San Juan, La Union 101: Travel Guide and Itinerary Choices for Surf Town Elyu

“Home”. drone shot from @akojose (Instagram)

The main reason why I made this blog for my friends and acquaintances who always ask me these questions:

Bakit ka laging nasa La Union?
Para ka nang taga-Elyu, ano bang meron dun?
San maganda mag-stay dun? San masarap kumain?”

For all my friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and family, pagod na kong sumagot ng mga tanong niyo at lahat.

Magbasa kayo dito. HAHAHA.

I’ve been to Surf Town countless of times since December 2017.

LU is my “Home Break”.

I’ve been there solo, with a brother, my family, a special someone, and even with a huge barkada.

I’ve learned to love surfing here, met wonderful locals all-around, made acquaintances with different strangers along the way and built stronger relationships with friends I went here with for the past year.

I will try to give you guys a glimpse of how and why LU is enticing as much as it is indulging!

This is not your typical LU guide.

Let’s go!!!

I. Quickie Background.

(c) Google maps

San Juan is located in the West of the province of La Union, along the Manila North Road.

The province belongs to the Ilocos Region (Region I) and has 41 Barangays.

From Manila, it usually takes just 4-6 hours to get there (pero kinaya na ng tropa ko tong chic ng 3 hours. wild.); one of the many reasons why it’s an easy choice for a quick weekend getaway!

Surfing started to become a local sport in the 80’s when an Australian surfer, Sir Brian Landrigan began the campaign and taught the locals how to ride the waves.

Up to this day, his son, Sir Luke Landrigan, continues to pave the way in teaching the sport through his surf resort and school coined as San Juan Surf.

II. When is the Best Time to Go to LU?

wave check! @vcrmarquez (Instagram)

With it’s shoreline facing the West Philippine Sea, Elyu is home to two surfing seasons:

July-September (South Swell)
October-March (North Swell)

If you decide to come during the South Swell, be prepared to get wet and wild for typhoons grace the province for most of this season.

If you’d rather stay dry and experience more of the sunny vibe of Elyu, might as well go during the North Swell season.

In my experience, the waves are also more consistent during the -ber months. Do expect though more tourists and travelers as the holidays are within this season!

I would suggest that if you would REALLY want to learn how to surf, spend a week or two here during the WEEKDAYS. Less people = less trouble surfing; Less crowded line-up = more waves for practice!

But of course, the long weekends and holidays in Elyu is a must go-to if you’re in for events and parties! Let’s talk more of the nightlife later. Read on!

III. How Do I Get There?

shaka otw home with bros @vcrmarquez & @rrcolocado

A. Private Vehicle

If you happen to have your own car, using Waze to get to La Union will be a piece of cake.

Enter NLEX, SCTEX, TPLEX, then off to MacArthur Hi-way and you’ll be there in no time.

Without traffic, it would take you approximately 4.5-6 hours of travel time.

I’d recommend leaving Manila at around 2-3AM to avoid traffic plus, you’d just be right on time for breakfast, or an early surf!

B. Commute

Commuting is also a breeze, I’m telling you!

It may seem frightening and too much of a hassle but it’s actually liberating especially if you’re not used to going home to a province. (I can’t be the only one who’s fond of bus rides?!)

Take a Grab, taxi, or whatever going to the bus line terminal of your choice.

Most of these terminals are either in Cubao, Pasay, or Sampaloc.

There are a lot of choices such as Partas, Fariñas, or Dominion to name a few.

I mainly ride the Partas line in going to La Union for 2 main reasons: convenience, and cleanliness. I’ve ridden other bus lines and they just really aren’t up to par! Not a knock against them, but this is speaking from experience.

Do not be too worried about getting lost once you get into the right bus because most of their trips to the North (Manila-Laoag, Manila-Vigan, Manila-San Juan) drops you right-smack in front of Urbiztondo, San Juan!

Another tip, take the midnight trips so you could get enough sleep and be ready for the day (and NO TRAFFIC) as soon as you step into LU’s grounds! Surf or breakfast right off the bat para sulit!

IV. Where Should I Stay?

The best place to stay-in boils down to how plush you are and how maarte you are.

Just kidding.

No, but it’s true.

The options are endless since a lot of places have popped-up over the recent past to accommodate the growing tourism of the town!

Here are some of the best places to stay-in when you’re in Surf Town!

The Circle Hostel
Charlie’s Hangar
Hillside Hostel

Here’s a quicklist of other famous places you could also check-out!
Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel
San Juan Surf Resort
Costa Villa

If all else fails, and all of the famous spots up above are booked (esp during the weekends/holidays) try to contact some of these local friends of mine that could help you look for rooms! Rico/Jeffrey: 09957691302

Watch out for my coming reviews and insights about these individual places!

