• Mags Rafael-Salvador

La Union Travels On My Mind

Updated: Jul 12

We love travel. Summer’s here and we have nowhere to go since travel bans are in placed due to Covid19 pandemic. And because I have yet to write about our La Union escapade last year, I thought that this is a good time to share what’s in La Union and why travel there later when the pandemic is gone.

Late last year we scheduled our summer feels in December by a roadtrip to La Union. It was planned months before to celebrate our wedding anniversary and an incentive trip for the kids hard work at school. It took us a little over four hours to reach San Fernando, La Union. It’s one of the most easily accessible beach destination, it has improved tourism facilities and boasts of a growing number of resorts and restaurants.

La Union is dubbed as Surfing Capital of the North and a back-packers haven, it’s also referred to as “Elyu” or “LU” by travellers. Getting there by car, you’d get to view mountain ranges of the Cordilleras and a lot of farmers tending rice fields. Although surfing remains what most tourists visit La Union for, more and more interesting places are starting to come into life within the city. We have different goals why travel, but on our case it really was just to breathe fresh air, experience the waves, be sun-kissed and discover what’s in LU!

Discovering what La Union has to offer, we listed a few must visit spots that we can squeeze in our 3 days, 2 nights stay on this beauty. We had a number of places on our list to visit such as the Ma-Cho temple (Taoist temple), Christ the Redeemer Statue, the Pindangan Ruins, St John the Baptist Church and the beach.

Ma-Cho Temple is located near the town proper of San Fernando City. It is a Taoist temple dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess named Ma-Cho. According to stories, she was able to accurately predict the tides and weather conditions of the sea hence her title “Sea Goddess”. The Ma-Cho temple also stands as proof and tribute to the joining together of the Filipino-Chinese Culture. From what I have read from different travel blogs, this temple is also considered as the biggest temple in the world outside China and believed to be one of the very few Chinese temples that have been built with five archways. The whole temple is huge, filled with gorgeous Chinese architecture and overlooking the West Philippine Sea. Entrance and Parking Fees are free.

A little farther from the temple is a twenty five (25) foot statue of Christ the Redeemer. It sits right on top of Reservoir Hill overlooking the city proper and San Fernando Bay. Although it’s not as big as the one in Brazil, this Christ the Redeemer is quite a nice view to reflect, pray and get a photo souvenir. The way going there is a bit steep, I recommend walking up the hill instead of bringing the car. Sadly, the area where the statue is not well kept, the local tourism offices should restore and maintain cleanliness of the area. A few minutes’ walk from the Christ the Redeemer Statue, is the go to place for merienda or desserts called Halo-Halo de Lloko that’s inside a quaint house in the town proper. We did not go inside as there are a lot of people lining up already.

Pindangan Ruins, to be specific, is the ruins of an old catholic church built more than 250 years ago by Spanish priests. It’s an artistic and a religious place, that is now under the care of Carmelites who lives in the nearby monastery. It is located at the town proper and accessible from the main road with an entrance fee of Php20.

Church of St John the Baptist, one of the oldest churches in San Fernando, La Union. We went there on a Sunday to attend a mass, the church is surrounded by trees, well maintained, with old walls and red bricks foundation. Luckily the mass was in English so we understood the readings and gospel. The scene outside was very old fashioned, with ice cream sellers (Sorbeteros), cotton candies and balloons being sold to families after hearing the mass.

We love the beachfront of San Juan especially when the sun sets. Though it’s not comparable to Boracay, El Nido, Coron or Panglao the beauty of its waves gently kissing the shore is enough to make me want to travel here as often as we can. I am a beach person (I really can't say if husband and kids are) so I enjoyed the beach watching the sun set, experiencing the waves that even if I’m not a surfer but I appreciate the small gentle waves that embrace and moves you while you’re in it.

Food trip was equally fun, we went to their version of Dampa and the food was fresh and sumptuous. They also have a good line of restaurants that both the locals and foreigners frequent and stay until the wee hours of the morning. From breakfast till midnight you’ll find restaurants to answer to your cravings (Mad Monkey, Tagpuan sa San Juan, El Union Coffee, Coco Mama, Flotsam & Jetsam etc.) located at Brgy Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union.

Getting to La Union is easy, there are a lot of bus terminals from Manila that has daily schedule to La Union and you can also bring your car and enjoy the journey and road trip with the family. The locals are friendly, you can ask them if you need a driver/tour guide to assist you in visiting places so you’ll learn something new about La Union.

Accommodation options, there are a lot of hotels, inns, backpackers, airbnbs in the whole stretch of the beach (San Juan, La Union). We stayed at Em Royalle Hotel, which was surprisingly complete with basic amenities and accommodating staff. Rooms were big and with a nice view of the ocean. They also have a swimming pool so for families it really is a plus factor, especially if you don’t intend to surf all the time.

We also learned that La Union has unusual travel seasons, their peak season is from October to March when the big waves are happening and the town’s growing surfing community gets hyped up. And in the Philippines, we do experience wet (rainy) season that sometimes even falls on October and November, so surfers generally choose December until March to visit instead.

While, if you’re just like me that plans on simply relaxing by the beach chasing sunsets then the summer months of April until May are the best. Just bear in mind that every summer the weekends are usually full of tourists, so reservations must be done way in advance. If you’re planning on just relaxing by the beach, the summer months of April-May are ideal. The waves may not be present, but who can refuse the call of a relaxing beach getaway? Note though that summer weekends are usually packed so reservations must be done way in advance.

Three days was too short so we really need to go back. These are some places we need to visit the next time we go on a road trip to Elyu : Tangadan Falls, Poro Point Lighthouse, the Culture and Art Gallery of La Union and maybe the Baluarte Watch Tower once the local tourism office restores damaged part from previous typhoons that hit La Union.

Yes, until our next escape to La Union! Always appreciate all your travels (I do 😍 ), and here’s hoping that you’d experience Elyu for yourself either with family or friends and love it as much as we do!

Watch to see snapshots of what happened in #LaUnion !

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