Last Updated on February 8, 2023 by Tina
Located in the Northern Philippines and more popularly referred to as Elyu (LU), La Union has been a favorite weekend beach getaway to many prior to the pandemic because of its proximity to Manila. And more than two years after the lockdown, tourists are back, including the ones who think they own the place and shout on the street at 11:00 PM. It is dubbed the surfing capital of the Northern Philippines. It is famous for its waves that cater to surfers regardless of skill level. In December 2019, San Juan hosted the surfing competition of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. To make the most out of your trip to LU, here’s a La Union travel guide to help you plan a trip.
I already published a La Union travel guide in 2021 but so much has changed especially with La Union tourism guidelines. I’ve been living in Urbiztondo, San Juan since July (I am working from home now and our house is 160 meters away from the beach) so I’ll try to make this as comprehensive as I can.
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Table of Contents
La Union Travel Guide
Who is Allowed to Travel to La Union for Leisure and Tourism?
Everyone can now visit La Union. There are no more checkpoints when you enter the province. You no longer need to prepare any travel documents if you plan to visit. Establishments rarely check NAPANAM QR Code or vaccination cards now. However, all tourists are required to pay a Php 50 (~US$ 1) Environmental Fee per visit to San Juan, La Union. The Environmental Fee is collected by the accommodation establishment upon check-in/arrival.
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Best Time to Visit La Union
La Union has a tropical climate. On average, the temperatures are always high. Its rainy season is from June to October with August being the wettest month. On average, the warmest month is April and the coolest month is January. February is the driest month.
La Union has two surfing seasons. The South Swell is from July to October and the North Swell is from November to March.
I would say November to March would be the best time to go as it’s not too hot, there’s less chance of rain and the waves are ideal.
Also if you can, I suggest that you visit during weekdays when there are fewer tourists. The beach gets super crowded on weekends.
Mobile Signal and Internet Connection in La Union
When the pandemic started and working from home became a thing, many relocated to La Union. If you are contemplating doing the same, internet connection is probably one of your concerns.
Mobile signal/mobile data is available in La Union for all networks. Between Smart and Globe, Smart has a better reception here in San Juan. I have also used the new network DITO, and it has a good signal too especially in San Fernando City (the capital of La Union).
There is no Sky internet here, but there is PLDT Fibr as well as Converge. We use PLDT Fibr at home and I’ve never had problems so far in the last 2 months that I have been working.
In San Juan, most accommodation establishments and restaurants have a free wifi connection.
How to Get to La Union
There are many ways to get to La Union by land, whether you are coming from the north or the south. While there is an airport in San Fernando City, there are no commercial flights to La Union.
How to Get to La Union by Private Transportation
Getting to La Union from Manila by private transportation is the most convenient way. However, not everyone has this option. If coming from Metro Manila, the trip will take around 4 hours via NLEX-SCTEX-TPLEX.
From Baguio to La Union, it will take you around 1 hour. Take the Naguilian Road as it is the fastest route.
From Laoag City to La Union, the trip takes around 3 hours (at night time).
How to Get to La Union by Public Transportation
Travel to La Union by Bus
If you don’t have your own car, worry not because provincial buses are back in operation but they have fewer trips now. If you are coming from the south, take any bus bound to Laoag, Abra, Vigan, or Candon. Partas, Viron, Dominion, Fariñas, Maria de Leon, Candon Bus Line, Santa Lucia Express, and Florida are buses from Metro Manila that pass by La Union. Bus fare from Metro Manila to La Union is around Php 500 to Php 800.
From Baguio, you can take Partas, Mitchacoy or Fred and Cathy. There are also mini-buses that have an hourly trip from Baguio to San Fernando, La Union.
If you are coming from the north, take the bus bound to Baguio, Pangasinan, or Manila/Cubao/Pasay. Partas, Viron, Dominion, Fariñas, Maria de Leon, Candon Bus Line, Santa Lucia Express, and Florida are buses from the north (Laoag, Abra, or Vigan) that pass by La Union.
