After Dark Delights: A Guide to San Juan La Union's Bar Scene

Published on
May 16, 2024

Sunsets paint the sky with fiery hues, surfers head in from conquering the waves, and a different kind of energy takes hold in San Juan, La Union. As the stars emerge and the moon casts its silvery glow, the town transforms into a vibrant hub of nightlife, offering options for every mood and taste. This guide delves into the diverse bar scene of San Juan, helping you navigate the after-dark havens that perfectly complement your adventurous day.

Beachside Bliss: Bars with a Breathtaking View

San Juan's coastline boasts a string of bars offering stunning ocean views, perfect for unwinding with a refreshing drink as the sun dips below the horizon.

The Surfer's Point Bar & Restaurant (Urbiztondo Road): Nestled right beside Urbiztondo Surf Camp, The Surfer's Point Bar & Restaurant is a local favorite. Grab a cold beer or a handcrafted cocktail and watch the surfers carve through the waves, all while enjoying the breathtaking sunset over the ocean. Their menu features classic Filipino dishes and international favorites, making it a great spot for a pre-drinks meal as well.

Flotsam and Jetsam (Urbiztondo Road): This stylish artist hostel boasts a lively bar with an open-air beachfront setting. Flotsam and Jetsam features colorful artsy lamps and wooden furniture, creating a laid-back atmosphere. Sip on their signature cocktails or local beers while enjoying live music nights or themed events.

Gnarly Surf Bar & Restaurant (Bacnotan Road): Located on the quieter end of San Juan's beachfront, Gnarly Surf Bar & Restaurant offers a relaxed vibe with stunning sunset views. Unwind on their comfy beanbags, indulge in refreshing cocktails or local craft brews, and witness the mesmerizing spectacle of the sky ablaze with color. Their menu includes delicious seafood dishes and classic bar bites, perfect for satisfying your hunger pangs.

Lively Hubs: Bars with a Buzz

For those seeking a more energetic atmosphere, San Juan offers several lively bars bustling with activity.

The Ruins Pub & Kitchen (Urbiztondo Road): Step into The Ruins Pub & Kitchen, and you'll be transported to a vibrant space housed within a charming old building. Exposed brick walls, vintage furniture, and an eclectic mix of music create a unique ambiance. Sip on creatively named cocktails, local beers, or a variety of spirits, and mingle with the friendly crowd. The bar often hosts live music nights with local bands, adding to the energetic atmosphere.

Northpoint Bar (Urbiztondo Road): Calling all sports fans! Northpoint Bar is a haven for those who want to catch the latest games and cheer alongside fellow enthusiasts. With multiple screens playing various sporting events, a lively atmosphere, and a wide selection of beers and cocktails, Northpoint Bar offers the perfect spot to unwind and celebrate victories.

Vault 8521 (Urbiztondo Road): Hidden behind a non-descript entrance lies Vault 8521, a speakeasy-inspired bar oozing with speakeasy charm. Dim lighting, vintage furniture, and a curated cocktail list transport you to a bygone era.  Here, skilled bartenders craft classic cocktails using premium ingredients, ensuring a truly sophisticated experience.

Unique Experiences: Bars with a Twist

San Juan offers some exceptional bars catering to those seeking a distinctive experience.

Halo Halo de Iloko (Urbiztondo Road): While not strictly a bar, Halo Halo de Iloko deserves a mention for its unique and refreshing offerings. This popular eatery and bar specializes in the iconic Filipino dessert "Halo Halo" – a vibrant concoction layered with shaved ice, sweetened beans, fruits, and leche flan.  However, their bar menu also boasts a delicious selection of fruit-infused cocktails and local beers, making it a perfect spot for a cool and refreshing after-dinner drink.

The Coffee Juan (Urbiztondo Road): Don't let the name fool you! While The Coffee Juan excels in brewing delicious coffee beverages, they also offer a delightful evening transformation. As dusk arrives, the space transforms into a chill bar with live music nights featuring local acoustic acts. Enjoy a cup of their locally sourced coffee, indulge in handcrafted cocktails named after popular coffee drinks, and soak in the intimate atmosphere.

Tipple and Brew (Urbiztondo Road): For craft beer enthusiasts, Tipple and Brew is a must-visit. This cozy bar boasts a rotating selection of locally-brewed beers on tap, offering a chance to explore the evolving Philippine craft beer scene. They also offer a curated selection of bottled beers and signature cocktails, ensuring something for everyone.

Beyond the Bar Scene: Late-Night Eats‍

After a night of revelry, San Juan caters to your late-night cravings with a variety of options to satiate your hunger pangs. Here are some popular choices:

Street Food Delights: San Juan's vibrant night markets offer a plethora of delicious and affordable street food options. From savory barbeque skewers and sizzling sisig (chopped pork sizzling dish) to sweet banana cue (deep-fried bananas coated in caramel) and taho (fresh tofu with tapioca pearls), these street vendors offer a taste of local cuisine perfect for a quick and satisfying bite.

Late-Night Eateries: Several restaurants in San Juan cater to the late-night crowd. Look for establishments like carinderias (small Filipino eateries) or local grills operating until the wee hours. You can indulge in classic Filipino dishes like silog meals (fried rice with meat and a fried egg) or hearty noodle soups – perfect for soaking up the night's activities.

Additional Tips for Exploring San Juan's Bar Scene

Transportation: San Juan offers various transportation options for navigating the bar scene. Tricycles (motorcycles with sidecars) are a readily available and affordable way to get around. You can also hire habal-habal (motorcycle taxis) for longer distances. However, if staying within the main beachfront area, most bars are within walking distance of each other.

Safety: While San Juan is generally safe, it's always wise to exercise caution, especially late at night. Stick to well-lit areas, keep an eye on your belongings, and avoid walking alone in deserted areas.

Local Customs: When visiting bars, it's customary to greet the staff and fellow patrons with a friendly "Mabuhay!" (meaning "Welcome" in Tagalog). Filipinos are known for their hospitality, so don't be surprised if you strike up friendly conversations with locals at the bar.

Embrace the Vibe: San Juan's bar scene offers a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Dress comfortably, come with an open mind, and be ready to experience the vibrant nightlife of this charming town.

Planning Your San Juan After-Dark Adventure

With its diverse range of bars, San Juan caters to all preferences – from those seeking a relaxed beachside setting with breathtaking views to those wanting a lively and energetic atmosphere.  Here's how to plan your unforgettable after-dark adventure:

Research Bars: Browse online resources or ask your accommodation for recommendations on bars that align with your preferences. Many bars have social media pages showcasing their ambiance, events, and signature drinks.

Plan Your Itinerary: Decide which bars you'd like to visit based on location, atmosphere, and type of experience you seek. You can easily visit several bars within walking distance if exploring the central beachfront area.

Embrace the Spontaneity: While planning helps, allow for some spontaneity. You might discover hidden gems or stumble upon a local event that piques your interest.

Budget Accordingly: Prices at bars in San Juan are generally affordable. However, factor in your planned drinks, food at late-night eateries, and transportation costs.

Conclusion: Unwinding and Experiencing San Juan's Soul

San Juan's bar scene offers the perfect way to unwind after a day of exploring, indulging in surfing sessions, or simply soaking up the beach vibes.  Whether you're seeking stunning ocean views, lively music, or a unique speakeasy experience, San Juan has a bar that caters to your mood.  Beyond the drinks and music, the bars offer a window into the local culture, allowing you to connect with the friendly spirit of San Juan.  So, raise a glass, soak in the vibrant atmosphere, and experience the soul of San Juan after dark.

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