My Kind of OctoberPHest: Waves in San Juan and Tourist Spots in San Fernando La Union

San Juan, La Union, is known for its beaches providing just the perfect waves for surfing. Though I wasn’t primarily there to surf, I witnessed many locals and foreigners alike in San Juan’s Urbiztondo Beach riding along the waves.

Since we had other objectives to fulfill in the morning of Day 1, I only had the chance to tour around famous eateries and cafes in La Union later in the day. We were able to visit tourist spots in San Fernando the next day.

Important Notes

  • According to a local, October to December are the best months to go to La Union to surf; June is the worst.
  • Bring lightweight clothes that you could carry on your bag to save time on changing to your preferred ootd.
  • Bring an umbrella, a handkerchief, and a fan. The weather could really get hot.
  • If you would want to go to all these places without spending too much, be with a group of people who are willing to share a plate with you.
  • I still recommend skipping Poro Point Lighthouse and spend time on other activities instead.
  • I work from home on Mondays so I was okay our schedule. This might not work for those with an 8:00 a.m. shift the next day.

Directions

I remember having ten- to eleven-hour trips to Ilocos when I was a kid. But because of SCTEX and TPLEX, trips to La Union have been way, way faster.

People usually choose Partas buses. For Rizalenos, obviously, Cubao is nearer than Pasay. I suggest that if you have check-ins at 2:00 p.m., prefer first-class express buses scheduled at 6:00 a.m. (Php 541 at biyaheroes.com).

However, if you’re okay to wait until sunrise (or if you wanted to start swimming or sightseeing early), I recommend first-class (not express) buses going to Abra/Vigan/Laoag scheduled at 12:00 a.m. for a cheaper fair (Php 495). Both could drop you at Urbiztondo after four to five hours. Don’t worry, the bus conductors usually wake or ask people. But to be safe, you’ll see a glowing “Surf” signboard when the buses stop at Urbiztondo.

Going home is relatively easier. There are buses even at night that pass by where you were dropped off on your first day. But if your last stop is in San Fernando, no need to worry; there is an easily seen Partas bus station. I suggest getting a first-class express bus for Php 564.

It’s kind of weird how the fare from San Fernando to Cubao is more expensive than Cubao to San Juan when San Fernando is nearer than San Juan to Manila.

Itinerary

Thing is, I was not able to “time” myself for each place I had gone to because of excitement. The hours not mentioned here are allotted to grooming/change outfit, rest, idle time, and travel time.

Day 1

13:00–14:30 The Coffee Library

14:30–15:15 Cafe Navi

15:30–16:30 Food Park + Makai Bowls

16:30–18:00 Urbiztondo Beach

19:30–20:45 Olas Banditos

21:30–23:00 Surf Shack

23:00–01:00 Tagpuan sa San Juan

Day 2

07:30 Wake up

10:00–11:30 Brunch at Flotsam and Jetsam

11:35–11:50 Picture-taking at the Garage full of Wall Art

13:30–14:30 Ma-cho Temple

  • From San Juan, ride a jeep and tell the driver to drop you off at Ma-cho Temple (minimum fare).

15:30–15:50 Poro Point Lighthouse

  • From Ma-cho Temple, ride a tricycle to jeepneys going to Poro Point (Php 10).
  • It gets a bit tricky from there. We paid Php 200 for a whole jeepney so we could go to Poro Point Lighthouse, Thunderbird, and Halo-halo de Iloko. The driver waited for us before dropping us at Thunderbird. He came back after two hours to drop us at Halo-halo de Iloko.

16:00–18:00 Thunderbird Resorts and Casinos

18:30–19:30 Halo-halo De Iloko

20:00 Partas station

01:00 (the next day) Arrival at Cubao

The Coffee Library

I was captivated by the Coffee Library’s veranda as it seemed to have this bagay to sa movie aura. I wanted to try their beef salpicao (Php 220). It was really salty (coming from someone who likes salty foods). I hope they could improve on it though since I liked the texture of the beef cubes (8/10).

Cafe Navi

Cafe Navi is one of the newest cafes in San Juan. It was only four months old when we visited there. And since I just had a meal in the Coffee Library, I opted to only order their mocha java frappe (Php 110, 7.5/10). I just hoped they used glasses instead of plastic cups. Their sisig smelled good, but maybe next time.

Food Parks

I’ve seen at least three food parks in my stay there, but the only one that we went to was the one with El Union Coffee. We were not there to eat, actually. We were just there to peek what the place looks like. But after some discussion, we tried Makai Bowl’s smoothie bowl. It screamed healthy. We ordered their best-selling Amianan, which consists of dragon fruit, mango, papaya, banana, and acai juice, worth Php 220. They had seasonal smoothies, and one of them was the bowl I wanted to try (the one with strawberry and mango).

Urbiztondo Beach

I know, I know, it’s almost a sin not to surf in the beaches of San Juan, La Union. But c’mon, spare the grandma here. Besides, I had a little fun playing with the waves (little because I was too scared when one of the surfers said not to swim because the waves were too strong that they could bring us to the middle of the sea), watching other people surf and little crabs walk.