How to get to La Union from NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport)
This question was asked in a backpacking group last time so I thought of adding this here. To get to La Union from the airport, you can take a taxi or book a car with Grab. Put Viron Bus Terminal, Cubao as the destination. When you reach the bus station, buy a ticket to San Juan, La Union, if you are staying in the town of San Juan. The bus fare is Php 580 (~US$ 10). On the bus, when the bus conductor checks your ticket, tell him to drop you off in San Juan. The bus goes all the way to Ilocos Sur so make sure to tell him where you are alighting.
Note: There are trips to La Union that terminate in San Fernando, La Union. If you happen to ride that bus, and your accommodation is in San Juan which is the town next to San Fernando, just hail a tricycle outside the bus station to take you to your accommodation. The fare is around 50 to 100 pesos.
Travel to La Union by Carpool
Another way to get to La Union which is more expensive than taking the bus is through carpooling. Normally, you will find them on Facebook Groups. Just enter the keyword La Union Carpool. The rate is somewhere around Php 1500 from Manila to La Union.
How to Get Around La Union
Buses within La Union and jeepneys from San Fernando City to other towns in La Union are now in operation. Tricycles in each town and in the city are in operation as well.
If you are planning to go on a tour to the different tourist spots in La Union, you can hire a tricycle in San Juan. The cost depends on the tourist spots that you are planning to visit. The cost is around Php 1500 (maybe it increased now) for a whole day tour.
La Union Tourist Spots to Visit
Though La Union is popular because of surfing, there are other places in La Union that you can visit aside from the beach. When tourists from other provinces were not yet allowed here in the latter part of 2020, my two siblings and I would take our nephew out on Sundays and drive to a tourist spot in La Union. Here are La Union tourist spots that you can add to your itinerary on your trip to La Union:
Agoo Eco-Fun World
Agoo Eco-Fun Park is a man-made forest located in Sta. Rita West and Sta. Rita Central in Agoo, La Union. It is a wide piece of land covered with agoho trees (Casuarina equisetifolia). A few meters from the man-made forest is the beach with fine grayish sand. Picnic huts are available in the beach area.
Centennial Tunnel/Salapak Tunnel
Located in Aringay, La Union, the Centennial Tunnel is a 500-meter tunnel made in 1913 during the American regime. It was intended for the trains of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) bound for Baguio City. Because of the then-impending Second World War, the Commonwealth Government abandoned it. According to the locals, the tunnel already exists during the Spanish era, but it was only during the American occupation that it was developed.
Located in San Fernando City, it is a Spanish-built church ruin that is now being looked after by the Carmelite Sisters whose monastery stands beside the ruins. The church was built in 1764. A great earthquake in 1892 damaged the church and left it in ruins.
Poro Point Baywalk
Located in Brgy. Poro, San Fernando City, Poro Point Baywalk is a 1.3 km-long promenade fronting San Fernando Bay. It is near Thunderbird Hotel Resort and Casino. The baywalk has playgrounds, picnic areas, and an amphitheater. It is a good place to jog, bike, or have a picnic. Make sure you check out the beach when you visit the Baywalk. The sand is nicer than that in Urbiztondo Beach.
Poro Point Light House
Located in Poro Point, San Fernando City, the Poro Point Light House was built during the American occupation in 1905. It is a concrete tower standing 27 feet high. At night, there is a bright white light that flashes every 10 seconds indicating it is still functional.
Overlooking the West Philippine Sea, Macho Temple is a Taoist temple located on a hill in the City of San Fernando. It is a good spot to watch the sunset.
Urbiztondo Beach is located in the heart of San Juan, La Union. Manage your expectations as it is not a white sand beach, not as nice as the beaches in Palawan, and it is not lined with coconut trees. But it has got the best sunsets. It is the primary spot for surfing. Urbiztondo Beach is where the surfing competition of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games was held.
