San Fernando City Photo: Paul G.

San Fernando City

San Fernando is the capital of the north’s prime surfing destination, La Union. But aside from its various beach resorts, you’ll find plenty of other stunning natural and cultural attractions to explore within the city. Visit historic colonial ruins, learn about local biodiversity, tour majestic Chinese structures, and climb up the city’s rolling hills for stunning vistas of the San Fernando Bay.

One of San Fernando’s most popular attractions is its seven hills, where travelers and locals flock to enjoy panoramic views of the city and the nearby sea. Start your tour of the hills by visiting the Provincial Capitol on Capitol Hill. Here, you can make your way up to the building’s rooftop balcony for a breathtaking view of San Fernando city’s coastline and the West Philippine Sea.

Situated at the eastern portion of Capitol Hill is the Heroes Hill and Freedom Park Stairway, where you’ll find nine statues that pay tribute to Philippine national heroes. Climb the 153 steps leading to the top of the hill and you’ll be rewarded with yet another commanding view of the city.

Another popular place for sightseeing and leisurely strolling is the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Pagoda, a peaceful haven sitting on top of Pagoda Hill. You can also check out the historic sites atop Miracle Hill, Mirador Hill, Mariner’s Hill, and Bethany Hill, where Protestant missionaries built the Bethany Hospital in the 1920s.

Believe it or not, San Fernando is also home to the majestic Ma-Cho Temple, one of the few Taoist temples located outside of Metro Manila. This stunning piece of Taoist architecture is named after the Chinese deity Ma-Cho, who is believed by locals to be the counterpart of the Roman Catholic “Virgin of Casaysay” in Taal, Batangas.

Immerse yourself in Chinese culture by touring the temple’s grand staircases, magnificent arches, intricately carved dome, and beautifully sculpted stone statues of 18 Chinese saints. Guests can relax in the temple’s sprawling brick courtyard, watch the goldfish in its pond adorned with water lilies, and enjoy a romantic view of the sea beneath the courtyard’s towering arch.

Get to know more about San Fernando’s rich past by visiting other historical sites like the Moro Watch Tower, Bacsil Ridge Monument, and Cathedral of St. William the Hermit. Religion and history buffs can also check out Christ the Redeemer Statue on Reservoir Hill.

One of the city’s most enchanting historical landmarks is the Pindangan Ruins site, which houses the remnants of a Spanish-era stone thatch church built in 1764 to centralize the area’s evangelization. Today, only a few weathered stone buttresses and walls remain, along with a centuries-old brick and coral stone well located beside the church.

If you want to get away from the busy streets of San Fernando, head to the La Union Botanical Garden, a serene retreat located in the rolling hills of Barangay Cadaclan. Guests can relax and learn about plants by exploring the garden’s various sections, which house different kinds of tropical, sub-tropical, and desert climate plants.

You can marvel at the beauty of ornamental plants in the Chinese Garden, enjoy the soothing scents of aromatic plants in the Fragrance Garden, learn about therapeutic plants in the Medicinal Garden, or check out the collection of cacti and succulents in the Arid Paradise. This center for plant and laboratory research also houses different types of wildlife in its aviary and mini-zoo.

Once you’re done exploring the city, treat yourself to a stunning sunset by the peaceful shores of Sunset Bay or Bauang Beach. And if you want to enjoy the sunset from a higher vantage point, try heading to Pagoda Hill, Christ the Redeemer statue, or the Ma-Cho Temple, where you’ll find some of the most breathtaking views of San Fernando Bay.

Don’t forget to stop by the San Fernando’s famous artsy restaurant, Halo-Halo de Iloko, for a taste of their classic Ilocano dishes and famous Buko Halo Halo dessert. You can also pass by Cafe Esperanza on your way out and buy some sweet treats and pastries to munch on back home.

Top Rated Restaurants in San Fernando City Browse All

  1. Halo Halo de Iloko Balay
    4.4 Stars
    Filipino
    46 Reviews View
  2. Surf Shack
    4.5 Stars
    International
    29 Reviews View
  3. Olives Restaurant
    4.2 Stars
    Mediterranean
    13 Reviews View
  4. Tagpuan sa San Juan
    4.7 Stars
    Filipino
    6 Reviews View
  5. Gefseis Greek Grill
    4.3 Stars
    Greek
    8 Reviews View
  6. Coast Call Kitchen & Bar
    4.3 Stars
    International
    7 Reviews View
  7. Gefseis Greek Grill
    4.0 Stars
    Greek
    11 Reviews View
  8. Taipan Garden
    4.8 Stars
    Chinese
    4 Reviews View
  9. Midway Grill
    3.8 Stars
    International
    14 Reviews View
  10. Mad Monkeys
    4.5 Stars
    Burger
    4 Reviews View

Top Rated Hotels in San Fernando City Browse All

  1. Thunderbird Resorts
    4.4 Stars
    Hotel
    42 Reviews View
  2. San Juan Surf Resort
    4.3 Stars
    Hotel
    28 Reviews View
  3. The Circle Hostel La Union
    4.4 Stars
    Hotel
    10 Reviews View
  4. Kahuna Beach Resort and Spa
    4.1 Stars
    Hotel
    13 Reviews View
  5. Sebay Surf Resort
    3.9 Stars
    Hotel
    9 Reviews View
  6. Angel and Marie's Place
    4.7 Stars
    Hotel
    3 Reviews View
  7. Sunset Bay Beach Resort
    5.0 Stars
    Hotel
    2 Reviews View
  8. Fatwave Surf Resort
    4.0 Stars
    Hotel
    1 Review View
  9. Hotel Mikka
    3.0 Stars
    Hotel
    1 Review View
  10. Oasis Country Resort
    3.0 Stars
    Hotel
    1 Review View

Top Rated Places in San Fernando City Browse All

  1. El Union Coffee
    4.8 Stars
    Coffee
    47 Reviews View
  2. Halo Halo de Iloko Balay
    4.4 Stars
    Filipino
    46 Reviews View
  3. Thunderbird Resorts
    4.4 Stars
    Hotel
    42 Reviews View
  4. Surf Shack
    4.5 Stars
    International
    29 Reviews View
  5. San Juan Surf Resort
    4.3 Stars
    Hotel
    28 Reviews View
  6. Urbiztondo Beach
    4.7 Stars
    Great Outdoors
    10 Reviews View
  7. The Circle Hostel La Union
    4.4 Stars
    Hotel
    10 Reviews View
  8. Olives Restaurant
    4.2 Stars
    Mediterranean
    13 Reviews View
  9. Tagpuan sa San Juan
    4.7 Stars
    Filipino
    6 Reviews View
  10. Kahuna Beach Resort and Spa
    4.1 Stars
    Hotel
    13 Reviews View