San Juan: Beach Bumming, Surfing and More in San Juan, La Union
It was during the 90s when this town discovered its potential to be a tourist spot, specifically as a surfing hub. It took not long before it started to be visited especially by surfing enthusiasts. For this, it has been declared the Surfing Capital of the North.
On the onset of the ‘ber’ months when the waves are much higher, surfing competitions are held here participated by surfers locally and abroad.
Upon entry to Barangay Urbiztondo, you will immediately spot many resorts and surfing schools.
We already visited here several times, as one of our flock, Lemuel, happens to live here. So we were able to experience the place and the things it has to offer.
Obviously, your visit here will not be complete if you will never try. Surfing lessons cost PhP400, and you have to rent a surfing board for PhP200 an hour. Don’t worry, you will be trained by a certified instructor (who almost grew up here). Training typically takes several days, depending on your ability to balance. But you might be able to stand on the board after two or three hours. Don’t be intimidated if you’re just a beginner, most of the visitors here are also coming here to train.
I did try myself to surf, but in my case, there are more falls than being able to stand up. But then you still feel accomplished for being able to ride among the waves. And according to Kevin, an instructor who also lives here, I have to lose weight to become more flexible.
If you’re a surfing enthusiast, there are surfing gears, apparel and specialty stores located here.
After using up all your energy on surfing, you can enjoy eating in one of MANY eateries scattered along the highway.
Tourists are arriving here not just to surf, but to visit a beach here lined up with fine sands that are enticing to enjoy whatever activity you may want to. You can swim, sun-bathe or to just simply walk. During mornings, it is usually filled with people because of the cool, refreshing breeze, perfect for walking, jogging or just sitting in one side. During the late afternoon, it is also filled with people to watch the beautiful view of the sunset that it offers. Here, you’re like in an instant studio because of the scenic landscape during sunset.
And on nightfall, the place is full of life with bars and eateries that line up along the road.
But if you simply want a solitude during the night, you can set up a tent or mat at the beach and reflect while staring up at the sky (like what the several tourists we’ve seen were doing).
Even before the town of San Juan became known for surfing, it has already been famous for one thing – pottery making. In Barangay Taboc (northern part of the town), there are stores selling handicrafts made of red clay. Being abundant in clay, its first residents started to make products out of it.
The bricks that made the town hall, plaza, church, some ancestral houses, and some old structures in the province are made from this clay.
- Do not swim when alone, or during strong waves or bad weather. There are already many cases of drowning here.
- Though there are lifeguards manning the place, always heed the “No Swimming” signs posted for your safety.
- If going to Tangadan Falls, it’s better to go straight to the town of San Gabriel and hire a guide from there, for it’s more affordable than the tours offered by the beach resorts.
- During the ‘ber’ months, aside from surfing competition, the town also hosts a skateboarding competition. Afterward, graffiti art murals can be seen at the venue.
- Along Urbiztondo up to the town proper, there are resorts offering accommodation.
- If on a tight budget you can rent a cottage at the beachfront near Flotsam for PhP250. You can also pitch a tent here.
Take a bus going North (Vigan, Laoag or Abra) and tell the conductor to drop you off at Urbizztondo. Bus lines like Partas, Dominion, Candon Bus Line, Sta. Lucia, Viron have regular trips here. We highly recommend the first two bus companies we mentioned.
- Partas – PhP550 (deluxe, regular fare)
- PhP420 (ordinary, regular fare); 340 (ordinary, discounted fare)
- Dominion – PhP380 (ordinary, regular fare)
- PhP320 (ordinary, discounted fare)
*Note: Present your ID to avail of the discount
If you want a more convenient and faster journey, take the deluxe bus. Travel takes 4-5 hours compared to regular buses which take 6-7 hours (depends on the traffic)
Take the road going to Ilocos (NLEX, SCTEX, TPLEX). Before reaching the town proper of San Juan you will be passing by Brgy. Urbiztondo (this is the first barangay when going from San Fernando). Travel takes 5-6 hours depending on traffic.
Tip: To avoid heavy traffic in San Fernando, take the San Fernando Bypass Road before reaching Monumento. It goes straight to a gas station in San Juan, from here turn left going to Urbiztondo.