San Juan (La Union)

San Juan (La Union)

Surfers, look no further. Most travellers heading here are bound for barangay Urbiztondo in San Juan, an unassuming beach town 6km north of San Fernando that gets the country’s most consistent waves from November to March. During the season a legion of bronzed instructors offer beginners some of the world’s cheapest surf lessons (P400 per hour) on perfect learners’ waves that stroke the shore.

Barangay Montemar, 1km north of San Juan is a much quieter stretch of beach, and is isolated from barangay Urbiztondo’s restaurants and services. The resorts there are happy to call you a tricycle (P50), however, and it’s easy to go back and forth between the two villages.

San Juan (La Union)



1Circle HostelA32Flotsam & Jetsam HostelA23Kahuna ResortA34San Juan Surf ResortA35Sunset German Beach ResortB16Vessel HotelA3      5Eating


7Angel & Marie’sA38GefseisA3        6Drinking & Nightlife


9El UnionA3

1Sights & Activities


Surfing instructors are easily found through barangay Urbiztondo’s lodgings, which also rent boards (P200 per hour). The best beginners’ break is usually at the ‘cement factory’ in Bacnotan, 6km north of San Juan. Urbiztondo’s main beach break and neighbouring Mona Lisa Point tend to get bigger waves. Cartile Point and Darigayos are other favourite local breaks that are further out.

A popular day trip when the surf is flat, Tangadan Falls ( GOOGLE MAP ) is a P500 tricycle ride from San Juan, then an hour’s hike (P150 guide fee).



Most surf-inclined travellers stay in barangay Urbiztondo, a stretch of coast 3.5km south of San Juan proper, while solitude seekers should head to tiny barangay Montemar.

oFlotsam & Jetsam HostelHOSTEL$

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %0917 802 1328;; dm from P650; aW)

Artistic touches abound at this surfboard-strewn beachfront hostel; it’s the kind of place where guests spontaneously jam on guitars, and the thatched-roof bar heaves with bronzed young surfers even in the low season. Choose between rooming in a thatch-walled, fan-cooled dorm; a ‘sea suite’; or a converted RV. The ‘spicy Nikki’ by the resident ‘alcohol alchemist’ will lay you flat.

Vessel HotelHOSTEL$

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ;; dm P980; aW)

If you want a dorm bed but sleep is still important to you, this should be your first choice. The multistorey, modern building is right in town and has air-conditioned rooms, each with an assortment of large, wooden bunks, desks, lights and a little bit of privacy. You can check the surf from the breezy rooftop hang-out area.

Sunset German Beach ResortRESORT$

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %0917 921 2420, 072-888 4719;; d with fan/air-con P800/1100, ste P2100; aW)

Cosy, attractive rooms with exposed brickwork, a quiet beach that gets OK surf, and a German owner who makes his own German sausage. The owner has an interesting take on life in rural Philippines and expects you to eat at his restaurant. The resort turn-off is 1km north of San Juan.

Circle HostelHOSTEL$

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %0917 832 6253;; hammocks P350, dm P450-550)

Staying at this colourful, chilled-out hostel is kind of like staying at a friend’s place: you come, you surf, you relax with your fellow wanderers on beanbags in the common area, you befriend the wonderful staff and end up lingering for days. Bed down in the very basic thatched dorms with mosquito nets or sleep in a hammock.

San Juan Surf ResortRESORT$$

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %072-687 9990, 0917 887 5470;; d/q with air-con from P1800/2600, 2-person villa P1800; aW)

Run by Aussie Brian Landrigan, a nearly 30-year veteran of the area, this resort started as beach shacks but is now an upmarket surfers’ village, ranging from spartan standard rooms and multi-person ‘villas’ to the spacious ‘de luxe’. There’s a popular open-air restaurant near the sand and the professionally run multiday surf-school packages come highly recommended.

Kahuna ResortRESORT$$$

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %072 607 1040;; d incl breakfast P5265-7020; aWs)

This is the swankiest choice in the area. Understated bungalows have slate tile floors, bamboo-and-wood details and cool bathrooms, many with a window-full of potted plants. There’s an infinity pool overlooking the beach, and everything sits in manicured tropical gardens.

5Eating & Drinking


There is a great selection of restaurants in barangay Urbiztondo, ranging from Greek and Mexican to hole-in-the-wall Filipino. The bigger resorts have on-site restaurants, generally of decent quality.

oAngel & Marie’sFILIPINO$$

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %0917 723 3253; mains P99-199; h5.30-10pm Mon-Fri, 6am-10pm Sat & Sun)

Run by a friendly pair of local surfers, this great little thatched restaurant in the middle of Urbiztondo has a loyal following thanks to beautifully prepared, healthy banana pancakes, pinakbét (mixed vegetable stew), and grilled meats and fish. If the place is closed at the weekend, it means the surf’s up!


( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; mains P100-450; h9am-11pm; v)

Genuine Greek tavern tempting surfers with such delights as moussaka, pastitsio and generous souvlaki platters, all with a view of the sea.

oEl UnionCAFE

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; h9am-9pm Mon-Fri, 7am-10pm Sat & Sun)

Thimble-sized yet bustling and decidedly hip cafe that takes care of surfers’ caffeine-related needs via great espresso drinks (P100 to P140), masala chai and an assortment of creative hot and cold beverages. Nosh on grilled cheese sandwiches, pancakes and awesome skillet cookies.

8Getting There & Away


You can try to flag down buses from the side of the road in barangay Urbiztondo, but many will be full and so won’t stop. To avoid a long wait, take a tricycle to the bus station in San Fernando (P20).

From San Fernando, Partas ( GOOGLE MAP ; %072-242 0465; Quezon Ave, San Fernando) serves Manila (P436, seven hours, hourly), Pagudpud (P484, seven hours), Laoag (P367, five hours) and Vigan (P235, three hours). Cheaper, more frequent ordinary buses head to Laoag and Vigan ( GOOGLE MAP ; San Fernando) in San Fernando from the Quezon Ave stop in front of the town plaza.

Minibuses to Baguio ( GOOGLE MAP ; Governor Luna St, San Fernando) (P82, 1½ hours) leave twice hourly from Governor Luna St in San Fernando.

If heading towards Dagupan, Lingayen or the Zambales Coast, your best bet is to take any Manila– or Baguio–bound bus to Agoo (P65). From Agoo hop on a bus to Dagupan (P70), where you’ll have to change buses once again to get to the coast.

Originally posted 2021-05-05 22:19:58.