So I’m not a surfer. What could I possibly be doing in the Surfing Capital of the Northern Philippines? The answer my dear is eat, bask in the sun, and eat some more. OK, maybe do some surfer ogling while I’m busy chewing on my fourth slice of pizza, but a girl can multi-task.
La Union, or Elyu to the millennials, is a great weekend getaway for the people of Manila. A short 5-hour drive (or 7 hours by bus) and you’re transported to possibly the hippest spot in Luzon. For me, it’s like little Bali— the waves, the trendy shops and the laid-back vibe. Oh, that vibe. So here’s how I spent my two and half days in the surfing mecca minus the surfing. How to go to La Union by Bus:
To get to Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan from Manila, take a bus bound for La Union like Partas (Pasay and Cubao) and Farinas (Cubao). You may take the bus bound for Vigan, Laoag or Abra. Tell the driver you’re getting off at Urbiztondo Beach. One way ticket cost is an estimate of P600. Travel time is 5-7 hours depending on traffic and number of stops.
From La Union to Manila, call +63 917 825 8057 (Partas) for their schedule.
Our home for day one is this repurposed shipping container hostel that might as well be a time machine. The vintage details of this newly opened dorm-type hostel is certainly giving me the 70’s feel. Much like old meets new. Vintage-y without trying too hard. Vessel Hostel is not just clean and comfortable, it is pretty dope.
Note: All the rooms are dorm-type.
Vessel Hostel. Urbiztondo, Manila N Rd, San JuanOh boy, Ilocos longganiza and egg on my pizza. It’s like they read my mind and made a dish out of it. Surf Shack has a huge selection of oven brick pizzas, from the gourmet tuyo to taco pizza. It was a tough decision I must say, but longganiza and eggs must prevail. And, they have craft beers, too. What a great welcome to La Union meal!
Surf Shack. 239 MacArthur Highway, San JuanIm not gonna pretend I’m a coffee drinker. Im glad I’m always with coffee drinkers, though so I can take photos and possibly take a sip of their coffees. But I’m always happy when coffee shops like El Union not only offers excellent cup of Joes, but also exceptional tea drinks. Here’s the Dirty White (P120) and my Sweet Chai O’Mine (P150).
Even if you’re not in the mood for a caffeine fix, make sure to drop by this uber cool and trendy shop. Knowledgeable and friendly staff, laid-back vibe and they have s’mores!
El Union Coffee. Urbiztondo, San JuanOne cannot simply go through the Philippine summer and not have halo-halo. Scratch that, one cannot simply go through a day in the Philippines, summer or not, without a halo-halo. And Halo-Halo de Iloko Balay is just the place for it. Everything we love in our halo-halo, yes, ube, nata de coco, leche flan and more (no beans!) inside a coconut.
Everything else mentioned in this feature is all in one street and all walking distance from each other, except for Iloko Balay. It’s a short 10-15 minutes jeepney ride from Urbiztondo Beach to San Fernando and then another 5 minutes walk. But trust me, definitely worth it leaving the beach for.
Halo-halo de Iloko Balay. Zandueta St, San Fernando, La UnionHold up, La Union may just have the best burger in the country. Mad Monkeys got me going cray cray over their Classic Burger with the melted beer cheese sauce (P210). Juicy and tasty patty and bomb AF sauce. I’d gladly go back to La Union just for this baby.
Mad Monkeys. Urbiztondo Beach. San JuanA pitcher of Margarita (P350) and Carne Asada Quesadilla (P150) to end the night in Elyu (wannabe millennial right here). This Mexican joint is perfect for a nightcap, or if you’re just jonesing for that Mexican spice. I know I always am.
Olas Banditos. Urbiztondo Beach. San JuanDay two, and waking up to healthy, beautiful breakfast bowls. The Avo Smoothie Bowl (P220) is what my dreams are made of. Shout out to all the avocado lovers out there.
Makai Bowls. Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel, San JuanFast forward to lunch. I have a skill of sniffing out any noodle soup in the vicinity, so I decided to try the pho at The Coffee Library. And because I’m a bit of snob when it comes to any noodle soup, I have to say their pho is not really pho but more like a mami to me. Not like there’s anything wrong with mami, so I still enjoyed it. Somehow. They also have Vietnamese coffee if you’re down for that.
Coffee Library. Urbiztondo Beach. San Juan Checked out from Vessel Hostel and moved to Flotsam and Jetsam (10 minutes walk from Vessel). Let’s just call it a hostel-hopping activity, my idea of research. Fell in love instantly with the fun, artsy, anything-goes vibe at Flotsam. Two things that makes this place stand out from the rest (aside from its boho decor) is: one, they have a beachfront and two, they have great selection of food. Pretty much a winner in my book.
Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel. MacArthur Highway, San Juan, La UnionThis is the 2 bed private airconditioned room with a shared bath. I liked that they still offered private rooms even though it’s a hostel and they had dorm-type rooms. About the communal bathrooms, there were several bathrooms and toilets in the hostel so sharing it is not an issue. However, if you’d like more privacy in the toilet department, you may choose to book the suites with its very own bath. Their pizza, though. Uhm, has to be one of the best pizzas I had. Ever. Their “Barlic” bacon garlic pizza to be exact (P420). And it’s not just the lychee mojito talking. The breakfast spread at Flotsam and Jetsam is impressive. Fresh fruits and toast for a light start. But because “light breakfast” is not in my vocabulary, I finished my fruits and head to Angel and Marie’s Place, a few blocks away for some bangsilog. I mean, a girl needs her rice.
Angel and Marie’s Place. Urbiztondo Beach. San Juan There’s just so much to love about La Union aside from the waves. Like how warm and smiley the locals are, or how everywhere you look everything is just a tad cooler than anywhere else, or how burger and beer tastes a hundred times better by the beach, or how the sand in your toes instantly tells you it’s gonna be a good day.
Man, it was a good day.