Kat in Paoay Sand Dunes
Guides and Itineraries,  Philippines

Paoay Sand Dunes: A Guide to Adventure in Ilocos Norte

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Nestled in the heart of Ilocos Norte, the Paoay Sand Dunes is a sprawling stretch of dunes that serves as a natural sandbox — and it’s all yours to play in! In fact, the Paoay Sand Dunes is one of the best attractions in the province, perfect for families and adventure seekers alike.

With about 88 kilometers of sand, the dunes are a phenomenon formed by the forces of wind and sea. And like any other sand dunes, the Paoay Sand Dunes change shape, form, and location.

I had already been to Paoay Sand Dunes twice. The first one was during a family trip around Ilocos Sur and Norte and the second was a recent media tour with the Department of Tourism – Region 1 and Cebu Pacific.

Here’s our guide to Paoay Sand Dunes in Ilocos Norte, which can help you completely prepare before your visit!

Our trip to the Paoay Sand Dunes

The Paoay Sand Dunes was our first destination for our 2-days Ilocos tour.

We were divided into groups of 5 people each per 4×4 jeepney ride. My companions eagerly rode at the back of the vehicle, while I opted to sit beside the driver. This spot is perfect for those who would like to experience the thrill of the sand dune ride, but in a less chaotic way.

Paoay Sand Dunes or Suba Sand Dunes
4×4 vehicles used for the sand dune adventure.

The ride went on for about 30 minutes. Our jeepney navigated along sharp curves and drove down steep inclines (“drops”) while we were shouting for our lives. It was scary even at my seat because I couldn’t literally see the trail anymore due to how steep it was — it seemed like we were freefalling.

Another notable area is the “roller coaster,” which as you can imagine consists of sharp turns.

But the jeepney drivers at the Paoay Sand Dunes are all experienced and they know the sand dunes like the back of their hands, so rest assured that you’ll be fine.

Paoay sand dunes in Ilocos Norte

Afterwards, we made a stop along the shores of Suba Beach. The beach is not ideal for swimming, but it’s one of the best places for picture taking. Some of us took out their drones for cool aerial shots, while some whipped out their OOTDs for photos in the jeep with the ocean in the backdrop.

Group photo in Paoay Sand Dunes
With fellow content creators.

Our next stop was the sandboarding area. It consists of a sloping hill where even non-experienced visitors can try sandboarding. Women are only allowed to sit, while men have the option to sit or stand up at the board.

It was fun and mostly harmless. You might stumble at the bottom of the slope, but that’s normal — just stand up and dust yourself off! Or play it safe and glide down while sitting.

Kat in Paoay Sand Dunes
Paoay Sand Dunes sandboarding

There were cottages and a small store at the sandboarding area, so we also took that time to rest and drink water. Due to the lack of shade, it can be very hot at Paoay Sand Dunes, and this area offers a welcome respite.

Finally, it’s time to get back! Our jeep took a different route on the way back — which was a relief because I think I would get a heart attack if we attempted to drive up almost-vertical hills.

Interestingly, we passed by different art installations at the middle of the sand dunes, which reminded me of the Burning Man Festival. The art installations pay homage to the various films shot in this location and that Paoay Sand Dune, including Ang Panday and Himala, and international films Mad Max and Born on the Fourth of July. It is also the venue for a local festival called Himala sa Buhangin, which celebrates art and music in Ilocos Norte.

Paoay Sand Dunes art installation
One of the art installations.

Overall, it was a fun, adventure-filled activity and it was a great way to start our adventure in Ilocos regions (even though we ended up with a lot of sands in our clothes!).

How to get to Paoay Sand Dunes

Paoay Sand Dunes is located in Barangay Suba at the town of Paoay, Ilocos Norte. It is approximately 20-30 minutes away from Laoag City, the provincial capital.

From Manila, the easiest way to get here is via Laoag International Airport.

From Laoag City, ride a bus or hire a taxi to Laoag. Most tour operators in the region also offer guided tours to the sand dunes, which includes transport and fees.

Things to do at Paoay Sand Dunes

Here are the activities at Paoay Sand Dunes:

  • 4×4 Off-Road Adventure. Hold on tight as the vehicle navigates through steep inclines, sharp turns, and sandy dunes.
  • Sandboarding. Get on a sandboard and glide down the sandy slopes. Perfect for beginner or experienced sandboarders.
  • Take pictures. Bring your action camera and record your adventure at the 4×4 jeepney vehicle! The guides will also help you take photos. For photography enthusiasts, it’s recommended to visit late in the afternoon for glorious sunsets.
  • Visit other nearby attractions. From Paoay Sand Dunes, you can proceed to other tourist spots in Ilocos Norte, including the Malacañang of the North and Paoay Church. A similar, larger sand dunes area that you can visit is La Paz Sand Dunes, also in Ilocos Norte.

Paoay Sand Dunes Rates

As of 2024, here are the current Paoay Sand Dunes rates:

  • 4×4 jeepney ride: P2500 for one ride, up to 5 people. Includes sandboarding activity. Activity takes 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • ATV ride: P1000 for 2 people. A more laid-back ride where you can explore the sand dunes. Activity takes 30 minutes.

Reservations and walk-ins are allowed.

Schedule: Paoay Sand Dunes is open from 6AM to 6PM.

Book your adventure

For packaged tours in Ilocos, we recommend booking via A&A Express Travel & Tours.

Reminders and Tips:

Hare are common questions related to Paoay Sand Dunes:

  • When is the best time to visit? The best months to visit Paoay Sand Dunes are from November to April, where you can expect generally good weather.
  • Are reservations required? Reservations and walk-ins are allowed.
  • Are kids allowed? Children 10-17 years old are allowed and must be accompanied by adults.

Here are some important tips?

  • Wear comfortable clothing. Since Paoay Sand Dunes can get hot and sandy, it’s essential to wear light, breathable clothes and shoes suitable for outdoor activities. Don’t forget to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. For women, bring a hair tie because it is annoying to get whipped in the face with your hair while doing the 4×4 ride.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and ensure a comfortable experience. As mentioned above, there is a store at the sandboarding area where you can buy water and snacks.
  • Follow safety guidelines. Listen to your driver and follow their instructions carefully, especially during the 4×4 off-road adventure. Note: it is not uncommon to get minor bruises and pains due to the rough ride.

Whether you’re embarking on a heart-pounding 4×4 off-road ride, gliding down the sandy slopes on a sandboard, or simply admiring the breathtaking scenery, Paoay Sand Dunes promises an experience like no other.

Do you have questions or comments about Paoay Sand Dunes in Ilocos Norte? Let us know in the comments section below!

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