Olas Banditos

We had our dinner at Olas Banditos, a Mexican restaurant giving that Coco feels. I had their beef burrito (Php 240, but I only ate half of it), hoping to have another taste experience besides my usual Army Navy burrito order. The beef had a texture that of a tuna (really easy to chew), and the rice was sticky and soft. An 8/10 for me.

Surf Shack

Since we were still hungry (yes, the beach really made us that hungry), we ate at Surf Shack next, one of the favored places in San Juan. It seemed to be a hangout place for surfers, with their pictures framed on one wall.

While it’s October (and October is known for feasting on beer), I opted a nonalcoholic drink because of my health issues. You guys should try their Mitos (Php 78). I could have ordered another, but I was thinking of my budget. Hehe. Surely, a 10/10.

We’ve heard that they were known for their pizza, but opted to order their Surfshack Original wings worth Php 258 for eight pieces. They were really good (8/10). Their staff was nice, and we enjoyed the music coming from their neighbor restaurant (they have their own live band too, but we weren’t able to see them play).

Tagpuan sa San Juan

Our nightlife centered at Tagpuan. While I really wished to taste their pares, it was not available anymore. We ordered their bagnet (Php 120) instead. La Union is known for their bagnet, but I’m not sure if theirs was the best (8/10). We waited a lifetime though, but we’re not sure what happened. The people before us got their order immediately.

It was such a bliss to hear the usual jamming session. Parang high school lang. It started with two guys with a kahone and a guitar, and the joyful singing of OPM songs followed suit. They started with Eraserhead songs, but what really set the crowd, including me, was songs by Kamikazee. It was the right choice to spend the night here.

Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel

We had our brunch at the famous Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel. Yes, you could eat there and not stay there. I had tinola (Php 200, rice—they serve brown rice, by the way (Php 50), and mango juice (Php 90). I am biased toward all types of tinola (10/10). However, I was expecting some real mango shake, but it tasted ordinary (7/10). The staff were not in the mood though.

I wanted to reserve a room here since I’ve heard of positive reviews, but maybe next time.

Garage with Wall Art in San Juan

As a person who loves wall arts, I was excited when I saw a garage near Flotsam and Jetsam filled with wall arts. It was really hot then, but why miss this chance?

Ma-cho Temple

The Ma-Cho Temple is a Taoist temple located in San Fernando, La Union.

During her lifetime of only 28 years she was said to be exceptionally pure of spirit and compassionate. It is said that she had supernatural powers and performed miracles, subduing evil spirits and averting disasters at sea. She sacrificed her life while trying to save seafarers endangered by rough seas.

After her death, people began to pray to her for succor and good fortune. She has a huge following in mainland coastal areas. In Taiwan, where many Fujian folk migrated, she is worshipped by almost two-thirds of the population. March is the height of “Ma-cho Mania” in Taiwan, when her birthday is celebrated in over 500 Ma-Cho temples. The most famous of these ceremonies is the Ma-Cho procession or journey, known as Chin hsiang (“carrying the incense”). (http://www.sanfernandocity.gov.ph)

I had second thoughts going here, but I had no regrets after.

I plead, though, to respect the temple. I really find it disrespectful how people could pretend to kneel and pray in a real temple for picture-taking. Siguro nga, kanya-kanya lang. Just my two cents.

Poro Point Lighthouse

somehow regret spending money to go here because there was almost nothing to see here, except the lighthouse. Filed under “still an experience.”

Thunderbird Beach Resort

After going to Poro Point Lighthouse, we were supposed to go to Poro Point Baywalk. However, there was nothing really spectacular to see. Our driver recommended that we go to Thunderbird Beach Resort for sightseeing instead.

For Php 200, you may take pictures and tour around (but only in some areas; the pool area is restricted to guests and members only) and consume Php 200 worth of food. Warning though, that there are only really few foods you can order with that amount of money. I was only able to “enjoy” their choco chip milkshake (Php 220) and rocky road cake (Php 165). Of course, you have to pay if your food costs more than Php 200. Again, I highly recommend that you go here with a group (at least four) so you could enjoy 2 milkshakes, a cake, and maybe a sandwich for variety.

Their milkshake was aesthetically pleasing but was expensive for my taste (7.5/10). The cake was dry; we enjoyed it nonetheless since we were hungry (Php 7.5/10).

Halo-halo de Iloko

We had our dinner in Halo-halo de Iloko. I thought it was a museum of artworks in La Union that serve halo-halo, but I was surprised to know that it was a restaurant. We ordered papaitang baka (Php 320, good for 3 people). I had half rice (Php 25) and, of course, their special buko halo-halo (Php 195). I suggest that you share your halo-halo with someone, unless you yourself know you could finish one.

Their half rice was enough for me, and their papaitang baka was okay (8/10). I wished I ordered bagnet, but I wanted variety. Their buko halo-halo was superb. I highly recommend it (10/10).

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