LA UNION TRAVEL GUIDE

Tips for your trips: La Union

La Union — We’ve been here, literally, since birth. We’ve stalled previous attempts at writing a guide (I am rolling my eyes as I write this) for so long because we really didn’t think there was enough around here to let anybody stay.. until of course recently, when, all of a sudden, we have a festival (what?!), a night market, and so many new restaurants mushrooming all over town. I mean, if people are eating here, there must be something going on.

We have to be frank: we haven’t been to all of the places we’re going to list here, nor have we eaten in all the restaurants; for purposes of being, ehem, comprehensive, we’re listing them anyway and will update this page as soon as we have tried some of them. Any additional recommendations, tips, updates, rants — you’re welcome to comment.

What to see and do in La Union

Where to eat / drink / have coffee in La Union
Where to stay in La Union
How to get to La Union

I think we have to credit San Juan for a lot of things: the mounting interest in La Union in recent years, most likely among the economically powerful young-adult demographic, is due to San Juan’s surfing. That’s not to say there’s nothing else to see or do elsewhere in the province — actually we thought so too, until we tried to do this list.

Surf in San Juan
You go to Urbiztondo to surf, period. Sometimes, to get drunk while watching others surf. Either way, the dedicated men and women surfers of this beach in San Juan who have made the sport continuously accessible to beginners have to be given credit for all the good it’s doing to tourism and local livelihood today. One-hour introductory lessons cost P400 (board rental + instructor fee). Board rental only costs P200 per hour. Rate is uniform across all surf schools/resorts.

San Juan's surfing scene

Try the zipline (and other outdoor activities) at Pugad Pugo Adventure in Pugo
The inland town of Pugo, at the foot of the Cordilleras, has this adventure park that’s been running for some time now. ATVs, ziplines, and rappelling are just some of the activities outdoorsy-types can try. Accommodations are also available.

Visit the Ma-Cho Temple in San Fernando
This temple is a rather impressive piece of Taoist architecture overlooking San Fernando’s coastline, making it an excellent vantage point for the sunset. It’s open for everyone (and for photography), but proper decorum befitting places of worship must be observed.

La Union

Visit the Minor Basilica of the Our Lady of Charity in Agoo
Located along the highway, the basilica is hard to miss since most buses stop in front of the Jollibee outlet beside it. It features Mexican-Baroque architecture and was completed in 1978.

Shop for everything clay in San Juan
Along the highway in San Juan, you will pass by an entire row of shops selling clay products — pots, stoves, even the miniature ones used as toys. You can also sometimes view an artisan at work.

Visit the Baluarte and Noble Stone House in Luna
This Spanish-era brick belfry is leaning on one side, supported by thick concrete slabs so its other half doesn’t fall over the blanket of pebbles on the beach. Experts say it’s close to giving in, so we hope they can get some permanent restorative work in order before the next big natural mayhem brings it to the ground.

Nearby is the Noble Stone House, rest-house-turned-tourist-site owned by a Baguio couple. The stone house features several stone sculptures by Korean artist Vong Kim.

Bike to Bacsil Ridge in San Fernando
This is not leisurely but a good exercise instead. The way to Bacsil Ridge is eight kilometers, a portion of which is uphill, from the San Fernando City Plaza.

We have never been to these waterfalls, but we intend to in the very near future. And apparently we have so many more of these in other towns.
Visit the Tangadan Falls in San Gabriel
Visit the Tuddingan Falls in Naguilian
Visit the Nangalisan Falls in Bagulin
Visit the Occalong Falls in Luna

See the Sillag Festival of Lights in March
This festival started as no more than a parade of lantern-lit thingamajigs a few years ago, which we didn’t watch. Last year, with an upscale resort as a venue, the festival had floats all lit up, as well as paragliding exhibitions. This year, the festival (thankfully) used LED lights for its lanterns. There also was a photo competition and a food market.

Photograph the sunset
Can we just say, La Union has really awesome sunsets. If you’re looking for high vantage points, publicly accessible are the Christ the Redeemer deck, the Chinese Pagoda, and the Ma-Cho Temple. All are within San Fernando City, providing views of the San Fernando Bay. Urbiztondo Beach, of course, is also good.

Acapulco Beach, La Union





Where to eat / drink / have coffee in La Union

SAN JUAN
Flotsam and Jetsam
Cocktails, beer, pizza. Loved their pizza and laid-back vibe. Good place to hang out even if you don’t surf. Accepts walk-ins when the restaurant is open (which means except Tuesdays—last time we checked).

flotsam and jetsam san juan la union / © nikka corsino

Surf Shack
Fusion pizza (they have a gourmet tuyo variant!), pasta, tacos, burgers, beer

San Juan Surf Resort
Surf camp — as it’s usually called — still has the best beachfront location in all of Urbiztondo. Good food is good too, and with beer, of course.

Gefseis Greek Grill Restaurant
Whaaat, La Union has a Greek restaurant? Shut up and take our money!

El Union Coffee
Coffee, breakfast, etc

SAN FERNANDO
Parmisano’s Art Cafe
Coffee, cakes, pastries, and art. Holds regular art initiatives for local artists.

Kaw-Bins
They’re not on Facebook; not that they need to. This old-time favorite may serve the usual — fried chicken, pancit, chop suey — but these are always reliably good, the kind you’ll not think twice about going to if you’re already too hungry.

