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Mar
2018
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la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando

How To ELYU! A Lazy Guide to Explore La Union, Philippines

If you have been following my blog (or in Instagram) you might already know that one of my favorite places in the Philippines is a province called La Union. Ever since I have been back in my home country, I have visited this province numerous times and still can’t get enough of it.

Recently just before summer season hits, I came back to rediscover La Union along with other local travel bloggers thanks to our friends from RCL Realty & Consulting Services who made sure that we were taken care of.

Known as one of the country’s best surfing spots, it is easily became a hipster heaven, blame it to its growing surf-culture: complete with artisan café’s, yoga centers, artsy hostels, surf camps and smoothie bowls (yheap those healthy makai bowls!).

Bring a group of millennials here, and definitely they can collect a month worth of Instagram contents.

If you are planning to drive up north and visit or even just to stop over La Union, here are some of my recommendations to get a full ELYU experience.


WHERE TO SURF

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

A usual scene by the beach

Urbiztondo Beach Break

Probably the most popular surfing spot in San Juan, or even the whole La Union. Started as a hidden surfing haven to a handful group of surfers now became one of the country’s go-to surfing locations (and the closest one from Manila).

If you are a newbie surfer, or someone who just wants to experience riding (or falling..so many times) some waves, this beach is for you. Aside from many accommodations offering surfing lessons, you can easily hire a local surfer along the beach to help you out with your lesson.

Golden "surfing" hour #RCLPROPERTIES #launion #surftown #surf

A post shared by Kenneth Ephraim Surat (@kennethsurat) on

Jesus Point in Carille

To be honest, I haven’t visited Jesus Point, but I can see most of my surfer friends go here and rave about its waves.

When my friend Omri (@surfthesky) was looking for a perfect surfing spot, a local lady suggested going to this beach for its “better waves” and being less crowded.


WHERE TO STAY

Vessel Hostel

www.vesselhostel.com  @vesselhostel

I have stayed here numerous times ever since they opened in early 2017. The latest addition to the growing surf-themed accommodations in Urbiztondo, fittingly owned by 2-surfer-architect friends Nikki and Buji.

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Vessel Hostel is made from refurbished cargo containers

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

I love its clean and simple interiors

Vessel Hostel is made from refitted container vans on top of the owner’s residence. The architecture and design is a conversation started itself. Simple, clean and functional.

This hostel, although it is located across the street from the beach, this sleek-designed hostel, gives the best sunset view around Urbiztondo.

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando

Me and friends Omri (@surfthesky) and Nikki (@nikkidelapaz) sunset watching at the Vessel Hostel Roofdeck

Read also: Staycation at Vessel Hostel

Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel

www.flotsamandjetsamhostel.com @flotsamandjetsamhostel

The first choice to most millennials ( which is the reason why it is always fully booked). We can really say that Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel started all the buzz about Urbiztondo Beach; being featured in numerous magazines, Instagram posts and even a movie (with the same name).

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

The colorful Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

This hostel continue on growing. Every time I come, there is always something new and something different.

My architect friend Carla is one of the partners who owns this vibrant accommodation, she is also the brilliant designer who drew and built this very eclectic hostel. During one of our “catching-ups” she told me about the time when they started Flotsam and Jetsam, the beach where it is standing now was considered far from where the party scene was. Now beach hostel is the “PARTY”.

Flotsam and jetsam offers both shared accommodation (a kubo type) and recently built private rooms fit for barkada or family trips.

I love the idea as well that this hostel has its own beach access so you can just go back and fort to get food (from their in house resto-bar) white enjoying the beach.

P&M Final Option Beach Resort

www.finaloptionbeach.com

During my recent trip, Final Option Beach Resort was our home. Along with some of the travel bloggers in the group, we shared a room that can fit a family. A one-bedroom hotel room with extra 2 bunk beds (our room can comfortably fit 7 guests).

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The look of the bedroom at Final Option Beach Hotel

Though far from the touristy scenes, this can also be the selling point of this property. It means that you are also far away from all the noise and you can have the relaxation that you’ve been dreaming about.

The hotel has its own pool and a direct access to the beach. This is also the location of The German Bistro a famous German restaurant in La Union.

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

A freshly poured pint of German Beer! I proudly poured this one haha.

Thunderbird Resorts and Casinos – Poro Point

www.thunderbirdresortsporopoint.com @thunderbirdresortsandcasinos

Thunderbird Resorts and Casinos is only hotel located in San Fernando in this list. Though there are many other accommodation options in San Fernando, La Union, Thunder Bird caught the eye of a many tourists (both locals and foreign) because of how you’ll feel transported to Santorini, Greece the moment you enter the hotel property.

