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Do-It-Yourself: San Juan Beach, La Union


How to Get to The Surfing Capital of the Philippines – La Union

Going to San Juan Beach, La Union can be arranged on your own. This is where Travel Factor’s Surf and Music Festival is held every year and the surf break counterpart of Baler. San Juan Beach is known as “The Surfing Capital of the Philippines.”

No commercial flights are available to get to San Juan, La Union, it can only be reached by land. Partas Line is a good bus line to ride when going there as its terminal is located along Aurora Boulevard near EDSA Southbound in Quezon City. One-way bus fare is around PhP400-500. Buses bound for Laoag, Vigan, Candon or any other town in La Union, Ilocos Sur or Ilocos Norte take the provincial highway going to San Juan Beach. The Partas bus line has a 12 midnight schedule that arrives at San Juan Beach in just 5 hours.

 surf area

There are a few cafés that serve affordable breakfast such as ‘Patubos,’ which is right across the street from the bus stop. Another is ‘Surfbreak Café’ and ‘Lola Nanny’s café.’ Both are located by the beach.


These cafés serve breakfast from PhP50 to PhP75. If you choose to eat at Lola Nanny’s, they have a nice garden with beautiful blooming flowers.


San Juan Surf Resort is one of the most expensive places to stay in at San Juan beach. It’s not have the 5-star hotel comfort but they offer nice amenities and delicious food. Their service is also worth the time and money.


When you see a sign that says ‘No swimming,’ you better follow it. The strong currents here are indeed life threatening.


Surf shops are located everywhere along the beach. All you have to do is approach any attendant to inquire about surf lessons. Surf lessons cost PhP350/hour (including board rental) or Php250/hour for surfboard rental only.


When the waters are too heavy for dipping, surf instructors will take you to Bacnotan Beach instead. It’s a beach with friendly currents and waves where the afternoon sun shines brightly. It takes 30-45 minutes to get there by land and you need to pay for a van to drive there that contains at least 10 passengers excluding the surf instructor. The van costs Php1,000.00 with the inclusion of fuel on a round trip basis, so you have to chip in PhP100.00 each.


Upon arriving at Bacnotan Beach, you’ll observe its peacefulness, friendly waters and the bright afternoon sun. Unlike San Juan Beach, Bacnotan is a quiet place since it is maintained without any resorts, restaurants or stores. It’s pure bliss.


Your time to surf in Bacnotan Beach lasts for only a couple of hours before the tide rises again, then it’s time to go back to San Juan Beach.


If you prefer to dine out of San Juan beach, you can take a ride in a jeepney (around Php8) or tricycle (around Php20) going to Midway Grill, located along the highway right outside the beach area.


They provide good service and tasty food of various cuisines.


Before heading out of San Juan beach, you may drop by at Macho Temple where you can experience a bit of Chinese culture. It’s a Buddhist Temple with a beautiful view of San Fernando City and the sea. 

Waiting for a bus along the highway to head back to Manila takes about 40 minutes to an hour. The return trip takes about 7-8 hours.


Where to stay:


Comfort basis

San Juan Surf Resort

Starts at PhP930/room for 2 people

(072) 242 4544

Budget basis

Starts at PhP600.00/room for 2 people

Lola Nanny’s Surf Retreat: 0915 418 4034

Hacienda Peter: 0918 441 5475


Bus fare does not exceed PhP500.00 for each passenger. You must tell the driver to drop you off at San Juan Beach.

Partas Bus Lines

Cubao, Bus Terminal

816 Aurora Boulevard, Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines

Telephone Number: +63 (2) 7278278


Estimated Budget (economic basis): 

Bus fare (round trip Manila – La Union – Manila): PhP900.00

Overnight Lodge contribution: PhP300.00

2 hours surf lessons with instructor: Php700.00

Van rental contribution: PhP100.00

Budget for food and all meals: PhP700.00

Others (commute fare and souvenirs): Php150.00

TOTAL: Php2,850.00


Suggested itinerary: 

Day 0 (Friday night)

11:00 pm: Meet-up at the bus station


Day 1 (Saturday)

12:00 mn – 5:00 am: Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) Manila – San Juan, La Union

5:00 am – 6:00am: ETA San Juan Beach, La Union

6:00 am – 7:00 am: check-in; settle down

7:00 am – 8:00 am: Breakfast

8:00 am – 10:00 am: Look for a surf school / free time / walk around the beach / picture-taking / rest time

10:00 am – 11:00 am: Early lunch

11:00 am – 12:00 nn: ETD Bacnotan Beach (bring snacks, water or other drinks, dry clothes and camera)

12:00 nn – 3:00 pm: Surf’s up

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm: Rest and snack time

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm: ETD San Juan Beach

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm: Hit the showers, dry up

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm: Dinner at Midway Grill, San Juan Surf Resort, or anywhere around San Juan Beach

8:00 pm – 10:00 pm: Bonding time or have a few drinks with locals

10:00 pm: Time for bed


Day 2 (Sunday)

6:00 am – 7:00 am: Rise and shine!

7:00 am – 8:00 am: Breakfast time anywhere around San Juan Beach

8:00 am – 12:00 nn: Free time / side-trip to Macho Temple / hang around San Juan Resort and play pool or shop at Billabong

12:00 nn – 1:00 pm: Lunch time

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm: Shower and pack up

2:00 pm – 9:00 pm: ETD San Juan, La Union

9:00 pm – 10:00 pm: ETA Manila


You can ask any surfer or local about other places to go and other things to do, they are honest people.


Author: Carla Pido  


All photos courtesy of the author.





  1. Thank you so much Carla Pido. Sobrang laking tulong nito para sa kin at sa family ko… now spending vacation in la union is easy. thank you again… :D

  2. Thanks Carla, for this information could help me a lot as a traveller.