San Juan, La Union Is Surfing
February was almost over and derailing ourselves from the train of daily routine was on top of our minds. Later that week, we got back on the road because this month we’re not letting this month end without soaking in salt water. Everything was set, our bags were packed and we were on our way to the bus station. San Juan here we come.
La Union, a coastal province up north, is approximately a 6-7 hour drive from Manila passing by the North Luzon Expressway, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, and cruising the lengthy MacArthur highway which stretches all the way from Caloocan to the province. Many buses heading for San Fernando, Laoag, Abra and Vigan can be found in Quezon City, Pasay, Sampaloc and Caloocan passes through the highway which will take travelers to La Union. At 3:30 A.M., we took the Partas Bus Lines from their terminal in Araneta Avenue, Cubao, Quezon City to San Fernando since trips to Abra (which will directly drop us in San Juan) are fully booked. We have to make transfers, then, from San Fernando to San Juan.
Partas Bus has trips to Abra, Vigan, and Laoag. All of which will pass by San Juan, La Union.
Similar to my bus travel in Baler, since I was seated on the right part of the bus where it faces the Eastern part of the road. The sun rose from the mountains, waking me from my deep sleep, and again awed me with the majestic view as the sun lit picturesque landscape of fields having grandeur mountain ranges with different shades of blue as a backdrop. The bus slowed down, and took a turn to make a quick stop over. Instantly, I grabbed my camera and walked out of the bus and try to capture the beautiful scenery of Sison, Tarlac.
Passing by Rosario, La Union
Early morning fog covered the rice fields.
After another hour of bus ride, we reached Region 1’s capital town, and La Union’s capital, San Fernando. From there, buses, jeepneys and tricycles are available to take you to San Juan, although, try to avoid tricycles for they might charge tourist a higher price than the usual.
San Juan offers a wide range of choices when it comes to a place to stay. Prices range from P300.00 per head to P4,000.00 per room. During that time, there were reservations made earlier so many rooms were booked. Sebay Resort, a popular landmark in the area, had a room available so we booked the air-conditioned room with a spacious bathroom, with cable TV, good for 5 persons. Air con rooms with cable TV are not usually my type of places to stay because in a way the comfort stops you from going out and exploring the place, although, it’s good to experience sometimes. There are cheap local eateries along the highway where budget meals cost P50.00 which comes with a viand and rice.
A common room for Sebay visitors.
Budget meals sold in an eatery near Sebay Resort.
After checking in, we had a quick breakfast, bought celebratory drinks, and headed to the beach. It felt good to be away – different sights, different sounds, different people, and every time, a different experience.
San Juan became the heart of the local surfing scene in Luzon. Surfers, local and foreign, from beginners, intermediate, to pros, gather in San Juan to ride the waves catering to all levels. Big swells in the area kick the adrenalin of the pros while beginners enjoy small humps of waves which is perfect for taking surfing lessons. Surf shops and board rentals are everywhere, and surf instructors teach Surfing 101 to Pro-Surfing. Surfing is the common denominator in San Juan, and could probably be the best way to start a conversation.
Surfing in San Juan
Stand up paddle surfing.
Tired from battling the 3-4 feet waves.
Board rentals and surfing lessons.
Aside from surfing, other water sports are also available in the area like kayaking, boogie boards or body boards, skim boarding, and paddle surfing. If one does not want to get wet and wild, there’s also a beach volleyball court where anyone can spike away and join, or do some catch and throw in frisbee instead. If you’re a couch potato who simply would love to bathe under UV rays , the sun, sand, and salt water are all yours for FREE.
Laid back morning at the beach.
Almost half the day we spent our time on the beach, sat on gray sand, drank beer, bathe in cool water, took pictures, and watched other people. There’s a lot going on around the area since the beach is jam packed with crowd, children to adults, locals and foreigners, and every thing in between. Our day was well spent.
Cloudy afternoon in San Juan.
Rocks and corals at the southern end of the beach.
An afternoon in the southern side of the beach.
The next morning I woke up early to catch local people on their daily routine. With my coffee tumbler on one hand and my camera on the other, I strolled along the beach, sat on the rocks, and took some snapshots. The morning was a bit slow but not soon after it became faster when people started getting their rash guards on, ran to the water carrying their surf boards and rode the swell to start their day. This was our last day so I spent all the time remaining on the beach, enjoying the view and feeling the vibe.
Standing by the shore.
Aside from surfboards, surfer accessories also sold at the beach.
Playing sand at the shore.
Family having a good time under the morning sun.
Check out time was 1:00 PM, so at 12 noon we packed our bags, and bid goodbyes to San Juan with a promise of coming back soon. Not far from Sebay is Midway Grill where we had late lunch before we board a Manila bound bus. The American inspired diner serves both Western and Eastern cuisine in reasonable Filipino prices. Diner resembles restaurants in American films.
American diner style Midway Grill
My Meal: Salisbury Steak, and Spaghetti with Garlic Bread for a little over a hundred pesos.
Waffle and bacon.
Surf boarding is fast taking its place in the water sports scene in the Philippines and San Juan was among the favorite of Manileños, to practice or learn surfing. In fact, this is where I held a surfboard and tried surfing the first time, but never did I excel in the sport. I think the sport needs patience, the will, and constant practice to ride your wave. The first two I have, the patience and the will, but I can’t afford to go the beach every weekend to practice. But still, someday I might have the chance and time, definitely willing to learn surfing.
Our February destination was fulfilled. Though tired and weary from previous activities, everyone was satisfied and glad to be in San Juan.
Now, here are some fast facts that may help you on your trip:
1. Partas Bus to San Fernando, La Union cost P384.00/one way. Leave at 1AM to arrive in San Juan early and maximize your stay.
2. Sebay’s Air conditioned room, with spacious bathroom cost P2,000.00. Good for 5-6 persons.
3. There are different choices of eateries in along the highway where you can spend P50.00 for a meal.
4. Bring grocery stuff like coffee, noodles, soft drinks, or buy in town because these items when purchased on nearby stores or in the resort are more expensive than its regular price.
5. Surfboard rentals cost P200.00 per hour and lessons cost P200.00 per hour. Try to haggle if you want to rent the board the whole day.
6. Don’t spend too much time in your room. Go out, explore, and have fun.
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