The ever growing development in the surf town of San Juan, La Union can be daunting on the budget. While lot prices increase, dining, accommodations and recreational options seem to be on the rise as well – with a price. So to all the pocket pinchers and cost-weary, we’ve rummaged through our travels for the cheapest places to eat, sleep, play and shop in the coastal township.
So here are a few options on how to go about your R&R in La Union on a budget!
When we say on a budget, we mean cheap. A budget of Php 50 will get you a full meal of rice, ulam and even some vegetables if you’re lucky. Although cost-cutting means limited options, don’t expect more than your usual turo-turo choices but made with all the love of Mommy Norms and fresh local ingredients.
Tip: Best to be there at exactly lunch time (around noon) if you want your food still hot when served to you.
A favorite of tourists and locals alike, Nak-Nak dishes out short orders and big servings for those looking for a good meal without the hefty price. Along the highway, an unremarkable location keeps it clandestine to most visitors unless you ask specific directions. You’ll be surprised with how filling their food is for a budget of Php60 to 80 -from an overloaded vegetable omelet to their bangus sisig rice meal.
Tip: They may close by 8 pm but food runs out as early as 7:30pm so best to be there for an early dinner to cap off a day of surfing and relaxing.
With rates from just Php 450 to Php 550 for a hammock or bed, The Circle Hostel is the ideal option for the budget-conscious backpacker. With its open-air set-up and communal spaces, guests are encouraged to meet each other and hang out. Wi-fi for those who need to work is provided while a free breakfast of breads, spreads and fruits are enough to start off a morning of surfing.
Tip: Get discounts on your stay when you go during off-season. Hammocks go for Php 350 while beds go for Php 450 from June to August.
For those that prefer air-conditioned accommodations, CT Apartelle offers air-con rooms for as low as Php 1,200 a night which is good for two. Another plus with the apartelle is that it has a rooftop deck that gives its guests views of the beach (for wave watching) and makes a perfect venue for some drunken star gazing when the weather is cooperative.
Tip: The owner is a doctor and many minor surf accidents like cuts and bruises are easily tended at the ground floor which doubles as a privy home clinic.
East of San Juan and bordering the next municipality of San Gabriel is the location for the famed mother falls, more popularly known by the locals as Tangadan Falls. An hour (or two) of hiking through scenic views of farmlands, then through streams, cliff phases and lush forests leads towards a massive rock formation where you’ll find the crazy and courageous jumping off into a semi-shallow pool of fresh water. Guides are only at Php 100 per person so be generous and leave a tip!
Tip: Further uphill, you’ll find a more serene setting with less to no people because of its tricky terrain. The climb is worth it though with a pool all to yourselves and a view of untouched nature.
Photo from Girl Travel Factor
Bahay na Bato
North of San Juan is the township of Luna where the iconic Bahay na Bato stands. Recently opened to the public from its past as a private vacation house has placed the quaint town on the map of tourist attractions. Purely made out of pebble and stone, it serves as an open art gallery by Korean sculptor Bong Kim, who has passed on his art to the locals in the area. For only Php 20, you are encouraged to indulge in the purely organic art amidst a seaside view.
Tip: Got a special occasion coming up? The owners rent out the Bahay na Bato as an events venue for weddings, birthdays, baptisms and the like.
Look fashionable with sustainable jewelry with Tali Ti Amianan, a noble enterprise that converts trash into treasure. Using upcycled textiles and aluminum, Tali Ti Amianan creates memorable works of art from wave-shaped rings to braided charm bracelets. Prices start at a modest Php 100.
Tip: Catch them at bazaar and mini markets around La Union or contact: 09253034384.
Ridge to Reef
A weekend market situated at the backyard of El Union with everything from organic pizza to Tali Ti Amianan’s creations. What makes this special is that it is created by the locals themselves, selling locally made goods to everyone interested. What stands out though, is that their products are excellent – homemade vegetarian empanaditas, fish tacos, fresh fruit juices and even inabel yoga mats.
Tip: Do join the workshops offered. They’re headed by the most talented and laid back professionals that encompass everything sustainable from building with bamboo to the lessons on the local ecology.