IV. What To Do, Where To Go?

As for me, what I do here for the most part is eat, sleep, surf, repeat.
Though for a weekend trip, for sure you’d want to go out and delve into the possible sights around town!
Here are the top things that you can do and places to visit when you get to Elyu.
First things first…


my idol @marvsurf (Instagram) taken by @tim_asc (Instagram) all credits go to the original owner of the photo

This should be automatic. This is the first thing that should be on your to-do list.

No question.

Visit the Esquivel Surf School (beachfront nipa hut near Kahuna, in front of SurfStar Resto) and look for Coaches Eping, Rico, or Marvs! Best local instructors in town. Contact Number: 09957691302

Tangadan Falls

tangadan falls (c) @charlesnicolei (Instagram)

Tangadan Falls is one of the main attractions in the area.

It is majestic as much as its pools are freezing! Perfect after that hike where you’ll get sweaty and tired. Take about a refreshment!

You can choose between two routes on the way to the falls:

A. Short Route – Take this route only if you just really wanna see the falls and skip out on the hiking-trail-cliffdive spots.

trail to tangadan falls

B. Long Route – I am not really a climber and this may be my first actual trail/hike but I would say that this is a somewhat moderately tiring. (I lift but I don’t do cardio so…)

It’ll take you 45 mins to more than an hour (depending on your pace) to get to the falls.

I’d suggest you do bring water, wear a durable kind of footwear, a waterproof bag for your things, willpower to push through kasi akala mo chill hike lang pero nakakapagod pala.

Hit up these awesome and kengkoy tour guides that would pave the way for you! (It’s kinda required to get one) Sir Jacques 09454051679 or Sir Alan 09108423021. Kamusta niyo ko sakanila!

There are other top places to go to in SFLU that I for myself haven’t been to! I’ll add up more to these once I get to go to them. Stay tuned! (Macho Temple, Pebble Beach, Grape Picking, Watch Tower, etc.)

Now the two best things that everyone should experience and actually do in Elyu besides all this is to EAT and DRINK.

So eat and drink we shall!

V. Where to Eat?

One of the main reasons why people go to LU besides surfing is the delicious and grammable food! Check out these places when you get to surf town! Yeeew.

To list a few, here are the big food stops in town and then some!

Barefoot Elyu (Shakshouka, Full Taglish)
NakNak (Cheap Filipino Eats)
Tagpuan (Beef Pares with Kimchi)
Mamba’s Kitchen (Tuna Burger, Grilled Chicken)
Makai Bowls (Carille Smoothie Bowl, Creamy Chia Bowl)
Sabong (Honey Bagoong Glazed Chicken!)
Chu’s Diner (Yakinikudon)
Mad Monkeys (Beer-Cheese Sauced Burger
Papa Bear (Pork Sambal)

Coffee/Dessert Places

Being a coffee guy, I can’t let you guys down by not giving a few suggestions of the best coffee (and dessert) places in LU!

Clean Beach’s Brew – Batch Brew. Really friendly and conyo people!
Coffee Library – Cafe Xiu (Coconut Viet Coffee) and Egg Coffee
El Union – Dirty Horchata, Nitro Cold Brew, Smores, Waffles
Leche – Artisan Honest Ice Cream. Baon, Kakanin, and Kape at Yosi!

VI. Nightlife

Now let’s talk about the nightlife.

You can’t go to Elyu without spending the night out with friends over drinks, and some beach party!

Here’s what’s in store for you. Go!

Flotsam and Jetsam

before the chaos. (c) @charlesnicolei (instagram)

Celebrating their 5th year this 2018, nothing beats this place when it comes to parties in LU!

You can almost never go to Elyu without going to Flots.

I’d call it an Early Night? of the North. 

Check out my Instagram @charlesnicolei and watch my highlights about LU. You can never miss the Flotsam moments I’ve had there. SOLID AF.

flotsam’s 5th anniversary

The Circle Hostel’s Drinking Games

The Circle hosts a cozier, more intimate, and a smaller group of an activity during Saturday nights.

This is best for solo-travelers and those who just don’t feel like partying with the kids anymore (Hello, tito and tita vibers).

Let Mark or Jeff take you to a pubcrawl or a set of drinking games in the common area, and for just 100PHP, I’m quite sure that you’re gonna get drunk.

You can even win some Circle merch such as shirts and caps!

Even non-Circle staying peeps are welcome to join the fun! Just go to the hostel before 6pm and sign-up. Cheers!

Surfer’s Point Deck

under construction (c) @charlesnicolei (instagram)

This is a newly opened and up and coming booze and food spot for the town. The owner’s a friend of a friend and has the same look and ambiance as the Great Northwest.

Wavecheck Elyu

Place is also owned by friends of friends and can be found right in front of Monaliza Resort.

They now hold parties by the beach and an assortment of DJ’s and performers come-by to bring chaos! Check this place out for they have cheap booze, kind local owners, and an uprising competitor slash option if Flotsam is just too much for you!

