I found Surfista Travels by chance. A friend’s recommendation to research San Juan, La Union, The Philippines led me to Facebook, which is where I eventually found the Manila based company. Generally put off by anything commercial and particularly with the word tour in it, I found myself deeply interested in the Surfista Travels website. I think it was something in owner and operator Elaine Abonal’s tone on her Facebook posts that grabbed me. If memory serves correct, my initial impression was that her tone was genuine, not a mind numbing sales pitch.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself watching two Surfista Travels YouTube pieces and I was sold. During the tour I was told, I was their first customer, ever.
Being a Foreigner trying to book a tour in a country you have never visited, run and operated independently by a company whose YouTube marketing pieces had approximately ten views apiece can illicit a bit of insecurity. Basically, is this a scam?
From the moment I initiated correspondence with Elaine via email until our initial meeting in a Manila parking lot at approximately 4:30 am, there was nothing in Elaine’s demeanor that made me question either her integrity or her capabilities. I knew things would be under control.
The tour itself? A ton of fun and an incredible intro to The Philippines.
After making the six hour plus trip (including stops) in a van to the San Juan Surf Resort in San Juan, La Union, everything was laid out, but not contrictively so. As a result and as a participant who had taken over two days to get there (from Buriram to Bangkok to Manila to San Juan), I was able to enjoy my time. I was also very fortunate to make the trip with what I would consider an ideal group of open, interesting and cool people.
Elaine was well organized and pumped with infectious positivity. As a newcomer who needed a bit more attention getting her bearing in a new country, Elaine eased the transition. For example, I had assumed San Juan would have an ATM within walking distance of our destination and had only brought a small amount of cash with me. Elaine arranged for our driver to escort me to neighbouring San Fernando where I would find one.
In terms of the three hours of surf lessons included in the package, I was coupled with an instructor that was super chill and fun to hang with. I later purchased more lessons from him as I stayed on Urbiztondo beach for the remainder of my stay in The Philippines, which lasted approximately three weeks.
Complaints about the tour? Nah…..everything was great.
Would I recommend it? Check what I, among others on the trip had to say….
Surfista Travels website here.
For San Juan hotel reviews and info, check out my post Surfing The Philippines.