The whole place is painted in Santorini’s famous white and cobalt blue color. A perfect getaway for couples and families (also for those looking for that gram-worthy La Union photo).


WHERE TO DINE

El Union Coffee

@elunion

Probably the most famous coffee shop in Urbiztondo. This intimate and laidback café is the culprit behind the increasing coffee culture in La Union.

Enjoying a cup at @elunion with this rustic beauty. #SuratJournals #elunion

A post shared by Surat Journals (@suratjournals) on

What I like about El Union Coffee is that, you’ll immediately feel at home the moment to sit down and order a glass of their iced dirty white coffee or a dirty horchata (and also a plate of grilled cheese—a must try!). It feels like everyone who passed by this little shop knows each another. So don’t be shy to smile or say hello (even to a complete stranger).

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

A mouthwatering plate of grilled cheese sandwich. I must confess, I attempted so many times to copy this at home.

On our recent trip, I was surprised how the location of El Union became a complex of notable food places in Urbiztondo, San Juan. It is now called as The Great Northwest Philippine Travel Stop and Viewing Deck (I know..what a long name right? Haha) . I will be mentioning some of the restaurants that you will find here below.

Artek Wine Yacht

@artekwineyacht

Located at The Great Northwest Philippine Travel Stop and Viewing Deck. Artek Wine Yacht instantly became close to my heart. We spent our last night in La Union here and we surely had an amazing time. Aside from its cool owners (shout out to Mr. Fausto!), their food and wine selections are worth the late night out (and carbs).

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Artek Wine Yacht savory cheese and tapas platter!!!

The best is their tapas platter. A perfect ‘barkada’ food trip! Partner it with a glass of vino and you are in beach heaven. To end your meal, cap it with a plate of baked brie. A M A Z I N G ! ! !

Our time here is one of the reasons why I can’t wait to edit my vlog. A lot of things happened! Memorable things haha!

Makai Bowl

@makaibowls

A popular and staple foodie joint in La Union. Initially it was located in Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel but recently moved to the long named food hub: The Great Northwest Philippine Travel Stop and Viewing Deck. Makai Bowl is famous for its “very” grammable dairy-free, sugar-free, healthy smoothie bowls!

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

I first tried Makai bowl when it was still located at Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel

Sabong Fried Chicken

@sabongfc

Funny that I first heard about this restaurant during a trip in Poblacion Makati. Discussing about the best fried chicken in the Philippines, a friend mentioned about Sabong Fried Chicken in San Juan, La Union.

Interesting enough, without even realizing it, I got a chance of munching in a plate of its famous Elyu Original Fried Chicken combo during a visit at Artek Wine Yacht (confusing right? — I got confused as well).

Ol’ Pub Restobar

@olpub_sjlu

Though a bit hidden, this restobar is starting to get some attention not only to the locals but also those who are visiting Urbiztondo and looking for a place to hangout with good food. Even my friend Nikki (who owns Vessel Hostel), suggested this place.

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Ol’ Pub in San Juan La Union. Look for this sign when you are driving along Urbiztondo Road

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

I told you it is very grammable right? Me and my friend Trisha (@psimonmyway) had some time to get a few polaroids here.

Its interior is very far away from the usual beach restobar, but more of those you will find in Manila. Industrial with a lot of artsy and vintage pieces (yes! VERY GRAMMABLE).

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

A plate of Ol’ Pub’s Summer Salad

Their dishes are simple and direct to the point. Think of tasty rice toppings. Chicken curry, bistek tagalog and liempo to name a few. For a healthier option, try their summer salad (one of my favorites from their menu).

Olas Bandidos 

@olasbanditos

If you are craving for a Vigan longanisa turned into a burrito, this is the perfect place for you. Olas Bandidos became the go-to Mexican restaurant in Urbiztondo. A good enough place for a snack or a take-away fixing on your way to the beach.

Flotsam And Jetsam Hostel

@flotsamandjetsamhostel

Aside from being known as the hippest hostel in La Union, Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel is also a popular place to spend your afternoon chill time by the beach. As mentioned previously, this hostel has a direct beach access, making it very convenient for those who just want to watch the sunset over a bottle of beer (by the beach).

Flotsam and Jetsam is also the party place in Urbiztond (mostly for the millennials and millennials at heart).

A must try is their bricked-oven baked pizza magherita and vigan longanisa silog (for breakfast). J

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

A pizza worth carbing about

Tagpuan

@tagpuansj

You haven’t been to Urbiztondo if you haven’t eaten a goto from Tagpuan. Trust me on this! Haha.

Don’t be fooled by its ‘semi-carinderia-sari-sari’ look and al fresco ‘ala tambay’ design, this place is the OG-hipster restaurant in town.