Tipple And Brew

tipple and brew’s 3rd floor rooftop (c) @charlesnicolei (instagram)

It’s sad to see that this place barely have people in it most of the time. They have really good craft beer and an awesome rooftop to chill in!

If you want to just lean back, rather not party, and keep it intimate, check this place out!

I would highly NOT recommend you to just stay wherever place you’re staying and just drink there unless you’re with a big group. Try to explore the nightlife and the bars around Elyu! It’s part of the experience. It’s a MUST!

VII. Budget Estimate

beach bum food park. nothing much special here. move along.  (c) @charlesnicolei (Instagram)

Let’s say you’re planning to go to La Union over the weekend for 2 days and 1 night.

Here’s a rough estimate:

Travel (Bus back and forth) = 1,000 php/pax
Food (3 meals/day for 2 days worth 200php each) = 1,200 php/pax
Accommodation = 450-900 php/pax/night
Drinks and others = 500-1000php/pax
Surf Lesson = 400php/hr/pax

So with this rough estimate, the budget would range at around 3,550php-4,500php

Now say you won’t be surfing, you won’t be drinking a lot, and you’ll eat in NakNak and/or other cheaper option, you can even bring the budget down to around 2,000/pax for 2 days, 1 night!

It really depends on how you wanna spend your weekend.

If you wanna try out every single famous gramspot“, and stay in a sosyalen place, be ready to shell out around 5,000 php. If you’d rather just chill by the beach with a bottle of beer and watch the waves, and maybe book in the Circle Hostel to interact with new people and save money for the most part, it’s all up to you!

VIII. My Two Cents

clique. my first time in elyu! (c) @charlesnicolei

If you’re still reading up to this point, you’re either a really good friend of mine, or you love Elyu as much as I do so you try to check everything in this blogpost to criticize. Loljk.

Alas, here are some mastermind pro-tips (luh weh) and some photodump just because I can’t upload most of these photos in IG hahaha


Flots and other places serve 50-70 peso local beers and 90-100 peso Smirnoff bottles so here’s a drinking hack:

There’s this tindahan just before you get to Flotsam, just past El Union, on the right side of the road, it has a stony path before you can actually get to the store.

32 peso beers and 40 peso Smirnoff bottles.

Befriend the locals

The locals here are insanely friendly and they’re all easily approachable! Just give them a nod, a smile, a wave and or a punch in the gut (just joking), and they’ll help you get to places you want to go!

Lalo na kung chicks… mahilig sila sa chicks. HAHAHA.

There’s finally a 711 beside Sebay.

Gone were the days when you still needed to go down San Fernando to get ice, basic needs, and all the other convenience store stuff that you need.

Blessed be the person who franchised a 711 beside Sebay. LMAO.


I can’t stress this enough. Everyone should CLEAN AS YOU GO.

You don’t have a yaya, your mother isn’t here, so you gotta clean up wherever, whatever, you are eating/have eaten.

One of my worst nightmares is Elyu becoming the next Boracay, a trashload of a beach!!!


Please help the environment. Head on to if you have time and check out their advocacies, the ecobrick project, and how to not litter.

Come on guys, we can all do better.


sunset by the beach (c) @charlesnicolei (instagram)

Overall, I would suggest that you just kickback, relax, and enjoy the chill vibe of Elyu alongside the boho atmosphere of the town.

Do not be bothered too much if you don’t have an itinerary.

If you’re with a group, learn to go with the flow and let the waves dictate your next adventure.


If you’re coming in alone, try to talk to strangers, smile to a local, share a beer, kampay with a foreigner, and just embrace the freedom from stress and anxiety of the city life.

The reason why you went here is to unwind and relax in the first place.

So never forget to Shaka and Hang Loose!

local surf lodis turned brothers! @marvsurf @jayresquivel @juswille @ricothesurfer #kuyaeping


What else would you want to know about Surf Town Elyu?

Would you have a question that I wasn’t able to answer?

Feel free to ask below and just comment in or message me!

I want this to be the ULTIMATE LU guide so I’ll keep on expanding and improving this motherpost in the days, weeks, years to come!

Also, do watch out for more reviews, and in-depth blogs of these awesome places that can be found in Surf Town!

What are you waiting for?

Sea you!

2 thoughts on “San Juan, La Union 101: Travel Guide and Itinerary Choices for Surf Town Elyu

  1. Makes me want to go to Elyu while teading your blog. I told mused after my birthday I’ Done with Elyu for this year pero I guess not. Elyu next month maybe? HAHAHAHAHAHA. STOP ME PLEASE.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elyu will always be exciting and chill to go to any time of the year! With waves, without waves, the lifestyle and everything surrounding it will for sure lure you back in! Tara, end of Novemeber! 🤙🏽👅


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