La Union, Philippines

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If there is a spot that surfers love in the island of Luzon, it would be La Union. This province in the Ilocos Region is known as the Surfing Capital of the North, owed mainly to the strong waves of San Juan Beach. La Union faces the South China Sea to its west and is bordered by the Cordillera Mountains to its east, providing a from-the-sea-to-the-summit adventure for its visitors.

Unlike most of islands in the Philippines, the area where La Union is situated experiences prolonged and arid dry seasons, perfect for tourists looking to experience the sun as much as he can. While this sounds very enticing to sun lovers, it is never too smart to slap on extra SPF when out exploring. The tropical sun, as we all know, can be quite unforgiving.

San Fernando City is the nerve center of the province, with a lot of  government offices, establishments, hotels and restaurants scattered in its vicinity. The city is about a five-hour drive from Metro Manila and an hour from Baguio City. Located near the geographical center of La Union, San Fernando is an ideal base camp for travelers wanting to explore the entire province.

Over the years, La Union has blossomed into a progressive area attracting not only investors but tourists both local and foreign. The province is a cornucopia of natural wonders, cultural offerings and religious places that cater to different interests. To explore La Union in a three-day sojourn is not realistic; one needs at least a week, a vehicle and an adventurous spirit to see the best it has to offer.

Perhaps the most prominent attraction of the province is the miles of shoreline facing the mighty South China Sea. The beach fever hit the shores of San Juan, Bauang and San Fernando over the past decades and resorts have mushroomed in the coastal towns ever since.

The northern beaches of San Juan are a surfer’s paradise; the swells are at their best during November through February. San Juan is about 7 kilometers north of San Fernando City; visitors can ride a jeepney or a bus to Urbiztondo where most resorts fronting the best spots are located.

The beaches of Bauang located south of San Fernando City are the most visited. Although the sand is not the typical white that most tourists go for, the beaches in this area are visited for its gentler waves. Bauang waters are considered ‘swimmable” but the waves are still suited for skim boarding and other water sports. Bauang attracts plenty of tourists by offering low-cost accommodations close to the shore.

Aside from being an excellent beach destination, La Union is also an ecotourism haven. Rivers, springs, waterfalls and coral formations await the nature lover in many towns within the province. The Tuddingan Falls in Naguillan is a favorite among daredevils who like to jump from a dizzying height in to the cold fresh waters below. This majestic waterfall can be accessed via a cemented pathway which makes it accessible even to the non-hiker. Other ecotourism attractions in the province include Lon-oy Springs in San Gabriel and the Bolikewkew Rice Terraces which is actually a part of the famous rice terraces of Banaue.

The province of La Union is also known for several products that are sold in and out of the country. A visit to the province is never complete without having a glass (or perhaps and bottle?) of Basi, the famous wine made from sugar cane extract. The taste varies from one producer to another but the distinct taste is something that should not be missed. Those who have adventurous taste buds can try maratangtang, the meat of sea urchins farmed in the coastal communities of La Union. This exotic delicacy is a favorite among locals, eaten fresh or mixed in some seafood dishes.

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