San Juan Travel Guide

Overview of San Juan

San Juan City has long been a center of history, culture, and trade. Numerous pivotal moments in the history of the country have taken place there. The Battle of San Juan Del Monte, the first conflict of the Philippine Revolution, which occurred there in 1896, sparked the nationalism of our ancestors and resulted in Philippine Independence in 1898. San Juan offers a wide range of dining and retail options for leisure and amusement. Due to the presence of the Greenhills Shopping Center, the city is frequently referred to as the "Tiangge" (flea market) capital of the Metro. The commercial mall has grown to be a city landmark and source of pride.

Indulge in the city's culinary delights, as San Juan's dining scene boasts a fusion of flavors, catering to every discerning palate. Explore the vibrant arts and culture scene, with galleries and theaters showcasing the city's creative spirit. San Juan's warm and friendly locals extend genuine hospitality, making visitors feel right at home.

Experience the tranquility of the city's parks and recreational spaces, providing serene respites amidst the urban bustle. San Juan promises an enriching journey, where heritage and modernity intertwine to create a unique and delightful city experience. Uncover the charm of San Juan and create cherished memories in this captivating Philippine destination.

Where to Go

Urbiztondo Beach

Famous for its surfing waves, Urbiztondo Beach is a must-visit destination for surf enthusiasts and beach lovers alike. Enjoy the sun, sea, and lively atmosphere of this popular beach.

Ma-Cho Temple

Immerse yourself in the cultural heritage of San Juan by visiting the Ma-Cho Temple. This Taoist temple dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu features impressive architecture and offers a serene setting for reflection.

Bauang Beach

Explore the scenic beauty of Bauang Beach, known for its long stretch of shoreline and picturesque landscapes. It's a great spot for relaxation and enjoying the natural surroundings.

Halo-Halo de Iloko

Indulge in the local culinary scene by visiting Halo-Halo de Iloko. This restaurant is famous for its unique take on the Filipino dessert halo-halo, providing a delightful and refreshing treat.

Surfing Schools

Take advantage of the surfing schools along Urbiztondo Beach. Whether you're a beginner or looking to enhance your skills, these schools offer lessons and equipment rental for an exhilarating surfing experience.

La Union Botanical and Zoological Garden

Experience the beauty of nature at the La Union Botanical and Zoological Garden. This green oasis is home to various plant species and provides a tranquil environment for relaxation and exploration.

Sunset Baywalk

Witness breathtaking sunsets along the Sunset Baywalk in San Juan. This scenic spot offers a perfect vantage point to enjoy the changing colors of the sky as the sun sets over the West Philippine Sea.

Pebble Beach

Visit the unique Pebble Beach, characterized by smooth, rounded stones instead of traditional sand. It's an interesting natural feature and a different kind of beach experience.

San Juan Surf Resort

Whether you're staying or just passing by, San Juan Surf Resort is a landmark in the area. It offers beachfront accommodations, dining options, and a lively atmosphere.

What to Do

Surfing at Urbiztondo Beach

San Juan is renowned for its surfing spots, particularly Urbiztondo Beach. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced surfer, the waves here cater to various skill levels.

Beach Relaxation

Enjoy the sun and sea by relaxing on the sandy shores of San Juan's beaches. Urbiztondo and other nearby beaches offer a tranquil setting for sunbathing and swimming.

Visit the Ma-Cho Temple

Explore the Ma-Cho Temple, a Taoist temple dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu. The temple's architecture and cultural significance make it a unique attraction.

Surfing Schools and Lessons

Take advantage of the surfing schools and instructors available along Urbiztondo Beach. Learn to ride the waves and experience the thrill of surfing.

La Union Botanical and Zoological Garden

Discover the flora and fauna of the region at the La Union Botanical and Zoological Garden. It's a peaceful retreat with lush greenery and a variety of plant species.

Sunset Watching

Experience breathtaking sunsets along the beaches of San Juan. Urbiztondo Beach is a popular spot to witness the sun setting over the West Philippine Sea.

Agoo Basilica

Take a short trip to Agoo and visit the Agoo Basilica, also known as the Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Charity. This historical church is a significant religious site.

Waterfalls Exploration

Embark on a short adventure to Tangadan Falls, located nearby. Enjoy a trek through nature and cool off in the refreshing waters of the falls.

Surfing Competitions and Events

Check the local events calendar for surfing competitions and festivals. San Juan hosts various surfing events that attract enthusiasts from around the country.

Art Appreciation

Visit local art galleries and appreciate the works of Filipino artists. San Juan has a growing arts and culture scene.

Explore the Pebble Beach

Visit the unique Pebble Beach, known for its smooth, rounded stones instead of sand. It's an interesting natural feature worth exploring.

When is the Best Time to Visit San Juan

The dry season, spanning from November to April, is considered the peak tourist season in San Juan. During these months, the weather is characterized by minimal rainfall, lower humidity, and plenty of sunshine. These favorable weather conditions make it an ideal time for outdoor activities, beach adventures, and, most notably, surfing. The consistent waves along Urbiztondo Beach attract surf enthusiasts from around the world. The months of February to April, in particular, offer some of the best surfing conditions. Tourists can enjoy clear skies, calm seas, and a vibrant atmosphere during this period.

The wet season, from May to October, brings increased rainfall and higher humidity levels to San Juan. While this period is characterized by occasional heavy rains and the possibility of typhoons, it also offers a unique charm. The lush landscapes become even more vibrant, and the surroundings take on a refreshing green hue. While surfing conditions may not be as optimal during the wet season, the region sees fewer tourists, making it a quieter and more budget-friendly time to visit.

