Last Updated on June 6, 2021 by Tina
Prior to the pandemic, I was already planning on writing a San Juan, La Union travel guide. La Union, more popularly referred to as Elyu (LU), has been a favorite weekend beach getaway to many because of its proximity to Manila. San Juan, one of the municipalities of La Union, is dubbed as 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.
Since the Chinese New Year, I’ve noticed that the number of tourists visiting San Juan, La Union on weekends has been increasing. It is starting to look like how it used to be before the pandemic happened. Noisy drunk tourists shouting along the highway late at night during weekends are back. As promised to my blog subscribers, I’m publishing this San Juan, La Union travel guide with the release of the new La Union tourism guidelines.
Who is Allowed to Travel to La Union for Leisure and Tourism?
Tourists from Luzon, including those who are from NCR plus bubble, are now allowed entry to La Union subject to compliance with the new tourism guidelines of the province.
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What are The Requirements for Tourists Visiting La Union?
The Provincial Government of La Union released a guideline that you need to follow when traveling to La Union for leisure and tourism purposes. The province only allows non-resident tourists aged 15 to 65 years old. A maximum of 700 registered tourists per day shall be allowed on a first-come, first-served basis. Accommodation establishments will cater to 50% capacity only.
The following are the La Union travel requirements for tourists:
- Accommodation booked through DOT-Accredited La Union – Based Travel and Tour Operator. As of the moment, you can’t book directly to the accommodation establishment of your choice.
- Negative RT-PCR test results. It must be taken within 3 days before the actual arrival in La Union. This is required regardless of quarantine classification of LGU of origin. Saliva based RT-PCR test result issued by the Philippine Red Cross is accepted as an alternative to the Nasopharyngeal Swab RT-PCR test.
- Approved travel request from Tara Na! VISITA (Visitor Information and Tourist Assistance) System. You must register and schedule your travel within a minimum of 5 working days before travel. The application will be processed within 48 hours. Approval or denial of travel applications by the system admin shall be every Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM only.
- Generated QR Coded Tourist Pass (QTP). You can either have this printed or saved on your smartphone.
La Union Tourism Guidelines
- Tourists must only use pre-determined safe pit stops for stop-overs, eating, and personal necessities. Side trips are not allowed.
- Tourists shall present the saved digital copy or printed copy of QTP and a government-issued ID upon arrival at the border.
- Proceed to the Tourism One-Stop-Shop (TOSS) and present the QTP.
- Undergo the minimum clinical assessments supervised by medical personnel. A Tourist Access Pass (TAP) will be issued once declared clear. Tourists may now proceed to pre-booked accommodation.
Upon Arrival at Pre-booked Accommodation
- Present QTP and TAP for digital check-in.
- Undergo temperature check, sanitation protocols, and mandated standard operating procedures.
- Tourists are prohibited to go out of the accommodation establishment (AE) without coordinating with a local tour operator, tour guide, or the management of the AE.
During Guided Tour
- Tourists must strictly follow the approved itinerary.
- Present QTP in every tourism establishment and attraction. You will not be allowed to enter the establishment without your QTP and TAP.
- Comply with the minimum health standards.
- In the case of extended tours, you need to coordinate with your travel agency. Re-register travel application in the Tara Na! VISITA System. Save or print QR Coded Tourist Pass (QTP) for updating of travel details. Secure a Health Certificate and if you manifest symptoms, you must undergo testing. Undergo isolation in the accommodation until the release of your test result.
- Check-out at TOSS by presenting TAP and QTP.
Best Time to Visit San Juan, La Union
San Juan has a tropical climate. On average, the temperatures are always high. Its rainy season is from May 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.
San Juan 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.
And with the current situation, if you can, I suggest that you visit during weekdays when there are fewer tourists. Fewer people mean less risk of getting infected with the virus.
Mobile Signal and Internet Connection
Mobile signal/mobile data is available in La Union for all networks. In San Juan, most accommodation establishments and restaurants have a free wifi connection.
How to Get to San Juan, La Union
As of the moment, buses to La Union from Manila and other provinces are not in operation. You can either use a private vehicle to get to La Union or arrange transportation with one of the DOT-accredited La Union–based travel and tour operators.
