If you are looking for a relaxing tropical vacation in Southeast Asia, San Juan, a city on the north western coast of the Luzon Island group in the Philippines, is a good option due to its clean and not so crowded beaches. Located off the South China Sea, the city belongs to La Union province and is well-known in the international surfing community for its intermediate swells, some of which can go up to 15 feet. A few of these beach and reef breaks are predictable and fun – perfect for beginners, while others can challenge more advanced surfers.
There are several surf schools and resorts located along the coast in San Juan, which offer a range of water sports and activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, skim boarding and beach volleyball. The gorgeous beaches are also perfect for a lazy vacation making sand castles with the kids, sun bathing or watching beautiful sunsets. The nearby mountainous region in La Union presents opportunities for hiking. In addition, visiting the villages in the neighboring areas can get you acquainted with rural life in the Philippines.
The area is located further north of San Fernando, which is the capital of La Union province. San Fernando is the gateway to the nearby beaches as it is connected to Manila by buses (6 hours) and flights (1 hour). In addition, for tourists staying at the beach resorts in San Juan, the short ride to San Fernando presents interesting sightseeing options such as the botanical gardens and the Ma Cho temple.
Whatever type of accommodation you are looking for, San Juan has many options from resorts and inns to long stay apartments. For food and drink, you will find several bars and restaurants along the beach, some of which are European-owned. The restaurants cater mainly to tourists and surfers and offer beer, international cuisine and local La Union dishes. The nightlife is relaxed with quiet evenings spent drinking at resorts. If you want nightclubs and discotheques, San Fernando has a few.
Since English is widely spoken in the Philippines, you won’t have to pack a phrase book. Filipino (Tagalog) is the official language. However, you are more likely to hear the locals speaking Ilocano, the dialect of the La Union province.
If you are wondering when to go, San Juan has two distinct seasons – wet and dry. The southwest monsoon passes over the region from May to October, bringing rainfall that is occasionally heavy. The dry season is from November to April, when temperatures soar and the swells decrease. For surfers, there are two main seasons, when the swells are the best. The North swell stretches from October to March, while the South swell begins in late May and continues until August. December and January are the most popular (and most crowded) months for surfing.
So, whether you like activity-filled vacations or relaxing ones, San Juan has lots to offer. Keep in mind the weather and the surfing seasons before you plan your vacation in the city.