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

Dropping by Tagpuan after a long party at Flotsam

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

Tokwa’t Baboy Rice Toppings!

Tagpuan which literally means meeting place is a popular after party “tambayan” along the Urbiztondo Road. Aside from their goto and tokwa’t baboy combo, you can also try their rice toppings that can ease out your upcoming next day hangover.

Clean Beach

@cleanbeachco

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

I love the simplicity of this cafe

The newest coffee shop to hit Urbiztondo. Funny how my friend describe it this way:  if El Union is for the millennials, Clean Beach is for the titas and titos ( GEN X). True enough our gen x heart became at home here. Compared to the busy Great Northwest Philippine Travel Stop and Viewing Deck, Clean beach is located at Urbiz Garden and relatively quieter, I can actually hear my friends talking!

Nak-nak
la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

Daing na bangus combo! WINNER!

I know at some point, you want to eat on a budget. The best place of cheap and tasty food is the eatery named Nak-nak. If Tagpuan is carinderia-ish, Naknak is an actual carinderia. You can get tasty big portion lunch without the hefty price in comparison to the artsy food stalls along the Urbiztondo Road. It is conveniently located just across El Union Coffee. I tried their daing na bangus meal and let us say that my belly is happy and also my wallet.

The Food Project

@thefoodprojectlu

The new “place to be” in San Fernando, La Union. We were privileged to be one of the first people to try out this new food park in San Fernando. I must say, being from Marikina which is now becoming a food park city, The Food Project is refreshing to see. I like its layout. The whole place is divided into several areas, making you feel like you are not in a food court. It is big enough for you to go around with numerous tables for you and your friends to lounge.

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food

We got complementary tickets to try our a many food a possible hahah. OH NO!!!

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

Just loving life..and this coffee from Cafe Latino

The Food Project offers diverse cuisines, from the typical Filipino dishes (hello lechon) to international dishes such as Japanese and Mexican.

The hardest part for me whenever I go to a food park is to decide what and where to eat. Decision making isn’t my best suit. For my first dish, I went to Ribbed and tried their barbecue rib slab. It was cooked perfectly. Very tender and tasty. The slab is also big enough to be shared. If you are a lechon lover, don’t fret, 123 Fork offers roasted pork belly and a meal is complete with rice and salted egg (yummers). Another dish I opted to try was the Elyu Poke Bowl, though I think it can still be improved, it was a good enough dish for those looking for a healthy dish. The only café in The Food Project, Café Latino became an instant favorite. Try their iced macchiato and Spanish bonbon – a sure hit to coffee lovers out there.

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando

Barbecue Ribs from Ribbed

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando

Lechon Belly from 123 Fork

Lastly, If you are tired from all the food offerings, you can relax and get a foot spa (yes, inside the food park). This is a WIN I must say!

 

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Foot spa time!! YEY!!


SURFING LESSONS

Of course if you are in a surf town, definitely you are thinking of trying out riding some waves…yes?

One of the things you can do in La Union is to learn how to surf. Though for a first timer, just a thought of standing on a board, is already an achievement. There are several places where you can hire an instructor to teach you the basic or surfing.

Final Option Hotel Beach

www.finaloptionbeach.com

During our stay at Final Option Beach Resort we got a chance to book our surfing lesson with the help of the hotel. The beauty of getting your lesson here, there isn’t that much people in the beach, so you’ll get the most in terms of space and also if you fall, only a few people will see you. Hahaha (happened to me a lot of times).

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando food coffee

My attempt to look like a pro surfer. Thanks to @denisevillamar_ for the photo

If you are looking for other companies offering surfing lessons, I asked my friend Nikki to name a few. Here are some groups that you can check out.

Four A’ces Surf School 

www.facebook.com/fouracessurfschool/

0918 340 0135

DJ Surf School

www.facebook.com/JdSurfschool

09159103669

El Yu Classic

www.facebook.com/ElyuClassic

0917 828 9176


La Union is definitely one of those places in the Philippines that I will not get tired visiting over and over again. At one point in my life, I even considered moving here. This place keeps on growing as tourism booms. Hoping that this development will also help protect its beauty.

la union urbiztondo surf san juan travel blog tour guide san fernando

Thank you to RCL Realty & Consulting Services for accommodating us during our latest familiarization trip in La Union.This includes collaborations with Final Options Beach Resort, The Food Project, Ol’ Pub, Artek Wine Yacht and Thunderbird Resorts and Casinos. The rest of the restaurants and accommodations mentioned were based on my previous experience and research. All editorials and photos are my own unless mentioned or sighted from sources. 

kenneth surat Dubai Travel Blogger Philippines

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