Located in Brgy. Taboc in San Juan, this baywalk is a good spot to watch the sunset. Surf instructors bring their students here for the surfing lesson when the waves in Urbiztondo are too big for beginners.
Located in San Gabriel, Tangadan Falls is a two-tiered waterfall with the lower cascade as the main attraction. It is around 40 feet high and its catch basin is around 20 feet deep. Its upper level is where thrill-seekers go for cliff jumping. Check out my complete guide to Tangadan Falls for more information about this tourist attraction.
Located in Brgy. Paraoir, Balaoan, Immuki Island is not really an island. It’s just dead corals a few meters away from the shore and surrounded by mangroves. There are three big lagoons that are perfect for swimming or if you are more adventurous, you can do cliff jumping. Head on to my complete travel guide to Immuki Island to see more pictures and to know more about this tourist spot.
Bato de Luna Art Gallery
Located in Nalvo Norte, Luna, Bato de Luna is an art gallery that showcases the works of Korean stone sculptor Mr. Bong Kim. It exhibits different art using stones (Luna has a pebble-covered beach) and mural art. It is located in Nalvo Norte, Luna, La Union. Prior to Bato de Luna, it was Bahay na Bato, then Kamay na Bato (Stone Hand). Read more about this art gallery in my Bato de Luna Art Gallery guide.
Luna Pebble Beach
Located in Luna, the entire shore of Luna Pebble Beach is covered with rounded stones of different colors and sizes. Locals collect these stones and sell them.
Baluarte Watch Tower
Standing on Luna Pebble Beach, the Baluarte Watch Tower was built during the Spanish era as a lookout point for an impending attack of pirates or danger from the sea.
What to Do in La Union
Aside from visiting the beautiful tourist spots in La Union, there are other things that you can do. Here are some of the things to do in La Union:
Surf or learn how to surf
One of the reasons people visit La Union is to surf. La Union is filled with numerous surfing spots. And these surfing spots have waves suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers alike. Surf lessons are offered for Php 500 per hour. If you already know how to surf but you don’t have a surfboard, there are surfboards available for rent also.
Attend a clay pottery class
If you’re looking for an activity that is both fun and therapeutic, I recommend attending a clay pottery class. Red Clay Pagdamilian in San Juan offers a hands-on pottery-making experience. You’ll learn basic pottery making (pinching and coiling) and at the end of the class, you get to take home your output. The pottery-making lesson costs Php 250 per person. It is for ages 7 and up and lasts for about 2 hours. Read more about this activity in my Pottery Lesson with Pagdamilian ti La Union post.
Experience sea turtle hatchling release
CURMA or Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions is a sea turtle conservation effort in La Union. The highlight of CURMA is the release of sea turtle hatchlings who have come out of their nests and guided through the shore to the sea. There are hatchlings due this month until March. If you are lucky, you may be able to experience one of the release activities. Follow CURMA on Facebook and Instagram so you’ll see updates when there is a scheduled release.
Watch the sunset
The beaches in La Union are not as nice as those in Palawan, but the sunsets are amazing. I always watch the sunset whenever I have time and I never get tired of doing so. There are plenty of spots in La Union to watch them. Check out my post for some of the best spots to watch the sunset in La Union.
Grapes picking in one of the grape farms in Bauang or Aringay
Along the national highway in Bauang and Aringay, you’ll see individuals holding signage that says “Grape Picking”. Many grape farms can be found in these areas. You can do grape picking straight from the vines on these farms. All farms offer “pick and pay” for their grapes.
Visit all the watchtowers of La Union
Did you know that there are six watchtowers in La Union? These were built along the coastlines of La Union during the Spanish era. Made of coral limestones and bricks, these watchtowers served as a lookout point for impending attacks by pirates or danger from the sea. The National Museum of the Philippines declared these collectively a National Cultural Treasure in 2014. The good news is that you can visit 5 out of six of these, although I don’t recommend checking out the one in Bauang because there’s nothing to see there anymore. Check out my post about the watchtowers of La Union to know more.
