It’s officially summer in the Philippines and many of those who haven’t traveled yet are thinking of hitting the beach. If you are from Luzon, especially Metro Manila as well as its neighboring towns and cities, one of the favorite beach destinations is the province of La Union or Elyu to the frequenters.
When you think of Elyu, the first thing that will probably come to mind is the surfing beach in Brgy. Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union, or simply known as the Surftown. It’s a go-to for surfers as well as weekenders from nearby places. Indeed, most people go to San Juan for the beach.
So, when it comes to beach essentials, you easily think of sunscreen for your skin, beach hat, sunglasses, beach tote, your favorite beach read, and of course, your LU-appropriate swimming attire that can ride the waves with you without any malfunction.
However, if you are like me and my friends, we go to Elyu not just for the beach or to surf, but to discover its awe-inspiring and sometimes lesser-known waterfalls and other hidden gems outside the town of San Juan. So far, we have already visited a total of five waterfalls since last year, and we intend to visit more if and when circumstances permit. And so I’m here to give you a rundown of some essentials for when you want to veer away from the well-trodden paths around this beautiful province in the North.
Trekking shoes or sandals. While a sturdy pair of flip-flops will probably survive a short trek, it’s better if you’re wearing a good pair of trekking shoes or sandals when you’re off to discover new and hidden waterfalls. It will come in handy when you come across muddy paths, a bolder you have to climb over, or when you have to cross a gushing river.
Sun hat/cap. Leave the beach hat in your hotel room or actually, leave it at home and save it for your Boracay or El Nido trip in the future. In Elyu, you might want to instead bring an outdoor sports hat or headscarf that will protect you from the harsh summer sun and at the same time, won’t bother you when the strong wind blows while you’re back-riding on a motorcycle or habal-habal on your way to see a majestic waterfalls four towns away from San Juan. When your hand is not busy holding your hat in place, you can take a selfie, just do it carefully, and safely.
Power bank. Super powerful power bank, if possible. Because even if the tour guide says the travel plus trek will take about three hours, there’s a good chance that you will be gone the entire day and you need to charge up your mobile phone so you can update your family, reply to a co-worker who’s bothering you while you’re on vacay, take snaps along the way, and when there’s a signal, send those shots to your group chat ‘for posterity.’
First-aid kit. This is a must. You don’t have to carry a toolbox-like kit, but inside your tote, at least you should have an antiseptic, bandage, ointment for a scrape, wound, insect bite, or rashes, anti-allergy, and antacid if you tend to get acid reflux attacks out of nowhere. If you’re feeling like a real Boy or Girl Scout, you can add more to the list. A trekker friend of mine who’s a pro when it comes to hiking needs would always bring his Swiss Army Knife and a flashlight. But we’re newbies and we make sure we’re back in our hotel rooms on or before sundown, so the abovementioned will do.
Coffee filter, ground coffee, and flask or tumbler. If you are a sunrise-catcher or an early-riser and coffee is a must the moment you wake up, you might not find your favorite Elyu coffee shops already open to serve you. I suggest you bring your own ground coffee and coffee maker such as a syphon or a French press. In fact, a coffee filter would do. Chances are, you can request hot water or borrow a water boiler from the management of the resort hotel/hostel you are staying in. Also, you might want to bring your coffee paraphernalia on your trek. It would be nice to have your favorite coffee blend while listening to the relaxing sound of the waterfalls.
Extra tote. This is for when you find an interesting souvenir item to buy at a nondescript shop in a small town somewhere, or when you happen to pass by Breadwinner Bakery in San Juan town proper and you want to buy your family back home some potato or cinnamon loaves as pasalubong.
Jacket or shawl/stole. I know it’s summer and it’s usually really hot in any part of La Union these days but who knows, you might want to drive further North to Baguio, the Summer Capital of the Philippines, which is only an hour and a half to two hours away from Elyu. I mean, why not consider this appealing choice? Well, whether you head to Baguio or not, you can lay your stole on the sand, sit there with an ice-cold drink in your hand, and just admire the relentless crashing of the waves before you.
People visit Elyu for various reasons. Some want an adventure like surfing, others simply want to chill, or work on the beach. Whatever your reasons may be when you visit the Surftown, knowing your essentials will make your stay more enjoyable. Be sure that your list of Elyu needs is complete, and that when you’re there already enjoying the beach, the people, and the vibe, you can say to yourself that it was a job well done.
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