San Juan in the province of La Union is a little surf town that has steadily become a favorite weekend destination for Manileños in recent years. Mostly made up of a dozen or so resorts along the coastline of La Union, the area also sees its fair share of foreign tourists out to get some surf and sun.
Here are the top reasons why it’s quickly gaining popularity:
There are three main places to go to for surfing in Luzon, namely Baler, Zambales, and San Juan, La Union. Practically all resorts along the San Juan beachfront offer surfing lessons and/or board rental. The waves are manageable enough for first-timers, although it’s better to stick to the cove right in front of Sebay Resort to be safe. The undertow can be dangerous and there have been accidents over the years involving swimmers and surfers not familiar with the area.
I actually had my very first surf lesson in this town, and that was before I knew how to swim. My 2nd time was in Baler and I remember feeling safer in San Juan because the wide open space in Baler made me paranoid of getting caught in undertow. I went surfing in San Juan again before the Christmas holidays last year and I noticed that the surf instructors kept an eye on newbs, even if they weren’t their students.
Go early to beat the crowd waiting to catch the best waves. My go-to instructor is Chris Par, who has a rental stall with his wife to the right of Sebay’s restaurant. Lessons usually go for Php500 per hour with board, or you can just get a board for 200 per hour.
For a small town, San Juan has a surprisingly diverse food scene comparable to Maginhawa St. in Quezon City and Kapitolyo in Pasig. New restaurants line the highway that runs parallel to the beach. Be it Mexican, Mediterranean, American, or Filipino cuisine, there’s something for everyone. There’s even one that serves cheap but good mami. The only chain establishments that I saw in the area were a Moonleaf milktea place and a Figaro Coffee. Everything else is one of a kind and local, as far as I know.
You could also hop on a jeep to nearby San Fernando and go to Halo-halo de Iloko for, what else, halo-halo and okoy.
Speaking of San Fernando, the 3rd reason San Juan is worth going to is it’s conveniently situated. Before coming there, I had picked up my boyfriend in Baguio, which took around 2 hours. We stayed for a week, which is a long time to stay in such a small town, but when we were tired of chilling on the beach or needed supplies, it was easy to get to the provincial capital of San Fernando. The resorts are also right by the highway and you can easily flag down a bus to explore the north, all the way to Vigan, or southbound to Manila if you wanted. A friend that drove there recently said it took him hours hours and a half from Manila by car.
Unlike Baler, which can feel pretty isolated, San Juan is right in the middle of things, and it’s easy to make your way to your next destination from there.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t take so long in-between surfing lessons so I’m definitely going back there soon.