How to Get to San Juan

By Air

San Juan, located in the picturesque province of La Union in the Philippines, offers a range of transportation options for visitors to reach its scenic shores. For those traveling by air, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in Manila serves as a primary gateway. Alternatively, travellers can consider flying into Clark International Airport (CRK) in Pampanga.

From these airports, domestic flights connect to San Juan Airport (SJI) or nearby airports like Laoag International Airport (LAO), facilitating convenient air travel to the region.

By Sea

While San Juan doesn't have a direct ferry service, travellers can opt for a combination of bus and sea travel. Buses from Manila provide a comfortable and cost-effective means to reach San Juan. Visitors can take a bus to San Fernando, La Union, where they can then explore the coastal charm of San Juan.

By Car / Bus

For those who prefer the flexibility of a road trip, driving to San Juan is a viable option. The North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) create a seamless highway network, making the journey from Manila to La Union by car convenient and efficient.

Additionally, bus services from Manila directly to San Juan are available, offering a more relaxed travel option for those who prefer to leave the driving to others. The bus journey typically takes around 6-7 hours, allowing passengers to enjoy the scenic landscapes along the way.

How to Get Around

By Car

If you plan to explore the broader region or take day trips to nearby attractions, renting a car can be a convenient option. Several car rental agencies operate in the area, providing flexibility and ease of travel.

By Motorbike / Scooter

For a more independent mode of transportation, you can consider renting a motorbike or scooter. This option allows you to explore San Juan and its nearby attractions at your own pace. Several rental shops offer these services.

By Taxi / Ride-Sharing Services

Taxis and ride-sharing services may be available in San Juan, providing more comfortable and private transportation. If you prefer the convenience of door-to-door service, consider using these options.

What to Eat

San Juan offers a diverse range of dining options catering to various budgets and preferences, ensuring there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Local Food

Travellers seeking affordable and genuine local cuisine can explore the stalls and eateries around the island such as El Union Coffee, Tagpuan Sa San Juan and Surf Shack.

Fresh Seafood

San Juan is renowned for its abundance of fresh seafood, and several notable restaurants in the area showcase the best of these ocean treasures such as Flotsam & Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel, Surf Shack, Dahun Villas Restauranr and Sebay Surf Resort.

Western Food

San Juan provides a diverse culinary scene that caters to various tastes, including those who crave Western cuisine. Here are few of the notable restaurants such as Mad Monkeys, The Coffee Library, and El Union Coffee.

What to Buy

Discover a shopping paradise in San Juan, where a diverse range of item such as surf gear to local snacks and artisanal coffee, the town offers a unique blend of coastal charm and cultural richness. Dive into themed boutiques for stylish beachwear and accessories or explore local markets for handcrafted handicrafts and indigenous artworks. Indulge in the surf culture with essentials from specialised shops or bring home a piece of artistic flair from local galleries.

Where to Stay

In San Juan, Philippines, you'll find a variety of accommodation options catering to different preferences and budgets. From beachfront resorts to cozy guesthouses, the town offers a range of choices for every type of traveler. If you prefer the convenience of staying near the beach, beachfront resorts like Kahuna Beach Resort and Costa Villa Beach Resort provide stunning views and easy access to the shore.

For a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere, consider boutique guesthouses or bed and breakfasts like Flotsam & Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel. Additionally, there are budget-friendly options and larger hotels that offer comfortable stays with various amenities.

What to Bring

  • Pack lightweight and breathable clothing suitable for warm weather. Include swimsuits, shorts, t-shirts, and comfortable beachwear.
  • Bring sunscreen with high SPF, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield yourself from the tropical sun.
  • Comfortable sandals or flip-flops are ideal for the beach, and you might want sneakers or walking shoes for exploring.
  • Stay hydrated by carrying a reusable water bottle. It's important to drink plenty of water, especially in the warm climate.
  • Pack a beach towel, beach mat, and a good book for relaxation by the shore. Don't forget your snorkel gear if you plan to explore underwater.
  • Protect yourself from mosquitoes by bringing insect repellent, especially if you plan to spend time outdoors in the evening.
  • While the weather is generally sunny, a light rain jacket can be useful for unexpected rain showers.
  • Carry any necessary medications and a basic first aid kit. It's advisable to have common over-the-counter medicines for minor ailments.
  • Have some local currency (Philippine Peso) as well as credit/debit cards for transactions. ATM machines are available but may not be widely distributed.

What to Wear

Travellers are advised to prepare for San Juan's tropical climate by packing light and breathable attire. Embrace the relaxed beach atmosphere with comfortable clothing such as shorts, t-shirts, and swimsuits. Sunblock, pack a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, particularly when basking on the beautiful beaches. These essentials ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience in the laid-back coastal environment of San Juan.

Things to Note

  • San Juan has a tropical climate, so pack light and breathable clothing to stay comfortable in the warm weather.
  • Given the sunny weather, bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat for effective sun protection.
  • If you plan to spend time at the beach, pack beach towels, swimwear, and snorkel gear for a delightful seaside experience.
  • While some establishments accept cards, it is advisable to carry cash, especially in smaller shops and markets.
  • English and Filipino are widely spoken, making communication relatively easy for English speakers.
  • While San Juan generally experiences sunny weather, be prepared for occasional rain showers, especially during the wet season.

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