La Union (Spanish, pronounced as ‘lah unyon’) is a longitudinal province located in the northern part of the Luzon island. Its 100-mile highway outstretched an entire coastal line facing the vast South China Sea connecting the province of Pangasinan and Ilocos Sur. Most people living in this province are Ilocanos known to their comic attitude and thrifty ways on handling their expenses.
Back in the old days when I was a kid, I knew nothing about La Union. I knew it as a plain territory that we have to cross for hours before reaching our tiny hometown of Sta. Lucia in Ilocos Sur.
La Union had a number of improvements in tourism and economy in the past few years. Today, with the initiative from locals and foreigners and endorsements from known celebrities, the province has garnered the title of being one of the best surfing spots in the Philippines. With this, tourism has skyrocketed and the influx of travelers has increased. With its fame and limelight, people coined the term “Elyu” as a sobriquet in this once-an-ordinary province.
The coastal district of San Juan, La Union is considered as the surfing capital of the Northern Philippines. There are a number of hostels in this surfing town and one of which is the Flotsam and Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel.
This post is composed of 1,300 words divided into 5 different sections showcasing our experience in this beautiful beach hostel. Click on the specific section below to jump into its content.
- Endless Tropical Vibe of Flotsam & Jetsam
- A Surfer’s Sanctuary
- A Colorful Plate at the Hungry Nomad KitchenBar
- Dancing with the Waves of La Union
- Wrapping Up and How to Visit Flotsam & Jetsam
Endless Tropical Vibe
It was the sixth month of the year when we visited this place and the summer heat was still evident. The number of travelers though were few since summer in the Philippines had just ceased a day prior to end of May. With it, the clouds were enormous in the sky shrouding the light of the sun, a sign of an upcoming rainfall in the afternoon. We arrived in the hostel around 1000H and requested for an early check in.
What’s riveting about this surfing hostel is the design. Some people might say it’s purely hispter but in my view it is peculiar and unique. In the reception area, there were mini-sized illustration boards hanged on a wall displaying information of the weather and wave forecast, rules and reminders jotted with colorful chalks.
Every angle was embellished. You’ll see different kinds of small to medium-sized figurines, landscape photographs on wooden frame and ethnically modern oil-based murals. What caught my attention though were the Japanese umbrellas printed with various floral design hanged upside down in the ceiling. The whole hostel was painted with pleasing flat neutral hues conveying a nice tropical vibe. (Back to top)
A Surfer’s Sanctuary
We stayed in their air-conditioned premium dormitory with shared bathrooms. This 4-bed dorm room is petite yet with enough space to occupy two bunk beds on both sides. Though the room is quite claustrophobic in size, it is not short in function.
Each bed is equipped with a privacy curtain, light and power outlet on one side, individual locker with lock, set of pillow, linens and a comfortable mattress enough to mend our tired body. Wireless internet is also available upon request. On the other hand, the price of this dorm room was surprising. One occupied bed costs ₱1080 ($21.60) a night. Since we were a group of five then the total cost was ₱5400 ($108). That’s a little bit expensive for a beach hostel like this. Nevertheless, we went out and explored if this place was worth the price. (Back to top)
A Colorful Plate at the KitchenBar
If you don’t like staying on a hostel with tight spaces, well Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel is not designed for that. Those beds are devised only for sleep. Rather, you have to live the hostel life and be extrovert. You have to go out and enjoy the energetic vibe of the place especially in their own Hungry Nomad Kitchenbar.
This bar and restaurant is located on the beach side of the hostel. Similar to the rooms and hallways of the place, it is heavily ornate which speaks of the artistic identity of Flotsam and Jetsam. It has a wooden platform populated with tables and rattan chairs enough to accommodate a number of guests. Suspended lighting with different accents and colors hanged in the ceiling of the bar giving life and ambiance especially in the night.
There’s also a bamboo hut on the outer part of the kitchenbar with available microbead pillows and cushions perfect for spending a chill time with your friends while savoring the sound of the waves in the beach.
Aside from its sense of community, the Hungry Nomad Kitchenbar also serves continental dishes readily available for gastronomes like me. For lunch, I ordered their fried chicken padang (Left) for ₱270 ($5.40). My friends, on the other hand, ordered their breaded porkchop (Right) for ₱260 ($5.20) and nomad green curry for ₱290 ($5.80).
What I liked about their dish was the colors presented in the plate. The chicken was well fried and crispy with no excess oil seeping in every bite. The viand was partnered with high fiber red rice, served with various greens like eggplants and tomatoes, topped with anchovies and hard-boiled egg. Dipping the crispy chicken in that special sour sauce produced a flavorful explosion inside the mouth. The red rice easily provides satiety due to its generous fiber content which makes it a highly nutritious dish.
Availing any of their accommodation entitles you for a free breakfast in the kitchenbar. In the morning, they served different kinds of complex carbs like cereals, breads, jams and coffee which was perfect for energizing your day. The bar also serves draft beers and various booze and cocktails perfect for socialization in the night. (Back to top)
Dance with the Waves of La Union
At the heart of Flotsam and Jetsam Beach Hostel is their intense passion for surfing. With the help from foreign nationals who introduced this leisure, La Union became one of the best surfing spots in the Philippines.
Surfing Lessons and Fee
Similar to other surfing spots across the country, renting for a board or taking up lessons are affordable. Here, I availed their surfing lessons for only ₱400 ($8.00) inclusive of 1-hour board rental and fee for the instructor. If you already know how to surf but don’t have any surfing board to play, then you can rent one for only ₱200 ($4.00) per hour.
This was my third time surfing in the Philippines (first in Baler, then Reál) and I was glad that my skills has improved over time. A few more lessons and I think I’ll be riding combers and breakers soon. (Wishful thinking haha)
Unfortunately, the swells were not enormous when we surfed in La Union. It was the off season and locals told us that the waves were usually rampant during the months of July to October and November to March. Still we were able to enjoy surfing in La Union yet we have to wait for a good quality wave to arrive during our session for better experience. (Back to top)
In conclusion, we had an amazing time in Flotsam and Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel. The atmosphere was lively and energetic, the staffs were congenial and accommodating, the food was a little bit pricey yet the taste and quality were remarkable, their dorm room was tight but not short in function and surfing were fun but the waves were a little bit shy that time.
Is the price worth it? I can say the price is just right for a beautiful place like this. It is nice to spend a little bit more for quality stay and vacation.
Will I ever visit this place again? Definitely! If I will make another come back in this surfing town then I will surely stay in this hostel again. Nevertheless, Flotsam and Jetsam is a place of unending summer.
Flotsam and Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel
If you’re looking for a unique place to stay in San Juan, La Union then this is one of the best choice for you. Flotsam and Jetsam offers a variety of accommodation suitable to your needs.
How to Visit Flotsam and Jetsam?
If you have a private vehicle, then use any navigation apps like Waze or Google Maps and key in Flotsam and Jetsam as your destination.
On the other hand, if you’re going to commute, the best option is to take a Partas bus from Cubao, Quezon City to San Fernando City, La Union (travel time around 4-5 hours depending on the traffic). Fare is ₱436 for a regular AC bus. From the bus station in San Fernando, take either a tricycle (₱80 per passenger) or a jeepney (₱11 one way) going to Flotsam and Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel. (Back to top)
For further details and reservations, you can check their interactive website at http://www.flotsamandjetsamhostel.com/.
Thank you to Paolo Sicat (my handsome bestfriend haha) for sharing his photographs for this article. You can visit his Instagram account at instagram.com/paolosicat