With its many islands, diverse populace, and wonderful sights, the Philippines is a backpacker’s paradise. But if you’re intent on avoiding the usual tourist hotspots of Palawan, Cebu, Boracay, and others, there’s one great alternative you should try: La Union.
Located within the country’s Ilocos Region in the north, the province of La Union may sound obscure at first. However, it’s highly popular for one specific group of tourists: surfers. But that doesn’t mean you have to be one to properly enjoy what the province has to offer. Recently, it’s also been an under-the-radar hit among backpackers in general. Here are the most important reasons why.
Affordable Accommodation Options
For backpacking anywhere to be viable, access to affordable accommodation is a must. Luckily, there are a lot of options for all types of travelers in La Union. Some places, like the Sunrise Hotel in Rosario, are both affordable while being strategically located near the crossroads of three different provinces for extra adventures. Meanwhile, more premium options like La Roca Villa provide some added privacy, while keeping you close to the local tourist hotspot of San Juan. Indeed, you just need to decide on what type of trip you’re planning for and there’ll probably be a guest house, hostel, or hotel that’s right for you.
A Variety of Fun Activities to Try
La Union might not have the whitest beaches in the country, but that’s actually an advantage since aside from the surfers, you also won’t have a lot of competition when it comes to finding a spot near the shore just to hang out, sunbathe, and relax. And if you’re down to try something new, you can just as easily take advantage of La Union’s waves by looking for an instructor and renting a surfboard to give surfing a shot.
However, if you’re the type who prefers your adventures to be further inland, then La Union also has options to offer. You can take a 30-minute guided trek through the wilderness going to San Gabriel’s Tangadan Falls. Or if you want something more unique yet informative, you can head out to Bacnotan’s La Union Honeybee Center to get a close look at some productive and well-behaved honeybees. You can even have a taste of some fresh honey while you’re at it.
Delicious Filipino Food
If you’re also a foodie, there’s an abundance of great places to have delicious and affordable meals while you’re in La Union. At the provincial capital of San Fernando, you can have a meaty meal by the beach at Natalna Grille. This place serves fresh and savory grilled seafood for your enjoyment. Or if you’re in the popular surfing town of San Juan, have a meal at the Cube-O-Grill. With the name being a pun on the Filipino word for “hut,” this place complements its variety of exceptional dishes with a native-inspired interior décor.
The locations above are just some of the many places in the province’s 20 municipalities where you can enjoy the local cuisine. Just do a bit of exploration and you’re bound to find a great place to grab a bite while you’re there.
Many Places to Get a Drink and Meet New Friends
If your main goal with backpacking is to connect with the locals or to meet new friends, then you’ll also have a great time in La Union. In particular, you’ll find that the surfing town of San Juan also has a good collection of places to drink and socialize. Mad Monkeys is a great place to start. It has a lively atmosphere, as well as delicious burgers and bar chow. Meanwhile, the nearby Clique Club might be a better choice if you’re up for some dancing to some upbeat music. However, if you’re up for something more low-key, the Surf Shack is just next door. Over here, they serve the usual collection of beer and cocktails, although they also have great seafood pizza and even generous servings of nachos that you can share with friends.
La Union has most of everything that appeals to backpackers. It has affordable places to stay, beautiful beaches, exciting activities, delicious food, and fun places to drink. If you’re already planning for your next backpacking adventure in the Philippines, consider La Union as one of your stops.