Walk from Urbiztondo Beach to Jesus Point in Carille
If you were wondering if you can walk the shoreline from Urbiztondo Beach in San Juan to Jesus Point in Carille, San Fernando, the answer is yes. I did it a few times last year and even wrote a post about it. You can also do it from Urbiztondo Beach to Taboc Baywalk.
Do a buwis-buhay (risky) shot at Almeida Man-Made Forest
On your way to Luna after the Holcim Cement Plant, you’ll pass by a road in Brgy. Almeida, Balaoan covered with trees. It is near Navalta Beach. Many people stop here to take a picture in the middle of the road. It can be a bit risky though because it is a busy road.
Where to Stay in La Union
Almost all accommodation establishments in La Union are now open. Depending on your budget, La Union has a range of options for accommodations. From luxury beach resorts and hotels to private vacation homes, homestays, or backpackers’ hostels, La Union got you covered.
Although San Fernando City is the capital of La Union, most people visiting La Union stay in Brgy. Urbiztondo in the town of San Juan. It is where you will find the surf schools and the more popular restaurants.
Before the pandemic, accommodations in San Juan get fully booked during the surfing break. If you want to stay in Urbiztondo, make sure you book weeks ahead. In case you are not able to find a place in San Juan, there are hotels in San Fernando as well as in the other towns of La Union like Luna, Bacnotan, and Bauang.
Where to stay in La Union for budget travelers/backpackers
The Circle Hostel is not a beachfront property but it is within walking distance to Urbiztondo Beach and near restaurants. It is a good place to meet fellow backpackers.
Charlie’s Hangar Surf Hostel
Charlie’s Hangar Surf Hostel is an aviation-themed hostel a minute’s walk from Urbiztondo Beach. It has a terrace, direct beach access, and a lounge in a converted airplane, along with a campsite, BBQs, and parking.
Recommended La Union resorts
Located at the Poro Point Freeport Zone in San Fernando City, La Union, Thunderbird Resorts is a Mediterranean-inspired resort with an infinity pool, yoga classes, and an on-site casino. The resort sits on a cliff overlooking the South China Sea.
Kahuna Beach Resort and Spa has Filipino-Balinese-inspired rooms. It is on the beachfront and offers superior services and a broad range of amenities.
The Escape San Juan is a pet-friendly resort in San Juan, La Union. It is a beachfront property located in Urbiztondo Beach with a garden, bar, a terrace, a shared lounge, and free WiFi.
Ysla Villa offers a 2-bedroom villa perfect for a surf town “quiet retreat” with family and friends. Located in a quiet subdivision, it is just a 6-minute drive from the surfing area of San Juan. The beach is also just a short walk away.
The Little Surfmaid Resort is a beachfront property with a very wide parking space and is located in Urbiztondo Beach. It is a family-friendly resort.
For other accommodation establishments in San Juan, you can check my post Where to Stay in Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan, La Union although I haven’t updated it yet. I’ll try and update it in the coming days.
Where to Eat in La Union
I am preparing a separate post of restaurants to try in La Union, but I’m not done with it yet. Here are some of my recommendations on where to eat in La Union:
Chickey’s Inasal is your neighborhood chicken stand. They serve grilled food like chicken inasal, chorizo, and liempo. I highly recommend their Kansi Fried Chicken. You can find them at Port San Juan.
Located along the National Highway across Flotsam and Jetsam, Seawadeeka serves a mix of Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Malaysian, and Singaporean cuisine. Their pad thai tastes like the ones I’ve eaten in Bangkok.
Baybay Seafood and Grill
Baybay Seafood and Grill is a seafood restaurant in San Juan located on the ground floor of Ciabel Hotel. It is known for its Ultimate Seafood Feast, a seafood platter with unlimited rice that is eaten boodle fight style.
