Learning to Surf in San Juan La Union

by Michael

We had enough of the limited independent mountain hiking options in North Luzon, so we decided to learn to surf instead. At 400 Philippine Pesos ($8) per person per lesson, San Juan La Union may be the cheapest surf lessons in the world. Despite having lived in California for most of our lives, neither of us ever learned to surf so we were excited to give it a try.

We arrived in San Juan in the afternoon and relaxed for the rest of the day (recovering from our successful 2:30am efforts to obtain a PCT permit that morning), then surfed the next four mornings. Our first surfing day we were both terrible. By our fourth surfing day, we were both riding waves on the big floaty foam-ish surfboards they gave us (also used for stand up paddle boarding). We didn’t stay around long enough to graduate to real surfboards, but it was still fun.


The beach where we learned to surf.


In case the surfboards didn’t make it clear.

San Juan La Union is a 4ish hour bus ride from Baguio and 6ish hour ride to Manila. It’s along a nice piece of the Luzon coast, facing the South China Sea. Apparently La Union is part of the name to tell it apart from countless other places in the Philippines called San Juan.


Not our surf shop, but similar.

Of course, we didn’t bring a camera with us surfing, so the photos for this post are from the rest of what we did in San Juan La Union (mainly eating).

We had sunsets on the beach.


I enjoy the sunset.


The color was better later.

We tried the local Mexican food. They had nice art on the walls and got the basic ideas (as in Manila, burritos are either “Mission Style” or “San Diego Style”) but the food wasn’t terrific. Unable to resist Mexican food, we went back a second time and brought our own Tapatio hot sauce packets with us, which made all right with the world (at least for a moment in a Taqueria in the Philippines).


Elizabeth’s burrito is the subject of her macro photo practice.


Olas Banditos Mexican Food.


They do know the types of burritos.

And then we found Gefses Greek restaurant — with affordable wine and a view of the beach. Their Tyrokafteri sauce was great, even on imperfect pita.




Wine not?


Mural near Greek food.

It was hot during our visit, and we aren’t sun worshipers so we stayed in the shade a lot.


Cat knows how to handle sun.


Free beer to whoever figures out what the flag between the UK and Germany is. Edit: solved by Mike U., who figured out that it is British East India Company, circa 1801.

And we saw a Jeepney oddly named Chino Hills.


Chino hills?

After our last surfing lesson, we packed up and were off to Manila to catch a flight to Bohol.

[This post describes our visit to San Juan La Union, Luzon, Philippines, from February 14-18, 2017]

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