The Waves and The Beaches of La Union

Our North Luzon Road Trip Leg #1
The Waves and the Beaches of La Union

by Danny Tariman

The big waves and the fine sand beaches of San Juan, and the modern, classy resort hotel in Poro Point, and of course that floating restaurant that serves freshly caught fish by the river will always be the top in my mind when we talk about La Union.

La Union was the first leg of our 5-day road trip to Northern Luzon.

Enjoying a jump along the beach of San Juan, La Union
Enjoying a jump along the beach of San Juan, La Union

My family is all set and very excited for this trip. This was a trip we had longed for – going up Northern Luzon via eastern provinces of La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, and back to Manila via the western side of Luzon passing though the provinces of Cagayan Valley, Isabela, Nueva Viscaya with a side trip to the Mountain Province to see the world famous Banawe Rice Terraces.

We left Sucat in Metro Manila at about 3am to be able to reach our first destination by 9 o’clock in the morning. Our first destination is San Juan, La Union – the surfing capital of Northern Luzon. It was an easy early morning drive passing though the North Luzon Expressway all the was to Tarlac and then the McArthur Hiway up to our destination.

We had some stops along the way, notably the Petron gas station in Mexico, Pampanga. We have packed meals aboard, so it was not really for a meal stop but just to stretch my body to keep me awake for the long drive.

As I saw that long bridge that link Pangasinan to the highway leading

The Agoo Basilica, La Union
The Agoo Basilica, La Union

to Kennon Road, I said “We are now in La Union!”. Yes, the long bridge ends at Rosario, La Union.

Our first stop was the town of Agoo, La Union, the province’s oldest town. We dropped by the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity where offered our thanksgiving and prayers for our trip. The Church marker says that the town and parish was founded in 1578 – wow, that was really a piece of history!

Across the church is the Museu Iloko where we viewed some historical artifacts. It is really a good thing to visit museums in trips like this to know a bit of history about the place.

In front of Museo Iloko in Agoo
In front of Museo Iloko in Agoo

We continued our road trip driving up north, passing through the busy San Fernando City – the province’s capital. We didn’t stop here, except to buy a famous product – the “chicha-corn” – corn kernels roasted to perfect crunchiness spiced with locally grown garlic!

Finally, we reached our destination – San Juan. We were met by Rey, an old office buddy who now lives in the city.

It is indeed a good surfing beach. The surf here is bigger than the ones in Baler (no offense meant, I love Baler’s Sabang beach!). The beach is very fine grayish sand, and the wave was really enticing to tourists like us to try riding the surf. But we didn’t. We just enjoyed swimming by the beach!

The waves in San Juan, La Union
The waves in San Juan, La Union

Before we checked-in in our hotel, we toured other destinations in the city. We visited Thunderbird Resort & Casino – a classy hotel in Poro Point, La Union. Our friend Rey was so kind to show us the city and its neighboring places.

We finally checked-in at our resort. There are many resorts and lodging houses in the area, you shouldn’t be afraid that you will not find a room to stay. We just did it without any reservation, just a ‘walk-in’ guest. The resort we got is a beach-front hotel with a native pavilion-restaurant overlooking the beach. As my family had agreed, we will order food that are native to the locality, as so we had for dinner some local dishes, and for breakfast, the Iloco longanisa – a local spicy sausage.

On our first day, we immediately tried the gorgeous beach and the tall waves of San Juan. A number of surfers were riding the long and big surf, we just enjoyed watching them. As we don’t know how to ride the surf, we just enjoyed swimming and being carried by big waves to the shore.

A floating restaurant in La Union
A floating restaurant in La Union

The following day, we drove out and continued our road trip to the north. Before we left La Union, we had an early lunch at this native floating restaurant at the banks of Amburayan River. Among other dishes we ordered, I cannot forget the golden tilapia which were caught live from the river right before our eyes, and cooked while we were waiting at the table! Oh, what a feast!

Finally, after that sumptuous meal by the river, our friend Rey bade us goodbye.

Our next stop: Vigan.

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