Vessel Hostel: Where Comfort Meets Adventure in La Union's Surfing Paradise
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La Union has been on our travel bucket list for a while, and we finally decided to take a quick weekend trip there. As it's just a short drive away from Manila, it was the perfect option for a quick rest before another work week starts.
We did some research on accommodations in La Union and stumbled upon Vessel Hostel. While it wasn't the cheapest option, we were drawn to its location near the highway, convenience stores, and eat-out places, as well as being a short walk away from the beach. The facade of the hostel and the rooms' vibes also drew us in. Initially, we wanted to stay by Urbiztondo Beach but we cannot find any hostels that was as instagram-worthy as Vessel Hostel, and most reviews we read mentioned that accommodations around the beach tend to be noisy. As we wanted to have a good night's sleep, we decided to go for Vessel Hostel instead - a few steps to the beach but still far enough for some peace and quiet at the end of the day.
La Union, in general, has a laid-back and bohemian vibe, and the experience wouldn't be complete if we didn't stay in a hostel. We were excited to see what Vessel Hostel had to offer and how it could elevate our La Union experience. Despite being pricier than other hostels in the area, we were willing to pay a bit more for the comfort and convenience it promised.
Vessel Hostel is unfortunately not available in booking apps so we didn't have any choice but to book via their website. I usually book via Agoda or Booking.com to get cheaper rates. These are the only ways to book your stay:
In this review, we will provide an overview of our experience staying at Vessel Hostel, including an assessment of the hostel's location, accommodations, facilities, surfing experience, staff, and service.
Vessel Hostel is conveniently located along MacArthur Highway in Urbiztondo, San Juan, which is about 270 kilometers north of Manila. Getting to Vessel Hostel from Manila is relatively easy, and there are several transportation options available.
The most common way to get to Vessel Hostel from Manila is by taking a bus from Manila to San Juan, La Union. Several bus companies (Partas being the most famous) operate daily trips from Manila to La Union, with travel time around 5-7 hours depending on traffic conditions. Once you arrive at the San Juan bus terminal, Vessel Hostel is just a short tricycle ride away.
Alternatively, you can also hire a private car or van to take you directly to La Union from Manila at a shorter travel time of around 4 hours depending on which point of Metro Manila you are coming from.
Vessel Hostel's location in Urbiztondo, San Juan is a popular area for surfers and beachgoers. The hostel is just a few minutes' walk away from the beach and is surrounded by a variety of restaurants, surf shops, and convenience stores. This makes Vessel Hostel an ideal base for exploring the surfing paradise of La Union.
Read our blog entries on how to go to La Union:
- How to get to La Union from Manila
- How to Get to La Union from Baguio
Vessel Hostel offers a variety of accommodation options to cater to different types of travelers. The hostel has private rooms that are perfect for couples or solo travelers who want more privacy and comfort. The private rooms come with either a double bed or two single beds and are equipped with air conditioning, a private bathroom, and a flat-screen TV. For budget-conscious travelers, Vessel Hostel also offers mixed dorm rooms and female-only dorm rooms with four to eight bunk beds.
During our stay, we opted for a mixed dorm room with four bunk beds. There were just 3 of us so the extra bed was used for all our stuff. The room was a bit tight, and there wasn't much space to move around but I guess this is what you can generally expect from a dormitory type room in La Union. The sheets however, were clean, and the ample curtains provided a good level of privacy for each bunk. The bathroom was small but sufficient for our needs, and the sink was located outside the bathroom, not sure if this is good or bad. Anyway, no one really mind. Best of all, we found the bunks to be very functional, with individual reading lights, small shelves, and power outlets. All rooms at Vessel Hostel also come with free WiFi access and complimentary breakfast.
Vessel Hostel has several common areas and facilities that guests can enjoy during their stay. The rooftop area is a great place to enjoy the stunning view of the ocean and sunset, and to hang out with other guests. Obviously, this was our favorite place to hang out during our stay. This is where breakfast is served and we spent more time for breakfast than usual just to enjoy the view of the ocean. They have a fully-equipped kitchen that includes a refrigerator, breakfast bar, and unlimited supply of drinking water.
We also spent our first night here during dinner, enjoying take-out food and music from the nearby bars. The night was beautiful and the sky was clear, and we were happy because we scored really good prices for dinner at the nearby restaurants. The following night, we spent our time on the roof deck again because we had to work, and the roofdeck was quiet as nobody was around. It was the ideal place to get some work done while enjoying the cool breeze and just enjoy the vibe of La Union at night.
We also appreciated the hostel's well-thought interiors, which created plenty of Instagram-worthy spots and nooks in every corner. One of these are the smaller common areas on each floor of the hostel. These common areas provide guests with additional spaces to relax and unwind, and are equipped with comfortable seating, books, and board games. We appreciated these common areas, as they provided us with some privacy and allowed us to take a break from our bunk room. The common areas were also great spaces to work from, with comfortable chairs and tables available.
After a long day of surfing, guests can easily access the shower and toilet facilities to freshen up. You have these shower rooms available at the ground floor outside of the hostel and at the common bathrooms inside the hostels.
The hostel also have an honesty store right by the entrance where you can purchase quick fixes such as snacks, drinks, and toiletries. Overall, we found the facilities at Vessel Hostel to be clean, well-maintained, and functional, and we appreciated the hostel's attention to detail in creating a comfortable and stylish environment for its guests.
