When it comes to quick getaways from Manila, La Union is a good choice for barkadas and weekend warriors. This laid-back coastal town in the Ilocos region is easily accessible from Manila, has a wide range of accommodations to fit any budget and lots of restaurants to choose from for all your food trip needs. Most people come to La Union to enjoy the beach and the waves, but that’s not the only thing you can do there. For first-timers planning a trip to La Union, here are a few of the fun and unique activities you can do in La Union.
1. Learn to Surf
As the surfing capital of the North, La Union draws not just local surfers, but even those from the international surfing circuit. But you don’t have to be a pro surfer to enjoy the waves. La Union’s beaches have waves suitable for advanced, intermediate and beginner surfers alike. Many spots offer consistent quality surf and two surfing seasons from July to October and November to March.
San Juan offers one of the most beginner-friendly spots to learn this activity. Surf lessons are offered for around P400/hour (P200 for the board rental + P200 for the instructor) with surfboard/longboard rentals ranging from P500-P800 depending for half day and whole day rentals. For those who just want to try it out with friends, you can split the time with a companion and just opt for a quick 30-minute session to reduce costs.
2. Hike to Tangadan Falls
For those who prefer hiking and waterfalls to the beach, Tangadan Falls in San Gabriel is a great place to visit. There are two possible routes, a shorter hike that involves descending down stairs to reach the falls and a longer more scenic hike through the forests and streams. I took the longer route and came across this cool makeshift wooden cablecar that you can cross for P20 to get to the other side for cliff-jumping.
The main cascade of Tangadan Falls is a sight to behold especially during the rainy season. Aside from swimming, you can rent native bamboo rafts to just cruise around or relax at the foot of the falls.
The guide fee for hiking to Tangadan Falls costs P500 per group , so it’s better to join up with other travelers so you can split costs. NOTE: Instead of hiring a tricycle from San Juan (they charge P500 round trip), you can ride a jeepney to San Gabriel (P16) and then hire a tricycle to the start of the trail (P30).
3. Go Cliff-Jumping
For those who prefer something a little more extreme, you can also try cliff-jumping at the upper level of the main Tangadan Falls cascade or along the route near the wooden cable car section. (NOTE: Cliff-jumping is no longer allowed in the main cascade of Tangadan Falls due to its height and because of safety reasons).
4. Visit Luna Pebble Beach
The town of Luna in La Union has been nicknamed “the pebble capital of the North” because of the landscape and its thriving stone-picking industry. The coast facing the West Philippine Sea has a unique landscape lined with multicolored pebbles.
While you’re there, you can also visit the rebuilt Baluarte Watch Tower (old photo above before it was reconstructed) and the Bahay na Bato, a rest house built from stone and rocks.
5. Visit Ma-Cho Temple
Ma-Cho Temple is a Taoist temple overlooking the city of San Fernando. Situated on a hill 70 feet above sea level, this impressive temple is dedicated to Ma-Cho, the goddess of the sea.
While it was built by the the city’s Chinese community, the temple is open to people of all religions who visit to admire the architecture and view. There’s no entrance fee to visit the temple!
6. Greek out at Thunderbird Resort
Want a taste of Greece? Thunderbird Resort at Poro Point in La Union is well-known for its Mediterranean-inspired architecture and world-class amenities. The luxurious resort nestled on a cliff overlooking the white sand beach and the edge of a headland that dips into the South China Sea, offers a taste of the high life. For luxury travelers, you can enjoy excellent cuisine at the Olive’s Restaurant, Vegas Café and Patio Santorini or enjoy playing at the Cliffs Golf and Beach Club world-class 9 hole golf course.
One of the major draws for foreign visitors is the world-class casino where you can try your luck at the slot machines, roulette tables and game tables like baccarat and poker.
7. Go Grape-Picking
It’s kind of hard to believe that there are several grape farms in La Union where you can go grape-picking. I haven’t done this myself, but a lot of people seem interested in paying extra for the experience (and the IG photos) of walking through vineyards and harvesting grapes.
You can visit Lomboy Farms in Bauang, La Union which has been around since 1972 and is considered the pioneer in Philippine vineyards. The 20-hectare farm grows over 50 varieties of grapes. Gapuz Grape Farms in the same area offers vineyard tours and a pick-and-pay package.
8. Chill Out
Who says you have to do anything when you go to La Union? Why not just chill out in your resort or hostel of choice or at the beach? Sit around, get a tan or just enjoy the beach vibes. For a luxurious staycation, you can stay in Kahuna Beach Resort, which has a private swimming pool overlooking the ocean.
If you’re traveling on a budget, there are various hostels to choose from like The Circle Hostel, Flotsam & Jetsam and Vessel Hostel. Hostels usually have common areas with board games good for groups, so you’ll be content to laze around in a hammock or just hang around and do nothing all day with friends.
9. Go on a food trip of beach favorites
The food scene in La Union is vibrant and there are a lot of hip new restos you can to try out in between all the adventurous activities. For a more detailed list, check out my Food Trip: La Union guide.
A popular treat in La Union is Halo-Halo de Iloko, a popular Philippine dessert typically consisting of shaved ice, evaporated milk, sweetened fruits, leche flan, purple yam and gelatin.
10. Watch the sunset
For some people, this might not count as an actual “thing to do” but I’m including it because sunsets in La Union are pretty spectacular. Every time I go to La Union, the sunsets here never fail to amaze me.
Grab a beer or two, a beach blanket and just sit on the shore and just watch the colors fade away until night. The best things in life are free!
For more budget-friendly tips and tricks, read my article on ABS-CBN News: A Budget Friendly-Guide to La Union.