Seabuds serves plant-based smoothies, smoothie bowls, rice meals, sandwiches, and juices. Not only do they serve healthy and delicious food, but they’ve got a very Instagrammbale place too.
Buhay Gulay is the first and only vegetarian carinderia in La Union with vegan options. Their vegan barbeque is a must-try!
You can also check out my old post Restaurants in San Juan, La Union: Where to Eat in the New Normal for other restaurant options.
Other Useful Information When In La Union
Where to park in Urbiztondo
Parking along the road is no longer allowed in San Juan. The good news is that there are “pay parking” spaces in Urbiztondo. Here are two:
Park and Surf
This parking area is located across Wych Wood Apartelle, before Urbiz Garden Plage if you are northbound.
Parking area near JV’s Apartelle
Across Port San Juan, you will see Coco Shack or JV’s Apartelle. Between these two there is an alley that goes to the beach. The parking lot is located beside Lakbai Musika.
Where to Buy Beer, Cigarette, and Grocery Items in San Juan?
If you are staying somewhere in Urbiztondo and don’t want to go to the San Juan Public Market or San Fernando City anymore, our shop has most of the things you need such as toiletries, chips, biscuits, beer, cigarettes, sunblock, face masks, and alcohol. Our shop TBX General Merchandise is located across Dampa sa San Juan.
If you are staying in the southern part of Urbiztondo like Planet G Hotel or The Circle Hostel La Union, there is 7-Eleven near Sebay Surf Central.
If you are staying in the Ili Norte/Sur area, San Juan Public Market is located within that area. There is also a 7-Eleven near the public market.
Where to Withdraw Money in San Juan?
There are no banks in San Juan but there are ATMs. There is one in front of KM 277 Tavern by the Sea, another in front of Beach Bum Food Park, and another in front of Urbiz Garden Plage.
Most restaurants in San Juan accept Gcash payments. Gcash cash-in and cash-out are available in TBX General Merchandise for a lower transaction fee.
If you need to withdraw over the counter, you will have to go to San Fernando.
Where to Exchange Dollars to Pesos in La Union?
You can exchange dollars in banks and Western Union but I found that Villarica Pawnshop has the best rate. There are three Villarica Pawnshops in San Fernando City along Gov. Ortega St. One is near Crazy Cups La Union, another is located in San Fernando Public Market and the third one is located near BDO.
Are There Malls in La Union?
Yes, there are but not as big as the ones in Metro Manila. CSI Mall, Manna Mall, and Robinsons Place La Union are all located in San Fernando City.
Where to Buy Souvenirs/Pasalubong
There are souvenir shops in San Juan selling local crafts and delicacies such as bagnet and longganisa. One is near San Juan Surf Resort and the other is near Beach Bum Food Park.
For hand-woven products such as blankets, shawls, table runners, and towels, you can buy them at Noguera’s Weaving in the town of Bangar.
If you are a plantito/plantita and you would like to bring home clay pots, drop by Brgy. Taboc in San Juan. You’ll find the shops selling pots along the National Highway.
Lastly, if you want to bring home tupig, a Filipino rice cake made from ground slightly-fermented soaked glutinous rice mixed with coconut milk, muscovado sugar, and young coconut strips, look for the stores selling coconut along the diversion road in San Juan.
Additional Tips When Visiting La Union
- Don’t forget to bring reef-safe sunscreen. You’ll be staying under the sun for very long periods of time so better protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
- An insect repellent may come in handy too.
- San Juan is very safe even for solo female travelers but as in any place, don’t leave your things, especially your valuables unattended, and always trust your instinct.
Other La Union Posts That You Might Be Interested In
I hope you find this guide useful. If you have any questions, feel free to email me, send me DM on my social media accounts, or write them down in the comments section.
Please subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss any of my posts. Follow my Facebook page @iwentanyways and Instagram accounts @tnadeperalta and @iwentanyways for updates. Happy travels and stay safe!