La Union is known for its consistent waves and has become a popular destination among surfers in the Philippines. Vessel Hostel's location in Urbiztondo, San Juan makes it an ideal base for surfing, as it is just a 2- to 3-minute walk away from the famous Urbiztondo beach.
During our stay at Vessel Hostel, we decided to try surfing for the first time in Urbiztondo, and it was an experience we will never forget. We rented surfboards from one of the nearby surf shops along the beach and signed up for a surfing class to learn the basics. As beginners, we were a bit nervous at first, but our instructors were patient and helpful, and soon we were catching waves and feeling the thrill of surfing.
This experience was both scary and exhilarating at the same time. It took us some time to get the hang of it, but once we did, we never wanted to stop. The waves were perfect for beginners like us, with a gentle swell and a long ride. We were amazed at how much we had learned in just a few hours of surfing.
After a few hours of surfing, we returned to Vessel Hostel to rest and recover. We loved the easy access to shower and toilet facilities, which allowed us to freshen up quickly before we get into the hostel and back to our rooms. And as usual, we ended the day hanging out on the rooftop area, where we could watch the town as the day winds down while enjoying the ocean breeze.
Read more about surfing in our blog post: Beginner's Guide to Surfing in La Union: Tips and Tricks for First-Timers
Staff and Service
During our stay at Vessel Hostel, we had mixed experiences with the hostel's staff and service. While the staff sounded aloof and almost rude when responding to our emails, pointing out customer mistakes that were of course not made on purpose, we were surprised to find the staff to be very nice when we got there, especially both ladies at the front desk. They were helpful, accommodating, and always ready to assist with our needs and answer our questions.
The staff who cleaned our room every day and the ones in charge of the kitchen were also very helpful and made us feel at home. As a hostel, it's important to note that guests should expect basic service, and most things have to be done on your own, such as getting drinking water and cleaning up after yourself in the kitchen. However, we found that this added to the experience of staying at a hostel, as it gave us a sense of independence, adventure and discovery.
Breakfast at Vessel Hostel is also very basic but enough to energize you for your morning activities. The hostel offers a complimentary breakfast consisting of bread, jam, butter, and coffee or tea. While it's not the most exciting breakfast, it's a great way to start the day and get ready for surfing or exploring La Union.
Overall, we found the staff at Vessel Hostel to be friendly and helpful, and the service to be satisfactory. While there were some hiccups in our communication prior to our arrival, we appreciated the warm welcome and helpfulness of the staff during our stay.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Vessel Hostel located near the beach?
Yes, Vessel Hostel is located just a short 2-3 minute walk away from the famous Urbiztondo Beach in La Union. You'll have to walk through an alley to get to the highway, but there's a vacant lot in front of the hostel where we pass through as short cut. This is not the property of Vessel Hostel so there really isn't a formal right of way. Once you get to the highway, the beach would just be a few steps away.
Does Vessel Hostel have its own surf shop?
No, Vessel Hostel does not have its own surf shop. However, there are several surf shops located near the beach where guests can rent surfboards and take lessons.
Does Vessel Hostel have a restaurant and bar? No, Vessel Hostel does not have a restaurant or bar. However, there are many nearby restaurants and bars within walking distance of the hostel. What Vessel Hostel has is an simple honesty sari-sari store where you can buy quick fixes during your stay.
Does Vessel Hostel provide towels and toiletries? Yes, Vessel Hostel provides towels and basic toiletries such as soap and shampoo. However, guests are advised to bring their own towels for use at the beach.
Does Vessel Hostel have air conditioning?
Yes, Vessel Hostel has air conditioning in all of its rooms.
Is there Wi-Fi available at Vessel Hostel?
Yes, Wi-Fi is available throughout the hostel, including in the rooms. Although Wi-Fi may not be as strong in some areas but it was stable enough for video streaming in our room at the third floor, including the common area in that floor, and of course the roof deck.
Does Vessel Hostel offer private rooms?
Yes, Vessel Hostel offers private rooms in addition to dormitory-style accommodation. In fact, you can even pay for the entire dormitory room to make it private to your group. You just have to pay for all beds. There were 3 of us traveling during our stay so we opted to pay for the entire 4-bed dormitory so we get the room all to ourselves.
Are there lockers available at Vessel Hostel?
Yes, Vessel Hostel provides lockers for guests to store their valuables.
In conclusion, Vessel Hostel in La Union is a great accommodation option for travelers seeking a comfortable and convenient stay in one of the best surfing spots in the Philippines. The hostel's location in Urbiztondo, San Juan makes it an ideal base for exploring the surfing paradise of La Union, as it is just a short walk away from the beach and a variety of restaurants, surf shops, and convenience stores.
The accommodation options at Vessel Hostel cater to a wide range of budgets and preferences, from private rooms to mixed and female-only dorm rooms. While our mixed dorm room was a bit tight, the sheets were clean, and the curtains provided a good level of privacy for each bunk. We found the facilities at Vessel Hostel to be clean, well-maintained, and functional, and we appreciated the hostel's attention to detail in creating a comfortable and stylish environment for its guests.
While the service at Vessel Hostel was basic, which is what's expected from a hostel, we found the staff to be very friendly and helpful, especially the ladies at the front desk and the staff who cleaned our room every day and were in charge of the kitchen. We appreciated the hostel's laid-back vibe and friendly atmosphere, which made it a great place to relax and unwind after a day of surfing and exploring La Union.
Overall, we had a great experience staying at Vessel Hostel, and we would highly recommend it to other travelers looking for a comfortable, affordable, and convenient accommodation option in La Union's surfing paradise.
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