food,  burgers, salads, beer and live music every night!
  • Olas Banditos: Definitely a great place for authentic Mexican Food and Margaritas!
  • The Coffee Library: This place is located right along the main highway and you cant miss it – it’s all glass on the front and at night is lit up bright! They have really great coffee and dessert options.
  • Kaizen: You wouldn’t think you’d find sushi here, but at Kaizen you can get really fresh sushi and other Japanese food choices.

The Illocos region holds many great cities and activities, but La Union is one of my favorites. It’s located nearby to both Vigan and Baguio so you can make a few side trips if you’re headed this way.

Let me know if there’s any amazing places in La Union that I may have missed!


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