Ride Off Into the Sunset: Where to Go on #TakawDates in La Union

La Union

Christa De La Cruz
Christa De La Cruz | Jan 26, 2016

San Juan, La Union is known for its laid-back vibe and small-town feel where anyone knows everyone, even Manilenyos who have made the surf town their weekend home. It has been dubbed as the Surfing Capital of the North because of its quality waves that appeal to both the beginner and advanced surfer, especially since there are separate spots for soft waves breaking on sand bottom and for trickier waves breaking on coral reefs.

Aside from the sun and the surf, the coast of Urbiztondo has also became a haven for foodies as new cafés and restaurants sprouted in the area like mushrooms. It was very different from the first time I've been to San Juan in 2009 when resorts and establishments are so far away from each other that all you can see is sand. Even my partner-in-crime and #TakawDate who used to spend long weekends and holidays in eLyU was surprised at the number of newly-opened restos (read: Figaro!). 

Despite the sudden commercialization of San Juan, there are still a lot of quaint shops and locally-owned establishments that continue providing the relaxing weekend we often run after. Here are a couple of them:


1) El Union Coffee

El Union Coffee has evolved from a small corner café to a two-floor fully-functional lounge right by the beach. It is owned by Kiddo Cosio, a cityboy who moved to the surfing capital. Their specialty is "expert-roasted and thoughtfully-prepared coffee" and each glass or mug is best paired with their fluffy s'mores or sinful cookies. This is perfect for some sugar loading between surf sessions.

It is surfer-owned and operated so don't be surprised if El Union closes shop as soon as the beach starts giving away irresistble waves. 

Iced Mocha (PhP 120) & Skillet Cookie: milo with white chocolate (PhP 240)


El Union is open from 1 to 9 pm, Tuesdays to Thursdays, and from 8 am to 9 pm, Fridays to Sundays. 


2) Surf Shack

Not your typical post-sesh tambayan, Surf Shack is where you can drink locally-produced basi with a twist, eat longganisa from nearby municaplity of Bacnotan as pizza toppings, and listen to a local surfer with sunkissed skin play some tunes.


Bacnotan Longganisa Pizza (PhP 258) & Mommy Lu's Gourmet Tuyo: served with honey (PhP 278)

The restaurant started out as Anna Magsaysay's dream, which was happily made true by his husband Mark. It first opened as a Moonleaf branch on February 21, 2014. Other spots were eventually put up to complete the whole Surf Shack complex—a barbecue spot, shawarma place, bar, diner, and spa parlor all rolled into one. It had its soft opening on August 15, 2014 and a grand launch 10 days after.

Bang de Bass: basi with mango & pineapple (PhP 158)


Buffalo Wings: bucket of 8 (PhP 258)


Golden Tinapa Pesto (PhP 278)

Aside from promoting the tourism of San Juan and highlighting the ingredients of La Union, Surf Shack also showcases the talent of local surfers. It features a "Wall of Heroes" which has the photographs of San Juan's pioneer surfers, world-class instructors, entrepreneurs, and board shapers. Local musicians, usually surfers by day, play acoustic sets on their stage everyday at 8 pm.


Kazuo Akinaga (known as "Aki"), a surf board shaper and surf instructor, left Japan in the mid-90s and settled down in San Juan, La Union. He has been surfing in different places like California and Hawaii since 1967 but chose the Philippines as his new home.


Staff and crew of Surf Shack


Surf Shack is open from 10 am to 3 am on Fridays and Saturdays and 10 am to 1 am from Sunday to Thursday.


On the menu of Surf Shack is the description of "shaka," a sign used as a greeting in Hawaiian and surfer culture. It conveys the "aloha spirit" and its concept of friendship, understanding, compassion, and solidarity. The whole surf town of San Juan exudes just that as lovers and friends ride off into the glorious sunset.


Have you been to San Juan? Share your #TakawDates with us!


How to Get There

Buses to La Union depart the terminals in Manila every hour. Travel time is between six to seven hours by commute.

More of our #TakawDates Series:
1) Small Town Surprise: Where to Go on #TakawDates in Bagasbas

2) Baler: Surf and Satisfy Your Tummy

3) Baguio City: How to Pig Out with a Tiger in the Mountains

4) Metro Manila: Trying to Gain Weight One (Insta)gram at a Time (Part 1)

5) Metro Manila: Trying to Gain Weight One (Insta)gram at a Time (Part 2)


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