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.
Since tourists are required to arrange their tours with a travel agency, getting around the province shouldn’t be a problem since they’ll be provided with transportation during the tour.
Where to Stay in San Juan, La Union
Many accommodation establishments in La Union are now open. Depending on your budget, San Juan has a range of options for accommodations. From luxury beach resorts and hotels to private vacation homes, homestays, or backpacker’s hostels, San Juan got you covered.
As per the new tourism guidelines, if you are a non-resident of La Union, you have to book your accommodation through a DOT-accredited La Union–based travel and tour operator. You can select the hotel that you want and arrange with the travel and tour operator for the booking. La Union residents may pre-book directly to the hotel/accommodation establishment without seeking the assistance of a local travel agency or tour operator.
Here are some of the best San Juan, La Union beach resorts:
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 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 located near restaurants. It is a family-friendly resort.
You can check my post Hotels in San Juan, La Union That Are Now Open For Tourists for the list of accommodation establishments in San Juan that were already issued CAO/PCAO.
Where to Eat in San Juan, La Union
Most of the restaurants in La Union are already back in operation, though some are only open on weekends. Here are some of the restaurants I recommend:
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.
Located across El Navi Surftown, Nak-nak offers delicious and affordable Filipino foods.
Buhay Gulay is the first and only vegetarian carinderia in La Union with vegan options. Their vegan barbeque is a must-try!
La Union Tourist Spots
As mentioned earlier, tours in La Union must be coordinated with DOT-Accredited La Union–based travel and tour operators. They offer tour packages. However, you also have the option of telling them your preferred itinerary. Below are some of the La Union tourist spots that are worth visiting.
Located in San Fernando City, it is a Spanish-built church ruins 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.
Located in Amontoc, San Gabriel, you need to do an hour of hiking from Brgy. Duplas to get to the waterfalls. Tangadan Waterfalls is a two-tier cascade. Its upper level is a 20-feet gigantic rock formation where thrill-seekers go for cliff jumping. The lower tier towers at about 50 feet and the water cascades into a deep catch basin.
Kamay na Bato (Stone Hand)
Located in Luna, Kamay na Bato is an art gallery with over 90 quirky sculptures, paintings, and clay structures made of stones. Most were made by Korean artist Bong Kim, while some were carved by his students.
Macho Temple is a Taoist temple located on a hill in the City of San Fernando. It is overlooking the West Philippine Sea and a nice spot to watch the sunset.
Urbiztondo Beach is located in the heart of San Juan, La Union. It is the primary spot for surfing and one of the best spots to watch the sunset in La Union. This 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.
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.
Agoo Eco-Fun World
Agoo Eco-Fun Park is an ecotourism site located in Sta. Rita West and Sta. Rita Central in Agoo, La Union. It is a man-made forest; the wide piece of land is 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.
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.
Attend a clay pottery class
Red Clay Pagdamilian in San Juan offers a hands-on pottery-making experience. For only Php 250 per person, 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 is for ages 7 and up and lasts for about 2 hours.
Watch the sunset
In case you didn’t know yet, the sunsets in La Union are amazing. I’ve watched them almost every day last January and I never got tired of doing so. There are plenty of spots in La Union to watch them. Check out this 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 grapes picking straight from the vines on these farms. All farms offer “pick and pay” for their grapes.
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. We are open from 10:00 AM to 12 noon and 2:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Mondays to Saturdays. You need to wear a face mask though or we will not transact with you.
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.
Additional Tips When Visiting San Juan, La Union
- Don’t forget to bring a 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.
- There are ATMs in San Juan, in front of Great Northwest and KM 277 Tavern by the Sea where you can withdraw money but I suggest bringing enough cash before going just in case the machines are offline.
- 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.
- Observe the minimum health standards at all times. Observe physical distancing. Avoid crowded places. Wash your hands regularly. Wear a face mask properly even though others are not doing it. Let us help stop the spread of the virus.
I hope you find this guide useful. If you have any questions, feel free to email me or write them down in the comments section. And if you like my writing, consider donating to my cheesecake fund. It takes a lot of time to come up with something meaningful to write- a slice of cheesecake really helps and it’s up to you what the cheesecake is worth.
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