Taipan Garden Restaurant
Food is okay, not life-changing. Quite pricey (considering it’s not life-changing).

Midtown
The local (air-conditioned) fast-food. They always have leche flan.

Halo-Halo De iloko
Halo-halo several ways. Good with their chicharong bulaklak on the side. I know, we’re a bit weird.

Cafe Esperanza
This cafe is older than us, but we’d choose this over every other cafe in San Fernando. Cakes, cupcakes, jams, gourmet tuyo in jars, milk tea, flavored Yakult drinks and Pinoy merienda — it looks, tastes, and feels like your childhood in your grandmother’s house.

Cafe Esperanza, La Union  / © Nikka Corsino

Mandarin
Another old-timer, Mandarin serves Chinese home cooking. Food tastes as it has always done for as long as we can remember — good.

Sunset Bay
Poro, San Fernando City, La Union
Yummy pizza and beer by the beach. Probably the best beachfront restaurant along the Poro / Acapulco area. It’s also a resort.

nikka corsino

Jochen’s Euro Bread and Deli
Sabado’s Compound, San Fernando City (before Sunset Bay)
Freshly baked bread, pizza, and of course, sausages

ROSARIO

SOUL Cafe
Breakfast, Filipino, sandwiches, seafood
McArthur Highway, Camp One, Rosario


Where to stay in La Union

BAUANG
China Sea Beach Resort
National Highway, Bauang

Bali Hai Beach Resort
National Highway, Bauang

Hotel Ariana
National Highway, Bauang

Marand Resort and Spa
It has several pools with slides, if that’s your kind of fun.
National Highway, Bauang

SAN FERNANDO
Thunderbird Resorts
For those with deep pockets.
Poro Point, San Fernando

Oasis Country Resort
It has sushi nights.
National Highway, San Fernando

SAN JUAN
Flotsam and Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel
San Juan Surf Resort
Kahuna Beach Resort
Awesome Hotel
Yeah, that’s the name.

awesome hotel san juan la union / ©Ênikka corsino

The Circle Hostel
The Little Surfmaid
Costa Villa Resort
Isla Bonita Beach Resort
P&M Final Option Beach Resort
With pool; well manicured, leafy surroundings. Right next to Awesome Hotel.

final option san juan la union / ©Ênikka corsino

Urbiz Garden Plage
P2,500 for four in a cottage shown below. Cottages are open for rent to day-trippers.

urbiz garden plage san juan la union / ©Ênikka corsino


How to get to La Union

From Manila
Travel time: Five to seven hours
Fare: around P400

Take an air-conditioned bus bound for San Fernando, Vigan, Abra, or Laoag via:
Partas (Cubao, Pasay)
Fariñas (Cubao)
Dominion (Cubao)
Viron (Cubao, Sampaloc)
Philippine Rabnit (Oroquieta St., Manila; EDSA Balintawak)

From airports
If you are coming from the Manila airport, the Pasay terminal of Partas is nearest. If you take a metered taxi from airport to bus terminal, cost may range from P150 to P250. Airport taxis are pricier. Cubao is a world away so unless you absolutely have to board a bus in Cubao, Pasay is the most prudent choice.

If you are coming from Clark airport in Clark, Pampanga, take the jeep going to Dau Bus Terminal inside the airport. Fare is P100. Travel time is 15 to 20 minutes. From Dau Bus Terminal, board a bus bound for San Fernando, Vigan, Abra, or Laoag.

From Baguio
Travel time: 2 hours
Fare: P104

Take an air-conditioned bus bound for San Fernando, Vigan, Abra, or Laoag via:
Partas (Gov. Pack Road)
Fariñas (Gov. Pack Road)
Philippine Rabbit (Gov. Pack Road)

Expect to wait between zero to three hours for a bus (as is usually the case with Partas), depending on how sucky the service decides to be on that day. There are no bus schedules. We know, it’s already 2014.

Archive: Baguio City

Colorum vans depart from the same area and they tend to fill up faster, but note that insurance is nil when you board one of them. Most vans go only as far as San Fernando, La Union. We take the van if we think the big bus is insulting our time yet again.

From Ilocos Sur/Norte
Travel time:
Three to four hours (from Vigan, Ilocos Sur)
Five to Six hours (from Laoag, Ilocos Norte
Board airconditioned buses bound for San Fernando, Baguio, Cubao, or Pasay.

From Pangasinan
Travel time: Two to three hours
Board a mini bus bound for San Fernando from Dagupan.

Got anything to add or update? Join the discussion in the comments section below!

Two2Travel

Owen Ballesteros & Nikka Corsino are trigger-happy travelers from the Philippines. They both swear by the sharpness of Nikon and almost always carry a packet of instant coffee when traveling. Photography is their bread and butter, their passion, and sometimes the only thing that prevents them from killing each other. If you have offers of work, collaborations, or an endless supply of instant coffee, please drop them a message here.

  • Kristine Tecson

    Hi! We’re planning an ilocos norte, ilocos sur, and La Union trip this January and we’ve decided to diy everything. I know you posted this on 2014 but is there a chance that there are now bus schedules from La union to manila? We’re making it our last stop. I still have no idea how we’re going to manage to make it from one point to another so time really is of the essence.

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